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Of the resurrection of the dead and the state of the wicked at the last day.
In his last chapter Mr Biddle strives to make his friends amends for all the wrong he had done them in those foregoing. Having attempted to overthrow their faith and to turn them aside from the simplicity of the gospel, he now informs them that the worst that can happen to them if they follow his counsel is but to be annihilated, or utterly deprived of their being, body and soul, in the day of judgment! For that everlasting fire, those endless torments, wherewith they have been so scared and terrified formerly by the catechisms and preachings of men that left and forsook the Scripture, it is all but a fable, invented to affright fools and children! On this account he lets his followers know that if, rejecting the eternal Son 582of God and his righteousness, they may not go to heaven, yet as to hell, or an everlasting abode in torments, they may be secure; there is no such matter provided for them nor any else. This is the main design in this chapter, whose title is, “Of the resurrection of the dead and the last judgment, and what shall be the final condition of the righteous and wicked thereupon.”
The first questions lead only to answers that there shall be a resurrection of the dead in general, and that they shall be raised and judged by Christ, who hath received authority from God to that purpose, that being the last great work that he shall accomplish by virtue of his mediatory kingdom committed to him. Some snares seem to be laid in the way in his questions, being captiously proposed; but they have been formerly broken in pieces in the chapters of the deity of Christ and his person, whither I remit the reader if he find himself entangled with them.
I shall only say, by the way, that if Mr B. may be expounded by his masters,520520 “Deinde negant resurrectionem carnis, hoc est, hujus ipsius corporis, quod carne ac sanguine præditum est, etsi fateantur corpora esse resurrectura, h. e. ipsos homines fideles; qui tunc novis corporibus cœlestibus induendi sunt.” — Compend. Doct. Eccles. in Polon. he will scarce be found to give so clear an assent to the resurrection of the dead as is here pretended; that is, to a raising again of the same individual body for the substance and all substantial parts. This his masters think not possible, and therefore reject it, though it be never so expressly affirmed in the Scripture. But Mr B. is silent of this discovery made by his masters, and so shall I be also.
That wherewith I am to deal he enters upon in this question:—
Ques. Shall not the wicked and unbelievers live for ever, though in torments, as well as the godly and faithful? or is eternal life peculiar to the faithful?
Ans. John iii. 36.
The assertion herein couched is, that the wicked shall not live for ever in torments;521521 “Itaque negant cruciatus impiorum et diabolorum duraturos esse in seternum, verum omnes simul penitus esse abolendos; adeo ut mors et infernus ipse dicantur conjiciendi in stagnum illud ardens, Rev. xx. 14. Rationem addunt, quod absurdum sit, Deum irasci in æternum; et peccata creaturarum finita, pœnis infinitis mulctare: pracærtim cum hinc nulla ipsius gloria illustretur.” — Compend. Doct. Eccles. in Polon. and the proof of it is, because eternal life is promised only to the faithful; yea, “he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him,” John iii. 36. As to the assertion itself, we shall attend farther unto it instantly.
When Socinus first broached this abomination, he did it with the greatest cunning and sleight that possibly he could use, labouring to insinuate it insensibly into the minds of men, knowing full well how full of scandal the very naming of it would prove; but the man’s success was in most things beyond his own imagination.522522 “Nam quod ais, ea ibi, tum de Christianorum resurrectione, tum de morte impiorum pæssim contineri, quæ a multis sine magna offensione, tum nostris tum aliis, legi non possint; scio equidem ea ibi contineri, sed meo judicio nec passim, nec ita aperte (cavi enim istud quantum potui) ut quisquam vir pius facile offendi possit, adeo ut quod nominatim attinet ad impiorum mortem, in quo dogmate majus est multo offensionis periculum, ea potius ex iis colligi possit, quæ ibi disputantur, quam expresse literis consignata extet; adeo ut lector, qui alioqui sententiam meam adversus Puccium de mortalitate primi hominis, quæ toto libro agitatur, quæque ob non paucos quos habet fautores parum aut nihil offensionis parere potest, probandam censeat, prius sentiat doctrinam istam sibi jam persuasam esse quam suaderi animadvertat.” — Faust. Socin. Ep. ad Johan Volkel. 6, p. 491.
