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shame and contempt mentioned in Dan. xii. 2. were to take place upon the Jews, in this life, is extremely doubtful, to say the least. It It appears that the transactions mentioned in the text, shall not take place till the day of judgment. It is said many (all) of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting contempt. (See parellel passage in John v. 28, 29). A man that can torture this text, so as to explain it of a temporal transaction, previous to the day of judgment, may use every text in the Bible like a nose ef wax that will bend every way. It is worthy of remark, that the duration, both of happiness of the righteous, and the contempt of the wicked, is expressed by the word olam in the Hebrew, aionion in the Greek, and everlasting in the English. This text is point blank against the doctrine of Universalism.
This text in Acts xiii. 48, has nothing to do with foreordination of predestination to eternal life. As many as were (tetagenoi) disposed, adapted, or prepared for eternal life, believed. There is not one word concerning predestination in the text, but merely a present disposition to 'embrace eternal life, such as were so disposed, believed the report of the gospel.
As to your question, "if everlasting life means endless happiness, why did Jesus, after saying, gave his sheep eternal life, add, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand," it may be said, he used this form of speech, not because each particular did not mean endless life, but to make a deeper im
pression on the mind of his audience. And for the same reason, we have often, in scripture, two or more words or phrases of the same signification, coupled together; as, "prayer and supplication," &c. &c.
In relation to the use of the word aionios, in Rom. xvi. 25, 2 Tim. i. 8; Tit. i. 2; it may be remarked that there is no inconsistency in understanding the word in the endless sense. The phrase, musteriou kronois aioniois sesigemenou, may, with as much truth and propriety be rendered, "mystery kept secret during the eternal or unlimited past ages, or from eternity," as "mystery kept secret since the world began." The phrase "before the world began," or "before eternity." I think, is no more absurd than the English phrase, from eternity' or 'to eternity. Both seem to refer to some point when eternity began, or when it will end. If a point of time be admitted to justify the phrase 'from eternity,' certainly it is not absurd to say before eternity, as all points of time presuppose a previous time. The fact is, neither the phrase, 'from eternity' nor the phrase 'before eternity,' will bear a critical investigation, though we are sometimes obliged to use them, owing to the poverty of language.
The phrase 'everlasting gospel,' not only means, that it shall be preached to the end of the world, and that none other shall succeed it; but it signifies that its effects shall be endless, in all them that hear it. Those who believe and obey shall have endless happiness, and those who reject it shall have endless misery. This far, I think, is intended by the phrase, "everlasting gospel.",
You ask me, "how can Christ's kingdom be endless when he says, he shall deliver it up to his Father," (he said no such thing) See 1 Cor. xv. 24. This is a strange question! If you say his kingdom is not endless, the discussion is at an end, for his kingdom is composed of men and they must either be annihilated or cast into endless perdition, if they do not continue to compose that kingdom. I hold that Christ's kingdom is endless, because it is said, "of the increase of his government and peace, there shall be no end." Isa. ix. 17. Again, "his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed." Dan. vii. 12. Again, “he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there shall be no end." Luke i. 33. The transfer of an object from one agent to another, certainly does not imply the destruction of the object thus transferred. Therefore, Christ's kingdom may be endless, in its nature and constitution, though in some sense delivered up to the Father. This is poor shuffling to do away the force of the adjective aionios.-Nothing but a bad cause could set a man at war with his own principles.
In regard to the meaning of the phrase, "enter into life maimed," Matt. xviii. 8, I would observe, that the word "maimed," is employed to comport with the metaphorical language of the preceding part of the verse, where the "hand" and "foot" are intended to designate our beloved sins, which we must lay aside, or cut off; before we can possess eternal life.
It does not appear to me that the paragraph in Matt. xxv. from verse 31 to the end of the
chapter, can be properly understood,in any other way but as descriptive of the day of judgment. A parable is a sort of fable or allegorical discourse, founded on something in nature or common life, from which moral instruction is drawn. Now, the passage in question is not founded on any past transaction in life; but, must throughout be considered as literally descriptive, with the exception of one trope or metaphor i. e. the sheep and the goats. Suppose you should substitute the word saints and sinners, which you, no doubt, allow to be what is intended, and then see if any passage could be more literally descriptive. At all events, whatever length the duration of the misery of the wicked may be, the happiness of the righteous is just the same, as the sane word is employed to express the duration of both.
I cannot consider the observations on Mark iii. 29; Heb. vi. 2; and Jude 7 in any other point of view, than as mere evasions, quibbles, void of close and accurate criticism. Take the following as a specimen. "Aionion remember, is formed from aion; and as aion is used to signify an age, an aionion damnation must be the damnation of an age." This is a sort of logic that will suit any purpose. Let me try it on another subject, till we see how it will work. Godlike remember, is formed from God; and as God is used to signify an idol, a godlike man must be a man like an idol. Who would not be ashamed of such absurdities as these? The discerning reader; will observe that, in all your remarks concerning aion and aionios, you never told us how often, either the one or the other was to be taken in a limited or unlimited signification; nor point
ed out the places where they were so to be understood, though you said both words were to be taken, sometimes in the one way, and sometimes in the other. If this does not manifest a fear, lest truth should come out, I know not what does.
I shall close these remarks, for the present, concerning the adjective aionios, with a quotation from Dr. Clarke, taken from his notes on Matt. xxv. 46. "But some are of opinion that this punishment shall have an end. This is as likely as that the glory of the righteous shall have an end: for the same word is used to express the duration of the punishment, kolasin aionion, as is used to express the duration of the state of glory: zoen aionion. I have seen the best things that have been written in favour of the final redemption of damned spirits; but I never saw an answer to the argument abut gainst the doctrine drawn from this verse, what sound learning and criticism should be ashmed to acknowledge."
At the close of your letter you say, "when the inspired writers would express the endless felicity of heaven, they use such words as endless, incorruptible, immortal, &c. words strictly unequivocal in their meaning. And in your sermon on Matt. xxv. 31-46, (page 20) you say, "We do not rely on aion to express the duration of future blessedness; but we rely on words, which are of the most expressive character, such as immortal, incorruptible, and endless -words that are never applied to sin or any of its consequences." Where are those words employed by the inspired writers to express the du