Page images
PDF
EPUB

says, " it seems intended to point out the eternity and self-existence of God." Now, as aei and on, the components of aion, do, in their uncompounded state, convey the proper idea of duration, and of existence in duration without restriction or limitation, it follows as an irresistible corollary, that the same ideas must be expressed, if possible, with increased emphasis and certitude, by the word aion, compounded of these two. This remark will be found to be justified in the course of this investigation, by the decisions of the best critics, and the established usage of the word. Aionios being the adjective form, the above remarks apply to it with the same force as to aion.

2. This view is supported by the authority of lexicons, Greek, Latin and English.

Donnegan makes aion and aionios signify, “a long period of time, eternity, long duration, eternal, lasting, perpetual," with some other accommodated and subordinate meanings.

Parkhurst defines aionios--1. “ Eternal, having neither beginning nor end,” and refers to Rom. xvi. 26, Heb. ix. 14, as examples. 2. “ Eternal, without end." 3. “Duration equal with the world.” He makes aion to mean-1, eternity, whether past or to come, 2d, the duration of this world—3d, the ages of the world.

Pickering makes the sense, “indefinite duration, everlasting." He says the verb "aionizo" signifies, " to make lasting, perpetuate, to eternize."

Schluesner says, "aion answers to the Hebrew word olam, whose various meanings it takes. 1. Eternity, the whole duration, whether it be without beginning or end. Of duration without end, it is used in imitation of the Hebrew olam, in Matt. vi. 13, be glory forever.' 2. Every thing which is without end, especially what will come to pass after this life, and the end of the world. In this sense the word is used in all those places in the New Testament where the words eternal fire, eternal judgment, eternal condemnation, eternal punishment, &c., occur, for, by such expressions, the perpetual punishment of crimes, which the wicked suffer after this life, their future uninterrupted miserable state, is pointed out; and so the phrases of an opposite kind, eternal habitations, eternal life, &c., the state and condition of the constant happiness of the pious, is pointed out.”.

In translating the words "aion” and aionios,” the Latin lexicographers and other standard authors, employ ærum, æturnitas, æturnus, sempiturnus, perennis, and other words of like import. These Latin words signify duration without end, endless, perpetual, lasting, everlasting, never failing, uninterrupted, and so on. Besides this, it is well known that the English terms here named which are employed to give the signification of both the Gree) and Latin above referred to, have, as their established and primary signification, perpetual duration, or being without end. The first and radical idea of the Hebrew olam, and the Greek aion, as ex

sense.

pressed by the Latin aturnus, and the English eternity, is that of infinité duration; all other meanings are subordinate and accommodated.

3. That aion and aionios primarily signify eternity, I argue from the proof furnished by ancient versions of the scriptures. 1. The Septuagint. Kitto says this version of the Old Testament “is the most ancient extant in any language,” and Home says, “it was executed long before the Messiah, and was the means of preparing the world at large for his appearance." In this ancient Greek version, the word under consideration is uniformly employed to express the idea of unending duration, or unlimited existence. It is used to designate the eternity of God. Hence in Gen. xxi. 33, where Abraham is said to have called on the name of “the everlasting God," the Hebrew olam is translated by aionios—the theos aionios, "ever-existing God." So also Deut. xxxiii. 27, “The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms." Aionios is used also in reference to the mountains and hills of this world, to mark their existence as co-extensive with that of the world itself. It is likewise applied to Jewish institutions and statutes, to show them of binding obligation during the continuance of the Mosaic economy. These latter, however, are examples of its use in an accommodated

2. The Vulgate. This is the most ancient Latin version of the scriptures, made partly from the Septuagint and partly from the original Hebrew. It owes its origin to the labors of Jerome, who flourished in the fourth century. In regard to this, Horne remarks, " Though neither inspired nor infallible, yet it is allowed to be, in general, a faithful translation, and is by no means to be neglected by the Biblical critic." In regard to the use and meaning of the words under consideration, the Vulgate is an unexceptionable witness. And we have the authority of the Vulgate to sustain our position, that these terms primarily signify unlimited duration. Where the Septuagint translates the He. brew by aion or aionios, the Vulgate uses a Latin word of corresponding signification. Thus in Gen. xxi. 33, where the Septuagint has theos aionios, the Vulgate has Dei æterni. In Deut. xxxiv. 27, the Vulgate has sempiturna brachia,” literally, the endless arms.

