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“ into outer darkness—there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth :" Matt. xxv, 21. 30.
Lastly, therefore, it appears, that, since man is capable either of righteousness or of sin—since he is made free to choose between the evil and the good—and since, in all his thoughts, words, and actions, he is responsible to his Creator, he is also properly liable to the judgment of God. In this world, all men are placed in a state of trial; and here the moral government of the Deity is carried into effect only in part: in the world to come, it will be completed ; and the lot of all men will be fixed by the eternal Son of God, (to whom all judgment is committed) according to their works. And this judgment is uniformly described by the sacred writers as resulting in the life and happiness of the righteous—the reward of virtue ; in the misery and destruction of the wicked— the punishment of sin. " We shall all stand before the judgmentseat of Christ :” Rom. xiv, 10. God “ hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained :" Acts xvii, 31. God " will render to every man according to his deeds: to them who, by patient continuance in well doing, seek for glory, and honour, and immortality-eternal life ; but unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousnessindignation and wrath ; tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man that doeth evil,- of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile ; but glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile :" Rom. ii, 6–10. “ As, therefore, the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity, and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father:" Matt. xiii, 40–43.
SECTION V. On the Eternity of Future Rewards and Punishments. The reward of righteousness, and the punishment of iniquity, in the world to come, are both, by inspired writers, described as everlasting. “Eternal glory," "eternal salvation,"
," " eternal life,”— these are the terms (especially the last of them) which, in very numerous passages of the New Testament, represent the condition of never-ending felicity, reserved for all who fear God, believe in Jesus, and work righteousness. On the other hand, it is expressly declared of those who obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, and gene
rally of all persons who continue subject, in their life and conversation, to the world, the flesh, and the devil, that they " shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power:" 2 Thess. i, 9. Very explicit is the declaration made of this doctrine, in both its parts, by the Son of God himself—by him in whom (be it remembered) are hid all the treasures, not only of wisdom and knowledge, but of mercy, compassion, and love. “ When the Son of Man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: and before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the king say unto them on his right hand (those who are soon afterwards described as “the righteous,') Come, ye blessed of my Father: inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. ... ... Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand (the selfish and the wicked, who are here described as neglecting their duty to God and man,) Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels And these shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal :" "Matt. xxv, 31
Thus it appears, that the very same record from which, if we are faithful and obedient, we derive our hopes of the incorruptible, immortal, crown of righteousness, declares to us, in terms equally emphatic, that the punishment of a life of sin is never-ending misery.
It has indeed been remarked, that the Greek adjective, rendered in this passage "eternal” and “ everlasting” (for it is the same word in both instances, *) is one of indefinite meaning, and sometimes expresses a duration of great and uncertain length, yet short of a real eternity. This observation is well founded ; for neither the Greek nor the Hebrew language supplies any single word which unequivocally and uniformly denotes a proper eternity. 6. Eternal life,” in its literal interpretation, is the “ life of ages,” and “ everlasting punishment,” the “punishment of ages.” Readily, however, as this allowance may be made, there are many strong reasonsreasons which, on the whole, appear to be quite irresistiblefor our acceding to the commonly-received interpretation of
this awful term in both parts of the passage before us. These reasons may now be briefly stated.
1. Although the adjective here used is in its nature indefinite, and sometimes expresses a duration which will end, yet it ought to be remembered, that it is very usually employed to express an absolute eternity. Thus, out of the seventy-one instances of its occurrence in the New Testament, there are only four in which it is supposed, by the generality of biblical critics, to bear a less comprehensive signification ; and even in these four instances the word is capable, I would submit, of being understood in its highest sense : see Rom. xvi, 25 : 2 Tim. i, 9: Tit. i, 2: Philem. 15: vide Schleusner, Lex. in loc.
2. A sound judgment may generally be formed respecting the extent of the meaning of this and similar terms, from a consideration of the acknowledged nature of the persons, beings, or substances, to which it is applied. If, for example, we read that a human dynasty is to endure for ever, we naturally understand the expression “ for ever,” as relating only to a long and indefinite duration ; but if we find it declared that the reign of God or of Christ is everlasting, we of course receive the term “everlasting” in its fullest sense. Now, I presume it will be allowed, that our Lord is here speaking of mankind, not as dying creatures, but with reference to their immortal nature: for the doctrine on which this passage, and all similar passages of Scripture, are grounded--a doctrine understood and received by the plurality of those persons amongst whom our Lord exercised his ministry—was this: that “God created man to be immortal, and made him to be an image of his own eternity:" Wisd. Sol. ii, 23 ; comp. Joseph. de Bell. Jud. lib. II, cap. viii, $ 14. The never-dying man may be lost, or he may be saved : in either case he exists for ever ; and it is to his everlasting existence that the Scriptures plainly annex either happiness or misery.
