« AnteriorContinua »
eternity. But how different is the fact? What compassion is there in concealing evils, to which men are actually exposed and from which they cannot escape, except by efforts specially directed to that end? The dangers which threaten them cannot be avoided, except through faith in Jesus Christ; but this they will never exercise, until the law of God with its terrible sanctions, has been exhibited. The object of preaching is to restore to loyalty the revolted subjects of God by leading them to repentance; which cannot be done where a knowledge of eternal punishment, the only proper measure of guilt is withheld and where a false estimate of character is necessarily made. “ They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.” Christ is nothing to those, who perceive not the sinfulness of sin nor their own guilt, nor the imminent wrath of God. To such he is no shield nor high tower nor rock of defence nor ark of safety. While they deny that the bible sentences to remediless ruin the impenitent world, they act agreeably to their creed and stand exposed to the gathering storm, till bursting forth, it overwhelms them. How can he, who is ignorant of the sanctions of the law, be
convinced of the misery of a wicked state, and of the peculiar glory of those who have their fruit unto holiness? How can he know the odiousness of sin, how can he have a just sense of his unworthiness, how can he exalt the Savior to the first place in his affections, how can he be rescued from his apostacy and from the misery naturally incident to transgression? Such effects belong exclusively to that law which converts the soul, which saves moral beings by fear, which persuades the holy to remain allegiant and the rebellious to return to God, and which thus forms the ground and pillar of the divine government. Grateful indeed should we be, that our danger and way of escape are revealed! We should hear with deep solemnity those truths repeated from the pulpit, upon the belief of which depend the structure of religion in our souls and all our well grounded hopes of a blessed hereafter. Could concealment, on the part of the preacher, render the danger any less real and appalling to his hearers, could he, by persuading them, that God will not punish the wicked, reverse the fact, he would have the semblance of an apology for proclaiming impunity in sin. But he cannot. While, therefore, it remains
true, that the wicked shall be turned into hell and all the nations that forget God, it will be benevolent to warn every man of his exposure and to persuade every man by these terrors of the Lord, to renounce his sins and to attach himself to the cross of Christ.
THE DURATION OF FUTURE PUNISHMENT.
2. PETER ii. 17.
These are wells without water, - clouds that are
carried with a tempest ; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved forever.
That lost men will never be restored to happiness is apparent from passages which declare their punishment to be forever, forever and ever, eternal and everlasting. The corresponding words in the original Greek, are aion and aionios. It will be best to acquaint ourselves with their general use and import, before we examine their particular application to future punishment.
I. Aion occurs in one hundred and four passages in the New Testament. Of these instances of its use, fifty-nine relate to God or to his kingdom, in such a manner that an absolute eternity must be intended. In six ofthe
remaining passages, it is applied to future punishment. There are only thirty-nine, in which it can be pretended, without begging the question, that it signifies a limited duration. If then, the most common use of the word is to decide its meaning when applied to future punishment, that punishment is proved to be eternal. But a just estimation of the argument to be derived from the applications of this word, depends upon understanding a peculiar sense in which the Jews were accustomed to employ it. They divided duration into two periods. The former comprehended the time anterior to the establishment of the Messiah's kingdom, the latter embraced all succeeding ages. The first of these periods, called the present aion, was distinguished by weakness, vice and misery; the second, called the aion to come, they supposed, would be a time of uncommon prosperity and peace. In one or the other of these senses, it is used in nearly all the thirty-nine passages mentioned above. The following are fair examples. “But he shall receive an hundred
6 fold, now in this time, houses and brethren and sisters and mothers and children and lands with persecutions; and in the world to