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And now having gone throughh the Old Testament, I will stop a few minutes to make some observations. As to time, it is supposed to be about 4000 years. And I have not seen any law, at any time given by God or man, that the penalty should be eternal punishment for transgression. And this is the very reason that it was not preached, neither under the Adamic, the Abrahamic, nor Mosaic dispensation.
We have seen that there was not the least intimation of eternal death, or eternal punishment in the penalty of the simple law of obedience, given to Adam. It is astonishing to me how any man of sense can gather from what is there said that Adam and his posterity became liable to eternal death. When it is so clear what death Adam and Eve did dic, that they experienced a change in their minds, from peace, communion and reconciliation with their Creator, they fell under condemnation, guilt and shame; and had to support their natural lives by having to work to till the earth. This is the penalty, and we read of nothing more.
Guilt and shame for sin all have experienced since; and the further any one runs into sin, so much more he dies, or becomes insensible to good. And the promise was given, that, that spirit which first led unto sin should finally be destroyed, and that good should overcome evil, and it is reasonable that it should; as good is stronger than evil; the same as truth is more powerful than error. 66 Truth endureth, and is always strong, it liveth and con
quereth forevermore.-Blessed be the God of truth.” 1 Esdras iv. 38, 39.
And further, in allthe laws and commandments given to Moses, the penalty for transgression is annexed, but from first to last, there is not the least intimation given, no not the least imaginable intimation of everlasting punishment as the penalty for transgression. Nor is it reasonable it should be; as to the first given by God himself, was annexed no such punishment for transgression. But those who will have a hell at all events, it appears that they really wish some of their fellow creatures to go to hell,) and as they cannot find any revealed law the transgression of which threatened such punishment, they tell us that God has a secret will concerning his creatures. So the law, the penalty of which is eternal punishment, he has not revealed. Thus they make him as unjust as a king who has a law which he has made, but keeps it a secret in his own mind, and punishes those of his subjects who transgress it. But as nothing can exceed this for injustice, and is the greatest of all absurdities; I will take no further notice of it.
Now as it is clear there was no law given to man, under the Adamic, or Mosaic dispensation, the penalty of which should be everlasting punishment, how can we believe there was any such law given under the gospel dispensation, which is believed, and said to be by all believers in the scriptures, to be more merciful than any former dispensation. In particular, a dispensation of mercy and grace. And which is called “good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people.
and on earth, peace and good will towards all men. (Luke ii. 10–14.)
I cannot believe in the eternal misery of one creature till I can find a law which threatens such punishment for the violation of it, and as no such punishment was threatened for the transgression of
before the gospel dispensation. It is most certain that there cannot be such a law under the gospel; If any such law was ever given, it must have been given to our first parents, and we read not of the least intimations of such a law having been given to them. If such a law was given under, or by the gospel, it is much harder for mankind who have lived since, than before; for all who lived before, could not be condemned; no, not one of them, and punished for ever, for the transgression of a law, that was never given them, or of which they had no knowledge. This would be contrary to all our civil laws, and all our ideas of justice. In fact, nothing can be more certain, than that no such law was ever given. I am not in the least afraid to bid defiance to all the learned divines under heaven to produce a law within the lids of the Bible, or in the Old and New Testaments, that threatened eternal punishment for transgression or any sin. And as they cannot show any such law, their abominable, wicked, cruel, eternal-damnation doctrine, is clean gone forever.
We will now proceed to examine the New Testament, and first notice the preaching of John the Baptist. We read that he preached repentance, if he believed in eternal puishment after this
life, it is unaccountable that he did not preach it, to the many people that came to hear him, that if they did not repent they would be punished in hell for ever; but no, not one word did he tell them about punishment after this life.
I now pass on to the time called the day of pentecost, (Acts chap.2 ) when 3000 were added to the church by the preaching of Peter. We have the substance of his sermon, and not the least intimation is given of that which is so much preached in this day, and thought to be so necessary to convince people of the consequences of sin. And in the next chapter, there is another sermon preached by the same apostle; and not one word about eternal punishment: but the contrary; he speaks of the restoration of all things; and for their encouragement, he told them that they were included in the covenant that God made with their fathers, that “all the kindreds of the earth should be blessed."
And when Peter and John, were by the rulers called to an account for their preaching, and forbid to speak any more in the name of Jesus, they soon after preached again, and so powerful that the place was shaken where they were assembled, without one word of scaring the people about going to hell. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to preach; but not a word do we read of this doctrine, so common in this day.
The seventh chapter of Acts, contains a pretty lengthy sermon, preached by Stephen." He tells them of the sins they had committed from
time to time, and calls them stiff-necked, and uncircumcised in heart, and how their fathers had persecuted the prophets; and lastly, he told them of their murdering Jesus Christ. This cut them to the heart, because they knew it to be the truth. There are many in our day, who will not bear to hear the truth. If you tell them the truth, and that which they know to be the truth, they will
be angry, like as they were with Stephen. They gnashed upon him with their teeth, and rån upon the poor innocent man and stoned him to death. And like every good man, he
prayed for them, that God might not lay this sin to their charge. No: he did not wish them punished, (far from it,) nor had he spoken a word to them about going to hell for their sins. Nor throughout all the acts of the apostles, in all their conversations, disputations and sermons, to warn people of sin, and to persuade them to repentance, not one word do we read about damnation, hell and eternal punishment, which, if the doctrine was then believed, is most unaccountable. If they had believed the doctrine, as now believed, they could hardly have avoided, in their preaching, slipping out a word once in a while: but no not one word; nor the least intimation about eternal damnation.
One who had never read the Bible, but had only heard preaching, and read such authors as Edwards, Bunyan, and others of the same school, then read the scriptures, he might say, as a learned writer does, when he come to examine the scriptures on this subject, “I was surprised, says he, “ to find the sacred writers, so very sparing in the use of the word eternal, or ever.