By Elhanan Winchester
Friend. I have taken the freedom to call upon you, to have a little discourse with you concerning the doctrine of the Restoration of all Things, which it is said you believe; and to propose some objections.
Minister. I am happy to see you, and am willing to discourse, as well as I am able, upon any subject that may be agreeable; but I have always made it a rule never to press the belief of my sentiments upon my friends; and I can safely say, that, though such great pains have been taken by my adversaries, to predjudice people against me, I have never gone about from house to house to propagate my opinions; and I make it a universal rule not to introduce the subject in conversation, unless desired; but yet I never have refused to own my sentiments, when asked, respecting the matter; and am ready, in the fear of God, to answer any objections that can be made, to a doctrine which I believe is plainly revealed in the Scriptures of truth, and appears to me worthy of God.
Friend. I shall first of all bring to view that grand objection, which is formed from the word eternal or everlasting, being applied to a future state of punishment; as in the following passages: Isaiah xxxiii. 14. "The sinners in Zion are afraid, fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings.
Dan. xii. 2. "And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt."
St. Matt, xviii. 8. "Wherefore, if thine hand or thy foot offend thee (or cause thee to offend) 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."
St. Matt. xxv. 41. "Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, depart from me, ye cursed into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." Verse 46, "These shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal or everlasting." The same word in the original being used for both, though varied by the translators.
St. Mark, iii. 29. "But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost, hath never forgiveness; but is in danger of eternal damnation."
2 Thes. i. 7, 8, 9. "The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall be punished with everlasting destruction, from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power."
Jude, 6, 7. "And the Angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day: even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over unto fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire."
These texts, together, form such an objection o to the doctrine of the Restoration, that I can by no means believe it, unless this can be fairly answered, and proofs brought from the Scriptures to shew, that the words everlasting and eternal, (which are translations of the same word and synonymous) being connected with the punishment of the wicked, and their future misery, do not necessarily imply the continuance of the same while God exists.
Minister. I am glad that you have so fairly and fully stated the matter; and I highly commend your resolution, not to believe the universal doctrine, unless this can be answered fully, without any torturing or twisting the Scriptures; and if I am not able with God's assistance, to remove this difficulty, I will publicly recant my sentiments.
But, before I come to give a direct answer, I would beg leave to remark how very seldom this word is used to express the duration of punishment. We should think, by some sermons we hear, that everlasting is applied to misery in every book of the New Testament, if not in every chapter. A friend of mine told me, that he was once preaching in Maryland, and after sermon a man came and asked him, of what denomination he was? To which he answered, a Baptist. I think, says the man, that you do not preach up so much everlasting damnation as the Baptists and Methodists among us do. To which my friend replied, everlasting damnation is found in the Scripture. True, answered the man; but some preachers give us more of it in one sermon than is to be found in the whole Bible. The truth of this remark will appear, if we consider that St. Luke, never uses the word aionion or everlasting, as connected with the misery of the wicked, in his gospel; nor St. Mark but once, and then in a particular case only. In the gospel of St. John, it is not to be found at all in that connexion, nor in any of his epistles: in the account of the preaching of the apostles through the world, in the first age of christianity, we do not find it mentioned, in that light, so much as once: no, not in all the sermons, and parts of sermons, which St. Luke has preserved in the book of the Acts: though the doctrine of everlasting damnation is the substance of many modern discourses. St. Paul never mentions everlasting destruction but once, though his writings form such a considerable part of the New Testament. Neither are such words found in the epistle of St. James, or in those of St. Peter, and but three times in the gospel of St. Matthew: and only twice in all the Old Testament.
But was the word aionion applied to misery but once in the whole Bible, it would deserve a serious consideration; and unless the force of it can be removed by the authority of the Scriptures, it must remain an unanswerable objection. But I shall proceed to answer it, by bringing an equal number of passages where the word everlasting is applied to things and times, that have had, or must have, an end. As in the following passages: Gen. xvii. 7, 8. "And I will establish my covenant between me and thee, and thy seed after thee, in their generations, for an everlasting covenant; to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God." Verse 13. "He that is born in thy house, and bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant."
Here note that the land of Canaan is called an everlasting possession; and the covenant of circumcision in the flesh, an everlasting covenant, though it is certain that the land of Canaan, as well as the other parts of the earth must be dissolved or melted, in the general conflagration; and circumcision is now declared null and void by the Holy Ghost; and the ceremony cannot endure to endless ages.
Of the same kind are the following passages: Gen. xlviii 3, 4. "And Jacob said unto Joseph, God Almighty appeared to me at Luz, in the land of Canaan, and blessed me: and said unto me, behold, I will make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, and will make of thee a multitude of people; and will give this land to thy seed after thee, for an everlasting possession." And in the blessing of Joseph he says, "The blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors, unto the utmost bound, of the everlasting hills." By which, I suppose, the hills of the land of Canaan were meant.
God saith to Moses, Exod. xl. 15. "And thou shall annoint them (Aaron's sons) as thou didst annoint their father, that they may minister unto me in the priest's office; for their annointing shall surely be an everlasting priesthood, throughout their generations." Lev. xvi, 84. "And this shall be an everlasting statute unto you, to make an atonement for the children of Israel for all their sins, once a year; and he did as JEHOVAH commanded Moses."
The apostle declares, that these everlasting ordinances were only till the time of Reformation, Heb. ix. 10. and this everlasting priesthood of Aaron's son, had ceased long ago: "For the priesthood being changed (by Christ) there is, of necessity a change also of the law: for he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe, of whom no man gave attendance at the altar: for it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood. And it is yet far more evident, for that, after the similitude of Melchisedek, there ariseth another priest, who is made not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life: for he testifieth that, thou art a priest forever, after the order of Melchisedek: for there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof." Heb. vii. 12, 18. The whole sum of the apostle's argument, in this epistle, tends to prove that the everlasting ordinance is now no more; and the everlasting priesthood of Aaron and his sons is now abolished.
Another passage where the word everlasting is evidently used in a limited sense, is Numb. xxv. 11, 12, 13, where we read thus: "Phinebas, the son of Eleazer, the son of Aaron the priest, hath turned my wrath away from the children of Israel while he was zealous for my sake among them, that I consumed not the children of Israel in my jealousy. Wherefore say, behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace: and he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood: because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel."
