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teaches that men are either rewarded for all their good deeds, and
punishment-good for those who receive it, as well as for those who witness it. To save a man from the benefits of such punishment, is to deprive him of that which he actually needs, and which his own welfare requires. This would violate justice, equity, and enlightened benevolence. If an individual was threatened with an unjust and undeserved punishment, to save him from it would be just and right. Conceding this, it becomes self evident that to screen man from just and deserved punishment, would be equally unjust and wrong: Hence I consider the question before us, when reduced to its naked proposition, to be virtually this :—“Will God do that which is unjust and wrong in his dealings with sinners ?" All will see that the very statement and nature of the question, amounts to this. And however my friend opposite may introduce fine spun theories, or deal in the bewildering metaphysics of a di. lapidated theology, to conceal this naked point, yet it is the real issue between us.
I stand here to vindicate the character of God against this virtual charge of injustice and wrong-A charge, which, if true, would vitiate the purity of the Divine nature and destroy the integrity of his government. I insist Jehovah will do precisely just and right in all cases and with all men—both individually and collect. ively. God is no respecter of persons." He will deal with all upon the principle of administering, with unfailing certainty, such rewards as they merit and such punishment as justice decides hey deserve.
I am aware I shall differ from my friend in viewing each act, in he doings of an accountable creature, as a destined matter of conideration in God's dealings with man. The school of theology to vhich he belongs, is in the habit of
moral desert. It
punished for none of their bad, or punished for all of their bad deeds, and rewarded for none of their good. Not so, however, with the class to which I am attached : we believe God deals with men with relation to each separate act of their lives. For every worthy deed, or even thought, he bestows a just and deserved reward; and there is no danger or possibility of losing that reward. And for every wicked act or thought, the Supreme Judge of the Universe will inflict a just and deserved punishment, from which there is no possibility that the sinner can, in any manner, be saved or screened. We maintain, moreover, it would be as unjust and wrong, to screen a man from deserved punishment, as it would be to deprive him of the reward a good deed merits. Why should a Deity of infinite wisdom, annex a penalty to his law, and then immediately proceed to provide a way to avoid its infliction when justly incurred? Shall we be told the penalty is designed to give influence to the law, and secure obedience? This it would unquestionably do, was there an absolute certainty that it would be imposed upon the guilty. But bow can penalty impart any strength to law, where nothing can be
more easy than to avoid its infliction ? Thus the affirmative of this question robs God's law of that which can alone make penalty of avail. Take away certainty of infliction, and law may about as well be without penalty as with. The views entertained on the opposite side, in my estimation, violate all proper conception of the nature and objects of divine punishment. They represent it virtually as vindictive, retaliatory, revengeful. The sinner commits an injury on God or his government, and God seeks satisfaction or payment by inflicting injury on the sinner in return. There are but two general objects, so far as the guilty are personally concerned, for which punishment can be inflicted on them, viz. either to injure or to benefit them. The former is retaliation, the latter is the dictate of benevolence. Which shall we attribute to God?
Divine punishment cannot be viewed, in any enlightened sense, as being administered on a principle of retaliation, a rendering of evil for evil-or from promptings of malice or batred. God has forbidden man to act on these principles ; can it be supposed he will violate his own injunctions ? Can it be right in Jehovah to render evil for evil, and wrong in man? Are we not commanded to imitate our Father in heaven? The great injunction every where to be found in the New Testament, is that good should be returned for evil-blessing for cursing. God himself, we are bound to believe, in all his dealings with dependent creatures, acts on this perfect and lovely moral principle. The proposition of my friend, makes the Creator to falsify that principle, in that it represents his punishments as inflicted solely to injure the guilty-which would be but a return of evil for evil. It is on this ground alone he can consis. tently maintain that it would be a blessing to save man from pun. ishment. Whereas, the moment it is acknowledged punishment is inflicted for the reformation and benefit of the wicked, it must be allowed that to save them from it, would be in no wise a blessing, but an injury.
There must be a marked distinction between suffering inflicted on the principles of retaliation, and inflicted as a Divine punishment. What is the nature of that distinction? It can be only this : Retaliation is inflicting suffering in hatred of the offender, and with a sole desire to torment him. Divine punishment consists in bringing pain on the sinner, in love-with a deep interest in his welfare -and with the intention of restoring him, to obedience and happi. ness, -as a wise and affectionate earthly father, chastises his child for his reformation and ultimate good. It is by overlooking this distinction, and confounding retaliation with punishment, that the world has been lead so far astray on this subject, and brought to believe that salvation from punishment would be a great favor from God.
What are the true objects of God's punishment ? They are, First, The reformation of the punished-and Second, The benefit of those who witness punishment, in the light of a salutary example. Whatever amount of chastisement is necessary to reform the guilty, will be sufficient to operate as an example, to deter others from wrong doing. I repudiate the idea of punishing men solely for example's sake and with no aim or desire for their good! It violates all reasonable conceptions of a wise, just, and perfect government.
