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CONTENTS OF THE DIALOGUES,
OBJECTION-That the words everlasting, eter
nal, &c. are appled to the punishment of the wicked.
ANSWER.These words are but seldom applied to the misery of the wicked; being connected there with only twice in the Old Testament; and but six times in the new; and are full as often connected with things and times that certainly have had, or will have an end as they are with the misery of the wicked, &c. OBJECTION. But the words forever and ever, are applied to the misery of the wicked, &c.
ANSWER.This is a very strong phrase, and would be judged unanswerable, but for certain considera
. 1. If the phrase forever and ever intends any period or periods, longer than the word forever, then there must be a proportion, &c. 2. This phrase as applied to future misery cannot intend endless duration. 3. It is more than probable that the lake of fire, in which the wicked will be punished with the second death, will be the earth dissolved by the general conflagration, &c.
OBJECTION.-Forever when applied to things of this life and world may end, but being applied to things of another state must mean endless.
ANSWER. The word forever applied to spiritual things, and circumstances of another state must not be always understood to mean endless.
OBJECTION.-But does not the phrase forever and ever, in the New Testament always intend endless ?
ANSWER. It doth not. An undeniable instance brought in proof, to which several more might hav been added.
OBJECTION. But is not the Scripture chargeable with a design to mislead men in these words when applied to future misery, unless they intend endless duration? And does the limiting these words accuse Christ of duplicity and deceit in his threatnings?
The Hebrew word rendered everlasting properly intends a hidden duration, or period, but not endless.
OBJECTION—The same word everlasting or eternal is in the very same verse applied both to the misery of the wicked and to the happiness of the righteous.
ANSWER.--The very same word is in other places applied to very different things, whose natures and durations are intirely dissimilar.
OBJECTION.-But upon the supposition that the doctrine of endless damnation was true, in what manner might one expect it to be expressed in the Bible?
ANSWER.-If it was true, there could be no promises, intimations, or even distant hints to the contrary. And it is therefore shewn to be false by a number of positive proofs. If there were not promises and intimations of the General Restoration in the Scripture, the doctrine of endless damnation might be then concluded to be true, however dark; but the endless happiness of the righteous is set forth in much stronger language, and with more abundant force of expression.
The endless happiness of the righteous stands upon such foundations that can never be overthrown or destroyed; such as their indissoluble union with the original source of life and happiness; their being heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ, and the promise that they shall live because he lives; and his life is truly endless.
OBJECTION.-That since the wicked have chosen evil, persevered in it through life, it is become a fixed habit in them, from which it would seem as impossible to reclaim them, as to draw off the just from their attachment to God and goodness.
ANSWER. This reasoning is founded upon the old pagan system of good and evil being two eternal cocxisting principles.
All men are God's creatures, and therefore he will not contend forever, nor be always wroth with the souls that he hath made.
Satan's kingdom and all evil shall be destroyed, and therefore endless misery cannot have the same permanent foundation as endless happiness.
Two things diametrically opposite to each other cannot both exist together to all eternity.
OBJECTION.-But does not the word all frequently intend a part only?
ANSWERED.-By giving certain never failing rules, whereby it may be known when the word all means strictly all, or the whole universally without any exception; confirmed by plain instances out of St. Paul's writings.
OBJECTION--That perhaps by all things being put under Christ, nothing farther may be meant than their being brought into a state of forced subjection, or made subject to his controul.
ANSWER. They are now put under him in this respect, but they are not yet put under him in the sense that they shall be, which implies a state of willing subjection.
The word many frequently means all.
All things were created by Christ; all rebellious beings shall be subdued by him, and all without exception shall be reconciled by him, and through him to God.
OBJECTION --Of the worm that dieth not, and the unquenchable fire, five times threatened by our Lord Jesus Christ in one passage.
ANSWERED.--By reference to the words in the prophesy of Isa to which our Lord probably alluded. Passages from the prophets brought to shew a literal accomplishment of the original words.
The dreadful threatenings of future misery to the wicked, implied in those words of our Savior They
shall be publicly punished and tormented in the lake of fire, which is the earth in its melted or dissolved state.
Nevertheless, there' shall be a new creation of the earth, and so the lake of fire shall cease.
Many instances of fires mentioned in Scripture, of which it was said, they shall not be quenched, which yet have ceased long ago.
And of those fires whose smoke is said to ascend up for ever.
Things contrary are often predicted of the same places and people, and must be understood as occurring at different times.
Our Lord's words of every one being salted with fire considered. OBJECTION. All the fires above mentioned were on earth, and in time; but the fire of hell, being in eternity, can never go out, or cease to burn to all endless duration.
ANSWER-Those fires on earth that were never to be quenched did not continue to burn as long as the earth remained; and therefore there is no necessity of granting that the fire of hell shall burn to all eternity.
Punishments belong only to the ages of ages before Christ shall have delivered up the kingdom to the Father.
OBJECTION. The blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall never be forgiven. &c.
ANSWERED.-1. By shewing what this sin is, &c. 2. All that bears the name of death shall be destroyed, and all sorrow, crying, and pain, shall cease and be no 3. Where sin abounded grace shall much more abound..
OBJECTION. The deplorable case of Esau.
ANSWER. He lost the birthright, and the peculiar privileges that belonged to the first born, but yet he had a blessing from his father of a lower degree.
The great difference between them was more fulfilled in their posterity than in their own persons. Love and hatred are sometimes only comparative, and not positive terms, and only imply a preference of one to the other,
OBJECTION--The great gulph between the region of happiness and misery is impassible.
ANSWER.--Christ has passed it when he went and preached to the spirits in prison, who were disobedient in the days of Noah.
This provs a state of conscious existence after the death of the body.
The rich man seems to have had compassion towards his brethren.
The Scriptures constantly hold out punishment in proportion to the sins committed in the present life.
OBJECTION.-The case of Judas, of whom Jesus aid, "Good were it for that man that he had never been born."
ANSWER.-1. This was a proverbial saying. 2. Both Job and Jeremiah cursed the day of their birth, and wished they had never been born. 3. Solomon declares an untimely birth to be far better than the longest and most prosperous life of one whose soul is not filled with good, and who hath no burial. 4. If Judas bad died before he was born he would have escaped all earthly trouble, and future misery, and would have been immediately happy. 5. The Jew as much rejected and doomed to woe as Judas,
OBJECTION. That the doctrine of the Restoration tends to licentiousness, and is calculated to encourage the wicked to a continuance in their evil ways, &c.
ASSWERED-First, by shewing the principles upon which the doctrine of the Restoration is founded, 1. God is the Creator of all. 2. His benevolence is universal. 3. Christ died for all without exception.