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THE SIGNIFICATION OF THE WORDS EVERLASTING, ETERNAL,
FOREVER, &c., AS APPLIED TO THE PUNISHMENT OF THE
On this subject, Mr. B. has given his views at large, both in his second Inquiry and in his Reply to Stuart's Exegetical Essays. And I shall attempt in this chapter, either directly to notice or virtually to answer every thing that is material in his discussion of the subject in both. But no reader of this reply to Stuart, will expect me to wade through the whole mass of irrelevant matter, sophistical evasions, and appeals to the passions and prejudices of the Universalists. There is
little in it which may not safely be left to any unprejudiced mind, even of limited information. Mr. B. labors the proof that Mr. Stuart's Essays were intended as an answer to his writings, though Mr. S. had expressly disclaimed all polemical references, except in one instance named, and that, not Mr. B.; as though it were an important object gained, to have been referred to by Mr. Stuart. But the question whether Mr. Stuart's Essays were intended as an answer to Balfour, is almost the only question fairly at issue, in the whole reply, that he attempts to meet by direct and logical proofs. He talks about it and about it, through more than two hundred pages, but he does not begin to reply to the proofs presented by Mr. Stuart.
For the sake of bringing as much of the argument as may be into as little compass as possible, by way of abbreviation, I shall, on this subject, make use of Mr. Stuart's classification of passages in part, referring the reader to his Essays for many important views of the subject, which do not properly come within the design of this chapter. I do not design in this place to consider the subject with much reference to those who admit a limited punishment in the future world, though it will be seen that the arguments presented, will go with equal force against both systems of Universalism. If it be proved that the wicked are punished through a proper eternity, Mr. Balfour's system of no future punishment of course is excluded. And we have now particular reference to that system.
The question now before us, turns on the signification of two words in the New Testament, Aion, and its derivative Aionios, rendered everlasting, eternal, forever, &c. Mr. Stuart has given every instance of the use of these words, arranged in different classes, according to their signification. And I shall first present the substance of this part of his investigation; considering by the way, Mr. B.'s reply. His first class of meanings of aion, is that of " An indefinite period of time, time without limitation, ever, forever, time without end, and eternity, all in relation to the future.” This class is subdivided into those, in the first place, “which have reference to God or Christ, to what belongs to him, or is rendered to him, or will be rendered to him, and which, from his nature, and the nature of things, cannot be supposed to have an end.” As Rom. 1: 25. The Creator who is blessed forever. Rom. 9: 5. God over all, blessed forever. Rom. 11:36. To whom be glory forever. And the following, making in all, twenty-two instances. Rom. 16: 27. 2 Cor. 11: 31. Gal. 1:5. Eph.3:21. Phil. 4:20. 1 Tim. 1: 17. 2 Tim. 4: 18. Heb. 3: 21. 1 Peter 1: 25. 1 Peter 4: 11. 1 Peter 5: 11. 1 Peter 3: 18. Rev. 1: 6. 1: 18. 4: 9. 4: 10. 7: 12. 10: 6. 15: 7. Here the instances are quoted, and the reader left to judge for himself, whether in these cases the words have not the force ascribed to them. Mr. B. does not deny but that these meanings are properly given. But will have us to understand that if the word “ means eternity in any case, it is not from the native meaning of the word,” but from the object with which it is associated. But pray how do we learn the native meaning of a word but by its prevailing use, or the objects with which it is generally associated ? And the inquiry now is respecting its native meaning, as deducible from its use in
connexion with other objects, than that of punishment. Mr. B.'s assumption, that the object to which the qualifying word is applied must determine what the qualification is,—that the object to which a word expressing duration is applied, must determine the extent of the duration, in a given case, separately considered,—would render such qualifying words utterly useless. If the duration is expressed in the object itself, why use that word eternal which is so pliable as to mean anything or nothing, according to the object to which it is applied ? Each word is supposed to have of itself a meaning, and this meaning discoverable by the objects to which it is currenlly applied. And the inquiry is how, and to what objects, is it cur- : rently applied.