If the word everlasting intends endless duration, how shall we be able to reconcile this promise with the total cessation of the Levitical Priesthood ? As for the family of Phinehas, with whom this covenant of an everlasting priesthood was made, it was entirely deprived of the benefit of the same, within the space of four hundred years: for when the sons of Eli transgressed the covenant, by profaning it, God sent him word, that as they had broken it on their parts, it was entirely, and to all intents and purposes, dissolved. Read 1. Sam. ii. from the beginning of the 12th verse to the end of the 17th, and from the 27th to the end of the chapter: and also, chap. iii. 11,12, 13, 14.
I will transcribe verse 30, of the second chapter in proof of my point. "Wherefore JEHOVAH, God of Israel, saith, I said indeed, that thy house, and the house of thy father should walk before me for ever: but now JEHOVAH saith, be it far from me, for them that honor me, I will honor; and they that despise me, shall be lightly esteemed." Hophini, and Phinehas, were soon after slain in one day; and Saul the King of Israel, sent Doag the Edomite, who fell upon the priests and slew fourscore and five persons, who wore a linen ephod, in one day. "And Nob, the city of the priests, smote he with the edge of the sword; both men, and women, and children, and1 suclings, and oxen, and asses, and sheep, with the edge of the sword." 1 Sam. xxii. 19. The whole house of Phinehas seems to have been destroyed at this time except Abiather; and when Solomon came to the throne he thrust him out from being priest, "that he might fulfil the word of JEHOVAH, which he spake concerning the house of Eli, in Shiloh," 1 Kings, ii. 27. From this time the house of Ithamar had the priesthood.
It is so evident that the word which is translated everlasting, cannot in the nature of things, absolutely signify, without end, that I should not think it worth while to quote any more passages in proof of its intending age or ages, only, were it not constantly used as a great objection against the universal Restoration; I shall, therefore, instance two or three more in particular, in this place, and refer to a great number of others, of the same kind; all tending to prove the same thing. Hab. iii. 6, "The everlasting mountains were scattered, the perpetual hills did bow." The gospel is called "The everlasting gospel," Rev. xiv. 6, yet it must cease to be preached, when it shall be needed no longer. Jonah saith, "The earth with her bars was about me forever; yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption; O JEHOVAH, my God." Jonah ii. 6. But it would be the highest absurdity upon the supposition that the word Legnolam, here rendered forever, properly signifies without end, for him to say, that his life was brought up from corruption; and, therefore, we know that he could not use it in that sense, because, on the third day, he was delivered from his dreadful prison. There is no doubt but the time that he was there, seemed an age, and, while he was thus shut up, there was no intermission to the darkness, and distress that overwhelmed him; and, therefore he might say, with propriety, that earth, with her bars was about him, forever (i.e. perpetually without cessation) during the period he remained in the fish's belly; which appeared to him, as a long age indeed. But, as it would be a work of much time and labor to mention all the passages where the word translated forever, evidently intends only an age, or period, I shall just direct you to the following; which you may look over at your leisure.
Gen. xiii. 15. xliii. 9. xliv. 32. --Exod. xii. 14, 17, 24. xxi. 6. xxvii. 21. xxviii. 43. xxix. 9, 28. xxx. 21. xxxi. 16, 17. xxxii. 13. --Lev. iii. 17. vi. 13, 18, 20, 22. vii. 34, 36. x. 9, 15. xvi. 29, 31. xxiii. 14, 21, 31, 41. xxiv. 3. xxv. 30, 46. -- Numb. x. 8. xv. 15. xviii. 8, 19. xix. 10. -- Deut. iv. 40. xv. 17. xviii. 5, 28, 46. --Josh. iv. 7. xiv. 9. --1 Sam. ii. 30. iii. 13. xxvii. 12. xxviii. 2. --1 Kings, xii. 7. --2 Kings, v. 27. --2 Chronicles, x. 7.
Here are more than fifty passages, where the word rendered for ever intends only age, or ages; to which many more might be added.
Now the rule for understanding words is this:
-- What must be the meaning of the word, in many places, and what may be the meaning in all; is the true sense of the same.
Friend. Although the single word forever, in these passages, seems evidently to intend certain unknown limited periods; yet what can you do with those texts that say, the misery of the wicked shall endure for ever and ever.
Minister. Indeed they are terrible threatenings; and no doubt will be fully executed.
Friend. But, do you imagine that such passages as the following can intend less than endless misery? Rev. xiv. 11. "And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up, for ever and ever; and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name." Rev. xix. 3. "And here smoke rose up for ever and ever." Rev. xx. 10. "And the devil, that deceiveth them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night, for ever and ever."
Minister. I confess you have proposed a difficulty that I should judge to be unanswerable, were it not for the following considerations:
1st. If forever and ever is a longer time than forever, which must be granted; then is there, some proportion between them: thus, if forever intends an age, period, or sometimes ages; forever and ever, may intend ages, an age of ages: but any proportion at all between two periods supposes both to have an end, or there could be no proportion.
2dly. I find a time promised, when, "there shall be no more death; neither sorrow nor crying; neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are (or shall then be) passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me (John) write; for these words are true and faithful." Rev. xxi. 4, 5.
3dly. I think there is sufficient reason, from the words of St. Peter, in his second epistle, 3d chapter, 5, 6, 7, 10, 11, 12th verses, to conclude, that as the earth was once overflowed with water, and became truly a lake of water, wherein the world of ungodly men perished; so, by the general conflagration, the same shall become literally the lake of fire and brimstone, in which the wicked shall be punished after the day of judgment: but I also think, that the 13th verse of the same chapter, compared with Rev. xxi. 1. Isaiah Ixv. 17. lxvi. 22, more than intimates, that the new heaven and earth shall be created out of the substance of the old, dissolved by the fire; that the new earth, shall no more have a sea therein, seems to imply, that in its former state, it had a sea, or why this expression, "and there was no more sea." --Now, if this hypothesis is right, the following will be the true state of the case, viz.
The lake of fire is expressly declared to be "the second death," Rev. xx. 14. The earth, in its burnt, melted and dissolved state, will be the general lake of fire and brimstone accord- ing to the verses above cited from St. Peter. There will be a new heaven and a new earth, created out of the substance of the old, in which there will be no more sea, either of water, or of liquid fire; consequently the lake of fire, or second death, (which are declared to be synonymous) must end; and, of course, the punishment of the second death must then cease.
