Sweetser's Universalism Explained, part six

Continued from Sweetser’s Universalism Explained, part five

No doubt it is often represented in the Bible as an evidence of His indignation towards those who disobey His laws, and no doubt it is really so. Love must be indignant when it is despised and rejected. A father must be indignant when his righteous commandments are transgressed without cause. But indignation is one thing, and hate is another thing. Love and hatred are direct opposites; they are mutually exclusive. But between love and indignation there is no disagreement. God must be indignant when His children transgress his laws; but He love them none the less, and behind whatsoever punishment His visits upon them there is always a loving purpose to serve their own good. His punishments are always reformatory in their purpose, and they will last just as long as there remains any need of them, which will certainly be as long as the occasion continues. As long as men sin they must suffer for it; for there is no peace to the wicked, in this or any other world. If men die in their sins and continue therein in the other world, they must be punished in the other world as long as their impenitent condition continues.

Let it not be supposed that Universalists teach that there is no future punishment. The Universalist Church does not hold to that theory. It believes in future punishment just as it believes in present punishment, for it believes that God’s laws are forever the same.

As to the nature of the future punishment which people must suffer who die in their sins, the Universalist Church does not venture to dogmatize. The Bible says nothing in particular concerning it, but leaves us to suppose what is eminently reasonable, that it will be for the most part the same kind of punishment which sinners bring upon themselves in the life that now is, viz: the condemnation of their consciences, a consciousness of God’s displeasure, the disapproval and reproof of their fellow men who are righteous, and a deprivation of those spiritual blessings and pleasures which none but the righteous can possibly know. Probably some of these consequences will be greatly intensified; but even in this world they are sometimes to grievous as to drive men to suicide.

It is not necessary to suppose that God has set apart in the other world a particular place for the punishment of sinners. He can punish them sufficiently within their own breasts, as He punished Cain for the murder of Abel, David for his sin in regard to Bathsheba, and Judas for his covetous betrayal of Christ. Cain said that his punishment was greater than he could bear. David said that day and night God’s hand was heavy upon him, turning all his moisture into the drought of summer. Judas went and hanged himself, so great was his agony. History abounds in instances showing that God can punish sinners, and punish them terribly, without the aid of a place called hell, or a locality called purgatory. Have no doubts in that respect. Do not suppose that there is no future punishment because Biblical scholarship has shown that Hades and Gehenna do not mean what they have been commonly supposed to mean. The bottom may have fallen out of the populat idea of hell, but it has not by any means fallen out of the eternal law of retribution. God will be at no loss for a way to punish transgressors, as long as there is any occasion for doing so. But the main point now is that His object in doing so will be for their profit, to bring about their salvation. He does not willingly afflict nor grieve the children of men, either here or hereafter. He does it only for their benefit, in order to bring them to repentence, that He may forgive them and bless them and make them partakers of His heavenly righteousness.

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