« AnteriorContinuar »
times) which God hath spoken of by the upon as good ground as you reject the Uni mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began." Acts iii. 21. And the whole New Testament teacheth us to wait for the coming of Jesus from heaven; (1 Thess. i. 10.) which would be highly absurd upon the supposition, that he is always to abide there: which yet he must, if the word for ever, as applied to things of another state, intends endless duration.
Friend. I confess, I never observed this before. But, do you know of any passages in the New Testament, where the words, forever and ever, certainly intend limited duration? For I observed, that all the instances you brought were from the Old Testament. Minister.—Yes: Heb. i. 8. But unto the Son he saith, "Thy throne, (in distinction from the throne of the Father) O God, is forever and ever;" yet we read, (1 Cor. xv. 34, 38.) of the end, when he shall have "delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule, and all authority and power; and then shall the Son also himself, be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all." Friend. But when Christ threatened sinners, with everlasting fire, everlasting punishment, and eternal damnation; did not his expressions naturally convey the idea of endless misery? And may not the Son of God be accused of duplicity and deceit, if he did not mean to denounce punishment without end? And, therefore, if we believe his words to be true, as most certainly they are, we must reject the doctrine of the restoration, which puts an end to a state, which is called everlasting, by the mouth of truth itself.-Are you able to answer this fairly?
Minister.-If I am not able to answer this objection, which you have stated in the strongest manner, I assure you, I will confess myself in an error; and shall thank you, (as an instrument) for bringing me to know it. The same objection that you make against the Restoration, the Jews make against Christ and his religion; for they argue thus: God is an unchangeable Being, and he declared, in most solemn manner, that the ordinances of the Levitical dispensation should be everlasting, and the anointing of Aaron's sons should he an everlasting priesthood, throughout their generations; (See Exod. xl. 15, and Lev. xvi. 34.)-and, therefore, we must reject the Messiah of the Christians, as an impostor; inasmuch as he pretends to abolish those statutes, which God hath called everlasting, and to set himself up as a Priest, contrary to the express promise of the LORD, who cannot lie, nor repent, that Aaron and his sons should have an everlasting priesthood; and, therefore, if this is the true Messiah, God meant to deceive us when he promised us these everlasting blessings, and privileges, which, we must suppose were only for a time, if Christianity be true; therefore, we reject it, as being inconsistent with the promises of God.
It is evident, from this view of the matter,
versal Restoration, and perhaps better; for you have nothing to plead against the Restoration, but some threatenings of punishments, which are called everlasting or eternal, in our translation, but they plead express promises of the everlasting continuance of their church state and worship, in opposition to Christianity. But if it be true that both the Hebrew and Greek words, which our translators have rendered by the English word everlasting, do not intend endless duration but a hidden period, or periods; then the ground is changed at once, and the Jews have no right to object against Christianity, because God promised a continuance of their temple worship, for a cer tain age, or hidden period; nor the Christians to reject the universal Restoration, because God hath threatened the rebellious with such dreadful punishments, which shall endure through periods, expressed in the same terms. It is indeed confessed by some of the most learned Jews, that they have no word in their language, which absolutely signifies endless duration; therefore they can only argue the endless continuance of any thing from its na ture, and not merely from the words rendered forever or everlasting. And if this is the truth of the case (as who can deny it?) then, neither did Jehovah speak to deceive the children of Israel, when he promised them blessings of such long continuance which have ended long ago, and which are never to be restored by virtue of that covenant which he made with their fathers, when he brought them out of Egypt; but by the new covenant which he will make with them when he shall return them to their own land; nor did the Son of God speak to deceive, when he threatened the wicked with those punishments, which shall not end till they have answered the purposes for which it seems reasonable to believe they shall be inflicted, viz.: to bring them down and humble their proud and stubborn hearts; which shall be done, during the periods of his kingdom, before he shall have delivered it up to the Father, that God may be ALL in ALL.
Friend. But if I should grant that the word aionion doth not even in the New Tes tament always signify endless duration, yet what would you gain by it, since it is plain that Christ hath set the happiness of the righteous, and the misery of the wicked, one against the other; and hath expressed the continuance of both, by the same word, aionion, in St. Matth. xxv. 46. Here, the punishment of the wicked, and the life of the righteous, are both declared to be aionion or eternal, without distinction. Now can you show me any passage of scripture, where the same word is applied to two different things, whose existence is not the same, or the time of their continuance not alike?
