« PreviousContinue »
merciful and great in kindness, merely because he did not inflict an unjust punishment, which is too absurd to be indulged for a moment. It is clear then that the punishment, with which Nineveh was threatened, was just, in view of what they had already done ; and if so, it is conclusive that God saved them from a just punishment. It is unnecessary to multiply examples of this character, for were we to attempt to bring forward all that might be adduced, it would require a comment on a great portion of the divine administration, as recorded in the Bible. In every case in which God is said to be entreated, and turn away from doing a threatened evil, to be slow to anger, to turn away his wrath, &c. &c. salvation from a just punishment is implied, and these instances are frequent, as is declared in a text which has already been quoted. Ps. lxxviii. 38. “But he being full of compassion forgave them their iniquity, and destroyed them not, yea many a time turned he his anger away and did not stir up
all his wrath.”
V. In support of the theory of salvation from the punishment of sin, we will adduce a few passages of scripture, which, we think, clearly imply the doctrine in question. These scriptures are various, some being introduced by way of explanation and others in the form of promises.
Ezek. xviii. 21, 22. « But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die. All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him.” We have nearly the same language in chap. xxxiii. 14, 16.
“When I say to the wicked, thou shalt surely die ; if he turn from his sin, and do that which is lawful and right, none of his sins that he hath committed shall be mentioned unto him." These texts most clearly assert that past sins shall not be mentioned to the sinner on condition of his reformation. Now, by this assurance, that past sins shall not be mentioned, nothing can be meant less than that God proposes to remit the punishment of past sins, if the sinner will repent and reform. What does God mean, when, he says, “none of his sins that he hath committed shall be mentioned unto him," if it is not that he
shall be exempt from suffering the punishment they deserve ? If it be said that past sins are intended, for which the sinner has already been punished, we reply, that this would make God threaten the sinner with another punishment, for sins for which he had already been punished all he deserved, which is manifestly absurd. When God says to the sinner, that all his transgressions that he hath committed shall not be mentioned unto him, if he turn from his sin, it most clearly implies that they shall be mentioned if he does not turn; hence to suppose that reference is had to sins for which punishment has been already inflicted, would be to make God threaten a double punishment. If it be said that in the expression, "none of his sins shall be mentioned unto him," no reference is had to punishment, or to release from punishment, we repeat the question asked above, what does God mean by this expressian? Is it said that the meaning is that the sinner shall not be reproached or upbraided with his sin ? We answer, to be reproached and upbraided with sin, is a punishment itself, to some extent, especially if God reproach us with our sins. This throws it back on the former ground, so that if sins are intended for which the sinner has been already punished, God is made to threaten him with a second punishment for the same offence; and if sins are intended, for which the offender has not been punished, then, God promises to save from the punishment due to past 'sins, if the sinner will repent and reform. When God says, “none of his sins which he hath committed shall be mentioned unto him,” he, no doubt, holds out some advantage to be possessed by the returning sinner; and this advantage is negative, or the advantage of exemption from some inconvenience, evil, or malediction, growing out of sin: and as it relates exclusively to sins which have been already committed, such exemption is most clearly salvation from punishment. Give it any exposition of which it is capable, and still, if it mean any thing, it means all for which we have contended. Deny salvation from punishment, after sin has been committed, and when God says of the sinner, none of his sins which he hath committed shall be mentioned unto him, he, in effect, says just nothing at all
. The parable of the barren fig tree is full in proof of the point in question. Luke xii. 6,7,8,9. “A certain man had
a fig-tree planted in his vineyard, and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig-tree and find none, cut it down, why cumbereth it the ground ? And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: And if it bear fruit, well ; and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down."
It is not necessary to enter into a particular examination of this parable, in all its minute bearings, to discover that it contains the doctrine of salvation from just punishment. It was, no doubt, intended to illustrate the dealings of God with men; hence, by the owner of this vineyard, we are to understand God, and by the fig-tree, moral accountable beings. Taking this view, the doctrine in question appears plain upon the very surface of the text.
1. The moral beings represented by the fig-tree, are guilty, and deserve to be punished, as a fruitless tree should be removed as a cumbrance from the soil.
