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effects of it are perpetual : for he that kills a man once, kills him for ever. The act of murder may be committed in a trice, but the injury is endless and irreparable. So that this objection of temporary crimes being punished with so much longer sufferings, is plainly of no force.
Besides that whoever considers how ineffectual the threatening even of eternal torments is to the greatest part of finners, will soon be satisfied, that a less penalty than that of eternal fufferings would, to the far greatest part of mankind, have been in all probability of little or no force. And therefore, if any thing more terrible than eternal vengeance could have been threatened to the workers of iniquity, it had not been unreasonable ; because it would all have been little enough to deter men effectually from sin.
So that what proportion crimes and penalties ought to bear to each other, is not so properly a consideration of justice, as of wisdom and prudence in the lawgiver.
And the reason of this seems very plain; because the measure of penalties is not taken from any strict proportion betwixt crimes and punishments, but from one great end and design of government, which is, to secure the observation of wholsome and necessary laws; and consequently, whatever penalties are proper and necessary to this end, are not unjust.
And this consideration I desire may be more especially observed, because it strikes at the very foundation of -the objection. For if the appointing and apportioning of penalties to crimes be not so properly a consideration of justice, but rather of prudence in the lawgiver; then, whatever the disproportion may be between temporary fins and eternal sufferings, justice cannot be said to be concerned in it.
Justice indeed is concerned, that the righteous and the wicked should not be treated alike; and farther yet, that greater fins should have a heavier punishment, and that mighty sinners should be mightily tormented. But all this may be considered and adjusted in the degree and the intenseness of the suffering, without making any difference in the duration of it.
The case then in short stands thus: Whenever we break the laws of God, we fall into his hands, and lie
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at his mercy, and he may without injustice inflict what punishment upon us he pleaseth; and consequently, to secure his law from violation, he may
beforehand threaten what penalties he thinks fit and necessary to deter men from the transgression of it. And this is not esteemed unjust among men, to punish crimes that are committed in an instant, with the perpetual loss of estate, or liberty,
II This will yet appear more reasonable, when we consider, that, after all, he that threatens, hath still the power of execution in his own hands. For there is this remarkable difference between promises and threatenings, that he who promiseth, pafseth over a right to another, and thereby stands obliged to him in justice and faithfulness to make good his promise; and if he do not, the party to whom the promise is made, is not only disappointed, but injuriously dealt withal. But in threatenings it is quite otherwise. He that threatens, keeps the right of punishing in his own hand, and is not obliged to execute what he hath threatened, any further than the reasons and ends of government do require ; and he may, without any injury to the party threatened, remit and abate as much as he pleaseth of the punishment that he hath threatened; and because in fo doing he is not worse, but better than his word, no body can find fault, or complain of any wrong or injustice thereby done to him.
Nor is this any impeachment of God's truth and faithfulness, any more than it is esteemed among men a piece of falfhood, not to do what they have threatened. God did absolutely threaten the destruction of the city of Nineveh; and his peevish prophet did understand the threatening to be absolute, and was very angry with God for employing him in a message that was not made good. But God understood his own right, and did what he pleased, notwithstanding the threatening he had denounced, and for all Jonah was so touched in honour, that he had rather have died himself, than that Nineveh should not have been destroyed, only to have verified his meffage.
I know it is said in this case, that God hath confirmed these threatenings by an oath, which is a certain fign
of the immutability of his counsel; and therefore his truth is concerned in the strict and rigorous execution of them. The land of Canaan was a type of heaven; and the Israelites who rebelled in the wilderness, were also a type of impenitent finners under the gospel ; confequently the oath of God concerning the rebellious Ifraelites, when he fware in his wrath, that they should not eitter into his rest, that is, into the land of Canaan, doth equally oblige him to execute his threatening upon all impenitent sinners under the gospel, that they shall never enter into the kingdom of God. And this is very truly reasoned, so far as the threatening extends; 'which, if we attend to the plain words of it, beyond which threatenings are never to be stretched, doth not seem to reach any further than to the exclusion of impenitent finners out of heaven, and their falling finally short of the rest and happiness of the righteous. Which, however, directly overthrows the opinion ascribed to Origen, That the devils and wicked men shall all be saved at last; God having sworn in his wrath, that they shall never enter into his rest.