4thly. The smoke of their torments is to ascend up for ever and ever, and they are to be tormented day and night. But, as the smoke of their burning earth must cease, when its substance is entirely dissolved or melted, and all combustible bodies are consumed; and as it is intimated in Job xxvi. 10, that day and night shall come to an end; and in Rev. xxi. 25, it is said of the New Jerusalem, "And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day, for there shall be no night there." For all these reasons, I cannot be altogether persuaded, that their being tormented day and night, forever and ever, during which time the smoke of their torment shall constantly ascend, is quite equal to endless misery, especially as there shall come a time when death shall be no more, pain shall be no more, sorrow shall be no more, smoke shall probably ascend no more, and peradventure, night shall be no more.
5thly. But the great reason of all, why I do not conceive that forever and ever, doth certainly intend endless duration, is because I find the words as often used for- times and periods, that must have an end, as you find them used for the misery of the wicked. --You bring three passages, which are all that are to be found in the whole Bible, where they are used in that sense; I shall now invalidate those evidences for endless damnation, by bringing an equal number of texts where you will allow the words are used in a limited sense.
Friend. Is it possible that you can find any such passages in the Bible? Pray shew them to me.
Minister. Isa. xxx. 8. "Now go, write it before them in a table, and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come, forever and ever."
See Jer. vii. 1, 7. The 7th verse is, "Then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in tho land that I gave to your fathers, forever and ever."
Jer. xxv. 5. "Turn ye again, now, every one from his evil way, and every one from the evil of your doing, and dwell in the land that JEHOVAH hath given unto you, and to your fathers, for ever and ever."
These passages are as many, and as strongly expressed, as those which you brought to prove endless misery; and yet nothing can be more evident than that they cannot intend endless duration. Here, these periods must be limited by the great conflagration; and thus (for ought that appears as yet) the misery of the wicked may be limited, notwithstanding the use of those expressions, to set forth its dreadful continuance to unknown ages; at least, those words do not necessarily imply, that they shall never, as long as God lives, to delivered from their sins and consequent sufferings.
If we were always to read for ever and ever, endless, we should set the scriptures at variance; and no criticism could ever reconcile them. Try, for instance, to reconcile Psalm cii. 25, 26, with Psalm cxlviii. 6. "Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of thy hands. They shall perish, but thou shalt endure; yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed. He hath also established them forever and ever; he hath made a decree which shall not pass."
Now, if the words forever and ever signify without end, then there is a contradiction that cannot be reconciled; but only understand them ages of ages, (as, indeed, they ought to be rendered) and the whole difficulty vanishes at once.
Suppose a person should read Rev. xx. 11. and xxi. 1. "And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat upon it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw a new heaven and anew earth; for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea:" and should then say, these visions cannot be true, because Solomon hath said, "One generation passeth away, and another cometh, but the earth abideth for ever." Eccl. i. 4. "And God laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed, for ever," Psalm civ. 4. "The world also is established that it cannot be moved." Psalm xciii. 1. See also Psalm Ixxviti, 69. and xcvi. 10, What would you think of such reasoning? Just so weak, must all the reasoning against the universal Restoration be, from the words for ever and for ever and ever, being applied to states of future misery, if God had promised to put an end to them all, by reconciling all things to himself, destroying sin, and introducing a new creation, and a state of universal and permanent happiness: for if such promises really exist, and their existence can be demonstrated, all reasoning against them must be vain and futile.
Friend. It is certain, that when the word forever is applied to things of this life and the world, it intends a period; but when applied to spiritual matters, and things of another world, it must be endless, according to my judgment; and I am apt to think, you will find it so too.
Minister. I am certain that you will soon be convinced to the contrary. The apostle, speaking of Christ, says, "But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins, for ever sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth, expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. Heb. x. 12, 13. You will please to notice, that Christ's sitting down in the heavens, on the right hand of God, is not a circumstance belonging to this world or the things of lime; and he is to set there for ever; and yet that period, which, according to your hypothesis, must be endless, is expressly limited by the sacred writings. The heavens have received him, "until the times (seasons, or ages) of restitution of all things," (that is till the beginning, and not the ending of of those times) which God hath spoken of by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began." Acts, iii. 21. And the whole New Testament teacheth us, to wait for the coming of Jesus, from heaven; (1 Thes. i. 10;) which would be highly absurd, upon the supposition, that he is always to abide there: which yet he must, if the word for ever, as applied to things of another state, intends endless duration.
Friend. I confess, I never observed this before.-- But, do you know of any passages in the New Testament, where the words, forever and ever, certainly intend limited duration? For I observed, that all the instances you brought were from the Old Testament.
Minister. Yes: Heb. 1. 8. But unto the Son he saith, "Thy throne, (in distinction from the throne of the Father) O God, is for ever and ever;" yet we read, (1 Cor. xv. 34, 28.) of the end, when he shall have "delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule, and all authority and power; then shall the Son also himself, be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all."
Friend. But when Christ threatened sinners, with everlasting fire, everlasting punishment, and eternal damnation; did not his expressions naturally convey the idea of endless misery? And may not the Son of God be accused of duplicity and deceit, if he did not mean to denounce punishment without end? And, therefore, if we believe his words to be true, as most certainly they are, we must reject the doctrine of the restoration, which puts an end to a state, which is called everlasting, by the mouth of truth itself. --Are you able to answer this fairly ?
Minister. If I am not able to answer this objection, which you have stated in the strongest manner, I assure you, I will confess myself in an error; and shall thank you,(as an instrument) for bringing me to know it. The same objection that you make against the Restoration, the Jews make against Christ and his religion; for they argue thus: God is an unchangeable Being, and he declared, in most solemn manner, that the ordinances of the Levitical dispensation should be everlasting, and the annointing of Aaron's sons should be an everlasting priesthood, throughout their generations; (See Exod. xl. 15. and Lev. xvi. 34.) --and, therefore, we must reject the Messiah of the Christians, as an impostor; inasmuch as he pretends to abolish those statutes, which God hath called everlasting, and to set himself up as a Priest, contrary to the express promise of the LORD, who cannot lie, nor repent that Aaron and his sons should have an everlasting priesthood; and, therefore, if this is the true Messiah, God meant to deceive us when he promised us these everlasting blessings, and privileges, which, we must suppose were only for a time, if Christianity be true; therefore, we reject it, as being inconsistent with the promises of God.