2. The proposition to spare the fruitless tree, for another trial, saying, “ if it bear fruit, well; if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down,” clearly supposes that, on condition of its bearing fruit in future, it was to be exempt from the punishment it deserved for its former barrenness, which implies salvation from just punishment. Keeping in view, that what is said of the fig-tree relates to moral beings, and we see, if the fig-tree did not deserve to be cut down, then God threatens an unjust punishment; and if it did deserve to be cut down, then, a proposition is made to save from just punishment: and as no one dare assert the former, the latter must be true.
This class of scripture proofs might be multiplied to almost any extent, but we must forbear, having said enough to furnish the reader with a train of thought, which he will please to carry
out in his own mind, as he reads those numerous passages, which like the above, imply salvation from the punishment of sin.
VI. Salvation from sin, which the scriptures teach, and which universalists must admit, most clearly implies salvation from the punishment it deserves. It was said of Jesus Christ before he was born, Matt. 1. 21, “ Thou shalt call
his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins." This must relate to sin that has an existence, for it has already been remarked that men cannot be saved from sin which is never committed. Men may be saved from the commission of sin; but that is very different from being saved from sin itself. Is it said that salvation from the commission of sin is all that is meant, in the above text? We reply, that in this sense the text is not true. The text declares that “he shall save his people from their sins.” Now, we ask of what people this is true, if it means salvation from the commission of sin ? It can be true of no people, unless a people can be found who have never committed sin, which cannot be, for “ all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." No man, who has, or shall hereafter commit sin, can be said to be saved from sin ; if by salvation the non-commission of sin be meant. It is clear then that Christ saves his people from sins which have been committed, and this we maintain, implies salvation from the punishment it deserves. But universalists, to avoid the force of this conclusion, have sometimes attempted to make a distinction between salvation from sin; and salvation from the punishment it deserves. To this absurd distinction we object, and will attempt to refute it. We speak exclusively of actual sin, consisting in the transgression of the law. Now, we say, after sin has been committed, it admits of no salvation, except from its guilt and punishment. Men cannot be saved from the act of sin after it has been committed; an act once performed can never be recalled: the consequences of the act are all that admit of salvation, and salvation from these imply salvation from the guilt and punishment of sin.
But another view of the subject will show, equally clear, that salvation from sin, implies salvation from the punishment it deserves. Let it be noted,
1. That no man can be saved from sin, or be in a state of salvation, while he is suffering punishment as a sinner, under the sentence of God's righteous law. This is so selfevident as hardly to need confirmation. To suppose man can be in a state of salvation from sin, while he is suffering as a sinner, would be to suppose that he was innocent, free from sin, and a sinner, guilty and deserving punishment
at the same time; which is too trifling to occupy further attention.
2. No man can be punished for his sin after he is saved from it; for as salvation implies a restoration to the favour and image of God, to suppose that the saved are still liable to punishment, would be to suppose that the innocent wbo are conformed to the divine will and likeness, are proper subjects of punishment.
Now as no man can be saved from sin while he is yet li- • able to punishment, and as no man can be punished when he is saved from sin, it is clear that salvation from sin and salvation from the punishment of sin, are inseparably connected, and that they reciprocally imply each other.
VII. If there is no salvation from the punishment of sin, it must follow that God is limited as to the time of salvation, in opposition to those declarations of his word, in which he represents himself as able and willing to save at any time, and at all times, when the sinner will comply with the conditions of salvation. To say that a man is punished for his sins, supposes a time in which he endures such punishment. Now as no one will contend that the sinner can be saved while he is in a state of suffering for his sins, it follows that God himself cannot save the sinner until the expiration of the period necessary to punish him for all his past sins, without saving him from the punishment he deserves; therefore if there is no salvation from the punishment of sin, God is limited in the time of salvation. The sinner may repent, and weep, and pray, and plead the promises of the gospel, bolieving in Christ, and still, omnipotence itself can afford no relief until the expiration of a certain period, necessary for the full punishment of his past sins. This is opposed to the general tener of the gospel, and too absurd to be indulged for a moment.
VIII. To deny salvation from punishment, must destroy the idea of salvation itself, and involve the sinner in a dilemma which must render his continuance in sin and misery, eternally unavoidable.
Salvation implies a time of salvation, in which it is enjoyed, and punishment supposes a time of punishment, which it is endured. Now as salvation and punishment are