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THE UNIVERSAL RESTORATION:
BETWEEN A MINISTER AND HIS FRIEND.
CONTENTS OF DIALOGUE I.
OBJECTION. That the words everlasting, eternal, &c., are applied to the punishment of the wicked. ANSWER.-These words are but seldom applied to the misery of the wicked; being connected therewith only twice in the Old Testament, and but six times in the New; and are full as often connected with things and times that certainly have had, or will have an end, as they are with the misery of the wicked, &c.
OBIECTION.-But the words forever and ever, are applied to the misery of the wicked, &c. ANSWER.-This is a very strong phrase, and would be judged unanswerable, but for certain considerations:-1. If the phrase forever and ever intends any period or periods, longer than the word forever, then there must be a proportion, &c. 2. This phrase as applied to future misery cannot intend endless duration. 3. It is more than probable that the lake of fire in which men shall be punished with the second death, will be the earth dissolved by the general conflagration, &c.
OBJECTION.-Forever when applied to things of this life and world may end, but being applied to things of another state must mean endless.
ANSWER.-The word forever applied to spiritual things and circumstances of another state must not be always understood to mean endless.
OBJECTION.-But does not the phrase forever and ever, in the New Testament, always intend
ANSWER.-It doth not. An undeniable instance brought in proof, to which several more might have been added.
OBJECTION.-But is not the Scripture chargeable with a design to mislead men in these words when applied to future misery, unless they intend endless duration? And does not the limiting these words accuse Christ of duplicity and deceit in his threatenings?
ANSWER.-The Hebrew word rendered everlasting properly intends a hidden duration, or period, but not endless.
OBIECTION. The same word everlasting or eternal is in the very same verse applied both to the misery of the wicked and to the happiness of the righteous.
ANSWER.-The very same word is in other places applied to very different things, whose natures and durations are entirely dissimilar.
OPJECTION.-But, upon the supposition that the doctrine of endless damnation was true, in what manner might one expect it to be expressed in the Bible?
ANSWER.-If it was true, there could be no promises, intimations, or even distant hints to the contrary. And it is therefore shown to be false by a number of positive proofs. If there were not promises and intimations of the General Restoration in the Scripture, the doctrine of endless damnation might be then concluded to be true, however dark; but the endless happiness of the righteous is set forth in much stronger language, and with more abundant force of expression. The endless happiness of the righteous stands upon such foundations that can never be overthrown or destroyed; such as their indissoluble union with the original source of life and happiness; their being heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ, and the promise that they shall live because he lives; and his life is truly endless.
OBJECTION.-That since the wicked have chosen evil, persevered in it through life, it has become a fixe i habit in them, from which it would seem as impossible to reclaim them, as to draw off the just from their attachment to God and goodness.
ANSWER.-This reasoning is founded upon the old pagan system of good and evil being two eternal co-existing principles. All men are God's creatures, and therefore he will not contend forever, nor be always wroth with the souls that he hath made. Satan's kingdom and all evil shall be destroyed, and therefore endless misery cannot have the same permanent foundation as endless happiness. Two things diametrically opposite to each other cannot both exist together to all eternity.
OPJECTION.-But does not the word all frequently intend a part only?
ANSWERED. By giving certain never failing rules, whereby it may be known when the word all means strictly all, or the whole universally without any exception; confirmed by plain instances out of St. Paul's writings.
OBJECTION. That perhaps by all things being put under Christ, nothing farther may be meant than their being brought into a state of forced subjection, or made subject to his control.
ANSWER. They are now put under him in this respect, but they are not yet put under him in the sense that they shall be, which implies a state of willing subjection. The word many frequently means all. All things were created by Christ; all rebellious beings shall be subdued by him, and all without exception shall be reconciled by him, and through him, to God.
Friend.—I have taken the freedom to call upon you, to have a little discourse with you concerning the doctrine of the Restoration of all Things, which it is said you believe; and to propose some objections.
