Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

of prey

men assert ?Aristotle, it is now generally conceded, neither taught nor held an after life, but the opposite.* The famous argument of Cicero, who so greatly admired Plato, does not even pretend to prove the doctrine in question, as its very name imports (“De Contemnendâ Morte," on the Contempt of Death). He labors to show that death is not an evil, because, if it is an eternal sleep, we shall not suffer during its continuance. This explains the passage in which his pupil wishes that, if the birds

should come for his body, he might have a stick to drive them away. And all are familiar with the expression about the Phædo of Plato: “I have read it, over and over again ; but, I know not why it is, while I read I give my assent; but when I have laid the book down and begin to think on the subject myself, all that persuasion glides away.” And this is said by one who “would rather err with Plato than think the truth with those contemptible philosophers” who denied a future life. And the familiar letters of Cicero, in which he would most naturally express his real sentiments, show no hope beyond the grave. To one friend he says: who are happy should despise death, since we shall have no sense nor feeling beyond it.” And Seneca, whose “Morals” are thought by modern pantheists about as good as those of the Bible, writes to one bereaved : “ Death is the release and end of all pain, beyond which our evils do not pass. It restores us to the same tranquillity in which we were before our birth.” And in one of his poems

he

“ Even we

says:

Chaos and hungry Time devour us all.

Inevitable Death the body kills,
Nor spares the soul.”

* Mr. Landis (Immortality of the Soul, p. 98, note) claims Aristotle as holding immortality; taking no notice, however, of my quotation from Ritter and my citation of Pomponatius and Mosheim to the contrary. (Debit and Grace, p. 275, note.) Even Cudworth says: “It must needs be left doubtful whether he acknowledged any thing incorporeal and immortal at all in us.” (Intell. System, I. 97, Harrison's ed.) See, also, Wm Archer Butler, History of Ancient Philosophy, II. 426-429.

Epictetus is another moralist of that age for whom some would dispense with the gospel light. “Whither do you go?” he asks. “ Nowhere to your hurt; you return from whence you came, to a friendly consociation with your kindred elements. What there was of the nature of fire in your composition returns to the element of fire; what there was of earth, to earth; what of air, to air; and of water, to water.” And the elder Pliny : “The vanity of man, and his insatiable longing after existence, have led him to dream of a life after death. A being full of contradictions, he is the most wretched of creatures, since the other creatures have no wants transcending the bounds of their nature. Man is full of desires and wants that reach to infinity, and can never be satisfied. His nature is a lie — uniting the greatest poverty with the greatest pride. Among these so great evils, the best thing God has bestowed on man is the power of taking his own life.”

Such were the doubts and despair of men, waiting in the gloom of the shadow of death for the true life and light. And when the Life-giver came, how natural, if all mankind were the appointed subjects of immortal life, that this should appear in the ordinary speech of him who “had the words of eternal life.” How strange that he and the apostles who heralded all through the Roman Empire what they called a gospel, should only speak of a certain “aionian ” life, and even of that ambiguous duration as if it were the prerogative of a special class, to be had by striving for it; leaving the great and long-debated question of immortality in as great obscurity as it was before. Truly, if man is at all immortal, his immortality was not then at all brought to light. It was not revealed in that phrase, “the resurrection, both of the just and of the unjust;” for this was a tenet of the Pharisees, to which Paul made appeal on a certain occasion of self-defence. If this was the revelation, it came not so much from Christ as by those of whom he said, Beware! For the doubts which Christ found prevailing, there were, as I have intimated, various causes. The philosophers had tried to prove too much; not only that all souls are immortal, but that the soul is eternal. And the new revelations

on the subject would have to encounter men's philosophy. How natural, if man has immortality in any form, that he who contributed the great light on the subject should have somehow recognized the essential fact; so that one thing at least should be settled.

Does the objector anticipate the varying opinions of the second century, and say that nothing was settled by Christ's revelation ? I answer, one thing was settled, so as to be never since disputed as a Christian truth. And that is, Whoever shall have Life — whatever the word means - has it through Christ; and by Faith whatever that word means does he accept and receive the life.

If this is a Universalist formula, I yield the argument. Whether any thing else was settled on the side of universal immortality, we are next to examine. § 2. As the early Christians were not orthodox,so they were

not Universalists. An orthodox writer, in a late work, says “it is to be lamented that they (the apostolical Fathers] either wrote very little, or else their writings have, for the most part, perished.” (Hovey, State of the Impenitent Dead, p. 131). I think I have elsewhere shown that there is reason for such regret as respects the orthodox argument ; or that the early Christian writings do not support that view, but rather the view I offer. I will now cite a few expressions to show that they were not Universalists.

