« PreviousContinue »
IN presenting the following pages to the public, were any apology necessary, I would make it in the words of Professor Stuart to Dr. Miller. He says, p. 12, 13. of his Letters, "It is just as much our individual duty now, to bring every principle of the creed of the Protestant churches to the test of the divine word, as it was the duty of the Reformers to bring that of the Catholics to the test of Scripture.. This position is absolutely certain; unless we can prove that the formers of the Protestant symbols were inspired. If they were not, they may have erred in some things; and if so, it is important to us, if possible, to know in what they have erred. But how shall we, or how can we know this, unless their creeds. are subjected, anew and repeatedly, to the test of the Scriptures?
"Will it be said, that the dwarfs of modern days only exhibit their pride and self conceit in attempting a comparison with those giants of yore! ? If it should, my answer would be; That dwarfs as we are in modern days, we stand, at
least, upon the shoulders of those ancient giants, and must needs have a somewhat more extended horizon than they. To speak plainly, the whole word of God represents the path of the church, like that of the just, to be as light, which shineth more and more unto the perfect day. The kingdom of God always has been, and still is, progressive. Glory is bursting in upon the church, in various ways intimately connected with making her light to shine still more brightly. Is she yet perfected in doctrine? Are all the treasures of the divine word yet unlocked? Are her fairest days past, and her brightest constellations set, to rise no more? The thousand years,' of glory yet to come, will supply a ready answer to these questions.
"So long as we profess to be Protestants, and of course, profess to believe that the Bible is the sufficient and only rule of faith and practice, so long, if we act consistently, we believe in the symbols of faith which we receive, only because we find them supported by the Scriptures. It is not only lawful then to put them to the test; but it is an imperious duty for every man to do it, who is able to do it. There may be a show of modesty and humility in receiving what others have believed, without examination and without scrutiny; but in every case, where there is ability to investigate and bring to the Scripture test, a failure to do it must arise from undue regard to the authority of fallible men, or from mere inaction-from absolute sloth."
According to my ability I have endeavored to bring to the Scripture test two very important articles in the Protestant creeds-Is the devil a fallen angel or real being?—Are the terms Olim, Aion, and Aionios, rendered everlasting and forever, used by the sacred writers to express endless duration when applied to punishment? These are the two principal points on which I wished my investigations to bear. Other articles of the Protestant creeds, particularly those noticed in Part 1. Section iv. intruded themselves in the course of my researches, and it was deemed proper to give them a due share of attention, being very closely connected with my subject.
The importance of the articles I have attempted to discuss, few will question. Their relative importance to others discussed in the present day, as far exceed them, as the substance exceeds the shadow. If it be worth while to inquire, how many persons are there in the God, or was the second person eternally begotten, it is surely of greater importance to inquire, is the devil a person or real being, and is he possessed of the almost infinite powers which have long been ascribed to him. And is it true that this being has ruined the human race, which ruin shall end in the everlasting destruction of not a few of them? I agree with Professor Stuart, that "glory is bursting in upon the church, in various ways intimately connected with making her light to shine still more brightly." Believing, that the common doctrines of the devil and eternal punishment
have long been a disgrace to the church of God, 1 have ventured to attempt their removal, that her light may shine more brightly. None ought to be offended at the attempt, for if such doctrines be false, surely none in the symbols of the Protestant churches have so much eclipsed her glory as they have done. If it should be proved that I am mistaken, and that such doctrines are diadems in the crown of the church of God, her glory must even be promoted by this investigation, for it will be made the more manifest that the devil and eternal punishment are her glory. As Mr. Stuart justly observes, a failure to investigate such articles in the Protestant creeds, "must arise from undue regard to the authority of fallible men, or from mere inaction-from absolute sloth."
It may be thought by some, that if the things stated in Part i. Sect. 4. be true, the Second Part is a superfluous discussion; for it follows, of course, that endless punishment cannot be true. This we admit; but the texts where everlasting is applied to punishment, will not be given up, by many, as teaching endless punishment, until some rational, Scriptural interpretation is presented, showing that their former views of them are incorrect. I here can speak from experience; for I never would have relinquished the doctrine of endless punishment, unless I had come to see how such texts could be fairly explained as not teaching it. I have felt the power of such previous views on my own mind, and make allow
ance for others in the same condition. On this account, if my explanations of the texts where everlasting is applied to punishment be correct, the Second Part, so far from being superfluous, is highly necessary. Many of my former friends have no doubt wondered, how I could embrace my present views with such texts staring me in the face. One object with me, in the Second Part, has been, to show them that I did not shut my eyes to these texts, but having them opened to very different views of such texts, I finally embraced my present opinions. Whether my present views of them be correct, they can now see and judge for themselves. If I have embraced error, they are requested to have the goodness to correct it.
In the following pages, we have expressed our opinions frankly and sincerely, and appealed to the Scriptures as the test of truth. The author hopes that the spirit in which his remarks are made can give offence to none. He has studied to avoid all harsh and provoking language, convinced that man's wrath can never work the righteousness of God. If he has in any instance turned aside from this path, he shall regret it much more than any of his readers, for his object is to convince, not to irritate. Should it be said, some of the opinions controverted are not held now by our orthodox brethren, nor durst any preacher avow them, without forfeiting his station. We are glad to hear of this, but doubt if it is without exception true; and certainly, we have never