Page images

stones and gifts, he said, As for these things which ye behold, the days will come, in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. And they asked him, saying, Master, but when shall these things be? and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass?” (Luke xxi. 5-7.) You perceive that both these latter evangelists make but two questions of it; and must not every reflecting reader be satisfied from the nature of the case, that these inquiries had no sort of reference to the close of time? What could put such an idea into their heads? they had not been taught by Moses, nor by any of their prophets, that this mundane system should come to an end and all the Jews believed that when the then existing ecclesiastical dynasty should terminate, it should be succeeded by a most resplendent state of things under their Mesiah, which (from all that I can learn) was never expected to come to a period. The assumption then that the disciples questioned Christ respecting the end of time, is wholly without rational warrant,

5th. We will next glance at my friend's objections to my novel mode of applying the parables, he thinks my error here is sufficiently clear from the fact, that seven eighths of all christendom are against me. Martin Luther did not yield to this argumentor, possibly, protestantism had been unheard of to this daynor did John Wesley, or methodism would not have been: all reformers, both in church and state-in law, medicine, the arts; are met at the outset by this argument: my friend was therefore right in not resting his cause here.

He proceeds to convince us that the passage concerning the rich man and Lazarus is a literal narrative! bless me! then the dead carry with them to eternity their bodily organs! and, al though existing in an immaterial state, they are still subject to material influences! The rich man "lifted up his eyes," he sa☛ Lazarus in "Abraham's bosom," he requested to have him sent to dip his finger in water, and therewith to cool his tongue, for the supplicant was tormented in the flames. All fact—literal fact! disembodied spirits have eyes, and tongues, and bosoms, and fingers; and the material element of fire can burn them, and of water can cool them! literal fact all! The regions of the saved, too, and of the damned, are so adjacent to each other that the inhabitants of each can maintain a familiar coloquy with those

of the other! How manifestly allegorical is this whole account! Its scene is laid on the earth; and the dramatis personæ (although they are said to have died, and one of them to have been buried,) are represented as being still in the body. My friend thinks the orthodox views of this text are confirmed by what is termed Josephus' dissertation concerning Hades: said dissertation, however, is a most palpable forgery, and gotten up, without doubt, as a counterpart to this parable; the phraseology is any thing but Jewish, and it is asking too much of our credulity to require us to believe that Josephus had any hand in it. But even allowing it genuine, what then? Why then, hell is in the interior of our earth, and both the good and bad of all the dead are there-and Lazarus, when carried to Abraham's bosom, was in fact carried to hell! According to this, we may expect ere long, (should Simms' theory be true, which holds the interior of our globe to be accessible at the poles,) that the improvements in navigation will bring us to be well acquainted with hell and its inhabitants.

I shall not waste time in proving this passage to be an allegory; for that were as superfluous as to prove that a square is not a ircle. Mr. Wesley's logic, by which he would show it to be a arrative of fact, would equally convert full twenty other bible arables into literal histories: for argument's sake, I am willing 'o concede this point to my opponent; merely that he may be convinced, that his dogma of endless woe cannot be maintained from this passage even with this concession. I know that the main feature of it on which the argument for this doctrine is made to rest, is the account of the gulf-the impassable gulf. Let us then admit Hades to be a local hell, either under, or beyond the earth, as you please; and let us admit the gulf to be literally such, i. e., a deep, and rugged chasm. You have now gained a hell, and one from which there is no chance of egress: but for how long? Ay! indeed; this is likely to prove a troublesome question for the theory of an endless infernum! for hades itself is doomed to certain destruction. "I will ransom them from the power of hades, [so reads the septuagint, the version from which Christ and his apostles were wont to quote,] I will redeem them from death. O death, I will be thy plagues! O hades, I will be thy destruction." (Hosea xiii. 14.) When hell is destroyed, and its subjects ransomed from its power, what purpose can the

gulf answer? I will ask another question; what is gained in favor of endless misery from the admission that the parable before us is literal history? Both these questions are fairly answered by the one word-NOTHING.

