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Many other important considerations, reader, might be suggested here on the threshold of this investigation, serving to show how
very small is the probability, that the dogma of ceaseless suffering can in the issue be regarded as of scriptural authority: but the above, it is believed, are quite sufficient for this purpose. Of this, however, you must be judge for yourself. “ Prove all things; hold fasi that which is good.”
DIRECTLY AND POSITIVELY PROVEN FROM THE AT
TRIBUTES OF GOD.
1. GOD IS LOVE.-(1 John, iv. 8.)—This proposition has been much declaimed upon, by those too, who, while they admitted its truth in terms, denied it in fact. It is now introduced as a subject for careful argumentation. In this business we shall not need those rhetorical embellishments which, at the same time that they amuse the faney, often make it an instrument in deceiving the judgment: the less our argument is encumbered with these the better it will be, because the more intelligible.
As has been well remarked (by Adam Clarke) “God is never said, in the scriptures, to be Justice, or Patience, or Holiness, but he is frequently in one form or another said to be love." Hence it is inferred that love is his moral nature, and the basis of all his other attributes love is God : to say that God is just, or holy, or unchanging, is the same as to say that infinite love is characterised by these qualities; to say that all creatures throughout all space are in God's hands, and subject to his control, is in effect to say they are in love's hands, and subject to its control : in short, God and love are so essentially identical, that the name of each may be, and often is, employed for designating the other ; any predicate of the one will answer equally well as a predicate of the other; hence we may affirm of infinite love that it rules the universe, is eternal, impartial, holy, just, good, &c., for God is all these, and God is love. In these three words is he defined
by John, a fisherman of Galilee, and they express more than all the collected wisdom of previous and subsequent ages ever has or can express.
The doctrine of endless misery is utterly irreconcilable with this essential attribute of the deity, for love invariably seeks, and to the utmost of its power promotes the ultimate good of its objects; by this circumstance alone is it distinguishable from its opposite principle; to affirm that love will consent that any of its objects shall be miserable, without reference to any eventual good from that misery, is to affirm that it approves of misery for its own sake, and this is to confound it with hatred. The doctrine of endless woe does in effect affirm this, and thereby it absurdly confounds Jehovah, who is infinite love, with infinite hatred. To make this more plain, we will suppose God to be the opposite of what he is-- What should we expect as the result? Anything worse than what is contemplated in the belief of unceasing torment? If not, in affirming this doctrine, are we not manifestly confounding love with hatred, since we ascribe to the one such actions as can only result from the other ?
Wherever infinite love is, there can no suffering be, except per mitted from motives of ultimate benefit to the sufferer, and consequently, in no conceivable case can the theory of endless misery be verified, except by some means the subject thereof could get beyond the presence of love, or, which is the same thing, beyond the presence of God. But,
2. GOD IS OMNIPRESENT.—(Psl. cxxxix. 7.)-And, of course, love is omnipresent; it surrounds, pervades, and sustains all things, (Ephe. iv. 6,) to get beyond its reach, therefore, is impossible, for whither shall we go from its presence? Shall we ascend to the heaven of heavens? it is there. Shall we descend to depths unfathomable by the plummet-line of thought? it will still be far, far beneath us: and should we speed with the wings of light to the farthest bounds of being, still, still should we find its presence to extend immeasurably beyond us. The sinner is in its hands when he goes hence equally as while he is here, and although he
may find it “a fearful thing to fall into the hands of God," yet the result will prove that they are the hands of love, and, therefore, not the hands of an enemy. Such was David's view of the matter, when reduced to the necessity of selecting
one out of three modes of punishment. “Let me fall now," said he, “ into the hands of the Lord, for very great are his mercies ; but let me not fall into the hands of man.' (1 Chro. xii. 13.) But why prefer falling into God's hands, rather than those of man, if, as the dogma of eternal torment affirms, God's inflictions will infinitely exceed in duration and severity any which the most cruel of mankind would be willing to sanction?
The power of Jehovah cannot extend where his love does not, for that would prove the latter finite, and if his power cannot extend beyond his love, it can act on creatures only as directed by love ; it can inflict only such suffering as love approves as conducive to its own ends : hence it may with confidence be affirmed that even present suffering would not be permitted except with reference to some future benefit to the sufferer, and, consequently, that no useless suffering exists, for if divine love will overrule it all for ultimate good it is not useless. The scriptures abundantly sustain this view of the matter. " For the Lord,” say they, “ will not cast off for ever, for though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies, for he doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men.” (Lam. iii. 37. See also, Heb. xii. 10.) Of course endless misery is entirely excluded by this reasoning, for misery without end can produce no beneficial results to the sufferer, and if no beneficial results to the sufferer, then infinite love can have no agency in its infliction; and if infinite love would refuse to sanction it, then it must take place, if at all, where love is not, but it cannot take place where love is not, for love is everywhere.
