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of the wicked.

phet, which he applies to the future condition "It is better for you to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched."

That the prophet, in the above passage, intended to express a painful, protracted, and disgraceful consumption of the body, cannot admit of a doubt; but from the very nature of the subject, the process must finally terminate. In fact, it is already terminated, notwithstanding it is said of the fire, that it would be everlasting. Where then is the obligation, according to the laws of reason, or the rules of just criticism, to distort this quotation from its primitive sense, and render the terms absolute, when uttered by the Saviour of mankind? And for how dreadful a purpose is this distortion made? It is to condemn a fellow-mortal, and a fellowsinner, into an eternity of woe! Surely, we ought to pause, and tremble at the brink; not rashly to plunge into so awful a sentiment.

The other term, everlasting fire, is also adduced in support of the doctrine of eternal misery. But, it is to be observed, that the whole of the argument resting upon this term, rests upon the arbitrary assumption, that Everlasting is always to be understood in the most absolute sense,

or as being synonymous with the word eternal; a duration which is literally without a termination. But by what law are we compelled to consider it in this absolute sense? Strong expressions are daily used by the moderns, who profess to observe much greater precision of language, than was usual among the ancients, in a manner which is not consonant with their literal import. How frequently do we use the words ever and never, without any reference to an eternal duration?

But if we carefully attend to the nature and genius of scriptural language, we shall discover that the word everlasting, is always used with peculiar accuracy and precision; and this very circumstance fully evinces, that the interpretation of it, usually given by theologians, is not only erroneous, but extravagant. It is generally employed in a sense infinitely short of an eternal duration; and the application of it, in the most absolute sense, may be considered as an exception from the general import, authorized, and vindicated by the peculiar nature of the subject, to which it is thus applied.

It is said, in the Epistle of Jude, that "the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, suffer the vengeance of everlasting fire;" and from history, we learn, that the fire was not suddenly or ab

ruptly extinguished. Those cities were destroyed without a vestige remaining; the devouring fire raged with unabating fury, until it had consumed all that the element could con


Should any one be inclined to apply the expression, to the souls of the wicked inhabitants in a future state, the extravagance of such an application would be sufficiently exposed, by observing, that the Apostle obviously refers to an historical fact, which was familiarly known by those to whom his Epistle is addressed; and, therefore, it cannot relate to the world unknown. "Even as the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah," says he," and the cities about them, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal or everlasting fire, πυρος αιωνία. No sufferings in a future state can serve as an example, to the present race of beings.

That the wicked perpetrators of such enormous crimes, shall not escape punishment, we learn from an expression uttered by our Saviour. But his statement gives no countenance to the doctrine of irremediable woe; on the contrary, he says, "that it shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah, in the day of judgment,

than for this generation." An expression, which demands a much less terrific construction.

From the above example, we learn that the punishment which was declared to be everlasting, endured without intermission, as long as the subject existed; and this indicates, in every case, the precise signification of the term. We are not to pronounce, in a peremptory manner, according to the sound of the word everlasting to a modern ear, but according to the nature of the subject to which it is applied. In this sense. is it invariably used in the sacred writings, and it constitutes a peculiar idiom of their lan guage.

"I do set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. And I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature, of all flesh, that is upon the earth."*

"You shall keep a feast to the Lord throughout your generations: you shall keep it a feast, by an ordinance for ever."

"The righteous shall dwell in the land for ever," says the Psalmist, "I will praise thy name for ever." "Wherefore, if meat make

* Gen. ix. 13. 17.

my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world stands; as To vaiva everlastingly; or as long as my life continues.

In these cases, the nature of the subjects excludes the idea of an absolute eternity. Innumerable are the instances which might be adduced, where the words aww and awvos, which are mostly translated everlasting, necessarily signify a limited duration; by their application to subjects, which are, in themselves, of a transient, or perishable nature. But when the terms are applied to the eternal GOD, they must, by the same rule, signify an eternal duration, in the most absolute sense.

"From everlasting to everlasting, thou art God." "Thine is the kingdom, power, and glory, for ever." "To him who only hath immortality, be honour and power everlasting," &c. &c.

The abettors of the sentiments we are opposing, lay great stress upon a particular expression of our Lord, who, in terminating his description of the solemnities of the last judgment, declares, "these (the wicked) shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal." They state, that the words in the

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