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first part of the sentence, translated everlasting, and those in the latter, translated eternal, are precisely the same in the original. επελεύσονται ἔτοι εἰς κολασιν αιώνιον οιδε δίκαιοι εἰς ζωὴν αἰῶνιον.
They allege, that as the word av is acknowledged to signify absolute eternity, respecting the righteous, no rules of criticism will admit of a limited sense when applied to the state of the wicked. But the inference, however plausible, is not conclusive. If the sentiments advanced above, be accurate, that the duration annexed to the term everlasting, is to be regulated by the nature of the subject, we must have recourse to the subject for an explanation; and by a due attention to the subject before us, we shall discover a meaning by which the parallel will not be disturbed, although we reject the melancholy inference.
The Righteous will enjoy everlasting life, in the most absolute sense, because they are Righteous, and because they will be eternally confirmed in goodness. They will dwell in the presence of God, and of the Lamb, for ever, and they will sin no more. If they acquired the character of being righteous, during their conflicts with their spiritual enemies, in this state
of trial, we may be assured that they will not degenerate in those purer regions. Their love of piety and of virtue, shall be as immutable as the everlasting inheritance they shall possess. Were it possible for them to rebel, they would suffer ejection, as is reported of fallen angels. The depravity of the wicked must, in the strictest sense of the word, be eternal, to expose them to a punishment of equal duration with the blessedness of the Righteous. Should their torments finally consume the wicked, their existence and suffering would cease together. The worm can no longer gnaw, or the fire inflict anguish. If the punishment should prove corrective, it must, according to the invariable sense of the term everlasting, cease to be eternal. The wicked only are to be punished, but they will be no longer wicked; the worm will not die, as long as there remains a cause of contrition and remorse; beyond this, it cannot live. The fire will not be prematurely extinguished, so long as the dross remains, but the gold that is purified, is never left in the furnace. Should chastisement produce reformation, reformation will ensure pardon from that Being who has declared, with a strong asseveration, "that he delighteth not in the death of a sinner, but had rather he would return and live,"
In all the cases quoted above, we have been enabled to decide concerning the precise signification of the word everlasting, by our being made acquainted with the subject to which it was applied. Where that was in its nature transient, the term was also of a transient import; where the subject is absolutely permanent and immutable, everlasting must also be considered in the most absolute sense. But when the future punishment is said to be everlasting, we must be made acquainted with the nature and design of the punishment, before we can judge of the extent of its duration, and in what sense the word is to be construed. For, the rule authorized by every other example, is, that the duration of the subject is not to be predicated by this term, but the extent of the term itself is to be ascertained from the nature of the subject.
But if we further attend to the expressions employed by our Lord, in the passage under consideration, we shall perceive an important discrepancy in his mode of stating the rewards of the Righteous, and the punishment of the Wicked. It is not said of the Wicked, that they shall go into eternal life, an eternal life of misery, which is the language preferred by our hypothetic reasoners, and would be the most pertinent, if their system were true. Nor is
there a single passage in which it is declared, in a manner equally explicit, that the wicked shall rise again into a life and immortality of absolute misery. It remains for those who believe that such will be their destination, to explain the cause of a distinction universally observed; or why does the revelation of God always avoid those expressions which they always prefer?
It has also been urged, that a reiteration of the words, as in the expressions from everlasting to everlasting, must imply an eternity in the absolute sense.
We might observe, in answer, that this assertion appears not unlike a concession, that the single term is destitute of sufficient force to express the idea. So likewise is the reiteration itself; for many instances may be produced, where similar phraseology is applied to subjects which cannot admit of this interpretation. David says, "So shall I keep thy law, continually for ever and ever." "I will praise thy name for ever and ever." "Let all flesh bless thy name
for ever and ever."
Other modes of using the same term are also adopted to give it additional force, in subjects where absolute eternity must be excluded. It is not unfrequently thought by the writer to be inadequate to his subject, without an auxiliary
to increase its force. The Septuagint version, has the following expression in the song of Moses, "the Lord shall reign everlasting upon everlasting, and farther, τον αίωνα και επ αίωνα, και
. Exod. xv. 18. They that turn many to righteousness shall shine as the stars, as T asaras na i, to the ages and farther, Dan. xii. 3. We will walk in the name of Jehovah our God, εις τον αιώνα και επέκεινα, to the age, and beyond it. Mich. iv. 5.*
Once more; there are some very strong expressions in the book of Revelations which are adduced in support of the doctrine of endless torment. From these we will select the following, as our observations will be equally applicable to every other.
"If any man worship the beast, and his image, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone, ni the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the lamb, and the smoke of their torments ascendeth up for ever and ever, and they shall have no rest day nor night.f
Perhaps the proper answer to the arguments deduced from these, and other expressions of a
* See Note L.
+ Rev. xiv. 9-12.