« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
ture, without ceasing to have an individual existence, shall yet find itself in willing accord and harmonious union with Him."
Such a result can furnish the only worthy resolution of the problem, and justification of the facts, of divine sovereignty and of human freedom. The advocate of human freedom can ask no more than that man should be free as God himself is free ; for, in the loftiest sense, only good can be free. The believer in divine sovereignty finds the conditions of that belief fulfilled in the perfect triumph of the divine will. The human and the divine are thus brought to reconciliation.
Mosheim's Thoughts on the End of Hell Torments.
The Tract which I here communicate in an English dress, is on many accounts well worthy of consideration. It is relatively an old defence of the popular doctrine of endless punishment. It originally appeared in 1725, or a little more than a century and a quarter ago; and it is interesting to see how this subject was regarded and reasoned upon at that time. It is from the pen of one of the most learned and popular theologians of Germany. With the name of John Lawrence Mosheim, the religious world is familiar. It was written at a time when a very active controversy was going on in Germany between the advo. cates of endless torments and universal salvation. And it seems to have been supposed that such a tract as this, from a man so eminent as Mosheim, would do much towards settling the controversy, and re-establishing the public faith in the dogma of endless hell punishments. But this expectation was doomed to disappointment. So far from ending the controversy, it only served to excite it more keenly. It called forth replies and examinations, which demanded renewed attention from both Mosheim
himself and his theological friends. But of this I propose to speak farther on.
This Tract appeared, as I have said, in 1725. It was published as an appendix to the first part of Mosheim's Sermons, and was alluded to in the preface in the following terms:
“ The subjoined thoughts on the doctrine of those who set a limit to the punishments of hell, have been required at my hand. Others have written more largely and more learnedly on this subject, and I can therefore very well bear it if some happen to think that my labor here was unnecessary. The innocent haste of some of my friends,
. who wished to have it published without my knowledge, and with some faults about it, induced me, when I became acquainted with their intention, to promise them that I would myself give it corrected to the press. This promise I now fulfil. And what is there blameworthy in this ? Had I not kept my promise, should I not have sinned quite as much as I do now in performing it? Besides, it is better to give the world a few sheets too much than too little on subjects of this nature. And the more influence this doctrine has upon certain truths of our faith, the more frequently have we cause to establish the proofs of them. People are accustomed to appeal constantly in this matter to reason; and it seems to many of the most deserving persons as if the cause of those who advocate the eternity of punishment, would be well nigh lost, if one were to rest on this alone. Without condemning those who differ from me, I think quite otherwise. It seems to me that reason, if not more, is quite as much in favor of those who maintain the eternity of the divine vengeance, as of those who insist that it will come to an end. Men often consider the opinions of those who are held in great reputation, as clear expressions of reason.
n. Often, too, do they measure the divine justice by the practice of human tribunals.
The acutest article that has been written in favor of the end of hell punishments, is that of an otherwise learned
1 Johann Lorentz Mosheim's, Abtens von Marienthal, &c., &c. Heilige Reden, ueber wichtige Wahrheiten der Lehre Jesu Christi. I have before me the fifth edition of the first part, published only nine years after its first appearance.
man, who is, however, to be charged with having fallen, before his death, into the mischievous error of the Socinians. I have read this piece in no superficial manner, and would bear the author testimony to a not badly constituted mind. But if we throw out a few ambiguities, and deny the force of a conclusion from human to divine things, the so-called demonstration becomes a phantom in which we seek in vain for just logical dependence.
I have been long intending to present in Latin the history of this doctrine, and to exhibit not only the sources of it, but also to investigate the various forms of it, and give its true color and weight. A multiplicity of other labors, which in part are not unkņown, has hitherto prevented me from accomplishing this object. Perhaps a few hours may soon be found in which I can bring into order the collection of thoughts and testimonies on the subject, and give them to the world."
