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Mat. xxv. 46.
These Shall Go Away Into EverLasting PUNISHMENT.
WHAT a terrible prospect is here! the gracious author of nature in wrath, and dooming a number of his own creatures to everlasting misery! to consuming flames, where they (hall rest neither day nor night! where they shall curse the hour of their birth, and want one ray of hope, which comes to ally to lighten the horrors of despair! Gracious God, certainly, thou didst
never never form any of thy creatures to make them miserable; thou intendest not to deal so severely with the works of thy hands!
Thus are we apt to harden ourselves against the terrors of the Almighty, and to defeat the purposes of his laws. But let us not deceive ourselves: God is not mocked: It is not probable that he meant to frighten us with any illusive terrors, nor is it prudent to risk our safety upon our own fond and arbitrary presumptions. By his will must we stand or fall: to that let us apply for instruction.
It has been observed by some men, with much complacency, that the original word in scripture, denoting the continuance of future punishment, is sometimes applied to subjects of temporary duration. In this sense, for instance, we read of everlasting hills; and the laws of Moses are called everlasting ordinances.
But this observation has not the least weight. The word,* in its primary meaning, signifies a real and proper eter* nity j and it is an universal rule in all languages, that words must be taken in their original acceptation, unless there be some concomitant circumstance, expressed or implied, to give them a figurative sense. Would it not be absurd to say, that, because in the figurative vehemence of passion, we talk os eternal love and eternal hatred to one another in familiar life, therefore the word is used in our language, upon no other occasion, in its native extended signification? Every one fees that such phrases are but strong and glowing expressions of firm and lasting affections: the commonest person sees the figure: the nature of the thing determines the sense. In the same manner, though the scripture does sometimes apply the word
* cumtos eternal from au forever.