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he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell" (gehenna) Luke xii. 5. "Whosoever shall thou fool shall be in danger of hell fire (gehenna) Matt. v. 22. See also Matt. v. 29, 30, and xviii. 9, where the word gehenna is used, which you say had it been used by Paul would justify the popular preaching of the present day. "Ye devour widows' houses, &c. therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation," Matt xxiii. 14. "He that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost, &c., is in danger of eternal damnation” (aionion) Mark iii. 29. “How can ye escape the damnation of hell" (gehenna) Matt. xxiii. 33. We consider these expressions, sir, which were employed by our blessed Saviour in the course of his preaching, perfectly sufficient to justify and authorize the present mode of preaching among the Methodists, while we regard the Universalists as anti-christian in their doctrine, so far as they oppose the doctrine taught by Christ. It cannot be denied that they either omit the doctrine of hell and damnation or deny the existence of such misery and punishment, and in this instance we must regard them as holding a dangerous heresy unknown in the days of Christ and his Apostles.
You say that if I look at the connexion of the text in 2 Thes. 1. 9. I will see that the destruction alluded to was that of the Jews by the Romans. Now, sir, I look upon this as one of those perversions of scripture which is never used in a good cause, but always required to support a bad one. Who in his proper senses could think for a moment that Paul had any allusion whatever to the destruction of the Jews by the Romans? I cannot think he had the
slightest reference to that catastrophe, for the following reasons:
1. The epistle was written to a church chiefly composed of converts from among the Gentiles who were not greatly interested in the affairs of the Jewish nation.
2. The Apostle throughout the whole epistle never once names either the Jewish nation or the Roman army, nor any other appellation by which either can be reasonably understood; consequently there is no reason for believing he had any reference to the overthrow of the Jewish nation.
3. Upon a review of the chapter an unprejudiced person would see several things that would lead him to conclude that the destruction in question was to take place at the day of judgment: for instance, the phrase, "taking vengeance on them that know not God." This cannot be said of the Jews, but of the Gentiles, as the former did know God in theory at least, while the latter did not know him. "Admired in all them that believe." The Redeemer could not be admired in ALL short of the day of judgment but only of a part of them.
4. But what seems to determine the matter to a certainty is, the caution given in the second chapter, where the apostle cautions them lest they should be shaken in mind, as if these things were to happen immediately; at the same time he assures them that that overthrow should not happen till after the establishment of antichrist or man of sin, whose destruction should be accomplished in the general overthrow of the eneies of the saints. It is obvious that this prophesy is not yet accomplished.
5. All the commentators that I have consulted on the meaning of this epistle agree in referring the principal transactions of it to the judgment of the great day when the secrets of all hearts shall be made manifest by Jesus Christ.
You say, "we are aware that Paul used the word aionion or everlasting, but this is applied to hills, mountains, covenants, priesthoods, and a great variety of things, limited in their na ture." I confess, sir, that I have read this sentence with perfect astonishment. Was it written with a design to deceive the unlearned? I absolutely deny that the word aionion was ever used by any inspired writer to signify the duration of a hill, mountain or priesthood, except the priesthood of Christ. I challenge you to produce one instance of it. If you show me one instance of it I here promise to give up the argument so far as the word aion os is concerned. You may expect to hear from me before long concerning the words aion and aionios.
Yours, in the bonds of a peaceful Gospel,
LETTER NO. I.
BALTIMORE, Oct. 24, 1834.
To Rev. Joseph McKee:
Dear Sir-In our zeal to sustain a favorite theory, we often attach a high importance to circumstances of a trifling nature, and to arguments that have no connexion with our subject.
Such I consider to be the case, with your remarks on the difference of opinion among Universalists; for none who consider the nature of the human mind and the result of controversy, can expect a perfect uniformity in faith, among a people, who think and judge for themselves. Such a uniformity exists among no sect in christendom. Besides, if your argument is good, it can be wielded with irresistible power, against all Protestants; yea, against all religion.
But what is this mighty difference to which you attach such great importance? To make it imposing as possible, you have drawn lines of distinction, where no difference exists; you have ascribed to us sentiments, in which we have no faith; and you have christened as Universalism, that which wars against our very name. What is the real difference between the first and second systems, which you ascribe to Universalists? Where did you learn, that they expect to get to Heaven on the ground of right, independent of the mercy of God? And where did you learn that some Universalists advocate the annihilation of the wicked? As annihilation is not salvation, you do violence to Janguage, in saying, that some Universalists, hold that the wicked will be annihilated. Your question, whether I support the five systems en masse, even if Universalists believed them, should never have been penned. However, the judgment will be upon your own head.
There is but a trifling difference among Universalists. All believe that punishment is designed to reform, and that it will in no case be continued after reformation is produced. None believe that it is salvation, that it entitles to
salvation, or that it is the only means of salvation. The difference then is simply in regard to the duration of punishment. Some think it all confined to this world. Others, that it extends to the future. This latter is my opinion. Here then are only shades of difference. But look at the conflicting systems of partialism, and you will observe differences of the greatest magnitude. By one, we are taught, that an eternal decree of God, passed for his own glory and pleasure, drives some down to the gates of endless ruin. By another, that God is not arbitrary, and that endless misery is a punishment, of our voluntary transgressions. This latter teaches, that sin is infinite, and that we shall be endlessly punished, for the sins of this life; while another teaches, that we shall be endlessly miserable, not because our sins are infinite, but because we shall sin eternally.One system teaches, that hell is paved with infant skulls, and another, that all infants will be happy. One teaches, that all the heathen will be lost, and another, that a part, at least, will be saved. In vain then, do we look to partialism, for those beautiful proportions, and that union, perfection and agreement, which are the distinguishing glories of the temple of truth
Indeed, such is the wide difference" of opinion, that we hear continually, both from the master builders and the workmen, on these modern babels, the noise of war and the confusion of tongues. He that is first in his own cause seemeth just, but his neighbor cometh and searcheth him.
I admit that Paul's silence respecting Gehenna, is not positive proof that punishment is li