It is evident, from this view of the matter, that the Jews reject Christ and his religion, upon as good ground, as you reject the Universal Restoration, and perhaps better; for you have nothing to plead against the Restoration, but some threatenings of punishments, which are called everlasting or eternal, in our translation, but they plead express promises of the everlasting continuance of their church state and worship, in opposition to Christianity. But if it be true that both the Hebrew and Greek words, which our translators have rendered by the English word everlasting, do not intend endless duration but a hidden period, or periods; then the ground is changed at once, and the Jews have no right to object against Christianity, because God promised a continuance of their temple worship, for a certain age, or hidden period; nor the Christians to reject the universal Restoration, because God hath threatened the rebellious with such dreadful punishments, which shall endure through periods, expressed in the same terms. It is indeed confessed by some of the most learned Jews, that they have no word in their language, which absolutely signifies endless duration; therefore they can only argue the endless continuance of any thing from its nature, and not merely from the words rendered forever, or everlasting. And if this is the truth of the case (as who can deny it?) then, neither did JEHOVAH speaks to deceive the children of Israel, when he promised them blessings of such long continuance which have ended long ago, and which are never to be restored by virtue of that covenant which he made with their fathers, when he brought them out of Egypt; but by the new covenant which he will make with them when he shall return them to their own land; nor did the Son of God speak to deceive, when he threatened the wicked with those punishments, which shall not end till they have answered the purposes for which it seems reasonable to believe they shall be inflicted, viz. to bring them down and humble their proud and stubborn hearts; which shall be done, during the periods of his kingdom, before he shall have delivered it up to the Father, that God may be ALL in ALL.
Friend. But if I should grant that the word aionion doth not even in the New Testament always signify endless duration, yet what would you gain by it, since it is plain that Christ hath set the happiness of the righteous, and the misery of the wicked, one against the other; and hath expressed the continuance of both, by the same word, aionion, in St. Matth. xxv. 46. Here, the punishment of the wicked, and the life of the righteous, are both declared to be aionion or eternal, without distinction. Now can you show me any passage of scripture, where the same word is applied to two different things, whose existence is not the same, or the time of their continuance not alike?
Minister. Fairly stated! And if it be not as fairly answered, it shall be looked upon as an insuperable difficulty. But, happily, there is a passage in Hab. iii. 6, where the same word is used for very different things; "He stood and measured the earth; He beheld, and drove asunder the nations; and the everlasting mountains were scattered, the perpetual hills did bow. His ways are everlasting." In our translation, the mountains, and the ways of God, are called everlasting, and the hills perpetual; but in the original, the word gnad is applied to the mountains, and the word gnolam to the hills, and the ways of God. But whether we argue from the original or from the translation, it makes no difference. The question is, are the mountains, or the hills, eternal in the same sense in which the ways of God are? If so, the earth must have existed coeval with the ways of JEHOVAH, and the hills, and mountains, must never be removed, while his ways endure; and, as his ways can never be destroyed, the absolute eternity not of the earth only, but of its present form, its mountains and hills, must be inferred; contrary to Isaiah xl. 4. xliv. 10. --Ezek. xxxviii. 20. --Pet. iii. 7, 10, 11, 12. --Rev. xvi. 20 xx. 11. --Nay, even in this very text, the ways of God are spoken of as being of a different nature from the mountains, which were scattered, and the hills, which did bow.
Thus, no solid argument can be drawn from the application of the same word to different things, to prove that they shall be equal in their continuance, unless their nature be the same.
Thus in the Greek New Testament, in Rom. xvi. 25, we read of the mystery which hath been kept secret, from Chronois aioniois, and in the 26 verse, we find, that it is now made known by the commandment Tou aionion Theou. But must it be argued, that because aioniois is applied to times, and aionion to God; therefore, times are as ancient as JEHOVAH, and must continue while he exists? The absurdity of this is too glaring. Our translators have rendered Chronois aioniois, "since the world began," instead "of eternal times;" and have thereby shown their judgment to be, that words cannot change the subjects to which they are applied, but the meaning of the words must be determined by the nature of the subject.
In Jer. xxviii. 8. the word hegnolam is used in the Hebrew; but the translators did not think themselves obliged to render it "from everlasting" or, "from eternity;" as it would have been highly absurd to have read, eternal prophets, or prophets which were from eternity; and have therefore rendered it "of old" though it is a stronger word than gnad, which they have translated "eternity." Isa. Ivii. 15.
Many other instances of the like nature might be brought; but these are fully sufficient to convince any unprejudiced mind, that nothing can be concluded in favor of endless punishment, from the word aionion being used to set forth the duration of it, as well as the duration of that life which our Saviour promises to the righteous.
But upon the supposition that our Saviour intends no more by the "life eternal," in the 46th verse of the xxvth of St. Matthew's gospel, than he doth in the 34th verse, by "the kingdom prepared from the foundation of the world," (which it would be hard to prove) then an answer might be given without all this labor, in this manner, viz. that as the Father hath appointed Christ a kingdom, so he hath also appointed his saints a kingdom; (see St. Luke, xxii. 29,30. Rev. ii. 26, 27. iii. 21.) but as the kingdom which the Father hath given to Christ, as a Mediator, and as Judge, shall end, when he shall have subdued all things, and put down all rule, and authority, and power; (See 1 Cor. xv. 24, 25, 26, 27, 28.) so, of consequence, that kingdom which is given to the saints or overcomers, to subdue the nations, shall also end, when they all shall be subdued, and brought to submit. But as the glory of Christ shall not be lessened but increased, when God shall be ALL in ALL; so the happiness of the saints shall be so far from ending or being diminished, at that period, that it shall then arrive at the summit of perfection; but shall never close nor decrease while JEHOVAH endures.
Some time ago, a woman came to hear me, and I happened to mention in my sermon, that Christ's mediatorial kingdom was called everlasting or aionion; but that it must come to an end, when the kingdom should be delivered up to the Father, when he should have put down all rule, and all authority and power. After sermon, she was asked how she liked? She answered, "Not at all: he says the everlasting kingdom of Christ shall end; and I never heard of such a thing before in all my life; and I am sure it must be contrary to Scripture." The person who asked her, told her, that there was such a text somewhere, she could not tell exactly where to rind it. But the woman persisted in it, that there was no such text; and went away lull of prejudice. Now, had this passage of Scripture been - in the book of Revelations, it would not have been so much to be wondered at, that she had never heard of it; but when we consider, that this is expressed in that part of the 15th chapter of St. Paul's first epistle to the Corinthians, which is in the burial service-- what shall we say ?