The history here proposed never, as I am aware, came to light, nor do I imagine that the world has great reason to regret it. The “testimonies,” which the vast reading of Mosheim might have furnished, would no doubt have been valuable; the “ thoughts," I suspect, would have added little to the stock of general knowledge on the subject. But I will detain the reader no longer, and hasten to lay before him Mosheim's “ Thoughts on the Doctrine of the End of Hell Punishments :"
“ There is nothing in the Scriptures which can lead men to the opinion that the punishments of the damned will not be endless. All the sources of this error must be sought in the depravity and weakness of men. Those who have little disposition to direct their walk by the law of God, find a kind of comfort in this conceit, when the thought of eternity presses itself upon them and disturbs their peace. One sins far more quietly when he has per. suaded himself that the punishment of sin will at some future time come to an end. People sometimes come to believe without any reason what they wish to be true. And hence the sinner oftentimes holds just as fast to this opinion as he does to his sins. There are others whom a fault of the understanding brings to embrace this doctrine. There is nothing more common than for men to judge of God according to what they regard as just, good, and praise worthy in the world. Among mortals it would be considered as something terrible, were one to punish a small transgression with never-ending torments. Every one would shun the government of a prince who should deal with his subjects in this manner, and the least that could be said of him would be that he was a tyrant. These earthly thoughts we unwarily transfer to God. We forget that the difference between God and men is infinite. We forget that the sins which one commits against the peace of society, are of a very different kind from those he perpetrates against the law of God. We forget, too, who we are, and that a finite understanding must of necessity judge badly, when it judges of the attri. butes and perfections of a being, who is by his very nature absolutely infinite.
2 Ernesti Soneri Demonstratio Theologica et Philosophica, quod aeterna impiorum supplicia, non arguant Dei justitiam, sed injustitiam. (i. e., A theological and philosophical demonstration that the eternal punishments of the wicked do not argue the justice but the injustice of God.) The world-renowned Leibnitz proposed a republication of this little work, which is now very scarce. I have a copy of it before me, with the preface which he proposed to publish to it. Another place will give me occasion to mention this again, when I shall commend the goodness of one whom I have to thank for this and other matters connected with this subject.
Men may be betrayed into this opinion, also, by a natural compassion. Our thoughts and convictions are formed in many respects according to the natural temper of our bodies and souls. Those who are constitutionally hard and severe, easily conceive of God as a Judge, and forget his love. Others, on the contrary, who possess great tenderness of heart and much sympathy, incline to the other side, and think of God only as a Father, and forget his justice. These last can never reconcile the eternity of punishments with their natural compassion, and hence without difficulty conclude that it is not true.
Thus the reverence which we ordinarily cherish for some great and learned men, confirms some in this error, and makes faith in it much easier. It is not to be denied that some, whose fame has endured through successive generations, have held this doctrine for a truth. How easily do we forget what the Scriptures are so careful to mention, that "great men are not always wise,' and espe
cially when we find in their opinions what is otherwise agreeable to us. Satan sowed tares in the field of the primitive church. Some of those, who were then pillars in the community of Jesus Christ, judged mildly of the state of the damned. The renown which they left behind them blinds us even now, and we conclude, before we are aware, that since this was the opinion of one of the most eminent teachers, therefore it is true. Thus taught a man whose merits in the church are immortal, therefore I may safely believe it.
It is no wonder that those affected by these weaknesses, should imagine when they come to the Scriptures that they find something in them which supports their doctrine. And when they do not meet with clear and express passages to their purpose, they ordinarily resort to dark and difficult ones.
It is easy, in passages that are somewhat obscure, to discover what may strengthen a judgment already adopted. The power of imagination assists the industry and application one employs, and presently he comes to regard mere conjectures and fancies as divine truths. When one has gone thus far, he begins to pervert and apply chance texts to his purpose. Time renders him obstinate; self-love does not allow him to recognize his own faults; and thus he struggles on without seeing that he is in a manner putting weapons into the hands of unbelievers, and throwing all the certainties of the Bible into doubt. How perverse we mortals are! God has given us his word to help our weaknesses. Hence if we would be prudent, we should thus think: This or that must be true, whatever my wretched understanding may say to the contrary, because God has revealed it. But men reverse this. They first consider the doctrines of faith with their understanding, and then for the first time trouble themselves about the Scriptures. They draw this utterly incongruous conclusion: This or that doctrine seems to me to be hard and difficult ; hence it cannot be found in the Bible. Hence, too, they strive to give all the texts, where they imagine it is met with, a new and perverted interpretation. What more ? Men are unreasonable, that when they desire to maintain their opinions, they begin with such passages of Scripture as are obscure and difficult. Reason and common-sense