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that they deserve it. Men are apt to reason differently. Because God is just, they infer that he will not punish. The apostle, on the contrary, concludes from the righteousness of God, that the punishment which he has threatened, and which he will inflict is just; and this undoubtedly is the only correct mode of reasoning. We cannot tell what God may justly do in relation to human wickedness, until he reveals his own determination. The excellence of his character is so undoubted that whatever he informs us will be his conduct, we must conclude is fit and equitable.
The objection to the doctrine of future punishment, founded on the justice of God, is therefore untenable. It cannot be proved, that lost men will repent or that they are undeserving of eternal punishment, while the declaration of God, that they shall suffer thus, is a positive proof of its equity.
It only remains to examine the grounds on which the objection rests, and from which it receives its plausibility.
L It is urged as an act of injustice to punish those who never consented to be put on trial. But is this true? Is consent necessary to the ex
istence of obligation? The child is bound to obey its parents, though it never assumed the obligation by voluntary agreement. Men are often laid under obligations of gratitude by benefits which were conferred without their request, and without the possibility of avoiding them. Even those who assert as an objection to eternal punishment, that they were put on trial without their consent, admit that they owe certain duties to God, as love, adoration and gratitude. But whence does this obligation arise and on what is it founded? Did God consult us, whether we would be objects of his peculiar regard and munificence? Did we consent to be born under happy auspices, in a christian country, in a land of freedom and in an age of peculiar light? or were any of our ordinary blessings proffered and accepted, before we were under obligation? Certainly not. On their own principles then, the argument of these men fails. If we are without our consent under obligations to serve God, we are responsible, and obnoxious to punishment for disobedience.
II. The manner in which sin found entrance into the world through Adam, is represented to be
inconsistent with justice in the punishment of his posterity. It is true that we stand related to
our first parents in a sense which effects our dearest interests. "By the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation." But God has not treated us unjustly nor unkindly. On the contrary, by passing the sentence of condemnation which Adam incurred upon the whole race, He opened the way for introducing the plan of redemption, and for placing mankind in a better condition, than that which was forfeited by the first of fence. This position appears with high probability to be true, from the following considerations.
1. The posterity of Adam are in a condition preferable to that which they lost by his offence. At first his circumstances appeared fair and promising. He was the friend of God. The garden was fitted up for his residence with every thing to regale his senses, enlist his mind and delight his heart. He had nothing to fear, except the slight temptation which was to test his obedience. But amid all this display of his Maker's power and goodness, he fell. At the very moment when he was in the full enjoyment of his dominions, and per
haps in sweet converse with heaven, the tempter was laying a plot to beguile him. The trial proved fatal. The experiment however fair one, and shows that it is infinitely dangerous for a being like man, to be placed under a system of mere law. Now though we are in danger, we are not in despair. But had we been left under law, and exposed in the same way that Adam was, being in no more eligible circumstances and having no more power of resistance, we should have sinned without the least prospect of escaping the execution of justice. We should have been cast off like the fallen angels. No invitation of mercy would have reached our ears, no blood would have washed away our guilt. The condition, therefore, which Adam occupied and which we lost by him, was one of greater danger than that in which by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ we are now placed.
2. A state of trial under a system of mere law, such as the angels and our first parents experienced, is never so desirable as one under a system of grace.
In the former case, a single offence is fatal, in the latter, the vilest offender can escape.
And even supposing it possible, that he who is under law may never sin, while he who is under grace has already done it, the condition of the latter is most to be desired. He has only to comply with the terms of the covenant of grace, which terms must from the nature of the case be possible, and the deadly consequences of his sin are at once averted. But when one under mere law offends, he is left without hope. Nothing can save him. If, therefore, it is possible, especially if it is probable, that he will sin, his condition becomes inconceivably more dangerous than that of the actual sinner, to whom pardon is proffered. Adam, created in the moral image of God, and for sometime obedient, at last fell, and had it not been for grace would have perished; but Enoch, made in a fallen state and guilty of actual sin, walked by faith and was not, for God took him. I know, indeed, there is great danger of perishing, even where grace abounds. I only contend that the prospect and entire opportunity of being saved, is to be preferred to a state of probation, where disobedience is possible and always fatal. This opportunity every man under the christian dispensation enjoys, but when put on trial