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church understands her Confession and formulas, or to make them more suitable to present needs, or to do otherwise, as to their wisdom may seem meet."
Prof. Briggs contributes a lengthy editorial note upon "The Westminster doctrine of the salvation of infants." By references to the history of the Assembly, and by numerous citations from the essays and sermons of the principal men engaged in framing these statements, he proves conclusively that they gave no countenance to the modern doctrine of universal infant salvation, or to the salvability of devout heathen. His words are,
"We are able to say that the Westminster divines were unanimous on this question of the salvation of elect infants only. We have examined the greater part of the writings of the Westminster divines, and have not been able to find any different opinion from the extracts we have given. The Presbyterian churches have departed from their standards on this question, and it is simple honesty to acknowledge it. We are at liberty to amend the Confession, but we have no right to distort it, or to pervert its grammatical or historical meaning." And as to the salvation of some heathen, which many brethren find room for under the phrase, " other elect persons, who are incapa :>le of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word." he shows that by such incapables the Westminster divines meant "those who have not their normal faculties of mind, and so, like infants, are incapable of hearing or responding to the gospel call. The authors of the Confession had no thought of including the heathen in this class" . . . "It is contrary to the Westminster Confession to believe in the salvation of till infants, or to believe in the salvation of any of the heathen who are capable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word." He alludes to a former article of Dr. Prentiss in the same Review which asserts that "this extension of salvation vastly beyond what the Westminster divines contemplated amounts to a revolution in theological opinion, all the more noteworthy from the quiet, decisive way in which it was accomplished, the general acquiesence in it, and also the apparent unconsciousness of its logical consequences."
Prof. Briggs concludes his article by saying: "If the church has failed thus tar to advance to the inevitable consequences of this doctrine, it cannot refrain much longer from it. It must either recede to the Westminster position, or, having abandoned it for a new doctrine, justify it by evidence from Scripture, and make the reconstruction of the related doctrines that is necessarily involved. We do not hesitate to express our dissent from the Westminster Confession in this limitation of the divine electing grace. We are of opinion that God's electing grace saves all infants, and not a few of the heathen. We base our right to differ from the Westminster divines on their own fundamental principle, that the electing grace of God is not tied to the administration of the ordinary means of grace."
We conclude this notice by quoting with pleasure Dr. Briggs' closing sentence in his remarks upon the labors of John Durie, and others in the seventeenth century, in behalf of Christian Union. "The disunion of Protestantism has continued long enough. It is high time that we should set our faces toward a realization of that ideal of Christian Union for which these heroes of the seventeenth century labored so faithfully and well."
To this we respond with a hearty Amen.
ANSWERS TO CORRESPONDENTS.
An associate in the ministry for whom we have the highest respect writes to us as follows:
I do not suppose that it is possible for all to see alike on these momentous truths, especially when they are not revealed in all their fullness. I doubt whether it is possible, even now, to formulate a statement that shall contain a complete, final declaration of the entire truth concerning the last things. There are in some parts of Scripture some faint glimpses of other views than those t..at have been almost universally held, but they are not clear enough to base positive statements upon, and perhaps if we could see them clearly, we should find them to be in harmony with the old doctrines. There are p sit.ve statements of the punishment of the wicked, a punishment that is everlasting. There is no positive statement that any chance for repentance or the acceptance of Christ will be given after the resurrection. I do not think we can put into doctrinal statement that which is only an inference, or a hope of a human character, or a logical sequence of propositions that are not entirely scriptural and connected
While I say these things, I should nevertheless like to see a little of the phraseology of our Confession and Catechism changed. It is not infallible, as God's word is, and the language of two hundred years ago most likely did not convey the same ideas to the men of those days that it does to us.
We publish this letter because of its calm and temperate tone, and because it presents, we think, the strongest point that can be made against our own views. It fairly represents the position of a large class of brethren whom we love and honor, and who regret our agitation of this subject.
The point is this. There are positive statements of Scripture of the everlasting punishment of the wicked. All passages which bear against these are non-positive, faint glimpses, and do not afford a sufficient basis for any doctrinal statement.
We remark just here. Admitting there are such positive statements, the question still remains: Are they fairly presented in our confessional statements that this punishment is to be " most grievous and unspeakable torments of soul and body, without intermission, with the devil and his angels in hell-fire forever?" And, if there are even "faint glimpses" of a wider hope, as our correspondent admits, ought the church to speak so positively upon this awful Bubject as our Confession speaks? And is she right in binding the consciences of her ministers to these statements? Even a "faint glimpse," an "inference," is sufficient to create some doubt. And any doubt here should make us pause.
But now as to the main point alleged, that this matter is settled for us by certain "positive statements."
