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SIR, As one of the Readers to whom Mr. Fuller has to frequently appealed,
I have already presumed to give in the result of my perusal and consideration of that gentleman's Third Letter. What, with your permission, I would remark upon, is the reasoning contained in his now Fourth.
1. Mr. Fuller would have his Readers consider - all those passages of Scripture which describe the future states of men in contrast," as so many vatid proofs of the strict eternity of hell torments, by which I understand that every wicked inan will for ever live, and be for ever in torment, without any end, or any abatement.
But I cannot perceive how this argument from contrast can possibly conclude any thing with certainty. I take contrast to be, in its own gature, indefinite and uncertain. Things very small may be contrasted with things very large : day, throughout the year, may, in this climate, be compared with night; but that contrast will not prove that, through the year, day and night are, in this climate, equal. And, in like manner, punishment may be contrasted with reward; the happiness bestowed on holiness, with the misery consequent upon vice; yet, I think, such contrast affords no solid proof that a wicked man shall be miserable for exactly so long a period as a good man shall be happy.
The whole building of texts which Mr. F. has here erected must therefore fall, because the foundation rests, upon the sand.. .
, IL Mr. F. in the next place, desires his readers to receive - all those passages of Scripture which speak of the duration of future punishment by the terms everlasting, eternal, for ever, and for ever and ever," as conclusive in favour of the doctrine of the eternity of hell torments, in the sense in wbich he understands that expression. "
But this second argument cannot possibly be admitted as at all conclusive, until NTr. F. shall have clearly demonstrated that the specified terms are invariably used in Scripture in that sense in which Mr. F. would have his readers take them.
Such a demonstration I hold to be impossible, and therefore reject Mr. F.'s argument as altogether inconclusive. And it appears to me that any person must entertain the same opinion, after an attentive consideration of the following passages of Scripture: Gen. xvii. 4 Num. X. 8. Gen. xlix. 26. Hab. ir. 6. Sam. iii. 13. Exod. xxi. 6. Num. xxiv. 20. Deut. xiii. 16. Jude, 6, 7. Ps. xc. 2. Isaiah, xxvi. 4. Deut. xxxiii. 27. Whoever will be at the paivs attentively to consider the terms everlasting, eternal, &c. which occur in these passages, will find that not the arbitrary affirmation of Mr. Fuller, or of any other man, but the nature of the object or event to which they are applied, must determine the extent of their signification."
I cannot, therefore, adınit that this second argument concludes with certainty concerning the matter in dispute.
III. Mr. Fuller's next step'is, for the purpose of inducing us, his Readers, to consider« All ihose passages of Scripture which express the duration of future punishment by implication, or by forms of speech which imply the doctrine in question," as conclusive in favour of the eternity of future punishment, in that sense in which he asserts it.
But if it is disputed whether there are any plain express declarations in the Scriptures of that absolute eternity of hell torments for every human being who dies in his sins, which Mr. F. teaches and preaches, much less will any argument from implication, so dependent upon the mere fancy of the expositor, be, by any means, admitted as of the least solidity.
Shall I briefly run through Mr. F.'s 'enumeration of texts in support of this arguinent by implication ? He who shall compare John, xvii. y. with ver. 20 and 21 of the same chapter, will see a proof of what, is above asserted respecting the fancifulness of such an argument as this by implication, and at the same time an instance either of oversight in Mr. F. or of want of skill in Hebrew idiom. For my own part, Mr. Editor, I should as soon deduce, by implication, the absolute eternity of hell torments from these words; * God is the saviour of all men, especially of those that believe," as from Jolin, xvii g.''.
Matt. xii. 31, 32. proves the certainty of punishment to the person who should blaspheme the holy spirit, but says not that such person shall be eternally torinented. Mark, iii. 24. is a repetition of the same..
How 1 John, v. 16. which asserts that there is a sin unto DEATH, proves that the sinner shall have eternal LIFE in hell torments, is, surely, not easy of comprehension.
Heb. vi. 6. has reference to the present world and state, and implies nothing but that there will be another world and state, but saith not one. word about their duration. If Heb. X. 26, 27, prove any thing, in favour of Mr. P. it inust be by taking it for granted that the fiery indignation there spoken of as DEVOURING, means, by implication, that it shall not devour them, but leave thein undevoured in everlasting misery.
Luke, ix. 25. mentions the folly any man would be guilty of whom to gain the whole world, should lose himself, or be cast away; but how that implies that such a inan shall FIND himself for ever, in hell iorments, must be left in Mr. Fuller to de'ermine.
Mai. xxvi. 24. contains a proverbial saying, which cannot be admitted, to determine any thing with certainty. Mark, ix. 4348., teaches usthat the instruments of punishment are never wanting to God, and can. never be escaped by man; but implies not that a wicked man shall be kept for cier in existence, to be the subject of their tormenting, operations. Luke, xvi. , 26. is part of a parable, which, if it can be admitted to prove any thing with certainty, except its moral,, only proves that the wicked camiot pass the barrier which separates between their abode and that assigned to the virtuous, , In John, iij. 36. it is not said that the wrath of God shall abide on the unbeliever for ever, and that the unbeliever during eternity shall be kept alive for the purpose of sustaining it. Jolin,, viii, 21. proves that the enemies of Christ could, not follow him whither he was going; but how does that inply thas they shall be kept alive to all eternity in the torments of hell ? Phil. iii. 19. talks of the END of wicked inen, and of DESTRUCTION being their END; which is very curious sort of language if is intended to imply that they shall live indestructible in endless misery! · And with respect to Jaines, ii. 13. how judgment without mercy should imply torinents without end, is more than I can tell. It might have made more for Mr. Fuller's doctrine, had the phrase been judgment without
justice. Indeed. so far as implication goes, this verse is clean contrary • to Mr. F'. for it saith, “ mercy rejoiceth against judgment,” in
IV. Mr. Fuller would have his Readers esteein “ all those passages which intimate that a change of heart and a preparedness for heaven are confined to this present life," as conclusive in favour of the doétrinę of the eternal existence of the wicked in endless torments.
