Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

the Jews, that he gave the least countenance to the idea that it would in any case be endless. Philo, the Egyptian Jew, who was a believer in endless punishment, to express its endlessness, as we have seen, used the words athanatos and ateleutetos. At the same time, he used aionios in a limited sense. In describing an injury with which an offended neighbor will pursue us, if we incur his hatred, he denominates that injury, which can be but temporal, as aionios kolasis.

USAGE OF AIONION AND ANIOS AMONG THE CHRISTIAN FATBERS. -It will afford no little light on the meaning we should give these words, as used in the Scriptures, to ascertain the manner in which the early Christian Fathers, who succeeded the Apostles, understood them. We have seen that Jesus and the Apostles theniselves, frequently used aionion and aionios, to express a limited period—a time that came to an end. Jesus often spoke of the end of the aionios, or world.—(Matt. xiii. 39.) St. Paul declared that the end of the aionion, (world,]-(Heb. ix. 26,) and the ends of the aionion (world,]-(1 Cor. x. 11,) had come, in his day. It is evident the Christians, in the earliest ages after Christ, believed aionion punishment, was a limited punishment. In the Sybil. Tine Oracles,” which were extant 150 years after Christ, the doctrine of Universal Salvation was distinctly taught. Yet they inculcated the belief in aionion punishment--showing plainly that they understood aionion as signifying limited duration Clemens Alexandrinus, Origen, and other celebrated fathers, inthe early ages of the church, who were well-known and open believers and defenders of the final salvation of all mankind, were in the frequent habit of applying aionion and aionios to punishment. They spoke of aionion (everlasting) punishment, ainnion fire, aionion death, in precisely the same terms that the Savior used : yet they simply meant a long punishment, and not an endless onc. Considering the early age in which they lived, this is strong evidence that the same phrases wer used by the Savior and the Apostles, to denote limited punishment. This is confirmed by the authority of one of the oldest Greek Lexicons, written after the days of the Apostles. I call the attention of my friend to this fact, and ask an explanation in agreement with his theory: Mr. Goodwin says, "Hesy. chius, a Lexicographer of either ihe fourth or sixth century, is the oldest to which I have had access. His definition of aion is very short, and makes no allusion whatever, to any sense of eternity in this word.”

In view of the critical examination I have given of the Origin and scripture usage of aion and its derivatives, it must be mani. fest to all candid minds, that their general meaning, is not endless time. Their primitive signification is "continuous," uninterup. ted;" and as to duration their meaning is “indefinite” "unrevealed.” From this primal signification sometimes extends, on the one hand to a meaning of strictly and literally endless time,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

as when applied to God, or any of his attributes. On the other hand, they are frequently used in a sense more or less limited -as an age, or man's life time, and even three days.—(Jonah ii. 6.) Because ihese words are used in a limited sense in some instances, it does not follow that they limit the existence of God when applied to him. Nor because they signify strictly endless when indicating the being of Jehovah, is it an evidence they have the same meaning of endlesness when connected with man or the punishments inflicted on him. Aionios and aionion are used as adjectives when applied to punishment. It is well known that the same adjective has very different meanings, when qualifying different nouns. We speak of a great nut and a great mountain. Does the fact that “great" is applied to both these nouns, prove that a nut is as large as a mountain !! This is the reasoning of many astute philologists of the evangelical school. The simple fact that aionios when applied to God, who is eternal in his own nature, signifies endless duration, they gravely urge as cvidence that it means endless duration, when used to qualify punishinent, which has nothing necessarily endless in its nature. The substantives mountain and nut, qualify the adjective great, quite as much as the latter does the former. On the same principle, the adjectives aionios and aionion, are qualified in respect to the amount of duration they express. by the nature of the being, object, or subject, they describe. An understanding of these plain facts, opens the way for the adoption of the following

RULE.-When aionios or aionion is applied that which contains within itself eternal existence, then it necessarily singifies literally time without end. As when applied to God in Rev, iv. 10 - l'orship him that liveth forever and ever,” (tous aionas ton aionon.) Or when applied to God's attributes-" His mercy endureth forever.” (aionos.) But when applied to that which does not in itself possess endless duration then aionion or aionios does not import that quality of time to it, but signifies simply duration, longer or shorter as the nature of the subject requires. In relation to the duration of the Jewish Priesthood, aionion signified some thousands of years. In reference to Jewish slaves it signified a life time. In relation to Jonah it signified but three days!!

