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THE QUESTION OF ETERNAL PUNISHMENT. teach the doctrine of Eternal Punishment—though their date is matter of discussion—and to the passages quoted by him in evidence others might be added. And if on the other side the saying of Rabbi Akiba should be quoted (Eduj. ii. 10) to the effect that the judgment of the wicked in Gehenna was one of the five things that lasted for twelve months, it must be remembered that, even if this be taken seriously (for it is really only a jeu d'esprit), it does not necessarily imply more thau the teaching of Hillel concerning that intermediate class of sinners who were in Gehenna for a year—while there was another class the duration of whose punishment would be for ages of ages. Even more palpably inapt is the quotation from Baba Mez. 58 b (lines 5, &c., from the bottom). For, if that passage declares that all are destined to come up again from Gehenna, it expressly excepts from this these three classes of persons : adulterers, those who put their fellow-men publicly to shame, and those who apply an evil name to their neighbours.
But there can at least be no question, that the passage which has been quoted at the outset of these remarks (Rosh haSh. 16 b, 17 a), proves beyond the possibility of gainsaying that both the Great Schools, into which Rabbinic teaching at the time of Christ was divided, held the doctrine of Eternal Punishments. This, of course, entirely apart from the question who—how many, or rather, how few—were to suffer this terrible fate. And here the cautions and limitations, with which Dr. Pusey has shown that the Church has surrounded her teaching, cannot be too often or earnestly repeated. It does, indeed, seem painfully strange that, if the meaning of it be at all realised, some should seem so anxious to contend for the extension to so many of a misery from which our thoughts shrink in awe. Yet of this we are well assured, that the Judge of all the Earth will judge, not only righteously, but mercifully. He alone knows all the secrets of heart and life, and He alone can apportion to each the due meed. And in this assured conviction may the mind trustfully rest as regards those who have been dear to us.
But if on such grounds we shrink from narrow and harsh dogmatism, there are certain questions which we cannot quite evade, even although we may answer them generally rather than specifically. We put aside, as an unbealthy and threatening sign of certain religious movements, the theory, lately broached, of a so-called • Conditional Immortality.' So far as the reading of the present writer extends, it is based on bad philosophy and even worse exegesis. But the question itself, to which this ' rough-and-ready' kind of answer has been attempted, is one of the most serious. In our view, an impartial study of the Words of the Lord, recorded in the Gospels—as repeatedly indicated in the text of these volumes-leads to the impression that His teaching in regard to reward and punishment should be taken in the ordinary and obvious sense, and not in that suggested by some.
And this is confirmed by what is now quite clear to us, that the Jews, to whom He spoke, believed in Eternal Punishment, however few they might consign to it. And yet we feel that this line of argument is not quite convincing. For might not our Lord, as in regard to the period of His Second Coming, in this also have intended to leave His hearers in incertitude ? And, indeed, is it really necessary to be quite sure of this aspect of eternity ?
And here the question arises about the precise meaning of the words which Christ used. It is, indeed, maintained that the terms aibvios and kindred expressions always refer to eternity in the strict sense. But of this I cannot express myself convinced (see ad voc. Schleusner, Lex., who, however, goes a little too far; Wahl, Clavis N. T.; and Grimm, Clavis N.T.), although the balance of evidence is in favour of such meaning. But it is at least conceivable that the expressions
might refer to the end of all time, and the merging of the mediatorial regency' (1 Cor. xv. 24) in the absolute kingship of God.
In further thinking on this most solemn subject, it seems to the present writer that exaggerations have been made in the argument. It has been said that, the hypothesis of annihilation being set aside, we are practically shut up to what is called Universalism. And again, that Universalism implies, not only the final restoration of all the wicked, but even of Satan and his angels. And further, it has been argued that the metaphysical difficulties of the question ultimately resolve themselves into this: why the God of all foreknowledge had created beings—be they men or fallen angels—who, as He foreknew, would ultimately sin ? Now this argument has evidently no force as against absolute Universalism. But even otherwise, it is rather specious than convincing. For, we only possess data for reasoning in regard to the sphere which falls within our cognition, which the absolutely Divine—the pre-human and the pre-created—does not, except so far as it has been the subject of Revelation. This limitation excludes from the sphere of our possible comprehension all questions connected with the Divine foreknowledge, and its compatibility with that which we know to be the fundamental law of created intelligences, and the very condition of their moral being: personal freedom and choice. To quarrel with this limitation of our sphere of reasoning, were to rebel against the conditions of human existence. But if so, then the question of Divine foreknowledge must not be raised at all, and the question of the fall of angels and of the sin of man must be left on the (to us) alone intelligible basis: that of personal choice and absolute moral freedom.
