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To the Editor of the Investigator.
In investigating the language of Prophecy, some difficulties have been raised about the meaning of the words "ever" and “ for ever." It has been urged, that they must not be understood strictly;—that in some cases they have a limited sense and mean not "to all eternity," but as long as the circumstances
or state of things, referred to in the passage where they occur, shall last;"-nay more, that they are sometimes used loosely for "a very a very long period." explanation of these words given in Cruden's Concordance under the head "Eternal." "The words Eternal, Everlasting, for ever, 'sometimes taken for a long time, and are not always to be understood strictly for example, it is said, Gen. xvii, 8, I will give 'to thee and to thy seed the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession.' And in chap. xiii, 15, 'I will give it to thee and to thy seed for ever;' that is, for a long space of time"--and so he goes on with more to the same purport. Gesenius too, in his Hebrew Lexicon, under the word for ever, says, that it is "sometimes sometimes to be understood in a loose sense ́ for a long period." (Gibbs's Translation of Gesenius.)
ON THE PHRASES "EVER" AND
חי אנוכי Let me quote the
Now it is clearly desirable to fix the meaning of these words with some degree of accuracy, and not to leave so many important passages involved in the vagueness and uncertainty, which so lax an interpretation throws around them.
be understood in some passages as meaning to all eternity," as when it is applied to the Divine existence. So in Deut. xxxii, 40 (quoted by Gesenius in his Lexicon) by "I live for ever," and in many other passages. The same with T
,18 ,Exod. xv לעולם ועד with יהוה ימלך לעולם ועד
The Lord shall reign for ever and ever." These phrases therefore having in some places strictly the sense of eternity, let us see what other senses they appear to bear. I do not profess to have examined into the matter hitherto with that minute diligence, which the subject perhaps requires; but so far as my researches have gone, I have found but few instances wherein any limited sense appears even at first sight unavoidable. The individual passages may
seem numerous; but they resolve לעולם whence עולם
his ear through with an awl, and ' he shall serve him for ever." have found the following passages of this class: Deut. xv, 17; 1 Sam.i, 22; xxvii, 12; xxviii, 2.
The second class consists of passages in which the everlasting duration of Jerusalem, or of the temple rather, appears to be spoken of: as 1 Kings ix, 3. I have hallowed 'this house which thou hast built, to put my name there for ever. Similar passages are 1 Kings viii, 13; 2 Chron. vii, 16; xxxiii, 4.
The third class consists of those passages in the books of Moses where certain ordinances of the Levitical law are called Statutes for ever.” As in Exod. xxvii, 21, shall be a statute for ever unto their generations;" when the keeping the lamp always burning in the tabernacle is referred to. And so in many other similar passages. There are two places which I have observed where the expression - is used, which we translate "the everlasting mountains." Gen. xlix, 26; Habb. iii, 6. It might be urged, that both these passages are so manifestly in the language of poetry, that they cannot with any fairness be brought forward to determine the strict signification of the word Ty under other circumstances. Yet even setting this aside, at all events they cannot refer to any thing less than the whole period of duration of the earth, which we inhabit.
הורי־ער הררי עד or
Let us then now look at the three classes of passages above enumerated. In the first class we must, I think, admit, that the words for ever" cannot be understood in their full meaning. But the character of this class is clear and well defined; and the restriction only such, that any man of common sense, who reads or hears the passages which have been referred to, must at once see the
definite meaning of the term ever:" that is, as long as the parties concerned in the matter are in existence. I maintain then, that the passages under this class throw no vagueness and uncertainty upon the meaning of the It may be ascerterm for ever.' tained at once whether any particular passage belongs to this class or not; and if it does not, the passages that do belong to it cannot with any justice be appealed to, as weakening the force of its terms. I maintain that Gesenius's interpretation of the word by quoted above (in which he says that it is "sometimes to be understood in a loose sense, for a long period," and which he supports by the authority of a passage in this class, Deut. xv, 17) is altogether unwarrantable.