So also Isaiah xl. 28, we have “i Deus sempiturnus Dominus,” “God the eternal Jehovah.” To these many other examples might be added. 3. Clarke appeals to the Syriac, Persic, and Chaldee, as sustaining the Septuagint. In Exodus iii. 14, where the Septuagint uses on in the passage, “I am that I am," he gives the sense of the Arabic to be, “the Eternal, who passes not away.”

4. We still farther argue this proposition from the testimony of distinguished and most learned writers and commentators, ancient and modern, philosophers and Christians, who in their writings had no reference to Universalism, and cannot be suspected of any

[ocr errors]

Irenæus says,

thing like prejudice. Higher and better authority for the meaning of Greek terms need not be sought, than Plato and Aristotle. And it is well known, they make aion and aionios express the full and proper idea of eternity. The former in the Phædon, discoursing on the immortality of the soul, describes the pious as entering into the future state, and spending (panaionion,) a whole eternity with the gods, and the latter says, (De Celo lib. 1, chap, 9,) that aion is compounded of aei and on, and signifies, always being. We have already seen that the Septuagint uses aionios to translate the Hebrew olam, and the Vulgate employs æturnus and sempiturnus almost constantly, to express the meaning of olam and aion. By the ancient Latin writers, aion is translated ævum and æturnitas : and aionios æturnus, eternity. Sully translates aion by æturnitas; Athanasias, Jerome, Hillary and Ambrose, render aionios, æturnus. Chrysostom, speaking of the punishment which is qualified by

aion, says, “it is a punishment from which they escape not." Theopholact declares, “it is not to be reinitted here or elsewhere, but to be endured both here and elsewhere.” The language of Cyprian is, "guilty of an eternal sin, never to be blotted out.” He translates aionios by æturnus. Jerome, in his commentary on Matt. xxv. 41, remarks, “Let the prudent reader attend to the fact that the punishments are eternal, and the life perpetual, that he may thus escape the danger of ruin."

the fire is external, which my Father has prepared for the Devil and his angels.” In another place he says,

punishment is not only temporal but eternal.” Hedericus and Schrevelius define aion and aionios by Latin words whose literal signification is, eternity. To the above authorities we add Clemens Romanus, Barnebus, Justin Martyr, Theophilus, and Polycarp, the disciple of St. John, all of whom use similar language. Clemens Romanus remarks as follows: “If we do not the will of Christ, nothing will deliver us from eternal punishment." These testimonies cover the history of the primitive Church for about four centuries, running back into the personal history of St. John, besides other periods of the Church's history: And yet the renowned author of the “ Ancient History of Universalism,” says, " Augustine (415) was the first writer who asserted that the Greek work aion, and its derivatives, meant endless duration.” What shall we think of an author who will publish statements so void of truth, or of a cause which needs such support?

As to modern commentators, it would require a half hour to pronounce the names of those who have distinguished themselves in Biblical literature, and have sustained my views of aion and aionios. I will mention only two or three for whom Mr. Austin himself will acknowledge a friendship.

1. Dr. Paley, claimed by Mr. Austin as a Universalist. Paley has generally, been deemed unsound on some points (not fundamental) of Christian doctrine, though, Mr. Austin is the first man I have ever known, call in question his views of future retribution. I am happy, however, that I am able to correct the gentleman, and rilieve my own mind from doubt, by reference to the published writings of Paley himself. If my friend Mr. Austin will turn to Paley's sermons on “This life a probation"_" Terrors of the Lord”-“Preservation and recovery from sin ;" he will have abundant evidence of his belief in the existence of a future hell, the eternity of future punishment, and by consequence, of the unlimited signification of aion and aionios. Take ihe following as a specimen : “ Let the bold and presumptious sinner hear this text with fear and trembling.

Let him, I say, be given to understand what he has to look for: he that doeth evil shall come to the resurrection of damnation; this is absolute, final and peremptory.”—(Serm.—John v. 29.)

