HellMiscellanies by Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)
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258. Hell. I do not think we have good ground to be assured that the sins of damned spirits, that they commit after their damnation are no way liable to punishment, because they have not been in a state of trial but in a state of punishment. However, I believe this in one sense is true and in another not. I believe all the misery that ever they endure, or shall endure to all eternity, is a punishment of their sin while in a state of trial, and every part of that misery a part of that punishment and all the deserved and justly due punishment of that sin. So that those that have sinned most in a state of trial shall be punished most to all eternity and in an exact proportion. And yet it shall be so ordered by the wisdom of God that various parts of their punishment shall be so timed and placed and circumstanced as to be punishment also for their several acts of pride, of malice, and spite against God, and against his creatures that are not in a state of punishment.
Thus God brings the punishment of the devils upon them for their proud rebellion in heaven in this way, by making them the cause of their own vexation and torment to all eternity by their continually renewed acts of pride and spite. He gives them over forever to that same disposition which they exercised when they fell, and by that means makes them forever a procuring their own misery. And this is a misery they are plunged into as a punishment of their first rebellion. It is certain by the Word of God that the devils are thus punished. They are punished for their procuring the fall of mankind. God curses the serpent for it, and without doubt, God, in that curse, had a principal reference to the devil, who is the old serpent, the seed of the woman breaking his head is in punishment for that act of his. By means of Christ the Redeemer, God renders all Satan’s incessant labors and endeavors for the overthrow of mankind and for defeating God’s design of glorifying himself in them, a means of his own confusion and vexation, and of abundantly more brightly manifesting the glory of God and advancing the happiness of the elect. He is a means of one of mankind being his Judge, and so the event of his own great endeavors will prove every way exceeding contradiction and mortification of his own restless, proud, malicious, and revengeful spirit.
275. Hell Torments. Hell is represented by fire and brimstone, and if by that is meant such fire as lightening, then without a doubt the torments of hell are inconceivable great. For the fire of lightening is many degrees hotter than the fire of the hottest furnace, as appears by the effects of it: that it will in a moment, by only touching, in the twinkling of an eye dissolve the solidest and hardest metals.
It is probable that this earth, after the conflagration, shall be the place of the damned. We read that the heat of the conflagration will be so violent as to melt the very ground (2 Pet. 3:10, 12). many thousand times hotter than ordinary fire.
279. Eternity of Hell Torments. I am convinced that hell torments will be eternal from one great good the wisdom of God proposes by them, which is by the sight of them to exalt the happiness, the love, and joyful thanksgivings of the angels and men that are saved, which it tends exceedingly to do. I am ready to think that those beholding the sight of the great miseries of those of their species that are damned will double the ardor of their love and the fullness of the joy of the elect angels and men. And then only a lively sense of the opposite misery makes any happiness and pleasure double what it would be. Seeing therefore that this happiness of the blessed is to be eternal, the misery of the damned will be eternal also.
41. Hell Torments. I do not think that from anything the Scripture says about the state of the damned, it can be inferred that the torment of the damned is so always alike that it admits of no sorts of difference in different moments. Yet I believe the devil has sometimes a kind of a pleasedness, when he accomplishes a design, and a torment when disappointed. (he was pleased when Adam fell, and when Christ was crucified, and when the Antichrist rose, etc.). but his pleasedness is but in order to his greater torment.
491. Punishment of the Damned. Moses says in Psa. 90:11, “According to thy fear, so is thy wrath,” that is, God’s wrath is dreadful according as God’s majesty is great and awful. Whence we may gather two things. First, that the wrath of God is dreadful according to the greatness and highness of God, as he is in himself: that is, that it is infinitely dreadful, as it is, in that it is eternal. Second, that the present misery of those that bear the wrath of God is so great, or their misery is intensively so great, as to be in a proportion to the discoveries and manifestations that are made of his majesty.
Some may be ready to think that it’s incredible that God should bring miseries upon a creature that are so extreme and amazing, and also eternal and desperate. But the dreadfulness and extremity of it is no argument against it, for those that are damned are entirely lost and utterly thrown away by God, as to any sort of regard that he has to their welfare. Their existence is for nothing else but to suffer.
690. Misery of Hell. .No degree of misery though it be eternal will satisfy him, so but that he would be glad to have it greater. How great is this cruelty and how great must all other wickedness be that is in proportion to it.
866. Objections to Hell. It is much to be suspected, that notwithstanding the plausibleness of such an objection, the very principal reason of such thoughts arising in the mind is a want of a sense of the horrible evil of sin. This disposes us to pity the damned wretch, and that disposes us to look back and reflect upon the Author of his being and orderer of his misery, because we haven’t sense enough of the evil of sin to stir up indignation enough in us against it, to balance the horror that arises from a sense of the dreadfulness of his suffering. This makes us pity the sufferer, and this raises objections against God.
1284. Hell Punishment Is Not Annihilation. It is manifest that God’s design in punishing his enemies is in part to convince them of his greatness and majesty, and to make them know their folly in despising them, as well as to make his glory and majesty visible to others, even to the whole universe. Exo. 9:14-17; Psa. 50:21, “These things hast thou done, and I kept silence: thou thoughtest that I was altogether such a one as thyself; but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes.” Therefore the punishment of the wicked is not annihilation.
1348. Everlasting Punishment in Hell (Sections 1-10).
1. Objections of modern libertines against the Scripture evidence of future punishment, taken from an anonymous pamphlet on that subject.
The word Gehenna signifies only the Valley of Hinnom. That fire was said to be everlasting, because it was kept burning night and day.
The word ever and everlasting the Greeks understand for an age.
The word everlasting is commonly used in the law of Moses for a limited time.
That fire is said to be durable, or everlasting, that goes not out till the fuel is consumed.
The fire that consumed Sodom and Gomorrah, is called eternal fire. If the fire is everlasting, it will not follow that what is cast into it is everlasting. But the wicked are compared to chaff and stubble, which is quickly burnt up.
The Scripture often uses very hyperbolical expressions.
2. The objections of Mr. Whiston; several of which are the same with these mentioned above. That the words in the New Testament, translated everlasting and eternal, are sometimes used concerning things of a temporary duration.
That the use of the same word in both cases, viz. in both the future reward of the saints and punishment of the wicked, does not imply the equal duration of the punishment and the reward. Because some of the precepts of the law of Moses are called everlasting, that are moral, and shall continue to the end of the world, others are so called, using the same word, that were only to last till the Christian church was established.
That if the words eternal and everlasting do signify a proper eternity, when applied to the punishment of the wicked, it may mean only an everlasting privation of being.
That fire, and smoke, and worm, etc. may be eternal, and yet the pain not be eternal, because the wicked may be consumed, and so their pain be at an end.
That Christ speaks of them that blaspheme the Holy Ghost as those that shall not be forgiven: neither in this world, nor in the world to come, implying that others shall be forgiven in the world to come.
That Christ went and preached to the spirits in prison, i.e. preached the gospel to departed souls of the wicked, in order to their salvation.
That αιων in the New Testament signifies an age, that αιωνις των αιωνων signifies “ages of ages”.
That ἀιδιος is used for a limited time when, in Jude 6, the devils are said to be reserved in everlasting chains, where the chains spoken of last no longer than the day of judgment….
That the eternal misery of sinners can be no advantage to God, to themselves, or to others.
That it is inconsistent with God’s mercy. That it is inconsistent with justice, to punish men eternally for their sinning during this short life.
That the threatening such a punishment will do no good, because if men will not be deterred from sin by the expectation of a great temporary punishment, neither would they by the expectation of eternal misery.
3. Evidences of the doctrine.
The word everlasting is used in the very sentence of the Judge at the last day, whom we cannot suppose to use rhetorical tropes and figures. The punishment of the devil will doubtless be eternal. But the wicked shall be sentenced to the same everlasting fire.
The wicked that are finally impenitent, are represented as wholly cast away, lost, made no account of, etc. which is quite inconsistent with their punishment being medicinal, and for their good and purification, and to fit them for final and eternal happiness.
Eternal punishment is not eternal annihilation. Surely they will not be raised to life at the last day only to be annihilated. “The words used to signify the duration of the punishment of the wicked, do, in their etymology, truly signify a proper eternity; and if they are sometimes used in a less strict sense, when the nature of the thing requires it, yet that can never pass as any reason why they are not to be understood absolutely, when the subject is capable of it. They are terms the most expressive of an endless duration, of any that can be used or imagined. And they always signify so far positively endless, as to be express against any other period or conclusion, than what arises from the nature of the thing. They are never used in Scripture in any other limited sense, than to exclude all positive abolition, annihilation, or conclusion, other than what the natural intent or constitution of the subject spoken of must necessarily admit. The word αιωιοϚ, which is the word generally used by the sacred writers, is, we know, derived from the adverb αει, which signifies forever, and cannot without force be used in any lower sense. And, particularly, this is the word by which the eternal and immutable attributes of Deity are several times expressed.” Dodwell’s Sermon in Answer to Whiston, p. 15, 16.
4. Axiom 1. If the torments of hell are purifying pains that purge the damned from their sins, it must be by bringing them to repentance, convincing them of the evil of sin, and inducing them to forsake it, and with a sincere heart to turn from sin to God, and heartily to choose virtue and holiness. There is no other way for sinners being purged as moral agents, and if hell fire is the means of any other purification, it cannot be a moral purification.
Axiom 2. If the wicked in hell are the subjects of torments, in order to their purification, and so being fitted for and finally brought to eternal happiness, then they are the subjects of a dispensation that is truly a dispensation of love, and of divine and infinite goodness and benevolence, towards them.
Axiom 3. If the design of the pains of hell be that of kind and benevolent chastisement, to bring sinners to repentance, and compliance with the divine will, then we cannot suppose that they will be continued after the sinner has repented, and is actually brought to yield and comply. For that would be to continue them for no purpose: to go on using means and endeavors to obtain the end, when the end is accomplished, and the thing aimed at is fully obtained already.
