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decided and irresistible will be your conviction, that there is but one method of salvation, and that is, by the grace of God, through the atoning death of his Son, and the sanctifying agency of his Spirit.
There has been not a little discussion in respect to the Hebrew and Greek terms, which, in the common translation of the Bible, are rendered everlasting, eternal, and for ever. It has been strenuously maintained, that these words do not express duration absolutely perpetual. That they are sometimes applied to objects whose being is limited and transitory, is the basis of the Universalist's argument. Thus we read of “everlasting hills;" and so we are told that “the earth abideth for ever," and that the slave, who, as a token of his willingness to continue in servitude, submitted his ears to the awl of his Jewish master, became thereby bound to serve him " for ever."
Now, we shall at once concede, that the original terms for everlasting," " eternal," and " for ever,” do not always express duration strictly interminable. Neither do the English words. The poet, for instance, speaks of the mountain whose summit is white with eternal snows." And what does he mean, when he thus speaks? Why simply this, that the snow, instead of disappearing before the suns of summer, continues throughout the entire year. In like manner, by the “everlasting hills,” of which mention is made in the Bible, we are to understand hills whose existence is co-extensive with that of the globe on which they are erected. They, as well as the snow, are styled “everlasting," because they are to last as long as it is possible, in the nature of things, that they should last.
But although the Hebrew and Greek terms for "everlasting," "eternal," and "for ever,” are sometimes used in reference to objects of limited existence, they are also employed, in numerous cases, to express duration that
can never come to a close. For example, these epithets are applied to the being of the Deity himself. Thus, we read, that “ Abraham planted a grove in Beer-sheba, and called there on the name of the Lord, the EVERLASTING God.” Again, “ Hast thou not known, hast thou not heard, that the EVERLASTING God, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary?” Moreover, Jehovah is styled, “the king ETERNAL, immortal, and invisible." The same terms are likewise used to denote the perpetuity of future blessedness. Thus it is said, “And these (the wicked) shall go away into everLasting punishment, but the righteous into life EterNAL.” Now on this passage it is particularly worthy of
. remark, that the Greek terms rendered by the two English words, 6 everlasting” and “eternal," are one and the
Hence we must infer, that the happiness of heaven, and the misery of hell—the joys of the redeemed, and the agonies of the lost-are to continue throughout equal periods of time. It appears to us that there is no avoiding this conclusion.
Lct us, however, consent to waive, for the sake of argument, all those passages of Scripture in which the terms in question occur, and then see if we cannot find other passages, to which no ambiguity can possibly be imputed. And first, we might insist on our present text—" He that believeth not the Son, shall not see life; but the wrath of God ABIDETH on him.” This solemn declaration of Christ, the faithful and true Witness, certainly implies that the punishment of unbelief is to be perpetual. The New Testament, too, exhibits negative language on the subject of future sufferings, wholly incompatible with the idea that such sufferings shall ever end. Thus the Saviour informs us, that the wicked shall be consigned to hell, “ where their worm dieth not, and their fire is NOT
quenched.” He tells us also, that when the Proprietor of the universe shall, at the last day, send forth his reapers, for the purpose of collecting his harvest, “He will gather his wheat into the garner, and will burn the chaff with UNQUENCHABLE fire.” The Universalist, it will be observed, understands by “unquenchable fire,” in this place, fire that is to be quenched. Again, “Not every one (exclaimed the Redeemer) that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven." On another occasion, we find him thus addressing the Jews _“Ye shall die in your sins, and whither I go ye canNOT not come.” The Son of God likewise speaks of some, “ whose End is to be BURNED." Such an expression, it has been well observed, clearly denotes, that the final condition of the unhappy individuals alluded to, is to be a state of burning. Moreover, we read, that after the general judgment it will be said, “ He that is unjust, let him be unjust still; and he that is filthy, let him be filthy still.” This language, naturally interpreted, conveys the idea, that a period is approaching, when delivery from the guilt, and recovery from the pollution, of sin, shall be no longer possible. Of course it inculcates the perpetuity of future misery.
We come now to consider one of the most plausible of the arguments by wbich the doctrine of universal salvation has been defended. It has been said, that the forgiveness of men by God, after the judgment, may be compared to the pardon of criminals who have been tried, and found guilty of violating some human law. The power of conferring such pardon, we know, is generally vested in the executive departments of earthly governments. And why, it has been asked, may we not suppose that a similar prerogative belongs to the supreme Ruler of the universe ?
lo entering on the consideration of this argument, we may take the opportunity to say, that not a few enlightened and benevolent men have doubted the expediency of giving to any magistrate the power of staying the execution of law against a convicted malefactor. It would certainly be better for society, if such a power were never exercised, unless in cases of a very extraordinary kind.
When it is known that the demands of jastice are inexorable—that there is no possibility of escape from the penalty of transgression—a restraint is imposed on the vicious portion of mankind, which, under different circumstances, cannot exist.
With this preliminary observation, we shall go on to show that there is far less force in the argument which we have mentioned, than most persons would at first imagine.
Why is it that the power of pardon is lodged with the executive of human governments? We answer, in order to remedy the imperfections of laws, which cannot be adapted to the circumstances of every particular case that may occur; or, with a view to provide for sudden and extraordinary emergencies. The exercise of this power is, indeed, discretionary with the chief magistrate. But it is always presumed that he will not, except for what he deems good and sufficient reasons, extend his lenity to the criminal who has been regularly tried, and justly convicted. If he should, without such reasons, and from a mere impulse of sympathy, arrest the execution of a violated law, he betrays a degree of weakness unbefitting his elevated and responsible station, and abuses the authority with which he is clothed.
Let us, then, examine for a single moment, the various cases in which the pardon of an offender in human society may appear adviseable, and then inquire whether similar cases can occur in the divine government.
First, laws framed by short-sighted and fallible men, must always be more or less imperfect. If, when they were enacted, they seemed expedient, and it was hoped that their operation would be salutary, yet experience may not realize the anticipation. In an emergency of this kind, the chief magistrate might think it his duty to exercise the prerogative of clemency with which he is invested. But no such case, it is very certain, can present itself in the government of God. His laws are the offspring of infinite wisdom. They were enacted by One to whom the future is as clearly and fully known as the past.
Again, the executive of human government may be induced to exercise the prerogative of pardon, for reasons like the following, viz. The trial of the person condemned may have been marked by some illegality or informality; the witnesses may not have been competent or credible; the judges may have been hasty and incorrect in their decisions; popular prejudice may have exerted an undue influence on the jury; or, circumstances may have been brought to light, after the close of the trial, to palliate the guilt of the accused, or even to furnish strong presumption of his innocence. But every one must at once discern, that no such reasons for the pardon of condemned sinners, can be relevant in the perfect government of that God, who is intimately acquainted with the entire moral history of every human being.
A third case may be imagined, in which the executive might think proper to interpose his prerogative of forgiveness. The execution of the laws may be attended with danger to the community. The criminal may be connected with families of wealth and influence, and his friends, rising up in his behalf, may demand his pardon. His fate may be so linked with the interests and the hopes of a formidable faction, as to render his release from justice