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LXXXVII. "If any man see his brother sin a gin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death; I do not say that he shall pray for it. All unrighteousness is sin; and there is a sin not unto death." 1 John v. 16, 17.
We apprehend, that the true sense of this passage is made manifest by the following paragraph from Horne's "Introduction," Littell's ed. Vol. III. p. 143.
"The Talmudical writers have distinguished the CAPITAL PUNISHMENTS of the Jews, into lesser deaths, and such as were more grievous; but there is no warrant in the Scriptures for these distinctions, neither are these writers agreed among themselves what particular punishments are to be referred to these two heads. A capital crime was generally termed a sin of death (Deut. xvii. 6); or a sin worthy of death (Deut. xxi. 22); which mode of expression is adopted, or rather imitated by the apostle John, who distinguishes between a sin unto death, and a sin not unto death. (1 John v. 16.) Criminals, or those who were deemed worthy of capital punishment,, were called sons, or men of death; (1 Sam. xx. 32; xxxi. 16.; 2 Sam. xix. 28, marg. reading) just as he who had incurred the punishment of scourging was designated a son of stripes (Deut. xxv. 16; 1 Kings xiv. 6). A similar phraseology was adopted by Jesus Christ, when he said to the Jews, ye shall die in your sins (John viii. 21, 24). Eleven different sorts of capital punishments are mentioned in the sacred writings.'
From the above, it appears that a sin unto death was a sin deserving of death, according to the Jewish code, and which could not be pardoned; whereas, a sin not unto death was either a sin not deserving of death, or a sin which might be pardoned, after death had been denounced. We cannot see that the ref
passage has any
erence whatever to the future state.
Whoever will consult Adam Clarke the Methodist, on this subject, will find his views not to disagree with the foregoing. He closes by saying; "I do not think
the passage has any thing to do with what is termed the sin against the Holy Ghost, which I have proved no man can now commit."
The design of the apostle seems to have been, to cultivate in his brethren a merciful disposition, which would lead them, in every case where it was practicable, to intercede for the life of those who had sinned under the Jewish law.
LXXXVIII. "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." Jude ver. 6.
Is there any thing here which renders it necessary to apply this passage to any order of beings above men? Men are frequently called angels in the Scriptures. Let the reader take any Greek Lexicon, we care not what one, and he will find that the word ayyɛlos, is defined as signifying a human messenger, a legate, an agent, the bishop or president of a particular church, &c. &c. Certainly, then, the mere use of the word angel, does not show that this passage must have application to beings besides men. We read of the angel of the church of Ephesus (Rev. ii. 1); of the angel of the church of Smyrna (8); of the angel of the church of Pergamos (12); of the angel of the church of Thyatira (18), &c. These were, without doubt, human beings, men, the ministers, elders, or messengers of those churches. The word angel is not " a name of nature, but of office," says Austin, in Leigh's Crit. Sacr. The angels, or messengers, who are spoken of in the passage before us, kept not their first estate, or office, but left their habitation, or proper place, or station, by usurping the place of others, (as Macknight renders the words.) All this has taken place among men on the earth.
Now let us take the rest of the verse. "He hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day." What is there here that compels us to interpret this passage of any other state
of existence besides the present, or of any order of beings besides men? A man confined in a dark place, may be said to be in "chains of darkness "; and a man bound in mental blindness, may be said to be in "chains of darkness." But these are said to be everlasting chains. True, and so are other things said to be everlasting, that belong strictly to this world. We read, in the Bible, of "everlasting mountains," Hab. iii. 6; the everlasting possession of Canaan, Gen. xvii. 8; xlviii. 4; the everlasting hills, Gen. xlix. 26; the everlasting priesthood of Aaron, Exod. xl. 15; Numb. xxv. 13; everlasting statutes, Lev. xvi. 34; and everlasting doors, Psalms xxiv. 7. Everybody must see, that the word everlasting furnishes no proof whatsoever, in itself, that the matter to which it is applied must needs be looked for in some other state of being.