Again—it seems at least an exaggeration to put the alternatives thus : absolute eternity of punishment—and, with it, of the state of rebellion which it implies, since it is unthinkable that rebellion should absolutely cease, and yet punishment continue ; annihilation; or else universal restoration. Something else is at least thinkable, that may not lie within these hard and fast lines of delimitation. It is at least conceivable that there may be a quartum quid—that there may be a purification or transformation (sit venia verbis) of all who are capable of such—or, if it is preferred, an unfolding of the germ of grace, present before death, invisible though it may have been to other men, and that in the end of what we call time, or dispensation, only that which is morally incapable of transformation, be it man or devils—shall be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone' (Rev. xx. 10, 14, 15; xxi. 8). And here, if, perhaps just, exception is taken to the terms. purification or transformation' (perhaps spiritual development), I would refer in explanation to what Dr. Pusey has so beautifully written—although my reference is only to this point, not to others on which he touches (Pusey, What is of Faith, &c., pp. 116-122). And, in connection with this, we note that there is quite a series of Scripture-statements, which teach alike the final reign of God (“that God may be all in all '), and the final putting of all things under Christ—and all this in connection with the blessed fact that Christ has ótasted death for every man,' «that the world through Him might be saved,' and, in consequence, to draw all' unto Flimself, comp. Col. i. 19, 20 (comp. St. John iii. 17; xii. 32; Rom. v. 18-24; 1 Cor. xv. 20-28; Eph. i. 10; Col. i. 19, 20; 1 Tim. ii. 4,6; iv. 10; Heb. ii. 9; 1 John ii. 2; iv. 14 -all which passages must, however, be studied in their connection).
Thus far it has been the sole aim of the present writer to set before the reader, so far as he can, all the elements to be taken into consideration. He has pronounced no definite conclusion, and he neither wishes nor purposes to do so. This only he will repeat, that to his mind the Words of our Lord, as recorded in the
THE QUESTION OF ETERNAL PUNISHMENT. Gospels, convey this impression, that there is an eternity of punishment; and further, that this was the accepted belief of the Jewish schools in the time of Christ. But of these things does he feel fully assured: that we may absolutely trust in the loving-kindness of our God; that the work of Christ is for all and of infinite value, and that its outcome must correspond to its character; and, lastly, for practical purposes, that in regard to those who have departed (whether or not we know of grace in them) our views and our hopes should be the widest (consistent with Scripture teaching), and that as regards ourselves, personally and individually, our views as to the need of absolute and immediate faith in Christ as the Saviour, of holiness of life, and of service of the Lord Jesus, should be the closest and most rigidly fixed.
(The Roman Numeral refers to the Volume, the ordinary Numeral to the page.
extend either to the Notes or the Appendices.]
The Inder does not
Abraham, transcending merits of, i. 271,
272. See Gehenna
classes of lectures in, and students, 247
things lost through it, 166
drian Jews, i. 63
traits to Antony, i. 89, 90; a devotee
der of, 126
empire, i. 121
Sanhedrin of, 26, 61 ; position, harbour,
the Jews, 64 ; Jewish homes in, 250
reckoned such, 230
i. 242; character of his house, 263 ;
zaars of his sons, 371, 372; their con-
Peter, 347, 348; final call of, 474-477;
140; their names, whence derived, 141,
one in Gethsemane, 539
priest by Parthians, i. 124; executed,
gogue, controversies with Christians in,
of, i. 4, 5, 95, 121
126, 127, 219; executed, 218
summons him, 125