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"Though this passage which you have quoted seems clearly to prove that eternal life agreeth to no other men but the faithful, yet, since the contrary opinion is generally held among Christians, I would fain know of you whether you have any other places that affirm that the wicked die directly, and that a second death, are destroyed and punished with everlasting destruction, are corrupted, burnt up, devoured, slain, pass away, and perish?
'A. Rom. vi. 23. viii. 13. Rev. xxi. 6. 8. ii. 10, 11. 1 Thess. v. 3. 2 Pet. iii. 7. 2 Thess. i. 7-9 .Gal. vi. 8. 2 Pet. ii. 12. 1 Cor. iii. 17. Heb. x. 39. Matt. iii. 12. Heb. x. 26, 27. Luke xix. 27. 1 John ii. 17. 2 Cor. ii. 15, 16.'
1. How well Mr. R. hath proved his intention by the place of Scripture before-mentioned, hath been in part discovered, and will in our process yet farther appear. The ambiguity of the word 'life,' and 'eternal life' (which yet is not ambiguous in the Scripture, being constantly used in one sense and signification, as to the purpose in hand), is all the pretence he hath for his assertion besides that, his proof that unbelievers do not abide, lies in this, that the wrath of God abides on them.
2. This is common with this gentleman and his masters; Christians generally think otherwise, but we say thus; so slight do they make of the common faith which was once delivered to the saints. But he may be pleased to take notice, that not only Christians think so, but assuredly believe that it shall be so, having the express word of God to bottom that their faith upon. And not only Christians believe it, but mankind generally in all ages consented to it; as might abundantly be evinced.
3. But let the expressions wherewith Mr. B. endeavours to make good this his monstrous assertion of the annihilation of the wicked and unbelievers at the last day, be particularly considered, that the strength of his conclusion, or rather the weakness of it, may be discovered.
The first is that they are said to die, and that the second death; Rom. vi. 23. viii. 13. Rev. xxi. 6. 8. ii. 10, 11. but how now will Mr. B. prove that by dying is meant the annihilation of body and soul? There is mention of a natural
ὁ Καὶ τὸ ἀναβιώσκεσθαι, καὶ ἐκ τῶν τεθνεότων τοῖς ζῶντας γίγνεσθαι καὶ τάς τῶν τεθνεότων ψυχὰς εἶναι, καὶ ταῖς μὲν ἀγαθαῖς ἄμεινον εἶναι, ταῖς κακαῖς κάκιον. Plato in Phædo.
death in Scripture, which, though it be a dissolution of nature, as to its essential parts of body and soul, yet it is an annihilation of neither; for the soul abides, and Mr. B. professes to believe that the body shall rise again. There is a spiritual death in sin also mentioned, which is not a destruction of the dead person's being, but a moral condition wherein he is. And why must the last death be the annihilation pretended? As to a coming short of that which is the proper life of the soul in the enjoyment of God, which is called life absolutely, and eternal life, it is a death. And as to any comfortable attendances of a being continued, it is a death. That it is a total deprivation of being, seeing those under it are to eternity to abide under torments (as shall be shewed), there is no colour.
2. It is called 'destruction;' and 'perdition,' and 'everlasting destruction;' 1 Thess. v. 3. 2 Pet. iii. 7. 2 Thess. i. 7-9. True, it is a destruction as to the utter casting men off all and every thing wherein they had any hope or dependance; a casting them eternally off from the happiness of rational creatures, and the end which they ought to have aimed at; that is, they shall be destroyed in a moral, not a natural sense; to be cast for ever under the wrath of God, I think, is destruction, and therefore it is called 'everlasting destruction,' because of the punishment which in that destruction abideth on them. To this are reduced the following expressions of utterly perishing, and the like; Gal. vi. 8. 2 Pet. ii. 12. 1 Cor. iii. 17. 2 Pet. iii. 16.
3. Burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire,' is mentioned, Matt. iii. 12. but if this burning of the chaff do consume it, pray what need it be done with 'fire that cannot be quenched?' When it hath done its work, it will surely be put out. The expression is metaphorical, and the allusion is not in the consumption of chaff in the fire, but in the casting it into the fire; or the setting fire unto it. So the fiery indignation is said, to 'devour the adversaries;' not that they shall no more be,but that they shall never see happiness any more. All these expressions being metaphorical, and used to set out the greatness of the wrath and indignation of God against impenitent sinners, under which they shall lie for ever. The residue of the expressions collected are of the same importance. Christ's punishment of unbelievers
at the last day, is compared to a king saying, 'bring hither mine enemies, and slay them before me;' Luke xix. 27. because as a natural death is the utmost punishment that men are able to inflict, which cuts men off from hopes and enjoyments, as to their natural condition, so Christ will lay on them the utmost of his wrath, cutting them off from all hopes and enjoyments as to their spiritual and moral condition. It is said, the 'fashion of this world passeth away;' 1 John ii. 17. because it can give no abiding continuing refreshment to any of the sons of men; when he that doth the will of God hath an everlasting continuance in a good condition, notwithstanding the intervening of all troubles, which are in this life. But that wicked men have not their being continued to eternity, nothing is here expressed.
