I. How many kinds of afflictions are there?

There are two kinds of afflictions, such as are temporal and such as are eternal. Eternal, are those everlasting torments of body and soul which constitute the final portion of devils, and of the wicked who in this life are not converted to God. They are called in the Scriptures, hell, torments, unquenchable fire, a worm that dieth not, and everlasting death, because they are torments which will be everlasting, and such as are experienced by the dying, who, although they are always dying, will never be dead. This now will be the character of eternal death, always to die, and never to be dead; or it will be a continuation of death, with an infinite increase of hellish agonies and torments. The following are some of the declarations of Scripture which refer to everlasting punishment: "Their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched." "It is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched; where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched." "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." "If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear." (Is. 66:24. Mark 9:43-44. Matt. 25:41. 1 Pet. 4:18.) The reason which makes this form of punishment necessary is evident from this: that sin which is committed against God, who is infinitely good, demands an infinite punishment and satisfaction, which could not be rendered by the afflictions which are incident merely to this life. This would not satisfy the infinite and eternal justice of God.

That eternal punishment includes both the soul and body, is clearly affirmed by Christ himself, when he says: "Fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matt. 10:28.) The soul is the fountain of sin; whilst the body, as a thing destitute of reason, executes what the soul directs. As the soul and body are, therefore, both involved in the commission of sin, the one being the author and the other the instrument, they will both be included in the punishment thereof.

Obj. He who is most merciful cannot behold the eternal torments of his creatures, much less inflict them. God's mercy is infinitely great, and exceeds our sins; therefore he can neither inflict nor behold eternal torments in his creatures.
Ans. This objection is true if it refers merely to a being who is infinitely merciful, without being at the same time infinitely just. But as both of these attributes meet in the character of God, the objection loses its force when applied to him, as we have already shown, in our remarks upon the 11th Question of the Catechism.

Temporal afflictions, such as sickness, poverty, reproach, calumny, oppression, banishment, wars, and the other miseries of this life, together with temporal death itself, are Common both to the righteous and the wicked. These afflictions are either punishments, or the cross.

The punishments which are a part of the afflictions of this life, Consist in the destruction and sufferings which are inflicted upon those who are guilty of sin. These are peculiar to the reprobate, because they are inflicted upon them for the purpose of making satisfaction to the justice of God. For the law binds all men either to obedience or punishment.

Obj. But the evils which are inflicted upon the wicked in this life, are not sufficient to satisfy the justice of God. Ans. They do not constitute the whole punishment of the wicked. They are only a part of it, and a beginning of that full satisfaction which will be exacted from them through all eternity. Just as every part of the air is called air, so every part of punishment is called punishment.

There are, however, degrees of punishment. The first degree is that which pertains to this life; for here already, when conscience chides and reproves, there is a commencement of the gnawings of the worm which shall never die. The second degree of punishment is that which is experienced in temporal death, when the wicked begin to feel the wrath of God, as the soul is separated from the body and plunged into the place of hopeless torment. The third degree of punishment is that which will be inflicted in the last judgment, when the soul and body will be cast into hell, and everlasting agonies will rush in from every side, as if in torrents, upon the wicked.

The cross comprises those afflictions which are peculiar to the godly, which are not properly punishments, because they are not inflicted for the purpose of making satisfaction to the justice of God. There are four kinds of afflictions included in the cross, and distinguished from each other by their ends.

The first comprises those chastisements which God inflicts upon the righteous for their sins, but which are inflicted according to his mercy, as a father corrects his son with much gentleness and toleration. They are, therefore, not properly punishments, but fatherly chastisements, by which the godly are admonished of their impurity, and of their peculiar sins and backslidings—are stirred up to repentance, and so brought back to the path of duty and holiness. Thus David was driven from his kingdom, and banished, on account of his fall: for peculiar sins are followed by peculiar and severe chastisements, even in the saints. These chastisements, however, are not to be regarded as a recompense for sin; but they are the effects of divine justice, through which God designs that we and others should be made acquainted with the rectitude of his character; that he is greatly displeased with sin, and will punish it with death, not only in this, but also in the life to come, unless we repent and return to him.

The second form or species of the cross includes the proofs or trials which are made of the faith, hope, patience, &c., of the saints, in order that these virtues may be strengthened and confirmed in them; and also, that their infirmity may be made manifest to themselves and others. Such was the nature of Job's affliction.

The third form of the cross is martyrdom, which includes the testimony and witness of the saints concerning the doctrine of the gospel, when they confirm and seal with their blood the doctrine which they professed, by which they declare that it is true--that they themselves experience in death the comfort which they promised to others in their teachings, and that there remains another life, and another judgment after this life.

The cross, in the last place, includes ransom, or the obedience of Christ; which is a satisfaction for our sins, and includes the entire humiliation of Christ, from the very moment of his conception to his last agony upon the cross.