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Let us now examine the opinion, that the impenitent will be annihilated, after having endured a punishment, proportionate to their offences.
The principal arguments, by which the doctrine of annihilation is defended, are taken from those passages, which threaten the wicked with death, destruction &c. "If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die; but if, through the spirit, ye do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live." The impenitent "shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord &c."
Now, whatever plausibility the argument may have, if used to prove annihilation at death, it can have none in proof of the opinion, now under consideration. For, if the wicked, previously to annihilation, receive a punishment, proportionate to their demerit, annihilation is no part of their punishment. Their punishment consists in evils, previously endured. But when they are threatened with death, destruction &c. they are doubtless threatened with that punishment, which will in fact be incurred. Therefore, when they are threatened with death, they are threatened with a punishment to be endured previously to annihilation. Of course, death, destruction &c. express misery, and not annihilation. .
All those passages of scripture, you perceive, which attribute perpetuity to future punishment, are inconsistent with the opinion now under consideration. The advocates of this sentiment, no less than the abettors of universal salvation, are therefore bound to show, that those passages do not express endless punishment.
Nor is it less obvious, that none, who consider future punishment, as disciplinary; or imagine that divine goodness will prevent any of the human race from being miserable on the whole, i. c. from having an existence, which is worse than none;-it is obvious, I observe, that none of these persons can, without inconsistency, admit the doctrine,
which we are endeavoring to disprove. For, if it be true, that the wicked, after having suffered a punishment, adequate to their demerit, will be annihilated, most evidently their punishment is not by way of discipline,—it is not designed for their good. Nor can it be denied, that such persons are miserable on the whole, as annihilation precludes the possibility of their being remunerated for sufferings, previously endured.
As to the terms destruction, death &c. when applied to the wicked, there is no more necessity for understanding them to signify annihilation, than there is necessity for believing, that sensual persons are annihilated during life, it being said by the apostle, that "she, who liveth in pleasure, is dead, while she liveth.”
We come now to consider those passages, which directly assert the endless duration of future punishment. "He, that blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost, hath never forgiveness; but is in danger of eternal damnation.-These are clouds, carried with a tempest, for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever." A similar declaration is found in Jude. "The smoke of their torment ascended up forever and ever.-The devil that deceived them, shall be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night forever and ever."
We have brought these texts together, rather than any other, for reasons, which will soon be apparent.
To elude the force of these strong passages, it will be replied, that the terms everlasting, forever &c. do not necessarily mean an endless duration. It is conceded, that the Greek word aon does, not unfrequently in the New Testament, express an age, which has limits. As it is applied both to duration, which is limited, and to that which is unlimited: though somewhat more frequently to the latter, I do not imagine, that merely from the use of that word, the question before us could be decided. But, in a particular
construction, the word is used with more uniformity; 1 mean, when it is preceded by the preposition is; which is the construction in all those passages, which have now been cited. This same word in the accusative, preceded by ɛis is found in fifty six places of Griesbach's copy of the New Testament. In our common copies, it is found in four other instances. In the six places quoted, future punishment is unquestionably the subject. In all places, excepting these, the phrase expresses endless duration. There is good reason, therefore, to believe, that in these instances, it has the same meaning.
In proof of the perpetuity of future punishment we now cite the following passages. "Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life, halt or maimed, rather than having two hands, or two feet, to be cast into everlasting fire. Then shall the king say to them on his left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment.-But he, that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost, shall not be forgiven; but is in danger of eternal damnation.-Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction."
In all these places, the word translated everlasting is in the original, the adjective, derived from the noun whose sigcation we have just been noticing.
This word is used about seventy times in the New Testament. In more than forty instances, it is connected with Swv, life, and expresses that future life, which is the gift of God to his saints. That this is endless, will not be called in question. That which is so generally denominated eternal life, is, in other places, called everlasting habitations, and a house, not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. It is likewise called, an eternal weight of glory, and everlasting consolation. When applied to these subjects, its signification. must be the same, as when applied to life, as the same idea is conveyed by these various expressions. Acorvios
is like wise applied to the might and the glory of God: in which application, its meaning is by no means equivocal. Out of the whole number of instances, in which the word is used, more than six cannot be found, of its importing less, than an endless duration. Nor is it certain, in regard to any one of these, that its import is limited: though the contrary cannot be made evident.
There is, for ought, which appears in the New Testament, as much uniformity in the original word, as in that by which it is rendered in English. We sometimes use the word eternal, without designing to express endless duration. But in such cases, the term does not change its meaning; but we use it in a figurative manner. Between two nations, we say, that there existed an "eternal enmity." In this hyperbolical expression, we do not mean, that eternal signifies less, than endless, but we mean to express a great duration, though limited, by applying a term, signifying duration without limits.
Should any one choose to consider the matter in a light somewhat different, and suppose, that whereas the word eternal originally signified a limited duration by a figure only; such has now become its literal meaning, it would make no material difference. Let it be supposed, that an English divine in five or six places applies the word eternal or everlasting to the future punishment of the wicked ;-that he evidently uses the term, in about fifty places, to express an unlimited duration; and in five or six instances applied the same word to human contention, or some object of a temporary nature; no one, it is believed, would stop to inquire, whether this use were literal or figurative, in order to ascertain what were the author's sentiments on the subject of future punishment. It would be universally understood that the author believed in its endless continuance. But, in this statement, somewhat more is conceded, than is necessary. We have considered it as a given point, that the writer here mentioned, uses the word eternal in five or six instances
to express merely a limited duration. That the Greek word, answering to this, is once used used by the writer of the New Testament in this limited sense, is far from being certain, though it is not improbable.
In addition to this let it be considered, that in the very same sentence, in which the future life of the righteous is said to be eternal, the punishment, of the wicked is asserted to be eternal. These shall go away into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into life eternal. That in the latter part of the sentence, the word atovios signifies duration without end, cannot be questioned: tnat it should mean less in the the former, especially considering the common import of the term, is by no means credible.
It will readily occur to you, that unless the scriptures prove the eternity of future punishment, they do not prove the eternity of future rewards, nor even the eternal existence of the soul. And, if the pains of reprobates will have an end, so, for ought, which appears, may the happiness of the righteous.
But the arguments, drawn from the words is avas and acovios, however cogent, are far from being the only ones, which support the doctrine in question; which doctrine might have been proved from scripture, even if these terms had never been used. Consider the following passage, recorded in the 9th chapter of Mark. Mark. "If thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet, to be cast into hell, into the fire, that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched." It is difficult to conceive, whence language more powerful and more determinate, could be obtained. That the fire in which the wicked shall suffer, is not quenched, our Saviour has asserted no less, than five times, within the compass of a few verses. It has, 1 well know, been replied, that allowing the fire to be unquenchable, and the worm immortal, it does not hence follow, that the wicked will be eternally tormented by the one or the other. This answer is too trifling to give satisfaction.