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own part I believe the cruelties of the ancient worthies were undeserved? and consequently the argument from these cases in proof of my belief is perfectly unanswerable Descriptions of a similar character might be greatly extended did my cause require their assistance. Hebrews 11, 36.
4. Perhaps you will now ask, if there are not some passages in the Old Testament which favor your belief of a perfect earthly retribution? which either teach or imply that men are always and equitably and fully rewarded and punished according to their deeds in the present existence? I answer that I have never discovered a single text of this description. I know your writers often select sentences from the hebrew scriptures in support of your doctrine. I will therefore briefly notice those which are generally quoted for this purpose. I think you will instantly perceive that not one of the number has the least bearing upon the question at issue. Hear the assertion of Solomon. The
of transgressors is hard.” Very true. But do these words either affirm or imply that every transgressor is always and equitably and fully punished in this world? By no means. Then this text has nothing to do with the controversy. Listen to the declaration of Isaiah.
- There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.” This I believe. But does this text either teach or imply that every wicked person is always and fully punished in this life, and that the moment they enter upon the next existence, peace and happiness will be their portion? Nothing of the kind; and consequently your belief derives no support from this passage. Observe the remark of the Psalmist. "Great peace have they which love thy law, and nothing shall offend them.” Very well. But what has this assertion to do with your theory? Nothing at all; for it contains no intimation either that
all the righteous are always and fully rewarded on earth, or that they shall be on a perfect level with the wicked the moment they enter the life beyond the grave.
Mark the affirmation of Solomon. Wisdom's
ways ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.”. Certainly. Does any one dispute the truth of this observation? But does it either assert or imply that rewards are always proportioned to the merits of the obedient, and that hereafter no distinction will be made between them and the most abandoned? Surely not; and therefore this verse has no bearing on the points in debate. Listen to another proverb of Solomon. “ Behold the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth; much more the wicked and the sinner.” What does this sentence prove? Not your doctrine of a perfect earthly retribution most certainly. For it neither affirms nor implies either that the righteous are always and equitably and fully rewarded on earth, or that the wicked are always and equitably and fully punished in this world, or that both righteous and wicked will enjoy equal degrees of heavenly felicity. On the contrary the passage as it now reads is in direct opposition to your doctrine; for it distinctly declares that while the righteous are recompensed in the earth, the wicked and sinner shall be much more than recompensed; and if this be the fact, then no perfect earthly retribution takes place in this instance. But I will not waste words on a text which has no connexion with the controversy; and how any person could ever quote this in favor of your belief is more than I can understand. The correct translation of the passage is the following, as you may ascertain by consulting any hebrew scholar. “Behold the righteous in the earth, he shall be recompensed; and surely the wicked and the sinner.” Yesthey shall all be recompensed because a perfect retribution does not take place at the present time. Other passages of a similar import might doubtless be quoted, but these must be considered a fair specimen since I have taken them as brought forward and arranged by one of your preachers. You can determine for yourself that not one of the number has any connexion with the point in dispute; and I think you must be ready to admit that no texts can be selected from these ancient records in direct proof of your belief in a perfect earthly retribution. Proverbs 13, 15. Isaiah 57, 21. Psalms 119, 165. Proverbs 3, 17. Proverbs 11, 31.
What then is the testimony of the Old Testament on the question in controversy? Judge for yourself. You have seen that severe punishments were threatened, and inflicted upon the disobedient, by the omniscient Jehovah; and consequently you must conclude that he does not believe that sin itself always punishes the sinner sufficiently. You have also seen, that the prophets and other sacred writers repeatedly affirm, that the wicked are not always and fully punished on earth, and that the righteous are not always and fully rewarded in the present existence; and consequently you must infer that the infinite Spirit who moved them to publish such statements did not believe in a perfect earthly retribution. You have likewise seen that many of the ancient worthies were most cruelly tormented, while some of the most depraved were highly prosperous ; and consequently you must determine that rewards and punishments have not been always distributed in exact proportion to the character of individuals. And finally you have seen that no passages can be produced which either teach or imply that a perfect retribution takes place in this world; and consequently you must admit that a belief in this doctrine is not supported by a shadow of evidence from the hebrew scriptures. Is not my first argument in proof of my belief that no perfect retribution takes place in the present existence perfectly satisfactory and conclusive?
II. My second argument for believing that a perfect retribution does not take place in the present existence is drawn from the New Testament. You admit that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of the living God. You also acknowledge that he was sanctified and sent by the universal Father to be the Savior of sinners.
You likewise grant that the apostles were divinely inspired, and qualified to preach the gospel to every creature. You confess that their writings contain the record of a divine revelation. Consequently any clear evidence from these books in favor of my position must be satis factory and conclusive. My limits will permit me to select but a few particulars.
I appeal to the sufferings of Jesus Christ. You believe that he was tried and tempted when on earth. You also believe that he resisted all temptations, and lived a sinless life. Now did he receive the full reward of his obedience in this world? Did he suffer no more misery than he deserved? Call to mind some of his afflictions. Was it no suffering for his pure soul to be tempted by appetite, by ambition, by worldly glory? Was it no suffering to have his motives suspected, his actions misrepresented, his words perverted? Was it no suffering to be destitute of the necessaries of life, persecuted by bitter enemies, and constantly exposed to destruction? Was there no suffering when his soul was exceeding sorrowful in the garden, and he sweat as it were great drops of blood?
Was there no suffering in being betrayed by a chosen disciple, tried by prejudiced and cowardly judges, accused by false witnesses and condemned without evidence or justice? Was it no suffering to be deserted by his friends, denied by his most zealous followers, scourged by unfeeling hirelings, and mocked by the depraved and insulting rabble? Was it no suffering to have his temples lacerated with thorns, his feet and hands mangled with large nails, his body suspended on a cross like the vilest slaves? And was it no suffering to hang in this most excruciating agony for hours, until the breath of life departed? Yes; all these were real sufferings, and these are not all that might be enumerated. Now how can you explain these indescribable torments in consistency with your theory? You defend the simple humanity of Jesus as well as the majority of your denomination. Can you say that his happiness on earth was exactly proportioned to his holiness? If you cannot, then
you must admit that he was not fully rewarded for his obedience in the present existence. Can you affirm that he suffered no more than his character demanded? If you cannot, then you must acknowledge that he experienced more misery than he deserved. In either case no perfect retribution took place. This argument then may be thus briefly stated. Either Jesus received happiness and misery in exact proportion to his conduct, or your belief in a perfect retribution is erroneous. Take which side of the dilemma you please. own part I believe that the sinless Savior suffered undeserved torment, and consequently the argument from bis example in favor of my position is perfectly unanswerable.
2. I appeal to the declarations of our Savior. Did he ever inform his apostles that they should be rewarded on earth according to their merits? Did he once assure them that their misery in this world would be proportioned to their iniquities? I find no record of any such instructions. On the contrary I can turn to many of a directly opposite character. Listen to a few specimens of his teachings on this subject. “In the world ye shall have