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instance, forever is applied to a period of three days. (Jonah ii. 6.) If such uses of terms were only occasional, if they occurred but now and then, and after long intervals, we might suppose them employed out of their strict and ordinary signification; but such is far from the fact; on the contrary, their application to limited periods is so frequent, that the best critics in the languages have defined them as “expressing duration, but with great variety."
That they are frequently used to express eternity is granted, chiefly as applied to God and his attributes; but then, it must be observed, their being so applied is no evidence, that this is their radical meaning, for we also find days, years, and ages, similarly applied. (Ps. Ixxxix. 29; Mic. v. 2; Ps. cii. 24, 27; Isa. xxvi. 4; Ephe. iii. 21.) Yet surely none will hence infer that these words, apart from their connexion, imply eternity, although as thus applied they undeniably do. The same is true of everlasting, forever, etc. : when the subject to which they are applied is in its own nature eternal, they are to be understood as expressing that sense ; but when the duration of the subject is limited, they must be understood as implying but a limited duration.
Seemeth it at all probable, reader, that if the radical sense of these words were as affirmed by the doctors of endless misery, Jehovah would have employed them as he has in his commands to the Jews ? He surely did not purpose that their peculiar religion should be of perpetual obligation; yet he directed that the priesthood should be everlasting. (Ex. xl. 15.) He set apart the house of Aaron to this office forever. (Deut. xviii. 5.) He gave the Jews the land of Canaan for an everlasting possession. (Gen. xvii. 8; xlviii. 4.) He instituted the sabbath as a sign betwixt him and them forever. (Numb. x. 8.) The atonement was to be an everlasting statute. (Lev. xvi. 34.) Their ordinances of the passover, (Ex. xii. 15.) tabernable, (Ibid. xxxi. 17.) and circumcision, (Deut. xxviii. 46.) were to last forever. And the same term, in its duplicated form, is applied to their possession of the promised land, forever and ever. (Jer. vii. 7; xxv. 5.) Many similar texts might be quoted, in which these terms are used in a way greatly to have deceived the Jews, if their generally received sense had been unending duration; for they would in that case naturally have inferred that their institutions were to continue
without end, whereas it is well known that God meant it but as a preparatory dispensation, to be succeeded by another of superior excellence and glory.
In Hawes' Reasons against Universalism, (published by the American Tract Society,) it is affirmed of these terms that they “ invariably imply the longest duration of which the subject to which they are applied is capable.” About as true, this, as many other statements in the same work. Was not the Jewish sabbath capable of being continued longer than it was? Was Canaan incapable of being possessed by them to the end of time? Was not their priesthood capable of being continued indefinitely ? Could not Jehovah have secured the sacerdotal office to the family of Phineas (in which it was to continue forever) for more than 400 years? Was the fish incapable of containing Jonah for more than three days ? Truth is, that the declaration falls about as far within the range of truth, as does Nova Zembla within the torrid circle; if I had faith in its verity I should turn Jew at once.
Let us suppose a person, believing in endless misery, to be sent on a mission to a colony of Jews, for the purpose of converting them to christianity; he begins by acknowledging their religion to have been instituted by Jehovah, and to have continued in force for nearly fifteen centuries, but it at length (he tells them) gave place to the religion of Messiah, “who hath changed the customs which Moses delivered," and that all men are now called upon, under a penalty of eternal damnation, to abjure their former faiths, and modes of worship, and become the subjects of the gospel kingdom. They ask him what he understands to be the radical meaning of the terms everlasting, and forever. How, now, shall he answer them? If he say, that they only require to be understood in the sense of endless, when the subject is such in its nature, he will be conceding to universalism all it asks; he will be compromiting the main reliance of the dogma of endless suffering. This will not do. If, on the other hand, he tell them, with Mr. Hawes, that they invariably imply the longest duration of which the subject to which they are applied is capable, he will subject himself to their scorn. • What !” they will exclaim, “ call you upon us to abjure the religion of our fathers, in favor of an upstart system which originated fifteen hundred centuries later, when by your own acknowledgement we are commanded to
retain the former for as long as it is capable of being observed ; for our statutes, and ordinances, and priesthood, were all to be everlasting, forever, etc., and these imply the longest duration of which the subject is capable! Why, sir, since you acknowledge the divinity of our scriptures, it becometh you rather to turn Jew, than to call upon us to become christians !"
Our missionary would find himself in a sad quandary here.
It may be said, however, that as the immortal state is more distinctly revealed in the New Testament than in the Old, the terms rendered forever, etc., may be used in the former in a more definite and uniform sense. We will see how this is. The primary word in the Hebrew is oulem, in the Greek it is aion; the authors of the Septuagint have uniformly employed the latter, in rendering the former, which shows that in their judgment these terms are of similar signification; and who so capable of judging as they, who were conversant with both languages as spoken ? Truth is, that aion, by the consent of the most eminent linguists, is of as uncertain signification as oulem. Alexander Campbell says, “ils radical idea is indefinite duration.” We need only to remark its various applications in the New Testament, to be convinced of this.
