There are many sufferers on earth, in prisons and on sickbeds, whose suffering results in hardness of heart and enmity to God. The question is not a question of quantity but of quality. It is a question whether any punishment at all is consistent with God?s benevolence, any punishment, that is to say, which does not result in good to the punished. This we maintain and claim that God is bound to punish moral impurity, whether any good comes therefrom to the impure or not. Archbishop Whately says it is as difficult to change one atom of lead to silver as it is to change a whole mountain. If the punishment of many incorrigibly impenitent persons is consistent with God?s benevolence, so is the punishment of one incorrigibly impenitent person. If the punishment of incorrigibly impenitent persons for eternity is inconsistent with God?s benevolence, so is the punishment of such persons for a limited time, or for any time at all.
In one of his early stories William Black represents a sour-tempered Scotchman as protesting against the idea that a sinner he has in mind should be allowed to escape the consequences of his acts: ?What?s the good of being good,? he asks, ?if things are to turn out that way?? The instinct of retribution is the strongest instinct of the human heart. It is bound up with our very intuition of God?s existence, so that to deny its rightfulness is to deny that there is a God. There is ?a certain fearful expectation ofjudgment? ( <581027>Hebrews 10:27) for ourselves and for others, in case of persistent transgression, without which the very love of God would cease to inspire respect. Since neither annihilation nor second probation is Scriptural, our only relief in contemplating the doctrine of eternal punishment must come from the fact that eternity is not endless time. It is a state inconceivable to us, and the fact that evolution suggests reversion to the brute as the necessary consequence of abusing freedom.
(c) The benevolence of God, as concerned for the general good of the universe, requires the execution of the full penalty of the law upon all who reject Christ?s salvation. The Scriptures intimate that God?s treatment of human sin is matter of instruction to all moral beings. The self-chosen ruin of the few may be the salvation of the many.
Dr. Joel Parker, Lectures on Universalism, speaks of the security of free creatures as attained through a gratitude for deliverance ?kept alive by a constant example of some who are suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.? Our own race may be the only race (of course the angels are not a ?race?) that has fallen away from God. Through the church, the manifold wisdom of God is made manifest ?to principalities and powers in the heavenly places? ( <490310>Ephesians 3:10). Though the punishment of the lost, God?s holiness may be made known to a universe that, without it might
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