583For the proof insinuated; “life” and “eternal life,” in the gospel, as they are mentioned as the end and reward of our obedience, are not taken merely physically, nor do express only the abode, duration, and continuance of our being, but our continuance in a state and condition of blessedness and glory. This is so evident, that there is no one place where life to come and eternal life are spoken of simply, in the whole New Testament, but as they are a reward and a blessed condition to be obtained by Jesus Christ. In this sense we confess the wicked and impenitent “shall never see life,” or obtain eternal life, — that is, they shall never come to a fruition of God to eternity; but that therefore they shall not have a life or being, though in torments, is a wild inference. I desire to know of Mr B. whether the evil angels shall be consumed or no, and have an utter end? If he say they shall, he gives us one new notion more; if not, I ask him whether they shall have eternal life or no? If he say they shall not enjoy eternal life in the sense mentioned in the Scripture, I shall desire him to consider that men also may have their being preserved and yet not be partakers of eternal life in that sense wherein it is promised.
The proof insisted on by Mr B. says that the wrath of God abides upon unbelievers, even then when they do not see life. Now, if they abide not, how can the wrath of God abide on them? doth God execute his wrath upon that which is not? If they abide under wrath, they do abide. “Under wrath” doth not diminish from their abiding, but describes its condition.
Death and life in Scripture, ever since the giving of the first law, and the mention made of them therein, as they express the condition of man in way of reward or punishment, are not opposed naturally, but morally, not in respect of their being (if I may so say) and relation, as one is the privation of the other in the way of nature, but in respect of the state and condition which is expressed by the one and the other, — namely, of blessedness or misery. So that as there is an eternal life, which is as it were a second life, a life of glory following a life of grace, so there is an eternal death, which is the second death, a death of misery following a death of sin.
The death that is threatened, and which is opposed to life, and eternal life, doth not anywhere denote annihilation, but only a deprivation and coming short of that blessedness which is promised 584with life, attended with all the evils which come under that name and are in the first commination. Those who are dead in trespasses and sins are not nothing, though they have no life of grace. But Mr B. proceeds, and saith, —
Q. Though this passage which you have quoted seems clearly to prove that eternal life agreeth to no other men but the faithful, yet, since the contrary opinion is generally held among Christians, I would fain know of you whether you have any other places that affirm that the wicked die directly, and that a second death, are destroyed and punished with everlasting destruction, are corrupted, burnt up, devoured, slain, pass away, and perish?
A. Rom. vi. 23, viii. 13; Rev. xxi. 6, 8, ii. 10, 11; 1 Thess. v. 3; 2 Pet. iii. 7; 2 Thess. i. 7–9; Gal. vi. 8; 2 Pet. ii. 12; 1 Cor. iii. 17; Heb. x. 39; Matt. iii. 12; Heb. x. 26, 27; Luke xix. 27, 1 John ii. 17; 2 Cor. ii. 15, 16.
1. How well Mr B. hath proved his intention by the place of Scripture before mentioned hath been in part discovered, and will in our process yet farther appear. The ambiguity of the words “life” and “eternal life” (which yet are not ambiguous in the Scripture, being constantly used in one sense and signification as to the purpose in hand) is all the pretence he hath for his assertion. Besides that, his proof that unbelievers do not abide lies in this, that “the wrath of God abideth on them”!
2. This is common with this gentleman and his masters, “Christians generally think otherwise, but we say thus;” so light do they make of the common faith, which was once delivered to the saints But he may be pleased to take notice that not only Christians think so, but assuredly believe that it shall be so, having the express word of God to bottom that their faith upon. And not only Christians believe it, but mankind generally in all ages have consented to it, as might abundantly be evinced.523523 Ἀλλ’ ἔστι καὶ τῷ ὄντι καὶ τὸ ἀναβιώσκεσθαι καὶ ἐκ τῶν τεθνεώτων τοὺς ζῶντας γίγνεσθαι καὶ τὰς τῶν τεθνεώτων ψυχὰς εἷναι καὶ ταῖς μὲν ἀγαθαῖς ἄμεινον εἷναι ταῖς δὲ κακαῖς κάκιον. — Plato in Phædone, 17.
3. But let the expressions wherewith Mr B. endeavours to make good this his monstrous assertion of the annihilation of the wicked and unbelievers at the last day be particularly considered, that the strength of his conclusion, or rather the weakness of it, may be discovered.
The first is, that they are said to “die, and that a second death,” Rom. vi. 23, viii. 13; Rev. xxi. 6, 8, ii. 10, 11. But how, now, will Mr B. prove that by dying is meant the annihilation of body and soul? There is mention of a natural death in Scripture; which, though it be a dissolution of nature as to its essential parts of body and soul, yet it is an annihilation of neither, for the soul abides, and Mr B. professes to believe that the body shall rise again. There is a spiritual death in sin also mentioned; which is not a destruction of the dead person’s being, but a moral condition wherein he is. And why must the last death be the annihilation pretended? As to a 585coming short of that which is the proper life of the soul, in the enjoyment of God, which is called “life” absolutely, and “eternal life,” it is a death; and as to any comfortable attendancies of a being continued, it is a death. That it is a total deprivation of being, seeing those under it are to eternity to abide under torments (as shall be showed), there is no colour.
