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THE SIGNIFICATION OF THE WORDS EVERLASTING, ETERNAL, FOREVER, &c., AS APPLIED TO THE PUNISHMENT OF THE
On this subject, Mr. B. has given his views at large, both in his second Inquiry and in his Reply to Stuart's Exegetical Essays. And I shall attempt in this chapter, either directly to notice or virtually to answer every thing that is material in his discussion of the subject in both. But no reader of this reply to Stuart, will expect me to wade through the whole mass of irrelevant matter, sophistical evasions, and appeals to the passions and prejudices of the Universalists. There is very little in it which may not safely be left to any unprejudiced mind, even of limited information. Mr. B. labors the proof that Mr. Stuart's Essays were intended as an answer to his writings, though Mr. S. had expressly disclaimed all polemical references, except in one instance named, and that, not Mr. B.; as though it were an important object gained, to have been referred to by Mr. Stuart. But the question whether Mr. Stuart's Essays were intended as an answer to Balfour, iş almost the only question fairly at issue, in the whole reply, that he attempts to meet by direct and logical proofs. He talks about it and about it, through more than two hundred pages, but he does not begin to reply to the proofs presented by Mr. Stuart.
For the sake of bringing as much of the argument as may be into as little compass as possible, by way of abbreviation, I shall, on this subject, make use of Mr. Stuart's classification of passages in part, referring the reader to his Essays for many important views of the subject, which do not properly come within the design of this chapter. I do not design in this place
to consider the subject with much reference to those who admit a limited punishment in the future world, though it will be seen that the arguments presented, will go with equal force against both systems of Universalism. If it be proved that the wicked are punished through a proper eternity, Mr. Balfour's system of no future punishment of course is excluded. And we have now particular reference to that system.
The question now before us, turns on the signification of two words in the New Testament, Aion, and its derivative Aionios, rendered everlasting, eternal, forever, &c. Mr. Stuart has given every instance of the use of these words, arranged in different classes, according to their signification. And I shall first present the substance of this part of his investigation; considering by the way, Mr. B.'s reply. His first class of meanings of a ion, is that of “ An indefinite period of time, time without limitation, ever, forever, time without end, and eternity, all in relation to the future.” This class is subdivided into those, in the first place, “which have reference to God or Christ, to what belongs to him, or is rendered to him, or will be rendered to him, and which, from his nature, and the nature of things, cannot be supposed to have an end." As Rom. 1: 25. The Creator who is blessed forever. Rom. 9: 5. God over all, blessed forever. Rom. 11:36. To whom be glory forever. And the following, making in all, twenty-two instances. Rom. 16: 27. 2 Cor. 11: 31. Gal. 1: 5. Eph. 3:21. Phil. 4: 20. 1 Tim. 1: 17. 2 Tim. 4: 18. Heb. 3: 21. 1 Peter 1: 25. 1 Peter 4: 11. 1 Peter 5: 11. 1 Peter 3: 18. Rev. 1: 6. 1: 18. 4: 9. 4: 10. 7: 12. 10: 6. 15: 7. Here the instances are quoted, and the reader left to judge for himself, whether in these cases the words have not the force ascribed to them. Mr. B. does not deny but that these meanings are properly given. But will have us to understand that if the word “means eternity in any case, it is not from the native meaning of the word,” but from the object with which it is associated. But pray how do we learn the native meaning of a word but by its prevailing use, or the objects with which it is generally associated ? And the inquiry now is respecting its native meaning, as deducible from its use in
connexion with other objects, than that of punishment. Mr. B.'s assumption, that the object to which the qualifying word is applied must determine what the qualification is,—that the object to which a word expressing duration is applied, must determine the extent of the duration, in a given case, separately considered,-would render such qualifying words utterly useless. If the duration is expressed in the object itself, why use that word eternal which is so pliable as to mean anything or nothing, according to the object to which it is applied ? Each word is supposed to have of itself a meaning, and this meaning discoverable by the objects to which it is currently applied. And the inquiry is how, and to what objects, is it currently applied.
Mr. Stuart's second class of texts, under this head, are“ those which have reference to the happiness of the pious, especially to their happiness in heaven," as follows: John 6: 51. If any man eat of this bread he shall live forever. John 8: 51. If a man shall keep my sayings, he shall never see death. John 6: 58. 8: 52. 10: 28. 11: 26. 2 Cor. 9: 9. 1 John 2: 17. Rev. 22: 5. Here Mr. B. makes it an objection that Mr. S. passes these texts without comment, assuming that they refer to the happiness of heaven. The matter is simply this. Mr. Stuart quotes these texts and lodges the appeal with the common sense of every reader, if they do not refer to the happiness of the future world. Deeming it so clear that they have that reference, he chooses to leave them without comment; or rather he asserts that they have that meaning, and challenges contradiction, leaving the matter in such a shape, that every man can judge for himself as to the soundness of his premises. That Mr. Balfour has made it a question whether these and such like passages refer to the happiness of heaven, none will wonder, after having noticed his views of the subject of eternal life. But yet every reader is supposed to have common sense, and to be capable of judging with regard to the use of the word in such
And the appeal is from his sophistries to their common
Mr. Stuart's third class of meanings, under tnis head, is that
3. What Mr. B. has to say in respect to the above classes, being differently interpreted by some orthodox writers, and by Balfour's Second Inquiry-and being without exainples of such usage, is welcome to pass for what it is worth. It is all an attempt to throw dust in the eyes of readers that do not understand the nature of philological inquiries. The design of exhibiting these passages, in such a form, without comment, except here and there an explanatory remark, is that every reader may see with his own eyes, untrammelled by comments, and judge by the connexion and subject, whether or not the writer is correct in his classification. If Mr. B. had employed himself in proving the incorrectness of the classification, instead of quoting some conceits of some orthodox writers, and calling for more comments, he would have labored more to the point.
The next class contains a peculiar meaning of this word, that of a generation of men considered either as to the time in which they live or as to the persons themselves. Eph. 2: 2. Ye walked according to the course of this world.
Next, under a distinct head, are arranged all the cases in which the word is used in reference to the punishment of the wicked. 2 Pet. 2: 17. To whom the mist of darkness is reserved forever. Jude 13. For whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever. Rev. 14: 11. The smoke of their torment ascendeth up forever and ever. 19: 3. The smoke of her torment ascendeth up forever and ever. 20: 10. And they shall be tormented continually, forever and ever.
The above embrace all, except a few instances in which the genuineness of the text has been disputed. Here again we have one of Mr. B.'s calls for comments. But Mr. Stuart as yet draws no conclusion from the texts. But he only says they relate to the punishment of the wicked, which Mr. B. will not deny : whether that punishment be endless, is the question to be settled, when all the evidence is brought together.
The mere throwing of these texts together, in this connexion, with a special request that the reader would suspend his judgment, seems to throw the man into a panic, and sets him invoking the aid of his Second Inquiry, as if he were conscious that eve
ry reader would find it impossible to suspend his judgment. Having laid out these passages according to their classes, with an appeal to the common sense of the reader, for the correctness of the classifications, Mr. S. proceeds to sum up the result, and he finds the whole number of instances of the use of the word to be ninety-five. In sixteen of these, it is used in ascriptions of praise to God and Christ. In five, it is applied to God or Christ, who liveth forever. In four, it is employed to designate the dominion of Christ. In one, it is said the Word of God abideth forever. In nine, it is applied to the future happiness of the saints. In eighteen, it designates the sense of ever, with the negative never. In seven, indefinite time past. In three, age in the sense of dispensation. In three, the world, present or future, with reference to a period of duration. In twelve, the world as a scene of trials. In eleven, the world as a place of residence for men. In one, generation of men. By comparing these together, he finds that those which have a simple respect to future time, forty-nine out of the whole, besides those which relate to punishment, are all employed in the sense of unlimited duration. The seven which relate to time past, designate either past eternity, or a long and unlimited duration. And the four which relate to the dominion of Christ, understood either way, must designate at least a future indefinite period, if not a proper eternity. And the remaining thirty cases designate world in our sense of that word. From these premises he brings the conclusion, that there are fifty-five in which the word certainly means unlimited duration, either future or past, besides those which relate to punishment. And there is no case in which it is einployed to designate a definite period. Hence he concludes, that when it simply marks time, in the New Testament, it marks indefinite unlimited time. All the other instances wherein the word signifies world, except those which speak of the future world as a state of retribution, are foreign to the question about future punishment.
Mr. B.'s reply to this summing up of the matter, is, in the first place, that Mr. S. spends more pages in summing up, than in explaining the texts. Secondly, that he differs from other Or