« 上一頁繼續 »
think it proved, that it does not express endless duration, nor does it even refer to punishment in a future state of existence. Whether aionios, its corresponding word in the New, does this, we shall see when we come to consider the passages in which it occurs. If it did, the one word certainly does not correspond to the other, for there is an inconceivable difference between limited and endless duration. All this difference is added by the New Testament writers to the word aionios, if it expresses the eternity of punishment. It has been said, that aionios when it stands alone, signifies duration without end. But how can it stand alone? For if an adjective, it must have some noun, either expressed or understood, with which it is connected, and which it qualifies. If a man should say-" eternal," the question would immediately be asked him, eternal what? If he meant to be understood, he would inform us what thing he considered to be eternal; such as-eternal God, eternal life, eternal punishment. It is the noun then, or the thing to which this word is applied, which must determine the matter as to the extent of duration expressed by it; and if aion, from which it is derived, does not express endless duration, but an age, how can the adjective express a longer duration, unless we say the word derived contains more than that from which it is derived, or the stream contains more, or rises higher than the fountain? Allowing it to be applied to God, who is without beginning or end, what does this prove? Can this make God so, or does it fix the meaning of this word as expressing endless duration? Not unless we say words expressing a limited time cannot possibly be applied to him: or if applied, must derive an unlimited, yea, infinite sense from such an application. Our orthodox friends would not reason so in other cases. terms good and great are adjectives, and are applied
to God. But do they contend that they are to be always understood in an infinite sense, or expressing an infinite degree when so applied? Surely not, for how could they in this case maintain their doctrine of infinite, endless misery? Seeing it is said, "the Lord is good unto all," and that "great is his mercy."
But again, the words are used in the plural number. But how can words capable of being used plurally signify a proper eternity? For eternity is one. Eternities are never spoken of. People speak of eternity to come, and eternity past, but still it is only one uninterrupted endless continuance. The past eternity had no beginning, nor had it an end when. the future eternity began, for in this view it could not be a proper eternity as it had an end. In fact we cannot form a distinct, definite idea of eternity, for if this could be done, we must either be infinite ourselves or necessarily limit it.
In our English version I find aion rendered seven times never, once course, twice ages, thirty-seven times world, once without end, once eternal, twice ever, sixty-six times forever, and four times for evermore. In several places it occurs twice in the same text. The adjective aionios I find is rendered three times world, once forever, forty-one times eternal, and twenty-four times everlasting. As forever, eternal and everlasting, are English words which convey the same idea it is unnecessary to make any distinction in introducing the passages where they occur, whether the translation of aion or aionios. In rendering aion and aionios in the New Testament, our translators have given us considerable variety as they did in rendering olim in the Old Testament. In only two instances however, have they rendered them by the word age or ages. But many translations of the New Testament have been made since, where age is given as a better rendering of these words, It is, I believe,
now generally agreed by critics and commentators, both orthodox and otherwise, that age ought to be the rendering of this word in a variety of places, some of which shall be noticed in their place.
It is universally allowed, that aion and aionios are the words used in the Seventy's version in rendering the Hebrew word olim. A very slight inspection of this version will satisfy any one of its truth. It is well known that our Lord and his apostles quoted the Seventy's version. And Mr. Stuart observes that although the New Testament was written in Greek yet its idiom is Hebrew.' He calls it 'the Hebrew Greek of the New Testament.' Indeed the longer I study the two Testaments I am the more convinced, that in understanding the phraseology of the New, we must recur to the Old Testament for our explanations. The translators of our common version, have rendered these Hebrew and Greek words generally by the same English words, such as, world, everlasting, eternal, forever, and forever and ever. This is the case, whether the words are applied to God, or to punishment in the Old or New Testaments, nor is it intimated that the original words, or the words by which they are rendered, have a more vague and indefinite meaning in the former than they have in the latter. To an English reader, everlasting and forever are the same in both Testaments. If everlasting punishment is not taught in the Old Testament, it is not for want of as definite a word to express it, as is found in the New.
It is admitted by some that the Old Testament is silent on the subject of everlasting punishment, yet they contend that it is taught in the New, and that aion and aionios are the words used to express its duration. But why admit the former and contend for the latter? In both Testaments punishment is mentioned, and in both everlasting and forever are
applied to it. If it is found in one it ought to be found in both. Is it rational to suppose, that a doctrine of so much importance should be concealed for so many years? How can this be reconciled with the divine character? Was this the mystery which was kept hid from ages, and from generations, but is now revealed to us by the apostles? No New Testament writer intimates, that punishment under the old dispensation was only temporary in its duration, but under the new, was endless in its duration. All the Scripture writers speak of punishment in the same way, express its duration in similar language, nor would their readers suppose that the New Testament writers were believers in endless misery, and those of the Old not. It is generally allowed that the punishments threatened under the Old Testament were all of a temporal nature. The question may then be asked, whether this is not a mistaken view of the Old Testament punishments? That it is not, seems obvious from all the instances mentioned, and also from no other kind of punishment being recognized in the New, when the punishments under that dispensation are referred to. The New Testament, like the Old, speaks frequently of punishment. It will then be necessary to examine with care, all the texts in the New, where aion and aionios are rendered eternal, everlasting, or forever, and applied to punishment. Is it not possible that men may have been mistaken in affirming, that the punishments under the Christian dispensation are carried beyond death, and are of endless duration? May they not be temporal, as under the Mosaic dispensation, and why cannot the words eternal, everlasting, or forever, be applied to them, yet not endless in duration, just as well as to those under that dispensation? Christians do not seem to think of any punishment in this life for disobedience to God. No; it is all carried into a future state
of existence, and considered to be endless. surely the New Testament writers speak of punishments, and very awful punishments in this life. Nor do they say, that under the new dispensation an eternal punishment awaited any in a future state of existence, but did not under the old dispensation. The places in the New Testament, where the words eternal, everlasting; or forever, are applied to punishment, are few in number. If they were even frequent, what could this certainly prove, for we have seen such words applied to things, and even to punishment of persons, under the former dispensation, where all allow endless duration was not expressed by them?
It has been asserted, that the truth or falsehood of the doctrine of endless misery, depends on the meaning of aion and aionios in the New Testament, and that this subject was reduced to a matter of verbal criticism. But why ought not its truth to depend as much on the meaning of olim in the Old Testament, which is rendered everlasting and forever, as those words are in the New? It is a capricious mode of interpretation, to give this language a limited signification in the one case and not in the other also. The truth is, something besides the mere application of the word everlasting to punishment, must appear, to prove it of endless duration, for no man can deny, that it is applied to punishment when no one thinks endless duration was meant. Besides, the word everlasting being so frequently applied to temporary things, shows, that no great dependence is to be placed on such an argument.
One of the most plausible arguments arising from everlasting being applied to punishment in the New Testament is, that in Matth. 25: 46. the same original word is applied both to life and punishment, and that if the one is not endless neither is the other. But permit me here only to remark-Why does not this