The subject of future punishment is one the consideration of which gives mental pain. We naturally shrink from it, would prefer to leave it alone, and to think, as we say, of something else.
But the question won’t leave us alone, and we must think about it. It forces itself on our notice, and that, too, in our most thoughtful and sober moments. We cannot read the Scriptures without the dark vision passing before our eyes with more or less gloom. Conscience whispers to us about it. It recurs to our thoughts amidst the penitential confessions and earnest prayers of public worship. The theme is constantly discussed in works and periodicals widely read, and not even professedly theological.
There are few, we presume, who will assert that every man, whatever his character may be when he leaves the world, shall after death immediately pass into glory, and be received into fellowship with God and His saints. With such a belief earnestly entertained, suicide would cease to be an evidence of insanity, and murder would become philanthropy.
Most men are prepared rather to believe, apart altogether from any Scripture statements on this momentous subject, that punishment of some kind or other must be awarded to crime at last, and in some degree proportionate to the character of the criminal,—that somewhere or other, by some means or other, not yet discovered or revealed, reformation if at all possible must necessarily be effected in order that peace and happiness may