페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

numerous instances already taken place, and must ultimately take place upon all the descendants ofi Adam, must be occasioned by some cause; it must necessarily be dependant; because it will involve us in a contradiction, to suppose that a mere negation can exist in any other mode. If therefore, the privation of life be dependant, and dependant upon that cause which first called it into being; the de struction of this cause must necessarily occasion the destruction of this privation of life'; and the instant in which it perishes, it must give place to that life which is the reverse. For, since in the consideration now before us, the reverse of life must be no life, or the privation of life, so, the annihilation of this no life, or privation of life, must be the identical act which restores life; it therefore follows that the bodies of the dead must be set at liberty, and, freed from all captivity, must start forth into immori tal life.

But, how forcible soever these arguments and modes of reasoning may appear, like the subject to' which they are applied; they are purely of a dependant nature. The destruction of death has been presumed from first to last to depend upon the annihilation of moral! evil; and this has been uniformly inferred from the certainty of future rewards, the redemption of Jesus Christ, and the nature of that. inoral justice, which is at once immutable and inseparable from God? There is, however, another source of argument, to which we have hitherto made no application :

namely, the nature of probationary existence, which may probably afford us some additional as surances that moral evil must be done away. To this point we therefore beg leave to call the attention of the reader ; and with the remarks which may be made upon it we shall close the present section."

That moral evil does exist, is a fact which, I flati ver myself, few will have the hardihood to deny. And it is almost equally certain, from the analogy of the divine conduct, and from the nature of moral justice, that moral evil must be confined to the present probationary state of existence, for beyond this we can have no conception that it can retain its present relation to man.

Between a state of probation and a state of retributioni I know of no medium, that can be supposed to exist to a conscious and reflecting being ; though it must be admitted, that these two states are as remote ftom each other as the mind of man can reasonably conceive. A state of retribution must be subsequent to a state of probation': because it is founded upon a cognizance of those actions, whicli ære presuined to have taken place in that previous probationary state of being. And hence arises the impossibility of our conceiving that these two distinct states can exist' together in regard to the same person! in the same place, and at the same time. And, as a state of probation looks forward immediately to a state of retribution, and a state of retribution looks backward to that which was dr

probatiimpiary ; a medium condition, which partakes not

I 2,3

Joki,4,7

either of the former or of the latter becomes impossible, and therefore can have no existence.

If no state of retribution shall succeed to a state of probation : that being who is presumed to be a probationer must be a probationer for nothing, which involves a contradiction, by making that being a probationer and not a probationer at the same time. And if, on the contrary, we invert the order of our thoughts, and suppose that no probationary state preceded a state of retribution ; our idea of retribution is either destroyed or involved in a contradiction. For, to suppose a state of retribution which had not been preceded by a state of trial, is to suppose that it is a state of retribution, and not a state of retribution at the same time. Since, therefore, both of these cases will conduct us to a contradiction ; it follows, that these states must be respectively admitted in their own order, that the une cannot exist without the other, but that in the same subject they cannot possibly meet together.

If man, while in a future state of retribution, be still in a state of probation ; it follows with the most unquestionable certainty, that he must either be a probationer for nothing, or that his present state of retribution cannot be eternal; because if we adinit that state of retribution to be eternal, there can be nothing future to which probation can possibly refer. To suppose that a future state of retribution will not be eternal, is to suppose that the moral justice of God can yisit abstractedly from its own consequences; and that an attribute, which is essential to an infinite being, can be finite in its operations ;

[ocr errors]

that successive duration can exist in eternity, and apply to God when time shall be destroyed; and that there can be a period in this successive duration, beyond which the moral and retributive justice of God shall cease to operate. But, since these suppositions will, beyond that period in successive duration, leave moral and retributive justice, existing in theory, totally without the practical consequences which are inseparable from its nature; which is supposing retributive justice to exist without retribution, which is justice and no justice at the same time; it follows, thata state of retribution must necessarily be eternal. As therefore, a state of retribution must be eternal; and since no man can be a probationer while he is a probationer for nothing, because it involves a contradiction which has been already noticed; it follows also, that a state of retribution and a state of probation cannot exist together in relation to the same person. And, from hence we must infer, that, in relation to man, where retribution begins probation ends; and therefore death must necessarily be that point, which changes our mode of existence, and conducts us from a state of probation to that state of retribution which must be eternal.

If the spirits of just men made perfect, enjoying the felicities of heaven, either before or after that a resurrection shall have taken place, be in a state of probation, a fall from the regions of glory must be possible; because the idea for which the term probation stands, implies a condition which leaves us free to depart from what is right. For, where there is no possibility to depart from good to evil in a probationary state, there no distinction between vice and virtue can practically be known; and consequently a moral agent, thus placed, can neither be subjected to any future punishment, nor undergo any preparation for any future reward.

On the contrary, if we turn our thoughts from a state of happiness to a state of woe, while we retain the idea that a state of probation may exist to man beyond the grave; it must then follow, that lapsed intelligences cannot be placed in the extreme of misery, nor lodged beyond the reach of possible restoration. Their state, however dreadful, must be exempted from despair, that last and greatest of þuman įlls ; nay, the supposition goes much further, and makes it possible that virtue may grow in the regions of eternal woe. For, certain it is, that as ą. state of probation implies the possibility of a departure from bliss, so the same state implies a pos- . sibility, on the contrary, of a deliverance from woe, A state of probation looks forward to some retribųtion, and if those who inherit future misery are probationers, that state which they inherit cannot be eternal. But, since this conclusion is contrary to what has been already proved ; since it involves the moral and retributive justice of God, and leads immediately to those contradictions which have been already noted; we are compelled finally to conclude, that no probationary state can survive the

« 이전계속 »