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of this subject as a scriptural doctrine, we the eternal life of the righteous; if one can adduce the following, from Dr. Watts' Dis- be proved to be limited in duration, the course, xiii., p. 343, " These are the same other can by the same arguments. The words (ever, everlasting) both in Greek and proof that the righteous will be happy for Hebrew, by which God expresses his own ever is precisely the same and no other than eternity, which is absolute and without end, that the wicked will be miserable for ever.” Gen. xxi. 33; Deut. xxxiii. 27; Rom. i. 20, Olshausen observes, on the same passage, and xvi. 26. .... These are the words, “ The very same criterion by which eternal also, by which the scripture expresses the life is secured to the dikaioi (the righteous), duration of the felicities of heaven, and the forms the reason why the adikoi (the eternal life and happiness of the saints, Dan. wicked) are consigned to kolasis aionios xii. 2; Rom. vi. 23; Jno. iii. 15, &c.” Now (everlasting punishment). ... Nor can why should not we suppose the same words the strictness of the contrast be mitigated, to signify the same duration when the Old at least not by means of exegesis, on account or New Testament speaks of everlasting of the term zõē aiônios (eternal life); for the burnings as the vengeance of God against observation of De Wette, that if a strict the wicked, Isa. xxxij. 14; or everlasting antithesis were intended, annihilation must shame and contempt? Dan. xii. 2; and es have been specified in opposition to life, is pecially where the joys of the saints and sufficiently refuted by the fact that here the the misery of sinners are set in opposition to predominant idea expressed by the word zoe one another in the same text, as in Dan. xii. (life) is not that of existence, but that of and Matt. xxv. 46, “ The wicked shall go holy and happy being." away into everlasting punishment, and the We have, thus far, endeavoured to show righteous into life eternal"? Albert Barnes from the scriptures that the doctrine of the observes, on Matt. xxv. 46, “In regard to eternal duration of the punishment of the the meaning of the word everlasting' in this wicked rests upon the same evidence as the place, it is to be observed— 1st. That the eternity of the Godhead, and the eternal literal meaning of the word expresses abso- felicity of the saints; that the doctrine of the lute eternity- always being, Matt. xviii. 8; immortality of the soul must be overthrown xix. 16; Mark iii. 29; Rom. ii. 7; Heb. v. 9. if this is not admitted; and that the nature 2nd. That the obvious, plain interpretation of the case forces this doctrine upon us, of the word demands this signification. 3rd. from the impossibility of any means of rescue That admitting that it was the Saviour's reaching the condemned in that pit of horror design ever to teach this doctrine, this to which sin conducts its victims; and lastly, would be the very word to express it; and if these views have been supported by the opithis does not teach it, it could not be tanght. nions of learned, venerable Christians. .... 7th That the word used here is the Birmingham.
L'OUVRIER. same in the original as that used to express |
NEGATIVE ARTICLE.-I. It was with pleasure that we perceived the our opinions may conflict with the cherished announcement of this subject for debate in ideas of many readers. It is our sincere the pages of the Controversialist, as we desire that this controversy may be conducted know it is becoming, with reflecting minds, in the spirit of christian charity, with a due a mat:er of serious inquiry whether the regard to the importance and solemnity of popular belief, albeit derived from antiquity, the subject; and by us no bitterness of feeland sanctioned by fashion and prejudice, is ing shall be exhibited, arising from narrow well grounded, rational, and scriptural. We sectarianism-any frivolity of expression, have no desire to unsettle the faith of any; mere playing upon words, or anything which still less to excite cruel misgivings in the would prevent Truth being perceived and minds of those who may be “halting between acknowledged. We gladly adopt the phrasetwo opinions;” but the opportunity having ology of the question, in its ordinary and presented itself, we feel bound to give, as popular acceptation; and to avoid all quibbriefly as possible, the teachings of scripture bling, define the word “eternal" as “of infion this deeply important subject, although nite duration, endless, without limit as to
time;" so that it may be perceived we have unloving; as He is the perfection of holiness, chosen the broadest and clearest ground. I those who serve Him must also be holy;Neither have we any wish to invest the sub- and this, with every similar declaration, we ject with a greater degree of mystery than is reverently believe. But what then? Does attached to it by God himself; therefore we this inspire with terror, and cause us to lose shall make no allusion to the writings of sight of the paternal character of God? By “the Fathers," — extensive and profound no means. On the contrary, we have a though they be; nor to any of the numerous stronger confidence in him; we can love with and varied bodies of divinity, which pains the understanding, and can render a purely taking theologians have elaborated—often, intelligent service. By some the Bible is alas ! mere bodies, and destitute of any made chiefly to consist of fierce denunciaspiritual vitality; but we will take our stand tions of vengeance. God is represented in an upon those broad principles which the Bible unlovely and an unloving aspect, as an angry discovers to prayerful and anxious inquiry, I judge, about to crush with the thunders of and seek to ascertain what is its general | his law all who have sinned, without pity or scope in regard to our subject.
| remorse, except to a favoured few. We canThe Bible forms an harmonious whole. not understand that cold fatalism and that Each part must be taken in conjunction with, calculating exclusiveness, by which the Uniand illustrated by, other parts; all being versal Father is made to appear as exercising mutually dependent. When thus studied, favoritism, --selecting some members of a we are enabled to grasp its meaning, and common family to the enjoyment of certain only then can it minister to the support blessings, and consigning the rest of that of our inner and spiritual life. True there family to irremediable perdition. are in it mysteriously dark prophecies, as Happily, those who hold this doctrine are yet unfulfilled, and beyond the reach of but few; the great majority of Christians in human ken; but the attentive observer can- the present day are willing to extend the not fail to perceive the broad principle to invitations of the gospel to the entire race which we have alluded that it harmonizes, of man. But even among these the doctrine both in its various parts, and with the cha- of eternal punishment is extensively avowed, racter of its Divine Author. Considered in and with a large class of ministers this is a the abstract, it is a moral and spiritual his favourite theme of expatiation. Alas! that tory of our race. Man is presented in every so many should be found pampering human variety of condition, and the pictures drawn selfishness by endeavouring to deter men are true to life. But what principally strikes from sin by pointing to future, though undeus are the distinct and opposite phases in finable punishment, rather than by reprewhich he appears; first of all, bearing God's senting it as a present and fearful evil, the impress and breathing his spirit- perfect, punishment of which the sinner carries noble, happy; and then, alas! a sad change within him; and that while he thus conhas taken place, and we behold that tinues he is defeating the end and object of image marred, his soul polluted, his nobility his creation, by placing his will in direct fallen and in ruins-and these are the bitter opposition to that of his Maker. Our duty fruits of sin. We are left in no doubt as to is to show that the belief referred to is not the view entertained by God of man's sins, supported by scripture. We have already for he expresses himself in terms of utter expressed an intention to take its general detestation and hatred; but it is a remark- scope. We have no wish to twist words, or able fact that all the denunciations of the to enter upon an etymological disputation. divine anger are directed, not against the Having thus disposed of the more general sinner, but against his sins. All the writers parts of the subject, we shall devote the reof the inspired volume unite in extolling the mainder of this article to the consideration goodness, mercy, and love of God to men, of the two following propositions:while they employ the most unmistakeable I. That to suppose the punishment of the terms of condemnation when they represent I wicked will be eternal, is inconsistent with his feeling towards man's offences. Sin is the revealed character of God. the “abominable thing which he hates;” | II. That it is not in accordance with the his anger burns against everything evil and genius and spirit of Christianity.
I. It is inconsistent with the revealed that, so far as we are able to gather from character of God.
scripture, is utterly impossible. 1. God continually speaks of himself as 2. God's holiness and justice alike forbid love, in its highest and purest manifestations. the eternal punishment of the wicked. This This, with all reverence be it said, is his would be to perpetuate the existence of that favourite representation; and he alone is the which is diametrically opposed to the essential embodiment of pure, unselfish love. He nature of Deity. The “ wickedness of the takes delight in the sons of men. Fallen wicked" would have no end; all things would though they be, he still regards them with not then be subdued unto him, for there tender solicitude. Hence the manifestation would for ever remain a wide-spread opposiof that love by sending his own Son to re- tion to his will. How can we believe God deem men; not, as some have it, to placate just, if at the same time we believe that he Deity, for that virtually attributes implaca- will for ever act as a stern gaoler over bility to the God of Love, and represents the myriads of sinful creatures, who, some theoFather and Son as actuated by different logians would fain have us to suppose, will feelings, and in fact opposed to each other; actually sink deeper and deeper in iniquity? which is an absurdity. For while the Savi. Did we believe their doctrine, we might also our is represented as saying,—“Lo! I come; accept their conjecture. Indeed it would in the volume of the book it is written of then appear very plausible, and almost neme, I delight to do thy will, O my God!” cessary, that where a constant connection it is no less true that God “sent his Son" to existed, those who were