Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature: An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891. Vols. VIVIII: Literature of the Republic, Part III., 18351860
Concerning Future Punishment
By Henry Ward Beecher (18131887)
[From his Statement on resigning his Membership in the Congregational Association, 18 October, 1882.]
I BELIEVE in the teaching of the Scripture that conduct and character in this life produce respectively beneficial or detrimental effects both in the life that now is and in the life that is to come; and that a man dying is not in the same condition on the other side whether he be bad or whether he be good; but that consequences follow and go over the border; and that the nature of the consequences of transgressionthat is, such transgression as alienates the man from God, and from the life that is in Godsuch consequences are so large, so dreadful, that every man ought to be deterred from venturing upon them. They are so terrible as to constitute the foundation of urgent motives and appeal on the side of fear, holding men back from sin, or inspiring them with the desire of righteousness. That far I hold that the Scriptures teach explicitly. Beyond that I do not go, on the authority of the Scriptures. I have my own philosophical theories about the future life; but what is revealed to my mind is simply this: The results of a mans conduct reach over into the other world on those that are persistently and inexcusably wicked, and mans punishment in the life to come is of such a nature and of such dimensions as ought to alarm any man and put him off from the dangerous ground and turn him toward safety. I do not think we are authorized by the Scriptures to say that it is endless in the sense in which we ordinarily employ that term. So much for that, and that is the extent of my authoritative teaching on that subject.