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truth supposed or implied in the very rudiments of our moral constitution, in the involuntary dictates of conscience, in the aspect and general purport of revealed religion? Is it not this, that the Governor of the world, and the Judge of men, is not implicated in evil, nor on any ground obliged to effect its extermination? It has been argued,* that Man is treated as though he were free, and therefore, he is free. May we not in like manner say, God treats and deals with offenders, as though He were strictly unimplicated in the offence, and as though He were absolutely free from obligation to remove it, and therefore, such is in truth the case. And thus, while the first principles of the moral system, the voice of unsophisticated conscience, and the language of revelation, all appear to imply that Evil is essentially Evil,-that it is strictly independent of the Divine causation, and is related to the agency of the Supreme Being, solely in the way of beneficent and limited counteraction, and that this limited counteraction is perfectly free,and while on the ground of the Divine veracity, we are justified in inferring the truth of these principles, from their implication in the moral system; we may affirm it to be a groundless assumption, on which rests this specious demonstration, that the power, the wisdom, and the goodness of God, ensure the issue of Evil, in the highest well-being of its subject.
It may be asked whether God, the Judge and the Saviour of men, presents himself to his creatures, as the subjects of sin and misery, under an aspect essentially different from that in which a good man, a benefactor appears, when he enters an hospital, or a prison? It seems, indeed, indispensable to the existence of those mutual sentiments which are supposed to connect the wretched and the guilty with their benefactor, that there should be no room for the suspicion of the latter being in the remotest way so implicated in the calamity of the former, as that they may imagine him to be bound, to the utmost extent of his power, to repair the injury they have sustained.
If such a conviction of ill-deserving, as can be in no danger of approximating to the mere consciousness of misfortune, be indispensable to a right temper of mind, then is it necessary that we believe in the essential difference between good and evil, and the independent origination of the latter. If an unmixed and an unfeigned gratitude be requisite to our religious wellbeing, then must we acknowledge a wholly gratuitous interposition, as the source of personal salvation. And if these sentiments be essential ingredients in the virtue of offending creatures, then we have a solid ground, far more satisfactory than could be afforded by any pretended demonstration à priori,
* See Butler's Analogy.
on which to found the persuasion that the Supreme Being is no more implicated in the existence of Evil, nor in any way more obliged to effect its extermination, than is the human benefactor who visits an hospital or a prison. No hypothesis whatever is here assumed, relative to the origin of Evil: the argument is altogether à posteriori. It is necessary that we should feel as though the case were thus, and thus, and therefore, because God is true, it is thus, and thus. Now, the very terms of the proposition which asserts that Evil is not from God, and that the definite rescue from Evil is purely gratuitous, imply the fallacy of the position, assumed as the foundation of the argument for Universal Restoration, namely, that the entire extermination of Evil, is, by some kind of necessity, contained in the ultimate design of the universe.
Here then, we repeat, is that point of the question, on which it behoves the advocates of the doctrine in dispute, to spend their strength. Hitherto it seems not to have occupied their thoughts. They are, no doubt, at liberty to assume again what as yet they always have assumed; but in so doing, they will only establish the justness of the remark, that the party self-distinguished as the professors of Rational Christianity,' is characterized, with a singular uniformity, by shallowness of thinking on questions of abstruse Theology.
We must briefly remark upon that part of Dr. Smith's volume, in which he adduces and discusses the evidence of
Scripture upon the subject in hand He employs many pages to very little purpose, as we think, in a critical examination of the terms Adv, Αιώνιος, Απολλυμι, ολεθρος, θανατος, and κόλασις. No peculiar obscurity appears to attach to any one of these words. We imagine that a person only moderately familiar with the Greek Scriptures, cannot fail to know all that is important to be known, for the present controversy, of the use and extent of these terms. The power of language is by no means solely or chiefly derived from the individual signification of words. The intention of a writer or speaker is primarily ascertained on the ground of the conventional sense of words taken in combination. The conventional sense of certain phrases and modes of expression, is, of course, more determinate than that of individual words; if it were not so, as all words have more or less extent of meaning, thought could never be communicated. If we must ever be retrograding from the obvious conventional intention of a sentence, to the power of the words of which it consists, language will be deprived of its faculty to convey any determinate proposition; it is resolved into an enigmatical mass, in which all meanings may float, indifferently and at large. Now, this is the very treatment to which the language of the Bible is every day subjected by theorists. Because the averments of the inspired
writers are held to have a claim upon belief, and to be decisive of controversy, therefore they must be deprived of the dangerous privilege of using words as other men use them. They are, in fact, considered as lying under a sort of grammatical outlawry, and are denied the benefit of the common rules of social intercourse. When they would speak as honest men, they are supposed still to be cloaking some mental reservation; their obvious intention is rejected, as having no claim to attention, and every one thinks himself at liberty to resolve each sentence into its elements, and to recombine those elements at his discretion. God, in speaking to men, by man as his instrument, must unquestionably be understood as submitting his message to the established usages of human communication. On this principle it is affirmed, that the Divine veracity and our correlative responsibility, are involved in the rule, that the opinion or intention which we should not fail to attribute to a profane writer, using such or such expressions, are, without reference to the nature of the doctrine therein implied, to be received as the opinion or intention of the inspired writer who does employ them. In proportion to the infinite moment of Revealed Truth, is the imimportance of adhering to the principle, that inspired persons spoke and wrote under the presumption that they should be heard and read as other men are heard and read; so that, when they employ those uncompounded forms of speech, which are ordinarily understood to convey an absolute sense, they also shall be allowed to intend an absolute sense. He who informs us of an intelligible fact, in customary terms, has a right, on the strength of his credibility, to be exempt from an etymological scrutiny of the words he employs. A person of grave character assures us, that he has witnessed a shipwreck, and he laments to add, that 'the people on board were lost.' But the word lost, it may be argued, primarily signifies not found; and therefore the statement may only mean that the crew were cast upon the shore of some distant country, from whence it is not probable they will find the opportunity of returning to their homes they are thus relatively lost, that is, lost to their country and their friends. Or lost may mean distressed, undone, ruined in their affairs; and so nothing more after all may be affirmed concerning them, than that they escaped from the sea with their bare lives. At any rate, where there is this acknowledged ambiguity in the sense of the term, where it may bear a more favourable construction, is it not the symptom of a malignant complacency in misfortune, needlessly to affix to it so harsh an import, as to conclude that these unhappy persons were literally and irrecoverably drowned ?-If the common place criticism on the Greek words above mentioned, amounts to any thing better than such miserable trifling, in truth it escapes our apprehension.
