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It seems however evident, that whatever might be the origin of these words, they soon became engrafted in the language as a common form of speech, and in fact considered in either light the constructions contended for are both open to the following objections.-For 1st, Had the Greeks no form of speech by which to express eternity? Was their language, the richest ever known, destitute of a symbol appropriated to that idea which we find inseparable from our minds ? llow then shall we prove the eternity of future happiness, or must this be restricted within the same limits in order to make a fair compromise? a sort of diplomatic arrangement by which the balance is equitably adjusted between our Maker and ourselves ? but adly, These unhappy words are placed also in situations where they become much more perplexing; for instance St. Paul speaking of our Saviour says
« Θεος ευλογητος εις τας αιωνας” 9 Rom. 5. :-so 1 Tim. 17. τω βασιλει των αιωνων (which our translators have ventured to render « Eternal") Θεω τιμη, και δοξα εις τες αιωνας των αιώνων, can these expressions possibly be limited? can the existence of God be finite, or the glory we pay him not concurrent with it?-I confess I am unable to see how the difficulty is to be niet; yet one of the most direct texts on the present subject is conceived in the samewords, where St. John xx. Rev. x. speaking of the Devil, the Beast, and the false Prophet, say's “ και βασανισθησούλας ημέρας και νυκλος εις τες
awwwv.”-If to all this we add that rally agreed to be compounded of ass w to express perpetuity, I think we shall see strong ground to adopt the construction, for which I am an unlcarned advocate.But if it were not thought too daring a concession, I could almost be willing to yield these arguments to our opponents, and rest the question on grounds to which similar objections cannot apply.---- it is allowed has
is geneseveral senses, and though I have no doubts as to the phrase under discussion, this circumstance affords some colour to those who maintain the contrary opinion, but though the substantive be thought questionable; I kuppose there is not a shade of reason for extending the same objections to its adjective ; awnos I apprehend always means eternal; thus St. John speaking of our Saviour 1 Epistle ii. calls him 's awwuor Swmuy where it can mean nothing else; yet we read also of " συρ αιωνιον” and “ ολεθρος αιωνιος” – many more texts might be cited, but I believe I may say that there is not one passage in the New Testament in which there is any ground for rendering it otherwise.— But the evidence for this doctrine is not yet exhausted, it presents itself in various shapes and rests not on the critical accuracy of expressions.—The punishment which the wicked shall hereafter suffer is continually spoken of under the title of Death, the most gloomy of all characters which seems to point it out as dark and final,-a state from which there is no return, cut off from light, and hope, and consolation.—John the Baptist closes his figurative account of our Saviour's ministration, by declaring, that he shall burn the chaff with “fire unquenchable,” thís ' requires no comment, it is direct and, I think, conclusive. Or if confirmation be needed, our Blessed Lord himself compares the wicked to the tares which the Lord commanded his servants to gather together at the harvest, and burn them in heaps, a direct emblem of utter destruction; and elsewhere describes the place of torments by declaring that there “ the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched.”---Of the sinner against the Holy Ghost he expressedly asserts, that he shall not
* So Hesiod 66 μακαρων γενος αιεν εoνίων,” from αιων evum is also clearly derived. See Scapula on these words and a quotation given by him from Philo a Jew.
be pardoned “either in this world or the world to come,” and as if he would have answered the doubts of those whose opinions are in question, he affirms of Judas, that, “it had been happy for him had he never been born.”—-This last declaration indeed seems to ine to render their case hopeless; for all their bold attempts to establish forced constructions, are grounded on a conviction, that it shall be well with all at the last: and that every passage must
be misunderstood, which would falsify the opinion, that i God's infinite benevolence shall finally produce good
out of evil ; that every paradox shall be reconciled, and universal happiness crown the consummation of all things. Alas this single speech of our Saviour for ever annihilates this fair theory;-it no longer trembles before the blast, but is stretched in ruins upon the dust.
Such among many others are the passages on which our church has established this disputed doctrine, and to me I must confess they are satisfactory: yet I am well aware that by many it is thought not only absurd, but cruel and intolerant--The child of priestcraft and terror of ignorance.-Would to God I could esteem it such.-The horrors of endless punishment have no charms to seduce the imagination, and the evidences of their truth must command our understandings, not win our favour. But the same observation is equally applicable to the tempests by which this world is agitated, of which the proofs are irresistible, and it is infinitely important that what is clearly established by the word of God, should not be rejected by the pride of man.
If my memory is correct, the first Christian Father of eminence who called in question the eternity of future torments, was the celebrated Origen; a man who seems to have been harshly treated both by his contemporaries and successors. His opinions on this subject (as on some others) he never patronized in public, but communicated them only in the confidence of private conrespondence ;--perhaps rather hazarding them as pros bable, than maintaining them as certain, and it should be recorded to his honour, that what he thus privately supported he publicly recanted before his death.--But his disciples have greatly increased both in number and confidence, and the gloomy picture afforded us by our spiritual mother is rejected alike by the proud subtlety of the philosopher, and the fastidious elegance of the Poet, Among the notes to a* work of just celebrity, I remem, ber formerly to have met with a Sonnet ending thus :
some a veil
“ And realize the hell which Priests and Beldams feign." I know not how such an interpreter ‘of the Scriptures could maintain the truth of a single doctrine therein contained.--I am sure I can quote the authority of another poet, before whose splendid orb his little ray is swallowed up in darkness.
for ever sunk
Ages of hopeless end. Milton, with all his errors, presumed not to flatter his imagination at the expence of his judgment, and those who can reach neither his learning or sublimity, might at least copy his humility. But why, it is said, all this disturbance about a trifling deviation, where no moral evil can ensue:--Thé terrors of hell are sufficient whether they be infinite or not.--I answer : why any deviation at alt where the matter is allowed to be unimportant? But is it indeed unimportant? Is it nothing to spread
* The Pleasures of Memory. Vol. VI. Churchm. Mag. Jan. F
a veil over the effulgence of truth? Is it nothing to resist the evidence of Holy Writ? Is it nothing to retrench God's awful declarations of vengeance; by expunging a large part of the damnatory clause? Is it nothing to desecrate our boly church by holding up her doctrines to contempt? Nor can I allow that no moral evil will ensue; to the majority of mankind dread of pain is a more powerful motive than anticipation of happiness, and the rather as our conception of the former is the most perfect.—To say that this is a slavish motive is not true, and would matter little if it were-Suffice it for us that it is such a motive as God himself has sanctioned;-It would'no: have been supplied had it not been meant to operate. But by robbing future punishment of its Eternity we deprive it of half its terrors, and leave it almost to the choice of the individual whether he will receive a given quantum of present good, for a proportionate ratio of future evil-As if obedience were a matter of prudence only, and might be waved by those who will wave also its advantages. Judging only by my own feelings, I must consider the abridgement of this doctrine as highly dangerous to the general virtue of mankind. Even when cloathed in all terrors, the present glitter of pleasure or ambition often can obscure it; and we have little reason to think its effects powerful either in restricting our vicious or animating our virtuous habits. Its effects must be greatly diminished by adopting the limitations proposed. If misery be considered as finite, hope cannot be extinguished; and while hope remains to cheer us, pain cannot be intolerable: but the mind shudders at the view of that vengeance which no ages shall exhaust, as the eye of the traveller amid the wilds of Arabia shrinks from the prospect of unlimited desolation.