Thus, if Christ's kingdom shall end, much more Satan's! If rewards, as such, shall cease, how much more punishments! If the everlasting kingdom of the saints, which they shall possess forever and ever (See Dan. vii. 18, 27) shall end, or be swallowed up in that kingdom of boundless love, where God shall be ALL in ALL; how much more, shall all sin, pain, sorrow and death, cease, and have no more a name in God's creation!
Friend. But supposing the doctrine of endless misery to be a truth, how would you expect to find it expressed in the Bible?
Minister. I should have.a right to expect, in the first place, that there would be no promises in the Scripture to the contrary; no such passages as these: "For I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return; that unto me every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall swear;" Isaiah xlv. 23. Mind well EVERY TONGUE SHALL SWEAR. Swearing allegiance, as every civilian will tell you, implies pardon, reception and protection, on the part of the king; and a hearty renouncing of rebellion, true subjection, and willing obedience, on the part of the rebels. Kings of the earth may be deceived, but God cannot; he will never accept of any feigned subjection; and, therefore, all that swear, shall swear in truth and righteousness;-- so shall rebellion cease, and disobedience be no more.
The apostle St. Paul, seems to quote this passage of scripture with some variation, in his epistle to the Philippians, Chap. ii. 9, 10, 11; where, speaking of the sufferings of Christ, and the consequences of the same, he says, "Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name; that at (or in) the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Now this confession appears to me to imply a willing subjection to the authority of the Saviour, brought about by the operation of the blessed Spirit; for the same apostle saith, "Wherefore, I give you to understand, that no man, speaking by the Spirit of God, calleth Jesus accursed; and no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost." 1 Cor. xii. 3.
Then the argument thrown into a syllogistical form, will run thus:
If every knee shall bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; then shall all rebellion cease.
But the first is true; therefore also the last. If every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father; and no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost; then shall the Holy Ghost work effectually in every man. As the major is proved by Phil. ii. 11, and the minor by 1 Cor. xii. 3, the conclusion must be evident to a demonstration.
Friend. I acknowledge, that in the present state, no man can say that Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Ghost; but when they shall stand before his bar, they shall confess him Lord, to the glory of God the Father by force.
Minister. But St. Paul speaks generally, "That no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost." He does not mention time or place, but represents the matter impossible; beside every expression here used, implies a willing, and not a forced subjection; as bowing in the name of Jesus and confessing him to be Lord of all, to the glory of God the Father.
Friend. But we are sometimes told, that God is as much glorified by the eternal damnation of some, as by the eternal salvation of others.
Minister. I have, indeed, heard some assert the same. But as the glory of God is the ultimate end of all that he doth, we may properly ask, why he should take any pains to save mankind?
But, above all, there is one objection that may be brought against this idea, which is hard to answer; and that is, God hath said, "For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God. Say unto them, as I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way, and live; turn ye, turn ye, from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?" Ezek. xviii. 23. xxxiii. 11. It is evident to me, that God must take pleasure in what glorifies his name; and as he hath sworn that he takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, it must be set down for a truth, that punishment, without having the reformation and subjection of rebels for its end, is unworthy of the Being we adore; and even now, it is called "his strange work," and "his strange act." But to proceed: If endless misery were a truth, I should not expect that the mystery of the will of God, which he hath made known unto his chosen, according to his good pleasure, which he hath purposed in himself would be, "That, in the dispensation of the fulness of times, he might gather together in one (or rehead) all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are in earth," Ephes. i. 9, 10. Far less should I expect to find, that "it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; and, having made peace by the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things to himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven."--Col. i. 19,20. And I am not able to imagine, how St. John's vision (Rev. v. 13.) could be just, if endless damnation is true, where he says, "And every creature in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, all that are in them, heard I saying, blessing, and honor, and glory, & power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, & unto the Lamb forever & ever." In the nature of things, it appears impossible to me to believe these passages to be strictly and literally true, if endless misery be a truth: therefore I say, that I should not expect any intimation, far less absolute promises, that God would destroy death, the works of the devil, and make all things new, with many others of the like nature.
We find it promised, that every knee shall bow; and lest some might say, that every knee, meant only some knees, it is explained by the inspired apostle, to mean all things in heaven and in earth, and under the earth; and not only so, but every tongue shall swear, and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father; which could not be, except all were reconciled to him, whether things in heaven, or things in earth: wherefore this is also promised; and, in consequence of their being subdued, humbled, made obedient, and reconciled, they shall be reheaded in Christ; never more to go astray, nor break that band of eternal union, which shall bind all together in one body, joined to one head; and all shall give never ceasing praise to God and the Lamb, world without end.
As endless damnation appears to me to be against the promises, I cannot hold it as an article of my faith; but were there no promises or intimations to the contrary in Scripture, I should not require it to be threatened in any stronger terms than it is; I should believe it as a truth, though I might not be able at present, to see the propriety and equity thereof; I should never suffer my weak reason to gainsay Divine Revelation: but my difficulty arises from these express promises of God, which compose so great a part of that book which is given us as a rule of faith and practice; and which promises expressly assert a future state of things beyond sin, sorrow, pain, and death of every kind; when all things shall be made new; and death, the last enemy of God, Christ, and man, shall be destoyed, swallowed up in victory; and sin, which is its sting, shall be no more in existence; and tears shall be all wiped away from all faces.
But, though I have acknowledged that I should not dare to dispute the doctrine of endless damnation, unless God had given intimations, and even promises to the contrary; since I find several dreadful threatenings in the Scripture, in which the word aionion, or everlasting, is joined with the punishment of the wicked; yet a very little attention will shew us, that the felicity of the righteous is promised in much stronger language, than the misery of the wicked is threatened in the Scriptures.
I remark in the first place, that the word aionion, rendered everlasting, or eternal, is used much oftener in St. John's gospel alone, to express the continuance of the lite, or well being, of the righteous, than it is used in the whole Bible, to express the misery of the wicked; and this remark is strengthened by observing that he never once uses the word in his whole gospel, nor in his epistles, to set forth the duration of punishment. See St. John, iii. 15, 16, 36. iv. 14. v. 24. vi. 27, 40, 47, 54. 68. x 28. xii. 25, 50. xvii. 2, 3, in all which passages, the word aionion is used to express the continuance of the well being of the righteous.
