The state of good and evil is irreversible

A century ago the God of Christianity was called a God of mere benevolence. That could not long be maintained, first, because He was the God of the Old Testament as well as of the New, and next and specially because the New Testament opened upon us the Woe thrice uttered by the Judge himself, the Woe unquenchable denounced upon transgressors. But the instinct of modern civilization denies the very idea of such a doom in the face of a progressive future. Yet consider – is there not now, as an undeniable fact, a vast aggregate of intense weary pain, bodily and mental, which has existed through an untold length of centuries, all round the earth. Consider only the long pain and anguish which are the ordinary accompaniments of death. Supposing mankind has lasted many thousand years, the suffering has lasted just as long; there has been no interval of rest. But you will say it has an end, and is comparatively brief, to each mortal; then you mean to say that your objection to future suffering would cease were it only for a thousand years and not for ever? Considering what is told us of the punishment of Dives, would that alleviation really content you? I do not believe it; you would not be satisfied with the curtailment of such punishment even to a hundred years; nay, not to twenty, not to a dozen. In spite of the word of Scripture, your imagination would carry you away; you would shrink from the idea of a course of suffering altogether; death indeed you could not deny, but “after death the judgment” and a trial before it, would cease to be a reality to you. It is a subject beyond you; it is not duration which you revolt from, but rather the pain. Indeed, are we sure that long duration intensifies pain? We have no positive notion of suffering in relation to duration. Punishment is not therefore infinite, because it has no end. What alone we know about eternity is negatively, that there is no future when it will be otherwise. All that is necessary for us to be told is that the state of good and evil is irreversible. – from The Development of Religious Error (1885)