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proved. But when we see a doctrine supported by express and unequivocal Scripture testimony, it must not be set aside, because doubtful passages are urged against it. It is an excellent rule of interpretation, to settle the meaning of doubtful texts by such as are clear and express; and not to explain away the meaning of positive assertions, by passages that are figurative, and capable of different solutions. By proceeding in such a preposterous way, many have deceived themselves and others. When passages are adduced to prove a theory, that is in itself congenial with the reigning depravity of the heart, their application may be consistently doubted. It is not to be expected, that divine truth will ever be flattering to human pride, nor pleasing to sinners. We have seen, that the eternal punishment of the finally impenitent, is supported by express declarations of Scripture; and, therefore, the passages which are pressed into the service of an opposite hypothesis, are, undoubtedly, misconstrued, and improperly applied. If we were honest, we might very easily settle the point in question. It is the deceitfulness of the heart, that presents the subject in a doubtful light, or determines the mind in favor of the doctrine of annihilation. It is wicked and dangerous to be halting between these opinions. Placing ourselves before the throne of God, with the Bible open in our view, and our hand upon our heart, let this great question be settled ; for, in such a solemn attitude, we will, undoubtedly, come to a proper conclusion. Conscience testifies in favor of such a method of procedure; but, alas ! the heart of the sinner is .against it! He hates to be disquieted. It is much better, however, to tremble now, than to tremble at the sound of the last trumpet. Instead of annihilation, Jesus Christ saith, “The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth: they that have
done good, unto the resurrection of life ; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation." John 5. 28, 29.
Thus an attempt has been made, in four discourses, to reflect some light on this momentous subject. It is a duty, my hearers, which I owe to you, and I have endeavored to discharge it, I hope, with some degree of faithfulness. Let it rest upon your minds, that you must shortly give an account unto God for your conclusions, in relation to this subject. According to the best of my ability, I have tried to acquit my conscience in this matter. There is no indecision in my own mind, concerning the immateriality and immortality of the soul; nor about the eternal punishment of those who die in opposition to God. The careful examination of the opposite theory, has served to establish my former principles, if possible, 'more firmly. We must consider all other supposed evidence but the Scriptures, as being irrelevant to this subject. The doctrines which have been vindicated in these discourses, are firmly supported by that standard which ought to be sufficient evidence in our view.
5. If the wicked are not to be annihilated, but'eternally punished, we may see how important it is, that they should become righteous immediately. As all men have sinned, it is a fact that they cannot become innocent; yet, there is a way in which they may be justified; and that is through the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ. · On this, St. Paul says, “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ." Rom. „5. 1. He was “made sin—a sin offering—for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Cor. 5. 21. He is able, therefore, to save to the uttermost, even the greatest of sinners, who come to God by Him. Repentance and faith are the con
ditions on which salvation is suspended; and these conditions may be easily performed by the willing mind. We are placed under such circumstances, that if we perish, our criminality will be great. It is no small consolation to know, that we may be as completely happy, and God as fully glorified, as if we had never sinned, through the atonement and intercession of Christ. Well might the angel say to the shepherds, “Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2. 10, 11. It is far more easy to repent, believe and prepare for heaven, than it is to vindicate the gloomy doctrine of annihilation, with its dependant and kindred errors. As far as that is believed, it is an effectụal bar against all holy repentance. Eternal salvation, my hearers, is effected through grace, in oppo-,
sition to every scheme of self-righteousness. There is no · such thing as standing before God, on the ground of
works, for the voice of his justice is, “Cursed is every · one that continueth not in all things, written in the book
of the law to do them.” Gal. 3. 10. Again it is said, he that “ offendeth in one point is guilty of all.” James 2. 10. This cuts off every plea that can be made, on the ground of merit. “It is through faith we are saved; that it may be of grace; that the promise may be sure to all the seed”—the chosen of the Lord. All that is required of us, therefore, is to accept of mercy through the great Redeemer. To be righteous, in the gospel sense of the term, signifies one whose heart is renewed—whose sins are pardoned, and whose person and services are accepted in Christ, the Great Head of the Church. The greatest sinner on earth, may become a saint instantaneously. The difference between these characters is simply this; the one hates an infinitely Holy God, and the other loves Him
on account of that purity and glory. As there can be no medium between hatred and love, the Christian character must be formed in one moment. The very first exercise of holy love involves every other Christian grace in its very nature. The transition, therefore, from a state of moral death and condemnation, to holiness and eternal happiness, must be more sudden than the lightning.
Though holiness in man is the fruit of the Spirit's operation, it consists in the voluntary exercises of his own heart; and, on that account, he is as really a free agent as if it were self caused. This doctrine makes the creature entirely dependent; but it does not annihilate his moral liberty, nor exonerate him from being responsible to his God. To plead for any greater liberty in the case of men, is contending for that which is peculiar to Jehovah ; namely, independence, which is in fact incommunicable. It is no dishonor to the glorious name of God, to say, that He cannot form a creature, who shall in any respect be independent of Himself. As man is a free and moral agent, he is a proper subject of commands and prohibitions-threatenings and promises ;- and actually blamable for remaining one moment longer the enemy of God. In this view of the subject, it is the indispensible duty of every sinner to be a converted soul, before he draws another breath. The imperative requirement of Heaven is, “ Make you a new heart, and a new spirit;" and therefore, to live without this glorious change, is the summit of disobedience. If we have a right to continue without that, which God commands us to possess ; it must follow, that no other divine precept is absolutely binding. An opposite doctrine sets all things afloat in the moral world. A strict dependence on JEHOVAH, for all our moral exercises, is, therefore, consistent with moral freedom and obligation. As there is no such thing to be expected as annihilation, it is high time to lay aside our vain apologies, and submit to God on divine principles. It must be a very rebellious mind, that leads people to believe inthe gloomy—the delusive-the horrid doctrine of annihilation. It grows out of a desire to es-. cape from the justice of God: it consists in a total disregard of His glory. It is as necessary that the sinner's existence should be continued, to display the vindictive justice of the Almighty, as it is, that the saints should live forever, to illustrate the riches of His mercy and grace. He will not lose any of His glory in the case of His creatures; for 6 the wrath of men shall praise Him." In accents of glorious majesty, He proclaims to the universe, “ My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.” Isa. 46. 10. As “the Lord reigneth ; let the earth rejoice ; let the multitude of the Isles be glad thereof." Ps. 97. 1. It is also said, “the Lord reigneth ; let the people tremble: He șitteth between the cherubim ; let the earth be moved." Ps. 99. 1. ".Justice and judgment are the habitation of His throne; righteousness and truth go before His face ; but there is forgiveness with Him, that His name may be feared." The holy angels veil their faces before Him; and in his glorious presence, devils tremble! All on earth are commanded to fear His name, with a holy fear; because with God, there is terrible Majesty! He covereth Himself with light, as with a garment_light that infinitely outshines the sun in all its meridian splendor!
There is no such thing for sinners as annihilation; nor any possibility of escaping from the eye of God! They may forfeit eternal happiness, by a persevering rejection of Christ and His salvation ; but they can never cease to exist. As you will never, my hearers, be annihilated, let no time be lost in preparing to meet your God in peace; and let every voice in this assembly, say, AMEN.