Изображения страниц

five instances it expresses duration without end, is it not reasonable to conclude that it has the same meaning in the six instances in which it is applied to future punishment? The phrase eis tous aionas lon aionon commonly rendered forever and ever is used in twenty-one instances in the New Testament. I believe there is not a single example of its being used to convey any other than the idea of endless duration. In eighteen instances, it is applied to the continuance of the perfections, glory, government, and praise of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. In one, it is said of the righteous in the future world that, “they shall reign eis tous aionas ton ainon, forever and ever."* In the other remaining two instances it is applied to future punishment. Is it not reasonable then to conclude that in these two instances it also denotes endless duration ? Would the inspired writers have employed this phrase eighteen times to denote an absolute eternity and twice to denote that which was infinitely different, while these were the only instances in which the phrase was applied to these subjects the perfections of God, and the future destiny of the wicked ?

The adjective aionios, everlasting, is employed in seventy-one places in the whole New Testament. In forty-four of these it is used in relation to the future life of the righteous, and therefore is used in the endless sense. In four it is employed in relation to the perfections of God. In three it is applied to the redemption of Christ, the covenant of grace and the gospel. Here it is used in the endless sense. In eleven it relates to subjects of a miscellaneous nature. Once it is applied to the kingdom of Christ. And in seven it is used in reference to future punishment. Now in all the instances in which it relates to future time except the seven in which it is applied to future punishment, it confessedly denotes unlimited duration. Is it not reasonable then, to suppose that in these seven instances it also denotes unlimited duration? If it has not this meaning in these instances the scriptures do not decide that God is eternal, nor that the happiness of the righteous is without end, nor that the covenant of grace will always remain.

* Rev. xxii : 5.

When Christ and his apostles wrote for us a complete system of theology, if they intended to have been understood they must have used the terms in question according to their known and established signification, at the time they spoke and wrote. Now the Jews, especially the Essens and Pharisees, two leading sects among them, held the doctrine of the endless punishment of the wicked as is clear from the indubitable testimony of Josephus and Philo. Josephus says, “The Pharisees held that the souls of the wicked were to be punished with perpetual punishment, and that there was appointed for them a perpetual prison.” He makes a similar remark respecting the doctrine of the Essens. Philo remarks that, “The punishment of the wicked is to live forever dying, and to be in pains and griefs that never cease.” The same fact is also abundantly proved from Sabbinical writings and from the Tarquins. How then would the Jews understand our Lord and his apostles wlien they heard them freely using these terms, everlasting, eternal, forerer, and forever and ever, in relation to future punishment? If the Jews, who believed in the doctrine of endless punishment, did not learn it from the scriptures of the Old Testament, but from the idolatrous nations around, as some pretend to argue,and if our Lord knew that this doctrine was false and meant to teach the ultimate restitution of the wicked to virtue and happiness, would he have spoken of future punishment in language which, according to the established usage of the day, was known to express an absolute eternity ? Would he not have plainly pointed out their error as he did other errors that had been introduced. Every man in his sense8 must believe that by this course he designedly confirmed them in their error, or else he meant to teach the doctrine of endless punishment.

Having made these general observations, let us go into an examination of each individual passage which speaks of everlasting punishment. This we shall do for the purpose of showing the absurdity of those interpretations which are given to disprove the doctrine of endless punishment; of giving the true interpretation of these passages; and of showing that, taken separate, they contain internal. evidence of the doctrine we are endeavoring to establish.

“The sinners in Zion are afraid, fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites; Who among us shall dwell with devouring fire, who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings !"* The objectors to endless punishment interpret this passage as a prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. But it is necessary to read this with the preceding chapters only—where the army of the Assyrians is mentioned by name, to see that the subject is the destruction of that army. There is nothing said respecting the destruction of Jerusalem.

