Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

Dispenser of vindictive vengeance, Heb. x. 25-51.

In conclusion, we most heartily adopt the language of the Apostle Peter:-May "the God of all grace, who hath called us unto

NEGATIVE ARTICLE.-III.

OUR reasons for suspecting the scriptural | origin of the doctrine of the hopeless and endless punishment of the sinner are these.

1. It is confessedly opposed and repugnant to reason, and that because of its uncorrectional character. The goodness of God is not affected by the severity of his strokes, they being measured, and to effect a given purpose in us, and to detach our affections from sin. But when it is affirmed that the heaviest conceivable stroke of the Almighty is, so far as the sufferer is concerned, purposeless and uncorrectional; when it is even affirmed that the punishment intensifies sin, reason absolutely reels under the thought, and is perfectly paralyzed by the effort to harmonize the doctrine with the bold and plain statements of the Bible which reveal Him as unchangeably good. In hopeless torment there is involved, not only no known measure between the sin and the sorrow, but we are confounded by a sense of disproportion which we cannot reconcile with the revealed attributes of God. Moses taught measured chastisement, not to exceed forty stripes-"lest thy brother should seem vile unto thee." Jeremiah says, " O Lord! correct me, but with judgment, lest thou bring me to nothing."

his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that
ye have suffered a while, make you perfect,
stablish, strengthen, settle you."
Ollerton.

J. F.

2. It is a questionable doctrine, because it shakes and undermines all our notions of goodness, from the certainty of vast and general application, if it exists at all. According to common belief, good men have always been a very small minority, and these alone are happy hereafter; all beside being unchangeably miserable, save in growing worse and more unhappy. Now we submit, whether God's being good and happy, and happy and blessed in making his creatures happy, by their being like himself in benevolence, is not inappreciable by us, if ninetynine hundredths of these creatures are never to see or taste his goodness after death? Nay, more, if the commonly taught doctrine be affirmed, this also may be affirmed, that God may be good and yet his creatures never know it; for if one may not be allowed the

smile of God after death, and God still be good, then two may be miserable endlessly; and if two, then two millions; or, if creation teemed with intelligencies, all might be hopelessly wretched excepting two millions; or, cutting down the proportion still more, all but two, or one single soul! And if so, why that one? Is this compatible with goodness-boundless, infinite love? Can this be true, when the scriptures say that God chastens us for our profit? Is He only good to man in his clay tabernacle? goodness certainly not to be extended to the soul after death? Will He on earth “not contend for ever, nor be always wroth, lest the spirit he has made should fail before him," and will he afterwards reverse his plans, and punish with remediless wrath?

Is

3. It appears needlessly to aggravate the first great and solemn curse of God on sin. That curse is so awful that, less or more, all are subject to bondage through fear of it. God might have made known his prohibitions, and given no reason why he should be obeyed, and might have punished righteously in harmony with his own nature. But he was pleased to declare, as we think, the extreme limit of the curse. The curse was,— "In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die;" "Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return." Here is no intimation of vengeance like what has been current, but which is now questioned. There is justice, there is anger, there is certain punishment; but was it endless? Was it hopeless? Did not the "day" mean 930 years?!! Did not that solemn, that terrible scourge of sindeath, subsequently become shorn of its unmitigated character in that more than whisper of mercy," The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head"? Whence the addition to God's first denouncement? Had Moses known it would he not have spoken out?

4. The doctrine seems still more questionable as to its origin from the ambiguity mixed up with the idea of the place where sin is to be punished. This ambiguity arises

very much from the fact that the English appropriate hell solely for the unmitigated torments of the lost; and so common is this error, that nineteen-twentieths think of hell, not as it is spoken of in the Bible, but as if merely and only a place of torment. The scriptures speak of hell continually as the place of the dead; thus, David was "delivered from the lowest hell;" Christ was not left in hell." Hell and death were evidently regarded as the punishment of sin, and regarded with instinctive dread, arising from a strong instinctive love of life; but where do we find an unfigurative allusion to ceaseless, hopeless woe after death?

66

5. The doctrine is much to be doubted, because of the various phases it has worn at different times, in the history even of the present generation. It has been much spoken of as a place of literal fire and brimstone, but that idea has gradually yielded to the notion of mental and spiritual anguish. It was deemed in past times enough to depict hell as a place of bodily torment, but now that notion has yielded to another of greater significance. Physical anguish is abandoned, and all the passions, in fiend-like exercise, are described as taking their place, But may we not inquire, why this change? Is the change itself not indicative of its entirely unscriptural origin?

