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of which Mark speaks, is under the new dispensation. This he calls aionion. Aionion remember, is formed from aion; and as aion is used to signify age, an aionion damnation must be the damnation of an age. Such was the damnation of those, who sinned against the Holy Ghost. According to this explanation Matthew and Mark agree.
One word as to this sin. To justify your interpretation, it would be necessary to prove, that the sin was infinite; otherwise it would not deserve an endless punishment. But this text refutes the idea, that sin is infinite; and shows, that the common method of proving its infinity is incorrect. For as the sin against the Holy Ghost, was greater than against the Son of man, because committed against greater light, sin takes its magnitude from the knowlege of the sinner, and not from the greatness of God.Hence it cannot be infinite; and if so, its punishment must be limited.
5. I regard your manner of alluding to 2 Thess. 1. 9. as virtually giving up the text. It is true you have offered a few remarks expressive of your opinion, but not a word have you said respecting my reply to the propositions of your first letter on the text. Neither have you answered my four questions; and until this is done, I shall consider that the subject, as it rèspects 2 Thess. 1. 9. is settled. Dr. Chauncy's admission is nothing.
6. Heb. vi. 2. is your next proof text. To understand this we must consider the verse preceeding I suppose you will admit, that Clarke is correct in saying, "leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ," might be rendered, "the
discourse of the beginning of Christ, as in the margin." In the previous chapter, much is said respecting Christ and his priesthood; and the Hebrews are charged with being ignorant of what was contained in the Old Testament, or oracles of God concerning it. See Psal. cx. and Isai. liii. where the order and duration of Christ's priesthood is described. Their ignorance of this, caused the Apostle to call them babes.
The 6th chap. commmences: Leaving the discourse of the beginning of Christ, let us go on to perfection; that is, let us not stop at what David and Isai. have said about Christ, but let us go on to perfection in the Christian doctrines. Suppose by principles, the leading doctrines of the Gospel are intended; how could we leave these, and go on to perfection? It is abiding by these, that perfects the Christian character. Hence Paul not only exhorts them to leave or waive what had been said respecting the genealogy and priesthood of Christ, but not to lay agam the foundation of repentance, of faith, baptism, &c. Here he mentions other doctrines, peculiar to the Jews, besides those respecting Christ, to which they must not return. That I am right, is evident from verses 4, 5, 6, where Paul speaks of apostacy and the awful consequences which would result from it. The situation then of the Hebrew christians and the whole discourse concerning them, justifies us in our application of the 1st and 2d verses. Should there still be doubts on this subject, they will be removed by considering, that all the parti culars mentioned were held by the Jews, com
prehended the outlines of Judaism, and were the very points, to which Apostates would return.
1. Repentance: This was a Jewish doctrine, as appears from Lev. xvi. 21, 22, 29, 30. 2. Faith towards God: this was purely Jewish; for under the old dispensation, faith was required to be in God, while under the new, it is required to be in Christ. 3. Baptisms: He speaks in the plural, showing that he refers to the Jewish baptisms, for they are always spoken of in the plural; while the christian baptism is spoken of in the singular. Paul in Heb. 9. 10 speaks of divers baptisms. 4. Laying on of hands, was a common ceremony among the Jews. 5. The resurrection of the dead. In chap. xi. Paul refers to the raising of the dead mentioned in 1 Kings xvii. 21. 2 Kings iv. 24. And that this is his reference here is evident from the fact, that these were regarded as convincing proofs, that Judaism was true. 6. Eternal judgment: This was a doctrine of the Jews as appears from the tremendous judgments upon Sodom and Gomorrah, upon Pharoah and his host, and upon the Israelites in the wilderness. That the word rendered everlasting was used by them in a limited sense is evident from Exod. 14. 13; Prov. 22. 28; Jer. 18. 15; Ezek. 36. 2. To your definition of krima I have no objection. I will only observe, it is often used to denote temporal judgment, as 1 Pet. 4. 17; 1 Cor. 2. 29.
Having fully proved that all the six particulars were Jewish doctrines, I will ask you to point out a judgment in the Old Testament where endless misery is taught. Then you
will do something towards proving that aionios is here used in an endless sense.
7. Jude 7, is your last text. On this I will only ask 1. If endless misery be here intended, how could Jude say, "I will put you in remembrance though you once knew this?" How could they know it, for in Genesis and Zeph where the destruction of these cities is recorded, not a word is said respecting endless misery?2. These cities were set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance, &c; but if this vengeance is beyond this world, how could they be set forth? These cities were destroyed by fire from heaven, and this, Jude calls an eternal fire. Surely then, it cannot be in the spiritual world. 3. If the people of these cities were sent to an endless hell, why did God hide from Abraham what he was about to do? If you say he did not, I ask why the sacred historian has hidden it from us? The reason why the people are said to suffer is, because they, as well as their cities, perished by fire from hea
At the conclusion of your letter not a little uneasiness is discovered respecting 2. Thes. i. 9. And the argument by which you endeavor to redeem the text is singular as it is novel.
Finding nothing in the connexion to favor your views, and being unable to answer my four questions, you first assert that aionios is the common word for endless. That it is often used in this sense is admitted; but according to its etymology and lexicographers, I am justified in asserting, that wherever it means endless, the connexion requires it, and that of itself it only means continued existence. Besides,
when the inspired writers would express the endless felicity of heaven, they use such words as endless, incorruptible, immortal, &c. words strictly unequivocal in their meaning; and when aionios is used, it is under circumstances which show it endless. This is the case with 2. Cor. iv. 17, 18, where temporal things are contrasted with spiritual, temporal afflictions with unfading glory. Now, the very contrast, together with the nature of things spiritual, shows them endless, so that these determine the sense of aionios. Show that the connexion of 2 Thes. i. 9, requires that aionios should be considered as endless, and you will gain your point. But this you cannot do; for if you could you would not have resorted to 2 Cor. iv. 17, 18, for proof.. Therefore 'by every rule of sound criticism, we are bound' to say aionion destruction, is not an endless one.
As I have refuted all your positions respecting ainios, your quotation from Dwight, supposes a a case which does not exist.
I intended to bring forward some arguments from olam, its various renderings, and its translation by the lxx, and the use of œion and aionios by the christian fathers in the second, third and fourth centuries, but I must defer these for a future letter. I am sincerely,
OTIS A. SKINNER.