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be substantially more perfect than he was before. For he will receive a new substantial perfection and union, whereby the soul will be more intimately, more closely, more perfectly, and more nobly united with the body than it was before ; so that the new man will rise, as it were, a heavenly man, glorious, impassible, and immortal: so close will be the union of the soul with the body, as to be no longer dissoluble, and the man who was before changeable, mortal, miserable, and corruptible, will thereby be made immutable and incorruptible; hence he will receive a more perfect being, which may subsist and last for ever; nay, rather which may no longer be corrupted or changed. The same in proportion will be the case with the heavens.” And again : “As gold is melted, in order to separate the dross and other heterogeneous matter from it, and thus made more pure and more brilliant ; so also the air and ether will be, as it were, melted or attenuated, in order that, all foul exhalations being done away, it may shine more pure and brilliant. For that will happen to the whole world through the last burning, which by the resurrection is reserved to the bodies of men, which will not be changed into other substances or bodies, but will be refined and purged from all corruption, and so moulded as to be eternal. For the Scripture declares, that the world shall be eternal.
St. Peter also says, that the heavens shall be renewed, that is changed, not as to their substance, but as to their quality and perfection. The same is taught by St. Paul. And in like manner, a little before, St. Peter says, that the world perished at the deluge, though, however, not the substance of the world, but only its beauty and form then perished.” i When, therefore, the Lord shall come in fire to judge the living and the dead, heaven and earth will indeed pass away as to their present condition and form, but they will remain the same as to their essence.3 The apostle St. Peter remarks, that the new earth which shall arise from the purifying flames will be the abode of righteousness. Of this the holy prophet David speaks, when he says: “I believe to
1 Rom, yüii. 21.
, see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living." ;
“I cried to thee, O Lord, Thou art my hope, my portion in the land of the living."'4 And again : “The unjust shall be punished, and the seed of the wicked shall perish. But the just shall inherit the land, and shall dwell therein for evermore,”
Will all mankind, at the second coming of Christ, be absolutely
consumed by the fire, without any exception ? The common opinion of divines teaches that all men, without a single exception, are doomed to die. This opinion, to which we most willingly subscribe, is grounded on those passages of Holy Scripture, which expressly declare that the sentence of death pronounced by God against Adam, in punishment of his transgression, must be executed upon all his children. “ It is appointed unto men,” says St. Paul,
· Corn, a Lap. Com. in 2 Pet. iii.
· The commentators on the works of St. Ireneus against heresies write thus :—"Hieronimus, in cap. 65, Isaiæ docet transitum, novitatemque coeli et terræ istis oracolis prædictam, nequaquam abolitionem in nihilum, sed commutationem sonare in quid melius ; cujus in sententia sunt Ambrosius, Trimasius, Rupertus, Di nus, Ecumenius, Chrysostomus, et Augustinus.” (In lib. v. cap. xxxvi.)
3 Psalm xxvi. 13. 4 Ib. cxli. 6. 5 Ib. xxxvi, 29.
says St. Paul, "once to die, and after this the judgment.”1
« Who is the man that shall live," asks the prophet David, “and not see death ?"2 “ We all die and sink into the earth, as waters that return no more,"3 and the like. Admitting, however, that all men must absolutely pass one time or another through the gates of death, it still remains an open question, whether, at the coming of Christ, all mankind, without exception, will fall a prey to the fire and die, or whether some will escape its melting flames.
From several passages of the Old and New Testament, it seems very probable that by a particular act of Providence some will escape.*
The prophet Malachy thus speaks of that awful day, in which the Lord shall judge the earth by fire, and execute His vengeance against the wicked. “Behold the day shall come kindled as a furnace, and all the proud and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble; and the day that cometh shall set them on fire, saith the Lord of hosts, it shall not leave them root nor branch; but unto you that fear my name, the Sun of justice shall arise, and health in His wings; and you shall go forth, and shall leap like calves of the herd. And you shall tread down the wicked, when they shall be ashes under the sole of your feet in the day that I do this, saith the Lord of hosts. Behold, I will send you Elias the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord, and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with anathema."1
I Heb. ix. 27. ? Psalm lxxxviii. 49. 3 2 Kings xiv. 14.
* As at the time of the flood, when “the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished,” the family of Noe was saved from destruction by a particular act of providence in the ark; so there is nothing unreasonable in the belief that at the coming of Christ, when the world that now is being burnt up by fire, shall perish, may please Almighty God to save some persons from destruction by such means as best suit His infinite power, wisdom, and goodness.
The prophet here distinctly predicts these two things -1. That before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord, Elias must come, who will convert the children of Israel to God. 2. That their conversion will somewhat pacify the anger of God, and withhold Him from utterly destroying the human race. Commentators, whilst explaining the word anathema here used by the prophet, remark that it is translated from the Hebrew word cherem, which means utter destruction. It seems, therefore, that in consideration of the children of Israel, who, after their conversion, will display great piety, zeal, and religion, the Lord will abstain from utterly destroying the earth, and that some who will then be living upon it will escape from death.
The prophet Isaias, in the twenty-fourth chapter, declares the same thing, but in a more striking manner. First, he thus describes the awful judgment which the Lord at His coming will execute against the inhabitants of the earth on account of their crimes. « Behold the Lord shall lay waste the earth and shall strip it, and shall afflict the face thereof, and scatter the inhabitants thereof; and it shall be as with the people, so with the priest : and as with the servant, so with his master; as with the handmaid, so with her mistress : as with the buyer, so with the seller; as with the lender, so with the borrower; as with him that calleth for his money, so with him that oweth. With desolation shall the earth be laid waste, and it shall be utterly spoiled, for the Lord hath spoken His word. The earth mourned and faded away, and is weakened, the height of the people of the earth is weakened.” After this the prophet declares that a curse shall devour the earth, but so that some few will escape destruction. Then he compares the remnant which shall be spared to the few olives that remain when the olive-tree has been shaken, and also to the few grapes which remain when the vintage is ended. “The earth is infected,” says the prophet, "by the inhabitants thereof, because they have transgressed the laws; they have changed the ordi. nance; they have broken the everlasting covenant; therefore shall a curse devour the earth, and the inhabitants thereof shall sin; and therefore they that dwell therein shall be mad, and few men shail be left."! And again : “It shall be thus in the
1 Malac. iv.
.2 midst of the earth, in the midst of the people, as if a few olives that remain should be shaken out of the olive-tree, or grapes, when the vintage is ended. These shall lift up their voice, and shall give praise; when the Lord shall be glorified, they shall make a joyful noise from the sea.
The prophet Joel thus makes our Lord speak in the second chapter :-“I will show wonders in heaven and in earth, blood, and fire, and vapours of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and dreadful day of the Lord doth come. And it shall come to pass, that every one that shall call upon 1 Isa. xxiv. 1-4.
2 Ib. xxiv. 5, 6. 3 Ib. xxiv. 13, 14.