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of the Scriptures, that the wicked will be punished in the state beyond the grave; and this doctrine is conformable to reason.
Pain is the unavoidable effect of vice; for if virtue produces pleasure, what is opposite cannot also produce it. Whilst therefore the sinner exists, he must exist in a state of misery. If his life is restored, his wretchedness, which is only another word for punishment, must be restored at the same time. Nor can he justly complain of this constitution ; for everything which he suffers is his own fault: it is what he might have avoided, if he had so pleased : the offers of salvation were made to him; and he was never placed under an irresistible necessity of sinning. All this is unquestionably true, provided he continues in his iniquities; but whether he will finally be reformed by his sufferings, and whether punishment has a natural tendency to produce this effect, is another question, the consideration of which would lead us into a long inquiry.
Without entering into it at present, I think it my duty to observe, in vindication of the honor of the divine mercy, that as immortality is not, at least since the lapse of Adam, natural to man, but is the free gift of God through Jesus Christ, it can never be believed that so wise and good a being would bestow what is, on the whole, a curse : it must therefore be allowed, that it is not an injury, but an advantage, to the human race in general. Of consequence, any doctrine, which is inconsistent with this supposition, ought immediately to be rejected. God is infinitely benevolent; he hates none of the works which he has made ; punishment, as the Scriptures express it, is his strange work, not what he delights in. He will therefore not punish any, more than their iniquities deserve, nor for a longer time than is necessary to promote the purpose of his just government,
which is probably the happiness of the creation. What will be the duration of the misery of the wicked, or their final destiny, I presume not to say : They are in the hands of a merciful God, who knoweth the frame of man, and remembereth that he made him of dust; I feel no apprehension that he will treat them with cruelty.
If we borrow light from philosophy, we shall have rea. son to suppose, that there will always be in the universe moral agents in a state of probation; that there will always be some who are sinning, and some who are under punishment; and consequently, that in this sense, misery may be said to be eternal. But a just philosophy will teach us, that natural evil is the result of moral evil, of which it is intended to be the cure. This
great work has probably been carried on for ages of ages in the kingdom of God. World after world may have been disciplined, punished, renovated, and rendered a fit habitation for immortal beings. We are too apt to imagine that our little planet is the beginning, as well as, the centre, of the universe; but this conception is not agreeable to reason, nor is it authorized by the Scriptures. All the information which Moses gives us is, that about six thousand years ago, God created the earth, the sun and the moon; and that he made the stars also : but that many of the fixed stars must have existed ages before that period, and were not created, when the earth emerged from its chaotic state, is evident from the late discoveries of astronomers; for they have proved, that these stars are at such an inconceivable distance, that though light travels at the rate of twelve millions of miles in a minute, yet that their rays are in reaching us more than a million of years. As we therefore can see them, so long at least must they and the worlds which surround them have existed. This fact overwhelms our minds with astonish
ment of the grandeur, the unbounded power, the immense goodness of God. May we not without presumption conjecture, that the inhabitants of some of those distant worlds have for ages been in a state of security, free from sin, and enjoying consummate bliss ? We in this obscure corner of the creation are still in a state of trial and subjected to discipline: but what have we to fear under the government of a) monarch, whose goodness is as unbounded as his empire is extensive? Our globe, it is true, and every living (creature which it contains, might be struck out of existence, and would be no more missed in the universe, than a grain of sand from the shores of the ocean; but we need not be alarmed. Though we are inconsiderable, yet we are not overlooked. The mind of God is capable of attending to objects, which are infinitely minute, as well as those which are infinitely vast. He “ views with equal eye the fall of a hero or a sparrow;" an atom, or a system, teem with life ; and here an emmet blessed, and there the universe.
Whatever may be thought of the conjecture which has been offered, these truths are clear, that virtue is productive of happiness, and that the necessary attendant of vice is misery; that the pain which any being endures, will be no more than he deserves; that sin is a voluntary act; and that the sinner will cease to be punished, as soon as he ceases to transgress the laws of his Maker. These important truths we should impress deeply on our hearts; and we should console our minds with the belief that the Judge of all the earth will do right, that his benevolence exceeds all that we can conceive, and that he is constantly employed in diffusing happiness through every part of the boundless universe.
THE EXTENT OF CHRIST'S KINGDOM.
PSALM II, 8,
I WILL GIVE THEE THE HEATHEN FOR THINE INHERITANCE,
AND THE UTTERMOST PARTS OF THE EARTH FOR THY POS-
th C TO
OUR Saviour, Jesus Christ, appeared among men, that he might establish a kingdom of righteousness and peace, which should last as long as the world lasts, and become more extensive, than any other that had ever been erected on earth. We have reason therefore to rejoice and give thanks to God at the commencement of his happy reign ; for on this day he is declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the holy spirit, by his resurrection from the dead.
There are a few Christians, who maintain, that the Psalm, from which I have taken the text, was composed by David for his son Solomon, and that it exclusively applies to that celebrated monarch. They explain it by a reference to the promises which were made by God to the posterity of Abraham, and in which it was foretold, that the Israelites should subdue the heathen, and extend their dominion from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean,
and from the deserts of Arabia to the river Euphrates. These promises, they add, were not fully ac
complished, till the reign of Solomon ; but of him we read in the first book of Kings, that he reigned over all kingdoms, from the river (meaning the Euphrates) unto the land of the Philistines, and unto the border of Egypt.
As the second Psalm however is several times quoted in the New Testament, and applied to Jesus Christ, and as it has been understood by Jewish interpreters to be a prophecy of the Messiah, the text is by Christians in general referred to another, and more glorious son of David than Solomon, to a son, who appeared after the lapse of ten centuries. To his person and character, it is alleged, the language of the Psalmist is more strictly applicable. Of him it may with truth be said, that the heathen are given to him for his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession. There are in the sacred Scriptures many plain passages, which in their primitive meaning foretell that the kingdom of Christ will be extended over a large portion of the earth. To this head may be referred many predictions of the ancient prophets. In the New Testament the clearest intimations are given, that the kingdom of Christ will in time become very extensive. This appears to be the just interpretation of several parables of the gospel ; and we are expressly assured by our Saviour, that even before the destruction of Jerusalem, the Gospel of the kingdom would be preached in all the world ; by which he probably intended the whole extent of the Roman empire.
By these and other predictions a general expectation has been excited in the breasts of Christians, that the kingdom of the Messiah will continue to spread, and will become more and more extensive, till at last it will comprehend every part of the habitable earth. The extent