novices in crime, be the Saviour of the world; so that there compared with hardened and accomplished existed perfect harmony throughout this adepts, would be contaminated by intercourse momentous transaction. It was not, then, with the latter; and thus to all eternity to placate Deity, but to satisfy the claims of their rebellion would increase in a fearful immaculate justice; to show men “a more ratio, and the consequences such as we dare excellent way” of access to God; to exemplify not think of, much less attempt to estimate. and enforce that righteous law which man And what justice would there be in conhad violated; and to illustrate, in his own signing to the same measure and degree of humanity, how to suffer, to labour, and to punishment the man whose soul is steeped triumph. Now, can God's love ever undergo in sin, and whose moral sense is blunted and a change? Can it ever cease? If so, then all but destroved; and the man who has must it be supplanted by the opposite feeling offended in a less daring and flagrant manof hatred, for we cannot suppose God indif- ner, and who now perceives and deplores the ferent regarding any creature or thing which wrong of which he was guilty? It may be he has made. But we know not of a single replied that sin is in itself condemnatory, passage which proves, or even hints, that irrespective of frequency of repetition, or the God hates, or that he ever will hate men, be degree of venality. If so, there is poor comthey ever so sinful.* And if it can ever fort for the believer, for whatever may be his cease, then is he not an unchangeable God, attainments in the divine life, and however and what security have we that his love to earnestly he may have devoted himself to the angels who have "kept their first estate," the study of God's works and character, and to the redeemed from among men, may all this will avail him nothing, inasmuch as not also change or cease? If so, may not a “ child of God” is a “child of God," and his other glorious attributes likewise undergo nothing more or less, and the one who has change? There is just as much reason to made the least advances will be equally suppose a suspension of his justice, or of his happy with, and will know as much as, omnipotence, as of his boundless love; and the one who has assiduously employed his
| talents. If all this be denied, and if it be
sought to maintain a diversity in the degree, * We are exceedingly anxious that our readers
erg | although not in the nature of heavenly hapshould bear in mind the distinction which we piness, then upon what ground can it be have drawn between the sinner and his sin. Good denied that there exist degrees of punishment men have made sad mistakes by confounding in bol2 these two different things, and the views entertained of them by God.
| 3. Although we cannot "by searching
find out the Almighty unto perfection,” and what right can we suppose that the pleadings our best conceptions of the Deity are faint and strivings of God's spirit, and the punishand imperfect, we know sufficient to convince ments which sin induces, will fail of their our reason that “his ways are higher than intended result? This assumption is proved man's ways, and his thoughts than man's and substantiated by the very terms emthoughts," and that he is uninfluenced by ployed in reference to future punishment. those lower motives which actuate us. But When “fire and brimstone," " burnings," and to suppose that he will maintain in eternal similar terms are used, no person of intelliexistence the wicked, for the express purpose gence understands them as of literal signifiof inflicting torture, is to suppose that he is cation; the general opinion regards them as animated by feelings of implacable revenge, indicative of the wrath of God. We, howand is denying to God the possession of ordi- ever, accept them in a more natural sense, nary benevolence, such as many men exhibit. -as intended to convey the idea of a moral How could such a one be happy with the and spiritual purgation, by which every deconsciousness that others were in great pain; formity, everything unlovely and opposed to especially if he possessed the power of allevia- the will of God, shall be entirely and for ting that pain? How then can we think of the ever eradicated. The language of scripture God of Love cherishing such vindictive feel- is expressive of much suffering and anguish, ings, and existing in perfect happiness while so great and of such long continuance, that any of his children were enduring eternal it may well be designated “age-lasting," torment? The wisdom and power of God which would often be a more correct renderwould then appear in a most unfavourable ing of the original than “everlasting.” And light. It would be virtually charging him this is only what might be expected from with inability to secure the performance of the very nature of the case. A desperate that plan which his wisdom devised, and for disease requires a desperate remedy; and the carrying out of which Christ undertook what disease so wide-spread and obstinate a mission to earth.
