« AnteriorContinuar »
can be fairly answered, the system must inevitably fall. And if your system, which limits all punishment to this world, be unfounded, then the doctrine of future punishment will follow of course. In the subsequent Letters, I shall adduce evidence in favor of my own views upon this subject, and endeavor to obviate the objections you have offered against these views. I shall not however, confine myself solely to your objections, but shall occasionally notice arguments which have been offered by other writers on your side of the question, whenever I find any thing advanced by them which is not contained in your arguments,
Statement of the doctrine of Future Punishment.
REV. AND DEAR BROTHER, Having examined your system, and the principal arguments you alledge in its support, I will now state in a defiuite manner, the views which I shall attempt to defend. I shall endeavor to show that those who die impenitent will, after death, enter into a state of misery, consisting of anxiety, guilt, and remorse, which will continue until repentance or reformation is effected. We do not believe that this misery will arise from any external application, but froin the internal state of the mind. It is not our belief that this punishment will be inflicted by the immediate hand of God, and as it were, out of the common course of his moral dealings, but that it will grow necessarily out of the moral natures God has given us; that it will be the legitimate fruit of that guilt of which the mind will be conscious, in consequence of past transgressions. We know by what we feel in ourselves, and see in others, that one overt act of wickedness leaves the mind in a state of condemnation and misery ; and as many commit the most atrocious crimes the instant they leave this world, it is reasonable to suppose that they will enter into a state of remorse and inquietude after death. To me this has all the force of moral demonstration. Sin always leaves the mind in condemnation. This is an established principle; it grows necessarily out of the nature which we possess. Take men as they are, and it is impossible for it to be otherwise. Now a person taken away in the perpetration of a horrid crime, must be unhappy after death. His moral nature renders immediate happiness impossible, Unless his accountability is destroyed, his
consciousness done away, and his moral nature annihilated; in a word, unless man is changed into some other creature, it appears morally certain that those who depart this world in gross wickedness, will enter into a state of infelicity.
If inen exist in a future state, they must retain their identities; that is, they must be conscious that they are the same beings who have existed in this world, and performed such and such actions. Without this conscious. ness, men cease to exist. If I fall asleep to night, and awake on the morning of to-morrow without my consciousness, that is, without any knowledge or recollection of having existed before, it ceases to be myeslf, and becomes another being. Nothing which existed in me, and went to make up my personal identity, or individuality, is found in him ; but he is as distinct and as separate from me, as Peter or Paul. The same will hold good in relation to a future state. In that state we must possess a consciousness of having existed here, or it is not we who exist, but it becomes a new creation. All then, that goes to make up an individual, must exist after death, or there is no future life to us. How do men in this world distinguish themselves from one another i It is solely because they possess an individual identity or consciousness; that is, they have a conscious knowledge that they have existed before that moment, and are the same beings who have thought, and felt, and acted thus and so. This consciousness is what constitutes an essential ingredient in an individual. Destroy this con. sciousness, and individuality ceases. Now if we exist in a future state, we must possess this individual consciousness, and all those principles and feelings which constitute personal identity. To talk of men's existing in a future state, without this consciousness, would be the height of extravagance and absurdity; it would be something similar to the notion that all men sinned in Adam,
a position you would by no means admit. But it is no more absurd to say that men sin, without a consciousness of sinning, than it is to say that they exist, without a consciousness of existing.
It appears clear from the nature of the case, that men in a future state must retain their consciousness, and this idea receives additional support from the scriptures, Jesus Christ, who is our pattern or example, retained his consciousness after death. He knew that he was the same person who had been baptized by John, betrayed by Judas, and crucified by the Jews. He knew that he had existed before ; he recognized his disciples, and commanded them to preach that gospel which he had died to establish. Hence it will be seen that Jesus Christ retained his consciousness after death. And this will be the state of all men in a future world. The apostle intimates to us, that in a future state, we shall see as we are seen, and know as we are known.* We are told in
passages which you apply to a future state, that the redeemed will ascribe glory and honor to Jesus Christ in consequence of his having suffered and died for men in this world. These passages contain full proof that men retain their consciousness after death. The redeemed in a future state praise Christ for what he has done for them, and as the blessing was made known to many of them in this world, it is manifest that they had a realizing sense of the blessings they received while here; and hence it is clear that they were conscious after death, of events which occurred here in time.
Thus it appears both from scripture and reason, that men will retain their consciousness after death ; they will be the same individuals there they were here, and will have a realizing sense of their conduct in this world. We will admit for the sake of the case, that men
* 1 Cor. xiii. 12.
+ Rev. v. 12, 13.
in a future state, though they may be conscious of hav. ing existed here, may not have a distinct recollection of all the actions they have performed. But this will not effect the argument. They will remember the last act of their lives here, especially if it be an act of gross wickedness, and this is all the argument requires. Now a man who goes out of the world in the very act of murder, for instance, will in a future state, have a realizing sense of his character and conduct. There will be no necessity of his being informed that he is a murderer, for he will be conscious of this; he will know that the last act of his life in this world, was an act of gross immorality, and this will render him unhappy. It would be impossible for him to enjoy quietude of mind, while he is possessed of his consciousness, and knows that a weight of guilt rests upon his mind. Unless, therefore, at death man is changed into a stock, or stone, or some other creature, it appears perfectly clear that the character before us, cannot enter upon immediate enjoyment. Knowing himself to be a murderer, he must be unhappy. There is no need of any executive au. thority to inflict a punishment upon him ; for his own feelings will constitute his inisery, and his sin will be its own avenger. We know by our own experience, that men cannot be instantly happy after committing such horrid crimes. Misery flows necessarily from the state of mind attendant upon transgression. This is true of men in this world, aud this misery arises from a consciousness of their past bad conduct; and as men will retain their consciousness in a future state, it follows, that those who die in the very act of transgression, will be unhappy after death.
We do not believe that men will be consigned to any particular place of punishment, as such; but that the punishment will arise from their own unholy feelings and disturbed minds. The remorse of conscience will