Mr. Stuart's second class of texts, under this head, are "those which have reference to the happiness of the pious, especially to their happiness in heaven,” as follows: John 6: 51. If any man eat of this bread he shall live forever. John 8: 51. If a man shall kcep my sayings, he shall never see death. John 6: 58. 8: 52. 10: 28. 11: 26. 2 Cor. 9: 9. 1 John 2: 17. Rev. 22: 5. Here Mr. B. makes it an objection that Mr. S. passes these. texts without comment, assuming that they refer to the happiness of heaven. The matter is simply this. Mr. Stuart quotes these texts and lodges the appeal with the common sense of every reader, if they do not refer to the happiness of the future world. Deeming it so clear that they have that reference, he chooses to leave them without comment; or rather he asserts that they have that meaning, and challenges contradiction, leaving the matter in such a shape, that every man can judge for himself as to the soundness of his premises. That Mr. Balfour has made it a question whether these and such like passages refer to the happiness of heaven, none will wonder, after having noticed his views of the subject of eternal life. But yet every reader is supposed to have common sense, and to be capable of judging with regard to the use of the word in such
And the appeal is from his sophistries to their common
Mr. Stuart's third class of meanings, under tnis head, is that
of a period unlimited or without bounds, i. e. ever and (with a negative) never. As Matt. 25: 19. Let there be no fruit of thee forever. And Mark 11: 14. the same. Mark 3: 29. Whosoever shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness. Luke 1:33. He shall reign over the house of David forever. Luke 1: 55. John 4: 14. John 8:35. 12:34. 13: 8. 14: 16. 1 Cor. 8: 13. Heb. 1: 8. 5: 6. 6:20. 7: 17. 7: 21. 7: 24. 7: 28. 13: 8. 2 John 5: 2. Rev. 5: 12. 11: 15. Mr. B. here comments upon the word forever, in relation to the curse upon the fig-tree. But as he does not deny that it means unlimited time, his remarks are nothing in point; for he admits all that Stuart asserts. He also calls in question the propriety of classing the above passage, which speaks of Christ reigning over the house of David forever, under this head, and finds fault with Mr. Stuart's reasons for doing it. Though there is a sense in which Christ's mediatorial kingdom will come to an end, Mr. Stuart took the ground that there is also a more spiritual sense, in which it has no endin which it will continue after the appropriate reign of the Messiah has ceased. Because other passages ascribe endless dominion to Christ, and because in this verse it is added, And of his kingdom there shall be no end. To this latter proof Mr. B. replies, that it must be a limited forever, because it is said, He shall reign over the house of David, which must be confined to this world. But he ought to know, that the house of David had become as much a name for the head of the church, as Israel had for the church itself. Besides, if Mr. B. insists upon a literal understanding of the phrase, house of David, he is involved in a difficulty. Christ never did reign over the literal house of David. In the same sense is it true that Christ will reign over the house of David, in the heavenly world, as that he reigned over it in this world. That the forever in this verse is synonymous with endless, is beyond question; inasmuch as it is added—And of his kingdom there shall be no end. And that it means endless, without end, or limit, is what is asserted in the classification.
Mr. Stuart's next class contains those passages, in which the word refers to past time, and that an indefinite or unlimited period. They are the following: Luke 1: 70. As he spoke by the mouth of all his holy prophets which have been since the world began. Acts 15: 18. Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world. And 1 Cor. 2: 7. Eph. 3: 9. 3:11. Col. 1: 26. John 9: 32. To this class Mr. B. makes no objections.
The next class is of those passages wherein the word has a tacit reference to the idea of age, or period of time, and also a particular reference to quantity of time, as a whole, either past or future—as we speak in English of the patriarchal age or ante-diluvian age. Eph. 2: 7. That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace. Heb. 6: 5. Tasted the good word of God and powers of the world to come. And 1 Cor. 10:11. Mr. B. gives no reasons why these texts may not be so arranged.
Mr. Stuart next introduces his second general class of meanings, in which the word has a secondary and peculiar sense, borrowed from the Hebrew, viz. that of world, as present world, or future world. The first subdivision is of those which imply world present, or future, with a special reference to time or duration. Matt. 12: 32. Shall not be forgiven, neither in this world nor in that which is to come. Mark 10: 30. Shall receive an hundred fold in the present time, and in the world to come, life everlasting. And Luke 18: 20.
In the next place, we have a class in which the word denotes the world, with its cares, business, temptations, &c. Matt. 13: 22. The cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word. Mark 4: 19. Luke 16: 8. 20: 34. Rom. 12: 2. 1 Cor. 1: 20. 2: 6. 2: 8. 2 Cor. 4: 4. Gal. 1: 4. 2 Tim. 4: 10. Titus 2: 12.
The next class is made of those, in which the word denotes the world itself as an object of actual existence, and this either present or future. Matt. 13: 40. So shall it be in the end of the world. Mark 13: 49. Matt. 24: 3. What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world ? Matt. 28: 20. I am with you always unto the end of the world. Luke 20:35. 1 Cor. 3: 18. Eph. 2: 21. 1 Tim. 1: 17. 6: 17. Heb. I: 2. Heb. 2: