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not inconsistent with each other. They all unite to inspire the pious Christian with the humble hope, that he shall possess glory, honour, and immortality.
That the obsurity, respecting the state of the wicked, was designed, there can be no reasonable doubt. It was as easy to be explicit in the one case as in the other. It is most probable that no definite statement could have been made, at an early period, in the infancy of human reason, and in the centre of barbarian principles, when imagination and wild conjecture always take the lead, without its having been productive of the most pernicious consequences. Had the severity of punishment been fully revealed, and displayed in all its horrors, the human mind might have been overwhelmed with anguish. Even the most righteous and pious of men, might have been so deeply impressed with a consciousness of their own infirmities, as to suffer inextinguishable dread, lest they also should come into this place of torment; while the incorrigible wickedness of those most dear to them, would fill their souls with insufferable agonies. On the other hand, should any rays of mercy have shone distinctly through this dreadful gloom, upon unprepared minds, the salutuary force of
terror, which is the most powerful in its influence of all the passions, upon sordid and uncultivated minds, might have been destroyed. A single ray of hope might have operated, as the expectations of a reprieve are frequently known to operate upon condemned criminals, and have entirely checked any incipient attempts at repentance.
The passages, however, notwithstanding the obscurities that surround them, exist; they must exist for an useful purpose. They must each of them have some specific meaning, and as God cannot contradict himself, they can be contradictory in appearance only. The time must come in which they will be rationally explained, or they would occupy an useless place in the revelation of God. But as no other revelations are to be expected, the explanation can only be obtained by the due exercise of our rational faculties, upon competent documents placed before us.
The obscurities in which this subject is involved, relate to the object or design, and the duration of future punishments. Its precise nature cannot be known, and its place can be of no moment. As the local situation of future blissis not circumstantially revealed, we cannot expect information upon this point. The object,
power. It neither inspired him with vanity, nor administered to his passions. It was solely exerted for the good of his subjects. Whenever he appeared in public, the garment of humility, and the robe of righteousness, distinguished him from the crowd. His sceptre was a sceptre of unerring justice, and infinite benevolence was his choicest diadem. In his person we see and admire the superlative majesty of goodness. When he first made the public declaration that he was a king, he was not only in the form of a servant, but a prisoner at the bar; yet the dignity of his virtues impressed his judge and prosecutors with awe. At the time he was the most "despised and rejected of men, he was the most honoured by his God." "About the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land, until the ninth hour, and the sun was darkened, and the vail of the temple was rent in the midst.** He was great, wonderfully great, and most powerful, when suspended on the cross; for by that act of submission to the great sovereign of the universe, he slew the enmity between God and man, destroyed the tyrant death, and obtained a victory over the grave.
V. The monarchs of the Earth are mostly of
* Luke xxiii. 44.
inordinate ambition. They are restless to extend their domains, delight in conquests, and cannot enjoy even the luxuries of their station, while there remains an enemy unsubdued. This disposition is a characteristic of their folly and it is a copious source of their crimes. But the ambition of the Messiah, the prince of peace, crowns every other excellence. He also has enemies, many, powerful, and inveterate; whom he is ambitious to subdue, nor will he rest until they shall be totally subdued. These enemies are also the enemies of the human species. They are, ignorance, vice, and misery.
VI. All human governments are of a limited extent.
The most beneficial effects of the best laws are confined to particular communities, and those systems of policy, which may promote the prosperity of one country, may prove inimical or injurious to the neighbouring states. The wisest of human legislators, feels not the obligation to study the interests of all foreign powers. The summit of his desires is to live in peace and amity with surrounding nations. Such, however, is the ambition of statesmen; such the interest and dispositions of the subject, that friendly intercourse is seldom of a long continuance. Jealousies and animosities, from a competition of interests, are perpetually excited
and the duration of future punishments, are of infinite moment.
The general, and indeterminate expressions of scripture, have given rise to three hypotheses, very distinct from each other. These we shall proceed to consider; as an opportunity will thus present itself of examining those passages of scripture, upon which each hypothesis is professedly founded. Nor shall we neglect to apply the maxim we have advanced at the commencement of this disquisition; "when different parts of Scripture seem to oppose or contradict each other, those explanations which are most consonant to reason and most worthy of the Deity, ought to be adopted."
Some, indeed a great majority of Christians, have, for many ages, strenuously supported the doctrine of the absolute, irremediable, eternal misery of myriads and myriads of souls, that die in an impenitent state, enemies to God by wicked works. Nor have these christians manifested a modest diffidence, concerning this intricate subject, so becoming the obscurities which surround it, but they have peremptorily enforced their interpretations of scripture language, as infallible truths, which it is dangerous to disbelieve or to