« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
been easily expressed in more explicit language. Such language, in all ages, and in all nations, conveys the idea of privation only, or dissolution, and is totally inapplicable to a state of POSITIVE
Thus far do the advocates for Annihilation proceed without embarrassment; and they manifestly enjoy a superiority in argument over their opponents. But considerable difficulties surround an hypothesis which appears to be so well supported. It is positively asserted, that
we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, that, all may receive the things done. in the body, according to that they have done, whether it be good or whether it be evil;" and that Christ shall denounce to the Wicked, "depart from me, ye workers of iniquity, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." Are we to suppose that the wicked shall be awakened from the grave, merely to hear their doom, and then sink into a state of complete annihilation? We are also assured that there will be a gradation in the punishment of the Wicked, according to their comparative demerits; that it shall be more tolerable for the ancient inhabitants of Sodom, Gomorrah, and Ninevah, in the day of judgment, than for those who reject the gospel of Christ; that those whose knowledge of their master's will was
comparative ignorance, shall be beaten with few stripes, for their transgressions; but a severer punishment awaits those who enjoyed and abused, advantages which were infinitely superior. These statements are totally inconsistent with the doctrine of immediate destruction. They require a series of painful sensations, inflicted with different degrees of severity, previous to annihilation. But a sentiment like this is surely to be rejected. It is inconsistent with every principle of legislation, and every professed object of punishment. It serves not either for correction or example. The wicked are not to be reclaimed by the severest chastisements. We cannot suppose that these punishments will be necessary warnings, to operate in terrorem, upon the Righteous in a state of bliss, to prevent their revolting from their allegiance. Nor dare we to imagine that they are inflicted from a principle of revenge in the divine mind; from a vindictive spirit; for this alone can be harboured by the cruel and relentless among men.
We shall submit the following solution of these difficulties to our candid readers, to be confirmed or confuted by superior critics. The former is most ardently desired.
The hypothesis now under consideration, is built upon the assumption, that the expressions Death, Destruction, Perdition, so frequently em
ployed in the sacred Scriptures, are perfectly synonymous with absolute irremediable annihilation. But are we compelled to submit to this assumption? What proofs have been adduced that they are synonymous? It has been remarked, upon a former occasion, that various have been the opinions of men concerning this death. It has been considered as a separation of the conscious principle from the material frame, and the term has thus been confined to the dissolution of the body, while the soul is supposed to possess its vital powers with increased vigour. The term is more commonly applied to the dissolution. of the corporeal frame, and a total separation from every thing we now enjoy by the possession of life; a termination of all that we suffer or enjoy in the present world, connected with a gloomy uncertainty respecting a future existence. As these different conceptions of men actually exist, by what law is it that the death, destruction, perdition, threatened to the Wicked, shall be construed into absolute annihilation? Or be applied to a state of irrecoverable nonentity?
If we closely investigate the subject, we shall discover that the supposition is arbitrary, and without a precedent. Nay, it is more, it is contrary to every precedent. It opposes the whole
tenour of Scriptural language, which, as now can be demonstrated, has applied these terms in a sense totally distinct from annihilation. Whatever conceptions our progenitor` Adam may have formed, when the sentence of Death was passed upon him; however vague, confused, or hypothetical, the opinions of men, in every age, may have been, concerning the nature and issue of death, the Resurrection of Jesus, his triumph over Death and the Grave, and the assurances of eternal life through him, demonstrate, without the possibility of a reply, that the Death, Destruction, Perdition, threatened and inflicted upon the sinners of the ancient world, did not amount to the total irrecoverable extinction of being. Now we know that Death, Destruction, or whatever term was used, had its signification bounded by a period, a aw; and that the Almighty did not resign his power of subsequent restoration, according to the good pleasure of his will. The execution of the sentence of death upon the whole human race, has not disabled him from placing his beloved offspring into a new state and constitution of things; into a new world, in which other scenes shall present themselves; so that, as the Apostle expresses it, "old things shall be done away, and all things shall become new." Where, then,
is the necessity, or the consistency, of annexing the idea of absolute extinction of being, to similar expressions, when they are applied to the Wicked and Impenitent, who have finally rejected the Gospel? What are the evidences that a similar process shall not take place in the different ages, or periods of eternity? To which periods, the terms Death, Destruction, Perdition, for the same reason, and from a continuation of the same plan, may be equally applicable? For, those threatenings which were obviously confined to the present period and state of things, were expressed in language as formidable, as that which is applied to the state of the wicked in a future world, and in a future state of condemnation. "The day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die,” was the threatening pronounced to Adam; and, under the Gospel dispensation, the wages of sin is death to the finally impenitent. I will destroy man whom I have created. Every living substance shall be destroyed. The transgressors shall be destroyed, says David, they shall be destroyed for ever; the Lord will utterly destroy all nations. But this utter destruction will not prevent their future Resurrection; for, "as in Adam all died, so in Christ shall all be made alive." "The first man, Adam, was made a living soul, the last Adam, a quickening spirit: for we must