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SAME SUBJECT CONTINUED.
John iii: 36.- He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting IK
and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life ; but the wrath of God abideth on him.
Sense and reason cannot make us acquainted with any thing in the great concerns of eternity. It is hence evident that if we become at all conversant with the realities of the future world, it must be through some medium wholly distinct from those by which we become conversant with the things of the present world. Reason and sense, in this case, can be of no avail. They soon find a limit to their powers, and set down bewildered and exhausted. What we need in this situation is, “ the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.” We want a hand which can lift the veil and show us the things which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, and of which the heart of man has formed no conception. The faith which is produced by the Holy Spirit of promise, supplies our manifold defects in reference to these things. It is like the telescope to the natural eye,,it brings near in their real magnitude, importance, and proportion, the objects of the invisible world. It introduces us into the heaven of heavens, unlocks the mystery and unfolds the book of seven seals.
Such a faith implies a right temper of heart, and is connected with eternal life. To exercise this faith in reality, is to rely upon the TESTIMONY of God. It is cordially to credit the account which God has given of himself, of ourselves, of sin in its nature, effects, and consequences, of Christ, of earth, heaven, and hell. This faith
stubble? Who among us shall dwell with these everlasting burnings which have made the Assyrians as the burning of lime ?” In the fol. lowing verses God describes the glory and prosperity of Jerusalem enriched with the spoils of the Assyrian camp. This fact utterly excludes that interpretation which makes this passage a prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem; and the passage rightly understood is a proof of everlasting punishment. It is the language of sinners in Zion, inferring the torments of everlasting fire from the terrors produced by the awful expressions of the divine displeasure exerted upon a mighty army of valiant men in the space of one night.
“And many (or the multitudes,) of them that sleep in the dust of the earth, shall awake, some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting contempt."* The expressions of this passage must have great violence done to them before they can be applied to any thing else than the resurrection and the final judgment. It is objected, however, that this passage has reference to the destruction of Jerusalem. But I have seen no authority quoted to show that to awake from a sleep in the dust, is a proper phraseology to express the being put to sleep in the dust, by the Roman sword. If it be said that a moral resurrection, which took place on the day of Pentecost, be here foretold, and that those who continued to sleep on, at last awoke to shame and everlasting contempt in the national calamities that came upon the Jews in the destruction of their devoted city; I would ask, what then were the glorious rewards, attained by those who rose to everlasting life, that were a suitable comparison to shining as the brightness of the firmament and as the stars forever? The only reward in this life which history records as received by Christians at that period was the glory of a hasty flight to the town of Pella. The Jews understood the passage before us, of the resurrection of the dead at the end of time, and Christ seems to have had reference to it when he speaks of the resurrection of life, and of the resurrection of damnation. And we may suppose that it was in this passage that the Jews relied, who were said by St. Paul to
* Dan. xii : 2
expect a resurrection both of the just an:l of the unjust. To refer this passage to the resurrection, is perfectly natural and reasonable. For under the cruel persecution of Antiochus, some basely betrayed their religion, while others bravely adhered to it. After the persecution was over, the one could not be rewarded nor the other punished. This therefore would afford the true Christian satisfaction that they both would be recompensed according to their works at the resurrection and the last judgment. And the Apostle, speaking of the pious Jews who suffered martyrdom under Antiochus, tells us that though they were tortured, yet they would not renounce their religion to obtain deliverance, because they hoped to obtain this better resurrection. “It is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire."* The absurdity of referring this passage to the destruction of Jerusalem or to any temporal calamity, has been shown in another Lecture, and we wait for reasons that have not been urged for believing that the everlasting fire means any limited punishment. The same remark will apply to other instances where this passage occurs in the Gospels.
“ Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.—And these shall go away into everlasting punishment.”+ I consider this passage to express the doctrine of endless misery. The original word translated punishment means torment, or suffering inflicted for crime. The noun is used but in one other instance in the New Testament. 1 John iv: 18." Fear hath torment.” The verb from which the noun is derived, is twice used—Acts iv: 21. 2 Pet. ii: 9. In each of these passages it denotes anguish, suffering, punishment. It does not mean simply a state or condition, but absolute, positive suffering. In regard to the meaning of the word everlasting in this place, we observe that the literal meaning of it expresses absolute eternity; and the plain and obvious interpretation of the word demands this signification. The word here used is the same in the original, as that used to express the eternal life of the righteous; if one can be proved to be limited * Matt. xviii : 8.
+ Mall. axr : 41, 46.
SCRIPTURE PROOFS OF
in duration, the other can by the same arguments. The proofs, that the righteous will be happy forever, is the same and no other than that the wicked will be miserable forever. Now as the original word is the same in both clauses, and as the contrast between punishment and life is carefully preserved, he must be blinded in no ordinary degree, who will risk the interests of his soul on interpreting the same word temporary in one instance and eternal in another, of the same sentence, and in reference to the same general subject, the future destiny of man. It has, however, been contended that the punishment of the wicked here spoken of, will have an end. This they argue from the difference of the two subjects, from the difference of the two substantives to which the adjective is applied, and from other passages to which they refer us as parallel, where the same word is used in the same text in a sense totally different. Whatever difference there may be, between the two subjects there is, as we have remarked, no more evidence that the punishment of the wicked will come to an end than that the happiness of the righteous shall have an end. Whatever difference there may be between the two substantives, punishment and life, the adjective everlasting is applied to both and this so far as an antithesis can go to fix its meaning determines the word everlasting to mean the same when applied to punishment as when applied to life. I admit that in Hab. iii: 6, the same word is used in the same sentence in a different sense. But this passage is not parallel with the pasbage under consideration, for there is no such antithesis in that as in this. It has been thought by some that the everlasting ways of God denote the operations of his providence, by which the mighty potentates of Canaan were broken to pieces and their kingdoms totally subdued, and that the term everlasting in both instances is expressive merely of limited duration. But admitting that the everlasting ways of God are opposed to the everlasting hills, or that the former signifies absolute eternity while the latter denotes limted duration, still the antithesis and the subject direct us in this case to give them such an exposition; whereas in our text they direct us to the contrary. Our text is parallel to John v: 29, “Some
shall come forth to the resurrection of life and some to the resurrection of damnation;" and we might with as much propriety contend for two entirely different meanings to the word resurrection in the one case as to the word everlasting in the other. But as this passage
before us will be further noticed in a subsequent lecture, I shall make no further remarks upon it.
“ But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation."* This will be considered in a future lecture. We shall therefore omit giving any comments upon it for the present. It is so plain and pointed that it needs no comment-"to never have forgiveness” is equivalent to endless condemnation. “ Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and the glory of his power.”+ It is manifest that in this instance everlasting must apply to something beyond this life. The apostle is comforting the Thessalonians under their afflictions and persecutions which they suffered during the cruel reign of Nero and Domitian. They were directed to look forward to the final judgment, when both the believer's rest, and the recompense of the wicked will be consummated. They were directed to look forward to that "rest which remaineth for the people of God,” which they would experience at the resurrection of the just, when their persecutors and the heathen who do not acknowledge God, but worship idols, and all who do not believe the gospel of Jesus Christ, shall experience an everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and the glory of his power, ministered by the same hand that consummates the rest of the righteous. The time when this righteous recompense is to be made, is at the revelation of the righteous judgments of God, for then will he judge the world in righteousness. Now the heavens will retain or conceal Christ till the period of the last judgment. Then will he be revealed, so this recompense cannot be prior to the last judgment. The misery of those who are punished will run parallel with the line of eternity. Their destruction will not be the annihilation of their conscious being, but of their well-being. • Mark lii: 29.
+ 2 Thess. i; 9.