Minister.-Fairly stated! And if it be not as fairly answered, it shall be looked upon as an insuperable difficulty. But, happily, there is a passage in Heb. iii. 6, where the same
stood and measured the earth; He beheld, and drove asunder the nations; and the everlasting mountains were scattered, the perpetual hills did bow. His ways are everlasting." In our translation, the mountains, and the ways of God, are called everlasting, and the hills perpetual, but in the original, the word gnad is applied to the mountains, and the word gnolam to the hills, and the ways of God. But whether we argue from the original or from the translation, it makes no difference. The question is, are the mountains, or the hills, eternal in the same sense in which the ways of God are? If so, the earth must have existed coccal with the ways of Jehovah, and the bills and mountains must never be removed, while his ways endure; and, as his ways can never be destroyed, the absolute eternity not of the earth only, but of its present form, its mountains and hills, must be inferred; contrary to Isaiah xl. 4, xliv. 10-Ezek. xxxviii. 20-Pet. iii. 7, 10, 11, 12—Rev. xvi. 20, xx. 11. Nay, even in this very text, the ways of God are spoken of as being of a different nature from the mountains, which are scattered, and the hills, which did bow.
Thus, no solid argument can be drawn from the application of the same word to different things, to prove that they shall be equal in their continuance, unless their nature be the same.
Thus in the Greek New Testament, in Rom. xvi. 25, we read of the mystery which hath been kept secret, from Chronois aioniois, and in the 26th verse, we find, that it is now made known by the commandment Tou aionion Theou. But must it be argued, that because aionivis is applied to times, and aionion to God; therefore, times are as ancient as Jehovah, and must continue while he exists? The absurdity of this is too glaring. Our translators have rendered Chronois aioniois, “since the world began," instead "of eternal times;" and have thereby shown their judgment to be, that words cannot change the subjects to which they are applied, but the meaning of the words must be determined by the nature of the subject.
In Jer. xxviii. 8, the word hegnolam is used in the Hebrew; but the translators did not think themselves obliged to render it "from everlasting" or, "from eternity;" as it would have been highly absurd to have read, eternal prophets, or prophets which were from eternity; and have therefore rendered it "of old" though it is a stronger word than gnad, which they have translated "eternity." Isa. lvii. 15.
Many other instances of the like nature might be brought; but these are fully sufficient to convince any unprejudiced mind, that nothing can be concluded in favour of endless punishment, from the word aionion being used to set forth the duration of it, as well as the duration of that life which our Saviour promises to the righteous.
But upon the supposition that our Saviour intends no more by the "life eternal," in the 46th verse of the 25th of St. Matthew's gosHi, than he doth in the 34th verse, by the
kingdom prepared from the foundation of the world," (which it would be hard to prove) then an answer might be given without all this labour, in this manner, viz., that as the Father hath appointed Christ a kingdom, so he hath also appointed his saints a kingdom; (see St. Luke xxii. 29, 30.-Rev. ii. 26, 27, iii. 21.) but as the kingdom which the Father hath given to Christ, as Mediator, and as Judge, shall end, when he shall have subdued all things, and put down all rule, and authority, and power; (See 1 Cor. xv. 24, 25, 26, 27, 28.) so, of consequence, that kingdom which is given to the saints or overcomers, to subdue the nations, shall also end, when they all shall be subdued, and brought to submit. But as the glory of Christ shall not be lessened but increased, when God shall be ALL in ALL; so the happiness of the saints shall be so far from ending or being diminished, at that period, that it shall then arrive at the summit of perfection; but shall never close nor decrease while JEHOVAH endures.
Some time ago, a woman came to hear me, and I, happened to mention in my sermon, that Christ's mediatorial kingdom was called everlasting or aionion; but that it must come to an end, when the kingdom should be delivered up to the Father, when he should have put down all rule, and all authority and power. After sermon, she was asked how she liked? She answered, "Not at all: he says the everlasting kingdom of Christ shall end, and I never heard of such a thing before in all my life; and I am sure it must be contrary to Scripture." The person who asked her, told her, that there was such a text somewhere, she could not tell exactly where to find it. But the woman persisted in it, that there was no such text; and went away full of prejudice. Now, had this passage of Scripture been in the book of Revelations, it would not have been so much to be wondered at, that she had never heard of it; but when we consider, that this is expressed in that part of the 15th chapter of St. Paul's first epistle to the Corinthians, which is in the burial service-what shall we say?
Thus, if Christ's kingdom shall end, much more Satan's! If rewards, as such, shall cease, how much more punishments! If the everlasting kingdom of the saints, which they shall possess forever and ever (See Dan. vii. 18, 27.) shall end, or be swallowed up in that kingdom of boundless love, where God shall be ALL in ALL; how much more, shall all sin, pain, sorrow and death, cease, and have no more a name in God's creation!