A very few words will put an issue to this controversy, if our blessed Saviour may be accepted for an umpire; saith he, Matt. xxv. 46. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal:' certainly he that shall be everlastingly punished, shall be everlastingly. His punishment shall not continue, when he is not. He that hath an end, cannot be everlastingly punished. Again, saith our Saviour, in hell the fire shall never be quenched; where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched;' Matt. ix. 43, 44. which he repeats again, ver. 46. and, that Mr. B. may not cause any to hope the contrary, again ver. 48. This adds to the former miracle, that men should be punished and yet not be; that they shall be punished by the stings of a worm to torment them when they are not, and the burning of a fire, when their whole essence is consumed. So also Isa. lxvi. 24. their torments shall be endless, and the means of their torments continued for ever; but for themselves, it seems, they shall have an end, as to their being; and so nothing shall be punished with an everlasting worm, and a fire never to be quenched. Nay, which is more, there shall be amongst them weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth;' Matt. viii. 12. the utmost sorrow and indignation expressible, yea, beyond expression; and yet they shall not be. God threatens men with death and destruction, and describes that death and destruction to consist in the abiding under his wrath in endless torments; which inexpressible sorrow evidently
shews that death is not a consumption of them as to the continuance of their being, but a deprivation of all the good of life natural, spiritual, and eternal; with an infliction of the greatest evils that they can be capacitated to endure and undergo, called their destruction and perdition.®
What hath been the intention and design of Mr. B. in this his catechism, which I have thus far considered, I shall not judge. There is one lawgiver, to whom both he and I must give an account of our labour, and endeavours in this business: That the tendency of the work itself is to increase infidelity and sin in the world, I dare aver. Let this chapter be an instance, and from the savour that it hath, let a taste be taken of the whole; and its nature be thereby estimated. That the greatest part of them to whom the mind of God, as revealed in Scripture, is in some measure made known, are not won and prevailed upon by the grace, love, and mercy, proclaimed therein, and tendered through Christ, so as to give up themselves in all holy obedience unto God, I suppose will be granted. That these men are yet so overpowered by the terror of the Lord therein discovered, and the threats of the wrath to come, as not to dare to run out to the utmost, that the desperate thoughts of their own hearts, and the temptations of Satan meeting in conjunction, would carry them out unto, as it hath daily and manifold experiences to evince it; so the examples of men so awed by conviction, mentioned in the Scripture, do abundantly manifest. Now what is it among all the considerations of the account that men are to make and the judgment which they are to undergo, which doth so amaze their souls, and fill them with horror and astonishment, so strike off their hands when they are ready to stretch them out to violence and uncleanness; or so frequently makes their conception of sin abortive, as this of the eternity of their punishment, which impenitent sinners must undergo. Is not this that which makes bitter the otherwise sweet morsels that they roll under their tongues;
e A. Ita jocaris, quasi ego dicam, eos esse miseros, qui nati non sunt, et non eos miseros, qui mortui sunt. M. Esse ergo eos dicis. A. Immo, quia non sunt, cum fuerint, eos miseros esse M. Pugnantia te loqui non vides? quid enim tam pugnat, quam non modo miserum, sed omnino quidquam esse, qui non fit. A. Quoniam me verbo premis, posthac non ita dicam, miseros esse, sed tantum, miseros, ob id ipsum quia non sunt. M. Non dicis igitur, miser est. M. Crassus, sed miser Crassus. A. Ita plane. M. Quasi non necesse sit, quicquid isto modo pronunties, id aut esse, aut non esse, an tu dialecticis ne imbutus quidem es, &c. Cicer. Tuscul. Quest. Lib. 1.
and is an adamantine chain to coerce and restrain them, when they break all other cords, and cast all other bonds behind them? yea, hath not this been from the creation of the world' the great engine of the providence of God for the preserving of mankind from the outrageousness and unmeasurableness of iniquity and wickedness, which would utterly ruin all human society, and work a degeneracy in mankind into a very near approximation unto the beasts that perish; namely, by keeping alive in the generality of rational creatures, a prevailing conviction of an abiding condition of evil doers in a state of misery? To undeceive the wretched world, and to set sinful man at liberty from this bondage and thraldom, to his own causeless fears, Mr. B. comes forth and assures them all that the eternity of torments is a fable, and everlasting punishment, a lie; let them trouble themselves no more, the worst of their misery may be past in a moment; it is but annihilation, or rather perdition of soul and body, and they are for ever freed from the wrath of the Almighty. Will they not say, 'Let us eat and drink for tomorrow we shall die?' Down we lie of a season. God, it seems, will see us once again and then farewell for ever. Whether ever there were a more compendious way of serving the design of Satan, or a more expedient engine to cast down and demolish the banks and bounds given to the bottomless lust and corruption of natural men, that they may overflow the world with a deluge of sin and confusion, considering the depraved condition of all men by nature, and the rebellion of the most against the love and mercy of the gospel, I much doubt. But who is more fit to encourage wicked men to sin and disobedience, than he who labours also to pervert the righteous and obedient from their faith?
To close this whole discourse, I shall present Mr. Biddle's catechumens with a shorter catechism than either of his, collected out of their master's questions, with some few
f Hæc Cæsar disseruit, credo falsa existimans ea qua de infernis memorantur diverso itinere malos a bonis loca tetra, inculta, fœda atque formidolosa habere. Cato apud Salust. Bell. Catilin.