5. Moreover, if the damned, after many ages suffering extreme torment in hell, are to be delivered, and made perfectly and eternally happy, then they must be in a state of probation during this long season of their confinement to such extreme misery. If they are not in a state of probation, or on any trial how they will behave themselves under these severe and terrible inflictions of wrath, but are to be delivered, and made eternally happy at the end of a certain period, then what restraints are they under from giving an unbounded loose and license to their wickedness, in expressions of enmity against God, in cursing and blaspheming, and whatever their hearts are inclined to? And if they are in such a state as this, wherein they are thus left to unrestrained wickedness, and every curb to their most wicked inclination is taken off, being nevertheless sure of deliverance and everlasting happiness, then how far is this state fit to be a state of purgation of rational creatures and moral agents from sin, being a state wherein they are so far from means of repentance, reformation, and entirely reclaiming and purging them from sin, that all manner of means are rather removed, and so much is every restraint taken off that they are given up wholly to sin, which instead of purifying them, will tend above all things that can be conceived to harden them in sin, and desperately establish the habits of it?
A state of purgation of moral agents, that is, a state to bring sinners to repentance and reformation, and not a state of trial, is a gross absurdity. If any should say that though we should maintain that the pains of hell are purifying pains, to bring sinners to repentance, in order to their deliverance and eternal happiness, yet there will be no necessity of supposing, either that they may sin with impunity, and so without restraint, or that they are properly in a state of probation. For they have no probation whether they shall finally have eternal happiness, because it is absolutely determined by the benevolent Creator, concerning his intelligent creatures, that they shall finally be brought to a state of happiness. But yet their circumstances may be such as may tend greatly to restrain their wickedness, because that the time of their torment shall be longer or shorter, according as they behave themselves under their chastisements more or less perversely, or that their torment shall be raised to a greater height, and additions be made in proportion to the wickedness they commit in their purgatory flames. To this I ANSWER: Even on this supposition they are in a state of probation for a more speedy possession of eternal life and happiness, and deliverance from further misery and punishment. This makes their state as much a state of probation, as their state in the present life. For here it is supposed by these men that sinners are not in a state of trial, whether ever they shall obtain eternal happiness or no, because that is absolutely determined, and the determination known or knowable concerning all without any trial. But only it is a state of trial whether they shall obtain eternal life so soon as at the end of their lives, or at the day of judgment. Neither have they any trial during this life, whether they shall escape all affliction and chastisement for sin or not, but whether they shall be relieved from a state of suffering so soon, and shall escape those severer and longer chastisements that, with respect to many, are to come afterwards.
And on the supposition of the objection, there must be the proper circumstances of a state of probation in hell, as well as on earth. There they must likewise be continued in that state of free agency, that renders them properly the subjects of judgment and retribution. For on the supposition of the objection, they shall be punished for their wickedness in hell, by an addition to their misery proportioned to their sin, and they shall be the subjects of God’s merciful strivings, endeavors, and means to bring them to repentance, as well as here. And there must be a divine judgment after the trial, to determine their retribution, as much as after this life. And the same, or like things, must be determined by the Supreme Judge, as will be determined at the day of judgment. At that great day, on the supposition of such as I oppose: What will be determined concerning the impenitent? Not what their eternal state shall be, but only whether they shall have eternal happiness immediately, whether they have repented, and are qualified for immediate admission to heavenly glory, or whether the bestowment of it shall be delay, and farther chastisements made use of, and so it must be again after their castigatory purifying pains. At the end of all, there must be a judgment, whether now they truly repent, and so have performed the condition of deliverance, and immediate admission to the state of the blessed, or whether there shall be a further season of misery, which brings it in all respects to be a proper judgment, as much as that at the general resurrection. And the preceding time of the use of means and God’s striving with them to bring them to repentance, is as much a proper time of trial in order to judgment, as the time of this life.
6. But if the damned are in a state of trial, let it be considered how unreasonable this is. If they are in a state of trial, then they must be in a state of liberty and moral agency, as those men will doubtless own, and so, according to their notion of liberty, must be under no necessity of continuing in their rebellion and wickedness, but may cast away their abominations, and turn God and their duty, in a thorough subjection to his will, very speedily. And then, seeing the end of their probationary state, and the severe means God uses with them to bring them to repentance is obtained, how unreasonable will it be to suppose that God, after this, would continue them still under hell torments for a long succession of ages? But if God should speedily deliver them on their speedy repentance, how are the threatenings and predictions of their everlasting punishment fulfilled in any sense, according to the sense even of those who deny the absolute eternity of the misery of hell, and hold that the words everlasting and forever, etc. when applied to the misery of the damned, are not to be taken in the strictest sense? They yet allow they signify a very long time, a great many ages.
7. If the devils and damned spirits are in a state of probation, and have liberty of will, and are under the last and most extreme means to bring them to repentance, and consequently the greatest means, having the strongest tendency of all to be effectual, I say, if thus, then is it possible that the greatest part, if not all, of them may be reclaimed by those extreme means, and may be brought to thorough repentance before the day of judgment. Yea, it is possible that it might be very soon. And if so, how could it certainly be predicted concerning the devil, that he would do such and such great things in opposition to Christ and his church, from age to age? And that at last he should be judged and punished, and have God’s wrath more terribly executed upon him? As, Rev. 20:10, “And the devil that deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night, for ever and ever.” And how is it said in Scripture that when he fell, he was cast down from heaven, and reserved under chains of darkness unto judgment? The expression seems naturally to signify strong and irrefragable bonds, which admit of no comfort or hope of escape. And besides, a being reserved in chains unto judgment, is not consistent with the appointment of another time of trial and opportunity to escape the judgment and condemnation. It is said, Jude 6, “They are reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.” And if any of the separate souls of the wicked that are in the case that the soul of the rich man was in, when he died and lift up his eyes in hell being in torments, should repent and be delivered before the day of judgment, and so should appear at the right hand among the righteous at that day, then how could that be verified, 2 Cor. 5:10, “For we must all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body, whether good or bad?” And we have reason to think that the time of standing before the judgment seat of Christ, which the apostle has a special respect to, is the day of judgment, if we compare this with other scriptures: as that of the same apostle, Acts 17:31, “He hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness, by that man whom he hath ordained.” And many other places.
8. And how does their being in a state of trial, many of them for so many ages after death before the day of judgment, during all which time they have opportunity to repent, consist with those words of Christ, Mark 8:38, “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him also shall the Son of Man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father, with the holy angels?” How is their continuing in a state of trial from the time of that generation, and from the end of their lives to the day of judgment, consistent with its being declared to them from God beforehand, that they shall certainly be condemned at the day of judgment? Or with Christ’s certifying them beforehand, that whatever trial they shall have, whatever opportunity God should give them for repentance and pardon, for so many ages, all would be in vain, which in effect is passing the sentence.
We may argue in like manner, from those words, Mat. 10:14, 15, “And whosoever shall not receive you, and hear your words, — verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.” So Mat. 11:21-24, “Woe unto thee, Chorazin, woe unto thee, Bethsaida: — I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment, than for you. — And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shalt be brought down to hell. I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.” Two things may be noted in these sayings of Christ.
First. It is here declared what the state of those obstinate unbelievers should be at the day of judgment for their wickedness here in the body, with an asseveration, I say unto you. And sentence indeed is passed beforehand upon them by their Judge, concerning the punishment that shall be executed upon them at the day of judgment. The declaration is made in the form of a solemn denunciation or sentence: Woe unto thee, Chorazin, woe unto thee, Bethsaida, etc. And is it reasonable to suppose that the very Judge that is to judge them at the end of the world would peremptorily declare that they should not escape punishment at the day of judgment? Yea, [would he] solemnly denounce sentence upon them, dooming them to the distinguished punishment they should then suffer for their obstinacy in their lifetime, and yet appoint another time of trial, of a great many hundred years between their death and the day of judgment, wherein they should have opportunity to escape that punishment? Second. It is here also to be observed that the wicked inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah should be condemned to misery at the day of judgment, though they had already been in their purifying flames, and in a state of probation. The apostle, Rom. 2:3-12, 16, repeatedly tells us, when these things shall be, that men shall thus receive their retribution; “In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men according to my gospel;” which shows that this life is the only state of trial, and that all men shall be judged at the end of the world according to their behavior in this life, and not according to their behavior in another state of trial, between this life and that day. So it is apparent, by 2 Thes. 1:5-9, “Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God — seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you. When the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and obey not the gospel of Jesus Christ; who shall be punished with everlasting destruction,” etc. Here it is manifest that all who are obstinate unbelievers, rejecters of the gospel, shall at the day of judgment be punished with everlasting destruction. So that no room is left for a state of trial, and a space to repent before that time for ages in hell. So it is apparent, Mat. 25, that none will be found at the right hand, but they that have done such good works, as can be done only in this world, which would not be declared beforehand, if there was an opportunity given for millions of others to obtain that privilege.
9. If it should be supposed (however unreasonably), that though it be already declared by a peremptory sentence of the Judge, that all sinners continuing obstinate during this life should be condemned at the day of judgment, still this is consistent with their being in a state of probation, in order to escaping condemnation during the space between death and the general judgment. Yet the account which the Scripture gives of that day, in several of those forementioned texts, is inconsistent with men’s being in a state of trial during that space. For if they are in a state of trial during this space, then they are accountable for their ill improvement of that space, and the proper subjects of judgment and condemnation for their wickedness during that space. And so those works would come into account, when they appear at the great judgment, as well as those done in the body, which would be no more done during a state of probation that the former. This is not consistent with everyone’s receiving according to the things done in the body, or in proportion to the guilt that everyone contracted then. It is inconsistent with the description Christ gives of the day of judgment in Mat. 25, where Christ says not only to them on his right hand, I was hungry, and ye gave me meat, etc. — and the good works are all such as are done only in this world. But all the wickedness which those are condemned for, who are at the left hand, is such as is committed in this life only.
