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shall be most severely punished. "And that servant which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few strips." Such is the evidence, that a gradation will be observed, in the sufferings of the wicked.
Before this truth is presented in its practical bearings, it is important to notice two erroneous theories, which have much influence in forming the views of christians on the general subject. The first of these supposes, that punishment will be proportioned to the capacities of men. by its abettors, in respect to those who are saved. They are said to be, as happy as their capacities admit. All are represented perfectly happy, but not equally so, in consequence of their various capacities for enjoyment. As those who receive the least pleasure are incapable of receiving more, until their powers are enlarged, they can have no ungratified desires, and are therefore completely happy; but the most exalted intelligences are inconceivably happier, because
The same view is taken
more exquisitely susceptible. Such in principle. is the theory in respect to those who perish. They are said to suffer as much as possible with existing capacities, but not equally, nor as much as they will, when their sensibilities become more acute, or when their powers are more expanded. This theory, by apportioning to men suffering in different degrees, only seems to be in accordance with the scriptural account of rewards and punishments; for those who are to be happy or miserable according to their works, are not good and bad according to their capacities. Persons, whose intellectual and moral faculties have been most fully developed and matured, have not always been most distinguished for piety and good works. According to the representations of the bible, it is not irrational to expect, that some, who are not far removed from idiocy, will be more richly rewarded than many, who have been pre-eminent in human and divine knowledge. That minds, whose capacities for enjoyment are so far from being exactly measured by their faith and virtues, will be changed and moulded after death, that they may receive their just rewards according to this theory, is a
very unphilosophical supposition. But there are objections to its admission, still more decisive. Happiness does not depend upon filling a person's capacity. It might produce satiety, and prevent desire, but could not convey the purest and richest enjoyment. A
sense of the desirableness of things as yet unobtained, is not inconsistent, with happiness. Such is the nature of the mind, it may be doubted, whether a feeling, that we do not possess all which we wish, is not essential to our enjoying anything. There must be some object of pursuit, something which the mind desires, and which it is conscious of not having, or it is at once cut off from the pleasures of activity and enterprize. The theory is unsound in other respects. What is a capacity for enjoyment, except the power of exercising the faculties on pleasing subjects?
power of loving must forever be a principal. source of gratification. But the heart is always able to love a new and worthy object, without the least alteration in its faculties. We can never say,-its capacities are now full-it can love no more. Two spirits, in the same rank of intelligences, may indeed be contented in the unequal rewards, which God
bestows upon them. He may reveal to one, while he conceals from the other, objects, which both might appreciate and enjoy. Thus he may distribute his rewards in various proportions, according to the characters of men of the same powers. But how a capacity for enjoyment can be surfeited, how one. can be as happy as possible, I cannot divine. From the nature of the affections, in the exercise of which is our chief enjoyment, we must ever be capable of delighting in a new object of pleasure. How then can our happiness be perfect? Happy as the case admits, we may be, in consequence of possessing no new sources of pleasure; when were those sources opened, our satisfaction would be exquisite. We are often as happy as circumstances allow, while other circumstances might make us happier. The same may be said of our ufferings. The spirits of lost men may be apable of keener anguish than they will ever experience, and though they should all be equally susceptible, no two might suffer equally. Were their capacities for pain proportional to their guilt, these capacities could not be filled, as the common theory supposes. For the term capacity in this, as in the other
case, represents the mind to be something like a measure or resorvoir, into which a definite quantity of misery can be poured. Moral acts, under whatever class they come, are acts of the will, and the fact that the will has acted in reference to ten thousand objects, does not impair its ability of acting, in reference to ten thousand more. Lost spirits hate the perfections of God, and envy the enjoyments of heaven, so far as they are acquainted with them; but a clearer view might, without any alteration in themselves, inflame their passions and embitter their sufferings. So absurd is it, to speak of filling their capacities when every new object presented to their minds, may occasion some tormenting excitement! I have thought it desirable to expose this prevalent opinion, because, while it seems to admit a gradation in future punishment, founded on an impartial distribution of justice, it actually contradicts it by representing men as destined to en lure all that is possible with their susceptibilities and powers.
The other theory, connected with this subject, is equally unsupported by the scriptures, though philosophically more plausible. It supposes, that the powers, both of redeemed