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effect of the preaching of the gospel to the dead, that some will be punished as carnal men, but others lead a spiritual life unto God.” This passage, as it stands, would favor your ideas of the subject. But let us see what authority he offers for this strange rendering. Whoever is acquainted with his New Testament, knows that when he deviates from the Received Text, he doe's not rest it upon his bare assertion, if any authority can be produced. This will be seen by his elaborate Notes, which are appended to his Testament. But let us see what authority he produces in justification of his rendering of the passages before us. We will give it in his own words. "By the living, I understand Christians; and by the dead, the unconverted Gentiles; and upon this idea have attempted to give some meaning to a passage, which is, to me, at least, otherwise unintelligible."* Thus we see that Wakefield can offer no .authority for his novel translation. He justifies it only by saying, “that otherwise the passage to him would be unintelligible." Mr. Wakefield, I believe, was a Destructionist, and probably a Materialist, and consequently he could not admit with any consistency, that the gospel was preached to men between death and the resurrection. So we can no longer wonder why the passage would be unintelligible to him, without his unauthorized variation from the common rendering. Thus we see that Wakefield in translating these passages, was governed not by the Greek text, but by his own preconceived opinion. Now, Sir, I think your scheme must be in distress to call such a translation to its aid. The above remarks are designed to apply not to Wakefield's translation in general, but only to his rendering of the passages in question.
I have now noticed all the principal objections which you urge against the interpretation here contended for,
* See Notes on 3d and 4th of Peter, p. 156.
and I think their force is entirely obviated. Our interpretation therefore stands on a permanent basis. St. Peter expressly declares that Christ after his passion, went and preached the gospel to those who had long before departed this life. This passage then goes directly to prove a future retribution. The spirits to whom he preached were in prison ; they were unbappy, otherwise they would not have needed this gospel. Besides, it was preached to them, “that they might be judged according to men in the flesh.” This implies that they might be punished even after the gospel was made known to them. And further, it was preached to them, that they might repent, might "live according to God in the spirit.” And this implies that they were then impenitent, and consequently miserable. This passage therefore, furnishes us with a good argument in favor of a future punishment; and it is not in your power to reconcile this scripture with your sentiment, unless you adopt the principle of Wakefield, and decidedly contradict the apostle to favor your own opinion; or to use your own language, unless you are determined to learn the scriptures how to talk.”
Before we close this Letter, we will notice several other passages which strongly imply a punishment beyond death, and so confirm the doctrine for which we plead. St. Paul says, “He that despised Moses' law, died without mercy under two or three witnesses; of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith be was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite to the Spirit of grace."*_ This passage asserts that those who despised the law of Moses were put to death ; they suffered death without mercy. And he informs us that those who despise the gospel, shall receive a sorer
* Heb. x. 28, 29.
. punishment. Since death without mercy is the greatest
punishment which can be inflicted in this state, it natu#rally follows that those who despise the gospel, and re
ceive this sorer punishment, will be punished beyond death. But the advocates for your sentiment, think it absurd to admit that the gospel threatens a severer punishment than the law. In reply to a suggestion that future punishment may be taught in the gospel, though it be not found in the law, Mr. Kneeland says, “Well, surely this is a very strange thing indeed; what! does the gospel of eternal life unfold and bring to light a punishment which the law knows nothing of ? and which we have not been able to find in all the Jewish records ?
O strange !!*
This quotation contains much more affected sensibility than sound judgment. It is a principle taught by common sense, recognized in the scriptures, and ever admitted in all courts of justice, that the same act is more or less heinous in proportion to the knowledge of the offender. The greater our light and knowledge, the greater is our criminality, if we transgress. This you acknowledge, though this acknowledgment is fatal to your system. Your words are—"The scriptures abundantly prove that those who are farthest advanced in knowledge of divine things, are the most guilty if they disobey: and this is agreeable to reason and experience.”+ In this manner you pronounce Mr. Kneeland's suggestion unfounded, and acknowledge that the gospel inflicts a greater punishment than the law. The gospel contains more light than the law, and consequently those who abuse the gospel, and tread under foot the Son of God, will be subjected to a greater punishment than the law inflicted. It follows therefore, from the very nature of the case, that there are some who live under the light of the gospel, whose punishment will be sorer than death * Kneeland's Lectures, p. 85. † Reply to Merritt, p. 23.
without mercy, or in other words, will be punished beyond the grave. This sentiment appeared so clear to the apostle, that he submitted the question to the decision of his brethren. "Of how much sorer punishment suppose ye, shall they be thought worthy, who have trodden under foot the Son of God po Of nearly the same nature is the declaration of Christ
Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a mill-stone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”* To be cast into the sea with a mill-stone about one's neck, is as severe a punishment as can well be inflicted in this state; but as those who offend these little ones, are to be punished more severely, it is just to conclude that they will experience misery after the death of the body. Our Savior told the penitent thief on the cross, that he should be with him that day in paradise.f But if all men go immediately to happiness, the impenitent thief would be with Christ as soon as the penitent one, and so there will be no difference between those who are penitent, and those who are impenitent. When Christ said to the penitent thief "To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise,” he virtually said that the other thief should not. This is a principle for which you contend. To establish this point you say, “Let á case be proposed. There are in prison ten persons; five of which were committed for offences committed int he year 1810, the other five for offences committed in 1816. The proper authority directs an officer to go and liberate from prison, those who were disobedient in 1810.
In all respects in which this order concerns the other Ave, it means that they are not included.” Now if we apply this plain principle to the case before us, it means that the other thief is not included. Thus we find that the
Matt. xviji. 6.
+ Luke xxii. 43.
short sentence, this day shalt thou be with gre in paradise, clearly shows that the other thief would not be admitted to immediate happiness. And what is true of the impenitent thief, is also true of many others.
Many other passages might be adduced in proof of a future retribution, but our limits will not admit of their being brought forward. In fact, we want them not. . What we have offered in this Letter, is, I conceive, sufficient to establish a future retribution. And the same ingenuity which can do away the force of these passa ges, can disprove a future existence, or any other doctrine.
In our next we will call your attention to a future reward for the righteous.