ADMISSIONS OF ORTHODOX COMMENTATORS.—McKnight says of [aronion, aioninos]—"These words being ambiguous, are always to be understood according to the nature and circumstances of the ihings to which they are applied

I must be so candid as to acknowledge, that the use of these terms forever, eternal, and everlasting, in other passages of scripture, shows that they who understand these words in a limiteil sense when applied to punish mnel put NO FORCED interpretation upon them." This is ihe voluntary testimony of one of the most learned of the English commentators. Alexander Campbell says of aion-" Its radical idea is indefinite duration."

*

*

[ocr errors]

Profesor Stuart, says that "aion in the New Testament, most usually means an indefinite, unlimited period of time. The different shades by which the word is rendered, depend on the object with which aion is associated, or to which it has relation, rather than to any difference in the real meaning of the word.

The question where the words are to have the meaning of absolute eternity, and where the sense of ancient or very old, is always to be determined by the nature of the case, i. e. by the context !!"

Rev.John Foster, the most eminent Baptist minister in the world, says-„"I hope it is not presumptuous to take advantage of the fact, that the terms everlasting, eternal, forever, whether original or translated, are often employed in the Bible, as well as other writings, under great and various limitations of import, and are thus withdrawn from the predicament of necessarily and abso. lutely meaning a strictly endless duration! The limitation is often, indeed, plainly marked by the nature of the subject. In other instances the words are used with a rigurative indefiniteness, which leaves the limitation to be made by some general rule of reason and proportion *

* * I therefore conclude that n LIMITED'interpretation is authorized ! !"—[Foster's Leiter to a Young Minister.)

In this critical investigation, I have been actuated solely by a desire to obtain a correct understanding of the words under consideration. We have seen that these words possess a variety of meanings, as used in the Bible, and express different periods of time, from an age down to three days. I think I can consislently claim that words so indefinite in their meaning, cannot yield any support to the doctrine of Endless Punishment. Merely to introduce passages of scripture where ainoion, or aionios (forever, eternal, everlasting)--occur in connection with punishment, fire, damnation, (condemnation,) or other words in reierence to chastisement, cannot be of avail to my opponent. Oecuring as they very frequently do, throughout the Bible, in a limited sense, he cannot be allowed to assume that they mean endless, when applied to punishments inflicted on the wicked. I insist that by all rules of just interpretation, he must show in instances where he quotes such passages that there is a necessity of giving these words a meaning of endless time, from the nature of the case in which they are found. In other words, he must show that there is something in the nature of punishment, which makes it necessarily and unavoidably endless, before he can claim that aionion (forever,) applied to it, has the signification of time without end.-[ Time crpired.

[MR. HOLMES TENTH SPEECH.] Before proceeding with my main argument, I will devote a short time 10 a few points of limited importance in my friend's last speech. He says, “the judgment of God is in this world.” That Gol performs a work of judgment in this world, is a fact I have not only admitted, but argued for. As the present is a state of retribution, it must in the same sense, and to the same extent, be a state of judgment. Retribution and judgment always go together. I have also established, by arguments which Mr. Austin cannot disprove, that this world is not a state of perfect retribution: that is, that the retributions of God run over into eternity, and find their perfection and completion there. Hence, though we see the incipient and preliminary stages of God's work of judg• ment in this world, the final completion, perfection, decision and vindication of the whole, is to be looked for in another world. With direct reference to this fact, the scriptures speak of the judgment_“the day of judgment" – the “ judgment to come”“ the day in which God will judge the secrets of men"-"the judgment seat of Christ" -and also, that God hath appointed a day in the which he will judge the world.". Moreover, I have understood Mr. Austin virtually to admit, that sinners will be punished in the future state.