2. It is called “destruction,” and “perdition,” and “everlasting destruction,” 1 Thess. v. 3; 2 Pet. iii. 7; 2 Thess. i. 7–9. True, it is a destruction as to the utter casting men off from all and every thing wherein they had any hope or dependence, — a casting them eternally off from the happiness of rational creatures, and the end which they ought to have aimed at; that is, they shall be destroyed in a moral, not a natural sense. To be cast for ever under the wrath of God, I think, is destruction; and therefore it is called “everlasting destruction,” because of the punishment which in that destruction abideth on them. To this are reduced the following expressions of “utterly perishing,” and the like, Gal. vi. 8; 2 Pet. ii. 12; 1 Cor. iii. 17; 2 Pet. iii. 16.
3. “Burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire” is mentioned, Matt. iii. 12; but if this burning of the chaff do consume it, pray what need it be done with “fire that cannot be quenched?” When it hath done its work, it will surely be put out. The expression is metaphorical, and the allusion is not in the consumption of chaff in the fire, but in the casting it into the fire, or the setting fire unto it. So the “fiery indignation” is said to “devour the adversaries,” Heb. x. 27; not that they shall no more be, but that they shall never see happiness any more. All these expressions are metaphorical, and used to set out the greatness of the wrath and indignation of God against impenitent sinners, under which they shall lie for ever. The residue of the expressions collected are of the same importance. Christ’s punishment of unbelievers at the last day is compared to a king saying, “Bring hither mine enemies, and slay them before me,” Luke xix. 27; because as a natural death is the utmost punishment that men are able to inflict, which cuts men off from hopes and enjoyments as to their natural condition, so Christ will lay on them the utmost of his wrath, cutting them off from all hopes and enjoyments as to their spiritual and moral condition. It is said, “The world passeth away,” because it can give no abiding, continuing refreshment to any of the sons of men, when he that doeth the will of God hath an everlasting continuance in a good condition, notwithstanding the intervening of all troubles which are in this life,1 John ii. 17; but that wicked men have not their being continued to eternity nothing is here expressed.
A very few words will put an issue to this controversy, if our blessed Saviour may be accepted for an umpire. Saith he, Matt. xxv. 46, 586“These shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.” Certainly he that shall be everlastingly punished shall be everlastingly. His punishment shall not continue when he is not. He that hath an end cannot be everlastingly punished. Again, saith our Saviour, “In hell the fire never shall be quenched; where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched,” Mark ix. 43, 44; which he repeats again verse 46, and, that Mr B. may not cause any to hope the contrary, again verse 48. This adds to the former miracle, — that men should be punished and yet not be, — that they shall be punished by the stings of a worm to torment them when they are not, and the burning of a fire when their whole essence is consumed! So also Isa. lxvi. 24, their torments shall be endless, and the means of their torments continued for ever; but for themselves, it seems, they shall have an end as to their being, and so nothing shall be punished with an everlasting worm and a fire never to be quenched! Nay, which is more, there shall be amongst them “weeping, and gnashing of teeth,” Matt. viii. 12, the utmost sorrow and indignation expressible, yea, beyond expression, and yet they shall not be! God threatens men with death and destruction, and describes that death and destruction to consist in the abiding under his wrath in endless torments; which inexpressible state evidently shows that death is not a consumption of them as to the continuance of their being, but a deprivation of all the good of life natural, spiritual, and eternal, with an infliction of the greatest evils that they can be capacitated to endure and undergo, called their “destruction and perdition.”524524 “A. Ita jocaris, quasi ego dicam, eos esse miseros, qui nati non sunt, et non eos miseros, qui mortui sunt. M. Esse ergo eos dicis. A. Immo, quia non sunt, cum fuerint, eos miseros esse. M. Pugnantia to loqui non vides? quid enim tam pugnat, quam non modo miserum, sed omnino quidquam esse qui non sit … A. Quoniam me verbo premis, posthac non ira dicam, miseros esse, sed tantum, miseros, ob id ipsum quia non sunt. M. Non dicis igitur, miser est M. Crassus, seal tautum, miser M. Crassus. A. Ita plane. M. Quasi non necesse sit, quicquid isto modo pronunties, id ant ease, ant non esse. An tu dialecticis ne imbutus quidem es,” etc. — Cicer. Tuscul. Quest. lib. i. 7.
