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MY DEAR SIR,
Your attention is now invited to some of those passages which fairly imply or plainly teach rewards and punishments in another existence. I have arranged them in twelve distinct classes, and will present for your consideration as many of the number as my limits will permit.
I. In the first place, I will notice those passages in which our Savior promises a reward to those who confess him before men, and threatens punishment to those who publicly deny him. These are his words. soever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.” To have Christ acknowledge us as his true disciples before our heavenly Father and his holy angels is surely a reward for our fidelity. To be denounced before the heavenly host as disobedient and depraved must certainly be regarded as a severe punishment. You may how
ever contend that all this confession and denial are confined to the present life; and this position you must prove in order to establish your belief in no future retribution. Let me show you the absurdity of such a supposition. Here is a man for example who openly denies the Savior, calls him a wicked impostor, ridicules his precious invitations, and knowingly disregards his instructions. You go to him with your interpretation of this text. You make use of the following language. “Friend, you are denying Christ; this you must admit; now permit me to assure you that he is at the same time denying you to be a true disciple before his Father and the holy angels; you may continue in this impenitent state until death if you please; but the first moment you enter upon the next conscious existence you will be admitted to the happiness of heaven, and Jesus will acknowledge you as one of the number for whom he laid down his precious life.” Is there an unbeliever on earth who would not laugh you to scorn for such preaching? But perhaps you will say that this promise and this threatening were fulfilled at the destruction of Jerusalem. Let us then give the true meaning to the sentence and see how it will read. Our Savior was instructing his apostles in relation to their future ministry. To make his teaching consistent with your views he should have made the following address. " Go forth and preach the gospel to every creature; if any of you desert my cause and deny me before the world, you will perish in the destruction of the holy city; there will be an end of all your sufferings; the moment you enter upon the life to come I shall stand ready to receive you and welcome you to the heavenly mansions; those of you who continue faithful to my religion shall be persecuted and tormented; you shall indeed escape the impending calamity, but only to experience every manner of cruelty and torture, and the most inhuman martyrdom; then you shall be received to an equality with those of your number who avoided all these unparalleled sufferings by timely renouncing my religion, deserting my cause and denying me before the world.” Such must have been his speech in order to reconcile your belief with the passage quoted. I think nothing more need be said to convince any candid mind that our Savior distinctly taught the doctrine of future retribution in this class of passages. Whenever this position is denied I stand ready to mention many substantial reasons why this threatening and promise could not have been limited to this world. Matthew 10. 32, 33. Mark 8. 38. Luke 12. 9.
II. In the second place, I will mention those passages in which our Savior promises reward to the forgiving, and threatens punishment to the unforgiving. These are his solemn words. “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” I have already shown that forgiveness of any particular sin takes place upon reformation, and the consequence of reformation is spiritual happiness both here and hereafter. Until a sin is voluntarily forsaken, it cannot be forgiven, and consequently must continue its punishment in this world and the next. Now you would limit our Savior's meaning to the present existence. Let us see how your exposition would read. You visit a hardened pirate whose heart is filled with ill will, hatred and revenge.
You preach to him from the text quoted in the following
Stranger, your infernal passions make you miserable and wretched. Banish them from your bosom, acquire christian love for your fellow men, and you will receive the forgiveness of your Father and consequent happiness. If you think the work of reform
ation too difficult on account of your great depravity, just destroy your life in the easiest manner possible, and when you awake in another world, your wickedness will be all removed, your heart will be filled with the kindest affection towards all
have murdered, and you will experience the divine forgiveness. Or if you are too much of a coward to take this short road to holiness, you must remain unforgiven and in unceasing torment until your mortal career shall terminate, and then all will be done for you by miracle which you have so long neglected to do for yourself.” Is not this inode of exposing the absurdity of your interpretation of such instructions perfectly fair? So it appears to my mind, and I certainly intend no disrespect to your person or character. I have proved in a former communication that our moral characters cannot change by our passage through death; and consequently I must believe that our Savior meant to teach future retribution in the class of
passages in which forgiveness is promised to the forgiving, and pardon is withheld from the unforgiving. Whenever an attempt is made to reconcile such teaching with your belief, I shall feel prepared to state my objections to your interpretations. Mat. 6. 14; 18.35. Mark 11. 25.
III. In the third place I will consider those passages in which spiritual happiness is promised to the obedient believer, and severe misery threatened upon those who are unbelieving and disobedient. These are the words.
He that believeth on the son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.” I have already shown the nature of salvation. You have seen that the real believer in Jesus receives some foretaste of that spiritual happiness which is to be received more fully hereafter. So that to say the truly holy hath already become a partaker of everlasting or spiritual felicity is perfectly
correct. This reward for goodness begins in this world and extends to the next existence. He then who disobeys the Savior does not see life, does not enjoy the happiness which arises from religion. This no one doubts. This is a part of the punishment for his disbelief. And do not the words of the text imply that he shall not see life until he believes; that the wrath of God abides upon him until he becomes a christian? Certainly. Suppose then the author of this sentence had been a believer in your doctrine. He was preaching to those who believed in a future retribution. In order to guard them from error he should have used the following language. you
believe and obey the true Messiah, you will experience present happi
If you refuse and reject and disobey the Savior of mankind, you cannot taste of this felicity. The wrath or punishment of God will abide upon you until death. Then you will believe on Jesús, and enter immediately upon celestial glory, and be upon an equality with those of your brethren who were christians on earth. You now resist the most convincing evidence of his divine mission, but then you will have faith and holiness without your own exertion or even consent.' Now if there was any intimation in scripture that such a change is to be effected, there might be more appearance of consistency in such harangues. But none such being found, it being manifestly contrary to our experience and reason, for a person to obtain belief and moral goodness without his own efforts, your supposition appears truly absurd. Whenever then you are disposed to show that an impenitent unbeliever can experience the happiness of heaven without his own consent; when you endeavor to prove that the wrath of God abides on the sinner no longer than the present life continues, then I shall aim to show the futility of