Minister. I am happy to see you, and am willing to discourse, as well as I am able, upon any subject that may be agreeable; but I have always made it a rule never to press the belief of my sentiments upon my friends; and I can safely say, that, though such great pains have been taken by my adversaries, to prejudice people against me, I have never gone about from house to house to propagate my opinions; and I make it a universal rule not to introduce the subject in conversation, unless desired; but yet I never have refused to own my sentiments, when asked, respecting the matter; and am ready, in the fear of God, to answer any objections that can be made, to a doctrine which I believe is plainly revealed in the Scriptures of truth, and appears to me worthy of God.
Friend.—I shall first of all bring to view that grand objection, which is formed from the word eternal or everlasting, being applied to a future state of punishment; as in the following passages: Isaiah xxxiii. 14. "The sinners in Zion are afraid, fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings."
Dan. xii. 2. "And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt."
St. Matt. xviii. 8. "Wherefore, if thine hand or thy foot offend thee (or cause thee to offend) cut them off, and cast them from thee; it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands, or two feet, to be cast into everlasting fire."
St. Matt. xxv. 41. "Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels." Verse 46. "These shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal or everlasting." The same word in the original being used for both, though varied by the translators. St. Mark. iii. 29. "But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost, hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal dam
2 Thess. i. 7, 8, 9. "The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from
the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power."
Jude 6, 7. "And the Angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day: even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over unto fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire."
These texts, together, form such an objection to the doctrine of the Restoration, that I can by no means believe it, unless this can be fairly answered, and proofs brought from the Scriptures to shew, that the words everlasting and eternal, (which are translations of the same word and synonymous) being connected with the punishment of the wicked, and their future misery, do not necessarily imply the continuance of the same while God exists.
Minister. I am glad that you have so fairly and fully stated the matter; and I highly commend your resolution, not to believe the universal doctrine, unless this can be answered fully, without any torturing or twisting the Scriptures; and if I am not able with God's assistance, to remove this difficulty, I will publicly recant my sentiments.
But, before I come to give a direct answer, I would beg leave to remark how very seldom this word is used to express the duration of punishment. We should think, by some ser mons we hear, that everlasting is applied to misery in every book of the New Testament, if not in every chapter. A friend of mine told me, that he was once preaching in Maryland, and after sermon a man came and asked him of what denomination he was. To which he answered, a Baptist. I think, says the man, that you do not preach up so much everlasting damnation as the Baptists and Methodists among us do. To which my friend replied, everlasting damnation is found in the Scripture. True, answered the man; but some preachers give us more of it in one sermon than is to be found in the whole Bible. The truth of this remark will appear, if we consider that St. Luke never uses the word aionion or everlasting, as connected with the misery of the wicked, in his gospel; nor St. Mark but once, and then in a particular case only. In the gospel of St. John, it is not to be found at all in that connexion, nor in any of his epis tles: in the account of the preaching of the apostles through the world, in the first age of Christianity, we do not find it mentioned, in that light, so much as once: no, not in all the sermons, and parts of sermons, which St. Luko has preserved in the book of the Acts; though
the doctrine of everlasting damnation is the substance of many modern discourses. St. Paul never mentions everlasting destruction but once, though his writings form a considerable part of the New Testament. Neither are such words found in the Epistle of St. James, or in those of St. Peter, and but three times in the Gospel of St. Matthew: and only twice in all the Old Testament. But was the word aionion applied to misery but once in the whole Bible, it would deserve a serious consideration; and unless the force of it can be removed by the authority of the Scriptures, it must remain an unanswerable objection. Bet I shall proceed to answer it, by bringing, an equal number of passages where the word everlasting is applied to things and times, that have had, or must have, an end. As in the following passages: Gen. xvii. 7, 8. "And I will establish my covenant between me and thee, and thy seed after thee, in their generations, for an everlasting covenant; to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God." Verse 13. "He that is born in thy house, and bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant."
there is, of necessity a change also of the law for he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe, of whom no man gave attendance at the altar: for it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood. And it is yet far more evident, for that, after the similitude of Melchisedek, there ariseth another priest, who is made not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life: for he testifieth that, thou art a priest forever, after the order of Melchisedek: for there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof." Heb. vii. 12, 18. The whole sum of the apostle's argument, in this epistle, tends to prove that the everlasting ordinance is now no more; and the everlasting priesthood of Aaron and his sons is now abolished.
