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as long as time, in which it exists, and if so, to render punishment everlasting, must it not be as lasting as the age
in which it takes place ? and this we have shown in the preceding chapter to be the future world. This must render the punishment of the wicked absolutely endless, in the opinion of all who believe in an endless hereafter.
The same mode of reasoning may be employed in relation to the priesthood of Aaron, which was everlasting in an accommodated sense, because it was as lasting as the dispensation under which it was established. The priesthood had no end, as a distinct feature or branch of the Mosaic economy, but was ended by the abrogation of the whole dispensation, of which it formed a part; and if so, punishment, which will form a part of the divine dispensation in the future world, will be as endless as all the other realities of eternity.
Having as we believe removed the bulwarks, which universalists have reared to shelter themselves from the
argufounded on the strength of the terms applied to punishment to describe its duration, we will assault their citadel, by proceeding to the statement of the main argument itself.
1. We maintain that the proper meaning of the original word aionios, which is rendered everlasting, and eternal, is endless. This word Mr. Groves defines thus: Eternal, immortal, perpetual, former, past, ancient.” He says it is derived from aei, which signifies ever, and on which signifies being. These two terms put together, make ever being. Dr. A. Clark, has the following remark, in his notes on Gen. xxi. 33. “ Abraham called upon the name of the Lord the EVERLASTING God." “ The Septuagint renders the words Theos aionios, the ever existing God. From this application of both words we learn olam and aion originally signified ETERNAL, or duration without end. Aion, according to Aristotle, and a higher authority need not be sought, is compounded of aei, always and on, being. Hence we see that no words can more forcibly express the grand characteristics of eternity than these. It is that duration which is always existing, still running on, but never runs out." The Dr. continues, in fine, on this chapter, “In all languages, words have, in process of time, deviated from their original acceptations, and have
become accommodated to particular purposes and limited to particular meanings. This has happened, both to the Hebrew olam, and the Greek aion ; they have been both used to express a limited time, but in general a time the limits of which are unknown; and thus a pointed reference to the original ideal meaning is still kept up. Those who bring any of these terms, in an accommodated sense to favour a particular doctrine must depend upon the good graces of their opponents for permission to use them in this way. For as the real grammatical meaning of both words is eternal and all other meanings only accommodated ones, sound criticism in all matters of dispute, concerning the import of a word or term, must have recourse to the grammatical meaning, and to the earliest and best writers of the language, and will determine all accommodated meanings by this alone. Now the first and best writers in both these languages apply olam and aion to express eternal, in the proper meaning of that word; and this is their proper meaning in the Old and New Testaments, when applied to God, his attributes, his operations, taken in connection with the ends for which he performs them, for whatsoever he doeth it shall be forever. The word is with the same strict propriety applied to the duration of the rewards and punishments in a future state, and the argument that pretends to prove, and it is only pretence, that in the future punishment of the wicked the worm shall die, and the fire shall be quenched, will apply as forcibly to the state of happy spirits, and as fully prove that a point in eternity shall arrive, when the pose of the righteous shall be interrupted and the glorification of the children of God have an eternal end. On Matt. xxv. 46. “ These shall go away to everlasting punishment but the righteous into life eternal,” the Dr. remarks thus: “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 against that doctrine drawn from this verse, but what sound learning
and criticism should be ashamed to own." We might add authority to authority on this point were we disposed to cov. er some few pages with the names of critics, but that this is the voice of critics generally, from the earliest period to the present day, the critical reader already knows, and we will not detain the plain reader with criticisms on the original Greek, but address ourselves to his understanding, and attempt to settle the point in his mind in plain English. The point at which we aim here, is to show that the proper
and grammatical sense of the Greek noun aion, and its corresponding adjective aionios, is endless. Whether or not these words, when applied to the punishment of the wicked, are used in their proper sense is a question hereafter to be settled. That such is their meaning appears from the fact that if these terms do not express endless duration, there are no terms in the Greek language which do properly express endless duration ; and it would be preposterous in the highest degree to suppose that a language in which God has revealed his will to man, in which he has declared his own eternity and set forth the endless destiny of the human family and the undying realities of the future world, in which universalists contend he has clearly and unequivocally revealed the final and endless happiness of all men, should have no words in it which properly express endless