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6 why, then, may not the wicked and the enemies of - God burn like these?”
How far the misery of the eternal state will be corporeal, and how far mental, I pretend not to decide : but I will extract for your perusal a sentence or two from Dr. Hartley, who, you will recollect, was a Universalist, though much too sincere a lover of truth to run the length in support of the “ restoration ” hypothesis which some later writers have gone. “With “ respect to the punishment of the wicked in a future 6 state (says he) we may observe, that these may be “ corporeal, though the happiness of the blessed should “ not be so. For sensuality is one great part of vice, 66 and a principal source of it. It may be necessary, 6 therefore, that actual fire should feed upon the ele“ mentary body, and whatever else is added to it after " the resurrection, in order to burn out the stains of “ sin. The elementary body may also, perhaps, bear 6 the action of fire for ages, without being destroyed. “ Like the caput mortuum, or terra damnata of the « chemists. For this terra damnata remains after the Có calcination of vegetable and animal substances by “ intense and long continued fires. The destruction of 66 the world by fire, spoken of both in the Scriptures 6 and in many profane writings, the phenomena of 6 comets, and of the sun and fixed stars, those vast “ bodies of fire which burn for ages, the great quantity “ of sulphureous matter contained in the bowels of the “ earth, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah by “ fire and brimstone, alluded to in the New Testament, “ the representation of future punishment under the 56 emblem of the fire of Gehenna, and, above all, the “ express passages of Scripture, in which it is declared “ that the wicked shall be punished by fire, even ever6 lasting fire, confirm this position concerning the cor" poreal nature of future punishment, as well as give “ light to one another.
“ But if the punishments of another world should be “ corporeal in some measure, there is still the greatest 5 reason to believe, that they will be spiritual also ; and “ that by selfishness, ambition, malevolence, envy, “ revenge, cruelty, profaneness, murmuring against “ God, infidelity, and blasphemy, men will become “ tormentors to themselves, and to each other; deceive 6 and be deceived; infatuate and be infatuated; so as s not to be able to repent and turn to God, till the " appointed time comes, if that should EVER be.
“But we are not to suppose that the degree, probably “ not the duration of future punishment, corporeal or <mental, will be the same to all. It may also perhaps ““ be, that there may be some alleviating circumstances, « or even some admixture of happiness. Only the “ Scriptures do NOT authorize any such conjectures; " and therefore we ought to proceed with the utmost “ caution, lest we lead ourselves or others into a fatal “ mistake. And indeed, if the happiness of the blessed “ be pure and unmixed, as the Scriptures seem to de“ clare, and give reason to hope, then may the misery 66 of the wicked be unmixed also." (9) (9) Hartley on Man, vol. ii. prop. 89.
Such is the language of Dr. Hartley; from which you will perceive that his expectations of future punishment being any thing short of everlasting unmitigated anguish and despair, were very faint indeed. Happy would it be for the interests of religion and the exter. mination of vice, if all subsequent defenders of similar opinions had proceeded with equal diffidence and candour. » I regret that the length to which it has been necessary to carry my reasonings, and the number of texts I have been obliged to select in order to show the fallacy and danger of their theory, prevent my expatiating, as I intended, upon the indefinite and perpetual extension of the intellectual and moral faculties, which will be experienced by the “ spirits of the just made “perfect” in the heavenly world; where, although the happiness of each will be so entirely replete that he will have no conception of any felicity greater than his own; yet the understanding will be eternally occupied with such an infinity of truth as it may be exploring, and contemplating, and delighting in, for ever,—while the affections will be eternally charmed with such an infinity of goodness and love, as will excite an everlasting reciprocation of love to Him “ who first loved us.” That you may not lose any thing, however, but gain considerably by this omission, permit me to close the present letter by referring you to the second of Dr. Watts's discourses in his work on “ Death and Heaven : ” a discourse which contains the most fascinating and inspiring description of the employments, the holiness, and the happiness, of
glorified saints, I have ever perused ; and which no one, I conceive, who has any pretensions to taste and sensibility, to say nothing of piety, can read without surprise and delight.
I remain, &c.
On Christian Duties.
LACTANTIUS, an ancient father of the church, in one of his appeals to the adversaries of true religion, drew a bold, but not unfaithful, picture of the genuine effects of the Gospel upon the heart and conduct of sincere Christians :-“ Give me (says he) a man who “ is choleric, abusive in his language, headstrong, 6 and unruly; and with a very few words, (the words “ of God,) he shall be rendered gentle as a lamb. “ Give me a greedy, avaricious, close-fisted man, and “ I will presently return him to you a generous crea“ ture, freely bestowing his money by handsful. Give “ me a cruel, blood-thirsty wretch, instantly his fero“ city shall be transformed into a truly mild and “ merciful disposition.—Give me an unjust man, a “ foolish man, a sinful man; and on a sudden he shall 6 become honest, wise, and virtuous. In one laver, “ (the laver of regeneration) all his wickedness shall “ be washed away. So great is the efficacy of the “ Divine Wisdom, that when once admitted into the “ human heart, it expels folly, the parent of all vice; “ and in accomplishing this great end, there is no “ occasion for any expense, no absolute need of books, “ or deep and long study or meditation. The benefit " is conferred gratuitously, easily, expeditiously; pra