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ushered in: his “ gathering before him all nations,” may mean the assembling of the Jewish tribes on some festival occasion, (as was the case on the day of pentecost; and as was also the case (according to Josephus and others,, when Jerusalem was besieged by Titus Vespasian :) his “ holy angels,” may mean his apostles and other inspired evangelists; " the great sound of a trumpet,” may refer to the preaching of the gospel, by which means the “elect were gathered together,” or, in other words, believers were brought into his church or kingdom, etc. Such is a specimen of concessions made by commentators opposed to myself on the general question between us, and they are the more to be relied on for that very reason.
4th. Let us now look at the three questions put to Christ by his disciples, as he sat upon the mount of Olives. First.
6. When shall these things be?” What things ? Evidently, those of which he had been speaking, and these, by a reference to the context, you will perceive were the destruction of the city and the temple. On this point we are agreed. Proceed we then to the second. 66 And what shall be the sign of thy coming.” What coming? Without doubt, his coming to execute these judgments upon that obstinate people. Third : " and of the end of the world ?" This, however, is not properly a third question, but merely a member of the second : “ the sign of thy coming and of the end of the world ?" (tou asmoros) end of the age, or Mosaic economy: for the disciples understood that the destruction of the city and temple would close the Jewish dispensation, and usher in that of the Mesiah : hence they associate his coming to execute this destruction with the end of the Jewish age or state. St. Mark's account of the same matter clearly corroborates this view.
66 And as he went out of the temple, one of his disciples saith unto him, Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here ! And Jesus answering, said unto him, Seest thou these great buildings ? there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, over against the temple, Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, asked him privately, Tell us, when shall these things be ? and what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled ?" (Mark xiii. 1-4.) So also does St. Luke's. as some spake of the temple, how it was adorned with goodly
stones and gifts, he said, As for these things which ye behold, the days will come, in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. And they asked him, saying, Master, but when shall these things be? and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass ?” (Luke xxi. 5–7.) You perceive that both these latter evangelists make but two questions of it; and must not every reflecting reader be satisfied from the nature of the case, that these inquiries had no sort of reference to the close of time? What could put such an idea into their heads ? they had not been taught by Moses, nor by any of their prophets, that this mundane system should come to an end : and all the Jews believed that when the then existing ecclesiastical dynasty should terminate, it should be succeeded by a most resplendent state of things under their Mesiah, which (from all that I can learn) was never expected to come to a period. The assumption then that the disciples questioned Christ respecting the end of time, is wholly without rational warrant,
5th.-We will next glance at my friend's objections to my novel mode of applying the parables, he thinks my error here is sufficiently clear from the fact, that seven eighths of all christendom are against me. Martin Luther did not yield to this argumentor, possibly, protestantism had been unheard of to this daynor did John Wesley, or methodism would not have been : all reformers, both in church and state-in law, medicine, the arts; are met at the outset by this argument: my friend was therefore right in not resting his cause here.
He proceeds to convince us that the passage concerning the rich man and Lazarus is a literal narrative ! bless me! then the dead carry with them to eternity their bodily organs ! and, al though existing in an immaterial state, they are still subject to material influences ! The rich man “ lifted up his eyes,” he saw Lazarus in “ Abraham's bosom,” he requested to have him sent to dip his finger in water, and therewith to cool his tongue, for the supplicant was tormented in the flames. All faciliteral fact ! dis odied spirits have eyes, and tongues, and bosoms, and fingers; and the material element of fire can burn them, and of water can cool them ! literal fact all! The regions of the saved, too, and of the damned, are so adjacent to each other that the inhabitants of each can maintain a familiar coloquy with those
of the other! How manifestly allegorical is this whole account ! Its scene is laid on the earth ; and the dramatis personæ (although they are said to have died, and one of them to have been buried,) are represented as being still in the body. My friend thinks the orthodox views of this text are confirmed by what is termed Josephus' dissertation concerning Hades: said dissertation, however, is a most palpable forgery, and gotten up, without doubt, as a counterpart to this parable; the phraseology is any thing but Jewish, and it is asking too much of our credulity to require us to believe that Josephus had any hand in it. But even allowing it genuine, what then? Why then, hell is in the interior of our earth, and both the good and bad of all the dead are there and Lazarus, when carried to Abraham's bosom, was in fact carried to hell! According to this, we may expect ere long, (should Simms' theory be true, which holds the interior of our globe to be accessible at the poles,) that the improvements in navigation will bring us to be well acquainted with hell and its inhabitants.