As to the second class I am not disposed to admit any restriction whatever in the sense of the phrases used in it; or at least no other restriction, than that the words "for ever" may mean "while the world standeth,' so long as the moon endureth." For though the temple at Jerusalem be now destroyed, and the name of the Lord no longer put there to outward appearance; yet I believe that He, in whose sight a thousand years are as one day, looks upon this but as the absence of a moment, not worthy to be taken into His account. As he says to Zion, (Is. liv, 7, 8,)
For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee. In a little 'wrath I hid my face from thee for
a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord, thy Redeemer." So will he soon return and dwell in Jerusalem for ever; it shall be the place of his throne, and the place of the soles of his feet, where he will dwell in the midst of
the children of Israel FOR (Ezek. xliii, 7.)
The passages in the third class have been interpreted as meaning ordinances, which should last so long as the Jewish priesthood, the temple, and the Levitical Law itself. Now even if we adopt this sense, the class is sufficiently well defined to prevent any uncertainty arising from it, as to the sense of the term “for ever" in its general use. But I confess, that when I look at the predictions of Ezekiel in the closing chapters of his prophecy, in which the re-establishment of so many of the Jewish ceremonies is distinctly foretold, I cannot but entertain a strong impression, that these statutes for ever" may be found to be literally everlasting. Compare Numbers xviii, 23, with Ezekiel xliv, 28-Leviticus x, 9, with Ezek. xliv, 21-Exodus xxviii, 43, with Ezek. xliv, 18-Exodus xxix, 28, and Numbers xviii, 11, 19, with Ezek. xliv, 29.
On the whole, I see nothing that should render the sense of the words "ever," "for ever," &c. vague and uncertain. Except in the first class of passages above described, I can
not by any means see, that we are
the new earth, which I will make
takes Elhanan Winchester, in a short Treatise on this subject, published in 1790, nearly a similar view with Trinitarius; dividing the terms treated of also into three classes: but as there is some little difference in the mode of classification for the sake of information we add a summary of his view. I. The first class refers to things having neither beginning nor ending; such as the nature of Jehovah, who is called The Everlasting God. Gen. xxi, 33; Ps. xc, 2, &c. II. The second class comprehends things which have a beginning but no ending, and is used concerning things which regard the rational creatures of God; as when eternal life or salvation are promised III. The third class he calls them, &c. See Is. xlv, 17; John iii, 15, 16, 36, &c. periodical eternities; which he again distinguishes into five sorts: First, those restricted to the life of man enumerated in the first class of Trinitarius, to which he adds Philemon v, 15. Secondly, those which refer to the Levitical priesthood, of which numerous instances are given see the third class of Trinitarius. Thirdly, the period before Christ's incarnation, supported by the Greek text of Rom. xvi, 25, and Heb. ix, 26. Fourthly, that consummation of ages into which all periodical eternities will hereafter be resolved. Heb. xi, 3, compared with Ephes. i, 21; ii, 7; I Cor. xv, 28; Rev. xi, 15. Fifthly, this present world or age, which is to terminate at Christ's second advent; supported by Matt. xii, 32; xiii, 22, 39, 40, 49; and many ED. others. Winchester's Prophetical Works.
A Discourse on Matthew V, 13, recently preached at St. James's, Brighton,
by the Rev. C. D. Maitland, B. A.
MATT. v, 13. Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.
It was in the very early stage of our Lord's ministry, before he numbered to himself more converts than could be easily told over, that our Saviour spoke these words. If we
make our calculation from the narrative as given by St. Matthew, we shall find that only four converts are specifically mentioned at this time-Peter, Andrew, James, and John. I infer from hence, that our Lord did not confine his address to the few individuals whom he had already called; but rather spoke at large to all who bore or who should hereafter bear the characteristics, which he had just described and pronounced blessed. Persons possessing these characteristics were his disciples ;-these were the salt of the earth.
