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they shed upon our path here, and upon our prospects hereafter, and more readily to convert to our spiritual nourishment and strength, the bread of life which game down from heaven in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
DISSERTATION ON FUTURE PUNISHMENT.
It has become a common saying anong us, that man will be punished as long as he is a sinner, and no longer. The proposition, no doubt, is a good one ; but the inferences usually drawn from it, we conceive to be fallacious. We find it pressed upon us, with no small degree of confidence on the part of our opposing brethren, that when man ceases to commit sin, he ceases to be a sinner, and as he is not supposed to cominit sin in a future state, he is not thought to be a sinner, and of course not considered a proper subject of punishment. We are willing to grant there is something plausible in all this ; but we are prepared to say there is as much fallacy in the position, as there is plausibility.
With a view to direct our inquiries to this point, let us consider what constitutes any one a sinner.We read that “sin is the transgression of the law.” He who commits sin, then, transgresses the law, and by it is condemned as a sinner. An inquiry, which is now essential to the subject in discussion, is whether a man is a sinner, only while in the actual commission of sin. If this is the case, we confess we are in the wrong ; but if not, our ground is tenable.Here permit us first, to introduce an argument from the pen of an opposer on this subject, expressed in the following words:
“That I'm a sinner, Lord, I own;
For wretches such as me.” We are at liberty to take for granted, that the writer of these lines, in making this confession, did make a good one, and consequently did not commit sin in doing it; notwithstanding according to the confession be was a sinner, when it appears he did not commit sin. The inferences from this position appear
irresistible. And as these lines were composed for general use, it establishes the universality of the application from the mouth of an opposing brother, that a man may be a sinner when he is not in actual commission of sin.
Let us now take a more general view of the question. Does the thief cease to be a thief, because he is confined in a prison and cannot steal ? Does the robber cease to be such, because he wants opportunity? or the inurderer, merely because he survives the last act of slaying his fellow being ? The answer to all these questions is plain, and goes clearly to show that a man's character may outlive the actual perpetration of his deeds. In facť the moral influence of every labor is consequent to the labor itself. “The wages of sin is death."
To the point under consideration, let us here introduce the case of Joseph's brethren. Should we suppose
the remorse of conscience to be the proper punishment of sin, which idea well coincides with the views of our opposers, we have here an instance of its duration far beyond the period of the perpetration of their crimes. After their father Jacob was dead, and one might suppose the whole matter was put to rest, Joseph's brethren went and fell down before his face ; and they said, Behold we are thy servants.
No position appears more evident than the idea that the moral character of a man which takes its rise from his works is not confined in its duration to the actual perpetration of his deeds. The contrary idea destroys every proper ground of civil punishment; for no civil authority can take cognizance of an act till after'it is committed. Of course such authority must punish people, not in the act of disobedience, but for it; or It cannot punish them at all. We admit, the laws of
God are not wholly thus confined. They may take cognizance of an act while it is committing ; but they seldom consider hin duly punished for it, till some time after its perpetration. The evangelists inform us that Barabbas, whom the Jews desired should be released instead of Jesus, was a robber. They give him this character at the time when both he and our Lord were arraigned at the tribunal of Pilate, tho Barabbas was then a prisoner, and no doubt had committed no robbery for considerable time.
The idea of men's being punished in a future state of being for sins committed in this, we find much harped upon in the discourses and writings of those who oppose the doctrine of future punishment. On the relative connexion between a future and the present state, we have already offered a few thoughts. We are willing to admit that if there be no proper and relative connexion between the two states, punishment in a future state, for sins committed in this, would be absurd. But we hope this relative connexion will not be denied.
The term sin comprises not only the outward acts so named, but often the poisonous and deadly consequences of moral depravity that commonly follows.Hence it is
very evident that a person must be account. ed a sinner, till he shall be cleansed from its moral pollution, altho he should not be always found in the perpetration of crimes. It does not follow then of undeniable consequence, because we do not expect men will rob, cheat, and plunder in a future state that they are not sinners in such a state. If it be made evident from scripture that men are exposed to punishment in a future state, for sin, as many of us verily believe, itneeds something stronger to refute the doctrine, than for a few men to say, it cannot be, because in that state there can be no sin. There is
in the Proverbs of Solomon that is much urged against the doctrine of future rewards and punishments. "Behold, the righteous shall be
recompensed in the earth, much more the wicked and the sinner." Chap. xi. 31. By some it is concluded from this passage that if the righteous be recompensed in the earth, they can have no recompense elsewhere; and if the wicked are to be recompensed in the earth, they can have no other recompense, than while they live here. If we add to any of these recompenses, we give them a double reco pense. If it be any other than while they are alive on this earth it is a denial of the text. But what can a reward in the earth be, except in those things that belong to the earth ? Not any thing, say they What shall we then say of the words of Christ ? «Blessed are ye when men shall revile you.
Rejoice and be exceeding glad ; for great is your reward in heaven ; for so persecuted they the #prophets which were before you.” Matt. v. 11, 12.The proverbs of Solomon were designed for general maxims of human life. They have seldom any reference to a future state, either of happiness or misery. We have no reason to believe they were designed to teach us the principles of christianity, any further than those principles are embraced in the course of human actions bere. As far as the design of their application extends, they are undoubtedly true, but fall much short of embracing a complete account of the divine economy in relation to man. We have reason to believe the above text quoted from Proverbs, has been pressed into a service where it did not belong, and not only so, but made to occupy a very important ground in that service.
A passage in the New Testament made to occupy a very prominent part in this controversy, is found in Rom. vi. 7. “For he that is dead is freed from sin." It would seem that the apostle was sufficiently plain in the use of this passage to be clearly understood. In the 2d verse of this chapter, he asks, "how shall we that are dead to sin live any longer therein P” A deadness to sin was the subject of his writing. Again, in the 6th verse, "Kaowing this, that our old man is cru. cified with him that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” Altho Christ's death and resurrection in connexion with ours are a literal death and resurrection as described in this chapter of the Apostle's; yet our death as the effect of his is so plainly pointed out, as to make it evident that this deadness is a deadness to sin and not a deadness to the natural body, as our opposers strenuously contend.
Having offered to a generous and enlightened public these few arguments in support of a future retribution, we think we shall continue these series of numbers on future punishment no further. We had calculated to have offered something on its superior advantage in point of moral tendency, in another number, which may be done some future day, should occasion require. It may be, that the Lord will now visit us with peace; and we wish to show our brethren and the world every possible mark of conciliation and accommodation. Tho we would not flatter them that we are disposed to relinquish any proper right in faith or practice, we would use all possible means to live peaceably with all men. Whenever our opposers are disposed to submit this subject to an enlightened public, and perhaps they now are, without further labor, we have no disposition to keep alive the controversy.
PASSAGES OF SCRIPTURE IN FAVOR OJ UNIVERSAL
SALVATION. NO. 2.
Exodus xx. 5, 6. “For I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commanda ments."
Psalm xxx. 5. "For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favor is life: weeping niay endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning."