« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
could say that he is good to all, and that his tender mercy is over all his works? Yet the scriptures do thus represent him! Such are the contradictions in which the bible must be involved if we allow to the words everlasting, forever, etc., an unlimited signification, as they are applied to punishment.
“ But why," I may be asked, “ do you take these terms in the sense of endless, when they are connected with promises of this kind, and reject such sense when they are connected with threatenings ?" I only so accept these words, reader, when the nature of the subject evidently so requires. How, for example, can we possibly limit their signification in the above quoted promises ? "The Lord will not cast off forever"_" will not always chide""he relaineth not his anger forever"_“I will not contend forever, neither will I be always wroth,” etc.; suppose we make forever, and always, in these texts, to mean a limited period, they will then read, that the Lord will not cast off, nor contend, for a limited period ! But this is contrary to fact. There is, then, an evident necessity for understanding everlasting, and forever, in promises of this nature, in an unlimited sense; whereas, if we so understand them as connected with threatenings, we shall have the scriptures involved (as before shown) in most manifest selfcontradiction.
Let us take a particular case, in which a contradiction seems to be clearly involved. David, toward the close of his life, adınonished Solomon in the following words: “And thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart, and with a willing mind; for the Lord searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee of forever.” (1 Chron. xxviii. 9.) How shall this closing declaration be reconciled with the declaration in Lamentations? “ For the Lord WILL NOT cast of forever ;" for the latter is not special in its application, it belongs to no particu. Jar time, nor people, but is general and absolute. How then shall we reconcile these texts ? It can only be done by maintaining that David could not, by forever, have intended to all eternity ; and that he did not is clear from the fact, that he himself has furnished us with the declaration of Jehovah, that he would not, in any case, ytterly abandon any of his children. “ If his children forsake mv law, and walk not in my judgmenis; if they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless, my loving-kindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail.” (Ps. lxxxix. 30–33.) We must not, then, if we would avoid arraying scripture against scripture, understand David as threatening Solomon with an event, which God had solemnly swore to him should in no case come to pass.
If the inspired writers designed to teach the notion of ceaseless suffering, it is strange, as there unquestionably are words in both the Greek and Hebrew tongues, which could be combined to express that idea in an unequivocal manner; it is strange, I say, that they have in no instance employed such words fur the purpose ! Mahomet has found words for very clearly teaching this doctrine, in his Alcoran ; and it is also very unequivocally expressed in the Book of Mormon: some of the old christian writers have also clearly enough expressed it. None will deny that it is lucidly set forth in modern creeds; and in sulminations from the popular pulpit, God knows it is dealt out with sufficient intelligibility. The inspired writers alone, it would seem, knew not how to express it in a way to be understood! or they did not try—which is the more likely ?
Unending misery! Who ever conceived the import of that ex. pression ? Eternal suffering! Suppose the sun (a million times as large as our earth) to be a globe of fire-suppose a spark to be stricken therefrom and extinguished every millionth year, the period would arrive at length, when all those millions of years would have elapsed, and the last spark of the sun would be quenched; but eternity would be as little exhausted, as when the process of extinction commenced ! Take a parchment, as broad as the space conceived 10 be occupied by creation, on all its surface write millions, billions, trillions, quadrillions, etc., making every succeeding number to exceed the one before it; then add all these together, multiply the aggregated sum by another of equal amount, and let each unit in this vast sum represent a myriad of ageswhat would all these be to eternity? As the minutest atom to the whole universe !
And in all this time will not the anger of Jehovah abate? Will these ages upon ages of suffering not suffice to appease his wrath, or to mollify his resentment ? No, no, no; suns, particle after particle, millions of years intervening, may be put out forever; ages on ages, beyond the power of numbers to compute, may roll away into the unbeginning past; each planetary member of our solar system, of all the systems composing the universe, may moulder with the slow decay of an atom to every myriad of centuries, but the ire of Omnipotence shall never, never, never, never know ought of diminution ! He whose command to us is, “Let not the sun go down upon your wrath,” will, nevertheless, cherish toward us a wrath as unextinguishable as his own essence! And what are we, upon whom his almighty energies will be thus avengingly poured down ? What? The minutest animalcule which the microscope brings within the reach of vision, bears the same proportion to immensity that we bear to him !
