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that the wicked shall be turned into hell and all the nations that forget God, it will be benevolent to warn every man of his exposure and to persuade every man by these terrors of the Lord, to renounce his sins and to attach himself to the cross of Christ.
THE DURATION OF FUTURE PUNISHMENT,
2. PETER ii. 17.
These are wells without water, clouds that are
carried with a tempest ; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved forever.
That lost men will never be restored to happiness is apparent from passages which declare their punishment to be forever, forever and ever, eternal and everlasting. The corresponding words in the original Greek, are aion and aionios. It will be best to acquaint ourselves with their general use and import, before we examine their particular application to future punishment.
I. Aion occurs in one hundred and four passages in the New Testament. Of these instances of its use, fifty-nine relate to God or to his kingdom, in such a manner that an absolute eternity must be intended. In six oft he
remaining passages, it is applied to future punishment. There are only thirty-nine, in which it can be pretended, without begging the question, that it signifies a limited duration. If then, the most common use of the word is to decide its meaning when applied to future punishment, that punishment is proved to be eternal. But a just estimation of the argument to be derived from the applications of this word, depends upon understanding a peculiar sense in which the Jews were accustomed to employ it. They divided duration into two periods. The former comprehended the time anterior to the establishment of the Messiah's kingdom, the latter embraced all succeeding ages. The first of these periods, called the present aion, was distinguished by weakness, vice and misery; the second, called the aion to come, they supposed, would be a time of uncommon prosperity and peace. In one or the other of these senses, it is used in nearly all the thirty-nine passages mentioned above. The following are fair examples. “But he shall receive an hundred fold, now in this time, houses and brethren and sisters and mothers and children and lands with persecutions; and in the world to
ard he him
convinced of the misery of a wicked state, and of the peculiar glory of those who have their fruit unto holiness? How can he know the odiousness of sin, how can he have a just sense of his unworthiness, how can he exalt the Savior to the first place in his affections, how can he be rescued from his apostacy and from the misery naturally incident to transgression? Such effects belong exclusively to that law which converts the soul, which saves moral beings by fear, which persuades the holy to remain allegiant and the rebellious to return to God, and which thus forms the ground and pillar of the divine government. Grateful indeed should we be, that our danger and way of escape are revealed! We should hear with deep solemnity those truths repeated from the pulpit, upon the belief of which depend the structure of religion in our souls and all our well grounded hopes of a blessed hereafter. Could concealment, on the part of the preachei, render the danger any less real and appalling to his hearers, could he, by persuading them, that God will not punish the wicked, reverse the fact, he would have the semblance of an apology for proclaiming impunity in sin. But he cannot. While, therefore, it remains