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According to Scripture ;
WITH REFERENCE ALSO TO
ANCIENT JEWISH BELIEF, AND THE CHRISTIAN
WRITINGS OF THE FIRST TWO CENTURIES.
J. M. DENNISTON, M. A.,
AUTHOR OF “ANCIENT LANDMARKS,” ETC.
"THEY SEARCHED THE SCRIPTURES DAILY, WHETHER THOSE THINGS
Acts xvii. 11.
101. f. 290.
IF the doctrine of immortality through the first Adam, and of endless suffering apart from the Second, be indeed of God, then every attempt to unsettle our neighbour's belief in it must be in a high degree wrong, presumptuous, and dangerous. For if such be the truth, then—“Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” is an abundant answer to everything that equity can urge against it; and the single sentence, “GOD IS LOVE,” should equally suffice to silence every murmur which the thought of mercy or goodness may tempt us to. But if, on the other hand, that doctrine is without warrant in the Bible, then it must be of the highest moment to recall men from the new to the oldfrom the false to the true—from the human to the divine. Neither the honour of God nor the interests of man can permit of any compromise or alternative here. For it is a fact, however slow some may be to recognize it, that there is in the minds of multitudes no objection to the word of God comparable to the one which arises from the doctrine of endless torments. This they will not hear of; and so they cannot accept the book which, they are told, teaches it. While others, not able to go so far, are drifted on to the sands of a 'universal restoration. Towards this the current gains in strength daily. And, if what is here offered shall restrain or recall any from a course so dangerous, one important end of it will be answered. The author is not ignorant, indeed, of the opposition to be expected by any one venturing on an attempt of this kind. There are various considerations sure to start up at once in violent opposition to the very mention of it. Of these some are of the most devout and venerable kind. With a purer zeal than Eli ever knew do those who entertain them tremble for the ark of God. To question the reality of eternal misery is, they sincerely believe, the same as to question the reality of divine justice, or the necessity of the atonement. Disturb this stone in the citadel of truth, and all security for everything else is gone. No wonder that, with such feelings, they should deplore the attempt to show that the word 'perish,' when used of the soul, has the meaning which all allow to be its natural and ordinary one when it is used of other things. Considerations like these—however ill-founded they may be-one cannot but sincerely respect and sympathize with. Other objections, again, are of a different character; having too much
to do with mere prescription and prejudice-too much in common with weapons largely employed in maintaining many of the worst of systems. These considerations, instead of the devout tone which distinguishes the others, are apt rather to exhibit an undevout irritability which might almost betray their origin, and to embody themselves in expressions which may alarm the timid, but can never convince the thoughtful. The word 'heretic,' for example, is too much relied on for settling the entire question; while a settlement so easy is perhaps made surer by a reference to the “damnable heresies” of “the last times.” The undoubted danger of “divers and strange doctrines” is allowed, it may be, so to prey upon the mind, as to leave no room for the very important question — Which of the doctrines actually is the strange one? While the mere name 'destructionist'— though so like what the Scripture itself would suggest—and 'annihilationist, which had better never be used at all—are employed as sufficiently bad to brand any one with indelible opprobrium, and to warrant the withdrawing from him of all right-minded Christian people. Such is the manner in which hard, perhaps hasty, words are allowed to settle a question peculiarly calling for tenderness of spirit, and calmness of judgment. Now it would certainly be sad, should it turn out that, in coming back to what we regard as a cardinal point in the “old paths,” we had let