6. Another objection to the doctrine being of heavenly revelation lies in the circumstance that human kindness, human sympathy, human reason, have stepped in to limit its application, by drawing a line which none ever saw or will see, between responsible or accountable and non-accountable persons. Notwithstanding the universality of sin, the natural estrangement of the hearts of all, and that all are "born in sin and shapen in iniquity," and "go astray from the womb speaking lies," while the corruption of our common nature is as plain in the child as in the man, and the resemblance in iniquity as traceable as between the likeness of the young oak and the aged oak; notwithstanding that every nation, and every man and woman knows, and acts upon the knowledge, that responsibility is ever growing, and never ceases to grow, even after manhood up to threescore years and ten; and although even a child is known by his doings," and is "father to the man," the doctrine of hopeless woe is partially, and

66

only partially, applied, and is restricted to the unconverted, who have attained the season of accountability-a season never determined, and this, while the kindest parent is ever acting on present responsibility even in children of tenderest age. Parents do not wait an hour for responsibility; the grave or the smiling face early impresses with fear or with love the growing mind and heart, and for every known purpose accountability is assumed, and the child treated with measured discipline; but when endless angerthe chastisement of God-is thought of, responsibility is postponed. But may we not ask why? And is it not the evident disproportion between finite sin and infinite wrath? Now, we do not desire that that feeling should be remorselessly extinguished; but we want the dark, the wretched heathen man to be also its subject; and may we not be allowed to ask in pity,-Shall mortal man be more merciful and just than God?

came to

7. An objection lies against its scriptural origin in that the perpetuity of sin is maintained by it, and that while it is distinctly shown in the Bible that Christ" destroy the works of the devil," none can understand how the works of Satan can be destroyed if sinners never cease to hate God, and countless myriads, by their mournful existence, testify Satan's triumph over the works of God's hands.

8. The doctrine seems to limit the triumph of Christ. Although it is declared in most unfigurative language that "he died for all: not only for our sins, but also for the sins of the whole world," it compels the conclusion that he did not die for all; it forces us to believe in the doctrines of election and reprobation, in the hardest, and most repulsive and aban doned forms. It shuts the mouths of speakers who read those New Testament scriptures which declare that "as in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive;" and that the resurrection with a glorious body is not confined to present believers, but comprises every child of sin. It seems to lose sight of the predetermination of God to save all by the incarnation of his own Son, and forgets that "God was in Christ, not imputing their trespasses unto them;" it makes Satan, the creature, slay his ten thousands, while Jesus saves his thousands. Can it be true?

9. It loses sight of the power of God (in the curse) to extinguish sin, We have

shown the curse to be death. Where does | world of spirits-in the place of the dead; sin lodge? In our members, warring against but the adult heathen of twenty-one or the law of our minds. Now, death takes twenty-five cannot be wrought upon. The these members to pieces, bone from bone, Spirit of God can move upon the chaotic fibre from fibre, thread from thread, and universe, but not on a fallen world after pulverizes and destroys the entire mass, and death. Can this be true? it is raised a glorious body in all, in every case. See Paul's view in the 8th chapter of the Romans. There "the whole creation groaneth, waiting for the resurrection, and not only they, but ourselves (Paul and others), we groan, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our bodies." Christ himself, in reasoning with the Sadducees, draws no distinctive line between the classes of just and unjust; he says, generally, "They are as the angels of God."*

10. It makes faith, as a ground of spiritual progress, unattainable to the heathen after death. It makes him capable of every act save acts of faith and love. Christ may "die for all," may pray for his murderers. The youth who dies just before he has reached accountability, may die unconverted by a sudden stroke of God, or in some act of folly, and he may be taught of God in the

*These and kindred passages are commonly made of no great significance by expounders of the word of God, and that because hopeless damnation is one of the doctrines first taught to Christian children, and becomes a strong man so armed that the eyes of nearly all are blinded to the meaning of passages of holy writ which speak of entirely opposite doctrines. When Paul on Mars-hill spoke of all nations as one blood, and of the resurrection, he taught that all were to seek God, He being near to every one. Paul did not limit the love of God; why should we?

