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and there are but few intelligent Christians, but must, a in some measure, be able to conceive hopes concerning all those to whom the knowledge of God is promised.
Though the threatenings in the prophecy of Ezekiel, both against the Jews and other nations, are uncommonly severe; yet they frequently close with this gracious promise-"And they shall know that I am JEHOVAH," or something similar; as will evidently appear to those who will be at the pains of examining the following passages in that book
EZEKIEL, Vi 7, 10, 13, 14. vii. 4, 9, 27. xi. 10. 12. xii. 1. 15, 16, 20. xii. 9, 14, 21, 23. xiv. 8. xv. 7, xvio 62. XX 12, 20, 26, 38, 42, 44, xxii. 16. xxiii. 49. xxiv. 24, 27, xxv. 5, 7, 11, 17. xxvi, 6. xxviii. 22, 23, 24, 26, xxix. 6, 9, 16, 21. xxx. 8, 19, 25, 26, xxxii. 15, xxxii. 29. xxxiv. 27. xxxv. 4. 9, 12, 15. xxxvi. 11, 23, 38. xxxvii. 6, 13. xxxviii. 23. xxxix. 6 7, 22, 28.
Friend. But does not punishment harden and inflame offenders, instead of softening and humbling them? As we read isa. viii. 21. "They shall curse their King and their God, and look upward;" & in Rev. xvi. 9, 10, "And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues; and they repented not to give him glory. And they gnawed their tongues for pain, and blasphemed the GoD of Heaven, because of their pains and their sores; and repented not of their deeds."
Minister. Punishment to a certain degree, inflames and enrages, in a most amazing manner; but continued longer, and heavier, produces a contrary effectsoftens, humbles, and subdues. When Ephraim of old, bemoaned himself, he said thus "Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised, as a bullock unac
customed to the yoke; turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art JEHOVAH, my GoD" Jer. xxxi. The metaphor here used, expresses in a most
lively manner, the different effects of the same discipline, in its beginning, progress, and end. When a bullock first has the yoke laid on his neck, he frets, tosses, and rages exceedingly; but, by a continuance of the discipline, he is subdued, brought down, humbled and tamed. so as to become the most useful and gentle of animals. The sons of Zion are represented as lying at the head of all the streets, as a wild bull in a net; full of the fury of JEHOVAH, the rebuke of GOD." Isaiah li. 20. A wild bull, in a net must be a furious creature; so are men, when first they are brought under the Divine correction. But God knows how to correct men, in such a manner as to bring them to submit to him, in due time; and though some are so sunk in sin as not to be reformed, by any means in this life: yet that is no argument, that Gon is not able to subdue and bring down the proud and most rebellious, in another state, by means that may be used ef fectually there, though they could not be used here. GOD says, by the prophet to Israel, Because I have purged thee, and thou wast not purged, thou shalt not be purged from thy filthiness any more till I have caused my fury to rest upon thee. So will I make my fury towards thee to rest, and my jealousy shall depart from thee; and I will be quiet, and will be no more angry," Ezek. xxiv. 13 xvi. 42. Some sins are so daring and presumptuous, as to provoke Gop to threaten, that they shall not be purged away in this life; and, perhaps, their malignancy may be so great, that nothing that can be used here, is able to subdue them: Thus, when God threatened his people, of old, with destruction, they turned his threatenings into ridicule; instead of weeping, mourning, baldness, and girding with sackcloth, to which God called them; there was nothing but "joy and gladness slaying oxen, and killing sheep, eating flesh and drinking wine :Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die. And it was revealed in mine eats, by JEHOVAH of Hosts, Surely this iniquity shall not be purged from you till ye
die, saith JEHOVAH, God of Israel," Isai. xxii. 12, 13, 14.
Thus, punishments are designed for the humbling of the proud; but if they fail of answering that purpose, as administered in the present state. they will be continued and increased in future periods, to such a degree, as shail bring all down in due time. Those pains which produced that rage and blasphemy, which you mentioned, were all poured out on hardened sinners in the present life; and were so terrible and severe as to produce those fearful effects, but not suffi ciently so as to produce the contrary.
