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mercy has not redeemed, they could never join the song, or if they made the attempt, there would be endless discord.
Besides, brethren, when the sinner shall have suffered all that he deserves, and justice demands his release, it is absurd to speak of his being saved. From what is he saved ? Not from deserved punishment, for no punishment is deserved. If any can have so base an idea of God, as that he would continue to punish sinners after they have ceased to deserve it, then we might conceive of their being saved from the effects of tyranny. And then indeed it would be absurd to speak of the sinner's being saved by the same hand that still wished unjustly to punish. If any then
then imagine that all will reach heaven at last who have fallen under the wrath of God, let shem not speak of them as saved. There can be no salvation but for those who are exposed to ruin, and when they have paid the uttermost farthing, sinners are no longer exposed. And yet who ever thought of any reaching heaven but those who are saved by the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost. Neither on the principle of mercy or of justice, then, is there any redemption from hell. And who can conceive of any third principle as a ground of reprieve froma the pangs of the second death?
IV. Salvation is represented as being through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth. But did we ever read in the Scriptures, that the Holy Spirit should descend and operate upon the hearts of the damned? And is hell a place where men are likely to come to the knowledge or the love of the truth? Under his tuition, who is a liar and the father of lies, can we hope for such effects? I have no doubt but that those who enter the place of misery hoping one day to make their escape, will there learn one truth, which they are so unwilling to learn here. They will learn, to their everlasting cost, that till then they have always believed a lie. They will learn that he who has the keys of hell will never unlock their prison. In this truth their faith will then be strong everlasting.
V. The Scriptures represent Christ as the medium of salvation to all who reach heaven. There is no other name given under heaven among men whereby we can be saved. But Christ will have done his work of salvation before any are redeemed from hell. We are taught that Christ must reign till he hath put his enemies under his feet, and that he shall then deliver up the kingdom to his Father. This
passage is worthy of particular remark. Christ delivers up the mediatorial kingdom, immediately after he has sentenced the wicked to everlasting fire. After this period there can be no Christ to redeem them. He has then gathered in his elect, and gone to seat them at the marriage supper, and has left his enemies to contrive a way of salvation for themselves. The finally impenitent are not given to Christ, for those who are given to him shall never perish, neither shall any one be able to pluck them out of his hands. But those who go to the place of despair perish, and therefore are not given to Christ and will not be saved by him. Thus the argument chases the sinner down to 'hell and leaves him there, with no Saviour to redeem him. How he shall be able, unassisted, to burst its bars, or quench its flames, or quit its caverns, I leave those to guess who dare run the dreadful risk,
VI. The finally impenitent die with a wrong temper of heart, and must undergo a thorough change of temper and character, or there could be no salvation for them. Indeed it would not be salvation were they taken from the place of torment but left in possession of their evil hearts of unbelief. Salvation consists in being saved from the dominion of sin. Those who are rescued from hell then, must first be made holy. Now it would seem very strange that God should send them to that polluted world to acquire purity. Hell, it seems, is the school where men are qualified for heaven, and he their instructer who was too vile to live in heaven!
Can we believe that the flames of the pit will have any tendency to purify? Afflictions in the present world make wicked men no better. Why should they be stricken any more, they will revolt more and more 2) The merest wretches that ever appeared in the shape of men, have been those who had been subjected to almost perpetual affliction. And it would seem as though every stroke made them more stubborn. And why should the rod of divine wrath have a different effect in hell? That men will forever grow worse in that world I can believe, but to believe that they shall grow better, requires credulity which I do not possess.
And the decree of Heaven with regard to them is, “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still, and he that is filthy, let him be filthy still.” Evil men and seducers wax worse and worse. Men are to perish in their iniquities, and there is neither promise nor intimation that they shall ever be cleansed. How then can they ever be qualified for that world where nothing impure shall ever enter ?
VII. We read that wicked men are to have their
tion at last with devils. “Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels." If then they are ever redeemed, their associates in misery will doubtless be redeemed with them. But we read that Christ did not take upon him the nature of angels, nor die for them. Devils have no share in his blood, nor any hope of emancipation through his merits. This question was long since settled. They must remain in their chains, and there is full reason to apprehend that men will forever have their part with them in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone.
I feel it my duty to answer a few of the more specious objections to this doctrine. The more common objection is that drawn from the mercy of God. The argument is, that God is too benevolent to inflict so sore a punishment on his creatures. It seems they are afraid to admit the idea of endless punishment lest the sentiment should tarnish the divine glory. If they are sincere in using this argument they will manifest their sincerity by holiness of life. They will make it their constant effort to obey, and have others obey, the divine law. And if we do not see this, we shall doubt whether they oppose the doctrine we advocate, from respect to the divine character. But be their motive what it may the argument is flimsy. It is founded on this hypothesis, that it is more important that God should appear merciful than that he appear holy, just, and true. God is good, but he will forever hate those who are filthy and polluted. God is good, but he is so just that he will render to every one according to his works. God is good, but he is so true to his word that every threatening he has uttered he will execute. If then any are saved, in their salvation mercy and truth must meet together, righteousness and peace embrace each other. We are incompetent to say, what divine goodness operating in unison with the other attributes of Deity may do, or what it may refuse to do.
In this world some suffer all their life. From the cradle to the grave they hardly draw a breath in comfort. And these unhappy sufferers are not always conspicuous for wickedness. We see infants suffer from the day of their birth till they find an early grave. Now if all this is consistent with the goodness of God, it may comport with the same goodness, to leave those, who have spent all their lives in sin, and gone down to hell in unbelief, to suffer for their sins forever.
Besides, brethren, mercy must have some channel, through which it may flow out. While God pardons rebels he must still maintain the dignity of his character, and must support the honour of his law and government. And the Lord Jesus Christ is the only medium of mercy from God to sinners. Him the wretched sinner has rejected till he gives up the mediatorial kingdom. Hence there is no channel through which mercy may be communicated to the inhabitants of the pit. God will remain merciful and gracious forever, but his mercy will avail those nothing who have dammed up its streams.
Much is made of that text where Christ is said to have gone by his Spirit, and preached to the spirits in prison. It seems impossible that any one should have gathered from this text that Christ went and preached to the inhabitants of hell. When Peter wrote they were spirits in prison; but he does not say they were when Christ preached to them by his Spirit. Indeed, we are assured that this took place