What hath been the intention and design of Mr B. in this his Catechism, which I have thus far considered, I shall not judge. There is one Lawgiver to whom both he and I must give an account of our labour and endeavours in this business. That the tendency of the work itself is to increase infidelity and sin in the world I dare aver. Let this chapter be an instance; and from the savour that it hath let a taste be taken of the whole, and its nature be thereby estimated. That the greatest part of them to whom the mind of God, as revealed in Scripture, is in some measure made known, are not won and prevailed upon by the grace, love, and mercy, proclaimed therein and tendered through Christ, so as to give up themselves in all holy obedience unto God, I suppose will be granted. That these 587men are yet so overpowered by the terror of the Lord therein discovered, and the threats of the wrath to come, as not to dare to run out to the utmost that the desperate thoughts of their own hearts and the temptations of Satan meeting in conjunction would carry them unto, as it hath daily and manifold experiences to evince it, so the examples of men so awed by conviction mentioned in the Scripture do abundantly manifest. Now, what is it, among all the considerations of the account that men are to make and the judgment which they are to undergo, which doth so amaze their souls and fill them with horror and astonishment, so strike off their hands when they are ready to stretch them out to violence and uncleanness, or so frequently make their conception of sin abortive, as this of the eternity of the punishment which impenitent sinners must undergo? Is not this that which makes bitter the otherwise sweet morsels that they roll under their tongues, and is an adamantine chain to coerce and restrain them, when they break all other cords and cast all other bonds behind them? Yea, hath not this been, from the creation of the world, the great engine of the providence of God for the preserving of mankind from the outrageousness and unmeasurableness of iniquity and wickedness, which would utterly ruin all human society, and work a degeneracy in mankind into a very near approximation unto the beasts that perish, — namely, by keeping alive, in the generality of rational creatures, a prevailing conviction of an abiding condition of evil doers in a state of misery?525525 “Bene et composite Cæsar … disseruit, falsa, credo, existimans, quæ de infernis memorantur; diverso itinere malos a bonis loca tetra, inculta, festa atque formidolosa, habere.” — Cato, apud Sallust. Bell Catilin. 52. To undeceive the wretched world, and to set sinful man at liberty from this bondage and thraldom to his own causeless fears, Mr B. comes forth and assures them all that the eternity of torments is a fable, and everlasting punishment a lie. Let them trouble themselves no more; the worst of their misery may be past in a moment. It is but annihilation, or rather perdition of soul and body, and they are for ever freed from the wrath of the Almighty! Will they not say, “Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we shall die?” Down we lie of a season; God, it seems, will see us once again, and then farewell for ever. Whether ever there were a more compendious way of serving the design of Satan, or a more expedient engine to cast down and demolish the banks and bounds given to the bottomless lust and corruption of natural men, that they may overflow the world with a deluge of sin and confusion, considering the depraved condition of all men by nature and the rebellion of the most against the love and mercy of the gospel, I much doubt. But who is more fit to encourage wicked men to sin and disobedience than he who labours also to pervert the righteous and obedient from their faith?
588To close this whole discourse, I shall present Mr B.’s catechumens with a shorter catechism than either of his, collected out of their master’s questions, with some few inferences naturally flowing from them; and it is as follows:—
Ques. 1. What is God?
Ans. God is a spirit, that hath a bodily shape, eyes, ears, hands, feet, like to us.
Q. 2. Where is this God?
A. In a certain place in heaven, upon a throne, where a man may see from his right hand to his left.
Q. 3. Doth he ever move out of that place?
A. I cannot tell what he doth ordinarily, but he hath formerly come down sometimes upon the earth.
Q. 4. What doth he do there in that place?
A. Among other things, he conjectures at what men will do here below.
Q. 5. Doth he, then, not know what we do?
A. He doth know what we have done, but not what we will do.
Q. 6. What frame is he in upon his knowledge and conjecture?
A. Sometimes he is afraid, sometimes grieved, sometimes joyful, and sometimes troubled.
Q. 7. What peace and comfort can I have in committing myself to his providence, if he knows not what will befall me to-morrow?