Another passage where the word everlasting is evidently used in a limited sense, is Numb. xxv. 11, 12, 13, where we read thus: "Phinehas, the son of Eleazer, the son of Aaron the priest, hath turned my wrath away from the children of Israel while he was zealous for my sake among them, that I consumed not the children of Israel in my jealousy. Wherefore say, behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace: and he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood: because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel."
Here note that the land of Canaan is called an everlasting possession; and the covenant of eircumcision in the flesh, an everlasting covenant, though it is certain that the land of if the word everlasting intends endless duraCanaan, as well as the other parts of the earth tion, how shall we be able to reconcile this must be dissolved or melted, in the general promise with the total cessation of the Leviticonflagration; and circumcision is now decal Priesthood? As for the family of Phineclared null and void by the Holy Ghost; and has, with whom this covenant of an everlasting the ceremony cannot endure to endless ages. priesthood was made, it was entirely deprived of the benefit of the same, within the space of four hundred years; for when the sons of Eli transgressed the covenant, by profaning it, God sent him word, that as they had broken it on their parts, it was entirely, and to all intents and purposes, dissolved. Read 1 Sam. ii. from the beginning of the 12th verse to the end of the 17th, and from the 27th to the end of the chapter: and also, chap. iii. 11, 12, 13, 14.
Of the same kind are the following passages: Gen. xlviii. 3, 4. "And Jacob said unto Joseph, God almighty appeared to me at Luz, in the land of Canaan, and blessed me: and said unto me, behold, I will make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, and will make of thee a multitude of people; and will give this land to thy seed after thee, for an everlasting possession." And in the blessing of Joseph he says, "The blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors, unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills." By which, I suppose, the hills of the land of Canaan were meant.
The apostle declares, that these everlasting ordinances were only till the time of Reformation, Heb. ix. 10, and this everlasting priesthood of Aaron's son, had ceased long ago: "For the priesthood being changed (by Christ)
I will transcribe verse 30, of the second chapter in proof of my point. "Wherefore JEHOVAH, God of Israel, saith, I said indeed, that thy house, and the house of thy father should walk before me for ever: but now JEHOVAH saith, be it far from me, for them that honor me, I will honor; and they that despise me, shall be lightly esteemed." Ho
God saith to Moses, Exod. xl. 15. "And thou shalt anoint them (Aaron's sons) as thou didst anoint their father, that they may minister unto me in the priest's office; for their anointing shall surely be an everlasting priest-phini, and Phinehas, were soon after slain in hood, throughout their generations." Lev. one day; and Saul the King of Israel, sent xvi. 84. "And this shall be an everlasting sta- Doag the Edomite, who fell upon the priests tute unto you, to make an atonement for the and slew fourscore and five persons, who children of Israel for all their sins, once a year; wore a linen ephod, in one day. "And Nob, and he did as JEHOVAH Commanded Moses." the city of the priests, smote he with the edge of the sword; both men, and women, and children, and sucklings, and oxen, and asses, and sheep, with the edge of the sword." 1 Sam. xxii. 19. The whole honse of Phinehas seems to have been destroyed at this time
except Abiather; and when Solomon came to the throne he thrust him out from being priest, "that he might fulfil the word of JEHOVAH, which he spake concerning the house of Eli, in Shiloh," 1 Kings, ii. 27. From this time the house of Ithamar had the priesthood. It is so evident that the word which is translated everlasting, cannot in the nature of things, absolutely signify, without end, that I should not think it worth while to quote any more passages in proof of its intending age or ages, only, were it not constantly used as a great objection against the universal Restoration; I shall, therefore, instance two or three more in particular, in this place, and refer to a great number of others, of the same kind; all tending to prove the same thing. Heb. iii. 6, "The everlasting mountains were scattertered, the perpetual hills did bow." The gospel is called "The everlasting gospel," Rev. xiv. 6, yet it must cease to be preached, when it shall be needed no longer. Jonah saith, "The earth with her bars was about me forever; yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption; O JEHOVAH, my God." Jonah ii. 6. But it would be the highest absurdity upon the supposition that the word Legnolam, here rendered forever, properly signifies without end, for him to say, that his life was brought up from corruption; and, therefore, we know that he could not use it in that sense, because, on the third day, he was delivered from his dreadful prison. There is no doubt but the time that he was there, seemed an age, and, while he was thus shut up, there was no intermission to the darkness, and distress that overwhelmed him; and, therefore he might say, with propriety, that earth, with her bars was about him, forever (i. e. perpetually with out cessation) during the period he remained in the fish's belly; which appeared to him, as a long age indeed. But, as it would be a work of much time and labor to mention all the passages where the word translated forever, evidently intends only an age, or period, I shall just direct you to the following; which you may look over at your leisure.