The true interpretation of the passage before us, I conceive to be this. When the rebellious Israelites saw the dreadful execution of the Divine displeasure upon the army of the Assyrians,—the angel smiting in one night eighty-five thousand chosen men, they are represented as being powerfully impressed with the fear of Jehovah and with a consciousness of having provoked him by their own revolting idolatry; and hence they cry out in the anguish of their souls, “Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings!" “God's judgments upon the enemies of Zion struck terror upon the sinners in Zion.” They saw that, if the wrath of God was such a consuming fire, working such devastation and ruin in one night, they could not endure its everlasting burnings. This opinion is confirmed by the context. From the seventh to the tenth verse, we have. the consternation and distress into which Judah and Jerusalem were brought by the invasion of Sennacherih's army. In this extremity God declares, as in the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth verses, in the most sublime strain, that he will arise and exalt himself and demonstrate that there is a God in the earth who is higher than the highest and that he will make the invading army as chaff and stubble be. fore devouring fire, as dried and withered thorns, and as the burning of lime. He then proclaims to those who were both near and far off-to near and distant regions, and to present and future ages, to hear what he had done, and to acknowledge his power. The sinners in Zion are afraid ; and they cry, Who shall dwell before this devouring fire, before which so vast an army is as chat and

* Isa. Ixxiji : 14.

[ocr errors]

stubble? Who among us shall dwell with these everlasting burnings which have made the Assyrians as the burning of lime ?” In the fol. lowing verses God describes the glory and prosperity of Jerusalem enriched with the spoils of the Assyrian camp. This fact utterly excludes that interpretation which makes this passage a prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem; and the passage rightly understood is a proof of everlasting punishment. Jt is the language of sinners in Zion, inferring the torments of everlasting fire from the terrors produced by the awful expressions of the divine displeasure exerted upon a mighty army of valiant men in the space of one night.

" And many (or the multitudes,) of them that sleep in the dust of the carth, shall awake, some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting contempt."* The expressions of this passage must have great violence done to them before they can be applied to any thing else than the resurrection and the final judgment. It is objected, however, that this passage has reference to the destruction of Jerusalem. But I have seen no authority quoted to show that to awake from a sleep in the dust, is a proper phraseology to express the being put to sleep in the dust, by the Roman sword. If it be said that a moral resurrection, which took place on the day of Pentecost, be here foretold,—and that those who continued to sleep on, at last awoke to shame and everlasting contempt in the national calamities that came upon the Jews in the destruction of their devoted city ; I would ask, what then were the glorious rewards, attained by those who rose to everlasting life, that were a suitable comparison to shining as the brightness of the firmament and as the stars forever? The only reward in this life which history records as received by Christians at that period was the glory of a hasty flight to the town of Pella. The Jews understood the passage before us, of the resurrection of the dead at the end of time, and Christ seems to have had reference to it when he speaks of the resurrection of life, and of the resurrection of damnation. And we may suppose that it was in this passage that the Jews relied, who were said by St. Paul to

* Dan. xii: 2

LECT. 1.)



expect a resurrection both of the just anit of the unjust. To refer this passage to the resurrection, is perfectly natural and reasonable. For under the cruel persecution of Antiochus, some basely betrayed their religion, while others bravely adhered to it. After the persecution was over, the one could not be rewarded nor the other punished. This therefore would afford the true Christian satisfaction that they both would be recompensed according to their works at the resurrection and the last judgment. And the Apostle, speaking of the pious Jews who suffered martyrdom under Antiochus, tells us that though they were tortured, yet they would not renounce their religion to obtain deliverance, because they hoped to obtain this better resurrection. “It is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire."* The absurdity of referring this passage to the destruction of Jerusalem or to any temporal calamity, has been shown in another Lecture, and we wait for reasons that have not been urged for believing that the everlasting fire means any limited punishment. The same remark will apply to other instances where this passage occurs in the Gospels.

“ Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the deyil and his angels.—And these shall go away into everlasting punishment.”+ I consider this passage to express the doctrine of endless misery. The original word translated punishment means torment, or suffering inflicted for crime. The noun is used but in one other instance in the New Testament. 1 John iv: 18.-“ Fear hath torment.” The verb from which the noun is derived, is twice used-Acts iv: 21. 2 Pet. ii: 9. In each of these passages it denotes anguish, suffering, punishment. It does not mean simply a state or condition, but absolute, positive suffering. In regard to the meaning of the word everlasting in this place, we observe that the literal meaning of it expresses absolute eternity; and the plain and obvious interpretation of the word demands this signification. The word here used is the same in the original, as that used to express the eternal life of the righteous; if one can be proved to be limited * Matt. xviii : 8.

+ Matt. xxv; 41, 46.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »