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as some render it, "his glorious power." Should this be understood of Jehovah the God of Israel, it is certain his glorious power was displayed in many instances towards the Jews. Should it be understood of Christ, it agrees with what is said of him; for at the destruction of Jerusalem he is said to have come in the glory of his father; and he was then to be seen coming with power and great glory, Matth. 16: 27. and 24: 30. But it will be said, How is this destruction of the Jews called an everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, if it refers merely to temporal calamities? I shall now,
2d. Notice the duration of their punishment. It is the word everlasting, which is here and in other places applied to punishment, which leads many good people to conclude, that it is in another world, and is of endless duration. But so far from this being true, on examination it will be found, that this very application of the word everlasting, is a strong confirming circumstance in proof of the views we have advanced; for, 1st. It has been shown at length, that olim, aion, and aionios, are rendered everlasting, and in a great many instances at least, are used to express a limited duration of time. But, 2d. These words are rendered everlasting, and applied to the very temporal punishment which the Jews have endured for eighteen hundred years, and are still enduring. For example, it is said, Jer. 23: 39, 40. "Wherefore, behold, I, even I, will utterly forget you, and I will forsake you, and the city that I gave you and your fathers, and cast you out of my presence: and I will bring an everlasting reproach upon you, and a perpetual shame, which shall not be forgotten." See my Inquiry into the words Sheol, Hades, &c. on this passage. Comp. also Deut. 28: 37. and 31: 17, 18. Hosea 9: 17. Jer. 20: 11. and 24: 9. What only remains to be accounted for is, why is this temporal punishment
of the Jews called everlasting, both by the prophet, and by Paul in this passage? This we think is easily and rationally accounted for. Paul was a Jew, and was speaking of Jews, and their punishment. What could be more proper, than to speak of their punishment in the language in which it was described by their own prophets, as a destruction, and an everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord. The Jews were familiar with the language of their Scriptures; but what Jew ever understood, that to be cast out of God's presence, was to be cast into misery in a future state; or, that the word everlasting, applied to it, expressed its endless duration? No man, we think, will assert this. It is of no consequence how Christians have understood either the phrase, presence of the Lord, or the word everlasting, for ages past, but the question is-How did the Jews understand this language? In the Jewish use of the term everlasting, their present punishment is called everlasting with stricter propriety of language, than many other things to which they were accustomed to apply it. No punishment they ever suffered before is called everlasting, which might have been done to their seventy years captivity, for this term, we have seen, expresses the duration of a man's life. Should the present punishment of the Jews, then, end to-morrow, its continuance for eighteen hundred years might be called everlasting. But how long it is yet to continue, God only knows. For this length of time they have been cast out of their land, and have not enjoyed God's presence. The Christian church is God's house now, but how few Jews have come to enjoy his presence here, facts show. All the exertions. made to convert them to the gospel of Christ, is little else than lost labor. The veil is on their hearts, and all attempts to remove it have as yet proved abortive. They are an everlasting reproach, and a perpetual
shame among all the nations of the earth. What nation ever suffered so long and severe a destruction as they have done, yet remain a distinct and numerous people? And what nation ever enjoyed such privileges, and yet remained so long a blinded and unbelieving people? But their punishment is to end; for as certainly as God has concluded them all in unbelief, so he is to have mercy upon all. Their everlasting destruction is not of endless duration.
1st. Is it objected-"How could the Jews, who persecuted Christians at Thessalonica, suffer this punishment, seeing they lived so far distant from Jerusalem?" Answer; it could have made no difference in the case, had they lived at the poles; for at the destruction of Jerusalem the Jews were banished Judea, and have not been allowed to return to this day. Even the few Jews in Judea now, do not enjoy the presence of the Lord. They live there without a temple, an altar, or a sacrifice, and mourn over the long desolations of their city and temple; dragging out a miserable existence in hopeless expectation that their Messiah is yet to come. But the probability is, that a great proportion of the Jews suffered at the destruction of their city and temple, for it was at the feast of the passover. when they were generally assembled there, that Titus surrounded the city and they could not escape.
2d. Is it objected-"The presence of the Lord means his gracious presence at the day of judgment, and being destroyed from his presence, being banished to hell at this period?" Answer; let this be proved, for assertions prove nothing. Not a word is said in the whole context of the passage, about a day of judgment or God's gracious presence. Such gratuitous assertions do not deserve notice, and especially in view of the illustrations of this expression given from the Scriptures.
3d. Is it objected-" Your view of this passage does not agree with the coming of Christ mentioned chap. 2: 1. of this epistle; for it is his coming at the day of judgment, and you have interpreted his coming in chap. 1. of his coming at the destruction of Jerusalem?" Answer; whoever will consult Whitby may see, that he interprets Christ's coming in chap. 1. of the day of judgment, but passes it very slightly; but he enters at large into the proof, that Christ's coming, chap. 2. refers to his coming to destroy Jerusalem. Whitby then shows, that chap. 2. is in accordance with my views of chap. 1. But whoever wishes to see these things treated more at large, must consult the Magazine referred to above.
Matth. 18: 8. The "everlasting fire" here mentioned, is the same as hell fire, verse 9. for they are used as convertible expressions; and the same as everlasting fire, Matth. 25: 41. See Inquiry into the words Sheol, Hades, &c. for an illustration of this text, and which has been also noticed in the present Inquiry. It requires no further attention.
Jude 7. "Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them, in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire." That the suffering the vengeance of eternal fire here, has no reference to punishment in a future state, appears to me evident from the following considerations.
1st. From comparing 2 Peter 2: 6. where nothing is said about eternal fire, but only that the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, with the people together, are said to be condemned with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly. Had the people gone to endless misery, would Peter have omitted this important part, and mentioned only the destruction of the cities with the
loss of their temporal lives, as an example to ungodly men? We cannot very readily admit this.
2d. By comparing verses 5, 6, 7. together, Jude says, that the people to whom he wrote, knew that Sodom and Gomorrah suffered the vengeance of eternal fire. But I ask how they could know that they suffered in a future eternal state of existence? For the history of the event, nor no other part of Scripture could give them such information. Comp. Zeph. But they could know, that Sodom and Gomorrah suffered temporal misery, for this is plainly made known.
3d. Jude says, they were set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. But how could they be an example, if this refers to punishment in a future state? For an example to others must be visible, to be of any benefit to them. Their destruction, with the cities, are an example, for these are facts allowed by sacred and profane writers, Jewish and heathen. See Philo, Josephus, the Apocryphal writers, and others, who all mention those events. It is allowed by many intelligent men, that nothing is said in the Old Testament about eternal punishment. The cities of the plain burnt for many ages, which sufficiently entitled this fire to be called "the vengeance of eternal fire." This fire is called eternal, in the same or similar sense, as the desolation of certain cities and places, were to be perpetual or everlasting. See among others the following places. Ezek. 26: 20, 21. 35: 9. and 36: 2. Isai. 58: 12. Jer. 18: 15, 16. 23: 40. and 51: 39. This has been shown above.
4th. Whitby and others, who believed the devil to be a real being, maintain, that he is not suffering, nor will suffer the torments of hell until after the day of judgment. Why then send the Sodomites there before him? God must be very merciful to the devil,