But then, as to the eternal misery and punishment threatened to wicked men in the other world, though it be not necessarily comprehended in this oath, that they Mhall not enter into his rest; yet we are to consider, that both the tenor of the sentence which our blessed Saviour hath assured us will be passed upon them at the judgment of the great day, Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire ; and likewise this declaration in the text, that the wicked Mall go away into everlasting punishment, though they do not restrain God from doing what he pleases, yet they cut off from the sinner all reasonable hopes of the relaxation or mitigation of them : for, since the great judge of the world hath made so plain and express a de claration, and will certainly pass such a sentence, it would be the greatest folly and madness in the world, for the finner to entertain any hope of escaping it, and to venture his soul upon that hope. I know but one thing more, commonly said upon
this argument, that seems material, and that is this, That the words death, and destruction, and perishing, whereby the punishment of wicked men in the other world is most fre
quently expressed in feripture, do most properly import annihilation, and an utter end of being; and therefore may reasonably be so understood in the matter of which we are now speaking.
To this I answer, That these words, and those which answer them in other languages, are often, both in fcripture and other authors, used to signify a state of great misery and suffering, without the utter extinction of the miserable. Thus God is often in scripture said to bring destruction upon a nation when he sends great judgments upon them, though they do not exterminate and make an utter end of them.
And nothing is more common in most languages, than by peri/hing to express a person's being undone, and made
very miserable ; as in that known passage in Tiberius's letter to the Roman fenate : Ita me dii deæque omnes pejùs perdant, quam hodie perire me fentio, &c. « Let all " the gods and goddeffes (faith he) destroy me worse, “ than at this very time I feel myself to perish, cc.” In which saying, the words destroy and perish are both of them used to express the miserable anguish and torment which at that time he felt in his mind, as Tacitus tells us at large.
And as for the word death; a state of misery, which is as bad or worse than death, may properly enough be called by that name: and, for this reason, the punishment of wicked men after the day of judgment is, in the book of the Revelation, fo frequently and fitly called the fecond death. And the lake of fire, Rev. xx. 14. into which the wicked shall be cast, to be tormented in it, is expressly called the second death.
But besides this, they that argue from the force of these words, that the punishment of wicked men in the other world shall be nothing else but an utter end of their being, do necessarily fall into two great inconveniencies.
1. That hereby they exclude all positive punishment and torment of sinners. For if ihe second death, and to be destroyed, and to perish, fignify nothing else but the annihilation of finners, and an utter extinction of their being ; and if this be all the effect of that dreadful sentence which shall be passed upon them at the day of
judgment, then the fire of hell is quenched all at once, and is only a frightful metaphor without any meaning. But this is directly contrary to the tenor of scripture, which doth so often describe the punishment of wicked men in hell by positive torments : and particularly our blessed Saviour, describing the lamentable state of the damned in hell, expressly says, that there shall be weeping, and wailing, and gnasbing of teeth; which cannot be, if annihilation be all the meaning and effect of the sentence of the great day.
2. Another inconvenience of this opinion is, that if annihilation be all the punishment of finners in the other world, then the punishment of all sinners must of necessity be equal, because there are no degrees of annihilation or not-being. But this also is molt directly contrary to scripture, as I have already shewn.
I know very well, that some who are of this opinion, do allow a very long and tedious time of the most terrible and intolerable torment of sinners; and after that, they believe that there shall be an utter end of their being.
But then they must not argue this from the force of the words before mentioned; because the plain inference from thence is, that annihilation is all the punishment that wicked men shall undergo in the next life : and if that be not true, as I have plainly shewn that it is not, I do not see from what other words or expressions in scripture they can find the least ground for this opinion, that the torinent of wicked men shall at last end in their annihilation. And yet admitting all this, for which I think there is no ground at all in scripture, I cannot see what great comfort sinners can take in the thought of a tedious time of terrible torment, ending at last in annihilation, and the utter extinction of their beings.
3. We may consider further, that the primary end of all threatenings is not punishment, but the prevention of it: for God does not threaten, that men may fin,and be punished; but that they may not sin, and so may escape the punishment threatened. And therefore the higher the threatening runs, so much the more mercy and goodness there is in it; because it is so much the