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xxxvii. 11–14.) In this place, the civil and moral degradation of the Jews are set forth under the figure of their death, and the perishing of the flesh from off their bones. Their moral and civil restoration are exhibited under the figure of opening their graves and raising them to life. On the whole, then, it must, I think, be manifest to the enlightened reader, that the import of the passages before us is, that Christ, by the word of his gospel, and the ministry of his apostles, was about to call men forth from the graves of superstition and ignorance, in which they had long been buried—that as they came forth to the light of the truth, they should experience justification, or condemnation, according as their past actions had or had not been in accordance with its dictates, or according as their disposition was to receive or reject this gospel. This important work had already begun in Christ's day, but it was destined soon to take effect upon a much wider scale, and, eventually, it shall be universal in its extent. This gospel would affect the vicious subject of its awakening power, in like manner as Paul had been affected by the law. It brought home his sins to his conscience, and thereby slew him, or overthrew his fancied security. (Rom. vii.) But the gospel condemns the sin that it may save the sinner.
Observe, now, what phraseology the apostles were accustomed to employ: “Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dust, and Christ shall give thee light.” (Ephes. v. 14.) “ You hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sin.” (Ephes. ii. 1.) “ If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above." (Col. iii. 1.) Indeed, the world was considered as dead, and buried in sin and superstitious ignorance. Hence, the necessity of being regenerated, or made alive again, in order to admission into the kingdom, or church of Christ. The word was considered as having a regenerating, a revitalising influence; hence, Paul tells the Corinthians, “ For in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.” (I Cor. iv. 15.) It were needless, I think, to attempt making the subject plainer; it were quite sufficient to insist, that Christ could not have meant to teach the doctrine of a final doom upon the spirits of men after the resurrection, for the reason that a calamity so terrible would infinitely exceed in magnitude all the calamities together which have transpired since time began; whereas, as I have elsewhere shown, the
Savior has himself declared, that as great a tribulation as that attending Jerusalem's destruction had never before transpired since the beginning of the creation, “NO, NOR EVER SHALL BE."
s. Then said Jesus again unto them, I go my way, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins : whither I go, ye cannot come.” (St. John viii. 21.) It is to be considered in this objection, 1st. That the party addressed should seek Christ, but nevertheless die in their sins ; which implies that they should not find the Savior. 2nd. They were to fail of ever getting to heaven, for thither Christ went, and “whither I go,” said he, "ye cannot come.” Each of these considerations, separately considered, seems sufficient to exclude them from hope ; but together they present a barrier to their salvation which appears insuperable.
It is admitted that thousands, yea, millions, fail of finding the Savior in this life; but this is conceived to be no reason why they should to all eternity fail of salvation. The scriptures acquaint us with but one way of access to the Father, and that is by Jesus Christ. The Savior positively declares there is no other. We have every reason for believing that ninety-nine hundredths of mankind, including infants and the heathen, die without a saving acquaintance with Christ; if on this ground, therefore, we exclude any from hope forever, all must be so excluded for the same reason; consequently, this part of the objection, if it prove any thing, proves too much. It does so for another reason. I have shown, in a previous part of this work, that every intelligent being is ultimately to be made acquainted with Christ, and to acknowledge him also, “ to the glory of God the Father;" (Phil. ii. 9-11.) which sufficiently proves that the opportunity for becoming acquainted with the gospel is not limited to the term of this life; and also, that if it were so limited, a very, very small moiety of our race would be saved ; and the realms of hell would be peopled by ninety-nine hundredths of mankind! The main strength of the objection, therefore, must depend on the clause, " whither I go ye cannot come.” But before this can be admitted
as an argument in proof of the endless ruin of those to whom it was addressed, a question or two must be settled. 1st. Did the Savior refer to the realms of bliss when he said, whither I go ? He may simply have alluded to his death, which would put him beyond the reach of their power. 2nd. Granting that he alluded to the realms of bliss, does it follow that because they could not then follow him, they never should do so ? But what is most fatal to the objection is, that Christ addressed the very same language to his own apostles! Are they, therefore, to fail forever of getting to heaven. “ Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and as I said uuto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot comes so now I say to you.” (St. John xiii. 33.) You perceive that he not merely addressed to his disciples the same language as is urged in the objection, but in the same sense ; 6 and as I said unto the Jews, whither I go ye cannot come, so now I say to you.” Except, then, this language be considered as warranting the belief, that our Lord's own apostles shall be endlessly damned, the objection before us has no weight.
