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ART. II. THE PRIMITIVE STATE
323 4. Keightley's History of Eng.
THE GNOSTICS--ITS ORIGIN, NA-
ART. Vịr:: AN. ESSAY ON THE 10. Felton's Translation of Men-
15. Hill's History of Presbyteri-
302, – 18th line from the bottom, for future, read further.
325,- 1st line from the top, for Saleucia, read Tadmor.
"'-9th and 25th lines from the top, for Hylie, read Hyle.
SECOND SERIES, NO. VII.-WHOLE NO, XXXIX.
FUTURE PUNISHMENT, AS EXHIBITED IN THE BOOK OF
By M. Stuart, Prof. Sac. Lit. in the Theol. Seminary at Andover.
Next to the inquiry : Whether the soul is immortal, stands,
No reflecting man can wonder, that so many among us are
* This article was prepared for the April No. of the Reposi-
to the subject of endless misery in a future world ; and no inconsiderable number, who reject, even with scorn and contumely, the idea that such a doom for the human soul is possible.
It is no part of my present object to enter the lists of controversy at large in regard to this subject. That many are greatly agitated in respect to it, is so far from being strange, or in itself criminal, that I could wish many thousands, who are now altogether indifferent with regard to every inquiry of such a nature, might be aroused to a state of deep concern. There is always more hope from a state of concern, . than from one of apathy. Baxter says, that spiritual sloth has sent more souls to perdition, than all the other causes which can be named.
Let us not despair of being listened to by such as are agitated in respect to a future state. If it be true that some have passed on to that condition, in which they can only look scorn and breathe contempt when the doctrine of endless punishment is mentioned, we will still hope, that in a land of gospel light and free inquiry, there are not many who have been able to attain to such a fearful attitude of mind.
I can never think on the subject of future punishment, without spontaneously asking : Why should I disbelieve it? If it be true, that there is no punishment of the wicked hereafter, then I shall be as much a participator of all the good which is to come, as if I were a believer in the doctrine of those who affirm this. The only reward for belief in this case, will be a hope, such as it is, during the present life, that I shall be happy hereafter, come what may in this world, or do what I may please to do. And yet my conscience, in spite of myself, would be continually at war with such a hope, on such gronds. There is “a fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries," implanted by our Maker in the human breast, in order to proclaim within us that there is a God who will judge the world in righteousness, who abhors sin and loves holiness, and who will exhibit to the creatures of his power his love of the one and his hatred of the other. Conscience can be stilled in respect to these fears, only by doing to her the most absolute violence, binding her in chains, hoodwinking her, or administering opiates in large quantities. The latter is the usual method of keeping her quiet. But alas! it is only
a dreamy and feverish sleep that is procured. Sins committed are followed by the fear of punishment, whether we will or not. This is the voice of God that speaks to the soul made in his image, but now degraded and defaced by sin. Conscience whispers that retribution will come. We may stop our ears; we may drown her voice with music or with shouting; all these expedients are but temporary. When every artifice is wearied out, and every shout which overpowered the still small voice has ceased, then comes the tremendous whisper again. In our lonely recesses, in the dead of night, on the bed of sickness, in the hour of danger, of trial, of misfortune-conscience whispers with an accent that penetrates the inmost recesses of the soul: “ There is a God who judgeth the earth”—“God is angry with the wicked every day."
Where, where, is an asylum from this still small voice, more terrific than the seven thunders which shake the throne of heaven? Is it to be found in plunging deep into the pleasures of sense? But how can it be found there? These are short, unsatisfying, often attended with satiety and disgust even in the very height of them; and, at all events, they are but temporary. Shall the refuge be found, then, in con. fident assertion, in presumptuous belief, that there is no future punishment ? But how will these alter the case? The measures of a just God are not to be influenced by our declarations, nor by our presumption. When we have scoffed at his justice, or derided the moral retribution which he intends to make—there is no change in him nor in his measures. When we call in question his word; or even labour to make it proclaim the future freedom of the wicked from all punishment; it is not the boldness of our assertions, nor the rash: ness of our criticisms on the Scriptures, nor the zeal with which we may contend for our professed belief in the common happiness of the pious and the impious, which can change the declarations of the Scriptures, or repeal one awful commination which they contain. There the assurance is given, that when the Saviour is seated on his throne of final judgment, and all nations are assembled before him, he will separate them as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats—to the one he will assign Sony aiáriov, to the other κόλασιν αιώνιον. The punishment is characterized by the same adjective as the reward; and if the life be endless in this case, then the punishment must also be endless. If not, the whole declaration has no intelligible meaning.
With such an avowal before us as this, from the lips of him who is himself to be our final judge, is it acting a reasonable part, to shut our ears against it, and, in accordance with our wishes, maintain that even the Bible itself establishes the doctrine of universal salvation, or at least of ultimate universal restoration? The laws of exegesis remonstrate against this conclusion ; and if they are not to be trusted, what confidence can we place in any thing that we deduce from the Bible? It lies on the very face of the Scriptures, that heaven is no more affirmed to be endless, than hell is. An interpretation which makes the latter temporary, must shake our faith in the permanency of the former. The whole matter stands or falls together.
I have been not a little surprised, therefore, at the violence which has often been put upon the words åráv and bis, in order to show that they may designate a temporary period. It is indeed true, that they may be employed to designate a period which is in its own nature temporary; but then it is plain enough in such cases, that they are employed in order to make the strongest expression of duration that the nature of the case will admit; and they are chosen for such a purpose on the very ground, that they naturally designate an endless length of time. If not, then neither the Greek nor the Hebrew has the power of expressing this idea, nor any specific name for it.
But I find myself unconsciously drawn into a train of reflections on this subject, which it is not my present design to pursue. My immediate object may be stated in a few words, and should be plainly stated in order that the reader may understand it.
It has often been asserted by disputants respecting the subject of future punishment, that the early periods of Christianity were strangers to the doctrine of the endless misery of the wicked ; and, consequently, that all the assertions of such a doctrine are grounded only in the fears of men, or in pious fraud, or in a mistake respecting the meaning of scriptural language. When those who maintain the doctrine of endless punishment appeal to the Bible in confirmation of it, they are told, that it is only by inisinterpreting the Bible, that such adoctrine can be made out from it,