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which, in its nature is capable of endless infliction, shall never cease. It therefore never will. Were the principle denied on which this conclusion rests, language must in a measure cease to be a medium of thought. How does this audience know, that the speaker is a believer in eternal punishment? He has used terms, no more unambiguous than the sacred writers employ. But you judge of his meaning, by the same rules, which, when applied to their language, would lead you to acknowledge, that future punishment is taught by them. Should you refuse to admit the authority of this rule of interpretation, in cases where future punishment is the subject, you would make its endless duration difficult or impossible to reveal. You can at least imagine that it is eternal, and that God intends to make it known. But what terms, sufficiently explicit, can he employ? If he represents it, under the figure of a fire eternal and unquenchable, you reply, that temporal judgments are sometimes thus described. If you will trifle so egregiously with the plainest rules of criticism, with rules, which, in all other cases, lead you infallibly to correct conclusions, no revelation on the subject can be made you.
By voluntarily abandoning the only safe guide, you lose your way and stumble at every step. The word of God can afford you no light, you wrest it to your own destruction. But though it is true that just rules of interpretation decide, that eternal punishment is taught under the figure of unquenchable fire, yet a particular examination of the passages where the expression occurs, will strengthen the conclusion. To this, your attention is invited. In the third chapter of Matthew, John the Baptist describes the Messiah in these terms. "Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." It will not be disputed, that good men are denoted by the wheat, and bad men by the chaff. Christ will gather his wheat into the garner, that is, preserve the righteous from being lost and destroyed; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire or subject the wicked to ceaseless and everlasting misery. This is the obvious and incontrovertible sense. For when it is recollected, that fire is emblematical of punishment, unquenchable can only signify its endless perpetuity. It is in vain to
say, that the fire may be endless, while beings subjected to its action escape. Believers in a restoration assume for granted, that a material fire is meant, which they contend may continue forever while its miserable victims are reprieved. But the language is figurative, being only a forcible mode of expressing the severity of punishment. What then is the use of the adjective unquenchable? It doubtless has a significant import. As the punishment of which it is descriptive, is manifestly to be inflicted after death, it must denote its endless duration. It cannot mean that the wicked shall be utterly consumed or annihilated, for then to be burned up with fire would convey the whole idea; unquenchable would be redundant. But the greatest reliance for the illustration of this language, is placed upon the passages in the ninth chapter of Mark, one of which stands at the head of this discourse. It has already been shown, that gehenna, translated hell, is the name of the place of future torment. The fire, which is mentioned in the text, as never to be quenched, denotes the punishments of that world. They never terminate. The fire shall never be quenched. Nor should the other descrip
tion, contained in the text, be overlooked. "It is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell-fire, where their worm dieth not." This last expression is likewise borrowed from the valley of Hinnom. There worms preyed on the bodies of the dead, so long as they remained, but when they were enterely decayed, the worms also perished. But it is not so in hell. Worms shall prey on the indestructible forms of the wicked forever, that is, their punishment shall never terminate. Let it not be forgotten in these inquiries, that the worm which dieth not is a figurative representation, and not a philosophical account of future misery. Dead bodies, when thrown out to putrify and decay, present a woful picture of wretchedness and are so far a striking description of the miseries of hell. But there is an obvious point of dissimilarity, to which the text has reference. In one case, the body returns to its native dust and the worm dies; in the other, the body is immortal and the worm which preys on it, never dies. Since the worm denotes the wretched condition of the wicked, its deathless nature signifies that their misery is end
less. Nor is this conclusion removed, by the passage in the sixty-sixth chapter of Isaiah, to which Christ seems to have alluded. “And they shall go forth and look upon the carcasses of the men, that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh." This is said to take place after the conversion of the world, and appears to be a dramatic representation of the glorious state of the church, when it shall be universal, and when all the enemies of God shall be punished. The worm that never dies, the fire that shall never be quenched, are there also used to denote the everlasting misery of transgress
The remainder of this investigation must be deferred until another opportunity. Believing, however, that the doctrine of eternal punishment is already completely established, I would add a word on the benevolence manifested by a faithful minister of Christ in the discharge of this part of his commission. It is sometimes thought, that they alone imitate the spirit of our divine master, who conceal from their hearers the awful retributions of