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your reasoning, and the folly of your position. John 3. 36. Heb. 10. 39.
IV. In the fourth place, I will examine some of the passages in which the disobedient are threatened with punishment, and the obedient promised a reward. Take the following as a specimen. God" will render to every man according to his deeds; to them who by patient continuance in well doing, seek for glory, and honor, and immortality; eternal life. But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil; of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; but glory, honor, and peace to every man that worketh good; to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile; for there is no respect of persons with God.”
The exact meaning of the apostle is expressed in the following paraphrase. “The reward which God will bestow upon those who patiently persevere in a course of virtue will be that everlasting honor and happiness in a future life, the hope of which has been the most powerful spring of action, and the most abundant source of consolation in their struggles through life. But on the other hand, the most insupportable effects of the divine displeasure shall fall upon those who have acted contrary to their better knowledge; who though instructed in the rule of duty have lived in the practice of vice, whatever arrogant pretensions they may have made to be the favorites of heaven, or how loud and severe soever their censures may have been of others, who though not possessing the same privileges, have not exceeded them in the commission of crime. To be plain with you, my brethren, I must frankly tell you, that the Jew who glories in his privileges is equally amenable to the divine tribunal with the despised Gentile. The man who perseveres in sin shall suffer ade
quate and insupportable punishment, whether Jew or Gentile, and indeed the Jew will be the greater sufferer, because he sins against superior light; and every one who perseveres in the practice of virtue, shall be put into possession of the promised reward, whether Jew or Gentile.” I do not see how any one can suppose the apostle meant to confine these promises and threatenings to the present life. What had these converts at Rome to fear from the destruction of Jerusalem? Were Jews and Gentiles then rewarded according to their deeds? In the gospel dispensation are the secrets of all hearts made manifest? Do those who disobey experience any greater misery than the disobedient in jewish or heathen lands? Has eternal life been given to those who continue patient in well doing? What is meant by seeking immortality? Not only so. Does not Paul refer to those who had lived before his day? And what had all these to do with any temporal calamities after their death? It is unnecessary to make further inquiries. I know not how words can more plainly teach the doctrine of future rewards and punishments. Romans 2.
V. In the fifth place, I will place before you a passage in which persecutors are threatened with future punishment, and a rest is promised to the faithful. These are the words of Paul. " So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God, for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure; which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, for which ye also suffer; seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; and to you who are troubled, rest with us, 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 that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; when he shall come to be glorified in his saints and to be admired in all them that believe, because our testimony among you was believed in that day.” You will obtain the exact meaning of Paul from the following paraphrase. “ With much regret we hear that the cruelty of your persecutors does not yet relent. But having been also informed of the fortitude with which you undergo the severest sufferings, and of your faithful adherence to the profession and promises of the gospel, we cannot but congratulate you upon your heroic conduct; and we are continually boasting of you wherever we go, and holding up your example to other christians for their encouragement under similar trials. And be assured, my brethren, that such sufferings as yours, borne with such a temper and in such a cause, cannot fail of their proper recompense. They are themselves a proper proof of a future judgment under the righteous government of God; and are preparing you for a glorious station in that blessed and immortal state, the lively expectation of which supports you under all your sufferings.
And I can assure you, my brethren, from the highest authority, that we are not deceived in the conclusions we draw from the persecutions of the virtuous and faithful, that there is a judgment to come. For the righteous God himself regards it as an equitable thing, and as that which the honor of his government requires, to protect the innocent sufferer, and to inflict a just retaliation upon
their cruel persecutors. And the gospel revelation teaches us when this awful distinction shall take place. Your oppressors shall be punished; and you, together with us, who like you are exposed to continual persecution for the sake of Christ, shall enter upon your final and ever
lasting reward, on that day, when Jesus our exalted chief shall appear again in the clouds of heaven.” Will you confine these threatenings and promises to this life? What will become of consistency and truth under such an exposition? What had the persecutors at Thessalonica to fear from the destruction of Jerusalem? Were they signally punished before that event occurred? Were they then driven from the presence of Jesus? For you must know that the word Lord in the last part of the passage refers to our Savior. Were the christians delivered from temporal persecutions? There are so many important facts which your explanation contradicts that it is impossible to make it bear upon this inspired declaration. If these persecutors were destroyed then they obtained the promised rest before the faithful and injured disciples. I say nothing concerning the words everlasting destruction, for I am engaged in proving the certainty of future retribution, and not the nature or duration of punishment. And if this paragraph does not teach rewards and punishments beyond the grave then I know nothing of the use of language. 2 Thes. 1. 5, 9.
VI. In the sixth place, I will refer you to those passages which relate to the sin against the holy spirit. These are the words of our Savior. " And whosoever 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.” The same declaration is thus recorded by Mark. - All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewithsoever they shall blaspheme; but he that shall blaspheme against the holy ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation.” The exposition of this notable passage is attended with no great difficulty. Our heavenly Father who dwelt in Jesus wrought mir
acles in confirmation of his divine mission. The Jews believed in evil spirits, and attributed these mighty works to the prince of demons. This was their offence, speaking evil of the holy spirit of God. Jesus assures them that all other sins are more easily forgiven than this. That is, they woul more likely to forsake other vices than to overcome this unbelief. If they could resist the evidence of their own senses there was little probability of their embracing the gospel. And in another life they could scarcely have more proof of his messiahship, and consequently were actually in danger of eternal condemnation; for they could never obtain forgiveness and the attendant happiness until they believed and obeyed and became holy. Of course no one is in danger of committing this particular offence at the present period of the world; for none can see miracles wrought, and I presume there are not many who would defend the miraculous powers of evil spirits. Now I do not see how it is possible to reconcile the ideas of our Savior with your belief. Suppose he had really meant what your exposition declares. He would have worded himself in the following manner. speak evil of me and every one else as much and as long as you please, and no punishment shall follow your offence. But if you speak against the holy spirit, you will not be converted to christianity while I live, nor in the age after my ascension, or even after the destruction of Jerusalem. But should any of you die within a few hours your forgiveness is granted; there is an end of your unbelief; you will be made holy and happy when you wake up in the next existence.” Can any one believe that the inspired Jesus meant this or any thing of a similar character? I see not how words can more plainly teach future retribution. Matt. 12. 32; Mark 3. 29; Luke 12. 10.
6. You may