But to conclude, let it not be supposed that we make light of sin, because we question hopeless woe as a revealed truth of the Bible. God is light, God is love, and God is also "a consuming fire." Sin he will punish and destroy. "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God;" and he will destroy sin, and compel the sinner to loathe it; and Christ will perform this work, first, by dying and taking the sinner's place, and secondly, in time or in eternity of remodelling the soul. Happy they who love him on earth! He is the Saviour of all, especially of them that believe. Hereafter, he may wisely and justly make a wide difference between the just and the unjust, as known and as distinguishable as on earth. In that boundless house there are vessels of all uses, but let us be careful how we interpret the highly figurative denunciations of God's wrath against unlikeness to Christ to mean exclusion from participation in God's exhaustless love. Rather let us see if that which is impossible with men may not be possible with God. "He hath concluded all in unbelief that he might have mercy upon all." "Oh! the depths of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God; how unsearchable are his judgments, N. and his ways past finding out!"

Philosophy.

IS THE NOTION OF A PLURALITY OF INHABITED WORLDS CONSONANT WITH SCIENCE AND REVELATION?

NEGATIVE ARTICLE.-II.

ALTHOUGH this question, as remarked by | writers has produced a very pictorial but the openers of the debate, is of little prac- unargumentative paper, and the second has tical importance, it possesses great interest dogmatically delivered his judgment on the to every student of nature, and every intelli- essay of the third. We now, in our turn, gent worshipper of God. We have read with take the critic's pen, merely to jot down a much attention and thoughtfulness the pre- few thoughts suggested by the productions of ceding papers, and while admiring the talent the whole trio. displayed by "Philalethes" and "Threlkeld,” we are compelled by conviction to take our place near H. D. L. The first of these

H. D. L.'s definition of the terms "Plurality of inhabited worlds," as not including "angelic beings," or "spiritual existences,"

[ocr errors]

66

but applying only to men, has been strongly objected to; but this, we think, has been done without sufficient reason, for our friend fortifies himself against anything but wilful misconception, by stating that by the word 66 men" he means 'beings of a similar nature" to ourselves, with material bodies and "intellectual, moral, and religious capabilities." Threlkeld" would not include in the terms of the debate angelic beings, but various grades of animal life, and "some intelligent being or beings" as the inhabitants referred to, while "Philalethes" honestly speaks of "man, or some other intelligent being." There is not much difference, then, between the antagonists at starting; for H. D. L., we apprehend, would apply the term "men" to "Threlkeld's" "intelligent beings," and vice versa.

The argument in favour of the notion of a plurality of worlds is purely an analogical one, and may be briefly summed up in these words:―This earth being a planet revolving round the sun, and being inhabited by intelligent beings, it is probable that the other planets are inhabited, and, indeed, that all the heavenly bodies are the abodes of sentient sapient beings. A very narrow foundation this for so large a superstructure! But let us examine both. While there is a likeness between the earth and other planets in the nature of their revolutions, there is the greatest dissimilarity in their size, density, surface, and temperature. Is it probable, we would ask, that life does exist in all the varying states of the heavenly bodies? We think not; for "in the existence of life, several conditions must concur, and any of these failing, life, so far as we know anything about it, is impossible." But the line of argument which our opponents adopt proves too much even for them. If the fact that this earth is inhabited does, in the opinion of these reasoners, render it probable that all orbs are inhabited, why do they not hold to that conclusion, without maintaining, with "Threlkeld," that "of course it is probable that some worlds are in a brute and inert and chaotic state"? Again; if these objections to our opponents' analogical reasoning were removed, there would yet remain another, and, we apprehend, a stronger still, founded upon the fact that the habitation of this world by intelligent creatures has been but of comparatively recent date. The earth

must, from the evidence of geology, have been in existence for innumerable ages; for a very long period it was untenanted, except by reptiles and brutes, which-let "Threlkeld" notice-could not "minister to the wants of intelligent beings." Man did not arrive till late, not more than 6,000 years ago; but he was essentially distinct and superior to all that had existed before him. Surely, then, the fact that man exists now, and has existed for a very limited period on this planet, does not render it probable that a being similar to him exists on some other planets, not to say all.

