Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

pose he had appeared full of devotion, benevolence, purity and holiness, although such a supposition is perfectly absurd, would he have retained his personal identity ? Would he have been Judas Iscariot? Surely not. If then we are ever raised to a second life we must retain the characters which we here form, or it is no longer we ourselves who are raised, but a new being created from our worn out materials.

In the last place, the conscience must be raised, for this is one of the essential ingredients of our nature. This consists in the power of determining between sin and holiness, and the moral sense which approves when you have done right and condemns when you have done wrong. Now illustrate this remark by a reference to the youngest son described. On earth he knows the difference between virtue and vice. He has practised iniquity, and this moral sense gives him severe torment. Let him enter the next existence. Must he not be able to distinguish between righteousness and wickedness ? Will not his transgression appear as sinful as it did before death? Will not his moral sense be as ready to execute the sentence of condemnation? And can he be the same man without this moral judgment and moral sense? Surely not. Here then is an unanswerable argument for a future righteous retribution.

We must enter upon the next life with the same characters we form in this world. Sin will then confer the most severe punishment, and holiness the most satisfactory reward. And the undying conscience of man can never cease its operations; it must give happiness to the holy so long as his holiness continues; it must render misery to the sinful so long as his sinfulness lasts. Such then is the nature of sin and holiness, that the righteous must be hereafter rewarded by the righteousness which they have here secured; and the wicked must be hereafter punished by the wickedness which they have here acquired. In proof of the soundness of this conclusion I appeal to the common sense of mankind.

Now, my dear sir, you are aware that great exertions have been made to destroy the force of this argument, because it is so plain, intelligible, convincing and rational. Some have employed the weapons of ridicule and sarcasm, and others have made free use of evasion and sophistry. A few of the most plausible attempts to remove an obstacle so utterly destructive of your system I will now notice.

1. One objection to this argument is thus stated. Paul was instantaneously converted, and why may not all sinners receive the same favor at their entrance upon the next existence? Because there is no connexion whatever in the two cases. A miracle was wrought to give Paul convincing evidence that Jesus was the true Messiah. No change whatever was effected in his moral character by this supernatural influence. All the reformation, in views, feelings, dispositions, tempers, conversation and habits which was necessary to make him an acceptable christian, was left for him to effect by his own exertions in cooperation with the ordinary influences of the spirit. He was also elected to be an apostle to the gentiles, and a departure from the common laws of providence seemed necessary to prepare this chosen instrument for his important mission. There is no probability that such measures will be adopted to bring those to holiness who have already a belief in the divine mission of Jesus, and who wilfully reject his claims and his entreaties. So that the example of Paul has no relation to the subject in dispute whatever; and of course this objection deserves no further refutation.

2. Another of your party has attempted to ridicule the idea of there being any distinctions in another life on account of the different degrees of knowledge and goodness here acquired. Such language may serve to flatter the vulgar and degraded, but will appear to all who reverence the words of Jesus very unfortunate for the author. For if the Savior has taught any lesson with distinctness it is this. To whom much is given, of them will much be required. He that knowingly neglected his master's will shall be beaten with many stripes; while he who ignorantly disobeyed shall receive a milder chastisement. He who improved five talents was to be ruler over five cities, and he who buried his one talent in the earth was to be cast into outer darkness. As one star differeth from another in glory, so shall the children of the resurrection. All revelation conspires to convince us that every man shall be rewarded according to his deeds. You might as well ridicule the idea that one man is wiser than another, better than another, happier than another in this world. You may as well say that Judas and his Master must be on the same equality in the next existence. I do not consider this attack on the doctrine of a future righteous retribution worthy of any further refutation. I am only sorry to see a man who professes to be a christian so ready to confound all moral distinctions, and so ready to love the impression that he neither wishes nor expects any thing better beyond the grave, than is given to the murderer of tens and of hundreds.

3. Another objection of this nature is stated. Some die in a state of mental derangement, consequently they must enter the next life as they leave this world. This does not follow. A few facts in mental philosophy will reconcile this apparent difficulty. No one believes that any individual will be raised in a state of insanity, or in the childishness and dotage of old age. Neither of these characters are what have been acquired by the

free agent. The mind when in its most perfect state must be the accountable person. As insanity depends on various physical causes, it may exist without impairing the mental powers or injuring the moral character. The same may be said of the decays of sickness and years. Let me state merely two facts in illustration of my remarks. A person was taken suddenly deranged. He forgot every thing of his former life. He lost all knowledge. After a few years he was as suddenly restored. He forgot every thing that took place during his insanity. He recollected every thing he knew when the calamity happened. After some time he again became suddenly insane. He remembered every thing which had occurred during his former period of derangement. He forgot everything else. This is enough to prove that a person loses neither his knowledge nor goodness by any physical disease. Many more facts of a similar character you may find in works on mental philosophy. One more example I will mention. It is no uncommon thing in France for the physicians to cure insanity by drowning. The experiment has been once successfully performed in this county. The maniac was chained in a large tub, and the water poured upon him until life departed. He was then resuscitated in the usual method; and he who was before the trial a most raving madman became perfectly rational. Now is it not in the power of our Father to remedy all these apparent difficulties without the least inconvenience, so that every one shall appear in his true and real character at his entrance upon the next existence? I consider this objection entirely removed. 4. But a more difficult case is supposed.

Here are twin brothers. The elder forms a christian character, The younger gives himself to dissipation. At the age of forty the younger strikes the elder on his head, and produces mental derangement which lasts through life. This event becomes the occasion of reformation to the abandoned wretch, and he devotes himself to religion the remainder of his days. Both depart at eighty. The question is triumphantly asked how both can be rewarded exactly according to their deeds. Now this is altogether an irrational supposition. No case of the kind ever occurred. But shortsighted as I am, I find no difficulty in reconciling it with my views.

. In the first place the younger son must suffer greatly every day of his life in beholding a brother deprived of reason, in reflecting upon his own wickedness which caused the dreadful calamity, so that although he is reformed he experiences in some degree the natural consequence of his iniquity. Then he has great obstacles to overcome in the work of reformation, on account of his deeply rooted habits of sin; so that beginning at the age of forty with such a load of vitiated tastes, and carnal propensities, and wicked practices, he will not be able to make great advancement. He must be much the worse for all his transgressions. When both enter the other world, the elder must have all the goodness he had acquired, which at forty would be nearly as great as is ever obtained; and his enjoyment could not be embittered by any painful remembrances or any sinful lusts and passions. The other is indeed prepared for heavenly felicity, but his happiness must be diminished by the stains which more than twenty years' service in the cause of depravity has left upon his soul ; and especially by the recollection of that act which deprived his brother of forty years' enjoyment and improvement. Does not this render the retribution in a proper degree equitable? If you think it does not, you may easily suppose that it is in the power of our Father to place them in such different situations so as to rectify all in

« AnteriorContinuar »