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LETTER No. IX.
BELL AIR, Jan. 23, 1835.
To Rev. Otis A. Skinner:
Dear Sir-I find some remarks in your fifth letter which make it expedient for me to consider the noun aion a little more maturely.
You charge me with perverting the views of my authorities, and say by my rule you could prove aion never means endless; for all say it signifies age. Please show one instance of perversion. I have given the time and place where all my authorities were printed, that the reader may be able to find them and examine for himself. All the authorities I have consulted say aion signifies eternity, among other significations, and in general give eternity as the first or primary signification of the word; and Clarke, no mean authority, says, no word can more forcibly point out eternity. That the word is sometimes used in a restricted sense, I have shown in more than thirty instances. But, to settle the point, I will say that for one lexicographer you can find, who says the word does not mean eternity, I will produce one dozen who say it does mean eternity, or give up the point. In citing authorities I wish you would give both the date and place where the book was printed, as I strongly suspect some of your quotations to be mere forgeries. I shall not regard any
quotation, in future, as any authority, unless it has these concomitants. A large portion of your letter contains nothing but personal abuse. To this you may resort when argument fails; but, I now say, once for all, that I will make no reply to anything of this kind in future; so you shall have it all to yourself. I write for the benefit of the sincere inquirer after truth, and the better part of the community, therefore I cannot descend to anything of a base character.
You say that aion in one of my thirty-three cases of limited signification, means the eternal world, in Luke xx. 35. On a mature examination of the text, I was led to believe you were right, and accordingly, I shall place it with those signifying endless duration. Since writing the last letter, a copy of the Cottage Bible fell into my hands. This work has large explanatory notes attached to it, by Thomas Williams. In the note on Matt. xxv. 46, the editor says, "aion occurs 104 times in the New Testament; 32 times in a limited sense, and 72 times in an endless sense. This account agrees precisely with the result of my own investigation, with the exception of the one instance which you mentioned, and serves very much to confirm me in the belief that I am right concerning the meaning of aion in the New Testament.
I would further remark that Dr. M'Ilvaine, the celebrated translator of Mosheim's Church History says, among other things, in a note appended to that work, (vol. 1, page 34, Harrod's edition, Balt. 1832,) that, "these (the eastern) philosophers used the word Chronas as the measure of corporeal and changeable objects; and aion as the measure of such as were immutable
and eternal, and, as God is the chief of those immutable beings which are spiritual, and consequently not to be perceived by our outward senses, his infinite and eternal duration was expressed by the term aion; and that is the sense in which the word is now commonly understood. It was however, afterwards attributed to other spiritual and invisible beings; and the oriental philosophers, who lived about the time of Christ's appearance upon earth, and made use of the Greek language, understood by it the duration of immutable and eternal things, or the period of time in which they exist. Nor did the variations, through which this word passed, end here. From expressing only the duration of beings, it was by a metonymy, employed to signify the beings themselves. Thus God was called aeon, and the angels were distinguished also by the title of aeons." This extract from the Doctor's note will cast some considerable light on the meaning of the word as used by the New Testament writers.
I shall now consider it more particularly as employed by the evangelists and the apostles.
The noun aion occurs in the New Testament 104 times, reckoning each reduplication as a single instance, 63 times in the singular number, eighteen times in the plural, and 23 times in a reduplicate form. It is thirtytwo times used in a mataphorical sense, and signifies limited duration; twenty-six times in the singular, and six times in the plural. The word is seventy-two times used to signify_unlimited or endless duration; thirty-seven times in the singular, twelve times in the plural,
and twenty-three times in a reduplicate form. In sixty-one places of the seventy two, it is governed by the proposition eis, in which construction it never means limited duration, in the New Testament; leaving eleven places in which it must be understood in the endless sense though not governed by this preposition.
1. The eleven places in question are as follow:-It is used six times in the singular number, in three of which it signifies the eternal world. Mark x: 30. Luke xviii: 30; xx: 35; in one place all past time, John ix: 32; in one from eternity. Acts xv: 18: in one it expresses the duration of Christ's glory. 2 Pet. iii. 18. Four times in the plural, (viz.) one time to express the duration of the glory of the ever blessed God. 1 Tim. i. 17; twice to signify that period of time which the mystery of the Gospel lay concealed. Eph. iii. 9; Col. i. 26, and one time to signify the duration of God's purpose. Eph. iii. 11; one time in a reduplicate form, translated, "throughout all ages, world without end," employed to express the duration of the glory of God. Eph. iii. 21. That the word in these eleven cases ought to be understood in the endless sense, I have no hesitation to assert in the most positive manner; however, I wish the sincere enquirer after truth to examine all the places and decide for himself.
The noun, when governed by eis, is always to be taken in the endless sense. It is used in this construction thirty-one times in the singular number, as follow: twice concerning the fruit of the cursed fig tree. Matth. xxi. 19; Mark xi. 14; once respecting the future world.
Heb. vi. 5; once concerning God's promise to the seed of Israel. Luke i. 55; once to describe the duration of the effects of drinking the water of life. John iv. 14; twice to point out the duration of the effects of eating the bread of life. John vi. 51, 58; twice in relation to the sinner and the son of God dwelling in the house of God, John viii. 35; six times to express the duration of the effects of keeping the sayings of Christ and doing the will of God, John viii. 51, 52; x. 28; xi. 26; 1 John ii. 17; 2 John 2; once to express the duration of the existence of Christ, John xii. 34; once in relation to the washing of Peter's feet, John xiii. 8; once to signify the duration of the spirit's continuance with the children of God, John xiv. 16; once to express the duration of the period that Paul would abstain from flesh to save his weak brother, 1 Cor. viii. 13; and once to point out the duration of the righteousness of the good man, 2 Cor. ix. 9. The word is used six times to point out the endless duration of the priesthood of Christ, Heb v. 6; vi. 20; vii. 17, 21, 24, 38; twice to signify the endless duration of God's word, 1 Pet. i. 23. 25; once to signify the duration of Christ's glory, 2 Pet. iii. 18; and the word is employed three times to express the duration of future punishment! Mark iii. 29, 2 Pet. ii. 17; Jude
This word in this construction, is used eight times in the plural form, as follow:-three times to express the power and glory of the ever blessed God, Matt. vi. 13; Rom. xi. 36; xvi. 27; once, to point out the duration of the reign of Christ, Luke i. 33; three times to express the