But not to insist on this: I observe, that there are many stronger expressions (even in our translation) to set forth the well being of the righteous, than any that are used as connected with the misery of the wicked. Isaiah xlv. 17. we read, "Israel shall be saved in JEHOVAH with an everlasting salvation; ye shall not be ashamed, nor confounded, world without end." But where do we read, that the misery of the wicked shall have no end? The word endless, or world without end, is never once used by our translators, to express the eternity of punishment, in the whole Bible.
We read, in 1 Pet. i. 4. of "an inheritance, incorruptible, and undefiled; and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven:" and in Chap. v. 4. of "a crown of glory, that fadeth not away;" and, Heb. xii. 23 of a "kingdom, which cannot be moved:" and our blessed Saviour's words are remarkably strong upon this subject, in many places; as, in St. Luke's gospel, Chap. xx. 35, 36, where he says, "But they who shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the (first) resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage; neither can they die anymore; for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection:" and in St. John, x. 27, 28, 29, we read thus: "my sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand. My Father, who gave them me, is greater than all; and none is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand." In Chap. xi. 25, 26, Christ says, "I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me, shall never die." And in chap. vi. 50, he says, "This is the bread that cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die." And he expresses the perpetuity of the heavenly bliss, and of our enjoyment of the same, by advising us, saying, "Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven; where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal. Fear not little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not; where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth," St. Matth. vi. 20. and St.Luke, xii. 32, 33. This is that which St. Paul calleth "a better and an enduring substance," Heb. xii. 34. But what shall I say of the apostle's words, 2 Cor. iv. 7? "For our light affliction which is but for a moment, worketh for us, kath hyperbolen eis hyperbolen aionion baros doxes katergazttai emin: a glory exceeding aionion, or eternal, to an excess." Here is an hyperbole upon hyperbole; beyond eternal; a far more exceeding eternal weight of glory.
But it is not so much by the different words made use of to denote the permanency of the felicity of the righteous, from those which are used to express the duration of the misery of the wicked, that I judge of the continuance of the one beyond the other; so much as from the different sources from whence they flow, and of their different natures.
The happiness of those who are reconciled to God arises from their union to Christ; in which if they continue grounded and settled during this present life, wherein they pass through so many sore trials, the union will become so permanent, as that it will be impossible to dissolve it; and the very nature of things shews, that if we abide firm to the end, through all difficulties, and overcome all those things that would seek to separate us from Christ, when we come into that state where we shall meet with no more temptations, nor any thing that has the least tendency to draw our minds from God, we must, of consequence, remain attached, or united to him, while we have an existence. This doctrine was known to David; and therefore, he said, "While I live, will I praise JEHOVAH; I will sing praises unto my God, while I have any being." Psal. cxlvi. 2. civ. 33. It may be proved, that the union shall continue between Christ and his faithful ones after this life, and shall become indissoluble; and that neither "tribulation, nor distress, persecution nor famine, nor nakedness, nor peril, nor sword; neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present,nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us (who abide in him) from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." See Rom. viii. 35-39. See also St. John, xv. 4, 5, 7, 9, 10. 1 John, ii. 24, 28.
The never ending continuance of the life, or state of well being of the righteous, may be certainly inferred, with the greatest ease, from the continuance of the life of Christ; who is made an high priest, "not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life," Heb. vii. 16. And he hath expressly declared, "Because I live, ye shall live also," St. John xiv. 19. Thus as long as the cause remains, the effect must continue; but the cause, even the life of Christ, must undoubtedly continue to endless periods; therefore also, the effect, or the life of those who are joined to him in an indissoluble union, shall continue. The apostle Paul understood logic as well as any in our days; and he thus reasons upon this glorious truth; "The spirit itself beareth witness with our spirits, that we (who are led by the Spirit of God, and have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father) are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together." Rom. viii. 16, 17.
Now, as Christ, the principal heir, cannot be disinherited; so, neither can those who are joint heirs with him. The Holy Spirit is given us as the earnest of our inheritance, and to seal us to the day of redemption, 2 Cor. v. 5. Ephes. i. 13, 14, and iv. 20.--Christ is the head, and the overcomers through the blood of the Lamb, are the members of his body, and shall inherit all things; he will be their God, and they shall be his children; he is their life, and he "will make them pillars in the temple of God, and they shall go no more out," Rev. iii. 12. St. Paul says, "When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory," Col. iii. 4.--And St. John says, "Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God; therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know, that when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is," 1 John iii. 1, 2. Thus, we are sure, from the Scriptures, and from the nature of things, that those who are drawn by the Father, united to the Son, sealed by the Holy Ghost, willingly choose the Lord for their portion, and constantly adhere to him to the end, shall never be separated from him in the future ages; for he himself saith, "As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father; so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me," St. John vi. 57. And as Christ is the great attracting loadstone, that shall finally draw all things to him; it is evident, that he will preserve for ever, those whom he hath thoroughly drawn to himself, and who have adhered to him through the time of trial. Thus is the life eternal of the righteous, or their endless state of well being, expressed in much stronger language than the misery of the wicked; and moreover, has its foundation in the union between Christ and his church, and in the nature of things.
Friend. But if the Spirit of God dwelling in us, and thereby causing us to adhere to Christ, and to follow him through all trials, makes our union to him so perfect, that nothing shall be able to separate us from him to all eternity; since we are confirmed in habits of goodness by free choice, and by oft repeated exercises; why, by the same rules, shall not the misery of the wicked be endless, seeing that they have chosen and adhered to evil through life, and by constant practice are confirmed therein? Evil is grown up to a body in them; and it appears to me as difficult to reform and bring them off from their vicious habits, as it would be to draw the saints in light from their adherence to virtue and goodness.
Minister. Your reasoning would be conclusive, upon the supposition that there are two eternal principles, viz. good and evil; if it can be proved, that evil is coexistent with goodness, that it hath always been; then, the absolute eternity of sin and misery may be easily inferred. This is the true foundation of endless misery, and it came from the Pagan theology. The Heathens believed in two eternal principles, ever warring against each other, and neither fully prevailing; that men had the liberty of enlisting under which they pleased; and that those who in life choose virtue should enjoy endless felicity; while those who chose and adhered to vice, would eternally remain under its dominion, and of consequence be always miserable. Thus, the infernal deities being judged by the poor Pagans to be as eternal as the good gods, and more powerful; they sacrificed more to the evil principle than to the good, out of fear, and to appease the anger of those abhorred, malevolent agents; hence, the frequency of human sacrifices.