10. It may be proved that the day of man’s trial, and the time of God’s striving in the use of means to bring him to repentance, and waiting for his repentance under the use of means, will not be continued after this life, from those words, Gen. 6:3, “My Spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh; yet his days shall be 120 years.” It is as much as to say that it is not fit that this day of trial and opportunity should last always to obstinate, perverse sinners. It is fit some bounds should be set to my striving and waiting on such as abuse the day of my patience and that merciful means and gracious calls should not be continued, without limits, to them that trample all means and mercies under foot, and turn a deaf ear to all calls and invitations and treat them with constant contempt. Therefore I will fix a certain limit. I will set their bounds to 120 years, when if they repent not, I will put an end to all their lives, and with their lives shall be an end of my striving and waiting. This, which in Genesis is called God’s Spirit striving, is by the apostle Peter expressed by the waiting of the long-suffering of God; 1 Pet. 3:20. But according to the doctrine we are opposing, instead of God’s striving and using means to bring those wicked men to repentance, and waiting in the use of striving and endeavors 120 years, or to the end of their lives, and no longer, he has gone on still since that for above 4,000 years: striving with them in the use of more powerful means to bring them to repentance, and waiting on them, and will continue to do so for so long a time afterwards, that the time is often called everlasting, and represented as enduring forever and ever.
1348. Everlasting Punishment in Hell (Sections 11-19).
11. Those words of Christ, “I must work the works of him that sent me while it is day, the night cometh wherein no man can work,” John 9:4, prove that there is no other day of trial after this life. Christ having undertaken for us, and taken on him our nature, and appearing in the form of a servant, and standing as our surety and representative, had a great work appointed him of God to do in this life for eternity. He could not obtain eternal life and happiness for himself any other way than by doing that work in this life, which was the time of his probation for eternity, as well as ours. And therefore his words imply as much as if he had said, I must do that work which God has appointed me to do for eternity, that great service which must be done, as I would be eternally happy, now while the day of life lasts, which is the only day appointed for the trial of man’s faithfulness in the service of God, in order to his being accepted to eternal rewards. Death is coming, which will be the setting of the sun and the end of this day, after which no work will remain: nothing to be done that will be of any significance in order to the obtaining of the recompense of eternal felicity.
12. And doubtless to the same purpose is that in Ecc. 9, “Whatsoever thy had findeth to do, do it with thy might: for there is no work,” (or no man can work) “nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave, whither thou goest.” As much as to say that after this life, nothing can be done, nothing invented or devised, in order to your happiness. No wisdom or art will serve you to any such purpose, if you neglect the time of the present life. It is unreasonable to suppose the wise man means only that we should in this life do all that we can in temporal concerns, and to promote our temporal interest, and that nothing can be done towards this after this life. This would [then] be an observation of very little importance, it being as flat and impertinent as if he had said, whatever your hand finds to do this year, do it with your might. For nothing that you do or devise the next year, will signify anything to promote your interest and happiness this year: but also because the wise man himself, in the conclusion of this book, informs us that his drift through the whole book is to induce us to do a spiritual work, to fear God and keep his commandments, in order, not to happiness in this life (which he tells us throughout the book is never to be expected), but in order to a future happiness and retribution in consequence of a judgment to come; Ecc. 12:13, 14, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter. Fear God, and keep his commandments: For this is the whole” (i.e. the whole business, the whole concern) “of man. For God will bring every work into judgment, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.”
13. If the wicked in hell are in a state of trial, under severe chastisement, as means in order to their repentance and obtaining the benefit of God’s favor in eternal rewards, then they are in a state of such freedom as makes them moral agents, and the proper subjects of judgment and retribution. Then those terrible chastisements are made use of as the most powerful means of all, more efficacious than all the means used in this life which prove ineffectual, and which proving insufficient to overcome sinners’ obstinacy, and prevail with their heard hearts. God is compelled to relinquish them all, and have recourse to those torments as the last means, the most effectual and powerful. If the torments of hell are to last ages of ages, then it must be because sinners in hell all this while are obstinate. And though they are free agents as to this matter, yet they willfully and perversely refuse, even under such great means, to repent, forsake their sins, and turn to God. It must be further supposed that all this while they have the offers of immediate mercy and deliverance made to them, if they will comply. Now, if this be the case, and they shall go on in such wickedness, and continue in such extreme obstinacy and pertinaciousness, for so many ages (as is supposed by its being thought their torments shall be so long continued), how desperately will their guilt be increased! How many thousand times more guilty at the end of the term, than at the beginning! And therefore they will be much the more proper objects of divine severity, deserving God’s wrath, and still a thousand times more severe or longer continued chastisements than the past. And therefore it is not reasonable to suppose that all the damned should be delivered from misery, and received to God’s favor, and made the subjects of eternal salvation and glory at that time, when they are many thousand times more unworthy of it, more deserving of continuance in misery, than when they were first cast into hell. It is not likely that the infinitely wise God should so order the matter. And if their misery should be augmented, and still lengthened out much longer, to atone for their new contracted guilt; they must be supposed to continue impenitent, till that second additional time of torment is ended, at the end of which their guilt will still be risen higher, and vastly increased beyond what it was before. And at this rate, where can there be any place for an end of their misery?
14. It further appears from what was observed above, that the sinner continuing obstinate in wickedness under such powerful means to reclaim him, for so long a time, will be so far from being more and more purged, or brought nearer to repentance, that he will be farther from it. Wickedness in his heart will be vastly established and increased. For it may be laid down as an axiom, that the longer men continue willfully in wickedness, the more is the habit of sin established, and the more and more will the heart be hardened in it. Again, it may be laid down as another axiom, that the greater and more powerful the means are, that are used to bring men to reform and repent, which they resist, and are obstinate under, the more desperately are men hardened in sin, and the more the principle of it in the heart is confirmed. It may be laid down as a third axiom, that long continuance in perverse and obstinate rebellion against any particular kind of means, tends to render those particular means vain, ineffectual, and hopeless.
After the damned in hell have stood it out with such prodigious perverseness and stoutness, for ages of ages, in their rebellion and enmity against God, refusing to bow to his will under such constant, severe, mighty chastisements, attended all the while with offers of mercy, what a desperate degree of hardness of heart and fixed strength of habitual wickedness will they have contracted at last, and inconceivably farther will they be from a penitent, humble, and pure heart, than when first cast into hell! And if the torments should be lengthened out still longer, and also their impenitence (as by the supposition one will not end before the other does), still the farther will the heart be from being purified. And so, at this rate, the torments will never at all answer their end, and must be lengthened out to all eternity.
15. Mat. 5:25, 26, “Agree with thine adversary quickly, while thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt not come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.” These words imply that sinners are in the way with their adversary, having opportunity to be reconciled to him but for a short season, inasmuch as it is intimated, that they must agree with him quickly, or they shall cease to be in the way with him, or to have opportunity to obtain his favor any more. But if they shall be continued in a state of probation after death to the end of the world, and after that for ages, how far, how very far, are these words of Christ from representing the matter as it is?
16. That some even in this world are utterly forsaken of God, and given up to their own hearts’ lusts, proves that these men never will be purified from their sins. That God should, in the future world, use great means to purify them, and fit them for eternal happiness and glory, in the enjoyment of himself, is not consistent with the supposition that, after the use of great means and endeavors with them in this world, he gives them up to sin, because of rebellion, under the use of those great means, and so leaves them to be desperately hardened in sin, and to go on and increase their guilt, and multiply transgressions to their utter ruin; which is agreeable to manifold representations of Scripture. This is not agreeable to the scheme of such as suppose that God is all the while, before and after death, prosecuting the design of purifying and preparing them for eternal glory. Consider Psa. 92:7, “When the wicked spring as grass, and when all the workers of iniquity do flourish, it is that they shall be destroyed for ever.” These places show that God has no merciful design with those whom he gives up to sin.
17. The apostle, in Heb. 6:4-6 says, “It is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, etc., if they fall away, to renew them again unto repentance, seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame,” etc. The apostle speaks of their renovation to repentance, as never likely to happen for this reason: that they have proved irreclaimable under such great means to bring them to repentance, and have thereby so desperately hardened their hearts, and contracted such great guilt by sinning against such great light, and trampling on such great privileges. But if so, how much more unlikely still will it be, that they should ever be renewed to repentance, after they have gone on still more and more to harden their hearts by an obstinate, willful continuance in sin, many thousand years longer, under much greater means. They have therefore done immensely more to establish the habit of sin, and increase the hardness of their hearts, and that after their guilt is so vastly increased instead of being diminished! If it be impossible to bring them to repentance, after they have rebelled against such light and knowledge of Christ, and the things of another world, as they had in this life, then how much more impossible is it, when added to this, they have had that infinitely greater and clearer knowledge and view of those things to be manifested at the day of judgment! Then they shall see Christ in the glory of his Father with all his holy angels; shall see his great majesty, and know the truth of his promises and threatenings, by sight and experience; and shall see all those ineffable manifestations of the glory of Christ, of his power, omniscience, strict inflexible justice, infinite holiness and purity, truth and faithfulness, and his infinite mercy to penitents. They shall then see the dreadful consequences of rebellion and wickedness, and the infinitely happy and glorious consequences of the contrary. And even at this time (on the supposition), will they have the offers of mercy and deliverance from that dreadful misery, and the enjoyment of the favor of their great Judge, and participation of all the happiness and glory of the righteous which they shall see at his right hand, if then they will throw down the weapons of their rebellion, and repent, and comply with his will? But if they still, from the greatness of their enmity and perverseness, obstinately and willfully refuse; yea, and continue still thus refusing, even after they have actually felt the terrible wrath of God, and are cast into the lake of fire; yea, after they have continued there many ages, all the while under offers of mercy on repentance; I say, if it be impossible to renew them to repentance, after their rebelling against and trampling on the light and knowledge, and means used with them in this world, so that it is not to be expected, because of the degree of hardness and guilt contracted by it, — then how much less is it to be expected at the day of judgment, after all this obstinacy manifested, and guilt contracted? If guilt be contracted by despising such means and advantages as the apostle has respect to in this life, that it may be compared to guilt that would be contracted by crucifying Christ afresh, then how much more, when added to this, they shall so openly have despised Christ, when appearing to them in all the terrors, and glories, and love, that shall be manifested at the day of judgment, in their immediate and most clear view, and all is offered to them, if they will but yield subjection to him. And their enmity shall have appeared so desperate as rather to choose that dreadful lake of fire, and shall have continued in their choice even after they have felt the severity of that torment without rest day or night for many ages.
