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CHAP. XIX.

John xvii. 3.

have an instance apparently of the use of aiuvios to denote quality or character rather than duration; as it certainly does in that divine definition aŰtn ¢OTIV aióvios son, this is, not this leads to, but this is, in this it consists, to know Thee, the only true God, and Him whom Thou didst send, even Jesus Christ.' With regard to the expression 'neither in this age nor in the coming one,’ it does not seem to occur to those who press these words in support of neverending punishment, that they are susceptible of a meaning by no means convenient to their own system ; for by the very distinction put upon the sin against the Holy Ghost, as not remissible either in this age or in the coming one, our Lord certainly seems to imply that other sins, not remitted in this era, may be remitted in another. And this is the very inference Augustine draws from it. Neque enim de quibusdum veraciter diceretur, quod non eis remittatur neque in hoc sæculo neque in futuro, nisi essent quibus, etsi non in isto, tamen remittatur in futuro. (De Civ. Din. xxi. 24.) To my own mind the phrase 'neither in this age nor in the one to come' presents no difficulty, believing as I do, and as in the foregoing pages I have tried to show, that the purpose of redemption is the purpose of the ages, a purpose not to be fully wrought out in this age nor in the next one, but in the evolution of successive

It is, therefore, to me quite intelligible that a sin of such emphasis, as that against the Holy Ghost, should be described as not remissible either in this age or in the coming one, without our being driven to understand it as absolutely and for ever impossible to be remitted.

eras.

But the wrath of God abideth on him.' This, CHAP. XIX. too, is an expression sometimes quoted in support of the doctrine of eternal punishment, it being supposed to mean that the wrath of God is an evercontinuing wrath. But a simple reference to the context will show how mistaken is such an interpretation. 'He that believeth on the Son hath Gwny John iii. 36. , aióviov, but he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.' Now the simple purport of the passage is to express the way of life through faith in Christ. The natural state of man, apart from Christ, is described in Scripture as one of darkness and of death, a state of alienation from the life of God, a condition of wrath. But he who is in Jesus Christ is described as being in the light, as having passed from death unto life, as become the child of God by adoption and grace.

· Ye were sometime darkness, but now Eph. 1. 8. are ye light in the Lord.' · We know that we have 1 John iii. 14. ! passed from death unto life.' *Ye are all the Gal. iii. 2a, children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.' 'He that 1 Jolin v. 12. hath the Son hath the life,' or as it is here expressed by the Baptist, 'He that believeth in the Son of God hath twnu aibviov;' hath, observe, not merely shall have, but hath it, is in present possession of it. Eternal life is already begun in him who is in Christ Jesus. But he who believeth not the Son, who refuses his salvation, he hath not the life, and so long as he refuses to believe shall not see life, but continues in his state of darkness, death, and alienation from God; the wrath of God remains (uével) on him, is not taken off from him. In this passage, then, there is no utterance one way or the other as

CHAP. XIX.

to the eternity of future punishment.

It simply sets forth the present way of life and the peril of unbelief. It declares, what a thousand passages do, that only in Christ is life ; that he who is not in Christ is not in life but in death. But as to the question whether in the ages to come they, who through impenitence and unbelief have fallen under the second death, shall be restored and reconciled by the all-conquering grace of the Saviour King, on this point the passage in question says nothing; and to quote the expression the wrath of God abideth on him' is only one of the many instances in which particular passages and expressions are isolated from the context, and made to support a system or theory to which they have no legitimate reference at all.

The saying of our Lord concerning the strait gate and the narrow way is another passage frequently

put forward by those who deny the ultimate reconZlatt, rei, 13, 14 ciliation of all souls to God. “Enter ye in through

the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many are they who go in through it; because narrow is the gate and straitened the way that leadeth unto life, and few are they who find it.' Strive to enter in through the narrow gate, because many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in and shall not be able.' Now let it at once be freely acknowledged that if this passage is to be taken by itself, its interpretation uncontrolled by any other parts of Scripture, if it is to be regarded as descriptive of the final results of the redemptive work and mediatorial reign of Christ, if the term "destruction' is to be

Luke ciii, 24.

understood as meaning nothing less than eternal CHAP. XIX. torture, then, I say, let it be freely acknowledged that this passage would be formidable evidence, indeed, against the doctrine propounded in this volume. But, as St. Paul says of the prophets, that the spirits 1 Cor. xiv. 32. of the prophets are subject to the prophets, so is it a recognized axiom of biblical hermeneutics, that one divine utterance is to be interpreted by the aid of, and subject to, the modifying influence of others. Were this principle of interpretation to be disregarded, very repulsive and uncouth deductions from isolated passages would, as we all know, be forced upon us.

Now with regard to the passage immediately in question, it is sufficient to observe: 1st, that it has already been conclusively shown that the term útorela does not convey the idea of endless perdition, but on the contrary is frequently used in the sense of severe and terrible, though not irremediable loss or damage ; 2nd, that so understood it exactly describes the condition of those who fail to attain to the privilege of the first-born, and have consequently to undergo the second death; 3rd, that the number of those, who will attain to the life of the first-born through the narrow gate and odòv Teorijpevny, will indeed be the few, the little flock. So understood, and regarded as descriptive of the result of the present åløv, the passage falls in with what we have seen to be the aspect, character, and purpose of this era of the kingdom of Christ. As we have seen, some passages speak of that kingdom under one aspect and some under another, some of its operation in the present age,

CHAP. XIX.

66

and some of its results in the ages to come.

Take this passage as referring to the former, and it not only does not contradict, but is in entire harmony with, other passages. Take it as descriptive of the final results of Christ's kingdom, and it is in utter and irreconcilable conflict with all those glorious utterances of the Divine Word, which declare the ultimate subjection of all souls to God as the purpose to be accomplished by the redemptive work and mediatorial reign of the Son of Man.

A practical objection, again and again put forward, must next be considered. It has been said, Is it wise to attempt to modify or mitigate the popular notion concerning future punishment ? If men come to think of it as anything less terrible than endless torment, will there not be a danger of lessening their dread of it, and so of rendering them more careless of sin and its consequences? Will they as much stand in awe and sin not, if they come to believe that the punishment of sin is not final and irremediable ? My answer to this is a very simple one. In the first place, What saith the Scripture? If the doctrine of never-ending torment is not a doctrine of Inspired Writ, we have no right, nay, it is simply wrong, to make use of it as a motive to deter from sin; and believing, as I do, that this dogma is not a scriptural one, that it is dishonouring to God, that it disparages the efficacy of Christ's redemptive work and sullies the glory of his kingdom, that it creates intense prejudice and hostility to Christianity, I not only refuse to accept it, but count it a duty to show, to the best of my ability, that endless torment is not part of the

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