Friend. But supposing the doctrine of endless misery to be a truth, how would you expect to find it expressed in the Bible?
Minister. I should have a right to expect, in the first place, that there would be no promises in the Scripture to the contrary; no such passages as these: "For I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return; that unto me every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall swear." Isaiah xlv. 23. Mind well, EVERY TONGUE SHALL SWEAR. Swearing
allegiance, as every civilian will tell you, implies pardon, reception and protection, on the part of the king; and a hearty renouncing of rebellion, true subjection, and willing obedience, on the part of the rebels. Kings of the earth may be deceived, but God cannot; he will never accept of any feigned subjection; and, therefore, all that swear, shall swear in truth and righteousness;—so shall rebellion cease, and disobedience be no more.
But, above all, there is one objection that may be brought against this idea, which is hard to answer; and that is, God hath said, For I have no pleasure in the death of hi that dieth, saith the Lord God. Say unto them, as I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way, and live; turn ye, turn ye, from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?" Ezek. xviii. 23, The apostle St. Paul, seems to quote this xxxiii. 11. It is evident to me, that God passage of Scripture with some variation, in must take pleasure in what glorifies his name; his epistle to the Phillippians, chap. ii. 9, 10, and as he hath sworn that he takes no plea11; where, speaking of the sufferings of sure in the death of the wicked, it must be set Christ, and the consequences of the same, he down for a truth, that punishment, without says, "Wherefore God also hath highly ex- having the reformation and subjection of realted him, and given him a name which is bels for its end, is unworthy of the Being we above every name; that at (or in) the name adore; and even now, it is called "his strange of Jesus every knee shall bow, of things in work," and "his strange act." But to proheaven, and things in earth, and things under ceed: If endless misery were a truth, I should the earth; and that every tongue shall confess not expect that the mystery of the will of God, that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God which he hath made known unto his chosen, the Father." Now this confession appears according to his good pleasure, which he hath to me to imply a willing subjection to the purposed in himself would be, "That, in the ruthority of the Saviour, brought about by the dispensation of the fulness of times, he might operation of the blessed Spirit; for the same gather together in one (or rehead) all things apostle saith, "Wherefore, I give you to un-in Christ, both which are in heaven, and derstand, that no man, speaking by the Spirit of God, calleth Jesus accursed; and no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost." 1 Cor. xii. 3.
which are in earth," Ephes. i. 9, 10. Far less should I expect to find, that "it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; and, having made peace by the blood of his
Then the argument thrown into a syllogis-cross, by him to reconcile all things to himtical form, will run thus:
If every knee shall bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; then shall all rebellion cease.
But the first is true; therefore also the last. If every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father; and no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost; then shall the Holy Ghost work effectually in every man. As the major is proved by Phil. ii. 11, and the minor by 1 Cor. xii. 3, the conclusion must be evident to a demonstration.
Friend.—I acknowledge, that in the present state, no man can say that Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Ghost; but when they shall stand before his bar, they shall confess him Lord, to the glory of God the Father by force.
Minister. But St. Paul speaks generally, "That no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost." He does not mention time or place, but represents the matter impossible; beside every expression here used, implies a willing, and not a forced subjection; as bowing in the name of Jesus and confessing him to be Lord of all, to the glory of God the Father.
Friend. But we are sometimes told, that God is as much glorified by the eternal damnation of some, as by the eternal salvation of others.
self; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.”—Čol. i. 19, 20. And I am not able to imagine, how St. John's vision (Rev. v. 13.) could be just, if endless damnation is true, where he says, " And every creature in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, all that are in them, heard I saying, blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever." In the nature of things, it appears impossible to me to believe these passages to be strictly and literally true, if endless misery be a truth: therefore I say, that I should not expect any intimation, far less absolute promises, that God would destroy death, the works of the devil, and make all things new, with many others of the like nature
We find it promised, that every knee shall bow; and lest some might say, that every knee, meant only some knees, it is explained by the inspired apostle, to mean all things in heaven and in earth, and under the earth; and not only so, but every tongue shall swear, and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father; which could not be, except all were reconciled to him, whether things in heaven, or things in earth: wherefore this is also promised; and, in consequence of their being subdued, humbled, made obedient, and reconciled, they shall be rehead
Minister.-I have, indeed, heard some as-ed in Christ; never more to go astray, nor sert the same. But as the glory of God is the ultimate end of all that he doth, we may properly ask, why he should take any pains to
break that band of eternal union, which shall bind all together in one body, joined to one head; and all shall give never ceasing praise
As endless damnation appears to me to be this subject, in many places; as, in St. Luke's against the promises, I cannot hold it as an ar- gospel, Chap. xx. 35, 36, where he says, ticle of my faith; but were there no promises But they who shall be accounted worthy to or intimations to the contrary in Scripture, I obtain that world, and the (first) resurrection should not require it to be threatened in any from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in stronger terms than it is; I should believe it marriage; neither can they die any more; for as a truth, though I might not be able at pre- they are equal unto the angels; and are the sent, to see the propriety and equity thereof; children of God, being the children of the reI should never suffer my weak reason to gain-surrection:" and in St. John, x. 27, 28, 29, say Divine Revelation: but my difficulty we read thus: "my sheep hear my voice, and arises from these express promises of God, I know them, and they follow me: and I give which compose so great a part of that book unto them eternal life; and they shall never which is given us as a rule of faith and prac- perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my tice; and which promises expressly assert a hand. My Father, who gave them me, is future state of things beyond sin, sorrow, pain, greater than all; and none is able to pluck and death of every kind; when all things them out of my Father's hand." In Chap. xi. shall be made new; and death, the last enemy 25, 26, Christ says, "I am the resurrection of God, Christ, and man, shall be destroyed, and the life; he that believeth in me, though swallowed up in victory; and sin, which is he were dead, yet shall he live: and whoso its sting, shall be no more in existence; and ever liveth and believeth in me, shall never tears shall be all wiped away from all faces. die." And in chap. vi. 50, he says, "This is But, though I have acknowledged that I the bread that cometh down from heaven, that should not dare to dispute the doctrine of end- a man may eat thereof, and not die." And he less damnation, unless God had given inlima- expresses the perpetuity of the heavenly bliss, tions, and even promises to the contrary; since and of our enjoyment of the same, by advising I find several dreadful threatenings in the us, saying, "Lay up for yourselves treasures Scripture, in which the word aionion, or ever-in heaven; where neither moth nor rust doth lasting, is joined with the punishment of the wicked; yet a very little attention will shew us, that the felicity of the righteous is promised in much stronger language, than the misery of the wicked is threatened in the Scriptures.
corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal. Fear not little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not; where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth," St. Matth. vi. 20, and St. Luke, xii. 32, 33. This is that which St. Paul calleth
I remark in the first place, that the word aionion, rendered everlasting, or eternal, is used much oftener in St. John's gospel alone, to express the continuance of the life, or well"a better and an enduring substance," Heb. being, of the righteous, than it is used in the whole Bible, to express the misery of the wicked; and this remark is strengthened by observing that he never once uses the word in his whole gospel, nor in his epistles, to set forth the duration of punishment. See St. John iii. 15, 16, 36, iv. 14, v. 24, vi. 27, 40, 47, 54, 68, x. 28, xii. 25, 50, xvii. 2, 3, in all which passages, the word aionion is used to express the continuance of the well being of the righteous.
But not to insist on this: I observe, that there are many stronger expressions (even in our translation) to set forth the well being of the righteous, than any that are used as connected with the misery of the wicked. Isaiah xlv. 17, we read, "Israel shall be saved in JEHOVAH with an everlasting salvation; ye shall not be ashamed, nor confounded, world without end." But where do we read, that the misery of the wicked shall have no end? The word endless, or world without end, is never once used by our translators, to express the eternity of punishment, in the whole Bible.
We read, in 1 Pet. i. 4, of "an inheritance, incorruptible, and undefiled; and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven:" and in Chap. v: 4, of "a crown of glory, that fadeth not away;" and, Heb. xii. 23, of a kingdom, which cannot be moved:" and our blessed Saviour's words are remarkably strong upon
xii. 34. But what shall I say of the apostle's words, 2 Cor. iv. 7? "For our light afflic tion which is but for a moment, worketh for us, kath hyperbolen eis hyperbolen aionion baros doxes katergazetai emin: a glory exceeding aionion, or eternal, to an excess." Here is an hyperbole upon hyperbole; beyond eter nal; a far more exceeding eternal weight of glory.
But it is not so much by the different words made use of to denote the permanency of the felicity of the righteous, from those which are used to express the duration of the misery of the wicked, that I judge of the continuance of the one beyond the other; so much as from the different sources from whence they flow, and of their different natures.