It is true that Dr. Clarke says in one place, that it is the strongest word that could have been employed for expressing the eternity of punishment; and his judgment would have been entitled to respect, high respect, were it not nullified by what him, self has said, of the same term in other places, as well as by the fact of its frequent application to periods of time. Eternity never had a beginning, but the beginning of aion is alluded to in five different passages. (Luke i. 70; John ix. 32; Acts iii. 21 ; xv. 18; Ephe. iii. 9.) Eternity can have no end, whereas the end of aion is spoken of in several places. (1 Cor. x. 11; Heb. ix. 26; and five times in Matthew.) There can be but one eternity, but the scriptures mention a plurality of aion's. (Tim. i. 17; Ephe. iii. 17; Col. i. 25.) It is absurd to speak of this eternity, in distinction from a future eternity ; but the scriptures speak of this aion, and the aion to come, in several instances. (Matt. xii. 32 ; Mark x. 30; Luke xviii. 30; Gal. i. 4; 2 Tim. iv. 10. etc.; to
Matt. xiii. 32 ; Heb. vi. 5.) And yet aion is the strongest term that could have been used to express endless misery! The
doctor's creed was sadly in the way of his candor when he penned this affirmation.
That the scriptures do employ stronger terms for expressing the duration of the future life, of the glory of heaven, and the risen nature of man, is past denial; they inform us that our being in the resurrection shall be one of incorruption, of immortality, of glory: we shall die no more; Christ was made, (they say,) " after the power of an endless life." And Christ has said, “ Because I live, ye shall live also ;" as therefore his life is endless, the reason for our life will be endless also. Could the scriptures not have guarantied the eternity of torments by some such expressions ? That they could must be admitted, and that they have not is evidence that this doctrine was not designed to be taught therein.
From the writings and preaching of some, one would think that the passages which connect the words everlasting and forever with punishment, constituted a principal part of the sacred writings, whereas the case is so much otherwise, that there are but two passages in the whole of the Old Testament where these terms occur in such connexion ; not at all in the gospels of Luke, and John; but once in Mark; not at all in the Acts of the apostles, although several extracts from their preaching, are therein contained; but once in all Paul's epistles, which form so considerable part of the New Testament; not at all in the epistles of Peter, James, and John; so that all the instances together would not make so many as may often be found in a six-penny printed sermon, or even a farthing tract. Nevertheless, if found but once in the bible, in a sense corresponding to our English word endless, it would be sufficient to authorize the classing of that sentiment among the doctrines of inspiration.
Still it must be confessed, in that case, that the bible would stand most grossly self-contradicted; for who could then affirm that the wrath of Jehovah is not as enduring as his mercy? whereas the bible, over and over again, represents the former as but momentary, and the latter as enduring forever! Who could affirm, too, that the Lord will not always chide, be always wroth, nor contend, nor cast off, forever? Bụt the bible does so affirm! Who could say that God loves his enemies, overcomes evil with good, and is without variableness or shadow of tạrning? And who
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could say that he is good to all, and that his tender mercy is over all his works? Yet the scriptures do thus represent him! Such are the contradictions in which the bible must be involved if we allow to the words everlasting, forever, etc., an unlimited signification, as they are applied to punishment.
“ But why,” I may be asked, “ do you take these terms in the sense of endless, when they are connected with promises of this kind, and reject such sense when they are connected with threatenings ?" I only so accept these words, reader, when the nature of the subject evidently so requires. How, for example, can we possibly limit their signification in the above quoted promises ! • The Lord will not cast off forever" _" will not always chide"“he retaineth not his anger forever"_“I will not contend forever, neither will I be always wroth,” etc.; suppose we make forever, and always, in these texts, to mean a limited period, they will then read, that the Lord will not cast off, nor contend, for a limited period ! But this is contrary to fact. There is, then, an evident necessity for understanding everlasting, and forever, in promises of this nature, in an unlimited sense; whereas, if we so understand them as connected with threatenings, we shall have the scriptures involved (as before shown) in most manifest selfcontradiction.
Let us take a particular case, in which a contradiction seems to be clearly involved. David, toward the close of his life, admonished Solomon in the following words : “And thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart, and with a willing mind; for the Lord searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee of forever.” (1 Chron. xxviii. 9.) How shall this closing declaration be reconciled with the declaration in Lamentations ? “ For the Lord WILL NOT cast off forever ;" for the latter is not special in its application, it belongs to no particular time, nor people, but is general and absolute. How then shall we reconcile these texts? It can only be done by maintaining that David could not, by forever, have intended to all eternity ; and that he did not is clear from the fact, that he himself has furnished us with the declaration of Jehovah, that he would not, in any case, utterly abandon any of his children. “If his children forsake my