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to excuse him so long a time from eternal misery, yet send all the Sodomites there when he burnt up their city. But we think, neither the doctrine concerning the devil, nor eternal misery, have been properly examined, or such opinions would all be discarded.
Jude 13. " Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever." Peter states for substance the same, 2 Epistle, 2: 17. which has been noticed in my answer to Mr. Sabine, to which I refer the reader. There it has been shown, that the apostle referred to the Jews, and the darkness they are now in; and that it may be said to be forever, in the Jewish usage of this expression. That their present punishment is called everlasting, we think has been proved from several texts above.
Mark 3: 29. has been considered in connexion with Matth. 12: 31, 32. and requires no further notice.
Heb. 6: 2. "Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of the resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment." The apostle here was writing to believing Hebrews. The krimatos aioniou, or eternal judgment, I conceive simply means "the judgment of the age," referring to God's judgment on that generation of Jews, called eternal damnation, everlasting fire, and everlasting punishment, in other passages. Of this judgment the apostle went on to speak, in chap. 10: 26-31. and has been sufficiently attended to on other texts.
Rev. 14: 11. "And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up forever and ever, and they have no rest day nor night." And 19: 3. "And again they said, Alleluia, and her smoke rose up forever and ever." And 20: 10. "And the devil that deceived 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 forever and ever." It would
be idle to show that these passages have no respect to punishment in another state of existence. No well informed man would urge them as proof of such a doctrine; for it is plain, that the punishments were in this world, where the time is measured by day and night.
Such are all the texts in the Bible, where olim, aion, and aionios are used, in whatever way rendered by our translators. Not one text has been omitted to our knowledge, and the reader having the whole ground before him, may examine it for himself. The texts on which dependence is placed, proving the doctrine of endless punishment, we have fully considered, and to spend time with others is unnecessary.
CONCLUDING REMARKS ON OLIM, AION AND AIONIOS, RENDERED EVERLASTING, FOREVER, &c. THROUGHOUT THE BIBLE, WHETHER APPLIED TO GOD, TO LIFE, OR PUNISHMENT.
Ir these terms are ever used to express endless duration, all seem to be agreed that they express the endless duration,
1st. Of God. Indeed, it is from their being applied to him, who is without beginning or end, that it is concluded they express endless duration when applied to other things. This point, then, requires to be examined with modesty and care. It would ill
become me, to speak with dogmatical confidence on such a subject. All I claim is, that what has occurred to me be considered impartially, and it may lead to a more complete investigation of the subject. There is no dispute, nor can there be any, about the endless existence of Jehovah. The only point about which a question arises is, are these terms intended to express his endless duration when so applied? If they do, it must, I think, be allowed, that it is the subject to which they are applied which gives them this extent of signification; and it is certain beyond a doubt, that they are often used in Scripture to express a limited duration; yea, sometimes a short period, such as a person's life time. Besides, does it fairly follow, that because God is infinite, that words must derive an infinite signification when applied to him? If they do, why confine it to the words before us? Why not also say, that when the term good is applied to God, it must always mean an infinite degree of goodness? which, if true, puts an end to the doctrine of eternal misery, for it is expressly said, "the Lord is good unto all." So in regard to other terms being applied to him. But what leads me to think that olim, aion, and aionios, used to express duration when applied to the divine being, were not intended to designate his endless duration, are the following things:
1st. From the original native sense of these terms. Lexicon writers seem to be agreed, that they signify eternity, not from their natural native sense, but from the subjects to which they are applied, and the sense of certain passages requires such an application of them. They all allow, that they not only signify limited duration, but are used to express this in Scripture. I would therefore query, whether we ought to take it for granted, that certain passages in which such words are applied, require us to under
stand them as expressing endless duration? May not these passages be misunderstood? And, when duly considered, we may see that they do not require such a sense affixed to these terms. Is it correct reasoning to infer, that terms expressing limited duration, cannot be applied to God without changing their meaning from a limited to an infinite signification? Why may not these terms, which are certainly used to express all the ages of the world from its beginning to its end, be also used when applied to God, to express, not his endless duration, but the period of his dispensations and dealings with men through Jesus Christ, throughout all the generations of it. For example, when God is called "the king eternal," we have seen above, by a quotation from Macknight, that it simply signifies king of the ages, or of all the ages or dispensations of this world.
2d. Supposing then these terms when applied to God, to express, not his endless duration but all the period of his dispensations with men in this world, there is a propriety and congruity in all the applications of these terms throughout the Scriptures. They are then used, as we have seen they are, to express a longer or shorter period, as the subject of the writer required. They express the period of a man's life-time, the duration of any one of the dispensations under which men have been placed, or all the ages of the world from its beginning to its end. Accordingly we have seen, that these terms are used in a vast variety of ways to express limited duration, as is universally allowed. To understand them as expressing endless duration would make the inspired writers in many instances speak the most palpable absurdities and contradictions.
3d. If these terms when applied to God, are used to express his endless existence, I beg leave to ask, why qualifying explanatory phrases are added by
the writers, as is so frequently done. I shall explain myself about this. For example, when olim is used to express time past, it is not only rendered of old, the days of old, ancient, ancient years, former years, but is explained to mean, many generations, the years of many generations, and from the beginning. Again, when it is used to express future time, we have also the following explanatory phrases given us concerning it all thy days, throughout your generations, throughout all generations, to all generations, from generation to generation, many generations, every generation, the tenth generation, and a thousand generations. Besides, it is also limited or qualified by the duration of the sun, moon, host of heaven, and days of heaven. These and similar limiting expressions are used, as all must have seen who have attended to the discussion. Had this word signified endless duration, all must have seen the propriety of adding such explanations when it was used to express a limited duration, for this was necessary to prevent misunderstanding. But what need was there to add the same or similar explanations when this term is applied to God? Why not let it have its full unqualified meaning, if it really signified endless duration? But the sacred writers make no distinction, for they add the same restricting, qualifying expressions when it is applied to God, as when they use it in speaking of any thing else, as may be seen above from the passages where olim occurs. Indeed if this word signified endless duration, it was necessary to give such explanations when used to express a temporary duration, but surely altogether unnecessary when speaking of God. If persons will have it, that the subject to which olim is applied determines whether it is to be understood in a limited or endless sense, let them account for the fact, that such qualifying phrases are used as in other cases when it is applied