Page images

that by Babylon we are to understand Rome. Without admitting that mystical Babylon is confined to Rome, or that its spirit and practices are found only in the Roman communion, we may suppose that the city of Rome, as being the source and long the seat of antichristian power, will meet with some very terrible destruction: it should seem, by the language of the revelator, it will become a volcano; and that a very signal subversion of the powers of this world, who exalt themselves against Christ, will then take place. I conceive the time of this destruction to be at the second appearance of our Lord, who has long been consuming antichrist with the spirit of his mouth, namely, his word; but he shall then destroy him with the brightness of his coming. Then, I believe, Christ will establish his kingdom, raise his first-born from the dead, and reign with them a thousand years upon earth.-—————— Rev. v. 10. Dan. vii. 24. Rev. xx. 1-6. If this view be right, the smoke of the city will continue to ascend during the millenial age, at the end of which, it will mix with the smoke of the earth, in the universal conflagration, and continue to ascend with it till the new heavens and the new earth shall be formed, when it will necessarily cease. Whether your views of the millenium be in the same order as my own, yet, according to your own principles, there will be a new earth, and, consequently, the smoke of volcanic Rome, as well as the smoke of the burning earth at large, will cease to ascend. Here, then, on your own ground, is an instance, from the New Testament, of BIS TUS KAWVAS TWv alwvwv, for ever and ever, being used in a limitedsense, though you have exposed your belief that this phrase is never there used but to convey the idea of endless duration.

I remark also, that the three texts, Rev. xiv. 2. xix. 3. xx. 10. which are the only places in the whole New Testament where the phrase for ever and ever, is connected with punishment, are spoken in relation to peculiar characters, and not sinners in common. That in ch. xiv. 11. is threatened against such as worship the beast and his image, or receive his mark. This description, surely, does not reach to all who are ignorant. of God, or who are in rebellion against him. Chap, xix. 3. we have proved to belong to the destruction of Rome on earth; and as for chap. xx. 10. it speaks only of the devil, the beast, and the false prophet, who are to be "tormented day and night for ever and ever.” It is granted, that if any one be endlessly punished, the doctrine of universal restoration falls to the ground; but as the phrase for ever and ever is found only in connection with the punishment of peculiar characters of sinners; while it is said elsewhere, that it shall be more. tolerable in the day of judgment for some than for others; that some shall be beaten with few stripes; but that every man shall be dealt with according to his works-1 think you ought not to apply this peculia【 phraseology to the case of sinners in common; for the Scriptures do not denounce one indiscriminate punishment to sinners of all descriptions; on the contrary, they make a just and beautiful distinction, of moral character: and from hence I conce it reasonable to infor, that future punishment is limited and corrective.

It may be doubtful also whether Jude 7. is much to your purpose, as the apostle seems to refer to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrha and the neighbouring cities, as recorded inʼGen. xix. 24-28. When be says that they are πυρ ο αιώνιον δίκην υπεχουσαι, suffering the vengeance of aionian fire, it is most natural to conclude, that he refers to the fire from heaven by which, when those cities were destroyed," the smoke of them went up as the smoke of a furnace." Gen. xix. 28. But this fire has not continued to burn ever since, much less will it burn endlessly: for many ages past the plain of Sodom has been covered with water, which has been known under the name of the Sea of Sodom, and the Dead Sea, &c. As for the inhabitants of Sodom, we know that they will be judged, and punished; but it will be more tolerable in the day of judgment for them, than for those who have rejected the gospel, Matt. x. 15. I consider Jude as speaking in perfect consistence with the current language of the Old Testament, where we read of the everlasting covenant made at Sinai, which long ago was broken and abolished; of the everlasting priesthood of Phineas and his seed, which has long been superceded by the priesthood of Christ; of the everlasting covenant of royalty with David and his seed, which ceased some centuries before Christ came in the flesh.

And of the destruction of Idumea it is said, "The streams of the land shall be turned into pitch, and the dust thereof into brimstone, and the land thereof shall become burning pitch: it shall not be quenched night nor day, the smoke thereof shall go up for ever, from generation. ta generation it shall lie waste, none sball pass through it for ever and tver." Isa. xxxiv. 9, 10. But it is evident that endless duration is not intended by this; for Idumea, has long since been inhabited, and many thousands of Mahometans yearly pass through it in their pilgrimage to Mecca.