We feel no difficulty in applying the principle of interpretation now stated to everlasting life, and to all the glorious privileges which are to be enjoyed, during a boundless future, by the servants and children of God. We know that man is, in one point of view, by nature immortal; and therefore, when we read of his enjoying eternal happiness, peace, and glory (and all these notions are included in the word life,) we conclude, at once, that of this happiness, peace, and glory, there will be no end ; nor does it appear that any critic has ever denied that a real eternity is, in all these examples, denoted by the word “eternal.” It is not that happiness, peace, and glory,
are in themselves necessarily eternal, for they may often be bestowed only for a season: it is that they are described as appertaining to an immortal being, in reference to his immortality. Now, the same principle obviously applies to the interpretation of those passages in Scripture which declare the eternal sufferings of the wicked. Pain and sorrow are often indeed inflicted for a time; but when the future pain and sorrow of the wicked are mentioned, we conclude that they can never end, because they are equally described as eternal, and equally represented as attaching to a being who cannot die, in reference to his immortality. Besides, the two branches of the doctrine are in this passage placed in opposition to one another. Since, then, we here understand the word “ eternal," when it relates to the happiness of the righteous, in its fullest sense, it would certainly be an unwarrantable departure from the laws of a just and sound philology, did we refuse to receive the same term, used in the same sentence, and applied to the same immortal being, in its fullest sense also, when the opposite and corresponding branch of the doctrine is brought forward, and when the term relates to the misery of the wicked.
3. One of the criteria, by which we may be the most assisted in determining the meaning of any doctrinal passage of the New Testament, will often be found in the known theological opinions of the Jews, at the Christian era. Now, it is certain that the doctrine of future rewards and punishments was then commonly received amongst that people, upheld in a very zealous manner, more especially by those orthodox sects (as they were generally reputed) the Essenes and the Pharisees. And, since we are in possession of evidence, in the works of Josephus, that the punishments inflicted on the wicked, in a future world, were considered by the Esssenes and the Pharisees to be unceasing and ever-enduring, we may reasonably conclude that this was the only sense in which our Lord's expressions could be understood by his hearers : the only sense, therefore, in which they can rightly be interpreted in the present day.*
* Speaking of the opinions of the Essenes, respecting the misery of the souls of the wicked after death, Josephus says, tais de pauzdis, ζοφώδη και χειμέριον αφορίζονται μυχόν, γέμοντα τιμωριών αδιαλείπτων. “ But to wicked souls they allot a dark and wintry abyss, full of punishments, which cease not." The doctrine of the Pharisees he states as follows: ψυχήν δε πάσαν μεν άφθαρτον, μεταβαίνειν δε εις έτερον σώμα την των αγαθών μόνην, την δε των φαύλων, αΐδια τιμωρία κολάζεσθαι· « That every soul is immortal; that the soul of the righteous only enters into
4. Our Lord declares, that the “ everlasting fire,” to which the wicked are to be consigned, is prepared for “the devil and his angels.” The wicked, therefore, are to participate in the same punishment as is the lot of the higher powers of darkness. Now, the punishment of these evil spirits is elsewhere described as eternal, in still more powerful and unequivocal language than is employed in the passage before us. We are told that. it must continue “ day and night for ever and ever :" Rev. xx, 10. The punishments of the wicked—the children of Satan -are indeed set before us in another passage of the Revelation, in the very same terms. " And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever : and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name :” xiv, 11.
5. The positive declaration pronounced by Jesus Christ, respecting the eternity of the happiness and life of the righteous, and of the punishment of the wicked, corresponds with other passages in his discourses, in which the same doctrine is promulgated in a negative form : “ Verily, verily, I say un. to you, if a man keep iny saying, he shall never see death:” Jobn vili, 51. 66 Whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die:" John xi, 26. So, on the other hand, of the "fire" and the “worm” which represent the future sufferings of the wicked, our Lord has left on record, that the one is unquenchable, and the other immortal. 66 If thy hand offend thee,” said he, "cút it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than, having two hands, to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched :" Mark ix, 43, 44.
Since, then, the word rendered everlasting, in Matt. xxv, 46, is so generally employed, in the New Testament, to denote an absolute eternity; since, in that passage, its meaning is fixed by its application to mankind in reference to their inimortality, and by the fact, that eternal happiness and eternal
another body ; but that the soul of the wicked is consigned to ever-enduring punishment:" De Bell. Jud. lib. II, cap. 8, sect. xi. xiv. It may, indeed, be remarked, that the terms ůstáa eittos and aidies, like the term aiúv!os, do not necessarily express an absolute eternity. Nevertheless, since we find the doctrine of eternal punishments described by writers nearly cotemporary, with so considerable a variety of language --since the terms used are uniformly such as may be most properly construed in the sense of a real eternity-and since none of these wri. ters afford the least hint that any thing short of it was intended to be expressed by them—we may safely conclude, that the doctrine in question was held by the Jews and Christians of that date, in the eame sense, and with the same force, as in the present day.