18. That all shall not be finally purified and saved, is manifest from Mat. 12:31, 32, “Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men; but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whatsoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him; but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.” — Also, Mark 3:28, 29, “Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and all blasphemies wherewithsoever they shall blaspheme; but he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost, hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation.” — And 1 John 5:16, “If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death; I do not say he shall pray for it.” From each of these places it is manifest that he that is guilty of blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, shall surely be damned, without any deliverance from his punishment, or end to it. — The various expressions that are used, serve much to certify and fix the import of others. In Mat. 12:31, it is said, “The blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.” The negative is general, and equally respects all times. If this sin should be forgiven at a remote time, it would be as contrary to such a negative, as if it were forgiven immediately. But to determine us that Christ has respect to all times, even the remotest, and that he means to deny that he shall be forgiven at any time whatsoever, in Mark it is said, “He shall never be forgiven; or, hath never forgiveness;” and lest this never should be interpreted to mean, never as long as he lives, or never in this world, it is said in Mat. 12:32, “It shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, nor in the world to come.” And lest it should be said that although he never is forgiven, yet that does not hinder but that there may be an end to his punishment, because he may suffer all he deserves in suffering a temporal punishment, or punishment of a limited, long duration. And he that is acquitted in paying all his debt, is not said to be forgiven his debt: another expression is used in Mark, which shows that he shall ever suffer damnation, and never have deliverance from his misery, whether by forgiveness or without it. — “Hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation.” and the forementioned expressions, “He shall never be forgiven;” “He hath never forgiveness;” “shall not be forgiven in this world, nor the world to come,” who the meaning of the word eternal here, to be such as absolutely excludes any period, any time of favor, wherein condemnation and punishment shall have ceased. And what the apostle John says of those who commit the unpardonable sin, confirms the whole, and proves that he that has committed this sin remains under no dispensation of mercy, and that no favor is ever to be hoped for from God. And therefore it is not our duty to pray for such favor. “There is a sin unto death, I do not say he shall pray for it;” or I give you no direction to pray for them that sin this sin unto death.
Thus it is evident that all wicked men will not have an end to their damnation, but when it is said that they are in danger of eternal or everlasting damnation, the world eternal is to be understood in the strictest sense. The same terms are used concerning all impenitent sinners, that they shall be sentenced to eternal punishment, and shall go into everlasting punishment, etc. — That their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched, and they shall be tormented forever and ever. And such terms are used after this world comes to an end, and also when they who have committed the unpardonable sin, and others, shall be sentenced all together to an everlasting fire, in the same terms. It is unreasonable to suppose that the punishment of some will be everlasting, in an infinitely different sense from others jointly sentenced, and that the duration of the punishment of one shall be perfectly as nothing, compared with the duration of the punishment of the other, infinitely less than a second to a million of ages. And it is unreasonable to suppose such a difference, also on this account, that there cannot be such a difference in the demerit of them that commit the unpardonable sin, and the demerit of the sins of all other wicked men, some of whom are exceedingly, and almost inconceivably, wicked. There cannot be a truly infinite difference in their guilt, as there must be a properly infinite difference between the dreadfulness of those torments that have an end, however long continued, and however great, and the torments of a truly and strictly everlasting fire.
19. If the damned in hell shall all finally be saved, they shall be saved without Christ. It is in itself unreasonable to suppose that since God has done such great things for the salvation of mankind, things that are celebrated in such a manner of Scripture, in both Old Testament and New, expressed everywhere in such exalted terms. I say, since God has done things so transcendently great for the salvation of sinners, to open a door for their escape from misery, it is unreasonable to imagine that when these joyful tidings are proclaimed to sinners, and this glorious and great salvation are offered to them, and they fail of being saved by Christ only through their willful obstinacy and contempt, that, after all, God would put them into such a state that they should have salvation offered to them at any time, whenever they see cause to repent and subject themselves to God, without Christ, or any concern in that sacrifice he has offered up for sin. The Scripture teaches us that there is not remission for sin without sacrifice to atone for sin: that without the shedding of blood there is no remission. But since God has provided so great a sacrifice for sin as that of his only begotten Son, the Creator and Ruler, and Great Judge of the universe, surely it is unreasonable to expect that any other will be appointed in the room of this for sinner’s salvation, because they obstinately reject this. In Heb. 10:26-27, the apostle says, “If we sin wilfully after we have received the knowledge of truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.” By which two things are manifest: (1.) That without a sacrifice for sin, there is not deliverance from punishment, and (2.) That there is no other sacrifice for sin by which sinners can be delivered, but that of Christ.
But now I come to observe that the damned in hell never be saved by Christ, or through his sacrifice. This is implied in Heb. 9:27-28, “As it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment; so Christ was once offered;” intimating that if after death there was not to be final and decisive judgment, but still there was to be a door opened for sinners salvation by Christ, there might be more reason to suppose it needful that he should be offered again. And further, it is manifest that Christ’s saving work will be at an end at the day of judgment, inasmuch, as Christ has a twofold office, that of the Savior of the world, and the Judge of the world; so, the business of the latter office properly succeeds the former. It is not fit, in the nature of things, that he should come into the world and appear openly in the character of universal Judge, to decide men’s state — in consequence of the trial there has been for making their state better by salvation — till that trial is over, and all its effects completed, when no more is to be hoped as to altering their state for the better by his salvation. Then is the proper season for him to clothe himself with, and to appear in his other character, that of a judge, and to decide and fix men’s final and everlasting state. Therefore Christ, at his first coming, appeared in order to save men from condemnation and a sentence of eternal misery; and not to judge them: as he tell us, John 12:47, “If any man hear my words and believe not, I judge him not: for I came, not to judge the world, but to save the world.” See also John 3:17 and 8:15. But the great business he will come upon at his second coming, as is abundantly declared, is to judge the world. And it is also exceedingly plain that Christ’s saving work will be at an end at the day of judgment, because we read, 1 Cor. 15 that at the end of the world he will deliver up his kingdom. He will resign his commission, which proves that the work of salvation, which is the design of it, will be at an end, when all his enemies, all that rejected him, and would not have him to rule over them, and so have failed of his salvation, shall be made his footstool, shall be condemned and destroyed. Instead of being the heirs of salvation, he shall come in flaming fire to take vengeance on them that know not God, and obey not the gospel of Jesus Christ, who shall be punished with everlasting destruction, etc. When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and admired in all them that believe, 2 Thes. 1:8-10.
1356. Endless Punishment of the Impenitent. (Sections 1-4)
1. If the damned, after they have suffered awhile, are to be delivered and to have eternal life, then the present dispensation of grace and life to the fallen children of men, that was introduced by Christ and his apostles, after the ceasing of the old Mosaic dispensation, is not the last, but another is to be introduced after this ceases, and with regard to those who through the flesh or through their sins and corruption, it has proved unprofitable and ineffectual. A new method must be entered upon of God’s gracious dealings with sinners. And as we must suppose that God will proceed with them in this great affair in a method agreeable to the intelligent, volitive and active nature he has given them, and will deal with them as moral agents, and as creatures whom he has made to love him, to be in subjection to him, and to serve him. So we must suppose that there will be made to them a new revelation of the designs of his wisdom, holiness and grace, with respect to their deliverance and being received to favor and the eternal happy fruits of it. Doubtless they themselves must have some active concern in the affair, in a way of repenting, seeking, obeying, or yielding subjection to God, and in some acknowledgment of him, some yielding of themselves to him. For God immediately to advance them from a state of great wickedness and misery in hell, to a state of perfection and confirmed eternal happiness, is neither agreeable to reason and the nature of things, nor to God’s known method of dealing with intelligent creatures. It would be much further from it than it would have been for God immediately to have inflated all angels and men in their confirmed state of life and eternal glory and blessedness, in the instant of their creation, without any terms, any previous concern or act of theirs in order to it.
But that a new dispensation of grace should thus be introduced, because that which was brought in by Christ and his apostles proves weak and unprofitable through men’s corruption, and there appears to be need of one which shall be more effectual, is not agreeable to the Scripture. For this dispensation is spoken of as the last and most perfect, wherein perfection was reached, Heb. 7:19, “For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did.” And Heb. 11:40, “God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.” The ancient dispensation is spoken of as that which God found fault with, in proving ineffectual through the corruption of men, and so he introduced a new administration, that should not be liable to exception, and therefore should not wax old, or be ever liable to vanish away and give place to another. Heb. 8:6, to the end.
So he speaks of the things of that ancient dispensation, as things which were liable to be shaken and removed, but of the things of the new dispensation then introduced, as those that could not be shaken, but should remain forever, Heb. 12:25 to the end, and 2 Cor. 3:11. The dispensation of the New Testament is often spoken of in the prophecies of the Old Testament as an everlasting dispensation, Jer. 31:31, 32, Jer. 32:40; Isa. 61:8; Eze. 37:26.
2. To suppose that after all the means of grace that are used in this world, Moses and the prophets, Christ and the gospel, the warnings of God’s Word, and the exhibitions of glorious gospel grace, have been despised and obstinately withstood, so as to make the case desperate as to their success, God has other means in reserve, to be used afterwards to make men holy, that will be more powerful and shall be effectual, — this is not agreeable to Scripture. Particularly, Luke 16:27, to the end, “Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldst send him to my father’s house: for I have five brethren; that he may testify to them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham, but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead.” And this is especially manifest, from Rev. 22:10-12, “And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand. He that is unjust, let him be unjust still; and he that is filthy, let him be filthy be unjust still; and he that is filthy, let him be filthy still. And behold I come quickly, and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his works shall be.”
I think the meaning must be either : 1st. The time is quickly coming, when every man’s state will be fixed, inasmuch as I am quickly coming to judgment, to fix every man’s state unalterably, according as his work shall be. After that there will be no alteration, nor any means or endeavors in order to it: but he that is unjust, let him be unjust still, and he that is filthy, let him be filthy still. And if this be the meaning, it makes it evident that Christ will not immediately proceed to the use of the most powerful and effectual means of all, to change the state of the unjust and filthy, to purify them and make them holy, and fit them for eternal glory with infallible success. — Or 2ndly, the meaning must be this, which seems to be much the most probable: Christ gave the last revelation to his church to be added to the book of Scripture, with which the canon was to be shut up and sealed, by the instrumentality of the apostle John, who lived the longest of the apostles and wrote this book after all the rest were dead. He ordered John, Rev. 22:10, to publish this book, wherein such great future judgments are revealed as coming on the wicked, and such an affecting declaration of the future glory of the saints, to enforce the rest of God’s Word and means of grace, and then he intimates that no more revelations are to be expected, no more instructions and warnings are to be added to the Word of God, as the steady means of grace, any further to confirm and enforce the rest. And the next revelation that is to be expected, and that Christ will make of himself to the world, is to be his immediate appearance in judgment, to fix unalterably every man’s state according to his works, according to the improvement he shall have made of those past revelations, instructions, and warnings. And therefore, those that will not be purified by those means are not to expect that better or other means will ever be used with them, but he that is unjust must remain so still, and he that is filthy must be filthy still, and he that is righteous shall be righteous still, and he that is holy shall be holy still. Thus Christ takes leave of his church till his last coming, warning them to improve the means of grace they have, and informing them that they are never to have any other: q.d. They have Moses and the prophets, and in the writings of the New Testament, they have more glorious, powerful, and efficacious revelations of me. Those writings I now finish and seal. Let them hear these, and make a good improvement of them, for these are the last means I shall ever use to change man’s state. This is inconsistent with his reserving his greatest and most powerful means, with a determined certain success, to be used after the day of judgment.
3. They who suppose the damned are made to suffer the torments of hell for their purification, suppose that God is herein prosecuting his grand design of benevolence to his creatures: yea, benevolence to the sufferers and that he does not use these severe means but from necessity for their good, because all gentle remedies prove ineffectual. Now it is unreasonable to suppose that God is under any necessity of inflicting such extreme torments upon them for so long a time, in order to their being brought to repentance, and that:
First. If we consider the nature of things: torments inflicted have no tendency to bring a wicked man to repentance directly and properly, if by repentance we mean an alteration of the disposition, and appetites, and taste of the mind. We know by experience that pain inflicted for gratifying an appetite, may make men afraid to gratify the appetite, but they do not change the inclination, or destroy the appetite. They may make men willing to comply with external exercises, of which they have a distaste, and to which their heart, in its relish and inclinations, is averse: yet not from love to the things complied with, but from hatred of pain, and love of ease. So that the man complies in some sense, but his heart does not comply. He is only driven, and as it were forced, and an increase of pain alters not the nature of things. It may make a man more earnestly to desire freedom from pain, but still there is no more to be expected from it than is in the tendency of pain, which is not to give a new nature, a new heart, or a new natural relish and disposition. It is not granted that even long continued pains and practice will gradually rise an habitual love to virtue. The pains of the damned being great and long continued, may more and more convince them of the folly of their negligence and fearlessness in sin, and may make them willing to take some pains, but will not show them the beauty of holiness, or the odiousness of sin, so as to cause them to hate sin on its own account.
Can anyone that considers human nature, especially of those that deny an innate, desperate wickedness of heart (as the men that we have this controversy with generally do), doubt in the least, whether, if a man should be in a furnace of fire for one day only, alive and full of quick sense, and should retain and full and lively remembrance of his misery, it would not be sufficient to make him wholly comply with all the pains and outward self-denial requisite in order to an universal, external obedience to the precepts of the Word of God, rather than have those torments renewed and continued for ages, and indeed rather than endure one more such day? What pains would not such a man be willing to suffer? What labors could be too much? What would he not be willing to part with, in foregoing worldly wealth or pleasures? Would not the most covetous man, that had felt such a rod as this, be willing to part with all his treasures of silver and gold? And the most ambitious man be willing to live in a cottage or wilderness? The most voluptuous man to part with his pleasures? Would he need first to endure many ages of such torment, before he would be willing thus far to comply? It is against all principles of human nature to suppose it. If he retains the remembrance of the torment, in a lively idea of it, it must unspeakably outweigh the most lively and affecting and attractive ideas of the good things of the world. The supposition, therefore, of his not being brought to compliance by less torment, is as unreasonable as to suppose that a mote of dust would sink the scale, being put in a balance with a talent of lead, or with ten thousand talents. If the Most High is compassionate to these poor wretches, and has nothing but a kind and gracious design of infinite mercy and bounty towards them, why does he take such dreadful measures with them? Will no other do? Cannot infinite wisdom find out some gentler method to bring to pass the same design? If it be said that no other can accomplish the effect, consistently with the freedom of will; — then I answer: What means can be devised, having a greater tendency to drive men and compel them to comply with the thing required (if there be any such thing), without acting freely and as persons left to their own free choice, than such a rod not only held over, but used upon them in such an amazing manner, by an omnipotent hand?
Second. It is apparent, from what has often come to pass, that God is in no necessity of making use of such dreadful and long-continued torments, in order to bring sinners to repentance. It is most unreasonable to suppose that no sinners that ever were converted in this world, were, before their conversion, as wicked and as hard-hearted as some of those that have died impenitent: as Saul the persecutor, afterwards the apostle Paul, and some of the converts in the Acts 2, who had had a hand in Christ’s crucifixion, and innumerable instances of persecutors and others, who have been brought to repentance since those days. Such were converted by gentler means than those pains of hell, in what the Scripture calls everlasting burnings, and that without any infringement of liberty necessary to their being moral agents. It would be unreasonable to suppose that all those eighteen, on whom the tower of Siloam fell, were good men. But Christ would not have his hearers imagine they were worse than themselves, and yet intimates that there was a possibility of their escaping future misery by repentance.
Third. So far as pain and affliction are made use of to bring men to repentance, it is apparent God can make infinitely less severe chastisement effectual, together with such influences and assistances of his Spirit, as are not inconsistent with the persons’ moral agency in their forsaking sin and turning to God. And if it should be said that none of them had the habits of sin so confirmed, as all such as die in sin; I would answer: That this is very unreasonably supposed, and if it should be allowed, yet it cannot be pretended that the difference of guilt and hard-heartedness is proportionable at all to the severity of the chastisement used for purgation. If no more than ten degrees of pain, or one year’s chastisement, be requisite for the overcoming of five degrees of strength of the habit of sin, one would think, that less than 100,000 degrees, or 100,000 years’ chastisement, should be sufficient to overcome ten degrees of strength of the same habit.
4. If the torments of hell are purifying pains, and are used by a God of universal benevolence towards his creatures, as necessary means for the purgation of the wicked from sin, and their being fitted for, and finally brought to, eternal happiness in the enjoyment of the love of god, then it will follow that the damned in hell are still the objects of God’s mercy and kindness, and that in the torments they suffer, they are the subjects of a dispensation of grace and benevolence. All is for their good. All is the best kindness that can be done them, the most benevolent treatment they are capable of in their state of mind. And in all, God is but chastising them as a wise and loving father, with a grieved and compassionate heart, gives necessary chastisement to sons whom he loves, and whose good he seeks to the utmost; in all he does he is only prosecuting a design of infinite kindness and favor. And indeed, some of the chief of those who are in the scheme of purifying pains, expressly maintain that instead of being the fruits of vindictive justice, they are the effects of God’s benevolence, not only to the system of intelligent creatures in general, but to the sufferers themselves. Now how far are these things from being agreeable to the representation which is made of things in the Holy Scriptures?
The Scriptures represent the damned as thrown away of God; as things that are good for nothing, and which God makes no account of; Mat. 13:48. As dross, and not gold and silver, or any valuable metal; Psa. 119:119, “Thou puttest away all the wicked of the earth as dross.” So Eze. 22:18; Jer. 6:28-30, as salt that has lost its savor, as good for nothing but to be cast out and trodden under-foot of men, as stubble that is left and as the chaff thrown out to be scattered by the wind, and go whither that shall happen to carry it, instead of being gathered and laid up as that which is of any value. Psa. 1:4; Job 21:18; and 35:5, as that which shall be thrown away as wholly worthless, as chaff, and stubble, and tares, all which are thrown away as not worthy of any care to save them: yea, as fit for nothing but to be destroyed, and therefore are cast into the fire to be destroyed and done with. Mat. 3:12, and 12:30; Job 21:18, as barren trees, trees that are good for nothing, and not only so, but cumberers of the ground; and as such, shall be cut down and cast into the fire. Mat. 3:10 and 7:19. Luke 13:7 as barren branches in a vine, that are cut off and cast away; as good for nothing, and gathered and burned. John 15:6, as thrown out and purged away as the filth of the world. Thus, it is said, Job 20:7, “That the wicked shall perish for ever, as his own dung.” They are spoken of as those that shall be spewed out of God’s mouth; as thrown into the lake of fire; as the great sink of all the filth of the creation; Rev. 21:8, “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their share in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone.” As briers and thorns that are not only wholly worthless in a field, but hurtful and pernicious; and are nigh unto cursing, whose end is to be burned; Heb. 6, i.e. the husbandman throws them into the fire, and so has done with them forever. He does not still take care of them, in order to make them fruitful and flourishing plants in his garden of delights. The wicked, it is said, shall be driven from light into darkness, and chased out of the world, Job 18:18. Instead of being treated by God with benevolence, chastening them with the compassion and kindness of a father, for their great and everlasting good, they, at that day, when God shall gather his children together, to make them experience the blessed fruits of the love of a heavenly Father, shall be shut out as dogs; Rev. 21:7, 8, with chap. 22:14, 15. And are represented as vessels to dishonor, vessels of wrath, fit for nothing else, but to contain wrath and misery. They are spoken of as those that perish and lose their souls: that are lost, 2 Cor. 4:4. Those that lose themselves and are cast away, and those that are destroyed, consumed, etc. — which representations do not agree with such as are under a dispensation of kindness, and the means of a physicians, in order to their eternal life, health, and happiness: though the means are severe. When God, of old, by his prophets, denounced his terrible judgments against Jerusalem and the people of Israel, against Moab, Tyre, Egypt, Assyria, etc. which judgments, though long continued, were not designed to be perpetual; there were mixed with those awful denunciations, or added to them, promises or intimations of future mercy. But when the Scripture speaks of God’s dealings with ungodly men in another world, there are nothing but declarations and denunciations of wrath and misery, and no intimations of mercy; no gentle terms used, no significations of divine pity, no exhortations to humiliation under God’s awful hand, or calls to seek his face and favor, and turn and repent. The account that the Scriptures gives of the treatment that wicked men shall meet with after this life, is very inconsistent with the notion of their being from necessity subjected to harsh means of cure, and severe chastisement, with a benevolent, gracious design of their everlasting good, particularly the manner in which Christ will treat them at the day of judgment. He will bid the wicked depart from him as cursed.
We have no account of any invitations to accept of mercy, nor any counsels to repent that they may speedily be delivered from this misery. But it is represented that then they shall be made his footstool. He shall triumph over them. He will trample upon them as men are wont to tread grapes in a wine-press, when they trample with all their might, to that very end that they may effectually crush them in pieces. He will tread them in his anger, and trample them in his fury, and, as he says, their blood shall be sprinkled on his garments, and he will stain all his raiment, Isa. 63, at the beginning; Rev. 14:19, 20; and Rev. 19:15, in which last place it is said, he treadeth the wine-press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty god. These things do not savor of chastening with compassion and benevolence, and as still prosecuting a design of love toward them, that he may in the end actually be their Savior, and the means of their eternal glory. There is nothing in the account of the day of judgment that looks as though saints had any love or pity for the wicked, on account of the terrible long-continued torments which they must suffer. Nor indeed will the accounts that are given admit of supposing any such thing. We have an account of their judging them, and being with Christ in condemning them, concurring in the sentence, wherein he bids them begone from him as cursed with devils into eternal fire. But there is no account of their praying for them, nor of their exhorting them to consider and repent.
They shall not be grieved, but rather rejoice at the glorious manifestations of God’s justice, holiness, and majesty, in their dreadful perdition, and shall triumph with Christ, Rev. 18:20, and Rev. 19 at the beginning. They shall be made Christ’s footstool, and so they shall be the footstool of the saints. Psa. 68:23, “That thy foot may be dipped in the blood of thine enemies, and the tongue of thy dogs in the same.” If the damned were the objects of divine benevolence, and designed by God for the enjoyment of his eternal love, doubtless it would be required of all God’s children to love them, and to pity them, and pray for them, and seek their good: as here in this world it is required of them to love their enemies, to be kind to the evil and unjust, and to pity and pray for the vilest of men, that were their own persecutors, because they are the subjects of God’s mercy in many respect, and are fit objects of infinite divine mercy and love. If Christ, the head of all the church, pities the damned and seeks their good, doubtless his members ought to do so too. If the saints in heaven ought to pity the damned, as well as the saints on earth are obligated to pity the wicked that dwell here, then doubtless their pity ought to be in some proportion to the greatness of the calamities of the objects of it, and the greatness of the number of those they see in misery. But if they had pity and sympathizing grief in such measure as this for so many ages, what an alloy would it be to their happiness! God is represented as whetting his glittering sword, bending his bow, and making ready his arrows on the string against wicked men, and lifting his hand to heaven, and swearing that he will render vengeance to his enemies, and reward them that hate him, and make his arrows drunk with their blood, and that his sword shall devour their flesh. Deu. 32:40-42, and Psa. 7:11-13. Certainly this is the language and conduct of an enemy, not of a friend, or of a compassionate chastising father.
The degree of misery and torment that shall be inflicted, is an evidence that God is not acting the part of benevolence and compassion, and only chastening from a kind and gracious principle and design. It is evident that it is God’s manner, when he thus afflicts men for their good, and chastens them with compassion, to stay his rough wind in the day of his east wind, to correct in measure, to consider the frame of those that are corrected, to remember their weakness, and to consider how little they can bear. He turns away his anger and does not stir up all his wrath. Psa. 78:37-39; Isa. 27:8; Jer. 30:11, and 46:28. And it is his manner, in the midst even of the severest afflictions, to order some mitigating circumstances, and to mix some mercy. But the misery of the damned is represented as unmixed. The wine of the wrath of God is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation, that they may be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment shall ascend up forever and ever, and they have no rest day nor night. Rev. 14:10, 11. They are tormented in a flame that burns within them, as well as round about them, and they shall be denied so much as a drop of water to cool their tongues. And God’s wrath shall be inflicted in such a manner, as to show his wrath, and make his strength known on the vessels of wrath, and which shall be punished with everlasting destruction, answerable to that glory of his Father with power and great glory in flaming fire, to take vengeance on them that know not God and obey not the gospel. Can any imagine that in all this God is only correcting from love, and that the subjects of these inflictions are some of those happy ones whom God corrects in order to teach them out of his law? Whom he makes sore, and bindeth up? Job 5:17, 18, Psa. 94:12. There is nothing in Scripture that looks as if the damned were under the use of means to bring them to repentance. It is apparent that God’s manner is when he afflicts men to bring to repentance by affliction, to join instructions, admonitions, and arguments to persuade.
But if we judge by scripture representations of the state of the damned, they are left destitute of all these things. — There are no prophets, or ministers, or good men, to admonish them, to reason and expostulate with them, or to set them good examples. There is a perfect separation made betwixt all the righteous and the wicked by a great gulf, so that there can be no passing from one to the other. They are left wholly to the company of devils, and others like them. When the rich man in hell cries to his father Abraham, begging a drop of water, he denies his request; and adds no exhortation to repentance. Wisdom is abundantly represented in the book of Proverbs, as counseling, warning, calling, inviting, and expostulating with such as are under means for the obtaining wisdom, till the time of their punishment comes. Then it is represented that their fear shall come as desolation, their destruction as a whirlwind, that distress and anguish shall come upon them, and that then it will be in vain for them to seek wisdom. If they seek her early, they shall not find her, and if they call upon her, she will not hear. But instead of this, she will laugh at their calamity and mock when their fear cometh: which certainly does not consist with the idea that the God of wisdom is still striving with them, and using means, in a benevolent and compassionate manner, to bring them to seek and embrace wisdom, and still offering wisdom with all her unspeakable benefits, if they will hearken to her voice and comply with her counsel. Is wisdom then actually using the most powerful and effectual means to bring them to this happiness, even such as shall surely be successful, though they have obstinately refused all others, and when wisdom called, they heretofore refused, when she stretched forth her hand, they did not regard? Is he still most effectually acting the part of a friend, to deliver them from their distress and anguish, instead of laughing at their calamity? Pro. 1, latter end. This declaration of wisdom, if it ever be fulfilled at all, will surely be fulfilled most completely and perfectly at the time appointed for obstinate sinners to receive their most perfect and complete punishment.
If all mankind, even such as live and die in their wickedness, are and ever will be the objects of Christ’s goodwill and mercy, and those whose eternal happiness he desires and seeks, then surely he would pray for all. But Christ declares that there are some that he prays not for: John 17:9, “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.” Compared with John 17:14, “The world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” Verse 25, “The world hath not known thee, but I have known thee; and these have known that thou hast sent me;” and John 17:20. “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word.” By this it appears that Christ prayed for all that should ever be true believers. — But he prayed not for those who should not be brought by the word of the apostles, and such means of grace as are used in this world, to believe in him, and should continue notwithstanding not to know God, and in enmity against true holiness or Christianity. These were such as Christ prayed not for.
1356. Endless Punishment of the Impenitent. (Sections 5-14)
5. If sin and misery, and the second death are to continue and prevail for so long a time after the day of judgment, with respect to great multitudes that Christ will finally save and deliver from those things, having perfectly conquered and abolished them, then how can the Scriptures truly represent that all enemies shall be put under his feet at the end of the world, that the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death, and that then, having perfectly subdued all his enemies, he shall resign up that kingdom to the Father, and he himself be subject to the Father? As in 1 Cor. 15:20-28. The time of Christ’s victory over death will be at the general resurrection and day of judgment, as is evident by verse 54 with the foregoing context. The chief enemies that Christ came to destroy, with regard to such as should be saved, and be of his church, were sin and misery, or death consisting in sin, and death consisting in suffering the second death, unspeakably the greatest enemy that came by sin: infinitely more terrible than temporal death. But if the notion I am opposing be true, these greatest and worst enemies, instead of being subdued, shall have their principal reign afterwards, for many ages at least; viz. sin in the sad effect and consequence of it, men’s misery. And God shall have his strongest conflict with those enemies afterward, that is, shall strive against them in the use of the most powerful means.
6. There is a great evidence that the devil is not the subject of any dispensation of divine mercy and kindness, and that God is prosecuting no design of infinite goodness towards him, and that his pains are not purifying pains. It is manifest that instead of any influence of his torments to bring him nearer to repentance, he has been from the beginning of his damnation, constantly, with all his might, exerting himself in prosecuting his wickedness, his violent, and haughty, and malignant opposition to God and man. He has been fighting especially with peculiar virulence against Christ and his church: opposing with all his might, everything that is good, and seeking the destruction and misery of all with boundless and insatiable cruelty, on which account he is called Satan, the adversary, and Abaddon, and Apollyon, the destroyer. He is represented as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour, a viper, the old serpent, the great red dragon, red on account of his bloody cruel nature. He is said to be a murderer from the beginning. He has murdered all mankind, and has murdered their souls as well as their bodies. He was the murderer of Jesus Christ, by instigating Judas and his crucifiers. He has most cruelly shed the blood of an innumerable multitude of the children of God. He is emphatically called the evil one, that wicked one, etc. He is a liar, and the father of lies, and the father of all the sin and wickedness that is, or ever has been, in the world. He is the spirit that worketh in the children of disobedience; 2 Cor. 4:3, 4. It is said that he that committeth sin is of the devil, for the devil sinneth from the beginning. And all wicked men are spoken of as his children. He has set up himself as God of this world, in opposition to the true God, and has erected a vast kingdom over the nations, and is constantly carrying on a war with the utmost earnestness, subtlety, malice, and venom against Jesus Christ and all his holy and gracious designs. He is maintaining a kingdom of darkness, wickedness, and misery, in opposition to Christ’s kingdom of light, holiness, and peace, and thus will continue to do till the end of the world, as appears by Scripture prophecies.