as the moral and spiritual condition of man? 4. It is inconsistent with God's moral Viewed in this light, God's moral governgovernment. We presume that none will ment is consistent in its future dealings with deny that the purpose of suffering and trial man; otherwise it is inexplicable and appears on earth is to purify the soul, by developing unjust. its nobler powers; and when this is the result, We have taken this high ground, and pretrue heroism is exhibited. We would be sented this extreme view of the case, with very cautious in pointing to any particular the design of leading to the conclusion which circumstance as a judgment of Providence it naturally suggests; and now proceed to for some flagrant wrong committed; but the showman must be blind indeed who is unable to II. That it is not in accordance with the discern such indications. Still they have a genius and spirit of Christianity. moral end-the reclamation of the offender, We are taught to consider the gospel as or as a warning to others, or both. This is “glad tidings of great joy to all people;" one of the grand distinguishing features of and as pre-eminently a dispensation of love. God's moral government:“ He chastens us In the olden time, the prophets, occupying for our profit, that we may be made partakers an elevated stand-point, directed their earnest of his holiness." · Now, this commends itself gaze down the long vista of futurity, and to our reason, as an end worthy of the Father beheld, as afar off, His advent, who should of our spirits; and all our knowledge of his be the Deliverer and the Brother of our race. character and attributes confirms the belief | The anticipations which they cherished, and that he is able to secure so glorious a result. the language in which they expressed themIf this be his object during our compara- selves, indicated that a new and a brighter tively short sojourn on earth, can we do him era would then dawn, productive of happithe injustice to suppose that it will be aban- ness to man, and of glory to his Maker, to doned as hopeless when man enters upon an an extent unknown during prior dispensainfinity of existence? If a life of blessed tions. These anticipations were more than ness and virtue commenced on earth will be realized, when, in the fulness of time, Christ carried on and consummated in heaven, by came to establish his gospel. His heart mourned over the entire human family; his We have not time fully to elucidate the sympathies were too strong to be confined argument, and will therefore briefly state it, to country or race, but extended themselves only requesting that our readers will careto cheer, to illumine, and to bless all who fully examine and compare scripture for were environed by sin, and who, breathing themselves.* The argument is as follows. its tainted atmosphere, had become polluted, The gospel declares in express and unrebellious, and miserable. To raise and re mistakeable language, God's desire for “all store such was his special object; and to men to be saved,” and to come to the knoweffect this he set in his own life a glorious ledge of the truth; and the Saviour there example of obedience; he uttered god-like eshibited is described as "mighty to save," sentiments and precepts, whereby men might and as having “ tasted death for every man.” learn their duty; he left on record en- It further describes, as his peculiar work, the treaties, counsels, encouragements, expostu- overturning of all opposition to God's rightlations, warnings, and threatenings; and at eous government, the extermination of all last gave a crowning testimony to this gospel evil, and the restoration of order, obedience, by sealing it with his own death. But now peace, and happiness. When this glorious the question arises-What will be the future work shall have been completed, “ he will destiny of those who will not believe in deliver up the kingdom," and then “every Christ? Doubtless many would answer knee shall bow and every tongue confess to Eternal ruin. This we deny. Not only do God.” For this express purpose was man we perceive no grounds for such an opinion, created; and so long as he continues in sin, but to our view, the genius and spirit of so long is he defeating and thwarting the Christianity are directly opposed to it. The designs of God. Now, to suppose that the opinion against which we are contending punishment of the wicked will be eternal, is may have been partially formed and strength- to deny the truth of some of the passages ened by the false and unscriptural views we have referred to, and is in opposition to which some entertain as to the immediate the entire spirit of the gospel. For in this object of Christ's life and death. Many case Christ must remain eternally disapappear to think that it was mainly to rescue pointed with respect to millions for whoin from some undefined but terrible conse- he lived on earth, suffered, and died; these quences—the result of man's transgression; could not exist for God's pleasure—the pur- to obviate the necessity for punishment, by pose of their creation-unless we have the bearing it in his own person. Now this we hardihood to assert that God takes pleasure consider a low and unworthy estimate of the in the endless misery of those whom he has great redemption which Christ came to effect. fashioned; Christ could not then be said to Everywhere we find that he spoke, and that “ have put down all rule, and all authority, the apostles taught and spoke, of it, as and power;" and God would not be “ all in intended principally to vanquish sin, to all.” assist his followers in overcoming all moral Such is a brief résumé of the general subevil,“ that he might redeem them from all ject. We have already exceeded the limits iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar allotted to us, and must reserve for another people, zealous for good works.” Accord- article the consideration of sundry collateral. ingly, his denunciation of sin was terrible; 1 points which demand attention. Meanwhile, his requirements are stringent, but not ex- we commend the subject to the careful and ceeding the demands of justice. It is a serious reflection of our readers, trusting remarkable fact, that the Saviour very infre- that on so vital a question they will not acquently alluded to future panishment, but | cept the dogmata of any, but bring an unprechiefly occupied himself in explaining and judiced judgment to the consideration of God's enforcing that law of which he was the holy word.
SIGMA. bright and consistent embodiment. And the scriptures further represent Christ after his
* The following are the principal passages to resurrection as "seated at the right hand of which we would direct attention. Others will
naturally suggest themselves to the mind :-John took. “ expecting until all his enemies shall ji. 16, 17; xii. 32; Rom. v.; 1 Tim. ii. 4-6;
Heb. ii. 9; 1 John ii. 1, 2; Gal. i. 4: Rom. xiv. become his footstool," " when he shall deliver
11; 1 Cor. xv. 24-28; Phil. ii. 9-11; Col. i. up the kingdom to God, even the Father.” J 15-20; Rev. iv. 11 ; Acts iii. 19–21.