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determined, is not whether such scriptures are found in the book of God, or whether they contain terms expressive of the duration of the sioner's punishment; but simply what is the meaning of these terms? And need this be made a question ?-What would they ve understood to mean, by the plain honest man, who was not warped by prejudice, for or against any particular system? There is not the least doubt but he would understand them to be expressive of endless duration. And what such an one understands them to mean, is doubtless their true meaning. The scriptures are not written in a language of their own, but in the common language of men; otherwise they would be no revelation to them. But the unlimited meaning of these is denied, in the passages above quoted, because the same terms are sometimes used in scripture in a limited sense. This is true of most of them; but does it therefore follow, that they have only a limited meaning; or that endless duration is not their proper meaning ? The question to be determined is, simply, what is the proper meaning of these terms. I am prepared to say and maintain, that, in their primary and proper signification, they mean endless duration. This is provable by the plainest and most unequivocal arguments.
An appeal might here be made to the most learned critics and lexicographers, that have given the definition of these words, and also to the etymology of the words both in the English and original languages; and in either case, the decision would, most certainly, be in favour of the position laid down. But it has become so fashionable for
every man, who knows the names and characters of the Greek alphabet to turn critic, and question the authority and learning of all the literary world, especially of all the learned fathers and reformers of the church, that the unlearned know not what to decide upon. They either conclude, there is no dependence to be put upon any of them, and therefore none upon the bible; or they adopt such translations and criticisms, as suit their particular creed, and with these rest satisfied. Those who know the original languages will decide for themselves. And if they are unprejudiced, we have no doubt, what their decision will be. And it cannot be expected of those who do not understand these languages, that they will take our word, rather than that of those who differ from us. Waving therefore, all argument, founded upon the authority of the learned, or the derivation of words, the meaning of these terms may be determined by such arguments, as can be understood by any man of common understanding and ordinary acquirements.
(1.) These words are used uniformly, in the bible, when things are spoken of known to be unlimited in their duration, and that too, when this very unlimited duration was designed to be expressed by them. It would be a task to mention all the passages in which these words are used in connection with the names of Deity and his attributes.' When his unlimited existence is to be expressed, then is he called the everlasting God, the eternal God, the God that is from everlasting to everlasting, And the unlimited mean. ing of these words is more emphatically marked from the consideration of their being used, when applied to Deity, to distinguish the true God from the idol gods whose existence is but for a time.
These terms are also used to express the duration of the future happiness of the righteous. Dr. Chauncy, who was himself a restorationer, acknowledges that the word rendered eternal or everlasting, “is applied to the future state of the righteous, more than forty times in the New Testament."
(2.) Hence it follows, that these words signify endless duration, or the original languages in which the scriptures were written had no words expressive of this idea. For where the sacred writers would, most emphatically and especially, call the attention to the eternity of God, and to the endless happiness of the righteous, they would certainly use the strongest terms they could find in the language in which they wrote. At such times we find them using these terms. Therefore these were the strongest their language afforded. Now to suppose the Hebrews and Greeks had no words expressive of the idea of endless duration, is to suppose they had no such idea, which is not true. Therefore they had such words, and, for the reasons given above, they must have been the very words we have here under consideration.
(3.) Since then it must be granted that these words, when used in connection with the names and attributes of Deity, and the future happiness of the righteous, signify endless duration, the only remaining question is--Are these words, in these connections, used in their own primary and proper signification, or are they used in a borrowed and accommodated sense? To suppose the latter would be grossly absurd. What! words limited, in their real meaning, borrowed to express unlimited ideas ! Words of comparatively weak import, accommodated to convey ideas infinitely strong! The eternity of God, emphatically expressed, by words of a limited meaning! This would be the art of sinking' to perfection. But how the inspired writers could suppose such terms would convey an exalted idea of God, I cannot conceive. These borrowed terms would sink, rather than elevate, the idea. And they had better have used no qualifying words at all, than those which properly signified less than the idea they wished to convey. Indeed, I know of no established principle of philology which teaches that when a word is used out of its primary meaning, it is made to comprehend more than it does in its proper signification. But the principle is in every case the reverse. And common sense says it ought to be; for otherwise the ideas which are clothed in such borrowed terms are but the poorer
and weaker for all they have borrowed.
From the whole it follows that these words, when connected with the names and attributes of the Deity and the future happiness of the righteous, signify endless duration ; and that when used in this connection, they are used not in an accommodated, but in their true and proper meaning, therefore the original and proper signification of these terms is endless duration.
Wherever therefore they are used in any other sense it must be considered as a figurative or accommodated mode of speech.
(4.) To show the bearing of the foregoing reasoning, upon the main question under consideration, viz. The duration of future punishment, we need only add that when the proper signification of any word is ascertained, that word should be always under stood according to that signification, unless there is something, in the manner of its being used, that restricts or modifies its meaning. That would be an absurd method of explaining language, which should teach that when a word is used in its natural and unrestrained manner, we cannot infer any thing certain concerna ing its meaning, because it is sometimes used in a borrowed or restricted sense. Since almost all words are sometimes used in a borrowed sense, we should never know, according to this rule of explanation, what any word means, unless when some circumstance plainly shows that it is used in a sense limited and modified from its original meaning. This would turn, language right about. It would make every word mean nothing, except when it was used out of its proper meaning! At least, it would make every word indefinite, save when it conveyed an idea of something that we knew without it! or unless defined by another word or circumstance, which other word or circumstance, would of course, according to this rule, be as indefinite as the one it defines ! A confusion this, equal to that in the language of the builders of Babel. To avoid this confusion, we must avoid the principles which lead to it.