God is the Father of all inankind. “Have we not all one Father ? Hath not one God created us?” (Malachi ii. 10.) “Our Father which art in Heaven,” (Matt. vi. 9.) He is the Father of the disobedient and sinful, as well as of the good. “Hear, o heavens; and give ear, 0 earth; for the Lord hath spoken. I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the soul of the foot even unto the head, there is no soundness in it; but wounds and bruises and putrifying sores.” (Isa, i. 2–6.) Notwith. standing the Jews were rebellious and depraved, they were still children. The Deity being thus the father of all men, his government is purely Parental. It differs from human governments in that, while they are strictly judicial, inflicting punishment with but little concern for the fate of the guilty, a Parental government holds forever in view the interests of the punished. The perfect, parental government of God cannot be illustrated by principles and operations of an imperfect judicial, earthly government. The best representation of the government of our heavenly Father, is that which a wise, just, and benevolent earthly parent exercises over his family. Good earthly fathers have disobedient children, and they deem it a duty to punish them. On what principle do they inflict chastisement? To gratefy a spirit of retaliation-or from a desire to injure the child-or merely to afford an example for the rest of the family? No, the great and leading object, is the child's own good-its restoration to obedience and virtue. A secondary object, is its influence on the other children, as a salutary example. A wise and good father endeavors to satisfy his erring child, that he punishes not in hatred or anger but in sorrow, and love, and solely for its benefit. A realization of this fact melts the child into contrition and regret, and makes it obedient and loving.
I maintain these are the principles on which God inflicts punishment on the guilty. He is a wise and good Father, and will not save his creatures from that infliction of pain which their restoration to godliness and happiness requires. Moreover this is the most elevated, enlightened, and reasonable view we can take of the government of a holy and perfect God—a Universal Father. Any representation that his punishments are designed for the injury of the punished, degrades the Deity-introduces imperfection and evil into his counsels, and destroys the moral grandeur, beauty and glory of his government.
Allow me to bring forward a few scriptural passages, in proof that God's punishments are designed for the good of those on whom they are inflicted. “I will bring the third part through the fire,
and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried. They shall call on my name and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people ; and they shall say, The Lord is my God.” (Zech. xiii. 9.) By bringing ihem through the fire, the prophet represents the punishment that God inflicts upon his disobedient people. And the influence of the punishment is described as bring. ing the erring back to obedience and righteousness. Again, in reference to the advent of Christ: “But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? For he is like a refiner's fire, and like fuller's soap. And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver. And he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.”—(Mal. iii
. 2-3.) What is the nature of “fuller's soap," and "refiner's fire ?” They do not destroy, but cleanse, renovate, whatever is submitted to their action. These figures are introduced by the prophet to represent the operation of God's government, and to show that his punishments purify rather than injure. Again—“If they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments, then will I'visit their transgres. sion with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless, my loving kindness will I not utterly take from him nor suffer my faithfulness to fail.”—(Ps. Ixxxix. 31-33.) Here is a threatening of just punishment; and yet its infliction will not take away God's kindness and faithfulness. Again—" Furthermore, we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence; shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of Spirits, and live? For they verily, for a few days, chastened us after their pleasure ; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his boliness.”—(Heb. xii. 9-10). This is a most beautiful representation of the objects of Divine Punishment. Its purpose is to amend, to restore, the disobedient, and bring them into a state of heart and mind, where they will become partakers of God's holiness.
I will now refer for a moment, to the passage quoted by Elder Holmes, from Gaia. iii. 13—“Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.” From the remarks of my broher, I suppose he understands the law in this sentence, to be the great moral law of God. I wholy dissent from this construction. The context clearly shows that the apostle referred exclusively to the Levitical or Ceremonial Law of the old dispensation. In the 2nd verse, he asks “This would I learn of you, received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, [i. e. the Levitical law,] --or by ihe hearing of faith ?”—the Gospel. Again--verse 17th : " And this I say, that the covenant that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty Fears after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of Done effect." This shows beyond a doubt, it was from the curse of the Ceremonial Law that Christ redeemed the Apostles and early christian converts.
After the gospel dispensation had been established, it was considered a curse, that is, an evil, a disalvantage for the Jews to shut their eyes to the light and glory which beamed upon them from the teachings of Christ, and cling to the old forms and ceremonies of the Levitical Law. Hence in this immediate context, (v. 10) St. Paul says: "For as many as are of the works of the law, are under the curse. For it is written, cursed is every one (while acknowledging the authority of the law,) that continueth not in all things. which are in the book of the law, to do them.” The book of what Law ? Evidently, the Ceremonial Law. In the fourth chapter of the same Epistle, to be under the old Levitical Law is said to be in bondage— Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants : the one from Mount Sinai, [the Levitical Law) which gendereth to bondage.” From this bondage Christ came to deliver the Jews : “ Stand fast therefore in the liberty (the Gospel] wherewith Christ bath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage”—the Ceremonial Law—(Gala. v. 1.)
Hence in the passage quoted by my friend, we are not to understand St. Paul as teaching that Christ redeemed his followers in that age from the punishments of God's great moral law, but from the curse or bondage of the Levitical Law. How did he redeem them? By adopting their sins, and enduring punishment in their stead? Such an idea does violence to the whole suivject on which the Apostle was engaged. The Savior redeemed them from the bondage of the ceremonial Law, by the enlightening teachings and influences of his Gospel.
One word in regard to Isaiah liii. 4.5:-“ Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him siricken, sitten of God and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep, have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Eld. Holmes quotes this passage to prove that Christ took upon himself the sins and guilt of mankind, and bore in their place the penalties which God's moral law exacts of them. If this is a true construction, then several important deductions must follow. In the first place, to teach such doctrine, the words of the prophet must be received in their most literal and naked sense.
This would prove that Christ actually took upon himself the 'iniquity" of men, inother words, became sinful and guilty in his own character. More. over it would prove that he, an innocent being, literally received in his own person, the punishment due all mankind, for all the sins that ever have been, or will be committed on the earth. It follows also, that Jesus literally took upon himself the griefs and sorrows, the physical infirmities an ) sicknesses (see Mait. viii. 17) of all mankind. There are none who believe this. Is it said his bearing our griefs and sicknesses, &c , must be understood in a figurative