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2 Peter 2: 17. To whom the mist of darkness is reserved forever. As I have not access to any comments of Mr. B. up
passage, I shall not multiply remarks of my own. The persons spoken of in the context, are false teachers, who bring in nnable heresies, denying the Lord that bought themwho bring upon themselves swift destruction-whose judgment lingereth not, and whose damnation slumbereth not-whom the Lord knoweth how to reserve unto the day of judgment, to be punished-as he spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell. They are compared to Baalam, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; and after heaping harsh epithets upon them, it is added, for whom the mist of darkness is reserved forever. Surely, there is nothing in these epithets that would lead us to conclude, that their punishment was only some temporal calamity. The frequent use of the words, judgment and damnation, and the comparison with the destruction of the angels that sinned and were cast down to hell, are at least presumptive evidence that the damnation in hell is intended by the mist of darkness forever.
And then our opponents are required to show, in what historical fact these false teachers were known to have experienced in this world the mist of darkness forever-wherein temporal calamities came upon them, like to the casting down to hell the angels that sin, ned.
Jude 13. Wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever. This is similar to the last, and I cannot discover that its evidence has been gainsayed by Mr. B, and I shall offer no remarks upon it.
Jude 7. Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them, in like manner, are set forth as examples, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. Mr. B.'s reasons for believing that the fire of hell, or eternal fire, is not here meant are the following. First, Peter mentions the case of Sodom and Gomorrah, but says nothing about their going to hell. But the fact, that Peter has not said it, proves no more than that Paul has not said it, and neither proves that Jude has not. His second reason is, “that by comparing verses 5, 6 and 7, we find that Jude
says, that the people to whom he wrote knew that Sodom and Gomorrah suffered the vengeance of eternal fire. But they could not know that they suffered it in a future state of existence.” Jude does not say that they knew it, as the reader will see for himself. And if he had said it, who is able to gainsay it ? For the readers of this epistle had doubtless read the intimation which Christ had given of the fact, in speaking of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment. Thirdly, Mr: B. objects, that they are set forth as an example, which could. not be, if the example were in a future state ; for an example must be visible, to be of any effect. This surely is a new doctrine. Cannot a fact, though known by sufficient testimony, affect us as an example, unless seen by our own eyes? Then the example of Christ is no example for us. That comes to us through sufficient testimony, and so does the example of Sodom's suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. The force of this passage then, remains unbroken.
Rev. 14: 11. And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up forever and ever, and they have no rest day nor night who worship the beast and his image. And Rev. 19: 1. And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, alleluiah, salvation and glory and honor and power, unto the Lord our God, for true and righteous are his judgments; and again they said alleluiah, and her smoke rose up for and ever. So also Rev. 20:10. And the devil that deceived them was cast into a lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night, forever and ever. Here follows every word Mr. B. has to say in relation to these passages—“It would be idle to show that these passages have no respect to punishment in a future state of existence. No well informed man would urge this as a proof of such a doctrine, for it is plain that their punishments were in this world, where time is measured by day and night.” This is the way in which he chooses to dispose of testimony so incontrovertible. Though I should hazard the loss of his estimation of being a well informed man, I should be able to bear it, since I should have the help of such names as Edwards,
Saurin, Dwight, Scott, Rosenmüller, Fuller and Stuart, men generally esteemed not altogether destitute of information on such subjects. This, then, is the kind of dealing by which men are to be brought into the persuasion that there is no future punishment. When the most strong assertions of such punishment come under notice, they are to be set aside with the passing remark, that no well informed man makes use of them to prove the doctrine. This is an easy methoå of argument, and for thousands of his more confiding readers, who have not the means of knowing better, it is, doubtless, satisfactory. But what a tremendous responsibility does he assume, who convinces men of such an error by such means. The only reason which he gives to makes us see, what to him is so plain, is, that when this punishment is inflicted, time is measured by day and night. But this is equally good to prove that there is no heaven but in this world. In chap. 7: 15. we read, Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple. The same principle would also require that the present national distinctions be preserved in heaven, since it is said, chap. 22: 24. The nations of them that are saved shall walk in the light of the New Jerusalem. The adoption of such frigid and puerile evidence may fairly be taken as proof of the scarcity of that commodity. The reader will see that our author has given us no reason why we must not understand these three passages as proofs of everlasting punishment, in the world to come; and any comments of mine, designed to set clear evidence in a stronger light, would be holding “a farthing candle to the sun."
I have now finished the examination of the particular passages, in which the words in question occur in application to punishment. And here I cannot forbear to give a quotation from Andrew Fuller. “It has long been the practice of writers on your side of the question to ring changes upon the words aion, and aionios-pretty words, no doubt, and could they be proved to be less expressive than the English words, everlasting and eternal, they might be something to the purpose. But if not, the continual recurrence to them, is a mere affectation
of learning, serving to mislead the ignorant. Be this as it may, this is an exercise which hardly becomes you or me. I shall only observe upon it, that by this method of proceeding, you may disprove almost anything you please. There are scarcely any terms in any language, but what, through the poverty of language, are sometimes used in an improper or figurative
Thus, if one attempt to prove the omniscience of God, from its being declared that his understanding is infinite, you might answer, the term infinite is sometimes used to express only a very great degree, as when the strength of Ethiopia and Egypt are said to have been infinite. Nahum 3: 9. The question is, could stronger terms have been used than are used ? To object against the words, everlasting, eternal, &c. as being too weak and indeterminate in their application, for the purpose, is idle, unless others could be named which are stronger, and more determinate. What expressions could have been used, that would have placed the subject beyond dispute ? You ordinarily make use of the term, endless, to express our doctrine: it should seem then, that if we read of endless punishment, or punishment without end, you would believe; yet the same objections might then be made. It is common to say, of a loquacious person, he is an endless talker: it might, therefore, be pretended that the term, endless, is
very indeterminate—that it often means not more than three or four hours. Thus you may see, it is not in the power of language, to stand before such methods of criticising and reasoning."
As to the suggestions, that are repeatedly made in the course of Mr. B.'s reasonings on this subject, that the words rendered eternal, &c. are applied but seldom to punishment, (twelve, in all the instances in the New Testament) I would remark, that twelve times, out of ninety-six, is as large a proportion as the subject requires, since it is applied to nearly a score of different subjects. It is applied as often to the duration of punishment as to the duration of the existence of God. To refute such trifling is verily humiliating.
The eternity of the punishment of the wicked, is implied in some passages which I shall now quote, in which those worde
do not occur. There is a sin unto death, I do not say he shall pray for it. It is impossible to renew them again to repent
If we sin wilfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment. He that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him. I go away, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins ; whither I go ye cannot come. Whose end is destruction. He that showeth no mercy shall have judgment without mercy.-Now if there be a sin for the pardon of which we may not pray, there is a sin, doubtless, which God never will pardon. If there be no more sacrifice for sin, in any case, but a fearful looking for of judgment;-if there be some that die in their sins, who cannot go whither Christ has gone, there are some that will never get to heaven. If there be some whose end is destruction, there are some who, in the final period of their existence, will still be enduring destruction. If there be a man for whom it had been good never to have been born, there is one whose career will not be that of eternal glory ; for such glory would infinitely outweigh all conceivable temporal punishments. If there be any on whom falls judgment without mercy, there are some who are never saved, for none can be saved without mercy. And we are told that many shall seek to enter in, and shall not be able. Enter into what? Salvation, to be sure—for it was said in reply to the question, Are there few that be saved. If, then, there be many that shall not enter into salvation, all hopes of a universal salvation are groundless.