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into the nature of man, and the order of the uni
We have no intimation in the Scriptures or in nature that sin is punished in any other way. And it is altogether probable that God's ways are sufficient for their ends. Let us not then go about to concoct other schemes of penalty, and thrust them into God's plans, because they correspond to our systems. It is one thing to reason from nature up to God, but quite another to reason from human institutions that are full of human imperfection.
This divine method of punishment does not exclude from it a sense of the feelings of the Lawgiver. This, too, is bound up in a natural way with the sin. Hence it is not necessary to make a distinction between punishment and penalty, on the ground that one expresses the feeling of a personal Lawgiver, while the other is the natural consequence of sin. This distinction is the fruit of a mechanical, extra-mundane conception of God; it is not necessary in order to secure the presence of such personal feeling. A proper conception of God as immanent in the order of nature avoids the necessity of the distinction; the operations of nature are expressions of God's personal feelings. When a man breaks a law of God, a sense of the wrath of God at once asserts itself, if the conscience is natural; if it is hardened, it slumbers, but sooner or later it awakes. The painters set forth a universal truth when they depict Cain as fleeing from the dead body of Abel with downcast head; there was an eye above whose glance he felt, but could
not face. And thus the wrath of God against sin is wrought into the very automatism of the body.
We do not know that there is any other way in which God can lay hold of a sinner to punish him. I do not mean that God is limited in Himself, but in the offender. The pain must reflect the sin, or the sinner is not punished; he will not feel the justice of the punishment, or get to hate the sin, until he has tasted its bitterness, and felt its discord as an agony in his own soul. God sustains all relations through law; even love and grace are by law – the law of love and grace.
There is even a “ law of liberty.” But the special feature of the sinner's relation to God is a relation of law,- broken law, and his punishment consists in the fact that he is shut up with it. And out of the fragments of broken law rise barriers, built by nature, that shut the sinner away from everything but the broken law: away from God, away from all true fellowship with men, away from himself, till at last he finds himself in the outer darkness of utter disorder, a prison whose bolts will never draw back unless Eternal Love without hears the voice of penitence within.
As we thus look at retribution in the mingled light of revelation and reason, we are prepared to understand why it is that some sins are punished in this world, while other sins await punishment in a future world.
If we were to classify the sins that reap their painful consequences here, and those that do not, we would find that the former are offenses that pertain to the body, and the order of this world; and that the latter pertain more directly to the spiritual nature. The classification is not sharp ; the parts shade into one another; but it is as accurate as is the distinction between the two departments of our nature. In his physical and social nature man was made under the laws of this world. If he breaks these laws, the penalty is inflicted here. It may continue hereafter, for the grave feature of penalty is that it does not tend to end, but continues to act, like force imparted to an object in a vacuum, until arrested by some outside power. But man is also under spiritual laws, — reverence, humility, love, self-denial, purity, and all that are commonly known as moral duties. If he offends against these, he may incur but little of painful consequence. There may be much of evil consequence, but the phase of suffering lies farther on. The soil and atmosphere of this world are not adapted to bring it to full fruitage.
Stating our distinction again: punishment in this world follows the sins of the grosser part of our nature, — that part which more specially belongs to this world, -sins against the order of nature, against the body; sins of self-indulgence and sins against society. The punishment that awaits the next world is of sins pertaining to the higher nature, sins against the mind, the affections, and the spirit. The seed of evil sown in the soil of this world comes to judgment here. The seed of evil sown in the hidden places of the spirit, does not bear full fruit till the spiritual world is reached. Man is coördinated to two worlds. They overlap and reach far into one another; the spiritual inter-penetrates the physical; and the physical sends unceasing influences into the spiritual. Still, each is a field whereon evil reaps its appropriate harvest.
Illustrations of the first confront us on every side; judgment pronounced and executed here; sin punished here. Take the commonest but most instructive example – drunkenness. As soon as desire becomes stronger than the will, it begins to act retributively. When appetite dictates to the moral nature, the man's feet touch the threshold of hell. The shame, the conscious weakness, the unsatisfied desire rising at last to torment, — what are these but the pains of hell ? But the full cycle of sin and penalty is not completed except in his body. Bloated and distorted in countenance, senses benumbed, powers enfeebled, blood fevered, nerves tremulous as the aspen, haunted by visions, consumed by inward fires ; but every pain, every thrill of weakened nerves, every enfeebled sense, each tottering step of the debased flesh towards the dust, is the proper penalty of this kind of sin. Having sown to the flesh, he reaps of the flesh corruption. His sin works out its penalty on its own ground. I do not say that it ends here, because it is also linked with an order more enduring than this world. For, as one standing over against a mountain may fill the whole valley with the clamor of shouting, but hears at length an echo as if from another world, so these sins, having yielded their first fruits here, may stir up vaster penalties hereafter. The
terrible feature of penalty, so far as any light is thrown upon it from its own nature, is that it cannot anticipate an end. It is a cause, and cause always works. It is seed, and the law of seed is endless growth. Penalty, by its own nature, must go on forever unless it meets a stronger opposing power.
The subject finds various illustration : indolence eating the scant bread of poverty; willful youthhood begetting a fretful and sour old age; selfishness leading to isolation ; ambition overreaching itself and falling into contempt; ignorance yielding endless mistake; worldly content turning first into apathy, then into disgust; these every-day facts show that if we sin against the order of this world, we are punished in this world. If we sin against the body we are punished in the body. If we break the laws of human society, it has immediate and appropriate penalties. Each after its own kind, and in its own time, is the universal law.
We turn now to the other point, namely, that sins against the spiritual nature do not incur full punishment here, but await it in the spiritual world.
We constantly see men going through life with little pain or misfortune, perhaps with less than the ordinary share of human suffering, yet we term them sinners. They do not love nor fear God; they have no true love for man; they reject the law of self-denial and the duty of ministration; they stand off from any direct relations to God; they do not pray; their motives are selfish ; their