If unending misery be inflicted, will it not, as it regards the subjects, consist of an exercise of power to the exclusion of love? and will there not in that case be creatures whom God will not love ? and since he will not love them, can he be a God to them, inasmuch as there can be no God where there is no love, for God is love? It is impossible for answers consisting with the faith of endless misery to be rendered to these questions. If in the vast, vast solitudes of space, there existed a point beyond which the divine presence did not extend, and beings were capable of hurling themselves into this desolate void, (for desolate it must needs be without a God) they doubtless could thus be rendered miserable without end, and thus only, as has already been said, there is
no other way conceivable'; but the supposition implies an impossibility, Jehovah being omnipresent.
3. GOD IS OMNISCIENT.—(Acts xv. 18.)—He knew from eternity all we should ever be; he foresaw every mutation through which we should ever pass; every sinful act we should commit. If there could ever arise any circumstance to affect his regards for us, he as certainly knew it before he created us as now; the fact must have been as much a cause for wrath or hatred toward us then as after it transpired; nevertheless, in full view of all which it was foreseen we should be he loved us, and that too “ with a great love :" (Ephe. ii. 4.) Now if God were defective in this attribute of his character, the notion of endless misery would find some sort of shelter in the plea, that as Jehovah failed to foresee that so disastrous a case would arise, he did not provide against it, and, therefore, that the evil is now past remedy, and God would fain prevent it if he could. But no such plea can be set up, for not alone in sound philosophy, but in the scriptures, he is represented as “ seeing the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done." (Isaiah xlvi. 10.) Futurity, which to all other eyes, lies in impenetrable shadow, is perfectly open and clear to his; he knoweth all its, as yet, undeveloped and unrecorded events. And how could it be otherwise ? for
“ Did he o'erlook the least of his concerns,
It is worse than idle, then, to resort to the ridiculous subterfugn of saying, that God does not foreknow all things! but could know them were he so minded !—which fantasm has been sanctioned by no less a personage than Dr. Adam Clarke! A blunder, this, (by the way,) which may be pardoned in a son of Erin, but in no other, for it implies that God must know all things, in order to determine how many and which among them he may choose to know, and how many and which of them he may choose to be ignorant of! I have shown, I think, that God's foreknowledge comprised all events, and that in view of all which it was foreseen we should be he loved us. If, then, his love shall always con.
- But,” say
tínue, it will surely not consent to our being plunged into sufferings which can yield us no benefit; and if his love shall not always continue, he must necessarily undergo a change.-But
4. GOD IS UNCHANGEABLE.—(James iii. 2.)-And even were he otherwise, it would be impossible to find a cause which could justify a change in him toward us, because nothing in relation to us has transpired of which he was not fully aware long before we had a being. Arminians are apt to tell us in this argument, that although the love wherewith God once loved the sinner shall eventually change to hatred, yet God changeth not! The change, say, they, is altogether in the sinner! which, to my thinking, is very singular logic. God hates to-day the very beings whom he loved yesterday, and yet remains unchanged !! Then surely love and hatred are one and the same thing ! they again, “ he loved us as pure beings, and on our becoming sinners he ceased to love us." Well, supposing this the case, does he undergo no change in ceasing to love us? How absurd the negative to this question. But it is contrary to fact that God loved us as pure beings—he never knew us as such ; it is flatly contrary to scripture likewise, for “God commended his love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us." (Rom. v. 16.) " When we were, enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his son.” (Ibid. ver. 10.) And hence another inspired writer observes, “ Herein was love, not that we loved God, but that God loved us." (1 John iv. 10.) Now do we not seriously detract from the divine character, when we represent that his love toward us will abate, merely because we prove to be just such beings as he clearly foresaw we would be when that love was first conceived, supposing it to have had a beginning ? For nothing surely but a change from love to hatred can induce his consent, that an existence which he conferred as a blessing, shall by any possibility be converted to a curse.
The Arminian will here shift his ground, and argue as follows • God eternally hates sin; when we become sinners, we associ ate ourselves with what he eternally hates, and therefore his hatred of us implies no change on his part but on ours."
Now know you not, sir, that this is a mere sophism ? For in associating ourselves with sin we do not become sin, and therefore do not become the thing which God eternally hates. If you could show