misery of the wicked shall endure for ever and ever.
Here are more than fifty passages, where the word rendered for ever intends only age, or ages; to which many more might be added.
Now the rule for understanding words is this: What must be the meaning of the word, in many places, and what may be the meaning in all; is the true sense of the
Minister.-Indeed they are terrible threatnings; and no doubt will be fully executed. Friend.-But, do you imagine that such passages as the following can intend less than endless misery? Rev. xiv. 11. "And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever; and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name." Rev. xix. 3. "And here smoke rose up for ever and ever." Rev. xx. 10. "And the devil, that deceiveth them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night, for ever and ever."
Minister. I confess you have proposed a difficulty that I should judge to be unanswerable, were it not for the following considerations:
1st. If forever and ever is a longer time than forever, which must be granted; then is there some proportion between them: thus, if forever intends an age, period, or sometimes ages; forever and ever, may intend ages, an age of ages, but any proportion at all between two periods supposes both to have an end, or there could be no proportion.
2dly. I find a time promised, when, "there shall be no more death; neither sorrow nor crying; neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are (or shall then be) passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me (John) write; for these words are true and faithful." Rev. xxi. 4. 5.
3dly. I think there is sufficient reason, from the words of St. Peter, in his second epistle, 3d chapter, 5, 6, 7, 10, 11, 12th verses, to conclude, that as the earth was once overflowed with water, and became truly a lake of water, wherein the world of ungodly men perished; so, by the general conflagration, the same shall become literally the lake of fire and brimstone, in which the wicked shall be punished after the day of judgment: but I also think, that the 13th verse of the same chapter, compared with Rev. xxi. 1. Isaiah lxv. 17. lxvi. 22, more than intimates, that the new heaven and earth shall be created out of the substance of the old, dissolved by the fire; that the new earth shall no more have a sea therein, seems to imply, that in its former state, it had a sea, or why this expression,
Gen. xiii. 15. xliii. 9. xliv. 32.-Exod. xii. 14, 17, 24. xxi. 6. xxvii. 21. xxviii. 43. xxix. 9, 28. xxx. 21. xxxi. 16, 17. xxxii. 13.-Lev. iii. 17. vi. 13, 18, 20, 22. vii. 34, 36. x. 9, 15, xvi. 29, 31. xxiii. 14, 21, 31, 41. xxiv. 3. xxv. 30, 46.-Numb. x. 8. xv. 15. xviii. 8, 19. xix. 10.-Deut. iv. 40. xv. 17. xviii. 5, 28, 46.-Josh. iv. 7. xiv. 9.-1 Sam. ii. 30. iii. 13. xxvii. 12. xxviii. 2.-1 Kings, xii. 7.-2" and there was no more sea."-Now, if this Kings, v. 27.-2 Chronicles, x. 7. hypothesis is right, the following will be the true state of the case, viz.
The lake of fire is expressly declared to be "the second death," Rev. xx. 14. The earth, in its burnt, melted and dissolved state will be the general lake of fire and brimstone according to the verses above cited from St. Peter. There will be a new heaven and a new earth, created out of the substance of the old, in which there will be no more sea, either of water, or of liquid fire; consequently the lake of fire, or second death, (which are de
Friend. Although the single word forever, in these passages, seems evidently to intend certain unknown limited periods; yet what
can you do with those texts that say, theclared to be synonymous) must end; and, of
course, the punishment of the second death
must then cease.
them. Try, for instance, to reconcile Psalm cii. 25, 26, with Psalm cxlviii. 6. "Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of thy hands. They shall perish, but thou shalt endure; yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed. He hath also established them for ever and ever; he hath made a decree which shall not pass."
