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everlasting to things of limited duration, to mountains upon account of their iirmness, and to the Mosaic ordinances on account of their obligation during the allotted period of the Jewish polity; yet can this be any argument, that the word must mean a limited period, even where there is nothing, cither expressed or implied, in the connexion or nature of the thing, to restrain and limit its signification? certainly not: it is not the method of understanding language; and as God has vouchsafed to speak to OS in the language of men, his word must be subject to the common laws of interpreting human language.
The fame word is used in scripture to express the duration both of future punishments and rewards: these Jhallgo aivay into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal.* As no one
*THfe original word is cuano;, though the English translators have chosen to vary tfie expression, and
doubts, whether the bliss, here promised to patient virtue, be not properly everlasting, so every one is led to infer, that the punishment, here threatened to disobedience, is of equal duration. Nay, when the scripture expresses the infinite duration of God, who is the fountain of all being, and can consequently have no end; the same word is used to express this amazing attribute. The eternal, immortal, invisible and only wise God. i. Tim. i. 17. And, unless there be something in the nature of creatures incapable of such a proper eternity (which we know nothing of) we have more reason from scripture to apprehend, that future punishments continue as long as God exists, than to suppose them temporary, short, and transient.
by that means lost in some measure the solemnity of the antithesis. "These shall go away into everlast"ing punishment, but tfie righteous into everlasting "life.
But a sanction, so awful and important, rests not upon loose conclusions. It has pleased God to enforce it in a manner, that admits not of misapprehension; in positive terms, exclusive of every possible idea of finiteness or cessation. They Jhall be cast, fays the scripture, into a furnace of fire; there jh all be wailing and gnasting of teeth: they shall have no rest day nor night, and the smoke Jhall ascend up forever: their worm Jhall never die, and the fire Jhall be never quenched. No law was ever more explicit, no penalty more clearly pointed out to universal notice. Here is no room to plead ignorance; here is no room for mistake or evasion.
But, you will fay, reason revolts, humanity trembles, compassion shudders at the supposition. Can he, who made us capable of tendering at the thoughts of such sufferings, want compassion himself? Can he exact, what he makes us commiserate as a severe infliction?
Can the Lord forget to be gracious, and shut up his loving kindness in displeasure?
In answer to this I would observe, that if we must reason from our own sentiments and apprehensions about the ways of God—which we certainly have no right to do in matters of express will, as he may have a thousand reasons for what he does beyond our ideas or comprehension—but if we must reason about his ways from our own imperfect views; let us act at least as becomes men, and argue rather from the principles of found reason, than the erring impulse of blind instincts. Let us only consider him as a Moral Governor, presiding over such free actions, as are the subject of human government; and then, if we muji judge of his ways — I almost tremble to mention it — we must judge of him from what we ought to do as magistrates, than-what we feel, as partial individuals. .- -. Com
Compassion and justice, we very well know, are often at variance in human measures. Do we not often pity criminals under punistiments, . which our better reason at the same time approves? Do we not approve of penal laws, though we melt at the rigor' of their execution? Nay, does not the Judge himself frequently commiserate, while the exigences of society oblige him to condemn?
The Divine Benevolence can by no means be considered as a blind principle, distributing happiness promiscuously without regard to the qualifications of the creature; but as a rational principle, under the direction of other perfections, wisdom, justice, and order.
Human creatures make but a small part of the divine kingdom. They are the lowest in the scale of intellectual creation. There are various classes rising in noble progression between*