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LETTER No. IX.
Baltimore, Jan. 25, 1835.
To Rev. Joseph McKee:
Dear Sir-In charging you with perverting authorities on aion, I acted from a sense of duty to the cause I advocate. The exposure of such an act, was no pleasant task; but as great reliance is placed upon Lexicons, and as when fairly quoted, they sustain my views of aion, it was necessary that your perversion should be noticed. You now add to the aggravation of this, by calling for, one instance, to sustain my charge, I have before given Phavorinus, Grove, and Parkhurst, who say it means man's life, as well as eternity, men which you represented as saying, it meant only eternity. Now suppose an inquirer should ask me the meaning of aion, and I should say Phavorinus, Grove, Parkhurst, Jones, Donnegan, Hincks, Valpey, Hedericus, Schrevilius, Pickering, &c. all say it means man's life, without hinting that they say it signifies eternity, would you not call this a perversion of authorities? If so, you perverted, grossly perverted those which I have instanced. And this you now admit; for you affirm, that all the authorities which you have consulted, say, that aion signifies eternity, among other significations.' Thus do you admit my charge. This perversion will appear still greater, when it is considered, that you quoted
from these men to prove, that the etymological sense of aion is endless; and to give this position the slightest plausibility, you were compelled to exclude their other definitions; for a word could not be strictly endless in its meaning, and have the great variety of significations, which Lexicographers admit aion has. I repeat, therefore, that you grossly perverted your authorities.
While on this subject, I will expose another perversion of authority equally as glaring as the foregoing. In your quotation from Maclaine's note in Mosheim, you have given only a part; whereas, had you given the whole it would have refuted your views of aion. The part which you have excluded, reads thus:
“The word aion or aeon is commonly used among Greek writers, but in different senses: Its signification in the Gnostic system is not very evident, and several learned men have despaired of finding out its true meaning. Aion or aeon among the ancients was used to signify the age of man, or the duration of human life. In after times, it was employed by philosophers, to express the duration of spiritual and invisible beings."
This is the part of the note which you have seen fit to exclude from your letter, and it fully destroys the position for which you have been contending, because if the ancients used aion to signify the age of man, or the duration of human life, its primary signification cannot be endless. Thus are you obliged to pervert authorities and to give garbled quotations to make out your case. But even then you fail, for Mr. Maclaine's note refers to the use of dion among the oriental philosophers, and proves nothing positive concerning
its use in the New Testament. Further, according to the fantastic mythology of these philosophers, the word among them, could not have been used invariably in an endless sense, for some of the beings which by a metonymy they called aeons, were supposed to have only a limited existence.
I cannot refrain from noticing here, your departure from your own rules. In a previous letter, you complained of me, for referring to the Septuagint and to the early Christian fathers, to learn the sense of aion. The former, you denounced as bad Greek, and the latter as enthusiasts and fanatics; but now you think the opinions of oriental philosophers throw great light on this subject!! Now why all this twisting and turning? Why not meet the question fairly and without any garbled quotations? Does a good cause require such aid?
You say all Lexicographers give eternity as the first and primary meaning of dion. Such is not the fact. Donnegan, Hincks, Hedericus and Schrevilius give age or life as its first and primary meaning.
Your offer to produce twelve Lexicographers who say aion means endless, for every one which I will produce, who says it does not, is a pompous parade, at the expense of your cause and foreign from the question; because 1. I admit that eternity is one of its significations. 2. Every Lexicographer with which I have met has given age as one of its significations. What then if every Lexicographer in existence gave eternity as one of the senses of aion? It would be no argument against my views, since they all admit
that it is also limited. But every Lexicographer has not given this. Schweighaueser, Valpey, Pickering and Schrevilius do not give eternity as its signification, but simply age or life. Now, dear sir, for your forty-eight, who say it means eternity! These cannot be produced, and even if they uld, unless they give eternity as its only sense they would prove nothing.
There are some other things in your introductory remarks which betray a spirit that I regret. to see. Take for instance, the unchristian and outrageous charge that some of my quotations from Lexicons are " mere forgeries!!" Now sir, I call on you, either to sustain this insinuation or else acknowledge that you have violated the rules of honourable discussion. One of the two you are bound as a gentleman and a christian to do. This charge of forgery, together with that of personal abuse, is kindred to the false one preferred of calling Clarke a bigot. I consider them designed to make me appear in that odious and shameful light in which you are conscious that you stand-in other words, to bring me down to a level with yourself. But the enlightened reader is not to be duped in this manner; nor shall I be provoked by this, to depart from an honourable and christian course. And should you reiterate these charges, or accuse me of quibbles, evasions, miserable subterfuges, &c. I shall only hold them up to the reader's gaze, and call them by their right names. If this be personal abuse, then have I transgressed; but if simply holding these up as I have done be abuse, what shall we call making the charges? Let your conscience give the an
Before considering what you have said on aion, it may be well to sum up what I have proved respecting it in my previous letters. 1. I have proved from its roots that its etymological meaning is time indefinite, or continued existence. 2. I have proved from Lexicographers, that it is variously used, and of course, that its sense must always be determined by the connexion in which it occurs. 3. I have proved that eis can determine nothing respecting its meaning, because in the Septuagint and also in the New Testament, it often governs it when limited. To the first two of these, you have found it convevient to give no answer, as is the case with my arguments on many other subjects. Instead of replying to these, you have wasted your time in telling about the coincidence between your views and those expressed in the notes of the Cottage Bible, by which you were led to change your cpinion and adopt my explanation of a text. Inspired with confidence by this, you go over the ground which you travelled in Letter No. 2, simply asserting that aion in seventy-two places means endless. Have you no argment against universalism but assertion? Where are those strong proofs, by which you have threatened to crush this monstrous heresy? After stating your positions and proving them by assertions, you gravely draw the conclusion, that the use of aion is an incontrover tible argument against Universalism. All this you enforce, by your usual christian and courteous flourish the man who can fritter this away by sophistry and critical torture, &c. Now, were I to treat this part of your letter as it deserves, I should pay no attention to your assertions respect