Page images

3. What Mr. B. has to say in respect to the above classes, being differently interpreted by some orthodox writers, and by Balfour's Second Inquiry—and being without examples of such usage, is welcome to pass for what it is worth. It is all an attempt to throw dust in the eyes of readers that do not understand the nature of philological inquiries. The design of exhibiting these passages, in such a form, without comment, except here and there an explanatory remark, is that every reader may see with his own eyes, untrammelled by comments, and judge by the connexion and subject, whether or not the writer is correct in his classification. If Mr. B. had employed himself in proving the incorrectness of the classification, instead of quoting some conceits of some orthodox writers, and calling for more comments, he would have labored more to the point.

The next class contains a peculiar meaning of this word,that of a generation of men considered either as to the time in which they live or as to the persons themselves. Eph. 2: 2. Ye walked according to the course of this world.

Next, under a distinct head, are arranged all the cases in which the word is used in reference to the punishment of the wicked. 2 Pet. 2: 17. To whom the mist of darkness is reserved forever. Jude 13. For whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever. Rev. 14: 11. The smoke of their torment ascendeth up forever and ever. 19: 3. The smoke of her torment ascendeth up forever and ever. 20: 10. And they shall be tormented continually, forever and ever.

The above embrace all, except a few instances in which the genuineness of the text has been disputed. Here again we have one of Mr. B.'s calls for comments. But Mr. Stuart as yet draws no conclusion from the texts. But he only says they relate to the punishment of the wicked, which Mr. B. will not deny whether that punishment be endless, is the question to be settled, when all the evidence is brought together. The mere throwing of these texts together, in this connexion, with a special request that the reader would suspend his judgment, seems to throw the man into a panic, and sets him invoking the aid of his Second Inquiry, as if he were conscious that eve

ry reader would find it impossible to suspend his judgment. Having laid out these passages according to their classes, with an appeal to the common sense of the reader, for the correctness of the classifications, Mr. S. proceeds to sum up the result, and he finds the whole number of instances of the use of the word to be ninety-five. In sixteen of these, it is used in ascriptions of praise to God and Christ. In five, it is applied to God or Christ, who liveth forever. In four, it is employed to designate the dominion of Christ. In one, it is said the Word of God abideth forever. In nine, it is applied to the future happiness of the saints. In eighteen, it designates the sense of ever, with the negative never. In seven, indefinite time past. In three, age in the sense of dispensation. In three, the world, present or future, with reference to a period of duration. In twelve, the world as a scene of trials. In eleven, the world as a place of residence for men. In one, generation of men. By comparing these together, he finds that those which have a simple respect to future time, forty-nine out of the whole, besides those which relate to punishment, are all employed in the sense of unlimited duration. The seven which relate to time past, designate either past eternity, or a long and unlimited duration. And the four which relate to the dominion of Christ, understood either way, must designate at least a future indefinite period, if not a proper eternity. And the remaining thirty cases designate world in our sense of that word. From these premises he brings the conclusion, that there are fifty-five in which the word certainly means unlimited duration, either future or past, besides those which relate to punishment. And there is no case in which it is employed to designate a definite period. Hence he concludes, that when it simply marks · time, in the New Testament, it marks indefinite unlimited time. All the other instances wherein the word signifies world, except those which speak of the future world as a state of retribution, are foreign to the question about future punishment.

Mr. B.'s reply to this summing up of the matter, is, in the first place, that Mr. S. spends more pages in summing up, than in explaining the texts. Secondly, that he differs from other Or

thodox writers with regard to a number of the texts. Thirdly, that this way of proof is that of mere assertion. Fourthly, that aion is oftener used in the sense of world, than in application to future punishment. Fifthly, that he knows of no critic or commentator who agrees with Mr. S., that "in three cases it is applied to designate age or dispensation." Sixthly, that the Talmudic and Rabbinic writers are called in to explain about one third of the ninety-five texts. Of the force, fairness, and relevancy of such suggestions, in this place, the reader will judge.

The meaning of Aionios. By the same method of classitication, the steps of which I will not detail in this place, Mr. Stuart gets the result, that there are sixty-six cases in which the word is employed in the New Testament; of these fifty-one are used in relation to the happiness of the righteous—two in relation to God or his glory-six are of a miscellaneous natureand seven relate to the subject of future punishment. That in all instances in which it relates to future time, it is certain that they designate unlimited duration, (excepting, of course, those which relate to punishment.) That if they have not that meaning, 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.