Great use has been made of it, nevertheless; and in order to increase its terrifying power, it is very generally altered from its true reading; the version of it in most common use is as follows: “ If ye die in your sins, where God and Christ is ye never can come.” I doubt not that in tracts and religious almanacs it is often to be found in this very form, but these with me have not authority quite equivalent to the bible.
OBJECTION III. “ Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men; but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be for. given him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.” (Matt. xii. 31, 32.) Mark's version of this matter is still more decisive against the Universalist faith ; it is even pretended that Matthew's rather favors it than otherwise ; " for (say the advocates of a future limited punishment) the very declaration that this par. ticular offence shall not be forgiven in the world to come, seems
naturally to imply that all other sins may; and as for this, although not pardoned in the present nor in the next world, (or age, which is the more proper reading) it yet may be in a world or age still subsequent, for the scriptures speak of a plurality of æions (worlds or ages) to come.” Now the text as it stands in Mark cannot be evaded in this way it there reads that the blasphemer against the Holy Spirit “ hath never forgiveness. Nor is this all ; for if it were, it might still be pretended that nothing was meant more than that the blasphemer shall be certainly punished to the full amount, and after that he might be exempt as a matter of right, not of pardon; in like manner as a criminal may come out of prison on the expiration of his term, and the law can have no further demands against him for that offence. But the text in Mark bars this evasion also ; it declares that the blasphemer against the Holy Spirit “ is in danger of eternal damnation." How now will this objection be met ?
Not very easily, reader, I grant, for you have presented it in the most formidable shape possible; it can be met, nevertheless, and satisfactorily too, I trust. 1st. Drs. Campbell, Clarke, McKnight, and Lightfoot, though believers in endless misery, have decided that the phrase, “neither in this world, neither in the world to come,” is not to be understood as referring to the present and the future states of man; but to the then present dispensation, (the Mosaic) and that which was about to succeed it. (the Christian.) The Methodist commentator is decidedly of opinion that the punishment for this offence was to be of a temporal character; and that in the declaration that it should not be forgiven, Christ intended nothing more than to rank it with the highest class of offences under the law, which were punished with death, and for which nothing but death would atone. But there is no evidence in either case, he thinks, that the punishment was to extend to the soul of the offender in another life. None, indeed, (as he remarks) could commit this particular sin, save those who, witnessing with their senses the performance of his miracles, imputed them to demoniacal influence. 2nd. As to the phrase “ eternal damnation,” it must be confessed a very strong—a too strong rendering of the Greek text; it may bear it, indeed, but it is not in keeping with the context. It is well known that the word damnation comes from a term which is susceptible of various interpretations, and which actually is in other places rendered sometimes judgment, sometimes condemnation; these, it is true, are strictly as strong in meaning as is the term damnation, but they are not so considered in ordinary usage; to the word damnation a terrible significance has been attached, which neither its etymology nor scripture authority will justify. The term eternal, too, comes from a Greek word of very equivocal signification; it sometimes means a limited, sometimes unlimited duration; sometimes a definite period, as the duration of human life; sometimes an indefinite period, as during the continuance of an existing state or order of things; in this last sense it is employed in the passage before us—"neither in this æion, neither in the æion to come;" that is, neither in the Mosaic age, neither in the age of the Messiah. It cannot here mean eternity, for it were nonsense to talk of a plurality of eternities ; hence, I have said that the rendering of the original here by the phrase eternal damnation, is too strong, and not in keeping with the context; it might with more propriety have been rendered, the condemnation of the age, a phrase sufficiently awful in its meaning, when we come to know the dreadful and complicated calamities which impended over the heads of that wicked generation, and in these, those blaspheming Jews, who imputed to demoniacal agency the works which Christ performed by the Spirit of God, were doomed to experience their full share.
Thus is this objection disposed of, without the least violence, as I think, to either of the texts containing it. Many weak persons (as Dr. Clarke observes) are apt to be thrown into terror, oftentimes despair, by the persuasion that they have committed this unpardonable sin; and that, therefore, the irrevocable sentence of eternal damnation has gone forth against them. How much superfluous misery has been entailed upon mankind by false views of God, and by false interpretations of scripture! And is it not unaccountable, reader, that we should rest so contentedly in views so contradictory, that whilst we admit the divine mercy to be infinite, we nevertheless suppose there are cases of sin entirely beyond its reach!!!