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ON THE METHODS BY WHICH MODERN OBJECTORS TO THE DOCTRINE OF ENDLESS PUNISHMENT, EVADE THE

FORCE OF SCRIPTURE TESTIMONY RESPECTING

THAT SUBJECT

Jeremiah xxiii: 16, 17.-" Thus saith the Lord of Hosts, Hearken.

not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you ; they make

you vain : they speak a vision of their own heart and not out of the mouth of the Lord. They say unto them that despise me, The Lord hath said ye shall have peace ; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you.

On former occasions, I have stated the proofs of endless punishment. If you have fully examined these proofs, and weighed them as on a dying pillow, you are, I think, reduced to this alternative; either to admit the doctrine we have endeavored to establish, or to reject the authority of the Bible. The Scriptures, as we have already shown, do, in a variety of instances, and in the most unequivocal manner, assert the endless punishment of the wicked. Now, if they do at the same time assert the contrary, they must be regarded as a medley of absurdity and contradiction, and ought to be rejected as an unsafe guide in matters of faith and practice. А book, which is calculated in its nature and tendency to lead men astray in an article of vital importance to their present and future well-being, ought to be put out of their hands, and consigned to oblivion.

Indeed, it may be fairly questioned whether the objectors to endless punishment, have much respect for the authority of the Bible. Do they not often question the credibility of portions of Scripture history ? and are not their views of its authenticity and divine inspiration very, vague and undetermined ? True, they admit the testimony of Scripture when they think it favors their views; and what class of errorists do not the same? But they seem to find but little difficulty in rejecting it, when it is against them. Do they not, when closely pursued and driven from all their subterfuges by the force of Scripture arguments, frankly confess oftentimes, that they do not believe all that the Bible says ?

Hence it is a fact, that Infidels and Atheists rejoice in the spread of those sentiments peculiar to the objectors in question, as being favorable to their views; and they are generally the advocates and supporters of these several denominations of objectors, when they advocate and support any. In all our towns and villages where they are not sufficiently numerous to organize themselves into a distinct society, they are at the present day extensively uniting their efforts with these several denominations, giving their money to erect meeting-houses ; to educate and support ministers; to endow colleges and Theological schools; and to aid in the circulation of their religious publications. And this they do, as they have in some instances acknowledged, not because they believe in the distinguishing sentiments of these religious sects, but because they regard them as best adapted to prepare the way for what they deem the best of all; barefaced Deism, and downright Atheism. Abner Kneeland, that apostle of Infidelity, who was once a distinguished Universalist preacher, thus describes the difference between his former sentiments and those which he holds at the present time: “The difference between these Ultra Universalists, as Adin Ballou calls them, and us Free Inquirers, is nothing more than a dream of the imagination, against which we shall not contend, and for which

there can be no real objection in not contending." I know that Universalists will be offended at this, and say it is not a fair representation of their sentiments. But let them show by facts and argnments, and by their fruits that they are here misrepresented; and that their sentiments are not substantially the same as those of the Free Inquirers. Until this is done, we shall believe that Universalism not only has a tendency to Infidelity, but is a species of it. This same remark might, with the strictest propriety, be extended to other classes of objectors. They all maintain the doctrine of philosophical necessity, or fate, and the sufficiency of human reason, independent of Revelation, to ascertain what is truth. They deny the doctrine of total depravity of human nature; the divinity, incarnation, and vicarious sufferings of Christ; the doctrine of the Trinity, future judgment, and endless punishment. And they sustain their sentiments by positive assertions, dexterous sophistry, and false principles of interpretation. In these and many other points there is a striking analogy between these objectors, and Infidels.

