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SCRIPTURE PROOFS OF ENDLESS PUNISHMENT.
Matthew xxv: 46.- And these shall go away into everlasting punish
mnent ; but the righteous into life eternal. In this text it is asserted, that impenitent sinners shall go away into everlasting punishment. This solemn and affecting declaration of our Savior and our final Judge has been very generally regarded by Christians of every age and nation, as intending in the strictest sense, a punishment endless in duration. But there have been multitudes of persons, particularly of modern times, who style themselves Christians, that have objected to this interpretation, and insisted, either that there will be no punishment hereafter, or that this punishment will be disciplinary, and that the subjects of it will be eventually restored to purity and happiness. “In support of this opinion and in opposition to that which has been generally received by the whole Christian world, they have advanced various arguments and objections which they consider as unanswerable, and to which they apparently yield their own assent.” Now it is proper to examine these arguments and objections, and either to expose their fallacy, or to acknowledge that they cannot be refuted. But there is a feeling in some minds, that doctrines, the most absurd and ụnseriptural, have no need to be answered. To let error alone, however, in expectation that it will die of itself, is not an apostolic
There is as little scripture as reason for this policy of neglect. The expediency of answering, seems to depend upon the
actual effect of crror, more than ipon its inherent plausibility or absurdity. And it is a fact, that thousands in this community are taught to regard the doctrine of future punishment as a Pagan superstition, and that of universal salvation, as sacred truth. And they are strengthened in their opinions from the fact, that there is so little interest awakened in the minds of the Orthodox, in relation to this subject; and that they are making no persevering attempt to establish the doctrine of endless punishment, and to refute the objections that are alleged against it. They also seem desirous of persuading the public, that the ground on which we rest our belief of the doctrine of endless punishment, is very slender and fallacious, and that we do not receive it as a Bible truth of the highest practical importance, which ought to be interwoven with the whole train of our thoughts and actions ; but as a mere speculative proposition, to be admitted for the purpose of completing a system of Theological belief. From these considerations, I think it highly important that we should state, with all possible perspicuity, the grounds on which we rest our belief of the doctrine in question.
Before I proceed, however, I shall make a few observations for the purpose of removing, if possible, a prejudice that many cherish against this doctrine. The subject is unquestionably awful and affecting beyond comparison. But few persons of tender sensibilities can contemplate it in all its magnitude and importance, without the most overwhelming sensations. No numbers can estimate, no finite thought can conceive, how important an object is the final destiny of one immortal being. How entirely overwhelmed, then, must he be who contemplates it, when he remembers the affecting declaraation of our Saviour, and beholds it verified by melancholy experience, that “Wide is the gate, an: broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat."
The subject is also unquestionably perplexing, as well as painful. Some persons, I am aware, speak of the doctrine in question as being, in their view, easy of investigation, and free from all embarrassment. But it may be fairly questioned, whether they have given the subject such a thorough and scriptural investigation, as might furnish them with just views of its nature. Others discoursc of it
in the style and utterance, that belong to that kind of vehement declamation, which we find often attached to a strain of bitter invective. Some allowance may here be made for the strong impulses of ardent minds, and for the mistaken apprehensions of duty. In this manner we may excuse, but cannot justify, their boldness or severity, when they would have been more successful, if they had resorted to a milder and more persuasive strain. Were such persons to remember, that, while they are declaring the doctrine of endless punishment, they may be at the very same time alleging arguments which are to effect themselves and to evince their own final destruction, as well as that of many of their friends, would not their mode of address be changed, and an air of unaffected tenderness and a spirit of genuine compassion be preserved ? The violence and exaggeration, which have characterized the addresses of many public speakers on this subject, have no doubt awakened mere horror concerning it, and led some to the conclusion that the principles on which it was based were selfish and revengeful.
But awful, affecting, and perplexing, as this subject is, it is often taught in the sacred Oracles. In establishing the doctrine under consideration, we must rely wholly upon the testimony of the Bible, since it is impossible, in the very nature of things, that the fact and duration of future punishment should be proved by arguments drawn from the light of nature; because the intention of God can be known only by express declarations. Human reason has no eye to penetrate beyond the grave--no lamp to explore the deep recesses of eternity. Without the aid of revelation, man in his fallen state can know nothing of his future destiny. But the Bible unfolds this subject with absolute certainty.
It should be our supreme concern, to hear with candor and docility what the Holy Scriptures teach—and to submit ourselves to the decisions of these sacred Oracles. We should not presume to form a theory of religious faith for ourselves, which shall accord with our prejudices and prepossessions, and then attempt to support it by legitimate and grammatical interpretations of the Bible ; but we should repair to the Bible, divested of every pre-conceived opinion, and determined to receive nothing as evangelical truth, for the support of which we have not an express precept or example,
Bearing in mind these remarks, let me now call your
candid attention to the testimony of God respecting the endless punishment of the wicked. This testimony cannot fail of being peculiarly interesting to us. To know and believe it, as established by the clear and infallible proofs of Inspiration, may be the very means of preventing your final ruin, and of turning your wayward feet into the path of life. To cavil with, or to reject this testimony without impartial investigation, on the other hand, can be of no possible benefit to you, and may prove fatally injurious. Were there no possible
escape “from the wrath to come” provided for lost and perishing sinners, and were not this way published to them during their probation for the rewards of eternity, they might indeed remain in the most profound ignorance of the evils to which they are advancing. But as the knowledge of the final destiny of the sinner is absolutely necessary in order to induce us to repent and believe the gospel, this knowledge is of the highest practical importance. Permit me then to lay before you a concise and comprehensive view of the Scripture Proofs of the endless duration of future punishment. And let me hope that you will listen with calmness, and decide with impartiality.
I. ALL THOSE PASSAGES OF SCRIPTURE, WHICH SPEAK OF THE DURATION OF FUTURE PUNISHMENT BY THE TERMS “ EVERLASTING," “ETERNAL," "FOREVER,” AND “FOREVER AND EVER," PROVE THAT
THIS PUNISHMENT WILL BE ENDLESS.
“ The sinners in Zion are afraid ; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites; Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire ? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings ?--And many of them (or the multitudes of them) that sleep in the dust of the earth, shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.- It is better for thee to enter into life halt and maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. -Depart from me ye cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
And these shall go away into everlasting punishment. But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost, hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation. -The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven, with
his mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christmwho shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.
And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains, under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day.- -Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them, in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest, to whom the mist of darkness is reserved forever. -Wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.- -If any man worship the beast, or his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indig. nation : and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: and the smoke of their torment ascendeth up forever and.ever.- And they said Alleluia! and her smoke rose up forever and ever.- -And the devil that deceived them was cast into a lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night forever and ever."*
To destroy the practical influence of this testimony, the objectors to the doctrine of endless punishment allege the few instances in which the terms everlasting, eternal, &c., are used in scripture, as connected with punishment. To decide whether a doctrine is taught in the Bible, it is not necessary to ascertain how many times it is asserted, but whether it is asserted at all. The truth of a doctrine cannot depend upon the frequency with which it is repeated. One divine asseveration of any truth is sufficient to bind our faith. Let no one think that the evidence is not conclusive, because the
• Isa. xxxiü. 14. Dan. xii: 2. Matt. xviii. 8-XXV. 41, 46
Mark iii. 29. . xiv. 9-11.