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what may be to some a surprising discovery—that the current phrases "eternal death," "endless or everlasting torment," etc., are "non-Scriptural;" thereiore, should not be employed by preachers, unless they find their exact equivalents in the holy word.
Could you not bring this matter to a focus by a call for subscribers to a statement like this; drawn from the e tplicit statements of the Westminster Confession.
"According to the teachings of God's Word, the wicked, who know not God, and obey not the gospel of Jesus Christ, shall be punished with unspeakable torments both of body and soul, without intermission, with the devil and his angels in hell-fire forever. That is, conversely, should the wicked, at any future period be re leased, or cease to exist in such condition of torment, God would be proven a liar."
Who will sign that? Yet there are some advocates of the dogma of endless torment, who, if really as positive as their utterances would indicate, should not stagger at it. It may be fairly submitted, that no one who is not willing to subscribe this converse statement has any right to oppose the call for a revision of the Standards.
In response to the above suggestion we subjoin the proof texts from the Standards, with a few comments, and submit whether our correspondent's point is not well made, that they do not begin to contain the whole of the doctrine to prove which they are quoted. It must be borne in mind that these statements define specifically the doom of the wicked after their resurrection.
The proof texts are (see pages 190, 239). Mark ix, 43, 44: "To go into hell, where their worm dieth not, and their fire is not quenched."
These words were spoken to disciples, in order to urge them to escape a total loss of their embodied being in the future, by submitting its members of sin to present self-judgment. They do not affect the question as to what resurrection may hereafter do for a being who has been thus destroyed.
2, Luke xvi. 26: "Send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame."
By the terms of this parable, the punishment of Dives is inflicted just after his death. It begs the question to assume that resurrection makes no change in his condition. And the quotation of the passage to prove what fate awaits the wicked after they are raised up is wholly unwarranted.
3. Matt. xxv. 31, 46. "Depart ye cursed into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels . . . And these shall go away into everlasting punishment."
We recently heard Dr. Pierson, at whose instigation the Synod of Pennsylvania took the action our correspondent refers to, state at a Bible Reading that this passage describes a judgment of the living nations at Christ's Second Coming. His principle of interpretation is correct, although we differ with him. in our belief that the judgment described began with our Lord's ascension, and reaches its consummation in a future open revelation of His glory. But, in either case, the nations sorted into sheep or goats are not the resurrected dead, and therefore the passage cannot be quoted as decisive of what awaits them beyond resurrection.
The same thing is true of 2 Thess. i. 8, 9 and Rev. xiv. 11. The resurrected dead are not brought to view. Only Rev. xx. 15 looks beyond the resurrection. And here eternal death, and not eternal torment, closes the scene.
"Deak Brother: I was interested in noticing how Dr. Green in his notes on one of the recent Sunday-school lessons disposed of the difficulty in Jer. 35; 19—"Therefore thus saith the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel, Jonadab the Son of Rechab shall not want a man to stand before me Forever." By a number of quotations he shows that the common sense interpretation which avoids an unnecessary literalism and leaves room for a time limit to the expression "forever" is altogether the best defence of the prophecy. Thus we are delivered from the dreary business of skirmishing around to find a surviving body of descendants of the Rechabites, and the resulting anxiety as to their further perpetuation; and yet the fulfillment of the prophecy none can impeach.
Why not then rein in our daring literalism as to the "forever" of eternal punishment, and deliver the Christian faith from an unspeakably greater and more harassing bondage. After the profoundest study of words and texts, does not a divinely enlightened common sense rebuke us for this childish continuance of the thought of time succession in that condition which we name "eternity"— the fundamental conception of which is the reversal, or rather obliteration of time and space? Thus we retain the warning and restraint which the Bible reveals as attaching to the penalties of the future world, but are enabled at the same time to face even that world of penalty in the Scriptural attitude of hope."
