Imágenes de páginas


duce a state of anarchy ? I am sensible that you would shudder at such an idea. Then reject the unscriptural notion that conscience is the only tribunal at which men will be tried-a notion devoid of all authority, and one which aims a death blow at all order and regularity. Thus it hath been shown that conscience is far from being a just and equitable judge, and consequently it cannot be pretended that men receive their due reward as they pass the journey of life.

We frequently see instances in which it is obvious to the of unbiassed reason, that a just retribution does not take place in this world. To illustrate this, we will suppuse a case. We will suppose then, that two men, A and B, start in company to commit robbery and mur. der, and while in the very act of taking the life of the innocent traveller, A receives a shot through the heart, of which he dies instantly; but B escapes alive with the booty. And to avoid detection B flees, atid after wandering several months in a distant part of the country, is detected, brought before a magistrate, and committed to prison, where he remains for several months

He is then brought to trial, receives the sentence of death, is remanded back to prison, where he remains for months loaded with chains, and at last suffers an ignominious death upon the gallows. From the time of the murder until the execution we will say was one year. Now this is no visionary representation. Cases of this nature frequently happen.

Now I would ask, if A went in a moment to perfect bliss, is it not evident that A was punished too little, or B too much ! I will observe here that their characters must have stood upon a perfect level, when they assaulted the innocent traveller. It matters not what their conduct might have been before they commenced this daring enterprise. For if men receive all they deserve in this world, they must be punished step by step as


they pass along, so that if they are taken away at any moment, they will have received all their punishment, and so be obnoxious to none after death.

If one therefore had been ten times as vicious as the other, he had received ten times as much punishment; consequently they must both have stood on equal grounds at that time; they must both have received up to that time all that was due, no more nor no less. They must there. fore have cancelled all their debts up to the time of the affair. A and B were alike guilty in this affair, and for this alone were they guilty.

Now I will renew the question whether these men were punished alike for the crime of murder. B continued in this world one whole year before his execution ; during the whole of which time he was extremely unhappy. His whole year's severe suffering was closed by the agonies of death. But A who was equally guilty, went, according to your views, instantly to glory. In what sense could A be punished for that crime? Will you say that he was punished by being killed on the spot? The innocent traveller then, was punished as severely as the cruel murderer, for he also was killed upon the spot. And B also, A's accomplice in wickedness, after suffering a whole year, suffered death.

Neither is temporal death a punishment for sin. If A had been as virtuous as St. John, or Jesus himself, he would have suffered temporal death; and perhaps in a manner ten times as painful as to be shot through the heart. So that by being killed instantly, he in fact escaped those long and severe pangs which are the common lot of those who die a natural death. This sudden death therefore, ought to be considered a reward rather than a punishment. He went out of the world more easy than he probably would have done, had he been innocent. You cannot maintain that A was duly punished by losing his life; for you do not consider temporal death as a

punishment for sin. Your words arem-"Moral death is the effect of sin, natural death is the effect of a mortal constitution.* Again; "Men die natural deaths, because they are naturally mortal; but they are not naturally mortal, because of sin. My opponent will say, that the death of the body is in consequence of sin, when one man murders another; to which I reply, one man could not murder another, if men were not mortal. I will acknowledge that sin is often the means whereby natural life is ended, and my opponent must acknow. ledge, that it is often the means of persons' being introduced into natural life. Perhaps an hundred are introduced into existence by illicit connexions, where one is taken out by malice prepense.”+ Here we have your testimony that temporal death is no punishment for sin. You cannot maintain therefore, that A was sufficiently punished by being killed.

But perhaps you will say, if death, self-considered, was no punishment, it was a punishment to him to be taken from this world; from his business, friends and relatives. But if A goes in an instant to the enjoyment of perfect bliss, it ought to be regarded as a reward, and not a punishment. By committing this crime, he was not only taken out of the world easier than he would probably otherwise bave been, but he was introduced into heaven sooner than though he had been innocent. The loss of life in this world, therefore, instead of being a punishment, was the greatest blessing. By this untimely death he was inducted instantly into all the enjoyments of a glorified state. But while A, on your system, was feasting upon immortal joys, in the presence of God, B, his accomplice in wickedness, was for a whole year, wandering a vagabond, or pining in a dungeon. Now, Sir, with your system out of view, can you say that you think these two men were punished to the same extent

• Aton. p. 59.

+ Lect. p. 93.

in this world ? Were you to sit as a juror, and decide on a question of this nature, I am confident that your verdict would be, that their punishment here was unequal ; that B was punished too much, or A too little.

But perhaps you may say that it is impossible for us to tell what the feelings of either of these men were, and consequently we cannot determine which was punished the most. Now this is virtually renouncing your system. You contend that all punishment is confined to this world, or in other words, that all are equitably rewarded here. We have introduced a case in which it appears very evident, that a full and equitable punishment does not take place in this world. In order to support your views, it is necessary that you should be able to prove, that these two individuals are punished in this state according to their ill deserts. But when you say it is impossible to tell what their feelings are, you in reality say, that it is impossible to prove your system true. Besides, such suggestions generally have an improper influence, as they tend to bewilder, rather than enlighten the human mind. We are not willing to grant that we are totally ignorant upon subjects of this nature. There are certain principles or properties pertaining to the human mind, which are possessed in common by us all; and by knowing what is true of ourselves, we know what is true of others in the same circumstances. We know by experience that all mental agony arises from reflection, and the consideration of our state or condition. We know also that all ideas take place in succession, and consequently that a period of time is necessary in order to our experiencing either happiness or misery. Knowing that this is true of ourselves, we can conclude with a great degree of certainty, that this is true in relation to others. We know that the human mind is 80 constituted, as to be incapable of admitting or enduring a vast degree of suffering in an instant of time.

Now on the supposition before us, A was killed in an instant. We know then with a good degree of certainty that his sufferings could not have been great. To deny this, is to reject all moral evidence, and give up the only proof we can have of the existence of a God. And on the other hand, we can be well persuaded that B's punishment was severe. No person will pretend that his situation was very enviable. Chains, imprisonment, and an ignominious death, are not what people generally covet. Bås sufferings during this whole year, instead of being less, were in all probability greater than we are apt to imagine. But while B was enduring the greatest pain, A was partaking of boundless felicity. Now if heaven is better than a dungeon, and the throne of the Lamb than a gibbet, then it is certain that B was punished more than A; or rather, that one was punished severely, the other not at all. Hence arises the necessity of a future' retribution.

Besides, A was taken away in sin, and could not be happy without repentance. The scriptures assure us that faith and repentance are necessary qualifications for the enjoyment of heaven. "Except a man be bort again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Repentance then, is necessary for salvation, but repentance is a progressive work. It requires mental exercise. And every person who has any knowledge of the philosophy of the human mind, must know that all ideas'take place in succession. A period of time is requisite for every ideà, thought, or resolution. No volition can exist in the mind, until the various objects presenting themselves are taken into consideration, and duly weighed. A përiod of time therefore, is necessary for every ratiopal volition. Repentance is a complicated work, and of

« AnteriorContinuar »