I shall take the liberty . . .to express my concurrence . . . concerning the final happiness of all the human race, a doctrine eminently calculated to promote alike, gratitude to God, and benevolence to man, and consequently, every other virtue; and since this doctrine is perfectly consistent with the belief of the adequate punishment of all sin, it is far from giving any encouragement to sinners.
The doctrine of eternal torments is altogether indefensible on any principles of justice or equity; for all the crimes of finite creatures, being of course finite, cannot in equity deserve infinite punishment. The Judge of all the earth, who appeals to men that all his ways are just (Ezek. xviii. 29), we may rest assured will do that which is right. Nay, in the midst of judgment he ever remembers mercy, and “he retaineth not his anger for ever.” (Micah vii. 18.)
But I do not lay much stress on particular texts of Scripture in this case, because it does not appear to me to have been the proper object of the mission of Christ, or of any other prophet, to announce this doctrine, nor does it appear that any of them considered the subject in its full extent. But it may be inferred from the general maxims of God’s moral government, and from the spirit and tendency of the whole system of revelation. Since all the dead are to be raised, the wicked as well as the righteous, it is highly improbable that this will be merely for the sake of their being punished, and then consigned to annihilation, as if they were incapable of improvement.
No human beings can be so depraved as that it shall not be in the power of proper discipline to reclaim them, so as to make them valuable characters. . . . Consider, farther, how it is possible for good men, to whom the happiness of heaven is promised, to have any enjoyment of that happiness themselves, if those for whom they cannot but have the strongest affection, especially their children, and other near relations and friends, be . . . excluded from all possibility of attaining such a state as will make their existence a blessing to them. If David lamented as he did, the death of his rebellious son Absalom, what would he have felt in the idea of his utter destruction! A parent myself, allow me to speak to the feelings of others who are also parents. But is not God the true parent of us all? Are not our children as much his, as they are ours? And is an earthly parent, who is deserving of the name, incapable of wholly abandoning any of his children; and will God, “whose tender mercies are over all his works,” (Psalm cxlv. 9) and whose love and compassion far exceed ours, abandon any of his? Like a true parent, he will ever correct in measure, and with mercy. Like a true parent, he will ever correct in measure, and with mercy.