The above is an extract from the letter of a highly esteemed and successful Presbyterian pastor. There is great force in the argument he derives from the fundamental conception of eternity, "as the reversal or rather obliteration of time and space." And yet we must confess to something of the difficulty which Dean Plumptre expresses in his criticism of the views of Maurice and Westcott upon this point, "I find it impossible," he says, "to conceive of life, either human or divine, apart from the idea of duration." We prefer, therefore, to find relief from the "harassing bondage" so long imposed upon the church by the literalism of this word, in the limitations imposed upon it in Scripture. Nothing is more certain than that the Old Testament speaks of a "forever" punishment which was not to be endless. A fire of God's anger was kindled against Judah which was to burn forever, (Jer xvii. 4). The smoke of Idumea's unquenchable burning should go up night and day forever (Is. xxxiv. 10). In these cases the strongest equivalent the word will bear is age-long. All such threatenings are limited by the declared purpose to bring to an end these times of destruction, and to bring on the "times of restitution." So the "eternal punishment" of the New Testament must be regarded as limited by God's declared purpose of resurrection. Resurrection, in the prophetic conception, always bounds the age and introduces the age to come. The conception of an endless punishment, in which resurrection is only a brief interval and an aggravated torment, is foreign to the whole Biblical idea. We have gone through the Bible in our studies with this key in hand, and are satisfied that this is its own relief to this dark subject. Eternal punishment is punishment that endures through the whole order of things. It comes to its end only as the subject of it may pass out into another order through resurrection. If it is objected that this same word defines the life of the saved, our reply is that the death idea always enters into the Scripture idea of future punishment. And death is something which resurrection necessarily terminates, while life, so interrupted, would only be re-enforced and perpetuated. But whe'her we can fix the truth in its proper relations or not, there it stands, written all along the Scriptures, if one has eyes to see it.
Vol. III.] FEBRUARY, 1887. [No. 2.
THE EVANGELISTIC MOVEMENT IN PHILADELPHIA.
An extraordinary movement is now being made in this city to press upon the attention of all classes of its people the subject of personal salvation. Special services have been arranged in a large number of churches, and a system of house-to-house visitation organized. The circular issued by the Central Committee states that " doctrinal differences on non-essentials have been put in abeyance that we all maybe one in work, as we are in spirit. The evangelical denominations of the city, almost without exception, are represented in the work, and about four hundred congregations. Such a movement has not been known before in the history of our city."
We most heartily wish, as a result of these efforts, that a very large number may be brought to share in the blessings of Christ's salvation.
But the sanguine hopes of the promoters of this enterprise will not be realized. We believe, indeed, that they have been prompted by good motives, and that the movement is of God in the sense that He will teach His people important lessons by it, and that He will be glorified in the issue. We believe, too, that He will show His grace in numerous conversions. But He cannot greatly honor this union effort because it has not gone 34 The Evangelistic Movement in Philadelphia.
down to the bottom of things. It is not built upon a rock. It did not begin in the right way. To illustrate what we mean. Upon the Central Committee that arranged these services there are men who cannot invite their brethren upon it into their pulpits, nor sit down with them at the table of the Lord, one chief object of which is to teach us that we are one body in Him. On all the mission fields on the outskirts of the city there are little churches of these various denominations struggling to be foremost in the possession of the field. .This union spirit is for special seasons. But the denominational spirit abides among these four hundred congregations. The interests of the particular church or denomination are put in selfish prominence above the interests of the whole body. We do not write these things in a carping spirit. We have no word of disrespect for any of the brethren engaged in this movement. We heartily approve of any effort that draws Christians of different names to work together for our common Lord. We rejoice in the many evidences afforded in these days that His Spirit is working strongly among them in this direction. Moreover, we believe that any strong movement upon the world's camp by the church must be made in concert. The Lord has plainly told us that it is only as we become one, that the world will believe. And He is leading his divided church to see this as never beforeBut there is only one way by which this union and strength can be attained. There must be a far deeper recognition, than this evangelistic movement has reached, of the essential oneness in life and faith of all who are in Christ, and that they are bound to act as members one of