1. We can find but one such apparent statement,—"These shall go away into eternal punishment" (Matt. xxv. 46). This, taken in connection with the previous sentence of the Divine Judge "Depart ye cursed into eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels" (vs. 41), is the one passage which is decisive for so many minds. This is the main pillar among the proof-texts quoted in the Confession. A number of other passages seem to teach the same thing, but if it were not for the coloring borrowed from this passage they could not be regarded as positive. Our Lord upon several occasions, in giving private instruction to His disciples concerning the law of self-crucifixion as the way of life, told them that it was better for them to surrender one of their evil members, an eye of lust, or a hand of offence, than that the whole body should be cast into hell "where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched." But the uniform Old Testament use of these expressions discourages the thought that He used them to teach an endless torment in the fire of hell. They signify there complete destruction (Is. xxxiv. 8-11. Jer. vii. 20 ; xviii. 4. Ezek. xx. 47). And the first use of them in the New Testament by John the Baptist confirms this. He declares that the coming Messiah was about to purge His floor and to bum up the chaff with unquenchable fire. Whatever inferences therefore may be drawn from this class of passages in our Saviour's teachings, they must be removed from the category of "positive statements of an eternal punishment of the wicked." The same thing is true of that strongest statement to be found in the Acts or the Epistles—2 Thess. i. 9. "Who shall suffer punishment, even eternal destruction from the face of the Lord, and from the glory of His might." Here the punishment threatened is "destruction," not torment. And the class of sinners overtaken by this judgment are men living on the earth, and saying '' peace and safety." There is no warrant for quoting it, as does our Confession, as a direct proof-text for the everlasting torment of sinners after their resurrection from the dead. We are right therefore in saying that the catalogue of "positive statements" should be reduced to the one in Matt. xxv. Let us look closely at this.
The common interpretation of it assumes (1) that Jesus taught the natural immortality of sinful men. He did teach their soulsurvival. But soul survival is not immortality. The only positive statement made by Him on this point implies the destructibility of the soul, with the body, in hell (Matt. x. 28). (2) That the judgment described is a post-resurrection scene, embracing in one assize all generations of men who have ever lived, and who are raised from the dead for the purposes of this judgment. And yet we are distinctly told at the outset of the discourse, that all these things, including the coming of the Son of Man in glory (xxiv. 29-34), should be fulfilled before that generation passed away. (3) It tacitly assumes that this warning of an everlasting punishment was spoken in the ears of the multitude, who were exposed to this infinite danger. And yet it forms part of a private instruction given to the disciples. Matthew tells us: "The disciples came to Him privately " to question Him about the sign of His coming and the end of the age. Mark limits it still further. "And as He sat upon the Mount of Olives over against the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked Him privately," etc. (xiii. 4). We ask our brethren to reflect upon this. There is no proof that Jesus ever spake to the multitudes that thronged about Him, and who were the most concerned to know, of the inconceivable peril of an endless torment of soul and body in hell. Even this strongest passage was addressed to a few disciples, as were also the words in Matt. v. 29, 30, xviii. 9, Mark ix, etc. Is it conceivable that this tender lover of human souls would have been thus reticent, if the common view of the meaning of His words were the true one]? It may be said, He certainly instructed His disciples so to warn men. But, there is not a single passage in one of their recorded sermons in the Acts, nor in their epistles, which distinctly and positively warns men of this specific danger. The strongest passage in their words or writings we have already examined. This, and their other strong statements of the doom to which wicked men are exposed, fall in much more readily with the view of a positive destruction, than a positive endless existence in torment. We say, therefore, again that the "positive statements of an everlasting punishment of the wicked " stand or fall with this one in Matt. xxv. This is the only one that appears definite. This first rises to mind and comes out on the lips, whenever proof is sought for the old doctrine. And this we have seen to be far less positive than our correspondent assumes it to be. It describes, on the face of it, a pre-resurrection judgment of mankind, which began when our Lord was exalted to be the King and Judge of men, and which shall reach its consummation at the end of this age. It leaves the question still open whether the future resurrection of these condemned ones will not introduce some change in their condition, and open up a new administration of this Son of Man toward the countless generations of the dead. Moreover, the testimony of this passage is seen to be much less positive on the side of the old doctrine when we consider (1) that eminent scholars, like Tayler Lewis and Robert Young, insist that aionion never denotes absolute, but relative endlessness.
While for kolasin we have the authority of Aristotle, as quoted by Liddell and Scott, that it properly denotes corrective punishment, as distinguished from retributive, the word for which is timoria. The positiveness, therefore, of this passage is weakened from three directions. 1. Those who claim that the kolasis threatened is a "cutting off" from existence, in accordance with the primary meaning of the word. (2) Those who claim that it is not interminable but agelong. (3) Those who assert that its discipline is restorative. Without giving our own view upon the relative value of these interpretations, we refer to them now to show that a close study of the words reveals that this crucial passage is not so positive in its teaching as is commonly assumed. And yet, as we have seen, the whole fabric of the enormous doctrine of the everlasting torment in the fires of hell of all who, in any age or in any land, have died unsaved