That punishment, to a certain degree, produces rage, but to a certain degree beyond, produces submission; may be illustrated by the following fact, as well as ma ny others, of the same nature.
In the former war between England and France, there was one Mr. of Virginia, who was wagon-master-general in the army of the Provincials, He was guilty of abusing his power, by frequently striking the soldiers with his wagon whip. Complaint being made, a court martial was held, and he was sentenced to receive five hundred lashes; which sentence was executed upon him. When he first began to feel the lash, he was exceedingly enraged, and cursed those who had thus sentenced him; swearing that if he lived to be released, he would kill them all, if possible; for that he valued not his life, in the least, but would revenge this disgrace, by killing them, wherever he found them; and much more to the same purpose. But, before he had received half his punishment, he declared, that he had not the least disposition to lift bis hand against them; he saw clearly that they had acted right; that he had been entirely to blame; and that his punishment was just. After his correction was over, he was led quietly away, entirely cured of all bis rage; from which he was as much freed by his punishment, as ever an effect was produced by a cause. He was healed of his wounds,
and, I think, restored to his post. Sometime after the war was over, he was passing one day over those mountains in Virginia, commonly called The Blue Ridge; and there he met alone one of the men who had condemned him, in the court martial, to such a punishment. He put him in mind of it; and told him that it was now in his power to retaliate upon him. The other acknowledged that he was in his power; but added, "Mknow , you did wrong, you and deserved the punishment you received; and if you kill me 'I declare, that we did right in sentencing you to be whipped; I should do the same, were it to do again; and so would you have done, had you been in my place." Mr. M acknowledged the truth of it; and was so far from fulfilling his threatenings, that he suffered him to go in peace, highly commending him for his conduct. Mr. Mmay be still living; he was a general in the American army during the late war, and acquired great honour, for his valour and good conduct.
This I think is an argument ad hominem. I have often observed instances of the same nature, in a less degree; and I think it must be admitted, that although a certain degree of punishment will inflame, harden and enrage; yet farther degrees produce quite contrary ef fects. Nor is punishment the only thing in nature that produces contrary effects, according to the quantity used; almost all things do the same. Thus water, with a little salt in it, will cause putrefaction, much sooner than perfectly fresh water; but let it be saturated with salt, and it will preserve bodies that are cast therein. A little salt cast on the earth is good manure, and causes fruitfulness; but a greater quantity produces the contrarry effect, by causing barrenness, A little wine refreshes, cheers, invigorates; but taken to excess, stupifies and intoxicates. And, to mention no more instances, a little smattering of knowledge puffs up the mind;
a greater degree, humbles and brings it down: From whence,
"Drink deep, or never taste the spring.".
Friend. But let me ask you: When you view the miserable state of fallen men, the inveterate obstinacy of their wills, the total aversion that many have to God, and goodness, their confirmed habits of evil, their amazing love of vice, their opposition to every method taken to reclaim them, and a thousand other dreadful circumstances, which you must have observed; are you not ready to despair of their recovery; not for any want of goodness in God, but through their total incapacity of ever being made better.
Minister. I must confess, this objection has great weight; and I have often been ready to give up my own salvation, on account of the evils of my own heart, which sometimes rise, and prevail in such a manner, as almost drives me to despair; and I can find no relief but by flying to Jesus, as my only refuge, and trusting in his promises; And the case is the same with respect to the Restoration of all men. My weak reason tells me, that it cannot be; that it is absolutely impossible, that such hardened rebels can be so changed to eternity, as to become willing and obedient subjects; but when faith prevails, it informs me, that the things which are impossible with men, are possible with GoD; that nothing is too hard for JEHOVAH ; and that he hath said-"Behold I am JEHOVAH, the GoD of all flesh; is there any thing too hard for me?" Jer. xxxii. 27. And the example of Abraham has often proved a great support to me in this case; "who, against hope, believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations; according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be; and being not weak in faith, he considered not" the impediments, which, to the eye of reason, rendered the accomplishment of the promises improbable, if not impossible.