The author of the celebrated "Essay on the Plurality of Worlds," alludes to a rather taking illustration of Fontenelle, who compares one who should deny that the stars and planets are inhabited to a citizen of Paris, who, seeing from the towers of Notre Dame the town of St. Denis (it being supposed that no communication between the two places had ever existed), denies it is inhabited, because he does not see the inhabitants. But our author contends that the image is not a fair one, but should be modified by supposing rather that we inhabit an island from which innumerable other islands can be seen, but, navigation being unknown, we are ignorant if any of them are inhabited. Whether they are or not becomes a fair field for conjecture and inquiry. Various judgments will be formed, according to various phenomena. But since we see that some of these islands appear to be barren rocks, and others clad in eternal ice, and others to be raging volcanoes, while ours, on the contrary, is a quiet, comfortable, temperate spot, occupied by a numerous race of moral and religious beings, the strong probability comes at last to be, that it alone is as yet inhabited. It is precisely thus with the question of the plurality of inhabited worlds.

We attach little importance to the difficulty which the opponents of our opinion seek to raise by the question, If these heavenly bodies are not inhabited, of what use are they? "Threlkeld" does not wish to insist on the occupation of the sun and moon by intelligent beings, because he can perceive that each of them has an end and use," "a particular duty to perform." But while, in passing, we would remind him that in the position he now takes he has destroyed any

66

force that his analogical reasoning might | ingly burning masses, uninhabited by any have had, we would ask him how he can beings we can even conceive of ? Do not feel justified in pronouncing that the stars many of the planets or islands appear too are "entirely useless," simply because he near or too remote from the central blaze to cannot perceive their use? There is a support animal existence? The moon, the lowly virtue which we might commend to only planet very near us, has manifestly not our friend's notice, but we forbear. For arrived at the state necessary for supporting ourselves, we should be far from considering living beings; and science remembers that the stars as useless, if they were nothing innumerable ages passed ere even our globe more than was fitted for receiving its present population, and that, according to the researches of geology, the earth rolled round the sun for ages a vast and weltering wilderness. Here,

Or we should be satisfied with only being then, science is silent, or utters only a falter

able to say, with another poet,

ing 'perhaps.' Is it said, but for intelligent beings space would be empty? How! empty if full of God? Shall we call a room empty if only one immortal being sits and meditates there? Is God not society sufficient for his own creation? Shall you call the universe empty if God be present in it, even though he were present alone? "*

With respect to the theological aspect of this subject, little need be said. The Bible is our only authority here, and we boldly affirm that there is nothing in it to substantiate the idea that the stars and planets are inhabited.

"Threlkeld" discourses eloquently on the character of God, and then asserts that if we deny the worlds of space to be inhabited, we cast a blot upon that character. We, however, would remind him that this would only be the case if we were to deny his power to cause them to be inhabited, which has not been done; and we would ask him how he himself entirely escapes the charge he makes, seeing that he "".some worlds " maintains that "of course are uninhabited? In reply to our friend's question, whether we are to "suppose that God, the fountain of intelligence, has created so many intellectual beings as may be outnumbered by the sentient inhabitants of a bucket of water?" we would remind him that it is so in this world, and that if all worlds resemble this in the way in which he maintains, the disparity between the number of mere animals and intelligent beings would remain much the same. If, however, he feels this to be a real difficulty, we would call to his remembrance the discourses of One who set forth the true dignity of man, and taught us that a single soul was of

"The poetry of heaven,

*

.

A beauty and a mystery, which create
In us such love and reverence."

"And for the stars that gleam above, They each seem smiles of heavenly love, Teaching the wanderer o'er the wild That every lost one is God's child." On this subject it has been finely said, "the planets and stars may only be the lumps which have flown from the potter's wheel of the great Worker,-the shred coils which, in the working, sprang from his mighty lathe,-the sparks which darted from his awful anvil when the solar system lay incandescent thereon, the curls of vapour which rose from the great cauldron of creation when its elements were separated." * these stars and systems had only been made as decorations and scenery to earth, as the stage of the tragedy of the cross, they had

If

not been created in vain.

As far, then, as the aspect of nature is concerned, or the obvious lessons to be drawn from the revelations of science, we find that there is little or nothing to favour the notion of a plurality of inhabited worlds. "For aught science knows, suns and systems may be seen only by our eyes and telescopes; for aught she knows, the universe may only be beginning to be peopled, and earth be selected as the first spot for the great colonization. The peopling of our planet was a gradual process; why may not the same be concluded of the universe of which our earth is a part? May not the earth, in this sense, be as an Eden to other regions of the All? Are appearance and analogy pleaded as proofs that the universe is peopled throughout? Appearance and analogy here utter an uncertain sound; for are not all the suns, or what we may call the continents of creation, seem

* Dr. Whewell,

"Eclectic Review," 1844.

« AnteriorContinuar »