And God’s dealings with him are infinitely fare from being those of a friend, kindly seeking his infinite good, and designing nothing else in the end, but to make him eternally happy in love and favor, and blessed union with him. God is represented everywhere as acting the part of an enemy to him, that seeks and designs nothing in the final event but his destruction. The grand work of God’s providence, which he is prosecuting from the beginning to the end of the world, viz. the work of redemption, is against him, to bruise or break in pieces his head, to cast him like lightning from heaven from that height of power and dominion to which he has exalted himself, to tread him underfoot, and to cause his people to trample and bruise or crush him underfoot, and gloriously to triumph over him. Christ, when he conquered him, made a show of him openly, triumphing over him. And it is evident that as it will be with the devil in this respect, so it will be with the wicked. This is reasonable to suppose from what the Scripture represents of the relation wicked men stand in to the devil as his children, servants, subjects, instruments, and his property and possession. They are all ranked together with him in one kingdom, in one interest, and one company. And many of them are the great ministers of his kingdom, and to whom he has committed authority, such as the beast and false prophet that we read of in the Revelation. Now how reasonable and natural is it to suppose that those who are thus united should have their portion and lot together! As Christ’s disciples, subject, followers, soldiers, children, instruments, and faithful ministers shall have their part with him in his eternal glory, so we may reasonably believe that the devil’s disciples, followers, subjects, soldiers in his army, his children, instruments, and ministers of his kingdom should have their part with him. There should not be such an infinite difference made between them, that the punishment of the one should be eternal, and that of the other but temporal, and therefore infinitely less, infinitely disproportionate, so that the proportion between the punishment of the latter and that of the former, is as nothing: infinitely less than an unit to a million of millions. This is unreasonable to be supposed in itself, as the difference of guilt and wickedness cannot be so great, but must be infinitely far from it, especially considering the aggravations of the wickedness of a great part of damned men, as committed against Christ and gospel grace and love, which exceeding great aggravation the sin of the devils never had.
As the devil’s ministers, servants and instruments, of the angelic nature, those that are called the devil’s angels, shall have their part with him, then for the like reason we may well suppose that his servants, and instruments of the human nature, will share with him. And not only is this reasonable in itself, but the Scripture plainly teaches us that it shall be so. In Rev. 19:20 it is said, “The beast and the false prophet were both cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone.” So it is said, chap. 20:10, “The devil the deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever;” — thus expressing both the kind of misery and the duration. Just in the same manner it is said concerning the followers of the beast. It is said, Rev. 14:9-11, “Saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast, etc. — the same shall be tormented with fire and brimstone, and the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever, and they have no rest day nor night.” — And Rev. 21:8 of wicked men in general, it is said that they shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone. — So we find in Christ’s description of the day of judgment, the wicked are sentenced to everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels,. By which it appears most plainly that they share with the devil in suffering misery of the same kind, and also share with him in suffering misery of the same everlasting continuance. And, indeed, not only would the punishment infinitely differ as to quantity and duration, if the punishment of the devils was to be eternal, and of wicked men only temporal, but if this were known, it would, as it were, infinitely differ in kind. The one suffering God’s hatred and mere vengeance, inflictions that have no pity or kindness in them, while the other, the fruit of his mercy and love, and infinitely kind intention. The one attended with absolute despair, and a black and dismal sinking prospect of misery, absolutely endless, while the other with the light of hope, and a supporting prospect, not only of an end to their misery, but of an eternal unspeakable happiness to follow.
7. This notion we are opposing is repugnant to the representations which the Scripture makes, as though at the day of judgment would happen the consummation of all things, the finishing of God’s design, and end of the revolutions and changes of a state of trial, preparation and proficience, and the bringing all the great mutations of the world to their fixed period, and the settling of all things in their final state. Thus the apostle says, 1 Cor. 15:24, “Then cometh the end.” And the things there spoken of, that shall then be done, show that then will be the finishing of things, and settling them in their final state, such as the end of Christ’s kingdom given him for the subduing of all enemies, and his resigning his commission for the conquering of all enemies, and subduing all evil, and the restitution of all things (as having completed his design) that God henceforth may be in all, according to the most natural state of things. And therefore, when the general resurrection and day of judgment had been represented to the apostle John, God then proclaims, Rev. 21:6, “And he said unto me, It is done; I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.” — By which it is very manifest that God will have so far finished his design, as to have brought the whole course of things, in all their mutations, to their proper and intended period, final issue, and fixed state. Whereby it shall appear at last that as God was the beginning, the first cause of all things, from whom the whole system and series of things originated at their beginning, so when they are brought to their final issue, he will appear to be also their last end, so that as things took their first rise from him, so they shall have their last end in him. He shall appear to be the last end of all things, when their last end is reached, in the issue of all their changes, revolutions, and labors. Agreeable to this, the day of judgment is from time to time, called the last day, John 6:40, 44, 54, and the great day, Jude 6. — By these things it is most manifest that at that day, the moral world shall be settled in its final state, and that the judgment of that day will be the last judgment.
But if the multitude of the damned are yet to be kept in a state of preparation, and under the use of means for producing repentance, and so vast a change as that from infernal misery to heavenly and eternal glory, then how far are things from being all brought to their consummation, last issue, and settled in their final state? And if so, then the judgment of that day cannot be the last judgment. For the design of the last judgment, whenever that happens, must be to settle things in the moral world, or among such creatures as are the proper subjects of moral government, and of a judicial proceeding, in their last state. But the last judgment for this end, cannot be till the day of preparation and proficience, and use of means in order to repentance and opportunity for the obtaining the favor and rewards of the great Judge, is over. According to the notion which I am opposing, the judgment that shall take place at the end of the world will be so far from being the last judgment, or any proper judgment to settle all things in their final state, that it will, with respect to the wicked, be no more than the judgment of a physician, whether more sharp and powerful remedies must not be applied in order to the relief of sinners, and the cure of their disease, which, if not cured, will make them eternally miserable!
8. It is evident that the future misery of the wicked in hell is not come to an end, and to be succeeded by eternal happiness, and that their misery is not subservient to their happiness, because the Scripture plainly signifies, concerning those that die in their sins, that they have all the good and comfort in this life that ever is designed for them. Luke 6:24, “Woe unto you that are rich, for ye have received your consolation.” Luke 16:25, “Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things.” Psa. 17:13, 14, “Deliver my soul from the wicked — from the men of the world which have their portion in this life, and whose belly thou fillest with thy hid treasure.”
9. According to the opinion I am now opposing, God will surely at the last deliver all the damned from their misery and make them happy. So that God will see to it that the purifying torments shall certainly at last have their effect, to turn them from sin. Now how can this consist with God’s treating them as moral agents, and their acting from the freedom of their own wills, in the affair of their turning from sin, and becoming morally pure and virtuous, according to the notions of freedom and moral agency which now prevail, and are strenuously maintained by some of the chief assertors of this opinion concerning hell torments, which notion of freedom implies contingence, and is wholly inconsistent with the necessity of the event?
If after all the torments used to bring sinners to repentance, the consequence aimed at, viz. their turning from sin to virtue, be not necessary, but it shall still remain a contingent event, whether there ever will be any such consequence of those severe, long-continued chastisements, or no, then how can it be determined that this will surely be the consequence? How can it be a thing infallible that such a consequence of means used will follow, when at the same time, it is not a consequence any way necessarily connected with the means used, it being only a thing contingent whether it will follow or not? If God has determined absolutely to make them all pure and happy, and yet their purity and happiness depend on the freedom of their will, then here is an absolute, divine decree, consistent with the freedom of men’s will, which is a doctrine utterly rejected by the generality of that sort of men who deny the eternity of hell torments. If it be said that God has not absolutely determined the duration or measure of their torments, but intends to continue them till they do repent, or to try lesser torments first, and if these do not answer, to increase them till they are effectual, determining that he will raise or continue them till the effect shall finally and infallibly follow, then that is the same thing as to necessitate the effect. And here is necessity in such a case, as much as when a founder puts a piece of metal into a furnace with a resolution to melt it, and if continuing it there a little while will not dissolve it, then he will keep it there till it does dissolve. And if by reason of its peculiar hardness, an ordinary degree of heat of the furnace will not be effectual, then he will increase the vehemence of the heat, till the effect shall certainly follow.
N. B. Some of these things observed in opposition to the notion of hell torments being only purifying pains, may be used as arguments to prove the eternity of future misery in general. As what is said concerning the consummation of all things, etc. — concerning the rich man’s having received his good things, etc. — The punishment of blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. — Concerning the last dispensation, Rev. 22:10-12. — Sinners being thrown away, lost, etc. — The last enemy subdued. — Concerning the devil, and wicked men’s suffering the same punishment with him.
10. If any should maintain this scheme of temporary future punishments, viz. that the torments in hell are not purifying pains, and that the damned are not in a state of trial with regard to any expected admission to eternal happiness and that therefore they are not the proper objects of divine benevolence; that the dispensation they are under is not truly a dispensation of mercy, but that their torments are properly penal pains, wherein God displays his vindictive justice; that they shall suffer misery to such a degree, and for so long a time, as their obstinate wickedness in this world deserves; and that indeed they shall be miserable a very long time, so long that it is often figuratively spoken of in Scripture as being everlasting, and that then they shall be annihilated. On this I would observe that there is nothing got by such a scheme: no relief from the arguments taken from Scripture, for the proper eternity of future punishment. For if it be owned that Scripture expressions denote a punishment that is properly eternal, but that it is in no other sense properly so, than as the annihilation, or state of non-existence that the wicked shall return to, will be eternal, and that this eternal annihilation is that death which is so often threatened for sin, perishing forever, everlasting destruction, being lost, utterly consumed, etc. And that the fire of hell is called eternal fire, in the same sense that the external fire which consumed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah is called eternal fire, Jude 7, because it utterly consumed those cities, that they might never be built more, and that this fire is called that which cannot be quenched, or at least not until it has destroyed them that are cast into it. — If this be all that these expressions denote, then they do not at all signify the length of the torments, or long continuance of their misery, so that the supposition of the length of their torments is brought in without any necessity, the Scripture saying nothing of it, having no respect to it, when it speaks of their everlasting punishments. And it answers the scripture expressions as well, to suppose that they shall be annihilated immediately, without any long pains, provided the annihilation be everlasting.
11. If any should suppose that the torments of the damned in hell are properly penal, and in execution of penal justice, but yet that they are neither eternal, nor shall end in annihilation, but shall be continued till justice is satisfied, and they have truly suffered as much as they deserve, whereby their punishment shall be so long as to be called everlasting, but that then they shall be delivered, and finally be the subjects of everlasting happiness; and that therefore they shall not in the mean time be in a state of trial, nor will be waited upon in order to repentance, nor will their torments be used as means to bring them to it, for that the term and measure of their punishment shall be fixed, from which they shall not be soever, until justice is satisfied: I would observe, in answer to this, that if it be so, the damned, while under their suffering, are either answerable for the wickedness that is acted by them while in that state, or may properly be the subjects of a judicial proceeding for it, or not. If the former be supposed, then it will follow that they must have another state of suffering and punishment, after the ages of their suffering for the sins of this life are ended. And it cannot be supposed that this second period of suffering will be shorter than the first, for the first is only for the sins committed during a short life, often represented in Scripture, for its shortness, to be a dream, a tale that is told, a blast of wind, a vapor, a span, a moment, etc. But the time of punishment is always represented as exceeding long, called everlasting, and is represented as enduring forever and ever, as having no end, etc. If the sins of a moment must be followed with such punishment, then, doubtless, the sins of those endless ages must be followed with another second period of suffering, much longer. For it must be supposed that the damned continue sinning all the time of their punishment, for none can rationally imagine that God would hold them under such extreme torments, and terrible manifestations and executions of his wrath, after they have thoroughly repented, and turned from sin, and are become pure and holy, and conformed to God, and so have left off sinning. And if they continue in sin during this state of punishment, with assurance that God still has a great benevolence for them, even so as to intend finally to make them everlastingly happy in the enjoyment of his love, then their sin must be attended with great aggravation; as they will have the evil and ill desert of sin set before them in the most affecting manner, in their dreadful sufferings for it attended besides with evidence that God is infinitely benevolent towards them, and intends to bestow infinite blessings upon them. — But if this first long period of punishment must be followed with a second as long or longer, then for the same reason, the second must be followed by a third, as long or longer than that, and so the third must be followed by a fourth, and so in infinitum. And at this rate, there never can be an end of their misery. So this scheme overthrows itself.
And if the damned are not answerable for the wickedness they commit during their state of punishment, then we must suppose that during the whole of their long and, as it were, eternal state of punishment, they are given up of God to the most unrestrained wickedness, having this to consider, that how far soever they go in the allowed exercises and manifestations, of their malice and rage against God and Christ, saints and angels, and their fellow damned spirits, they have nothing to fear from it, it will be never the worse. And surely, continuing in such unrestrained wickedness for such duration, must most desperately confirm the habit of sin, must increase the root and fountain of it in the heart. Now how unreasonable it is to suppose that God would thus deal with such as were objects of his infinite kindness, and the appointed subjects of the unspeakable and endless fruits of his love, in a state of perfect holiness and purity, and conformity to and union with himself: thus to give them up beforehand to unrestrained malignity against himself, and every kind of hellish wickedness, as it were infinitely to increase the fountain of sin in the heart, and the strength of the principle and habit! Now how incongruous is it to suppose, with regard to those for whom God has great benevolence and designs eternal favor, that he would lay them under a necessity of extreme, unbounded hatred of him, blasphemy and rage against him, for so many ages, such necessity as should exclude all liberty of their own in the case! If God intends not only punishment but also purification by these torments, then, on this supposition, instead of their being purified, they must be set at an infinitely greater distance from purification. And if God intends them for a second time of probation, in order to their being brought to repentance and the love of God after their punishment is finished, then how can it be certain beforehand, that they shall finally be happy, as is supposed? How can it be certain they will not fail in their second trial, or in their third, if there be a third? Yea, how much more likely that they will fail of truly turning in heart from sin to the love of God in their second trial, if there be any proper trial in the case, after their hearts have been so much more brought under the power of a strong habit of sin and enmity to God! If the habit proved so strong in this life that the most powerful means and mighty inducements of the gospel would not prevail, so that God was, as it were, under a necessity of cutting them down and dealing thus severely with them, then how much less likely will it be that they will be prevailed upon to love God and the ways of virtue, after their hearts are set at so much greater distance from those things! Yea, unless we suppose a divine interposition of almighty, efficacious power, to change the heart in the time of this second trial, we may be sure that, under these circumstances, the heart will not turn to love God.
And besides, if they are laid under such a necessity of hating and blaspheming God, for so many ages, in the manner that has been spoken of. then how extremely incongruous is such an imagination, that God would lay those he intended for the eternal bounty and blessedness of dear children, under such circumstances, that they must necessarily hate him, and with devilish fury curse and blaspheme him for innumerable ages, and yet never have cause, even when they are delivered and made happy in God’s love, to condemn themselves for it, though they see the infinite hatefulness and unreasonableness of it, because God laid them under such a necessity, that they could use no liberty of their own in the case? I leave it for all to judge, whether God’s thus ordering things with regard to such as he, from great benevolence, intended for eternal happiness in a most blessed union with himself, be credible.
12. That which lasts as long as the world stands, is sometimes said to be forever. Yet the space of man’s life in comparison of the state that succeeds, is often represented as a moment, the shortest space, yea even as nothing. And so the space of time to the end of the world is represented as very short, Heb. 10:37. Here in a particular manner observe those words of Christ, Rev. 22:10-12. After Christ had shown John the end of the world, the day of judgment and consummation of all things, he says, “The time is at hand. He that is unjust let him be unjust still, etc. Behold I come quickly, and my reward is with me, to give to every man according as his work shall be.” Here Christ represent to his beloved disciple the space from that time to the end of the world to be very short, after he had from time to time represented to him that the state of the punishment of the wicked to be everlasting, and forever and ever (Rev. 14:10-11; Rev. 19:3; chap. 20:10). The shortness of the time before his coming to judge and recompense men is declared for the comfort of the righteous, and terror of the wicked. And the thing that justly renders the consideration of the measure of duration before Christ’s coming comfortable to the saints, is that it is very short in comparison of the duration of the reward that shall follow. And so the thing that should justly make the measure of time, before the judgment, terrible to the wicked, is that though they may be ready to please themselves that the time is so long, yet it is very short in comparison of the punishment that shall follow. And in other places of Scripture, the time preceding the punishment of the wicked in particular, is represented as very short. Thus it is threatened that God would bring upon them swift destruction, and it is said that the things that shall come upon them “make haste” and that vengeance shall come “speedily” on the enemies of the elect, and the like. And the punishment of the wicked itself is always represented as everlasting and endless. Whence we may most reasonably suppose that those phrases, when applied to future punishment, are used in their most proper sense, and not at all in the same manner as when applied to the space preceding, which is here spoken of as comparatively very short.
When the fire of hell is represented as that which shall never be quenched, it is not thereby meant that it shall not be quenched till it has consumed its fuel and goes out itself. For by being quenched, as the word is used in Scripture, is meant not only a being extinguished or put out, but a going out, or ceasing, or ending in any respect. So the words are to be understood, Isa. 43:17, “They are extinct, they are quenched as tow,” i.e. their power and rage shall be liked he fire of tow, that lasts but for a very little while, and then goes out. Vessels of mercy and vessels of wrath are expressly distinguished. And the apostle James speaks of some that shall have judgment without mercy, Jam. 2:13, which proves the punishment of hell is not the effect of mercy, and that mercy and pity never shall be exercised towards the damned.
13. Hutchison on the Passions, p. 77, 3rd edition, says, “No misery is farther the occasion of joy to a sedate temper, than as it is necessary to some propellant happiness in the whole.” It would be worthwhile particularly to examine this matter, and inquire whether there be not something in the natural sense of desert, which God has implanted in creatures that are moral agents, which tends to acquiescence in the pains or suffering of the ill-deserving, not merely from a natural desire of good to ourselves or others, or good to the universal system, but as what a sense of desert naturally tends to, as a gratification of that sense.
14. The same disposition and habit of mind, and manner of viewing things, that is indeed the main ground of the cavils of many of the modern freethinkers and modish writers, against the extremity and eternity of hell torments, if given way to and relied upon, would cause them to be dissatisfied with almost anything that is very uncomfortable in a future punishment, so much as the enduring of the pain that is occasioned by the thrusting of a thorn under the nail of the finger, for a whole year together, day and night, without any rest, or the least intermission or abatement. There are innumerable calamities that come to pass in this world, through the permission and ordination of divine providence, against which (were it not that they are what we see with our eyes, and are universally known and incontestable facts) this cavilling, unbelieving spirit would strongly object. And if they were only proposed in theory as matters of faith, they would be opposed as exceedingly inconsistent with the moral perfections of God, and the opinions of such as asserted them would be cried out against, as in numberless ways contrary to God’s wisdom, his justice, goodness, mercy, etc. — such as, the innumerable calamities that have happened to poor innocent children, through the merciless cruelty of barbarous enemies: their being gradually roasted to death, shrieking and crying for their fathers and mothers; the extreme pains they sometimes are tormented with by terrible diseases which they suffer; the calamities that have many times been brought on whole cities, while besieged, and when taken by merciless soldiers, destroying all, men, women, and children, without any pity. Extreme miseries have been suffered by millions of innocent persons, of all ages, sexes, and conditions, in times of persecution, when there has been no refuge to be found on earth. Yea, there are those things that come to pass universally, of which all mankind are the subjects, in temporal death, which is so dreadful to nature, and which the human nature which God has made is so extremely reluctant to. That there is no trust at all to such notions and views is the main ground of these men’s objections against the torments of hell, as recorded in the Scripture. The main thing is that it is terrible, and so seems shocking to the inward apprehension of their minds. And this they call a being shocking to common sense, when it is indeed no otherwise so, than as it is very opposite to common inclinations.
Consider the following two works by Edwards that have been updated and republished for easy reading:
Ripe for Damnation: Sermons on the Book of Revelation – by Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758). Are you hungry for more of Edwards’ sermons? On the book of Revelation? These new works are not found anywhere on A Puritan’s Mind, and there are new ones not found in his large 2 volume works. 4 deal with the plight of the wicked, and 2 deal with the bliss of saints in heaven. These sermons are powerful, practical, and biblical, glorifying the Lord Jesus Christ, and contain 2 never before published sermons.
Justification by Faith Alone – by Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758). In this classic work, Edwards covers the intricacies of how believers are made righteous only through Christ’s merits, and that this justifying righteousness is equally imputed to all elect believers. This is accomplished by the condition of faith as an instrument.