duration. Has God declared to us his own eternity in the use of words which do not properly express absolute eternity! Has he revealed to us the endless happiness of the saints, or a suniversalists contend, that of all men, in the use of words which do not properly denote endless duration? Such a declaration would be an insult to common sense. The terms in question are those which the scriptures employ to express the eternity of God, the perpetuity of his kingdom and the endless happiness of the saints. Rom. i. 25. “The Creator who is blessed, aionios, forever.” ix. 5. God blessed, aionios, forever. xvi. 27. “ To God only wise be glory, aionios, forever.” Matt. vi. 13. “Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory aionios, forever." John vi. 51. “I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any man eat of this bread he shall live, aiona, forever.” These quotations show that the word in question is used to express absolute eternity or
endless duration ; the proper meaning therefore must be, endless, or else the eternity of God and the perpetual happiness of the saints are expressed only by words used in an accommodated sense, in which they are made to express as much more than their proper meaning as eternity extends beyond a period in time. This is absurd in two respects. First, it is highly absurd to suppose that the eternity of God and the endless felicity of the saints are not expressed in the proper use of words, but only by words used in a figurative or an accommodated sense. If this be the case, it follows that these points are not absolutely expressed, or else that they are absolutely expressed in the use of words which do not express them in their proper signification; and if words which do not properly signify endless duration can, nevertheless, be so accommodated to the subject as to express absolutely the eternity of God and the endless felicity of the saints, the same words can most clearly, by the same accommodation, express the eternity of punishment, and the controversy about the meaning of words is at an end.
Again, words are never used, in an accommodated sense, to express more than their proper signification, but always less, if not used in their proper sense. As swift as the wind, as large as a mountain, as cold as ice, as lasting as the hills, are hyperbolical expressions, in which words are used to express less than what they properly signify; but, with us, it would be a difficult task to use words in an accommodated sense, so as to express more by them than what they properly express. If words are not used in their proper sense, they must be used figuratively, and hence, must belong to some one ofthe figures of speech, which may be pointed out as such according to the rules of rhetoric. But rhetoric treats of no figures which consist in the use of words to signify more than what they properly express. To illustrate the point, we remark that God is said to be the everlasting God, and a hill is said to be an evevlasting hill. Now in one or the other of these instances the word everlasting is used figuratively. Suppose, then, that the proper meaning of the word is endless or ever existing, and it is used in its proper sense when it is applied to God, and figuratively when it is applied to the hill. Here we have a plain figure called in rhetoric, hyperbole.
Dr. Blair, who is good authority on all questions of rhetoric, says: “Hyperbole consists in magnifying an object beyond its
proper bounds;" and here we have it, a bill which is not, strictly speaking, everlasting, is asserted to be everlasting, by which it is "magnified beyond its proper bounds.” But reverse the case by supposing that the word everlasting properly means only a limited period, and it must be used in its proper sense, if it have any, when it is applied to the hill, and if so, it must be used figuratively when it is applied to God. But this is a nameless figure, or rather it is no figure at all according to any known laws of language. We say the word aionios, which is translated by forever, everlasting and eternal, is applied to limited and unlimited objects, to those which end, and to those which are endless; and as words are used to signify less than their proper meaning when they are employed figuratively, aionios, rendered everlasting, must be used figuratively when it is applied to things which have an end, and in its proper sense when applied to things which are endless ; its proper meaning therefore is, endless. We think we have now fully shown that the proper meaning of eternal, everlasting, and forever, is endless.
2. We maintain that words are always to be understood in their proper sense, unless the connection be such as to require a different construction. The common sense of every reader must sanction this position, were no authority produced: we will however adduce testimony on the point." The following is extracted from the rules of interpretation contained in Hedge's Logic. Rule 8. “Words which admit of different senses should be taken in their most common and obvious meaning, unless such a construction lead to absurd
consequences, or be inconsistent with the known intention of the writ
i Rule 12. “When there are no special reasons to the contrary, words should be construed in their literal rather than in their figurative sense.” The Rev. Mr. Sawyer, A. M. in his “ Elements of Biblical Interpretation,” says, on page 12. “ The most common meaning is always to be chosen where the nature of the subject or context does not clearly indicate another.” And on page 15, the author says again : “ The literal meaning of words is never to be departed from without evident reason and necessity." Other authorities