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translated "judgment," is rendered "damnation," in Matt. xxiii. 14; Rom. iii. 8; xiii. 2; 1 Cor. xi, 29; 1. Tim. v. 12; 2 Pet. ii. 3. And "condemnation" in Luke. xxiii. 40; Rom. v. 16; 1 Tim. iii. 6. So that if we were to read it in Heb. vi. 2. as it is translated in several other places of scripture, it would be "eternal damnation," or "eternal condemnation." Consequently, no doubt can remain, for a moment, on the mind of any unprejudiced scholar, but that the word aionion, in this place, was intended to denote the endless punishment of the wicked.
In Jude 7, we have the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah described by a figure of speech (i. e. the cities put for their inhabitants) as giv ing themselves up to the most abominable crimes ever practised by man. And in the same verse, the punishment consequent on such conduct is said to be "the vengeance of eternal fire;" that is, the Sodomites are now suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. This was declared, or made manifest for the purpose of detering others from the commission of such crimes, that they might escape the interminable punishment due to such egregious transgressions.
The common scripture term used to express endless duration is aionios. This is as clear as language can make it, in 2 Corinthians iv. 17, 18, where the Apostle says, "For our light affliction which is but for a moment, shall work out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory: while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal (proskaira) or for a time; but the things which are not seen are eternal (aionia).”
Here the Apostle twice uses the word aionos in express oppostion to other words that signify a limited duration. He contrasts the af fiction of the present life with the glory in the life to come; the one is light, the other has a weight beyond excess; the one is but for a moment compared with the eternal duration of the other. Then he draws a general contrast between the visible things of this world and the invisible things of the world to come; the former are for a time, that is, till the day of judgment; the latter are not for a time, but eternal.
Now, sir, as the Apostle used this word in its proper signification in the text just quoted, is it not likely, to say the least, that he used it in the same sense in 2 Thes. i. 9. especially when we take into account the incontrovertible rule that, words are always to be understood in their proper signification, unless restricted by some word in the sentence where they occur: no such restriction is to be found in the passage in question; therefore, by every rule of sound criticism we are bound to believe that, the Apostle meant the endless destruction of the wicked. Get over this conclusion the best way you can.
I shall conclude this paper with a quotation, almost verbatim from Dr. Dwight, used on a similar occasion. "Now let me ask, whether a man, even of moderate understanding, could be supposed to write with scrupulous integrity a system of theology, and employ this term sixty-four times to denote endless duration, and seven times to denote that which was infinitely different, without giving any notice of its restricted meaning, while the subject to which it
is applied is of immeasurable importance to those for whom he wrote. If such a man cannot be supposed thus to use language, nor vindicate it when used in this manner, can such conduct be attributed safely to the spirit of God?" I am yours,
LETTER No. II.
To Rev. Joseph McKee:
Dear Sir-It is universally admitted that no adjective can signify more than the noun from which it is formed. All the arguments therefore which I have brought to prove the limitation of aion, may be applied with equal propriety to aionios; for if the former is limited, the latter must be. Hence Donnegan defines it; of long duration; eternal-lasting; permanent. Jones defines it-everlasting, ancient. Parkhurst defines it—eternal, having neither beginning nor end, duration of the world, ages of the world, the times since the beginning of existence. Cruden defines it the same as aron. Hincks says, it is eternal, the time since the beginning of the world. Here we again discover your partial quotations from Lexicographers. Why not give the whole truth? Do you fear the light?
Such being the meaning, of aionios, we can see no difficulty whatever in the word. As it is used in a variety of senses, its signification, like aion,
must be determined by its use. But you say, there is not an instance where it is limited or applied to things temporal. This, dear sir, was an unguarded remark, and shows a determination to bend every passage where it occurs to your use. The position however, shall be fully
tested before we close.
You say "aionios is forty-four times used to express the duration of the life of the righteous." Now I can hardly believe you serious in this; for it seems that you cannot have read the New Testament without discovering, that the phrase, (zoen aionion) eternal life, is a general term, used to denote the happiness enjoyed in this world, through faith in Christ, and often the happiness of the christians after the close of the old dispensation. I will not assert that this is the case with all your forty-four instances, but I will say, these are the general senses of the phrase. That I am right is evident from the following considerations:
1. Believers are represented as having eternal life. He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life, John 3. 36. He that heareth my word and believeth on him that sent me hath everlasting life, John 5. 24. Verily I say un to you, he that believeth on me, hath everlasting life, John 6. 47. See also verse 54, chap. x. 28; xii. 50; xvii. 3. Aionios is the adjective in all these cases; and as you admit that believers can fall from grace, the word can be no proof ofthe endless duration of the life.
2. Having eternal life and entering into eternal life are synonamous with seeing and entering the kingdom of Christ. Compare Matt, xix. 16, with verses 23 and 24, where having
eternal life is used as synonamous with entering Christ's kingdom. Now all admit that to enter this kingdom, is to become a disciple of Jesus, to believe his doctrine and imitate his example. See Matt. iii. 2.; iv. 17; xii. 28; xxi. 43. Luke ix. 27; xxi. 16. where kingdom of God signifies the Church or reign of Christ.— Hence the Savior said in reference to the young man, who asked what he should do to inherit eternal life, "how hardly shall a rich man enter the kingdom of heaven;" meaning, how difficult it is for the rich to become christians.
3. The phrase everlasting life, occurs but once in the Old Testament; and there (Dan. 12. 2.) it is set in contrast with the shame and contempt which the Jews were to experience for their rejection of Christ. Now as the shame was to be experienced on earth, why might not the life be here enjoyed? The contrast would be wrong, if such were not the case.
4. Eternal life is a life to which some were ordained. "And as many as were ordained to eternal life, believed" Acts. xiii. 48. Now if eternal life, here signifies endless blessedness, you must admit the old doctrine of election. Armenians have uniformly explained such texts as refering to a temporary election in this life, for a specific purpose. Are you prepared to deny their views, and to reconcile with goodness and wisdom, an arbitrary partial election to endless life?
5. If everlasting life, means endless happiness, why did Jesus, after saying, "he gave his sheep eternal life," add, "and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand?" These additional remarks, show, that