In p. 120. you give the derivation of awr, aion, as compounded of and ων, and you say that its literal meaning is always being; and also that the meaning of its derivative awn is endless, everlasting, or eternal. I know, Sir, that the lexicographers have given this deviation of alwy, and this meaning to it and to its derivatives: Kircher, Schrevelius, Leigh, Parkhurst, &c. do so. Great as their authority may be, I appeal from them to the common sense of the reader, and affirm, that aw does not necessarily mean eternity, nor awwn☺, eternal, or everlasting, for which I assign the following reasons.—

1st. The above writers allow, that av, is taken for an hundred years --for the term of human life, which is about seventy years-for the duration of the world-for an age, or dispensation of providence—in its plural form, for the ages of the world-for any measurement of time, especially if its termination be hidden-yea, for a year. And Parkhurst adds, that asov, in the Septuagint translation, generally answers to the

by in the Hebrew, which is well known to describe periods both of very long, and very short duration. Now I conceive, that these concessions-which they were constrained to make, from the common use of the word in the Scriptures and in Greek writers-greatly weaken


if not totally overthrow, the force of the assertion, that alov means eternity;" seeing it is so often taken for a limited period, and sometimes even for a very short one too.



2d. The writers of the New Testament do not use the word away to convey the idea of eternity, because there are different aions spoken of, and one aion is represented as succeeding another. The phrase this aion occurs two and twenty times in the New Testament, and wherever we meet with it, it necessarily stands opposed to some other aion; and therefore we read of των αιων τούτω άλλα και εν των μελλοντι, this αἰοκ and also that which is to come Ephes. i, 21. and Matt. xii. 32.

[ocr errors]

3d. We also read of the end of the aiọn, Tag σUITEλēlas T8 AIWvas, Mat. xxviii. 20. and even of the end of the aions, plural ouvrɛheus rav celwvwv, Heb. ix., 26. which evidently refers to the aions past. There are also the aions to come, Ephes. ii. 7. And we have the idea given us of time topo Tur aswror, before the aions began, 1 Cor. ii. 7. I ask, Can the word aion mean always being? Can it express eternity of duration? Did the sacred penmen mean to give this idea in any of the above passages? Is it not clear that the word admits of the existence of time before the period which it describes began and also an end to the periods which it describes as yet to come?

4. It is a rule, which no grammarian will dispute, that no adjective can have greater force than the substantive from which it is derived; thus black cannot mean more than blackness, white cannot mean more than whiteness, so neither can saionios, aionion, &c. mean more than aion. It is granted, that there is a palpable departure from this rule in our common translation of the Scriptures, in the instance before us; and much as I esteem the translators of the Bible, and confess myself obliged to them for their learned labours, yet in this case, and probably in some others, we may, without a breach of charity, consider them as under, the influence of system or of authority, or both of them together; otherwise I cannot account for men so pious, wise, and learned as they were, to render aionion by everlasting and eternal.. They have never translated aion by eternity any where; though they have rendered it frequently world, and its plural worlds, its singular age, and sometimes ages.I apprehend that the singular means age, and the plural ages, every where; because it must be so rendered in some places, and may be so in ALL.


As to aionios, aionion, &c. as they are derived from aion, and have relation to it as adjectives to their substantive, they can only describe the duration of something relative to that particular aion, or age, spoken of, and with which they are connected.

That this is the meaning of the word aionion in the Septuagint is very certain, for we there read of the aionion covenant of circumcision, Gen. xvii. 13.the aionion covenant of priesthood, Num. xxv. 13 the aionion statute of the day of atonement, Lev. xvi. 34. &c. &c. &c. It would be an affront to Scripture and common sense to ascribe eternity

[ocr errors]


to these things, merely because they are said to be of aionion duration; for it is certain that the aion, or age, to which all these things related, is VOL. IV.


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

expired and gone-the aionion covenants and statutes, &c. waxed old, and have long ago vanished away, (Heb. vii. 13.) and' a new aion has been introduced, even the Christian aion, which itself shall come to an end, as our blessed Lord has told us in his gracious promise to his church, “And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the aion," Mat. xxviii. 20. And when this aion is ended, there are aions yet to come, Eph. ii. 7. Yea, the apostle represents a succession of future aions" Unto him be glory in the church Christ Jesus ως έπασας TAG NEVERT TỪ NING TUY αIWvW, Eph. iii. 21. Here we have the idea given us of one age generating another; for the apostle ascribes praise to God our Father" to all the generations of the age of ages*."