Now, when the Christian Religion triumphed over Paganism in the Roman empire, many of the philosophers embraced and professed it, but withal, retained many of their Pagan notions; among which was the eternity of these two opposite principles; hence arose the ancient sect of the Manichees, who believe not only the eternal existence of two contrary eternal Gods, one good and the other evil; but also, that all visible things are created by the devil; and upon this principle, they might argue the universality of damnation, with as much ease and certainty, as we, upon the contrary, may argue the certainty of the Universal Restoration, according to that glorious promise of God, Isaiah Ivii. 16, 17, 18, 13!, "for I will not contend forever, neither will I always be wroth; for the Spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made. For the iniquity of his covetousness was I wroth, and smote him: I hid me and was wroth; and he went on frowardly, in the way of his heart. I have seen his ways and will heal him: I will lead him also, and restore comforts unto him, and to his mourners. I create the fruit of the lips; peace, peace to him that is far off, and to him that is near, saith JEHOVAH; and I will heal him."
Those who venture to contradict their Maker, and say, that he will contend for ever, and be always wroth; ought to give as good a reason, at least, why he will, as he hath given why he will not; and, consequently, must prove him not to be the Father of all spirits, and the Creator of all souls. If, therefore, it can be demonstrated, that Satan is an eternal, self-existent, immutable, evil being, and that he hath created all, or a part of mankind, (as some asserted formerly, and as I myself have heard lately) or that he hath drawn some of God's creatures into such a union with himself, that they cannot be separated from him; and that he will maintain his crown, throne and kingdom, in opposition to God, to all endless duration; then, and not till then, may the eternity of sin and misery, be concluded from the nature of things, with equal ease and certainly, as the perfection and happiness of the saints.
But if the kingdom of evil, and all the works of sin, Satan and darkness, shall be totally destroyed by Christ, and all things shall be reheaded in him, who is the head of all principality and power, as well as of every man: See Ephes. i. 10. Col ii. 10. 1 Cor. xi. 3. If every knee shall bow, & tongue shall swear, and all things, whether in heaven or in earth, or under the earth, shall confess that he is Lord; and all things whether in heaven or in earth, shall be reconciled to him. See Isaiah xlv. 23. Phil. ii. 10. Col. i. 20. And all kingdoms (not excepting that of the prince of the power of the air) shall be broken and destroyed by the kingdom of Christ, which shall itself be yielded up into the kingdom of boundless love, where judgment shall be no more. What shall we say of that doctrine, that teaches us the endless duration of evil? So far is the endless sin and misery of the wicked from being inferred from the endless holiness and felicity of the righteous, in the kingdom of the Father, that every proof and demonstration of the latter, concludes equally against the former.
One of the first arguments that ever began to take hold of my mind, and to bring me to think seriously of the system of the Restoration, was, what I read in a little.book upon the subject, called The Everlasting Gospel, &c. and is there thus expressed.
"It is as impossible that there should be two endless contrary things, as that there should be two real contrary Deities, a good God and a bad one, or two sorts of contrary creatures, both of truly divine original, some being made good by God, and others bad. For an absolute and merely infinite duration, which has neither beginning nor end, is, according to the confessions of all divines, yea, of every reasonable man, a property peculiar to the uncreated Being only. But such an infinite duration, which, although it has a beginning, yet shall have no end, can only be the property of those creatures that are of divine original. For as these, according to the language of the scripture, are of divine origin, and therefore are rooted in God, or in his almighty creating power, which has no beginning, they can also be everlasting, their existence or duration can also be without end in God. But whatsoever has not its eternal root in God, or in his eternal creating power, but is sprung up in the creature in this world, by its voluntary turning away from God, & against his holy will, and consequently is an admonition and displeasure to the Most High, and is only suffered by him, such as sin, and the punishment depending thereon, these things cannot possibly be of an absolute endless existence and duration, or remain so long as God shall exist; but must of necessity once cease and be annihilated. For as God is a Being to those creatures which he created good, and which exists through his will, wherein they may subsist and be preserved without end; so he on the contrary, to iniquity and sin, (which against his will, is sprung up in and o sticks to the creatures) is a consuming fire, whereby all sin and perverseness in the creatures must be at last consumed, annihilated, and separated from them in the highest degree, in order to restore them to their primitive purity; in the same manner as the fire doth not consume and destroy the gold, but only the dross, and that which is impure."
We will now state some of the arguments in favor of the endless continuance of the happiness of the saints, in the kingdom of their Father: and those which prove that the state of misery shall come to an end.
Christ hath promised, that the happiness of the saints shall have no end; because his life shall have no end, and he is their life.
The misery of the wicked shall end, because the kingdom of evil shall end.
The power of God stands engaged to preserve and keep those who commit themselves to him; and thus, their union with him shall always continue.
The same is engaged to destroy that covenant, with death, and that agreement with hell, whereby sinners are held in subjection to Satan, and thus to take the prey from the mighty, and the captives from the terrible.
The subjects of Christ are his natural subjects; he is their rightful sovereign: But Satan's subjects are slaves, led captive by him at his will; he is an usurper, and all that are in bondage to him belong to Christ, who will finally draw them all to himself.
Those that are in bliss shall be eternally attracted by him, and shall always choose that which is good; but when evil is broken, its influence shall no more prevail over those that are captivated by it; and they shall feel the consequences of sin in such a manner as to loathe it; and they shall heartily return, and swear allegiance to their rightful King.
There shall be no influence to draw the saints in bliss from Christ, and thereby dissolve his kingdom; but all the influence of God and goodness, shall tend to dissolve the kingdom of darkness, and to put an end to the thraldom and misery of its unhappy slaves.
Thus, I might go on with a long train of argument upon this subject; but these may suffice.
Friend. Your arguments would seem very conclusive, for the entire subjection of all things, if you could prove that the word ALL, intends literally and mathematically, the whole, without exception; but this I doubt, will be difficult for you to do, as you must know that it is very frequently used in common language for apart) and sometimes for only a small part of mankind.
Minister. I acknowledge this is the case in common conversation, and in such parts of the sacred history. where we are in no danger of being misled by it, being well informed by the context, or some other passages, or from the nature, or from the circumstances of the facts, that we must take it in a limited sense; but I do not recollect any passage, where any point of doctrine is spoken of, in which the word ALL is used in that uncertain and undeterminate manner; and it is necessary that it should not be used in that way, in matters of importance; because we might be led into confusion and great uncertainty thereby; not knowing whether to understand it universally, or partially-- Wherefore I lay down this plain rule, viz. When the word ALL is used in any passage of Scripture, & we are not necessarily obliged, either by the context or some other text, or the nature and circumstances of the case, to understand it partially; and especially where any important point of doctrine is spoken of, we are always to understand it universally, without exception.
