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author's theological system, and is visibly operative in all the Unitarian disquisitions that have come under our notice. What they are pleased to term reuson, and not revelation, is with them the test and standard of religious truth. Hence the formation of certain preconceptions about what it is right and fit for God to reveal concerning his character and government. Hence, a method of inquiry which virtually invalidates the necessity, and as might be expected, generally explains away the import of revelation. Prophecies, miracles, and all the vast congeries of proofs by which the divine authority of scripture is established, are of no avail to the admission of a doctrine, until it is proved to be accordant with previous reasonings concerning the perfections of God!' Thus Dr. Priestley argued about the atonement.-- If,' says that rational divine - the
doctrine of atonement were really scriptural, I hesitate not to say, that by me, the evidences of revealed religion would
be deemed unsatisfactory.' And we recollect hearing an eminent Unitarian minister, conversing on another peculiarity of the orthodox faith, deliberately assert that such a doctrine supposing it to be scriptural, formed a stronger presumptive evidence against the divine authority of revelation, than all its external
evidences could establish in its favour. Now, to us such reasoning, to
the least, seems highly absurd. Of what use is a revelation from God if we have materials and data for our conclusions beforehand ? The idea of revelation supposes the absence of all such materials: its necessity arises from our inevitable ignorance; and its actual bestowment, involves in it an obligation to an unconditional surrender of the mind to the subject of the message. To suspend our reception of a doctrine contained in a volume thus authenticated by historic proofs of its divinity; to refine and modify its information, till we have accommodated it to our antecedent conceptions, is precisely, to identify ourselves with those on whom the “ great Teacher" pronounced this awful decision—“ neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.”
The subject of Dr. Estlin's discourse, is one on which our information must be derived solely from the declarations of scripture. By them, and by them only, are we to mould our conceptions of the attributes and “perfections of the Deity, and regulate our speculations concerning any part of that moral administration which respects the future and invisible world. In the present economy of providence we find difficulties of insurmountable magnitude meeting us at every point of our inquiries; and were it not for a celestial illumination, all around us would be involved in impenetrable shadows. By this light, enabling us partially to penetrate into the dimness of futurity,
enough is disclosed to excite our fears and animate our hopesbut nothing is revealed for the gratification of an unhumbled curiosity. In the sacred writings,' says Dr. Estlin, 'the future punishment of the wicked appears to be as clearly asserted as the future happiness of the righteous. The question concerns only the nature, design and duration of this punishment.'. To this question we shall briefly direct our attention, and endeavour to ascertain how far the discourses before us accord with the decisions of that ultimate authority, to which we refer with confidence, and from which in our estimation there can be no rational appeal.
Concerning the nature of future punishment as described in the Scriptures, there is no inquiry demanding our present notice, nor have wemuch to offer respecting its design.' This the advocates of restitution say is to reform ; and they prove it by referring to theories of human law to writers on jurisprudence.' But is there one scriptural authority for this theory of its design-or one attempt to support it by such an appeal ? Most certainly not. The inspired writers invariably represent the future misery of the impenitent as the necessary consequence of sin, as the awful expression of divine justice. The "wrath' of God, which is said to be kindled against transgressors, is not a passion but a principle strictly accordant with infinite benevolence,---not the arbitrary infliction of unmerited suffering, but the manifestation of the immutable opposition of his nature and perfections to moral evil. This opposition the sufferings of the wicked are represented as being designed to exhibit : the day of wrath' is the revelation of the righteous judgment of God.' Punishment is never spoken of, but in connection with such displays of the divine character, and is represented in every denunciation of its infliction in the future state, as final and ultimate.
But the main question respects the scriptural account of its duration : for if this be limited, then we are authorized to pronounce its design to be that of reform. To ascertain, whether the declarations of Scripture can support the notion of limited punishment, we shall suggest a few inquiries on the subject.
First, then, what are the scriptural representations of the evil of sin? It is that abominable thing which God hateth.' He is said 6 to be angry with the wicked every day.' It is described as most offensive to the divine nature, and the most humiliating allusions are employed to illustrate its enormity and unfold its desert. It is a violation of infinite obligations---enmity against God'---rebellion against his government-and obnoxious to what is emphatically termed his curse.' Its evil may be in some
measure be ascertained from what is denounced as its punishment.
• Now the first part of the punishment of the wicked (says Dr. E.) will consist in an exclusion from a state of inconceivable bliss. What other ideas can we affix to the images, the door was shut; outer darkness ; the punishment of that period or continued punishment ; fire; death ; perdition; shall not see life and the destruction of that period, or protracted destruction from the presence of the Lord, and his glorious power. To this we know will be added extreme mental anguish, arising from the consideration of what these victims of divine justice have lost, and the consideration of the trifling value of those objects for which they lost it ; from the stings of conscience, and the company of only wicked and miserable beings. “ There will be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.' p. 170, 171.
But we inquire in the next place, through what medium, according to scriptural testimony, are the blessings of “ salvation, (including the pardon of sin, restoration to the divine favour and eternal happiness, communicated to men? We do not think it necessary in answering this inquiry, to enter into any discussion of the Christian doctrine of mediation by sacrifice: but there are some remarkable passages in the new Testament, the bare citation of which will sufficiently prove the exclusive nature of that medium of acceptance with God, which the scriptures reveal; and the limitation of its blessings to those who under the gospel economy obey Jesus Christ as the author of eternal salvation.'
believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins, and whither I go ye cannot come.' "How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation ?" "If we sin wilfully after we have perceived the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins but a certain fearful looking for judgement and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.'
