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ening above noticed, implied the being doomed to eternal flames! Can any body see any necessary, any reasonable connexion between the eating of an interdicted apple, and the suffering in ceaseless fire? It is not even pretended by those who take this view of the subject, that the penalty threatened was otherwise than arbitrary; and, accordingly (as they think) a pretext was easily found for setting it aside! They did not die! God relented! (The snake had predicted this conclusion of the affair, and our friends confirm the truth of the prediction.) The culprits were dismissed with a halfangry and half-approving reprimand!
I do not affirm that in the administration of the divine government, arbitrary punishments have never occurred; in scripture times, it would seem, the divine dealings with men were more direct and visible than they have since been. In those days, outward and sensible expressions of his displeasure against sin sometimes occurred; as in the deluge, the destruction of Sodom, Babylon, Tyre, Sidon, and Jerusalem. It is not pretended, that in this class of punishments, the reformation of the punished is the immediate object; they are meant as examples to others, and therefore they are benevolent, although not directly so to the subjects themselves; yet they must even to them prove ultimately so, it being no part of Jehovah's policy to sacrifice the eternal interests of a part, to secure those of the residue, for several reasons. 1st. He is under no such necessity. 2nd. He can as easily make all eventually happy as to make a part so. 3d. He loves one portion of his creatures as well as another. And, 4th, must therefore prefer the final good of all before the final good of some. These outward punishments are exceptions to the general scheme of divine retribution; they have but seldom occurred, and are called his "strange work." (Isa. xxviii. 21.)
I have said, it is even doubtful if Jehovah originated the connexion betwixt sin and misery. I must take this back. I prefer to resolve all causes, with their effects, into the all-wise appointment of the infinite God; more especially as the scriptures afford me examples to this effect; and, besides, there is so evident a mercy in the law of which I speak, that it seems a dictate of reason as well as piety, to account for its existence on the ground of divine institution. It can scarcely be necessary for me to prove this the bible view of the case. Nevertheless, I will adduce a
few instances. The following is the language of Elihu, the only
resented as issuing in the same gracious ends. "For the Lord will not cast off for ever. But 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. Το crush under his feet all the prisoners of the earth. To turn aside the right of a man before the face of the Most High. To subvert a man in his cause, the Lord approveth not. Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, when the Lord commandeth it not? Out of the mouth of the Most High proceedeth not evil and good? Wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins? Let us search and try our ways and turn again to the Lord." (Lam. ii. 31-40.) David, enumerating the blessings of providence upon himself and his household, represents the following as the divine promise in regard to his children. "If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments; if they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless my loving-kindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail." (Ps. lxxxix. 30— 33.) Now it is absolutely pitiful, yea, contemptible, to give to passages of this nature a partial application,' as if Jehovah does not in his dealings with each and all of the transgressors of his law, observe the same eternal principles of mercy and justice!
Let us attend now to the modus operandi of divine punishments. I have before considered the case of the gambler, but we may take a more difficult view of it. We will suppose, then, that he constantly rises from the game a winner; how, in that event, does he get his punishment? Is he not rather rewarded for his wickedness, and encouraged to proceed in it? He would be encouraged, indeed, if he fared as well as you, reader, seem to suppose; and in that case, why shall we not all turn gamblers, since we are lured to it by the flowers which providence strews in that path! Reader, dismiss this delusion; for such, and a very destructive one, it really is. I will tell you how the successful gambler gets his punishment. It does not follow from the fact that he always has won, that he therefore always shall; one more expert than himself may at any moment strip him of all his past gains; his very successes serve to lessen his caution, and embolden him to venture larger stakes; hence, it often happens that his entire for
tune is vibrating upon the chances of the moment; he may arise with double his present wealth, or without a penny. What must be his mental perturbation when so much is depending on such shifting hazards? Anxiety of this nature, so feverish, so intense, is rapid in its progress of eating out the soul. But aside from this, has he no reasons for disquietude in regard to his victims, some of whom he may have rendered desperate by despair at their losses, and may visit their ruin upon his head? Let him who wishes to portray the career of a gambler as pleasant, go to a Parisian or a London hell, (rightly named,) to borrow his lights and shades for the picture. Would you, reader, exchange your life of quiet and of honest self-approval, for his, of turbulence and apprehension?
