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what ages or periods of this sublunary world can the extent of the word aióvrov here be limited, when this sublunary world is at an end ? In short, so far is it from being true that the sense of the word is to be confined by any ages or periods of this world, that it is most frequently, in the New Testament, applied to things which do not properly commence, till the ages and periods of this world are finished; viz. the rewards and punishments of the world to come. Then the mystery (or the mysterious dispensation) of God, by Jesus Christ, shall be finished; and time with its
See Rev. x. 6, 7. I only make use of these words, without pretending to say that this is the precise meaning of them. But the thing intended is plain ; when Christ shall have delivered up the kingdom (the kingdom which he now administers, or quoad præsentem formam administrationis) to God, even the Father, then cometh the end; beyond which we know from the gospel of no ages or periods, but an eternal, immutable state. Quæ Ratio universitatem ex diversitate composuit,eadem ævum quoque ita destinata ac distincta conditione conseruit, ut prima hæc pars ab exordio rerum quam incolimus, temporali ætate ad finem defluat: sequens vero, quam expectamus, in infinitam æternitatem propagetur. Cum ergo finis et limes medius, qui interbiat, adfuerit, ut etiam mundi ipsius species transferatur, æque temporalis, quæ illi dispositioni æternitatis aulæi vice oppansa est, tunc restituetur omne humanum genus, ad expungendum quod in isto æro boni seu mali meruit, et exin dependendum in immensam æternitatis perpetuitatem. Ideoque nec mors jam, nec rursus ac rursus resurrectio, sed erimus iidem qui nunc, nec alii post; Dei quidem cultores apud Deum semper, superinduti substantia propria æternitatis; profani vero, et qui non integre ad Deum, in pænam æque jugis ignis, habentes ex ipsa natura ejus, divina scilicet, subministrationem incorruptibilitatis. Norerunt et philosophi diversitatem arcani et publici ignis. Tertullian. Apolog. cap. xlviii. Tertullian speaks of hell fire in the same manner as Lactantius and Minutius Felix do ; see p. 02. and 94. of Mr. Whiston's book. It is plain they all took it to be something quite different from our common culivary fire. But because Tertullian considers lightning, ages and periods, shall be no longer. Yet still God (God himself at least, Mr. W. will allow) will live εις τους αιώνας των αιώνων, strictly and properly, for ever and ever. And we have repeated assurances, in the very same words, that some of his creatures shall do so too: and therefore it seems to be a very fanciful and arbitrary interpretation, to limit these words (which in themselves, we see, are capable of denoting a proper eternity) to ages and periods, which will then be over. And indeed all the dust that Mr. W. has raised, p. 22, about God's making, or framing tous alõvas, the ages, &c. may be cleared, only by recollecting that that word sometimes denotes the world, sometimes the ages or periods of the world, or any lesser periods included therein, and sometimes duration itself, in the abstract, before, or after, all worlds whatever. See Num. XXII.
As this is the first time we meet with the expression of everlasting fire, I have been the longer upon it; because Mr. W. has made a stir about it, and something depends upon it, though much less, perhaps, than is commonly imagined. It will appear, in the progress of this undertaking, that, for my and the fire in burning mountains, which does not consume them, as examples (exemplaria) of the perpetuity of hell-fire, see what a strange remark Mr. W. has made p. 85. viz. that this hell-fire is to arise from our present earth, and to burn up the wicked while it is such an earth, and no longer. Confer de Penitentia, cap. ult. And how weak is what he suggests about the difference of Tertullian's sentiments, as to this article, before and after he was a Montanist ; since it is plain, in the two passages referred to above, which according to Mr. W. were wrote in these different periods, he asserts the same doctrine of the never-ending perpetuity of hell-fire. However, that he was not a Montanist when he wrote his Apologetic, see Mr. Welchman's preface to his edition of his book Adversus Praxean. p.xi. VOL. II. HORBERY.
part, I build not my doctrine merely upon the foundation of any verbal criticisms whatever. But when our Lord's plain representations of human life and the nature and design of his kingdom, and his plain declarations of the final orders and dispositions which he, the Judge himself, will make, at the consummation of all things; (which are, with me, the great and primary arguments on this subject;) when these considerations have directed our thoughts to a conclusion agreeable to the whole dispensation of God, both in nature and the gospel, then we may attend to words, and draw such arguments from them, though but of an inferior and secondary nature, as it will be no easy matter to set aside.
Num. XV. Matt. xviii. 34, 35. And his lord was wroth, and delivered
him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.
From these texts Mr. W. thus argues : “m This “ text, joined to the former, chap. v. 26, already set “ down, are clear, that the debt of punishment, which “ will be exacted of the wicked in another world, “ will be only proportionable to strict right and jus“ tice, but no more; which I take to be an absolute “ demonstration against the proper eternity of that “ punishment; nay indeed, most naturally to imply, “ that where this debt is vastly great, both the de
gree and duration of the torments will be vastly “ great also; but still in exact proportion with such “ debt, and not otherwise.” Every one knows from his natural idea of God,
m P. 38.
even without this or any other text of scripture, that the wicked will be punished in another world only proportionably to right and justice. But when Mr. W. takes it for granted, that this is a demonstration, an absolute demonstration, against the eternity of their punishments, he must bear to be reminded, that this is taking for granted the great point to be proved. How is it contrary to right and justice, that wicked spirits and wicked men (one as well as the other) should be excluded out of Christ's kingdom in heaven, the kingdom only of the just ? Especially when the consequences of this exclusion will be in exact proportion to the guilt and demerit of each sufferer's sin, and the malignity of his temper. So that though there be no difference in the duration of their punishments, the various, perhaps to us inconceivable, degrees of them, will make a great one. This, as far as I can see, must be the case; unless they either cease to exist, of which this text gives no intimation, or else be delivered out of this prison, as Mr. W. intimates, in his comment on Matt. y. 26. they will be, when they have paid the debt. But how can they pay all that is due, whose original stock and principal, which they might have improved in this life, but did not, is taken from them, according to our Lord's application of the parable of the talents ? From him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath, Matt. xxv. 29. And Mr. W. himself sometimes appears to be of this opinion; since he tells us in one place, (p. 131.) that “ without repentance and amendment, as such crea“ tures cannot, so is it no way desirable that they “ should ever be made happy :” and in another assures us, that it " is perfectly agreeable to the testi“ monies sacred and primitive, that in gehenna, or “ hell, there is no repentance,” p. 72, 73. See above, Num. IV. and compare archbishop Dawes's fifth Sermon, p. 171, &c. printed at Cambridge, 1707.
Numb. XVI. Matt. xxii. 13. Then said the king to the servants, Bind
him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. See above, under Num. IX.
It may be added here, upon the authority of an ancient commentator”, that binding him hand and foot is depriving him of the practical powers of the soul; (which looks as if his moral agency was at an end, and that there was no other probation for him;) and thus it answers to the taking away the original talent from the slothful servant, Matt. xxv. 28, 29.
Num. XVII. Matt. xxiii. 33. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how
can ye escape the damnation of hell? These words determine nothing concerning the duration of the punishments in hell; but intimate to us pretty strongly what sort of persons are liable to them. Our Lord no where in the gospel treats any one, how great a sinner soever, with so much severity, where he could discover any hopes of amendment.
n Bind his hands and feet, that is, the practical powers of his soul. For in the present life we may work and act, but in the future all the practical powers of the soul are bound; and it is not possible to do any good thing towards making amends, or as a compensation, for our sins. Theophyl. in loc. In the same manner he explains the command to bind the tares in bundles, Matt. xiii. 30. No one then any longer will have power to work, but every practical power will be bound.