If you inquire then, Who are those whom the Lord honours with this appellation? the context immediately furnishes a reply: "Blessed are the poor in spirit; blessed are they that mourn; blessed are the meek; blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness; blessed are the merciful; blessed are the pure in heart; blessed are the peace-makers; blessed are they which are perse'cuted for righteousness' sake-Ye
CHRISTIANS THE SALT OF THE EARTH,
CONSIDERED WITH SPECIAL REGARD TO MISSIONS
I observe then that this honourable appellation is not to be restricted to the apostles, because at this time it should seem only a small part of them were as yet called; and because moreover the apostles, till their ordination, when Christ set them apart in order to send them forth, were no more than any other disciples: but it is to be extended to all to whom this character belongs; for these have that grace of God in the heart which is comparable to salt. Hence it will appear, that the same reason which forbids the restriction of the appellation to the apostles, forbids also the extension of it to any but the genuine disciples of our Lord. Profession makes not a man salt; any more than the calling that salt, which is destitute of its properties, makes it so it is the possession of the grace of life, (which grace discovers itself by the characteristics which Christ specifies,) that brings a man under this honourable description. Ye that are poor in spirit,-ye that mourn over the defilement of your nature,-ye that are meek, striving after your Master's gentleness,-ye that are hungering and thirsting after righteousness,-ye that are merciful, after
the Spirit of your heavenly Fatherye that are pure in heart, purifying your souls through the truth-ye that are peace-makers—aiming to make brethren of one mind in a house-healers of divisions in the fear and name of the Lord-YE are the salt of the earth.
We come now, in the second place, to inquire, Why the Lord compares his disciples to salt?
It was obviously on account of the properties with which salt is endowed. Salt is a mineral substance, sharp and pungent, and is found capable in certain instances of restoring the vital powers in creatures nearly dead; but it is more especially remarkable for preserving bodies after death from decomposition, staying the propensity that exists in them to corrupt and putrify. Perhaps it is not too much to say of this substance, that the whole animal creation in all its extent, from the highest to the lowest creature that hath breath, is indebted to it for health, yea for the continuance of life. Hence, on account of its healthful and preserving qualities, it was ordained under the Law to be used to season all their sacrifices; as we read in Leviticus:a
Every oblation of thy meat-offering shalt thou season with salt; neither shalt thou suffer the salt ' of the covenant of thy God to be lacking from thy meat-offering: with all thine offerings thou shalt ' offer salt." And to this our Lord refers, when he says: Every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt. Salt is good: but if the salt have
lost its saltness, wherewith will
you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another."b
From these observations on salt
it will readily be perceived, why our Lord selected it as emblematical of his disciples: what salt was in an inferior sense, that were they in a higher sense to the earth. Did salt purge the earth of that which tended to destroy it? did it make that which was unhealthy healthful? did it give consistence to bodies tending to dissolution, and stay the progress of decomposition and corruption? after this manner, the disciples of Christ-they who had the grace of God in their hearts, and who therefore possessed the dispositions described by the beatitudes—after this manner did these oppose a barrier to the encroachments of hell, stop the downward course of the world, present an obstacle to the entire ascendancy of the flesh and its corruptions over mankind, and thereby did prevent the whole world from becoming one mouldering mass of corruption-one sink of pollutionone den of unclean beings in the sight of the holy God! For the world, by reason of the fall, has become bereft of spiritual life; so that it presents to the eye of God the frightful spectacle of one vast dead carcase, on which prey those fowls of the air—the devils. r All flesh has corrupted its way before God." The moral world requires salting; hence the Lord in mercy has provided salt.
Now there is a law in operation in the moral as well as the natural world, viz. that that which is morally dead tends to corruption and putrefaction-“the heart of the wicked deviseth only evil."d Mark the downward progress of the human heart, after it has become dead in sin:
a Lev. ii, 13. b Mark xlix, 50. © Gen vi, 12. d Prov. vi, 14.