« PreviousContinue »
pressed by the Latin æturnus, and the English eternity, is that of infinite 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 Horne 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 Hebrew 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 “ 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 ii. 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
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 @vum and æturnitas: and aionios æturnus, eternity. Sully translates aion by æturnitas; Athanasias, Jerome, Hillary and Ambrose, render aionios, aturnus. 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 remitted 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."
Irenæus says, “ 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 relieve 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 the 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 zo2 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 effect. ing 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 other may show that some will be eternally hurdened.”—(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 endorse: 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 say's : “ 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. Froin this application of the words, we learn that olam and aion originally signified eternal, or duration without end. Olam signi. fies he was hidden, concealed, or kept secret, and aion, according to Aristotle, is compounded of aei, always, and on, beinz-* 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 running on, but never running out; one interminable, incessant, and immeasurable duration
“ In all languages, words have, in process of time, deviated from their original acceptations, and become accoinmodated 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 accommolated sense, to favor a particular docirine, &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 accommodatel 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 carliest 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 eterno:l, 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, kolisin 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 relemption of damned spirits; but I never saw an answer to the argument against that doctrine drawn from This verse, but what sound learuing and criticism should be ashamed to acknowledge. The original word aion, is certainly to be taken here, in its proper gram matical 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 langaage under Heaven, has no word a lapted 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 lorturing 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 Rebrew scriptures, possessed, nev: ertheless, no word adequate to express the signification of those Hebrew terms in which God had revealed to the Jews the eterni. ly 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 house " not made with hands, eternal in the heavens,” would they use terms which convey no just conception of those subjects, only by an unnatural ani forced construction put upon them ?Finally, is it a fact, that we have no evidence by revelation, of the eternity of God, his attributes and government, and the endless state of felicity he has prepared for his people, except what is found in the improper, forced, and accommodaled use of words? Such must be the case, if aion, and cionios do not primarily and granımatically express the idea of endless being. If any one is silly enough to believe this, his case may be commiserateii, but it is useless to ply him with arguments; and any system of religion whose existence depends upon maintaining such a view of divine revelation, and the foundation of christian faith, holds out to the christian world the infallible sign of its own spurious and infidel character.
I know how Mr. Austin will attempt to meet this argument; he will endeavor to find some other word or words that may answer as a substitute for aion, and aionios, such as amaranton, uníading, ametatheton, immutable, aphtharsia, incorruptible, athanasian, immortality, athanatos, immortal, or akatalutou, indissoluble. (1 Pet. i. 4, Heb. vi. 18, i Cor. xv. 50, 1 Tim. vi. 16, 1 Cor. xv. 53, Heb. vii. 16.) But a single glance is sufficient to convince any
dis. ceruing mind, that neither of these words are adapted to convey ideas of time or duration, and are not thus employed in the scrip. tures. They are all compounded with a negative, and their primary signification is directly contrary to the definitions given above. It would contradict the usage, and do violence to the genius of the language, to employ them as substitutes for aion and aronios The object of these words is to express another and entirely different class of ideas. This idea of having other words better adapted to express endless duration than aion, is a mere cavil, which no man who values his reputation as a scholar will allow himself to advocate. The paternity of this notion belongs, I think, to Mr. Vidler, and was subsequently used by the famous Abner Kneeland, when in his glory as a Universalist preacher. Mr. Kneeland thought the Greek word akatulutou, indissoluble, expressed the idea of eternity more forcibly than aion, and if it were connected with misery or deaih in the scriptures, it would go far towards proving endless punishment. The Rev. gentleman shed great light on The subject in the estimation of all Universalist readers, and be. fore it went entirely out, be took advantage of it and ran off into open infidelity-where all others ought 10 go, who adopt his rules of interpretation. I will give Mr Fuller's reply to the argument on akıtalutou, and it will apply with the same force to any or all the other words given above, should Mr. Austin attempt to press them into his service. “ It is true the term akatalutos is here applied to life ; but not as you insinuate, to that life of future happiness which is opposed to punishment. The life here spoken of, is that