And will no considerations avail, such as his relations to us as Creator, and Father-bis having brought us into existence without our consent the exceeding shortness of our earthly probation-the feebleness of our faculties of understanding and judgment—the dimness and uncertainty amidst which the paths of truth lie hidden from our perceptions—the many passions, appetites, anxieties, interests, and duties, aside from the business of our soul's salvation, which pressed upon our attention, and left us but small time for concern about our eternal affairs-will not these considerations, I say, when pleaded from the depths of our misery in hell, avail us by softening him into compassion ? No,
"God is love ;' no, no, “he is kind to the unthankful and to the evil ;' no, no, he “is good unto all, and his tender mercy is over all liis works ;” no, no, he loves his enemies ; no, no, he " will not cast of forever ;” no, no, he " is merciful and gracious"" full of compassion”_" abundant in goodness and truth,” etc., therefore his anger shall endure to eternity, and the misery of his guilty offspring shall have no end !!!
LAKE OF FIRE, AND SECOND DEATH.
These expressions occur in the book of Revelation only. I introduce them here, not because I have the vanity to suppose that I can furnish the true key to their meaning, for I pretend not to be able to do this with certainty, but because they are usually urged against the universalist faith with the more vehemence, and positiveness, as, of all the other parts of scripture, they are least understood. I can speak to the negative point of what they do not mean, with more confidence than to the positive of what they do.
That the lake of fire cannot refer to a place or mode of suffering in another life, is evident from the nature of some of the things subjected to its operation; these are death, hades, the beast, and the false prophet. The first three of these, it can scarcely be supposed, are suitable subjects for endless suffering! Death is a mere negation--the absence of life; hades is the separate state ; the beast personates the corruptors and opposers of christianity, or a corrupt hierarchy, some say Jewish, some Pagan, some Romish christian, and some (the Romanists) the pseudo reformed christian; it may mean either of these, or the Lord knows what. Whatever it means, however, it is represented, together with the false prophet, as having been “cast alive into a lake of fire, burning with brimstone,” from which, if the lake of fire mean hell, we must infer that they were consigned bodily, in flesh and blood, to its sulphurous flames !
It is equally evident that the second death cannot signify an endless death, (as some assume,) because the inspired testimony is full and clear to the point, that death is to be destroyed, swallowed up in victory, be no more, etc., which may imply any thing rather than that it shall endure, and triumph over millions of Jehovah's offspring, to all eternity!
Touching the meaning of Revelation there is a great diversity of judgment among critics. They are also much divided as to the period at which it was written—some placing it before, some after, the destruction of Jerusalem: to my mind the probabilities seem decidedly to favor the former position; and I also think that the book chiefly relates to that catastrophe, and to the various circumstances attendant on the introduction of the christian insti. trition. I have, as I think, very substantial reasons in the book itself for this opinion. In the introduction thereto it professes to disclose things that were “shortly to come to pass," and for which it even says,
“ the time is at hand.” (i. 1, 2.) And that the judgments threatened through the book were to have an immediate (and not a remote) fulfilment, seems evidently to be implied in the closing declarations :- Surely I come quickly ;" (xxii. 20.) “ Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be." (xxii. 12.) It seems too that the city and temple of Jerusalem must have been yet standing, not only from their being referred to in several indirect forms, but from the additional fact, that John is directed by the angel to measure the temple. “And there was given me a reed like unto a rod : and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the iemple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.” (xi. 1, 2.) Moreover, I have in the article on a general judgment) shown reasons for identifying the judgment so sublimely described in chapter xx., with that of which Daniel spake in a strain of equal grandeur, (Dan. vii. 9.) which is regarded by both Bishop, and Sir Isaac Newton, and other eminent expositors, as portending the momentous events which should attend the destruction of the Mosaic economy, and the setting up of Messiah's kingdom.
By keeping these things in mind, we need be at no very great loss for the understanding of the phrases at the head of this article; we can at least attain a high degree of probability in regard to it. As to the lake of fire, we often find that very figure employed in the descriptions of the judgment at the end of that world (aion, or age); Malachi calls the period thereof " the day that shall burn as an oven." (iv. 1.) Christ said, that at the end of that world, (or age,) the tares should be cast into the furnace of fire. (Matt. xiii. 40.) God expressly says he will gather the Jews into the midst of Jerusalem, and melt them as silver is melted in a furnace. (Ezek. xxii. 18, 22.) And it is said that the Lord's “ fire is in Zion, and his furnace in Jerusalem.” (Isa.