Now, if the words forever and ever signify without end, then there is a contradiction that cannot be reconciled; but only understand them ages of ages, (as, indeed, they ought to be rendered) and the whole difficulty vanishes at once.
4thly. The smoke of their torments is to ascend up for ever and ever, and they are to be tormented day and night. But, as the smoke of their burning earth must cease, when its substance is entirely dissolved or melted, and all combustible bodies are consumed; and as it is intimated in Job xxvi. 10, that day and night shall come to an end; and in Rev. xxi. 25, it is said of the New Jerusalem, "And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day, for there shall be no night there." For all these reasons, I cannot be altogether persuaded, that their being tormented day and night, forever and ever, during which time the smoke of their torment shall constantly ascend, is quite equal to endless misery, especially as there shall come a time when death shall be no more, pain shall be no more, sorrow shall be no more, smoke shall probably ascend no more, and peradventure, night shall be no
5thly. But the great reason of all, why I do not conceive that forever and ever, doth certainly intend endless duration, is because I find the words as often used for times and periods, that must have an end, as you find them used for the misery of the wicked. You bring three passages, which are all that are to be found in the whole Bible, where they are used in that sense; I shall now invalidate those evidences for endless damnation, by bringing an equal number of texts where you will allow the words are used in a limited sense.
Priend.-Is it possible that you can find any such passages in the Bible? Pray shew
them to me.
Minister.-Isa. xxx. 8. "Now go, write it before them in a table, and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come, for ever and ever."
See Jer. vii. 1, 7. The 7th verse is, "Then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers, for ever and ever."
Jer. xxv. 5. "Turn ye again, now, every one from his evil way, and every one from the evil of your doing, and dwell in the land that JEHOVAH hath given unto you, and to your fathers, for ever and ever."
These passages are as many, and as strongly expressed, as those which you brought to prove endless misery; and yet nothing can be more evident than that they cannot intend endless duration. Here, these periods must be limited by the great conflagration; and thas (for ought that appears as yet) the misery of the wicked may be limited notwithstanding the use of those expressions, to set forth its dreadful continuance to unknown ages; at least, those words do not necessarily imply, that they shall never, as long as God lives, be delivered from their sins and consequent sufferings.
If we were always to read for ever and ever, endless, we should set the scriptures at variance; and no criticism could ever reconcile
Suppose a person should read Rev. xx. 11. and xxi. 1. "And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat upon it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea:" and should then say, these visions cannot be true, because Solomon hath said, “One generation passeth away, and another cometh, but the earth abideth for ever." Eccl. i. 4. "And God laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed, for ever." Psalm civ. 4. "The world also is established that it cannot be moved." Psalm xciii. 1. See also Psalm lxxviii. 69, and xcvi. 10. What would you think of such reasoning? Just so weak, must all the reasoning against the universal Restoration be, from the words for ever and for ever and ever, being applied to states of future misery, if God had promised to put an end to them all, by reconciling all things to himself, destroying sin, and introducing a new creation, and a state of universal and permanent happiness: for if such promises really exist, and their existence can be demonstrated, all reasoning against them must be vain and futile.
Friend. It is certain that when the word forever is applied to things of this life and the world, it intends a period; but when applied to spiritual matters, and things of another world, it must be endless, according to my judgment; and I am apt to think, you will find it so too.
Minister.-I am certain that you will soon be convinced to the contrary. The apostle, speaking of Christ, says, But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins, for ever sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool." Heb. x. 12, 13. You will please to notice, that Christ's sitting down in the heavens, on the right hand of God, is not a circumstance belonging to this world or the things of time; and he is to set there forever ; and yet that period, which according to your hypothesis must be endless is expressly limited by the sacred writings. The heavens have received him, "until the times (seasons or ages) of restitution of all things," (that is till the beginning, and not the ending of those