MR. AUSTIN.-When have I said so?

Mr. Holmes.—Perhaps the gentleman has not said so, in so many words, but I have understood him to use language in some of his speeches which implies as much. If I am wrong in this, I am quite willing to be corrected. I am pleased to get Mr. Austin to define his position on this point in any way, negatively or positively, directly or indirectly: I have pressed him to this point, as you all know, repeatedly; and why he has not seen fit to respond in a satisfactory manner before this late stage in the discussion, you can understand without difficulty. From this time I shall understand Mr. Austin as denying all future punishment, unless he shall distinctly notify me to the contrary. It will, therefore, devolve on him to reconcile this denial with the seeming admissions he has made, from time to time, of future punishment, and also to refute the arguments I have adduced, and shall still bring forward to sustain this fact. He must do this in order to remove the doctrine of a future judgment. Besides the direct and positive proof of a future and general judgment, all the evidence in support of future punishment, also, sustains the same scriptural truth. If there be future punishment, there must be future judgment; otherwise, we have punishment without law, and retribution without justice.

Mr. Austin says I build my argument for the doctrine of future judgment on the book of Revelation-quotes Clarke, who

says he does not understand it, and then proceeds to disparage the book as authority on doctrinal subjects. To all this I reply,

1. I have not built any argument on the book of Revelation alone, though I regard it as good and unimpeached authority on any subject of which it speaks, and bow with deference to its teachings. I have quoted only three or four passages from this book, during this discussion; and these are not obscure, but relate to subjects abundantly and most plainly revealed in other parts of the Bible. The great body of my scripture proofs have been drawn from other parts of the divine * oracles."

2. Clarke's declaration, that he did not understand this book, had no reference to the passages which have been quoted by me. These were perfectly plain to him, and he applies them just as I have done. He made this remark in regard to its prophetic, fig. urative and symbolical representations. Though the book of Revelation, as a a whole, is obscure, and perhaps has never been fully understood by any one who has attempted to explain it; yet there are parts of it, which relate to personal religion, and ihe application of gospel principles, which are as plain and easy to be understood, as any other portion of the divine record.

3. In my friend's scriptural argument for the salvation of all men, he thought it perfectly proper to quote from the book of Revelation, and the little pamphlet denominated a “hundred arguments," which he has extolled so highly, contains a number of quotations from the same book. This book is of good authority, and it is perfectly proper to quote it, wherever a passage can be found, which, by hook or crook, can be pressed into the service of Universalism. But when I begin to adduce its clear and decided testimonies to fortify my position, the gentleman has all on a sudden, made an astonishing discovery! This book of Rerelation is obscure-not to be understood--and cannot be depended upon as legitimate authority!!!! Truly, the old adage is correct, “circumstances alter cases." The gentleman has demonstrated to us, that he understands the difference between “meum" and "tuum ;" and that his cause has a this side, without a that side.

Mr. Austin repeats again, the stale and stereotyped assertion of Universalism, that my doctrine sends people to hell before they are guilty. Surely, a drowning man will catch at a straw. Are not all sinners guilty now? And will they not remain so, as long as they remain sinners? And suppose they die in sin, as thousands do, carrying their sinful character with them into eternity, and suppose there is in the future state a place which the Bible sometimes denominates hell, where, according to Jude 6: 2 Pet. ii. 4-9, the unjust are “reserved unto the day of judgment to be punished," will it follow that sinners are sent to hell before they are guilty? Nor is the case altered materially, if we adopt the Universalist notion of hell. If tha sinner carries his hell with

« PreviousContinue »