The mind that has not sacrificed all its ingenuousness to the perverseness of theological controversy, will meet with no serious difficulty in the application of the rule upon which we insist. It may be thus exemplified: Socrates is represented by his disciple, as holding the opinion, that those who, from the flagitious nature of their crimes, appear to be incurably vicious, (anaTUS EXY,) shall be cast by Just Fate, (woonσ μspa,) or equitable retribution, (εις τον ταρταρον,) into Tartarus, (σθε ΟΥΠΟΤΕ εκβαινεσιν.) out of which they never come. In reading this passage with the feeling of entire indifference as to the opinion either of Socrates or of Plato, our first impression is, that no idea was present in the mind of the one, or of the other, but that of incorrigible vice, and its permanent consequence. But suppose it was contended that the adjective, anaros, insanabilis, immedicabilis, incurable, from which the adverb here used is formed, may be taken in a comparative sense, as implying only hard to be cured, -and again, that this OUTOTE εκβαίνουσιν may well consist with the idea of a long or uncertain detention in the place of punishment; to such a criticism we should reply, that had there been in the mind of the writer a secret persuasion that the nature of things admits not the supposition either of incorrigible vice or of hopeless punishment, unless we suppose him influenced in his choice of words by the sinister design to frighten men with a doctrine he did not himself believe, another mode of expression and other terms would certainly have occurred to him. The import of the sentence does not depend upon the narrow meaning or the latitude of the words individually considered: according to the understood principles upon which ideas are communicated, this is the phraseology of one who would convey an absolute and unqualified idea. And were the opinion of Socrates or of Plato made the rule of our faith, we should hold ourselves obliged to believe that there are incorrigible offenders, who shall be cast into Hell, out of which they never come.' Now, let the quotation we have here introduced, be immediately compared with the promise uttered by our Lord, and reported by his disciple, John, (Rev. iii, 12.) "Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the Tem"ple of my God, and, eğu ov μn eg, he shall go no more out." The Christian scruples not to rest an infinite hope upon the apparent intention of such a phrase as this, nor does it lie within the power or the province of a minute criticism, to impair the stability of his expectation. If there be certainty in language, this is the language of one who, without a meaning in reserve, pledges his veracity upon the promise of permanent felicity. Let the reader turn to the several passages in the Gospels, which contain our Lord's denunciation of future punishment; or we may adduce as a suflicient example, the words of
St. Paul: "Those," he declares, "who obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, shall be punished with, spor as, "eternal destruction, from the presence of the Lord, and from "the glory of His power." We will imagine this sentence divested, for a moment, of its allowed Divine authority, and read simply as a quotation from Jerom, or Augustine. Will any one affirm, that he should hesitate, from such a passage, to attribute to the writer the opinion of a final condemnation? Or, we may ask, Is it some deficiency of explicitness, some symptom of hesitation or designed ambiguity, or is it any deviation from the ordinary forms of speech, when an absolute sense is intended to be conveyed, which suggests the necessity of criticising so simple a phraseology? If the advantage which mankind concede to all but those whose sincerity they have found reason to suspect, be granted to the inspired writers, it will seem hard to doubt of the idea which occupied their minds when speaking of the future condition of the wicked. But withhold this advantage, and we take from them the means or power of expressing any absolute proposition whatsoever. They are not, indeed, denied the use of words, but they are effectually denied the use of speech: its determinate faculty does not result from the fixed and analienable efficiency of single words, (such an efficiency it is not in the nature of words to possess,) but from the common principles of our nature, as well as from the boundaries and necessities of the medium in which thought is conveyed. When the time shall arrive, that heresy is to expire, men will learn to read the Bible, (as it respects ascertaining the intention of the inspired writers,) simply as they peruse an epistle from a friend, or the daily records of passing events. We shall then cease to hear of allowable interpretations,' and 'possible senses,' and conjectural emendations, and all the other cant of crooked scepticism writhing beneath the heavy heel of Truth.
But the passages of the Gospels, whose apparent sense it is attempted to invalidate, should be perused under the supposition that our Lord, who is surely free from the imputation of a sinister design, uttered the threatenings recorded by the Evangelists, with the intention to suggest, or to favour the doctrine of Universal Restoration; at least, if that doctrine be true, it could never be his design to generate in the minds of his hearers an idea, not only absolutely false, but, as is pretended, highly injurious to the Divine character, and quite destructive of all the sanctions of morality. Nevertheless, standing, as he did, within prospect of the invisible worlds, Himself the Arbiter of human destinies, and proclaiming to the subjects of his own future sentence, that ultimate article of revelation which sums up its address to the passions of hope and fear, he thus predicts the forms of the Last Day: "Having gathered before the