The happiness of those who are reconciled to God arises from their union to Christ; in which if they continue grounded and settled during this present life, wherein they pass through so many sore trials, the union will become so permanent, as that it will be impossible to dissolve is; and the very nature of things shews, that if we abide firm to the end, through all difficulties, and overcome all those things that would seek to separate us from Christ, when we come into that state where we shall meet with no more temptations, nor any thing that has the least tendency to draw our minds from God, we must, of consequence, remain attached, or united to
him while we have an existence. This doc- | drawn by the Father, united to the Son, sealed trine was known to David; and therefore, he said, "While I live, will I praise JEHOVAH; I will sing praises unto my God, while I have any being." Psal. cxlvi. 2, civ. 33. It may be proved, that the union shall continue between Christ and his faithful ones after this life, and shall become indissoluble; and that neither tribulation, nor distress, persecution nor famine, nor nakedness, nor peril, nor sword; neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us (who abide in him) from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." See Rom. viii. 35-39. See also St. John xv. 4, 5, 7, 9, 10. 1 John ii. 24, 28.
The never ending continuance of the life, or state of well being of the righteous, may be certainly inferred, with the greatest ease, from the continuance of the life of Christ; who is made an high priest, "not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life," Heb. vii. 16. And he hath expressly declared, "Because I live, ye shall live also," St. John xiv. 19. Thus as long as the cause remains, the effect must continue; but the cause, even the life of Christ, must undoubtedly continue to endless periods; therefore also, the effect, or the life of those who are joined to him in an indissoluble union, shall continue. The apostle Paul understood logic as well as any in our days and he thus reasons upon this glorious truth; "The spirit itself beareth witness with our spirits, that we (who are led by the Spirit of God, and have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father) are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together." Rom. viii. 16, 17. Now, as Christ, the principal heir, cannot be disinherited; so, neither can those who are joint heirs with him. The Holy Spirit is given us as the earnest of our inheritance, and to seal us to the day of redemption, 2 Cor. v. 5, Ephes. i. 13, 14, and iv. 20.-Christ is the head, and the overcomers through the blood of the Lamb, are the members of his body, and shall inherit all things; he will be their God, and they shall be his children; he is their life, and he "will make them pillars in the temple of God, and they shall go no more out," Rev. iii. 12. St. Paul says, "When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory," Col. iii. 4.—And St. John says, "Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God; therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know, that when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is," 1 John iii. 1, 2. Thus, we are sure, from the Scriptures, and
by the Holy Ghost, willingly choose the Lord for their portion, and constantly adhere to him to the end, shall never be separated from him in the future ages; for he himself saith, "As the living father hath sent me, and I live by the Father; so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me," St. John vi. 57. And as Christ is the great attracting load stone, that shall finally draw all things to him; it is evident, that he will preserve for ever, those whom he hath thoroughly drawn to himself, and who have adhered to him through the time of trial. Thus is the life eternal of the righteous, or their endless state of well being, expressed in much stronger language than the misery of the wicked; and moreover, has its foundation in the union between Christ and his church, and in the nature of things.
Friend. But if the Spirit of God dwelling in us, and thereby causing us to adhere to Christ, and to follow him through all trials, makes our union to him so perfect, that nothing shall be able to separate us from him. to all eternity; since we are confirmed in habits of goodness by free choice, and by oft repeated exercises; why, by the same rules, shall not the misery of the wicked be endless, seeing that they have chosen and adhered to evil through life, and by constant practice are confirmed therein? Evil is grown up to a body in them; and it appears to me as difficult to reform and bring them off from their vicious habits, as it would be to draw the saints in light from their adherence to virtue and goodness.
Minister. Your reasoning would be conclasive, upon the supposition that there are two eternal principles, viz.: good and evil; if it can be proved, that evil is coexistent with goodness, that it hath always been; then, the absolute eternity of sin and misery may be easily inferred. This is the true foundation of endless misery, and it came from the Pagan theology. The Heathens believed in two eternal principles, ever warring against each other, and neither fully prevailing; that men had the liberty of enlisting under which they pleased; and that those who in life choose virtue should enjoy endless felicity; while those who chose and adhered to vice, would eternally remain under its dominion, and of consequence be always miserable. Thus, the infernal deities being judged by the poor Pagans to be as eternal as the good gods, and more powerful; they sacrificed more to the evil principle than to the good, out of fear, and to appease the anger of those abhorred, malevolent agents; hence the frequency of human sacrifices.
Now, when the Christian Religion triumphed over Paganism in the Roman empire, many of the philosophers embraced and professed it, but withal, retained many of their Pagan notions; among which was the eternity of these two opposite principles; hence arose the ancient sect of the Manichees, who believe not only the eternal existence of two contrary eter