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to God. What was their use or intention in such a connexion? Yea, I ask, ought we not rather to have had some phrases showing that olim when applied to God was to be understood in its most unlimited sense? This was necessary, seeing the word did not signify endless duration of itself, was applied so often to express limited duration, and was attended with such qualifying phraseology in so many instances. At any rate, when olim was applied to God, why were not such restricting phrases omitted? This would have been leaving the subject to which it is applied, to determine the extent of its meaning without any drawback from such limiting phrases. Were such phrases introduced for no purpose? But if introduced for the purpose of limiting or explaining olim in the one case, no candid man will question, but they were introduced for the same purpose in the other. For example, the priesthood of Aaron, is called an everlasting priesthood, but this is explained by the phrase "throughout your generations." So in other instances. Well, when it is said of God, "his mercy is from everlasting to everlasting," it is added by way of explanation, "his righteousness unto children's children." Psalm 103:17. Again, when it is said thou art from everlasting," this is again explained by the words, "thy throne is established of old." Psalm 93: 2. And is it said "thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom," we find it explained thus, "and thy dominion endureth throughout all generations." Psalm 145: 13. And is it again said, "his mercy is everlasting," it is again added as an explanation "and his truth endureth to all generations.". Give me leave now to ask if everlasting meant endless duration why are all these qualifying explanatory phrases added. If the sacred writers did mean, that everlasting should convey to us the idea of endless duration, why qualify it by adding such explana
tions? Had the word olim, rendered everlasting, meant endless duration, and such qualifying phrases. only been added when it was applied to things of a temporary nature, this would only be guarding the application of the term from abuse. But we see that such qualifying, explanatory expressions are given when it is applied to God. Now if the term when applied to him was intended to express his endless duration why was this the case. Why not omit them in all instances where he is spoken of, and only use them where this term is applied to things of limited duration? Had this been done, it would have shown, that the inspired writers did use a word which expressed endless duration, and judged it proper to guard its misapplication by such qualifying expressions. But if we consider the word olim as expressing limited and not endless duration, all the qualifying phrases used are proof that in this sense the sacred writers wished themselves to be understood by their readers.
Is the question then asked, what is the limit of time expressed by this word. So far as I can see it is expressed by the qualifying expression "throughout all generations."
4th. The very repetition of olim, and rendered forever and ever, seems to show, that it was not designed to express God's endless duration. If forever, by itself, did express an endless duration of time, why add another forever to it. This was altogether superfluous, for twenty forevers added, could not add to endless duration. How could adding another forever, make the first forever, or both taken together, an endless duration of time? Add as many forevers as you please to one another, if the last expresses a limited period, the number added must still fall infinitely short of eternity. They may make up a very long period of time, but still one which must come to
an end. But I would leave it for candid men to consider, if the very adding one forever to another, does not fairly imply, that the sacred writers never intended to express endless duration by this mode of speaking. Many people seem to think, that "forever and ever," expresses endless duration, but if duly considered we think it leads to the reverse conclusion, for the very repetition of "forever" implies, that the first forever was of limited duration. This is confirmed, from considering that forever and ever, is indiscriminately applied to things which are to end, as to God himself. Besides, the sacred writers give us the same explanations, or qualifying phrases in both cases when they use this language. In short, whether forever and ever is applied to God, or to things of temporary duration, they guard us against understanding it as meaning a proper eternity. It is throughout all generations and as long as days shall be measured by the host of heaven.
5th. But if "forever," or, "forever and ever," is used to express endless duration, why speak of a period beyond this? Thus in the Septuagint version of the Old Testament, other words are joined with it, which effectually restrict its meaning. Thus, Exod. 15:18. The Lord shall reign forever and ever and further. Dan. 12: 3. They shall shine as the stars for ever and further. Mic. 4: 5. We will walk in the name of the Lord our God forever, and beyond it. See Unitarian Miscel. vol. ii. p. 33. The translators of this version seem to have thought, that there was a period beyond forever, and forever and ever.
I am aware, that to all this it will be objected— "Does not David say, Psalm 90: 2. even from everlasting to everlasting thou art God,' and does not this express the endless existence of God, both as to past and future? Is it not the same as if he had said, 'thou art from infinite duration that is past to infinite
duration to come?" " Plausible as this appears, when these words of David are attended to, they rather go to confirm the views which have been advanced. Hallet, in his Notes, vol. i. p. 75, 76. thus writes: "Psalm 41: 13. Blessed be the Lord God of Israel from everlasting, and to everlasting! amen, and amen.' I am apt to think, that many English readers suppose, that the words from everlasting, signified a duration that was past in the days of the psalmist. But, on second thoughts, the English reader will perceive that this cannot possibly be. The psalmist here expresses his desire that God may be blessed. But it is impossible to desire, that God may be blessed heretofore. To say, blessed be God in past ages, would be as ridiculous as the advice a late divine has given Christians, to pray that the one catholic church may be built upon the foundation of apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone. The text then must be rendered, blessed be the Lord God of Israel from age to age! i.e. from this time forth, throughout all ages. Every one I will allow, that the Hebrew word olam, here rendered everlasting, does frequently signify an age, or generation. Nor will any one object to this interpretation of the word and, from everlasting and to everlasting; as if this would hinder us from rendering the expression, from age to age; when he shall consider that the word and, in such like expressions is redundant or superfluous in our language, whatever grace it adds to the Hebrew phrase. Thus the Hebrew expression, 2 Chron. 9: 26. is literally to be rendered, from the river and unto the land of the Philistines. Our translators have rendered the Hebrew particle by even; from the river even unto the land of the Philistines.' It would have been as well if they had dropt it quite, and had said, 'from the river to the land of the Philistines.' See also 2 Chron.
30: 5. So also the passage of the Psalm under consideration may be rendered, blessed be God from age even to age, or, more simply, from age to age. In the same sense the expression is to be understood, Psalm 103: 17. The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting,' or rather from age to age, i.e. from this age to the next, and so on throughout all future ages. In the same manner, I conjecture, we must understand this same expression, Psalm 90: 2. which Before the mountains were I would render thus. brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth or the world, and from age to age thou art God.””
But it is likely to be further objected, "That if 'forever and ever' is not admitted as expressing the endless existence of God, is not this attempting to do away his endless existence?" I would answer, by no means; for his endless existence is altogether independent of these terms being applied to him, and why give a wrong meaning to Scripture in support other of this doctrine? Is there no of establishing the eternity of God's existence but by means of these words? If there had not, we should hardly think the inspired writers would have used such qualifying language in connexion with them, when they applied them to God. Instead of modifying, they would have added some additional phrase, to show that they wished to be so understood.
We think no considerate man will affirm, that aion, or aionios, of the New Testament can express, endless duration, unless olim of the Old, expresses such a duration. The New Testament writers in no case intimate that olim of the Old Testament signifies limited, but that aion and aionios of the New, means eternal duration. On the contrary, they use these words in several instances as a correct expression of what is to be understood by olim in the Old Testament.