We again inquire, what are the scriptural delineations of the righteous character ? Except a man be born again, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.' Without faith it is impossible to please God.
- Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.' To such characters alone, the felicities of Heaven are promised, But we answer this question in the words of Dr. Estlin.
• We are sometimes apt to speak of happiness, as if it consisted solely in external things. It should never be forgotten that it consists in two things, faculties and objects. Now the faculties, the capacities, the organs, if I may so express myself, of a spiritual, moral, and religious happiness, are spiritual, moral, and religious habits ; which like all other habits are formed gradually, and by repeated acts. Without these the company of the blessed in heaven, and all the scenes and sources of delight with which the celestial state abounds, would be no more the means of enjoyment than a beautiful prospect
would be to a blind man, or a concert of music to a person deprived of the sense of hearing. It should never be forgotten that the happiness of the heavenly world is not something arbitrarily bestowed, but the result of a peculiar temper of mind, which temper of mind, or qualification for Heaven, we are placed in this world, as in a state of discipline to acquire.' p. 37, 38.
In this statement, we acquiesce with Dr. E. It will soon appear how far, on scriptural principles, his system of restitution is consistent with it. He goes on to remark: • The connexion of sin and death we learn from the beginning of the Old Testament; and from the whole of the New we learn the connexion between holiness and immortal life. In the former we are told of a fall occasioned by sin; in the latter of a restoration called salvation and redepmtion, through the mediation of Jesus Christ, effected in some cases in this life by repentance and obedience, and I trust it will appear in all cases in another, by means of punishment.”
Now, on what scriptural intimations do the advocates of restitution believe in the moral efficacy of punishment to form the righteous character, after a proof of the insufficiency of ' discipline' in this world? Where is the revelation that assures us the state of probation will be renewed under any future economy? According to the scriptures every good and every perfect gift cometh from above ;' and the success of means employed in the present world for the purposes of reformation and repentance, is invariably ascribed to divine influence. Have weany reason from scripture to believe that penal suffering, such as Dr. E. has described in the passage formerly cited, is one of the
means of grace?' Is that period of protracted destruction, (Dr. E.'s translation of 'cas@gov á súvrov) in which extreme mental anguish shall be added to an exclusion from a state of inconceivable bliss, likely in the order of means to form in its unhappy subjects, spiritual, moral and religious habits.' How common is it to illustrate the danger of procrastination in religion, by referring to the frequent incapability of attending to its solemn claims, in the season of painful sickness and amidst the agonies of dissolving nature! And have we reason to think the incapability will be less in the state of continued punishment? But before we are authorised to admit the moral efficacy of punishment, we must be supported by express declarations of scripture. It is needless to say that none can be adduced; and that vague declamatory reasonings founded on imperfect analogies are the only supports of this seemingly benevolent but really destructive hypothesis.
But we are led to inquire, what is the obvious and natural import of those terms and allusions in which the duration of future punishment is described ? It is far from being either our wish or intention to follow the learned Doctor in his elaborate
and ostentatious trilling about aww and It is beneath the dignity of a biblical critic, or of one who pretends to that character, to flourish away in the following style.
• When I inform you that in all the passages which I shall now re. cite, the word is con in the original, you will see clearly that it cannot mean eternity. In 2 Cor. iv. 4. Satan is called the God of this Con,' surely not the God of this eternity. Again, Eph. vi. 12, we wrestle against the rulers of the darkness of this Eon; certainly not of this eternity. 1 Tim. vi. 17. Charge them that are rich in this world's good's;' certainly not in the goods of eternity ; &c. p. 15, 46.
Dr. E. notwithstanding the puerility of this parade, acknowledges that the word
may be applied to a subject whose duration is unlimited, as indeed it is, to the life of the righteous and the existence of God; but then it receives and does not give the idea of endless. p. 43.
If the term 'everlasting' be applied to the life of the righteous, and receive in that application the idea of endless, what is there in the subject of which future unlimited duration is thus predicated, different from that to which the same term is applied in reference to the punishment of the wicked? We advert to the well known passage in Matt. xxv. 46. - These shall go into everlasting punishment (sis xorcowy akáv.ov) but the righteous to everlasting life' (els zwño clávov). In the first part of the sentence, the word according to Dr. E. means limited duration, the
punishment of that period;' but immediately after, it receives the idea of endless, and means unlimited duration. Now if it receive this idea, we ask from what does it receive it? If it be replied the subject of the happiness specified in the passage, is capable of endless duration, we inquire-is not the subject of punishment requally capable of endless duration? The error of Dr. E. and all who in this logomachy are desirous of explaining away the natural meaning of words, is the evident result of previous conceptions about the supposed end of puishment. "How easy would it be to conclude that eternity is not the attribute of Deity, and that the life of the righteous in heaven would not be endless, were such a mode of critical interpretation adopted. We observe, too, that for the purpose of supporting this kind of interpretation in the present case, an idea is assumed as the radical signification of the term aw, which is in point of fact only one of its collateral meanings, In the attempt to define the trua import of a term, regard should be had to all its acceptations. Its various uses should be accurately collated; and the lexicographer should endeavour to exhibit that generalised explanation, which shall comprehend its minutest and most extended applications. Dr. E. has violated this obvious rule of verbal definition, by representing
life, age,' &c. as the primitive idea of awy from which