A. What is that to me? see you to that.
Q. 8. Is Jesus Christ God?
A. He is dignified with the title of God, but he is not God.
Q. 9. Why, then, was he called the only-begotten son of God?
A. Because he was born of the Virgin Mary.
Q. 10. Was he Christ the Lord then when he was born?
A. No; he became the Lord afterward.
Q. 11. Hath he stilt in heaven a human body?
A. No; but he is made a spirit: so that being not God, but man, he was made a god, and being made a god, he is a spirit, and not a man.
Q. 12. What is the Holy Ghost?
A. A principal angel.
Q. 13. Did death enter by sin, or was mortality actually caused by sin?
Q. 14. Why is Christ called a saviour?
A. Because at the resurrection he shall change our vile bodies.
Q. 15. On what other account?
A. None that I know of.
Q. 16. How then shall I be saved from sin and wrath?
A. Keep the commandments, that thou mayst have a right to eternal life.
Q. 17. Was Christ the eternal son of God in his bosom, revealing his mind from thence, or was he taken up into heaven, and there taught the truths of God, as Mohammed pretended?
A. He ascended into heaven, and talked with God before he came and showed himself to the world.
Q. 18. What did Christ do as a prophet?
A. He gave a new law.
Q. 19. Wherein.?
A. He corrected the law of Moses.
Q. 20. Who was it that said of old,” Thou shalt love thy neighbour and hate thine enemy?”
A. God, in the law of Moses, which Christ corrects.
589Q. 21. Is Christ to be worshipped because he is God?
A. No, but because he redeemed us.
Q. 22. May one that is a mere creature be worshipped with divine or religious worship?
Q. 23. How can Christ, being a mere man, and now so far removed from the earth, understand and hear all the prayers and desires of the hearts of men that are put up to him all the world over?
A. I cannot tell, for God himself doth not know that there are such actions as our free actions are but upon inquiry.
Q. 24. Did Christ give himself for an offering and sacrifice to God in his death?
A. No; for he was not then a priest.
Q. 25. Did Christ by his death make reconciliation for our sins, the sins of his people, and bear their iniquities, that they might have peace with God?
A. No, but only died that they might turn themselves to God.
Q. 26. Did he so undergo the curse of the law, and was he so made sin for us, were our iniquities so laid on him, that he made satisfaction to God for our sins?
A. No; there is no such thing in the Scripture.
Q. 27. Did he merit or procure eternal life for us by his obedience and suffering?
A. No; this is a fiction of the generality of Christians.
Q. 28. Did he redeem us properly with the price of his blood, that we should be saved from wrath, death, and hell?
A. No; there is no such use or fruit of his death and blood-shedding.
Q. 29. If he neither suffered in our stead, nor underwent the curse of the law for us, nor satisfied justice by making reconciliation for our sins, nor redeemed us by the price of his blood, what did he do for us, — on what account is he our saviour?
A. He taught us the way to heaven, and died to leave us an example.
Q. 30. How then did he save them, or was he their saviour, who died before his teaching and dying?
A. He did not save them, nor was their saviour, nor did they ask any thing in his name, or receive any thing on his account.
Q. 31. Did Christ raise himself, according as he spake of the temple of his body, “Destroy this temple, and the third day I will raise it again?”
A. No, he raised not himself at all.
Q. 32. Hath God from eternity loved some even before they did any good, and elected them to life and salvation, to be obtained by Jesus Christ?
A. No, but he loved all alike.
Q. 33. Did God in the sending of Christ aim at the salvation era certain number, or his elect?
A. No, but at the salvation of men in general, whether ever any be saved or no.
Q. 34. Are all those saved for whom Christ died?
A. The least part of them are saved.
Q. 35. Is faith wrought in us by the Spirit of God, or are we converted by the efficacy of his grace?
A. No, but of ourselves we believe and are converted, and then we are made partakers of the Spirit and his grace.
Q. 36. Are all true believers preserved by the power of God unto salvation?
A. No, many of them fall away and perish.
Q. 37. Is the righteousness of Christ imputed to us for our justification?
A No, but our own faith and works.
590Q. 38. Are we to receive or apprehend Christ and his righteousness by faith, that we may be justified through him?
A. No, but believe on him that raised him from the dead, and without that it suffices.
Q. 39. Are we able to keep all God’s commandments?
Q. 40. Perhaps in our sincere endeavours, but can we do it absolutely and perfectly?
A. Yes, we can keep them perfectly.
Q. 41. What need a man then to apprehend Christ’s righteousness and apply it to himself by faith?
A. None at all, for there is no such thing required.
Q. 42. What shall become of wicked men after the resurrection?
A. They shall be so consumed, body and soul, as not at all to remain in torments.
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