But at last I shall be told, that these angels must certainly belong to some other world, because they are said to be reserved "unto the judgment of the great day." But is there no judgment in this world? We read, "Verily there is a God that judgeth [where ?] in the earth." Jesus said, "For judgment I am come into this world." He said again, "Now is the judg 'ment of this world." And Peter said, "For the TIME IS COME, that judgment must begin at the house of God." There must be judgment in this world, if these passages of Scripture are true; and we most sincerely and undoubtingly believe them to be true. But one question more. That "great day," when shall it be? Is it yet future? It is sufficient to say, in reply to this question, that any day was called the day of God, the great day, the great and terrible day of the Lord, when God visited men with any signal display of his power. So when he visited his rebellious people, the Jews, the time was said to be the great and terrible day of the Lord. See Joel ii. 1. "For the day of the Lord cometh; it is nigh at hand." After describing the approach of the destroying armies, and the consternation they would excite in every breast, the prophet adds,
"And the Lord shall utter his voice before his army; for his camp is very great; for he is strong that executeth his word; for the day of the Lord is great and very terrible; and who can abide it?" verse 11. See also verse 31, and compare Acts ii. 16-20, and it will be seen, that Peter applies this language of Joel to the events connected with the introduction of Christ'anity into the world, and the destruction of the Jews So we see that this time of visitation was called THE GREAT
DAY OF THE LORD. In Zeph. i. 14. we read, The GREAT DAY of the Lord IS NEAR, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the Lord; the mighty man shall cry there bitterly." No one will think of applying this to eternity; but yet it describes "the great day." So again, in Rev. vi. 17, it is said, “for the GREAT DAY of his wrath Is COME; and who shall be able to stand?" Let me repeat, that we learn from the Scriptures now adduced, that any time of remarkable visitation was called "the great day" of the Lord. We then reaffirm the proposition, that there is nothing in the passage from Jude, which heads this article, that makes it necessary to apply it to any other beings besides men, or to any world besides that in which we now live.
If any person will read the 5th, 6th, and 7th verses of Jude in connexion, he will see that three classes of persons are brought forward as illustrations and proofs of a fact which Jude had stated, verse 4. He was writing of the false teachers, who had crept unawares into the church, and showing that they were before of old ordained to condemnation, verse 4. They should not escape swift retribution, for, as Peter said, "whose JUDGMENT NOW of a long time LINGERETH NOT, and their damnation slumbereth not." 2 Pet. ii. 3. Their judgment was not in eternity; it was coming upon them swiftly. To prove that this was the way God had ever dealt with men, Jude refers to three classes of men. 1st. To those who were delivered out of Egypt, but were afterwards destroyed, because they believed not,
[verse 5.] 2d. To those messengers, ministers, or angels, who kept not their proper offices; and who, so far from escaping punishment, were doomed to darkness of mind, and were judged in the great day of God's visitation, [verse 6.] 3d. To the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, who forsook God, and did wickedly, and who were punished with an entire overthrow, [verse 7.] Is there not all the reason (we ask the candid reader) for men to apply the verses which speak of the rebellious and unbelieving Jews, and the wicked inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, to the future world, and to make out that they were all superhuman beings, that there is to give the verse in question such an application?
LXXXIX. "Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them, in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire." Jude, verse 7.
We have spoken repeatedly, in these pages, of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. See particularly what we have said on Matt. x. 15, Section IX. of this chapter. It cannot be necessary that we enlarge upon the subject here; and we shall content ourselves by offering the following very full and learned note from the commentary of Dr. Whitby.
"That this is spoken not of the cities themselves, but of the inhabitants which dwelt in them, — that is, of them who had given themselves over to fornication, and gone after strange flesh, is evident; but yet I conceive they are said to suffer the vengeance of eternal fire, not because their souls are at present punished in hell fire, but because they, and their cities, perished from that fire from heaven, which brought a perpetual and irreparable destruction on them and their cities. "For (1,) we have proved, - note on 2 Pet. ii. 6, and iii. 7, that even the devils themselves are not tormented, at present, in that infernal fire, but only will be cast into it at the day of judgment; and, therefore, neither do the wicked Sodomites yet suffer in those