Friend. But can you prove from the writings of the apostles, that they used the word ALL in this large and universal sense ?
Minister. Yes, my friend, very easily, and in the most unexceptionable manner. Hear what the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews says upon this matter: "Thou hast put ALL things in subjection under his feet; for in that he put ALL in subjection under him; he left nothing that is not put under him." Heb. ii. 8.
It is evident, that the apostle's reasoning would be very inaccurate, if not entirely false, upon the supposition that ALL things did not intend ALL, in the largest sense; for how would this conclusion naturally and necessarily follow, "For in that he put ALL in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him;" unless it be premised, that ALL is used in the universal sense of the word.
Friend. But hath not the same apostle made an exception, when he used the word ALL, in some other of his writings?
Minister. Yes, truly; but it is such an exception as justifies this sense of the word, more than a thousand arguments: "For he hath put ALL things under his feet; but when be saith, ALL things are put under him, it is manifest, that he is excepted which did put ALL things under him." 1 Cor. xv. 27. Here God the Father being alone excepted, proves all other beings to be included in the words ALL things; and that in so convincing a manner, that I am astonished that I did not perceive it long before I did.
Friend. It is true, that nothing can be plainer, than that ALL things in these places, must mean ALL beings except God; but then, perhaps, St. Paul only meant, that they should be subject to his control, and not brought willingly to obey. If you con prove this point as clearly as you have the other, and from the same authority, it will seem to put the matter with me beyond dispute.
Minister. This is very easily done; for it is universally acknowledged by all Christians, that all things are now, and have ever been subject to his control; for when he was upon earth, in his lowest state of humiliation, even the unclean spirits, the most rebellious of beings obeyed his word; which made those who saw his miracles cry with amazement, "What thing is this? What new doctrine is this? For with authority commandeth he even the unclean spirits, and they obey him," St. Mark, i. 27. The devils obeyed him universally in whatever he commanded them; and could not enter into the swine without his permission; and how disagreeable soever his words were to them, they were forced to comlpy, without daring to complain; yea, they frequently seemed like humble suppliants; and once we read, they went so far as to adjure our blessed Lord not to torment them: See St. Mark, v. 7. The winds, waves, fishes, all obey him; all diseases, and even death itself, heard his voice, and departed at his bidding; and to his disciples he said, "All power is given unto me, in heaven and in earth," Matth. xxviii. 18. And certainly now, he is at "the right hand of God, angels, and authorities, and powers, are made subject unto him," 1 Pet. iii. 22.--God hath exalted him far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion; and every name that is named; not only in this age (for so I render the word aioni) but also in that which is to come; and put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church," Ephes. i. 21, 22. But as though the apostle had known that the sense would be disputed, he hath said, "But now we see not yet all things put wider him," Heb. ii. 8. All things were subject to his control, even on earth; and they cannot be less so, now he is exalted to heaven, to the glory which he had with the Father before the world was; and yet many years after his ascension, the apostle says, "But now we see not yet all things put under him;" by which he must certainly mean their being willingly subject unto him; for, in all other senses, all things are now put under him, in the most unlimited manner, as we have seen already. But the apostle goes on to tell how far the important work is accomplished, and that a sure foundation is laid for its entire completion; saying, "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor, that he, by the grace of God, should taste death for ALL;" (for so the word pantos ought to be rendered.) There was anciently a manuscript in use, in which the words were choris Theou instead of chariti Theou, that is, for all EXCEPT GOD. And there is a little doubt of its being the true sense; because St. Paul makes the same exception, with respect to those who are put under Christ, as we have before noted, 1 Cor. xv. 27.
Then the apostle adds, "For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings." Heb. ii. 9. 10.
Instead of the word all intending only a part, we find in several places, that the word many intends all, as in Rom. v. 15, 16, 19. "For if through the offence of one, many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. The free gift is of many offences unto justification. For, as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners; so, by the obedience of one, shall many be made righteous." Isaiah liii. 11, 12. "By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many (or the many) for he shall bear their iniquities. And he bare the sins of many and made intercession for the transgressors." These many are called all, in the 6th verse. "All we, like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and JEHOVAH hath laid on him the iniquity of us all."
But to return to our subject: St. Paul assures us, that though all things, without exception, are put under him, in one sense, yet, in another, he says, "But now we see not yet all things put under him." But he leaves us not in the dark about the matter; but speaks of that effectual working, "whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself," Phil. iii. 21. "And when all things shall be subdued unto himself, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be ALL IN ALL." 1 Cor. xvi. 28. Here we plainly find, a very necessary distinction between all things being put under him; and all things being subdued unto him, the former is already done in the fullest manner; and the latter shall be.as perfectly and fully accomplished in due time: "Because the creation itself shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption, into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together, until now," Rom. viii. 21.22.
Though what hath already been spoken, may seem more than enough to prove the point respecting the word all; yet there is one passage more, full to the purpose, that I would not omit; it being of itself, fully sufficient to settle the dispute forever:-- The apostle, speaking of Christ saith, "Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature; for by him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers; all things were created by him, and for him; and he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church; who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the pre-eminence.-- For it pleased the Father, that in him should all fulness dwell; and having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him, to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven." Col. i. 15, 20.
As the word all is generally acknowledged to be used in its most extensive sense, in every place in this paragraph, except the last, there is no reason to be given why the apostle should change the sense of the word, without giving us the least notice of it; and, indeed, it would be very unkind, if not unfair, for him thus to do; as it would tend to mislead us in a matter of very great importance.
Friend. I hope I am not so attached to my own opinions as to be unwilling to hear and consider what may be advanced against them; but the doctrine of endless damnation has been so generally considered as a most important article of faith by all denominations, that I can by no means think of giving it up, unless you are able to establish the contrary system upon the most solid ground, and answer all the scriptural objections fairly, that have been, or that can be brought against it; for I must have all my doubts solved, before I can think of believing such a strange doctrine as this appears to me.
Minister. I most heartily commend your prudence and sincerity. I took the same resolution; and would never receive this view, till I could answer all objections to my own satisfaction; and if you are disposed to inquire farther at another opportunity, I shall be happy in giving you all the assistance in my power.