The man without a wedding garment-who was he? somebody that had stolen into heaven un perceived through the carelessness of the porter? It would seem so, by my opponent's understanding of it! I should say rather a Jewish intruder, (one of the class in regard to whom the king had said, "they shall not taste of my supper,") who sought to shelter himself from the retributions which were about to befall his nation, by assuming the profession of without the qualifications indispensable to a subject of Christ's kingdom, or church. One of the same class that Jesus said should say unto him in that day; "Lord, thou hast eaten and drunk in our presence; and we have prophesied in thy name, and in thy name done many wonderful works," &c.: but he shall say unto them," Depart from me, I never knew you." It must not be lost sight of that all these things are spoken of in referenee to the church or kingdom of Christ on earth-their application to the future state is not only gratuitous, but in its logical consequences supremely ridiculous.

The closing question of my opponent is important. Does the hope of an endless hereafter life rest on no clearer scriptural warrant than is urged in proof of the eternity of punishment? This comprises the sum of his last argument. Oh! most blighting to human hope were the negative to this question! for I do with my whole soul believe, that the eternity of punishment has no scriptural warrant at all: aion, and its derivatives, are so equivocal in their signification, that if no better ground of hope were afforded in regard to the duration of the future life, than what they furnish, such hope would be the next thing to despair : happily, however, the case is far otherwise!-for, 1st, the subjects of the future life are to be like unto the angels of God, "neither do they die any more." (Luke xx. 36.) 2nd. They are raised immortal, (incapable of dying) incorruptible, (above the power of decay) and glorious. They are also made alive in Christ, (who is said to have been made" after the power of an endless life;" Heb. vii. 16,) and to "bear the image of the heavenly;" (1 Cor. xv.) their vile body is to be changed, and fashioned like unto Christ's

"most glorious body." (Phil. iii. 21.) 3rd. They enter into a glory in exchange for their present light affliction, which far exceeds eternal, (for so is the literal reading) exceeds it to excess. (2 Cor. iv. 17.) 4th. Death is to be abolished, in regard to them, "swallowed up in victory;" which seems the strongest form of assurance that their existence can never cease. In addition to these reasons, it must be considered that we, were made to the end that we should live eternally, and enjoy our creator. In this, then, is the object of our being fulfilled; whereas by a contrary issue it. would be frustrated: and, moreover, life must be absolutely eternal, having its well-spring in the eternal God. On the contrary, suffering is a mere result of the present imperfection of our nature. In short, the reasons are almost endless which justify the belief of a future endless existence to man, and they will all apply, with others in addition, against his being subjected to an eternity of suffering.

We have now gone through my friend's objections, and what is their amount? Their aggregated weight is but that of a feather against the mass of testimony to which they stand opposed. So shielded at all points is my argument upon the application of this important subject, that I might safely dispense with all that I have said in its support, and then decide the issue by one single text. If my opponent is right, there is coming a judgment, the calamities of which will a million-fold exceed all together that the sun has ever looked down upon since it was first struck into existence whereas, Christ says of the time of Jerusalem's destruction, "Then shall be a time of trouble such as never was since the beginning of the creation until that time; NO, NOR EVER SHALL BE !"




One thing, at least, is certain, and that is, that the saviour taught doctrines to which wicked men were extremely averse. On this point we cannot but be agreed. Was the doctrine of endless punishment one of these? It either was, or he taught the opposite; for something relative to the future states of men he unquestionably did teach: but that the subject-matter of his preaching was not universalism is evident, from the virulent persecutions which met him at every step: for men would hardly, methinks, have persecuted him, in return for the good news he brought them, that they were all to go to heaven when they died! Oh, but this would have suited them exactly! they would have hailed it with acclamations; and instead of regarding the saviour as their enemy, they would have greeted him as their benefactor. That Christ was not so received; but, on the contrary, was opposed, vilified, hated, scoffed at, and finally murdered, is an evidence irresistible that he did not inculcate universal salvation.

There is no doctrine to which the heart of man is more opposed, than that which tells him he must answer in a future life for the actions committed in the present; especially when it is added, that the hell to which his sins will sink him will retain him forever; its fires prove as quenchless as his immortal spirit, and escape from the aroused wrath of omnipotence as impossible as to get beyond the circumference of his power. Ah! this is not a doctrine to please the carnal heart; it is not adapted to quiet the troubled ocean of man's fears and anxieties about eternity; it administers no opiate to the guilty conscience: and hence, as the pious minister of Jesus knows full well, the world is arrayed in deadly hostility against it. I am persuaded that nothing but this could have aroused against the saviour the rancour which followed him all his life, and at length nailed him to the cross.

« PreviousContinue »