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| C H A P. VI, The use and importance of the doctrine defended
As nothing will excuse the prolixity with which I have treated this subject but the moment of it, I think myself concerned to shew that this is an article of some weight; and not a point of small or ill consequence, as some affect to represent it . Mr. Whiston, for instance, tells us, p. 102. that “this “ proper eternity of hell torments, is no fundamen“ tal doctrine of Christianity." His reason is, because it is “ entirely omitted in all the five original “ catalogues that we have of those fundamental doc“ trines.” Where, supposing the report to be true, the argument is inconclusive : for, though he is pleased to dignify them with the name of “cata“ logues of fundamental doctrines,” every one who looks into them will be satisfied that they are no such thing. Creeds were never designed for complete catalogues of fundamentals b; and the original
a It is not easy to tell what Mr. W. distinctly means. If the eternity of punishment be no doctrine of Christianity at all, as the whole purpose of his book is to prove, there is no occasion to shew that it is no fundamental doctrine. But if his meaning be, that, supposing it true, it is still not important doctrine, it seems to contradict what he says, p. 104; where his argument plainly implies that if it were true, it would be a “most import“ ant article.” And therefore he argues against the truth of it, because this “ most important article” is so hastily passed over by the apostles ; that is, his pretended apostles in the Constitutions. Here the importance of it seems to be plainly acknowledged. b See Dr. Waterland's Lecture-Sermons, p. 321, &c. Remarks and oldest creeds are least of all so, being generally the shortest. As heresies sprung up in after-ages, creeds became larger and more explicit, to be a guard and security to the faith. Several articles omitted might be of equal importance, but as they were not equally opposed and denied, there was not the same necessity to insert them in those short summaries of faith. It is therefore no just inference, that because an article is omitted in the oldest creeds, it is consequently not fundamental.
But how, after all, and in what sense, is the point in question omitted in the creeds or catalogues mentioned? No otherwise than the perpetuity of the joys of heaven is omitted; that is, neither of them is expressed particularly, but such general terms are used as, when explained according to scripture, imply both. The resurrection both of the just and unjust, the judgment, and the retribution, must in all reason be understood agreeably to scripture ideas; and then they will comprehend the resurrection unto life, and the resurrection of damnation, John v. 29. Judgment unto justification, and judgment to condemnation, and the retribution consequent thereon, when the wicked shall go into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal, Matt. xxv. 46. It is however of no great consequence, and hardly worth disputing, whether these Constitution Creeds contain our doctrine, or not. For though Mr. W. reckons them of most sacred, they are evidently of very uncertain authority, which is next to none. There are plain marks of their being later upon Dr. Clarke's Exposition, p. 73, &c. Importance, &c. p. 244. Critical History of the Athanasian Creed, p. 285. Discourse of Fundamentals, p. 40.
! than the age they pretend to, even in the very chapters referred to by Mr. W., by their opposing heresies which did not rise till afterwards, and using phrases unknown to the apostolical age. But so far as their authority is of any weight, they cast it all in the present case into the right scale. For they decree positively for the natural immortality of the soul, and they declare that there are some impious wretches who will never be forgiven, neither in this world, nor in the world to comed. And what the just and natural consequence is of these things laid together, I leave any unprejudiced man to judge.
“ The last and most imperfect catalogue,” Mr. W. says, “is in the Epistle to the Hebrews ;” viz. ch. vi. 1, 2. To which I answer, first, that it is no catalogue of fundamentals at all e ; but a short summary of the elementary doctrines, the first principles, as it were, of Christian knowledge, without which they could hardly be so much as babes in Christ. In the next place I assert, that this catalogue, perfect or imperfect, contains the doctrine in dispute; for kpíua aió vlov and kpious aiúvios never signify any thing else in the New Testament. I return him therefore his argument, and observe, that this must be an article of some importance, since it is found in so short a summary even of the principles of the doctrine of Christ. What Mr. W. next relates is of no great
- Vid. Constitut. lib. vi. cap. II. et lib. vii. cap. 41. cum not. Cotelerii et Clerici in loc.
d With the passages just referred to compare the following: lib. vi. cap. 10. lib. i. cap. 6. lib. v. cap. 6. lib. vi. cap. 18, 26. lib. vii. cap. 32.
e See this proved in Dr. Waterland's Discourse concerning Fundamentals, p. 43, &c.
consequence, supposing it all just, viz. that “ Creeds" (so I understand him to mean) “ generally omit the “ direct mention of the punishment of the wicked “ on purpose; as of small consequence, in compa“ rison of the article of the happiness of the good." Another writer likewise observes, “we every day “ repeat in our Creed, I believe in life everlasting. “ The compilers certainly forgot to add, I beliere in “ death everlasting. This omission may, at least, “ convince us, that they did not look on that article “ as an essential point f.” Here, not to mention that some creeds of very great antiquity, such as those of Irenæus, as is allowed by Mr. W. himself, do enlarge on this article; I maintain that the argument is of no weight. For the creeds which omit it, do not omit it for this reason, because it is “ of small “ consequence,” or because the compilers looked on it as no “ essential point;" but upon other accounts, and principally, perhaps, because it is sufficiently implied in what is expressed, viz. the retribution, the life of the world to come, or the life everlasting. I am sensible Mr. W. will not admit of this; for he blames bishop Pearson, and some others of our modern comments, for including this punishment in the article. I know not what comments he means, but I will take the liberty to cite the words of two, which overthrow all he suggests to the contrary: “ The resurrection of the dead is in order to that “ final judgment which shall pass upon all mankind “ as soon as they are raised. The effect of this “ judgment will be the separating of men according “ to their deserts, and appointing them their dif
e Letters concerning the State of Souls, &c. p. 384. in not.
“ ferent portions in that eternal state which shall “ succeed the dissolution of this present world. 5Which eternal state is, in the present article, “ styled the life everlasting ; from that more ex“ cellent part of it, which is the state of happiness “ for the righteous. But it includes also, by neces“ sary consequence, that state of punishment or mi“ sery, into which the wicked shall be sent at the “ great day.” Dr. Clarke's Exposition of the Catechism, p. 140. The other person is the late lord chancellor King, who concludes his Critical History of the Apostles' Creed as follows :—“ The Gnostics, “ as it hath been already related in the fifth chapter “ of this Treatise, unto which I refer the reader, di. “ vided all mankind into three parts, earthly, ani“ mal, and spiritual; the first of which, and part of “ the second, they affirmed, would be annihilated, or “ reduced to nothing, by the general conflagration at “ the last day, whilst only the spiritual, and part of “ the animal, should be made immortal and eternal.
To obviate which opinion, as it seems most pro“ bable, the rulers of the church did in those days “ subjoin to the resurrection the clause of life ever“ lasting, that thereby that heresy might be con“ tradicted and warded against : from whence we “ find, that Irenæus, a cotemporary with these here“ tics, and their greatest antagonist and confuter, “ doth, in opposition to their heresy, thus para“ phrastically express in his Creed the final deter“ mination of every man, that after the resurrection “ Christ shall render a righteous judgment unto all'; “ • wicked, unjust, ungodly and blasphemous men, “ he shall send into everlasting fire; but unto the