Sivut kuvina

with more misery than happiness. This is our first reflection.

2. To judge whether a man be happy or miserable, whether it be better for him to exist or not to exist, we must not consider him in regard to a few moments, but in the whole of his existence : . we must examine whether, all things considered, good be greater than evil, or evil greater than good. The good and ills of past life generally leave no impression on our minds, they contribute only to our present happiness or misery, and there remains nothing but a remembrance of them. If you judge of the happiness or misery of man by his actual condition, you will say in each moment of his happiness, it is better for him to be than not to be; and during every moment of his misery, you will say it is better for him not to exist than to exist. But, as I said before, it is not in regard to a single instant that a man ought to be considered, to determine whether he be happy or miserable; it is in the whole of his existence.

I make this reflection to prevent your supposing that when Jesus Christ said, It had been good for Judas, if he had not been born, he meant Judas should be annihilated. Had Judas been annihilated after death, it must be said, according to our first proposition, that Judas after death would not be either happy or miserable; that it would not have been either good or evil for him to be born, or not to be born. In this case, to form a just idea of the value of the existence of Judas, it would be necessary to compare the misery of his end with the happiness of his life, and as we have no reason to think he had been more miserable than happy in his life; as we have reason to presume, on the contrary, that having been in a middling state of life, he had enjoyed the gifts of nature with

have been happy or m Judas after dere

some kind of tranquillity, it could not be affirmed, strictly speaking, that because he died a violent death, it had been good for him, if he had not been born. The death of Judas, separated from its consequences, was not more miserable than that of a man who dies in his bed after lying ill some days; and we cannot affirm of a man, who after enjoying a tranquil life, dies by an illness of some days, that it had been good for that man, if he had not been born, so neither can we affirm of Judas, if he had been annihilated after death. When Jesus Christ says, it had been good for that man, if he had not been born, he supposes he would subsist after death. He compares the condition he would be in after death with all the good he had enjoyed, and would enjoy during life; and by thus forming his judgment on the whole of his existence, he determines that the existence of this traitor would be accompanied, with more evil than good, and he pronounces, it would have been good for that man, if he had not been born, that is to say, if he never had existed, and if he never were to esist any longer. This is our second reflection.

3. Whatever misfortunes attend the present life, there are few men, who all things considered, would not rather choose to live forever as we live in this world, than to be annihilated after living a few years. I do not inquire whether their choice be good; I only say it is their choice, the fact is in. contestable. It few men be of the mind of Mecænas, who said, “ Let me suffer, let me be despised and miserable, yet I would rather exist than not exist;" if there be, I say, few men of the opinion of this favorite of Augustus, there are few also who adopt the sentiment of the wise man, or shall I say of the fool? (for there is some reason to doubt whether it be the language of Solomon or the fool introduced in the book) I praised the dead which are already dead, more than the living which are yet alive : yea, better is he than both they, which hath not yet been, Eccles. iv. 2, 3. To consider things as they usually are, whatever misfortunes attend life, mankind prefer life before annihilation. Whether their taste be good or bad, we do not inquire now. We speak of a fact, and the fact is indisputable. Jesus Christ speaks to men; he sup. poses their ideas to be what they are, and he speaks according to these ideas. When he says, it had beengood for Judas, if he had not been born, he means that his misery would be greater after death than it had been during his life ; for how disgusting soever life may be, mankind prefer it before annihilation; and if Judas had no other punishment to suffer for his perfidy than such as belonged to the present state, Jesus Christ would not have said, it had been good for that man, if he had not been born. He intended we should understand that Judas would be more miserable in a future economy, than we are in this life, in spite of the maladies to which our frailty exposes us, in spite of the vicissitudes we experience, and in spite of the sacrifices which we are daily required to make.

4. If, as we said at first, the sentence of Jesus Christ against Judas be expressed in mild terms, we must, in order fully to comprehend the sense, lay aside the soft language, and advert to the terrible subject. But can we without rashness change the terms of a sentence, which the Saviour pronounced, and give the whole of what he spoke only in part? Yes, provided the part we add be taken not from our own systems, but from that of Jesus Christ, who only can fill up the space, which sufficient reasons induced him to leave vacant when he gave out this sentence. Now we find two things in the system of Jesus Christ on this subject. First, that the misery denounced against Judas is of the most dreadful kind, and secondly, that Jesus Christ denounces against him the greatest degree of misery of this kind; or to express myself more clearly, my first proposition is, that every place in hell is intolerable. My second proposition is, that Jesus Christ doomed Judas to the most intolerable place in hell.

Doth our first proposition need proving? I lay aside what the scripture tells us of the lake, the bottomless pit, the brimstone, the smoke, the darkness, the chains of darkness, the worm that never dies, and the fire that is never quenched. Frightful objects! I have no need to recollect you to form gloomy images of the state of the damned. My idea of heaven is sufficient to give me a horrible image of hell. Pleasures at God's right hand for evermore ; joy of an intelligent creature finding his knowledge for ever on the increase ; calm of a conscience washed in the blood of the Lamb ; freedom from all the maladies that affict poor mortals, from all the inquietudes of doubt, and from all the turbulence of passions; society of angels, archangels, cherubims, and all that multitude of intelligences, which God hath associated both in rectitude and glory; close communion with the happy God; felicity of heaven; it is you that make me conceive the horrible state of hell! To be forever deprived of your charms; this alone is enough to make me tremble at the idea of hell.

But if every place in hell be intolerable, some are more so than others. When, by following the genius of the gospel, you examine for whom divine justice reserves the most dreadful punishments, you easily conceive it is for such men as Judas, and you will agree (without our staying now to

prove it) that as Jesus Christ denounced the worst kind of punishment against him, so he doomed him to suffer the greatest degree of that kind of punishment.

In fine, our last remark on the words of Jesus Christ, is, that when he said, it had been good for that man, if he had not been born, or had he never existed, he supposed not only that the punishment of Judas did not exist in annihilation, but that it would not be in his power not to exist. He supposed that Judas was not master of his own existence, and that it did not depend on him to continue or put an end to it as he should think proper. Existence considered in itself is indifferent. We have explained in what sense, and we have proved that it is the happiness or misery which attends it, that determines the worth of it. Now, whatever the pain of hell may be, it need not alarm us, if the Creator when he caused us to exist gave us the power of remaining in it, or quitting it. In this case it would always depend on us to get rid of punishment, because it would depend on us to cease to exist, and we might enter into that state of annihilation, which we said was neither happy nor miserable: but we have not this power over ourselves. As an act of omnipotence was necessary to give us existence, so it is to deprive us of it; and as it belongs to none but Almighty God to perform the first of these acts, so it belongs only to him to effect the second ; so absolute, so entire is our dependence upon him!

I do not know what is intended by the star mentioned in the ninth chapter of Revelation. St. John represents it as falling from heaven unto the earth, as having the key of the bottomless pit, as causing a smoke to arise, by which the sun and the air were darkened, and out of which came VOL. v.

2 T

« EdellinenJatka »