I grant that these religious gects, who deny the doctrine of endless punishment, profess to regard the Bible as the word of God. But do they not deny in practice what they admit in theory? Do they not give painful evidence, in treating the sacred Oracles with levity, and by asserting that they contain mistakes in philosophy, errors in chronology, and discrepancies in historical facts; that their professed veneration for the Bible is a mere garb which they bave stolen from the sanctuary, by means of which they may the better deceive those who are “ willingly ignorant” ? Even when they recur to the Scriptures in proving or defending their favorite systems, how is the sacred text tortured to make it speak what was never intended by the Holy Ghost! This passage and that, they will tell us, have a figurative meaning, and then they assume the prerogative to understand the figure as they please. Thus they can make the Scriptures mean anything or nothing, just as it suits their systems ? I do not deny that there are figures and metaphors in the Bible, and some of them, in the Old Testament especially, diffi. cult to be understood. But for men to suppose a figure in the Bible wheu they please, and then explain it as they please, with no reference to the rules of language or of criticism, is trifling, and impious. To explain away the Scriptures in this manner, carries every unbiaosed, reflecting mind to the conclusion, that those who do it, profess a veneration for them only for the purpose of the more successfully hurling their poisoned arrows against vital piely and experimental religion. That this is not a groundless charge, is manifest from their endeavors to evade, set aside, or wrest the Scriptures, which teach the doctrine of future and endless punishment.

1. One method by which they evade the testimony of these scriptures is, BY ADOPTING FALSE PRINCIPLES OF INTERPRETATION.

A false principle of interpretation they adopt in relation to the terms everlasting, eternal, forever, and forever and ever. Because these terms are sometimes used in a figurative sense, and applied to things! which have an end, they maintain that they invariably have a limited meaning when applied to punishment. The rule of interpretation generally adopted by the great body of them is, “ that where a word is used in relation to different subjects, the subject itself must. determine the meaning of the word.” By this expedient, all those passages of scripture in which the words “everlasting, eternal, forever and ever," as applied to future punishment, are found, are set aside. And they require that there be something in the nature of this punishment which necessarily leads us to receive the Greek word aion, and its derivative aionios, in an endless sense; “ since it is not the word but the subject which gives the idea of endless duration.” As words are sometimes used in a figurative as well as a literal sense, I admit that the subject including the scope of the writer, should be taken into consideration if we would determine in which of these senses the words are used. But for us to determine the meaning of a word by one's limited view of what is right and wrong, is virtually setting reason above revelation, and openly paying to her divine honors. The Bible is altogether superfluous as a standard of faith ; for if our reason is infallible we need no other revelation. But if we can arrive with absolute certainty at the

truth of any doctrine of revelation from facts and considerations

which do not derive their force from express declaration, or which i are altogether independent of the aid of scripture terms, why criticise upon them, and why endeavor to invalidate their testimony ?

Is it said, “ we ought to be reasonable men ?" I answer, true; # but then only are you reasonable men when you acknowledge that

God's thoughts and ways are infinitely above ours, and that he must i be true, though every man is thereby made a liar. The Bible is not : contrary to right reason, which is nothing less than the will of God;

but it is often contrary to the reason of man, who is a creature of yesterday and knows comparatively nothing. If not, then man's reason is infinite and infallible.

But if this rule of interpretation, plausible as it may appear, be admitted, it will go to subvert every principle of just reasoning. : On this principle, you may disprove almost any thing that you please. * Thus should one attempt to prove the divinity of Christ from his i being called Jehovah, this mode of reasoning would render such

evidence of no account; because the same appellation is sometimes

given to temporal objects, as an altar, a mountain, or the Church of * God, (Ex. xvii : 15—Gen. xxii : 14—Ezek. xlviii : 35)" and the i meaning of the word can be determined only by the nature of the

subject.” Were Christ frequently called Jehovah, we could not on 7 this principle believe him to be the true God, because the word is * applied to other things which are known to be temporal. Again,

should one attempt to prove the omniscience of God from its being said that his understanding is infinite; you might reply, that this

word is sometimes used to express only a very great degree, as 1 when the strength of Ethiopia and Egypt is said to have been e infinite.—(Nahum iii: 9.) Once more ; should one attempt to prove the endless existence of God from his being called the everlasting God; the endless dominion of Christ from its being said that he shall reign forever ; and of the endless, duration of the heavenly

inheritance from its being called eternal life; these terms you might · reply, are sometimes used to express only a limited duration ;-and thus you might assert that the self-existent Jehovah may be struck

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