Granting Mr. F. all that he asks in this fourth argument, it includes nothing resperling the duration of future punishment. We all know, Mr. Editor, that, to all mankind, after death cometh judgment that judgment will have respect to what has been done in this life-and, · as the world will be judged in righteousness, that proportionate punishment or reward will be assigned to each individual: and as the reward or punishment will be according to the works done in the body, eternal torments, during an eternal existence, cannot, in righteousness, be inflicted on any one. So that, if it be true that the Scriptures assert no change can take place in wicked men, in the state beyond the grave, that cannot, by any means, be admitted as proving Mr. Fuller's doctrine, Mr. Fuller refers to Prov. i. 24. but ver. 31. which forms part of the context, expressly saith, “ The turning away of the simple shall SĻAY thein, and the prosperity .of fools shall DESTROX -them."Must we believe that being slain and destroyed means they shall live for ever in endless misery? Luke, xiii. 24- 29. it is said, there shall be weeping aod gnashing of teeth among those who shall be refused admittance into the happy kingdom of God, but it is not said how long their misery is to last. Surely John, xii. 36. by exhorting men to become children of the light, does not prove that the children of darkness shall suffer torment during eternity! Mat. xxv.
5 13. proves the uncertainty of Christ's second coming, and that those who are not virtuous when they die, shall not be admitted at the resurrection into the happy kingdom of God; but it does not prove that those who are excluded, shall live for ever in hell torments. 2 Cor. vi. 1, 2. saith well, that “ Now is the day of salvation," but in no respect determines the nature or duration of future punishment. Heb. i. 7-16. is quoted; but I ask whether “ not entering into the rest of God," proves an eternal existence in everlasting torments? Heb. xii. 13 17. contains a strong argument for care and watchfulness, and cites the example of Esau, who gave up his birth.right for the sake of gratifying his appetite with a savoury dish; but this does not prove either that Esau, or any of those most like him, shall be kept alive to all eternity in the torments of hell. Rev. xxii. 11. I have already remarked upon, and shewn that it is very far indeed from having any thing to do with the eternal existence of wicked men in hell torinents. 'n : These arguments, therefore, do not at all fatisfy me, Mr. Editor, that the doctrine of the eternity of hell torments, in the sense in which Mr. Fuller holds it, is a doctrine of Scripture. I remain, ..
*P. S. As the letter above remarked upon contains the main strength of Mr. Fuller, it will not be necessary for me to trouble you further; since, if Mr. Fi's Readers are not convinced by what is strongest, they will hardly yield their assent to what is weakest in the argument; I therefore subjoin the following.
Granting to Mr. F. that osy answers to amor, and that the latter is compounded of all and wr, and inay be rendered into English by ** always being," is not the English term of general application: Must “not, therefore, the meaning depend upon the nature of the event, or object, to which it is applied ? : "That this must be the case with alav I desire no better authority and testimony, merely human, than Aristotle, and no more of his than Mr. F. has quoted.' "From him we learn, that the term in question has the meaning of endless when applied to beings whom s time does not make old." But, says Aristotle, more ancient Greek writers than myself call the time of each person's life his asmr. Why? Is it to affirm that tiine endless? No, truly; but because, according to the laws af nature, nothing reheaing any man can exist out of the limits of bine
fi fe. This, I admit, is conclusive; but the conclusion entirely overthrows the argument Mr. F. would found upon the term assey. " ?
SIR, , A S fire may be produced by fri&tion; so religious knowledge may be ** increased by a communication of ideas.
The subject of this letter, which once appeared extremely intricate to me, has been so clearly opened to my mind, and the discovery has affordedi me so much real satisfaction, that I cannot resist the impulse I feel to publish my sentiments (with your permission) to the'world, through the means of your valuable Miscellany. But, that I may not occupy too much rooin, I shall proceed immediately to the subject, without farther preliminary observation; and for the same reason, shall give references, rather than long quotations. "
I had formerly considered that vision of the new creation, recorded in Rev. xxi. and concluding at the former part of the sixth verst with these remarkable words, .“ And he said unto me, It is done,” wis the utmost limits of revelation; but was extreinely at a loss how to reconcile with this idea, what follows to the end of the book; till, after the most attentive perusal, and serious consideration of the inatter, the difficulty was one day removed, as it were in a moment, by a thought, which flashed immediate conviction on my inind, and placed the whole in a clear and beautiful light before me, and no subsequent considerations have been able to eradicate the inpression.
In order to give a connected view of the subject, I shall go back to ch. xix. 11. 10 the end; where we have a grand descriprion of our Lord Jesus Christ, coming with his saints and angels, to take vengeance on those who had been the oppressors of his church and people, and we are also informed of the consequences that shall attend his cominga We have in ch. XX. first, an account of the binding of Satan for a thousand years; secondly, the beginning and end of the millenial kingdom of Clirist, and a blessing pronounced upon those who shall partake of it; thirdly, the loosing of Satan out of his prison, that he may go again into the world, in order to prove those who had, for so long a time, lived happily under the mild and peaceable reign of the Messiah, whether they will remain firm in their allegiance in the hour of temptation:. We are also made acquainted with the great success he will meet with in his diabolical attempt; and likewise of the awful destruction, by fire