I shall not waste time in proving this passage to be an allegory ; for that were as superfluous as to prove that a square is not a :ircle. Mr. Wesley's logic, by which he would show it to be a jarrative of fact, would equally convert full-twenty other bible sarables into literal histories : for argument's sake, I am willing lo concede this point to my opponent; merely that he may be convinced, that his dogma of endless woe cannot be maintained from this passage
with this concession. I know that the main feature of it on which the argument for this doctrine is made to rest, is the account of the gulf—the impassable gulf. Let us then admit Hades to be a local hell, either under, or beyond the earth, as you please; and let us admit the gulf to be literally such, i. e., a deep, and rugged chasm. You have now gained a hell, and one from which there is no chance of egress : but for how long? Ay! indeed; this is likely to prove a troublesome question for the theory of an endless infernum ! for hades itself is doomed to certain destruction. “I will ransom them from the power of hades, (so reads the septuagint, the version from which Christ and his apostles were wont to quote,] I will redeem them from death. O death, I will be thy plagues ! O hades, I will be thy destruction.” (Hosea xiii. 14.) When hell is destroyed, and its subjects ransomed from its power, what purpose can the
gulf answer? I will ask another question ; what is gained in . favor of endless misery from the admission that the parable before us is literal history ? Both these questions are fairly answered by the one word-NOTHING.
The man without a wedding garment who was he? somebody that had stolen into heaven unperceived through the carelessness of the porter ? It would seem so, by my opponent's understanding of it! I should say rather a Jewish intruder, (one of the class in regard to whom the king had said, " they shall not taste of my supper,'') who sought to shelter himself from the retributions which were about to befall his nation, by assuming the profession of-without the qualifications indispensable to—a subject of Christ's kingdom, or church. One of the same class that Jesus said should say unto him in that day; “ Lord, thou hast eaten and drunk in our presence; and we have prophesied in thy name, and in thy name done many wonderful works,” &c. : but he shall say unto them, “ Depart from me, I never knew you.” It must not be lost sight of that all these things are spoken of in referenee to the church or kingdom of Christ on earth-their application to the future state is not only gratuitous, but in its logical consequences supremely ridiculous.
The closing question of my opponent is important. Does the hope of an endless hereafter life rest on no clearer scriptural warrant than is urged in proof of the eternity of punishment? This comprises the sum of his last argument. Oh! most blighting to human hope were the negative to this question ! for I do with my whole soul believe, that the eternity of punishment has no scriptural warrant at all: aion, and its derivatives, are so equivocal in their signification, that if no better ground of hope were afforded in regard to the duration of the future life, than what they furnish, such hope would be the next thing to despair : happily, however, the case is far otherwise for, Ist, the subjects of the future life are to be like unto the angels of God, “ neither do they die any more.
.” (Luke xx. 36.) 2nd. They are raised immortal, (incapable of dying) incorruptible, (above the power of decay) and glorious. They are also made alive in Christ, (who is said to have been made after the power of an endless life ;" Heb. vii. 16,) and to "bear the image of the heavenly;" (1 Cor. xv.) their vile body is to be changed, and fashioned like unto Christ's
most glorious body.” (Phil. iii. 21.) 3rd. They enter into a glory in exchange for their present light affliction, which far exceeds eternal, (for so is the literal reading) exceeds it to excess. (2 Cor. iv. 17.) 4th. Death is to be abolished, in regard to them,“ swallowed up in victory ;” which seems the strongest form of assurance that their existence can never cease. In addi. tion to these reasons, it must be considered that we were made to the end that we should live eternally, and enjoy our creator. In this, then, is the object of our being fulfilled ; whereas by a contrary issue it would be frustrated : and, moreover, life must be absolutely eternal, having its well-spring in the eternal God. On the contrary, suffering is a mere result of the present imperfection of our nature. In short, the reasons are almost endless which justify the belief of a future endless existence to man, and they will all apply, with others in addition, against his being subjected to an eternity of suffering.
We have now gone through my friend's objections, and what is their amount ? Their aggregated weight is but that of a feather against the mass of testimony to which they stand opposed. So shielded at all points is my argument upon the application of this important subject, that I might safely dispense with all that I have said in its support, and then decide the issue by one single text. If my opponent is right, there is coming a judgment, the calamities of which will a million-fold exceed all together that the sun has ever looked down upon since it was first struck into existence : whereas, Christ says of the time of Jerusalem's destruction, " Then shall be a time of trouble such as never was since the beginning of the creation until that time; NO, NOR EVER SHALL BE !"