Consider, next, the case of the dishonest man. Suppose him so adroit in his arts that he is never detected; is he therefore never punished? Why then starts he at every leaf that rustles near him? Why those uneasy glances when he hears approaching footsteps? Why cannot he look his honest neighbors in the face, but his eye must be constantly cowering beneath their glance? And consider, moreover, in addition to the suffering which these circumstances indicate, how many painful risks of detection he runs, how much time he spends in plotting and executing his felonies; which, employed in honest industry, would bring him equal gains, with more certainty and less suffering; and when he prowls forth in the darkness to effect his disgraceful purposes, what dangers of various nature he must necessarily encounter. Pah! his bread is bitter and hard-earned !*
I might detail the penalties attendant on the different crimes in practice amongst mankind—lying, adultery, fornication, drunkenness, &c.; each has its own appropriate pains and dangers; each
The case of Johnson, of Cincinnati, is an instance to the point, that great danger is incurred even by the most expert marauders. This man had for a number of years, as it afterwards appeared, been in the habit of committing burglaries, and with such secrecy and success, that he had amassed a large quantity of stolen goods together, to the value of several thousand dollars; nor does it appear that in all that time his character and conduct were suspected. One morning, the keepers of a wholesale store in the city found their door to have been opened in the night, and on entering a spectacle of a horrid description presented itself-it was the dead body of the burglar, mangled in such a manner as baffled all attempts to identify him, until by accident (or led by a suspicion of the fact) his own daughter approached, examined him, and by a particular mark on his person discovered the dreadful truth, that the mangled wretch before her was her father! He had in the darkness fallen from the third loft through the scuttle. What a death to die! and in what a cause!
brings with it an entailment of shame, and loss, and remorse. Need I enlarge, reader? I trow not, because your own bosom is at this moment throbbing responses in harmony with these statements-it knows that you never sinned but the regularity of its throb was interrupted, and the quiet of its empire invaded.
"But conscience becomes callous after a while," say you, "and the sinner of every kind learns to perpetrate his deeds without compunction; hence, instead of increasing with the ratio of guilt, (as justice would seem to require,) punishment actually diminishes as crime increases." A specious objection, I grant you, reader, very specious; but you overlook the fact that this moral insensibility is itself a punishment-the greatest of punishments. When thus given over to hardness of heart and a seared, a cicatrised conscience, the individual has in a manner lost his moral nature; it is absorbed in the animal, the brute; all the nicer chords of his being, whence formerly sprung the more refined enjoyments of his life, have lost their harmonies; these delicate barriers betwixt his soul and infamy being broken down, he is lost henceforth to conscience, and modesty, and self-respect, and a respect for public opinion; he is become an absolute wretch, a beacon set up by providence amidst the rocks of crime, as a caution to others to avoid a similar degradation. And reckon you this among your instances of exemption from present suffering? I pray heaven that of all its numerous and dreadful retributive dispensations, I may especially be preserved from this!
Thus it is seen, that such is the order of things in the economy of providence, that each sin necessarily entails its own penal consequences; that escape from these, otherwise than by an avoidance of the causes which produce them, is absolutely impossible. It is by this class of penalties that the most of men are restrained from crime; even where there is no written or positive law, these exert their influence; and their efficacy would be incalculably greater than it commonly is, if preachers and moralists were not perpetually diverting men's attention from them, and directing it to punishments of a factitious and uncertain character, which terrify only, when they can be made to appear as unavoidable and near at hand; and they then serve but as instruments for waking up vague and superstitious apprehensions; not for establishing rational and permanent checks upon our vicious inclinations: it