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Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1833.
in the Clerk's office of the District Court of Massachusetts.
MANY passages occur in the New Testament, which are understood by some to indicate endless torment in the future life; and by others, merely severe temporal judgments. It has often been objected to the interpretations given of these passages by Universalists, that they are forced or strained;-wresting the Scriptures from their true import. And not unfrequently, it has been gravely remarked, that if Universalists are correct in their expositions of Scripture, it is exceedingly strange that none of the pious and learned divines of the two last centuries, should have discovered the true meaning of the controverted passages. I do not mean that any reputable critic has urged this apology for an argument: but it is a favorite theme with many laymen, as the reader must be fully aware and some clergymen have not hesitated to adopt this expedient to persuade their hearers that the views exhibited of the Scriptures by Universalists, must necessarily be false-that they are adopted and defended, merely to give some semblance of support to a favorite theory.
To remove this objection, and to exhibit the true state of the case, is the principal object of the following pages. It will be discovered that the 'pious and learned divines,' who have studied so deeply, and written so extensively, as to acquire for themselves the reputation of profound theologians, although they believed in the endless misery of the wicked, have yet given interpretations of the Scriptures, similar to those now given by Universalists. Hence it follows that the charge, alleged against Universalists, of thus interpreting Scripture merely to support a favorite theory, is unfounded and unjust:-for orthodox commentators have given the same interpretations in
spite of their own theory, or at the least, when not endeavoring, in a set discourse, to defend it.
Of course, it is not pretended that any one orthodox commentator explains every disputed text in accordance with the views entertained by Universalists. But among them all, some have furnished us authority on every text of this description, with a very few exceptions: some furnishing authority on one text, some on another.
It is proper to observe, in this place, that I would not be understood to adopt, as correct, all the expositions contained in the body of this work. The quotations are introduced, on each text, with reference to this single point: to wit, Does this text teach or imply a state of misery in the future life, or does it not? When any commentator allows that it does not, I consider him to be proper authority to quote, in confirmation of the exposition given by Universalists, even though they do not agree with him in regard to what the text does mean. I will illustrate my meaning by a single example. By referring to the notes on Rev. vi. 1217, it will be seen that Hammond and Lightfoot interpret the passage as descriptive of the destruction of Jerusalem and the whole Jewish state:' the authors of the Assembly's Annotations think it relates to the troubles that were to befal the Roman empire;' while Clarke says that 'all these things may literally apply to the final destruction of Jerusalem, and to the revolution which took place in the Roman empire under Constantine the Great.' Clarke adds: 'some apply them to the day of judg ment; but they do not seem to have that awful event in view. These writers differ among themselves concerning the precise meaning of the passage: but they agree that it is descriptive of events which should be accomplished on the earth, and that it does not refer to the future life. Without deciding which is correct, in regard to the point in which they differ, and even without necessarily adopting either opinion as correct, I quote their authority in relation only to the point before mentioned:-does this passage teach or imply a state of misery in the future life, or does it not? They all agree that it does not; but that it has especial reference to temporal concerns, not having what is called the day of general judgment in view. So much may suffice to
show the propriety of agreeing with these commentators in relation to what a text does not mean, even though we may disagree in relation to what it does mean. I only add, that in a large majority of cases, the interpretations quoted in this work, are precisely such as are now given by Universalists; and which, when so given, are, by some of our opposers, stigmatized as foul heresy.
It may be considered a fault, that I have not given a full illustration of the passages quoted, according to the views which generally obtain among Universalists. I have omitted doing his, for two reasons: (1) such a course would have very considerably increased the size, and consequently the expense of the book; (2) my object was, not so much to prove the correctness of our views, as to show that they are not novel: that they are not the effect of an overweening desire to support a theory, even at the expense of reason and common sense : but that our opposers themselves have given the same, or similar interpretations, when their own theory was not allowed to influence their judgment. I know the opinions quoted are only the opinions of men; that they do not furnish positive proof that we are correct in our expositions of scripture: but a very strong, even a violent presumptive evidence is furnished, when men who firmly believe in the endless misery of the wicked, interpret a given passage to relate not to such misery, but to some temporal judgment or calamity, notwithstanding their creed and their prejudices, so far as they operate, would induce a different interpretation.
I have taken the liberty to omit the Greek phrases and words, in the notes, as far as was practicable; and where I could not conveniently do this, to insert them in the English character: believing such a course would be acceptable to a majority of my readers. With this exception, I have endeavored to copy every author fairly and faithfully; and have often quoted more than I desired, rather than have the appearance of mutilating, or misrepresenting the passage. The only alteration I have ventured to make, is in the orthography. Some very antiquated phrases will be found, and some words, of which the meaning may appear obscure. But I chose to let them remain, rather than attempt to alter the phraseology. A few of the words alluded to, may serve as a specimen: However frequently
occurs in the more ancient writers in the sense of at all events; expect is used for await; importance, for import; notation, for signification; consequents, for consequences ; &c.
Before closing this introduction, it should be observed that a work of similar character was commenced, a few years since, by Rev. H. BALLOU 2d. but for want of sufficient leisure was abandoned. This gentleman pursued his examination as far as Matt. xviii. 3. the results of which were published in the second volume of the 'Trumpet.' Of course, many of the authorities I have quoted thus far, are the same which were adduced by Mr. Ballou : I have omitted some of his, and have added some others. I have also taken the liberty to incorporate into my work the remarks of Mr. B. in relation to one or two passages, as will be noticed by the reader. I may observe, however, that with a very few exceptions, my quotations from orthodox writers, have been made directly from the works quoted, and not through the medium of other writers.
Of the authors quoted in this work, it may be sufficient to say that they are all supposed to have believed the doctrine of endless misery, except Wakefield, Kenrick, and Cappe. But these three believed in a state of torment for the wicked in the future life, and may therefore be quoted, when the only question is, whether a given passage relate to misery after death or not. I am not certain but Bate also should be excepted. Of his religious views, I know nothing, except what is contained in the extract quoted among the notes on Luke xvi. 19-31. This was taken from an English Review, by Rev. T. Whittemore, from whom I have copied it.
I subjoin a list of authors quoted, with the title and date of the edition from which the selections were made.
ASSEMBLY'S ANNOTATIONS. 'Annotations upon all the books of the Old and New Testament, &c. by the labor of certain learned divines thereunto appointed, and therein employed, as is expressed in the Preface.' London, 1657. 2 vols. folio.
Of this work Horne says, it is usually called the Assembly's Annotations, from the circumstance of its having been composed by members of the Assembly of divines who sat at Westminster during the great rebellion.' Intro. ii. 751.