Now, Sir, take your meaning of the word aion, always being, and its derivatives as eternal, &c. and apply it in the face of all these facts and Scriptures, and see how it will accord. We shall then see that an hundred years is an eternity—a man's short frail life is an eternity—a dispensation of providence, long or short, is an eternity, &c. &c. There are eternities past—an eternity nozu existing-and when this eternity is ended, there are generations of eternities to come-There are eternal things that have long ago come to an end; and the eternal hills now existing will one day be burned up, &c.!!!

Upon the whole, the proper meaning of aion appears to be age, and the proper meaning of aionion age-lasting. Thus we have a rational conception of the ages that are past, of the age which now exists, and of the ages to come. And thus, also, we can well conceive of the age-lasting covenants above mentioned, which continued during the Jewish age-the age-lasting hills, which shall continue during the age of the world—the quayysklov ziwnior, age-lasting gospel, which shall continue to be preached during those ages in which the mediator shall be subjecting all things to himself, and reconciling all things to the Father-the suμatC aiwnie, (Heb. ix. 14.) 4. e. the holy spirit, which has presided over the church in all ages, and will continue so to do, till, by his influence, in the fulness of the dispensation of the times, all things will be quickened—x 08, the God who reigns through alį the ages, whether past, present, or to come; or, as St. Paul expresses it, Raothes Twv aswvwv, the king of the ages †, 1 Tim. i. 17.

In your fifth letter you jeer me because I had pointed out the difference betwixt the meaning of the Greek words aion and aionios,


*I conceive the age of ages to be the grand closing age of the mediator's reign, when he, having subdued all things to himself, and reconciled all things to the Father by the blood of his cross, shall reign a long and happy period over all, in peace, and righteousness, and joy, and then give up the kingdom to God, even the Father, that he may be all in all. If I err, may the Father of mercies pardon my involuntary Ι error, and correct my judgment by his truth.

Probably the apostle had the Septuagint in his view when he wrote this Η βασιλεία σου βασίλεια παντων των αιώνων, Thy kingdom is a kingdom of all the ages, Psalm cxlv. 13.

and the English words eternity and eternal, and then ask, "Is it not possible for a person to know that the Greek aion and aionios will not always bear to be rendered by the English words eternity, everlasting, or eternal, and yet perceive no evidence that the one are less expressive of endless duration than the other *?" How far it may be possible for you, or others, to know a true data, and not come to a right conclusion upon it, I cannot tell; but this I know, that if those Greek words will not always bear to be translated by these English ones, there is a reason for it; and perhaps the reader, when he has considered the evidence above given, may be of my mind, that the Greek words are rather less expressive of endless duration than the English ones; for the fact is, that they do not, in themselves, express endless duration at all-If you have a better reason to give, I call upon you for it.


You have also allowed †, that there is "some difference" betwixt these words; inasmuch as the English words that are "properly expressive of endless duration may not ordinarily admit of a plural, nor of the pronouns this and that before them." This, Sir, is allowing a great deal, and I think much more than your cause will bear; for if the English words eternity, everlasting, and eternal, will not endure that we should say eternities—this eternity and that eternity-the eternities past, and the eternities to come; then I think it as evident as reason can make it be, that aion and aionios, &c. cannot mean eternity, eternal, or everlasting.

The two instances which you gave of aion in its plural form being used to convey the idea of endless duration, I conceive are inadequate › to the purpose, nor can I account for your bringing forward the first of them, Eph. iii. 11. κατα πρόθεσιν των αιώνων, but by supposing that your predilection for eternal purposes is the cause. The apostle is speaking of "the disposition of the ages, which God made for Christ Jesus our Lord," and not of any eternal purpose in him.


As for 1 Tim. i. 17. I have noticed the former part of it above, as reading literally, the king of the ages; and as to the latter part of the text, where praise is ascribed to God εις τες αιώνας των αιώνων, it is literally to the ages of ages. And as I have observed to you before, all the ages which the Scripture speaks of, are included in the mediatorial reign of Christ, beyond which we read of no ages, but are briefly informed that the son shall be subject to the Father, and God shall be all in all. I Cor. xv. 28.

I think it, therefore, a grand idea of the apostle to ascribe to him who is the king of the ages, honour and glory to the ages of the ages, or throughout thein all.

[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »