« 上一頁繼續 »
prospect death loses its sting, and the grave its victory. We are told the Apostle does not mean what he says, that the plain, but full interpretation of his words is in contradiction to other parts of scripture, and we must understand St. Paul to have spoken with mental reservations and modifications and abatements. It seems to be established that the texts which are used in favor of the doctrine of a future state of eternal misery, must themselves be in no way modified, so as to favor a more merciful doctrine. It would gratify one of your subscribers to learn your views on this matter. He does not believe that he will be met, as he was in a similar application to a clergyman of his own denomination, by the declaration that the belief of the final restoration of all men to happiness, is of so immoral a tendancy that it works at once its own refutation. The question comes at once to this, whether love or fear be the strongest in keeping men from evil, and it is believed that
have full faith in the power of that love, which casteth out fear.”
It gives us great pleasure to receive communications like the above. It manifests a fearless love of truth, founded on a sense of its value. We are glad to have such opportunities of reasoning with those who do not profess to believe with us, yet are ready to listen to us, and frankly to give and receive such views as God may have granted us to possess. truly grateful to our Heavenly Father if we have indeed manifested in our Magazine a less rancorous spirit than is usual in religious controversy; though we are sorry to believe that this is small praise. We pray to be enabled to show a much nearer approximation to the spirit of him, who when he was reviled reviled not again, but committed himself to him who judgeth righteously.
Our friend goes on to remark, that he is in that unfortunate position that he can neither answer the arguments of Unitarians nor of their opponents. We are aware that in examining every question which is much disputed, and has been involved in controversy, the conscientious seeker of truth is likely to be brought at one point of his enquiry to this position of uncertainty-a painful one to the human mind, undoubtedly. So painful, that we do not believe that it is necessary
for to remain in it, who will persevere in weighing and comparing opposing arguments. There are no important questions we believe which are absolutely insoluble, among those which come up before our minds in its natural and honest researches. A few steps further would often bring the weary enquirer to a satisfactory resting place. God's truth is not a will-o'-thewisp, to lead us into trackless swamps, but a beacon light to bring the mariner tossed on an ocean of uncertainty to the
firm ground of personal conviction. In this faith we speak and write, exhorting all to persevere in their enquiries, till calm, conviction. We subjoin a few hints, which we have found useful in guiding the uncertain mind to such decisions.
1. In every controversy it is important to find what may be called the hinges on which it revolves. There are a thousand incidental and accidental arguments, which lead to nothing but confusion. But there are a few, great and fundamental propositions, which when established, would necessarily turn the scale at once, and decide the question. On these it hinges itself.
2. In the Unitarian Controversy the chief hinge appears to us to be this—“Have Jesus Christ and his Apostles PLAINLY and EXPLICITLY taught the doctrines of the Trinity and the Deity of the Savior?” This question, however answered, must decide the whole controversy. The opinions of the fathers, incidental texts and passages of scripture which appear to teach either Unitarianism or Trinitarianism, the apparent moral influence of either doctrine, and all other arguments sink into unimportance compared with this question. Because, if these doctrines are parts of Revelation, they must have been plainly taught by the Saviour and his Apostles. They are certainly the most wonderful doctrines in the Bible, if there at all. If the supreme and infinite maker of all created worlds, has actually been a sucking child on this earth, hungering, thirsting, praying, tempted, bleeding, spit upon, whipped, and crucified, there is no other fact in human history or knowledge to compare with this in marvellousness. If it be taught, then, in Revelation, it must be plainly and fully taught. It cannot have been merely slipped in at the end of a sentence, or dropped in fragments, here and there, to be put together by theologists. We have a right to expect, in relation to a doctrine like this, that it should be plainly and clearly taught. Is it so? On the answer to this question, we will join issue, joyfully and calmly, with any believer in the trinity. In any place, under any circumstances, in any manner, with only a New Testament in our hands, at a moment's warning, we would undertake to prove the negative of the proposition.
We will now pass to the other subject of our friends communication. It relates to the important question of Future Punishment. This question has not received, as yet, in our Magazine, any very thorough discussion. Its weight deserves it. We are glad to have our opinion called to it. We shall not shrink from any results to which we may be led. If it should seem that the doctrine of everlasting torment is taught
in scripture, as usually mentioned by Calvinists and most orthodox sects, we shall endeavor to receive and teach it. If it should appear that no future punishment is the Gospel message, our mind is open too to that conviction. This is another question with respect to which uncertainty or indifference are unbecoming a rational and immortal being. It becomes us to understand well what the word of God says on this subject.
There are four distinct opinions commonly held with regard to future punishment.
1. The common theory of everlasting misery is the first. This theory divested of all its accessories, (which indeed increase its severity) amounts to this—that all mankind will on the day of Judgment be divided into two portions, one of which divisions will be condemned to endure a misery indescribably terriffic, through everlasting ages, without the possibility of relief, either by repentance or annihilation.
2. The theory of ultra Universalists, which is, that immediately after death, all mankind are received into a state of positive felicity—that there is no such thing as future punishment --that all punishment spoken of in scripture belongs to this life—and that death, by some inscrutable power tranforms the vilest sinner into a saint, giving him that holiness without which no man shall see the Lord.
3. The third theory is of the Restorationists, who believe that a just retribution takes place in the future world for all the sins of this life, but that ultimately all moral creatures will be brought, by means of this wholesome discipline, to repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and suffering and sin cease forever.
4. The fourth theory is of those who hold that nothing is definitely taught with respect to the duration of punishment. They maintain with the Restorationists, that the object of fùture punishment is to reform, but are not positive that souls which have refused to be converted in this world will certainly repent in the other. They think that Scripture announces plainly a future retribution, but leaves its duration uncertain.
We will consider in succession, some of the chief arguments urged in support and in opposition to these several views.
EVERLASTING PUNISHMENT. In support of the doctrine that the sins committed on earth are subject to an everlasting punishment, the following arguments are adduced:
1. Scripture declares it. “These shall go away into everlasting punishment,” &c. Matt. XXV. 46.
2. Punishment is compared to an undying worm, and unquenchable fire.-Mark IX. 23. &c. "The smoke of their torment ascendeth for ever and ever." Rev. XIV. 11.
3. The same word which expresses the happiness of the saved is applied to the damned. If the one is eternal, so is the other.
4. The present life is said to be the only period of probation. "Now is the accepted time.” “As the tree falleth so doth it lie.”
5. There are some sins which are never forgiven.
6. It was said of Judas that it would have been better for him never to have been born. But if even at the end of millions of ages, he enters upon everlasting bliss, then it would be better for him to have been born.
7. No other doctrine will arouse men and lead them to repent.
In opposition to this doctrine, and in reply to the above arguments, it is said,
1. That an everlasting punishment for temporal sin contradicts the principles of justice. That if each sin of a man's life was punished by a million of years of torment, this would be infinite mildness and mercy compared with everlasting punishment.
2. Everlasting punishment is opposed to the fatherly char. acter of God. What man is there, being a father, who would punish his child for ever and ever? What man is there who would give his child the power of ruining himself forever?
3. The words used in Matt. XXV. 46. signify, not everlasting, but eternal. And this word eternal does not in scripture necessarily imply duration at all, but only condition. Thus it is said that those who believe in Jesus have eternal life abiding in them, which evidently does not refer to the duration of their existence, but the condition of their soul. They have spiritual life in them. Lo here, “these shall go away into spiritual punishment, and the righteous into spiritual life.”
4. The passage, Matt. XXV. 46. may mean “These shall go away into the punishment of eternity, or the Eternal World, without reference to their duration.
5. There is another sense in which punishment may be called everlasting, as the consequences of sin may be never wholly obliterated. 6. Eternal, strictly speaking, punishment cannot be, since
Eternity has neither beginning nor end. But punishment must at least have a beginning.
7. “Unquenchable fire” and the "undying worm,” and the smoke perpetually ascending, do not mean that the punishment shall have no end, but that while it lasts it is unceasing. Temporal punishment has its intermission, but eternal punishment, which is in the spirit itself, cannot be assuaged or relieved, till it is removed. So (Rev. XIV. 11, “they have no rest, day nor night.”
8. "As the tree falleth,” &c. signifies that at death one must go to receive the judgment of God upon his life-that the probation of this life is over, but does not necessarily exclude a farther and different probation or discipline.
9. If of some sins it is asserted that they are not forgiven in the future life, it is implied that other sins are or may be so forgiven.
10. There are passages in scripture which seem to point at a future restitution. Ex. qra. Matt. V. 26.—I Cor. XV. 22, 24, 25. Col. I. 20. Phillip. II. 10. Eph. I. 10. &c.
After a deliberate examination of these opposing arguments the conclusion upon our own mind is, that the Calvinistic doctrine of everlasting punishment in the Future world for the sins of this, cannot be deduced from the scripture. But if not plainly and fully taught in scripture, then the arguments against it, derived from the moral attributes and paternal character of God are irresistible.
Will it be said that we have no right to apply to God the rules which we would apply to right and wrong doings among men, because his ways are not as our ways, and his thoughts as our thoughts? If so, then we have no means of interpreting the divine words, for the Bible every where appeals to human ideas of justice and mercy; right and wrong, are always the same the same on earth—the same in Heaven. There is not one kind of justice for man, and another for God. Throughout the whole moral universe there is but one standard for right and wrong. If that which would be wrong in man is right in God, how can we be sure of anything in revelation? God promises us that those who repent and believe shall be pardoned and saved. But if God's justice is so different from man's, his faithfulness may be also different, and what would be unfaithfulness in man, is truth and keeping promise with God. On what a broken reed should we lean, if this idea be true, that God's justice, and other attributes, are wholly different from ours!