2. Prof. Tholuck. Mr. Austin has taken much pains to make it appear that Tholuck is a Universalist. He certainly can have no objection that the distinguished author should speak for himself. In his exposition of Romans and of St. John's gospel, he uniformly explains aionios to mean eternal, as any one may see by consulting his comment on John iii. 15, 16, and Rom. v. 20, 21, where he makes the zoe cionios mean the "final issue,” in which " the whole work ” of salvation “is consummated.” In reference to the future perdition of the sinner, as qualified by aion, he remarks as follows: “ Although God has an infinity of methods of effecting the sinner, as many as the sun has rays, (Rom. xi. 32, 33,) still men can always resist ; and Matt. xi. 32, expressly declares that there will be those who will be forever unsusceptible of the spirit and of forgiveness. Indeed, this passage, more than any otber may show that some will be eternally hardened.—(German Selec. tions. Page 216.)

3. We introduce one authority more, and though he is a Methodist, Mr. Austin cannot complain, since he has already endorsed him as worthy of credit, by quoting him repeatedly during the discussion. I refer to Dr. Clarke. His liberality is proverbial, and as a critic on the Hebrew and Greek text, his competency cannot be questioned. In his comment on Gen. xxi. 23, Clarke says: The everlasting God-el olam, Jehovah, the strong God, the eternal One. This is the first place in the scripture, in which olam occurs as an attribute of God, and here it is evidently designed to point out his utmost duration ; that it can mean no limited time, is self evident, because nothing of this kind can be attributed to God. From this application of the words, we learn that olam and aion originally signified eternal, or duration without end. Olam signifies he was hidden, concealed, or kept secret, and aion, according to Aristotle, is compounded of aei, always, and on, being -* No words can more forcibly express the grand characteristic of eternity than these. It is that duration which is concealed, hidden, or kept secret from all created beings—which is always existing,

still ranning on, but never running out; one interminable, incessant, anil immeasurable duration,

"In all languages, words have, in process of time, deviated from their original acceptations, and become accommodated to particular purposes. This has happened both to the Hebrew olam, and the Greekaion. They have been both used to express a limited time, but in generala time the limits of which are unknown, and thus a pointed reference to the original ideal meaning is still kept up. Those who bring any of these terms, in an accommodated sense, to favor a particular doctrine, &c., must depend on the good graces of their opponents for permission to use them in this way For as the real grammatical meaning of both words is eternal, and all other meanings are only accommodated ones, sound criticism in all matters of dispute concerning the import of a word or term, must have recourse to the grammatical meaning, and its use among the earliest and most correct writers in the language, and will determine all accommodated meanings by this alone. Now the first and best writers in both languages, apply olam and aion to express eternal, in the proper meaning of that word.” In his comment on Matt. xxv. 46, And these shall go away into everlasting punishment,” he remarks, “some are of opinion that this punishment shall have an end; this is as likely as that the glory of the righteous shall have an end; for the same word is used to express the duration of the punishment, kolasin aionion, as is used to express the duration of the state of glo. ry: zoen aionion. I have seen the best things that have been writ. ten in the favor of the final redemption of damned spirits; but I never saw an answer to the argument against that doctrine drawn from this verse, but what sound learning and criticism should be ashamed to acknowledge. The original word aion, is certainly to be taken here, in its proper gram natical sense, continual being, never ending."

5. Another point, and one not unworthy of notice, is, that if these Greek terms do not primarily signify eternity, the Greek language, which was carried to a greater height of perfection than any other language under Heaven, has no word adapted to convey this idea. Does this look likely? Is it likely that a people who believed in the eternity of matter, should have no words in that language to express that eternity, without torturing them from their original meaning? Is it likely that the language employed by the famous Seventy, who by the command of Ptolemy Philadelphus, engaged in the translation of the Hebrew scriptures, possessed, nevertheless, no word adequate to express the signification of those Hebrew terms in which God had revealed to the Jews the eternisy of his existence, attributes and government? Is it likely the Apostles under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, would employ a language so incompetent to the purposes they had in view? In setting forth the eternity of God, and his changeless attributes and nature, and the unending glory which awaits God's people, in the

« PreviousContinue »