When therefore the words eternal, everlasting, &c. are used in scripture, without any limiting word or circumstance, to restrict their meaning, we are bound, by every correct principle of ex
esis, to explain them according to their ideal and primary signification. But in the passages above referred to, these words are not limited or restricted by any word or circumstance, that would lead any man who has not a preconceived opinion to support, to understand them out of their full signification. This therefore ought to settle the question concerning these passages; and establish, in our minds, the truth of endless punishment.
But we are not under the necessity of leaving this argument here. . These terms are used, in several scriptures, not only without any limiting word or circumstance, but they are used in such connection, and under such circumstances, as necessarily fix their meaning to be endless duration.
(1.) These words refer to eternity. And eternity is pot divided
into parts or periods; therefore their meaning must run parallel with the state to which they refer. “The things that are seen," says the apostle, "are temporal, but the things that are not seen are eternal.” That is, the things which are seen, endure for a time, but the things which are not seen, endure for eternity. But the future state of the wicked is unseen. For we have already proved, that their works will be rewarded in eternity. And indeed the proposition which says, punishment in eternity will endure but for a time, carries its own refutation on the face of it. The very terms are contradictory. One might, with as much propriety of speech, say, punishment in time will be eternal, as to say, punishment in eternity will be temporal.
(2.) Our Lord says, Mark ii, 29. “ He that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost
, hath never forgiveness; but is in danger of eternal damnation." The parallel passage in Luke says, "shall not be forgiven.” Now it is evident, that these evangelists considered, not to be forgiven at all, and to be eternally punished, as implying each other.“And an eternal punishment, for a sin that shall not be forgiven, is necessarily endless.'
(3.) The word eternal or everlasting, is sometimes used twice in the same connection, referring in one instance, to the happiness of the righteous, in the other to the punishment of the wicked. Mat. xxv. 46. “And these (the wicked) shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal." Here observe, 1. The words everlasting and eternal are in the original, the same words rendered by different words in our translation, probably for the sake of variety in the expression. Certainly not to express any difference in the sense. 2. Ap antithesis of meaning is designed to be expressed, between the punishment of the wicked and the happiness of the righteous. But there would be no such antithesis, if the word did not signify the same, in both cases. 3. It would be an unpardonable abuse of language; such as no inspired writer could be guilty of, to use the same word twice, in the same sentence, in the manner that this word is used, and still design to convey senses, by each use of the word differing in an infinite degree. Yet so must the word, in the above passage, be used if the writer intended to convey the ideas of endless happiness and limited punishment.
The same may be said of Dan, xii. 2. " And many of them that sleep in the dust, shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt." Here either the prophet did not mean to say the life of the righteous would be endless, or he did mean to say the contempt of the wicked would be endless also. And will it be pretended that, in this passage, and in the one quoted from Matthew, the writers did not design to express the endless happiness of the righteous? If they did not, they either designed to say nothing about duration, or they designed to express a limited duration. They certainly meant to say something about duration, or they would not have used an adjective expressive of that idea. And if they meant to express a limited duration, the limitation in one case would be the same as in the other, and the happiness of the righteous, according to this statement, would only equal in duration the misery of the wicked. In this way we should prove a limited heaven as well as a limited hell. At the end of which, either the two characters must exchange places, or there must be a third place prepared for them, where they will be neither happy nor miserable, or they must be annihilated ! But such ideas burlesque the scriptures. It must be an acknowledged truth, that the happiness of the saints will be without end, and that this everduring state of blessedness is expressed in the word of God, by the words everlasting and eternal, and that in the same sentence, the duration of the sinner's punishment is expressed by the same words. Therefore, fearful consideration ! that too shall be without end. Let the impenitent believe and tremble-trembling let them repent and turn to God, in time, that they may escape this awful, this interminable punishment !
* See Mr, Isaac.
In closing this part of the subject, I cannot but observe that the foregoing evidences which to me, whatever they may to others, seem overwhelming, ought to have the more influence, as no evidences of comparative weight have been or can be produced to limit future punishment. While express passages say it will be eternal, none say it will be limited. If one or two passages could be found, as express and unequivocal as some are, which speak in an unlimited manner, of the punishment of the wicked, declaring that there should be no future punishment, or that it should only be for a period, longer or shorter, the universal system would gain more by such passages, than it has ever gajned by all the arguments of its supporters since it was first introduced.
While numerous scriptures declare it shall be well, it shall for ever be well with the dying saint, none are found to bear the same testimony of the sinner when he dies impenitent. On the contrary, numerous scriptures declare it shall be ill with such. And why is there not a solitary instance in which, after the sinner's state has thus been described, the certainty of his subsequent holiness and happiness is subjoined ? This would be a favourable time to mention such an important circumstance, if it were to be
It would be according to the analogy of the scriptures. Frequently, where the prophets are denouncing judgments upon the jewish nation, they break out in rapturous strains, and describe their happy restoration. But in this case, we are left to uncertain inferences, and equivocal testimonies.
While all the provisions of the gospel are, by their very nature, and by express declaration, limited to this life, no provision is