The so-called apostolical Fathers were Barnabas, Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Polycarp, and Hermas. The epistle ascribed to Barnabas is probably not genuine, though of a very early date. The writings now extant under the other names are partly genuine and partly spurious. I will quote from the former, making allusion to the latter only as indicating the sentiment of the age in which they were written.

Bunsen assigns the so-called epistle of Barnabas to the reign of Domitian, in the first century. The phrase “ eternal death,” not occurring in the Scriptures, is here found, in the following

66

The way

passage :

of darkness is crooked and full of cursing (or, wholly accursed). For it is the way of eternal death, with punishment; in which they that walk meet those things that destroy their own souls” (c. 20).

The whole expression, “eternal death, with punishment,” which some might take as supporting the orthodox view, seems to be otherwise explained by the following expressions in the Homilies ascribed to Clement: “ They wholly perish after punishment” (Hom. iii. c. 59). “ By the greatest punishment they shall be utterly extinguished.” (Hom. vii. c. 7. See also Hom. xvi. c. 10.)

In the same chapter of the epistle it is said: “ He that chooses the other part shall be destroyed, together with his works. For this cause there shall be both a resurrection and a retribution.” Again : “ They that pat their trust in him shall live for ever” (eis ton aiona, c. 8). 6 Who is there that would live for ever? (eis ton aiūna;) let him hear the voice of thy Son” (c. 9).

The phrase eis ton aiōna is rendered in the Latin in æternum and in perpetuum, by Cotelerius. It was undoubtedly used by the early Christians to denote an eternal duration, and we shall therefore accept the common rendering, “ for ever.”

One epistle of Clement to the Corinthians was publicly used in many of the churches. Mosheim and Neander think it interpolated in some passages; yet Bunsen regards it as of great importance, “ historically, constitutionally, and doctrinally.”

The author, speaking of the “ condemnation to come,” asks, “ What world shall receive any of those who run away

from Him?” (c. 28.) Again : “Wherefore we being the portion of the Holy One, let us do all those things that pertain unto holiness” (c. 30). “ How blessed and wonderful, beloved, are the gifts of God! life in immortality ! brightness in righteousness ! truth in full assurance ! faith in confidence ! temperance in holiness !” (c. 35.) “By him would God have us taste the knowledge of immortality” (c. 36).

Of the eight epistles ascribed to Ignatius, three are deemed genuine. The following expressions fairly indicate his views:

“Be vigilant, as God's athlete. The meed is incorruptibility, and life eternal” (Polycarp, c. 2). “Those that corrupt families by adultery shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Ephesians, c. 16). “ For this cause the Lord suffered the ointment to be poured upon his head, that he might breathe immortality into his church ” (Ib. c. 17). “ I seek the bread of God which is the body of Christ ; and his blood, which is love incorruptible and perpetual life” (Romans c. 7).

The views of Polycarp appear in the following passages of his epistle to the Philippians : “ To whom [Christ] all things are made subject, both that are in heaven, and that are in earth ; whom every living creature shall worship; who shall come to be the judge of the quick and dead ; whose blood God shall require of them that believe not in him. But he that raised up Christ from the dead, shall also raise up us in like manner, if we do his will and walk according to his commandments, and love those things which he loved” (c. 2). “Whom if we please in this present world (ai)n), we shall also be made partakers of that which is to come ; according as he has promised us, that he will raise us from the dead; and that if we shall walk worthy of him, we shall also reign together with him, if we believe. , . . And neither fornicators, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, shall inherit the kingdom of God; nor they who do such things as are unbecoming" (c. 5). The Lord "grant you a lot and portion among his saints; and us with you, and to all that are under the heavens who shall believe in our Lord Jesus Christ, and in his Father who raised him from the dead” (c. 12). This epistle was read in some of the churches as late as Jerome's time.

The “ Shepherd ” of Hermas has been already cited for the phrase “to live unto God.” I will here add the following expressions : “ They who are of this kind shall prevail against all impiety, and continue unto life eternal. Happy are they that do righteousness; they shall not perish for ever” (Vision ii. 3). “Fear God and thou shalt live; and whosoever shall fear him, and keep his commands, their life is with the Lord ; [they

« AnteriorContinuar »