Here Mr. B. raises a hue and cry, about Talmudic and Rabbinic writers being mentioned. Though they were mentioned by Mr. S. only by way of explaining a fact, which fact was to be proved from other sources. Mr S. tells us that the ancient Hebrews had no adjective, derived from Olim; but that the Talmudic writers formed one, and that this was equivalent to the Greek aienios. But he makes no reliance on this assertion, as proving what is the meaning of aionios. He proves that meaning, by quoting the passages wherein it is used. But here Mr. B. suffers his indignation to kindle; calls for divine authority, which the Talmudic writers had to make such an adjective, as if lexicons were inspired books: and he intimates the sinfulness of the thought, that Christ and his apostles would use words in the same sense, that the Talmudic writers did,


And this is a fair specimen of his mode of argument through the whole book. In respect to the class of passages which Mr. S. makes to refer to the happiness of heaven, Mr. B. asks—The happiness of the righteous where? and says that they say nothing about their endless happiness in heaven. To this I answer, Mr. B. may choose his place where he will locate it; it is the happiness of the righteous, and on all grounds there is reason to believe that to be without end, let it be where it will. Through the other classes he keeps up his complaint, that the passages are quoted without note or comment, as if the laying out of a plain passage to speak for itself were an act of unfairMr. Balfour requires, that it shall not only be asserted that the punishment is eternal, but that it is to be in the future world. "Prove, my dear Sir, that any text says the punishment is beyond the grave, and I give you no further trouble in opposing endless punishment." More than this can easily be done. It can be proved that it is beyond the resurrection. In Rev. 20: 15. after what Mr. B. admits to be a description of the resurrection, after the sea, death and hades delivered up their dead, it is added, and whosoever was not found written in the book of life, was cast into the lake of fire. But it is asking too much to require, that the assertions of eternal punishment shall be accompanied with the designation of the place where it will be executed. The assertions of God's eternity, are not accompanied always with the geography of the world, where he displays his peculiar presence. Mr. B. often insists that the passages which express the eternity of the happiness of the righteous, shall not be brought as evidence that that other class imply the eternity of punishment, because he pretends to have proved that the eternal life of which they speak is confined to this world. In relation to this, I have nothing further to say. I refer the reader to my remarks on that subject, in the last chapter. If any man is so far lost to common sense, as to believe Mr. B.'s positions in relation to that subject, I expect he will believe in no punishment beyond the grave, or in any thing else, however absurd. These will serve as a specimen of Mr. B.'s treatment of the subject.

The result, then, to which the subject was brought by Mr.. Stuart, is, that while the words aion and aionios are never used to designate a period with definite limits, in a great majority of instances they denote an endless duration. In sixty instances, applied to the rewards of the future world, the reader will see that the duration is as endless as those rewards. What reason then is there for believing, that when applied twelve times to punishment, they import a limited duration? By what principles of interpreting language can we avoid the conclusion, that the meaning is the same in both cases? So of the cases where glory and praise are ascribed to God, forever, none will pretend that that is for a limited period; but what reason for a limit in case of everlasting punishment which does not here exist?

The literal and proper sense of these words must be confessed to be that of everlasting or eternal. And we are always to understand words in their literal and proper sense, unless there be something in the manner in which they are used, to determine it to be a metaphorical use. Now if that which is called eternal in one place, is said in another place to come to an end, as where it is said the earth abideth forever, and in other places it is said it will have an end, or as when the ceremonial law was said to abide forever, and yet foretold by prophets to be coming to an end,--in such cases we are to understand the term in a metaphorical sense, unless the thing said to come to an end be spoken of in different senses. So when the sacred history assures us that that which was said to be forever, had come to an end; or when the thing spoken of is known to be in its nature incapable of eternal duration, as in case of the servant forever, we are to understand the forever to be figurative. These classes, I conceive, comprise all the cases, where the word signifying duration is to be understood metaphorically. But the Universalists will find it impossible to bring the assertions of eternal punishment, under either of these classes. It is nowhere said of that punishment, to which the wicked will go with the devil and his angels, Matt. 25: that it will have an end, nor that it has already come to an end, nor that the soul to be punished is incapable of living through eternity.

« PreviousContinue »