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correct some of their erroneous opinions respecting the particulars of the subject. They would adopt a course similar to the one pursued in preaching the gospel to Cornelius and the Athenians. Look at the example and words of Paul. As I passed by, said he, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription: 6. To the unknown God.” Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. You thus learn that he did not commence his discourse as some modern missionaries might have done, by informing his hearers that they were poor, miserable, benighted idolaters, destitute of any faith in the only living and true God. He confirmed them in whatever correct notions they might have entertained respecting a supreme Creator, explained his nature and character, alluded to the evidence of his existence and perfections, and thus politely removed their erroneous and darkened conceptions on this fundamental question. The same course was pursued in regard to a future retribution. The converts from heathenism never doubted or denied the truth of this sentiment; consequently no occasion was given to teach it as an elementary fact or defend it with rational arguments. It was sufficient that an allusion was made to it when proper, as a motive to obedience. And
you might as well declare that Paul never taught to the Athenians the existence and perfections of the true God, as to say that he never taught the doctrine of a future retribution.
In the third place, you will remember that if the doctrine of a future retribution has no foundation in truth, both our Savior and his apostles were solemnly bound to remove so pernicious an error from the minds of their hearers and readers. For these inspired teachers were not governed by belief on this question, but possessed certain knowledge. They positively knew either that
there was to be a future retribution or that there was to be none. If there was to be one, they also knew that a firm belief in its certainty was of the highest importance; if there was to be none, they likewise knew that a faith in one must be highly injurious. Consequently they ought as honest men to have confirmed them in their opinions or discarded the false sentiment. Now in searching the scriptures you will endeavor to discover if a single hint is 'given to either jewish or gentile converts to destroy their confidence in the certainty of rewards and punishments beyond the grave. You will carefully watch to see if every thing they taught was not adapted to confirm them in this opinion. Not only so. Merely to have corrected such an error would not have been sufficient. If the doctrine of no future retribution be true, they were most solemnly bound to declare it with great distinctness and frequency. Our Savior should have brought it forward as a new truth in his sermon on the mount, for he was addressing believers in a future retribution. He should have incorporated it in all his teachings, and especially in his commission to his apostles. And they should not have hid this light under a bushel but proclaimed it at all times and on all occasions. It should have stood forth with peculiar prominency on every page of their writings. Now read through their instructions and compositions, and see if you can show me the faintest trace of your doctrine of no future retribution. If you cannot, will not this very silence speak volumes in proof of the prevailing belief on this subject? How unfaithful too must have been those inspired preachers. When your ministers address believers in future rewards and punishments are they equally silent on this question, or are they more faithful to the souls of mankind?
Finally, keeping these several facts in distinct remembrance, I think you cannot help discovering that the doctrine of a future retribution is thoroughly incorporated into the whole system of christianity. I suspect you will readily perceive that it is taken for granted or distinctly implied in many places, and in many others plainly and seriously mentioned as a motive to obedience. I believe you will admit that it is brought forward as clearly as could be rationally expected under existing circumstances, and as often as the subject of remark either required or permitted. You will of course recollect that it was not the principle business of the heralds of salvation to dwell continually on a fact already firmly believed by their hearers. Suppose for instance I should be commissioned to preach what I believed the pure gospel to an old arminian society. Suppose I should remain long enough with them to give a thorough course of lectures on all the distinguishing articles of my creed. Do you suppose I should have occasion to introduce in a formal way the doctrine of a future retribution ? Surely not; for this sentiment is already firmly embraced. I should indeed be obliged to show that the doctrines of election and reprobation were irrational, unscriptural and of injurious tendency; and thus prove that a certain portion of the human family were not to receive endless damnation for what they could not avoid. I should also endeavor to establish the full free agency
and thus make them understand how retribution must eventually be proportioned exactly according to the true characters of individuals. But to undertake to prove in a formal way that the righteous would be hereafter rewarded and the wicked punished, would be altogether a work of supererogation; for these truths are neither doubted nor denied by the hearers. Now the situation of our Savior and his apostles was not very dissimilar in this particular. By keeping such facts in mind you will
be prepared to investigate the scriptural evidence for a future righteous retribution with candor and understanding
I will now present you some of the passages of scripture which prove future rewards. I will arrange them in several different classes. My limits will not permit me to record more than half of the number which I have selected for this purpose.
I. In the first place, I will direct your attention to a class of passages which promise a future reward to the righteous and holy. 1. Listen to the following declaration.
- Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say
all manner of evil against you, falsely, for my sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad; for great is your reward in heaven.” Who is the preacher on this occasion? Our divine Savior. Whom is he addressing? His disciples especially. What earthly recompense does he promise them for their practical adherence to his principles? Every species of indignity and defamation and cruelty? Were these persecutions to give them happiness? Surely not. Why then does he pronounce them blessed and exhort them to rejoice? Because he has another and more important promise to mention. A promise of reward? Surely. Of what degree? A great reward. Where is it to be bestowed? In heaven. What did the hearers understand by this word? A place or state of felicity for the righteous after death. Then the inspired Jesus plainly promises to them a great reward in heaven if they adhere faithfully to his religion, and he mentions this as a great source of support and joy and gladness under their undeserved sufferings. Is it possible for words to teach more definitely and strongly the doctrine of future rewards ? Matthew v. 11, 12. 2. Hear the following answer.
“If thou wilt be per
fect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven.” Who is the speaker in this instance? Our anointed teacher. With whom is he conversing? With a rich young ruler of the jewish nation, who inquires what he must do to inherit eternal life. What did he mean by this phrase? Happiness beyond the grave of which the wonderful prophet had previously spoken. On what conditions does the Savior promise this blessing? Obedience to the divine commands. Of what was he then deficient? A willingness to make temporal sacrifices for the religion of the gospel. If he gives up his great riches what compensation shall he receive in return? Heavenly treasures? What does he understand by this phrase? Happiness in another existence, as a reward for his christian character. Our Savior then plainly promised this rich young ruler treasures in heaven if he would manifest the spirit and temper of christianity. Can words more plainly teach the doctrine of future rewards? Matthew 19. 21. 10. 41. 3. Read the following passage.
had compassion on me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance. Cast not away therefore your
confidence which hath great recompense of reward.” These words were addressed to converts from judaism. They reminded them of their former sympathy with prisoners, and of their temporal losses. These they had borne with joyfulness. What! rejoice when their means of living were unjustly seized? Yes. Why so? Because they knew they had more enduring substance. Such as what? Their christian virtues. Of what use were these? They would qualify them for heavenly happiness. Are they exhorted to preserve their confidence? On what account? Because it would