Gambar halaman

words rendered everlasting, &c., are applied to future punishment but five or six times out of the ninety-six in which they are found in the New Testament. This is as large a proportion as the subject requires, and as could be expected from the nature of the case. They are in the New Testament applied to about twenty different subjects, so that to be applied to one but five or six times only, is about as frequent as could be reasonably expected. Further, if these terms do not teach the doctrine of endless punishment because they are thus seldom applied to it, they do not teach the endless duration of the existence of God, for to this they are not much more frequently applied.

It is also objected that the terms under consideration cannot signify an absolute eternity, "because in the original, they admit of a plural number; that had the meaning of the substantive aion been eternity, and of the adjective aionios, endless, they could not possess a plural signification, since it would have involved the same absurdity as is manifest, when, attaching to the term eternity the sense which it always bears in the English language, we speak of eternities." The words in English, that are properly expressive of endless duration, may not ordinarily admit of a plural number, and if this were invariably the case it would not follow that it is the same in the Greek. In the Greek language there are several instances recorded both by sacred and profane authors, where the plural form of expression is used to convey the idea of endless duration. Permit me to refer you to a few of the many instances in which the plural form of expression is thus used in the New Testament. In Gal. i. 5.-Ho he doxas eis tous aionas ton aionon: To whom be glory forever and ever. Thus in Eph. iii. 11.—Kata prosthein ton aionon: According to his eternal purpose. Thus, Phil. iv. 20.—To de theo, kai patri hemon, he doxa eis tous aionas ton aionon: Wherefore to God even our Father be the glory forever and ever. So also in 1 Tim. i. 17.-To de basilei ton aionon aphtharto, aorato, mono sopho theo time kai doxe eis tous aionas ton aionon: Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to the wise God alone, be honor and glory

forever and ever. These passages cannot, I think, be properly translated, without expressing the idea of endless duration.

But what if the terms forever and ever, everlasting, and eternal, do not always denote unlimited duration? Does it then follow, that salvation will be the ultimate portion of all who die in their sins? By no means. We might concede all these terms, and yet the testimony of scripture in proof of endless punishment would remain conclusive. The doctrine of endless punishment does not rest wholly, upon the doubtful interpretation of a few Greek words and phrases. It is asserted in the Bible in such a variety of forms, and is so interwoven through the whole texture of the scriptures, that it would seem that nothing but the consciousness of such conduct as weakens the hope of eternal felicity, connected with the fear and dread of endless misery, could induce any one who is conversant with the Bible to disbelieve or deny its reality.

Since so much is said, however, by the objectors whom I have mentioned, respecting the limited meaning of these terms under consideration, let us inquire into their original and proper import; the manner in which they are uniformly used in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments; the manner in which they are invariably used in the New Testament scriptures; and the sense in which Christ and his apostles must have been understood to have used them, at the time they spoke and wrote.

These terms do in their original and proper sense denote duration without end. It is, I believe, generally allowed by our best Lexicographers, ancient and modern, that aion is a compound of the two Greek words aei and on, which properly signify always being; and that the literal meaning of its derivative aionios is everlasting, eternal, endless. The Greeks were a people of a speculative turn of. mind, and they had an idea of duration without end; and this is all the idea of eternity that we can obtain. By them these terms were understood and used signifying an absolute eternity,* and thus

[ocr errors]

* Aristotle, a Grecian philosopher, who lived upwards of three hundred years prior to the Christian era, explicitly informs us of the meaning which the Greek writers of his age, and those who were then considered the ancients, af

have they been used by the great body of the most profound Gree scholars ever since. Now, should any one examine the various classical Greek authors, he would not, I presume, find a more energetic phrase, in the whole compass of their writings, to express the idea of endless duration than is found in the Bible to express the idea of endless punishment.

But the only fair and safe rule of interpretation used by all good critics on all other subjects is, to understand words and phrases in their literal and primary sense, unless there be something in the subject or connection which requires them to be taken in a metaphorical sense. Now the literal and primary meaning of aion is always being, and of aionios is everlasting, eternal. In this sense they should be understood unless their meaning be necessarily restricted by the subject or connection. But when these terms are applied to objects that relate only to this state of being, as they sometimes are, or when they are applied to objects which are known to be in their own nature incapable of eternal duration; we know from the nature of the case, that they are used not in their primary but in their figurative sense. And when applied to things that are capable of endless duration, and there is nothing in the subject or connection which requires them to be taken in a figurative sense, they should be understood in their literal and proper acceptation. On this principle we say they denote endless duration when applied to the being and perfection of God, to the stability of his kingdom, to the dominion of Christ, and to the future felicity of the righteous. And why not understand them in the same sense in those passages where they are applied to the future punishment of the wicked.-There is nothing in this, more than in the former cases to restrict their meaning. It is nowhere said, of that punishment to which the fixed to the word AIONOS,-speaking of the deities whom he considered immor, tal, unchangeable, self-sufficient, and perfectly happy, he adds, "They contin ue through all AIONA, [eternity]. And this the ancients admirably signified by the word itself: for they call the time of each person's life, his AION, inasmuch as nothing, according to the laws of nature, exists out of its limits, and for the same reason, that which comprehends the duration of the whole heaven, the whole of INFINITE time, of infinity itself is called AIONA [eternity], taking its name from its being always [EINAI AEI] immortal and divine.

wicked will go with the devil and his angels,that it will have an end, nor that it has already come to an end, nor that it is impossible in the nature of things for it to be endless. I see no reason therefore for understanding these terms, as used in relation to punishment, otherwise than in their primary and proper acceptation.

The terms under consideration are uniformly used in the scriptures Lo denote the longest possible duration of which the subject to which they are applied is capable and where the duration is limited the limitation is such as necessarily arises from the nature of the case. Thus when it is said "One generation passeth away, and another cometh, but the earth abideth forever," it seems to signify merely a long period. If the destruction of this world mentioned in the scriptures, however, denotes the annihilation of its atoms, as well as the ruin of its form and structure, then when the earth is said to abide forever we are to understand the term in a metaphorical sense; as signifying that the earth will endure for a long time compared with the period of a human generation. But if there is no reason to believe that the elements ever have been or ever will be annihilated; but after changing their form will become the materials of the "new earth wherein righteousness shall dwell," then the term is used in a litera sense and denotes endless duration.

In such other cases, as I have observed, these terms when used in a metaphorical sense they denote the longest period of which the subject united with them is capable. Thus when it is said of the servant whose ear was bored in his master's house, "he shall serve him eis ton aiona forever," the meaning is that he should never go free, but be a servant during the longest period in which he could be a servant; that is during his life. When Hannah devoted her child, Samuel, to the Lord "eis ton aiona forever," there was no limitation in her own mind. She did not intend that he should ever return to a private life. When Jonah cried out in the bitterness of his soul that the earth with her bars was about him, eis ton aiona forever," the. term is not expressive of what it actually proved, namely, an imprisonment of three days only, but of what it was in

Eccl. i 4. † Ex. xxi: 6. 1 Sam. i: 22. || Jonah : 6.


speak a vision of their own heart and not out of the mouth of the Lord. They say unto them that despise me, The Lord hath said ye shall have pence, and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you.



ACTS xiii: 8,9, 10.-But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith. Then Saul (who is also called Paul) filed with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on hun and said, O full of all subtlety and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thos enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?






-2 PETER : 16.--As also in all his epistles, speaking in themof these things in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures unto their own destruction.




GENESIS : 4.-Ye shall not surely die.





PROVERBS xix: 27.-Cease my son, to hear the instruction that causeth to err from the words of knowledge.



« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »