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$ 6. If “aionian" life does not imply immortal life, then do
any who fail of it finally attain immortal life?” This question is important in the Universalist argument, and complicated generally. Important, because some Universalist writers admit that a sin has been committed of which it is said there is never forgiveness, neither in this age (aion), nor in the age (aion) to come. (Mark iii. 29.) Mr. Balfour, treating on this passage, makes temporal death the irremissible penalty in either age. He says: “It is generally admitted that temporal death was the punishment of crimes under the old dispensation; and that temporal death was inflicted for crimes under the new, no one will dispute ; for Ananias and his wife, persons in the church at Corinth, are noted examples; and John speaks of a sin unto death, for which even Christians
not to pray, 1 John v. 16, 17.” (Second Inquiry, pp. 279, 280.) Thus Mr. Balfour. It remains to be shown that Ananias and Sapphira, failing signally of “aionian” life, shall yet attain pardon of soul, and immortal life. Is there a third dispensation, of forgiveness for sins unpardonable in the second? The language of the Epistle to the Hebrews I think hardly allows that. “ For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the age (aiòn) to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance ; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame” (vi. 4–6). “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins; but a certain fearful looking for of judgment, and of fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries" (x. 26, 27). Granting this “judgment and fiery indignation ” to signify the destruction of Jerusalem, where is the “sacrifice for sins” thereafter ?
Mr. Paige endeavors to show that Mark iii. 29, does not preclude final forgiveness, with a noticeable remark: “ If, by never forgiveness, it be denoted, strictly speaking, that the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit shall never be given, then there
is a direct contradiction between this verse and verse 28; for there it is positively asserted, without any limitation or exception, that all sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme.'” (Comm. in loc.) This would be called by Coleridge an asthmatic exegesis. Need any one be told that the 29th verse is the limitation and exception to the statement made in verse 28 ? This statement is in fact worse than nonsense without such a limitation. Aside from the qualifying exception, it is a proclamation of unbounded license to sin and blasphemy. If any one doubts this, let him read the 28th verse without the 29th. And then, as he shudders at the repeal of all moral law which stares him in the face, let him ask whạt the 29th verse does
I do not see how one can then avoid the notion of an unpardonable sin.
And if we take the whole expression as a strong, proverbial mode of speech, as if it were said, “ That is the blackest guilt of all; God will forgive any thing else but it,” — I do not see how we can escape the same conclusion, that there may be a sin unforgiven in the age to come, whether that age or aion be temporary or eternal.
And some of the expressions before cited show that the Jews regarded a certain guilt as finally unpardonable. “This hath been decreed by the Lord, that this sin shall not be forgiven them until they die the second death.” They shall die the second death, and shall not live in the world to come, saith the Lord.” :
But the question I have raised is also complicated. For it involves the whole doctrine of the Resurrection. Is this moral and spiritual, consisting in the conversion of the soul? or, is it physical, initiating the immortal life? Does it occur at the death of the body? or is it an event yet future to the human race? If future, is it simultaneous, and homogeneous for all ? or, is there a twofold resurrection, one to immortality, and another abortive, ending in a sleep that knows no waking?
I shall have neither time nor occasion to resolve all these complications. All these shades of opinion are found in almost
every denomination of Christians, and only one of them is peculiar and essential to the Universalist view. I need only show that there is not a final resurrection of all to immortal life. The supposed proof of this rests upon two or three passages, which must be the final resort of the Universalist faith. I have already alluded to them, and we will now examine 'them.
Luke xx. 34-38: “ The children of this world (age, aionos) marry and are given in marriage. But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world (age, aiōnos), and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage ; neither can they die any more ; for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection. Now that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, at the bush, when he calleth the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. For he is not a God of the dead, but of the living; for all live unto him.”
Some have supposed that the expression, “a God of the living,” proves that the dead are now alive. But this would manifestly vacate the proof of a resurrection - the very thing that Christ was to show. What need of a resurrection for those who live? Thus Tyndale, answering the Platonic Thomas Moore, says: “ Ye destroy the arguments wherewith Christ and Paul prove the resurrection. ... If the souls be in heaven, tell me why they be not in as good case as the angels be? And then what cause is there of the resurrection?” The sense is this: God is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, not because they were then alive, for the Jews never thought of them as such, but because they were to live, in the resurrection. Here is the figure of prolepsis, before noticed. God “ calleth the things that are not [yet], as if they [already] were.” The heirs of life belong to the living God; they “live unto him ” because his eye is upon them, and no power can pluck them from his hands, but they shall be raised up at the last day. They have a life hid with Christ in God. But not so the children of death. This explains an expression already cited from the apocryphal Book of Wisdom, ii. 23: “ By the
envy of the devil death came into the world, and they follow him that are of his side.”
But it is said, “ For all live unto him.” This expression is important in the Universalist argument. But it proves nothing; for the context naturally refers the “all” to the subjects of discourse, either the patriarchs just mentioned, or those "accounted worthy to obtain that world,” in ver. 35. Then it will be perfectly proper to read, “ For they all live unto him.” The Greek always allows this whenever the context can suggest it; for the pronoun is implied or rather contained in the verb, and is never separately expressed when the context does suggest it. And in the Syriac, as given us by Dr. Murdock, we actually have the translation I offer: “For they all live unto him.”
The same phrase is used in Rom. vi. 10, 11, and Gal. ii. 19, apparently with reference to the future and immortal life. There is nothing in either context to suggest its application to the entire human race.
This phrase has also a historical interest. It occurs twentyfour times in the “ Book of the Shepherd,” written by Hermas, about A.D. 140. Clement of Alexandria cites a passage from it as “divinely expressed.” Origen thought the book “divinely inspired.” Chevalier Bunsen calls it “one of those books which, like the Divina Commedia and the Pilgrim's Progress, captivate the mind by the united power of thought and fiction, both drawn from the genuine depths of the human soul.” All these admirers of the book rank as Universalists. It was read by the churches of Greece as late as the time of Jerome, and was the great exponent of the religious mind of the second century. But this favorite phrase, "shall live unto God,” is in every instance referred to a class and never to all mankind. As used by Hermas it seems to refer to the future and immortal life.
But it is asked, Is not the resurrection here spoken of universal ? This can not be inferred from the expression “ the dead” (ver. 37); for the article does not, of course, make the expression universal, and in several of the like expressions in 1 Cor. xv. the article is omitted. Again, the expression in ver. 36 is peculiar. The “ resurrection from (ek) the dead” is different from “ the resurrection of the dead,” and there are
strong reasons for referring the phrase to the so-called “resurrection of the just,” as if this were a resurrection from among the dead, either by priority in time, or by their prerogative as being worthy of life. In Luke xiv. 14, we read, “ Thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.” In Acts iv. 2, we read of “the resurrection of Jesus from (ek) the dead,” the last phrase being the same with that under consideration. So likewise in Acts xxvi. 23, and Rom. i. 4. In Phil. iii. 10, 11, Paul says: “ That I may know him [Christ], and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.” In this remarkable passage
the term rendered resurrection in ver. 2, is itself peculiar. It is not anastasis, but exanastasis, an out-rising, or a rising up from among the dead. Universalists think Paul can not here refer to a literal resurrection, because he was sure of that, and because it would be absurd to say of it, “ Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect " (ver. 12). But there was reason why Paul should say this. There were those who said that the resurrection was past already, subverting the faith of some (1 Tim ii. 18). These were the spiritualists of that day, denying that Christ had come in the flesh, and affirming that the resurrection was rather an escape from the body or the “ form,” than a being clothed upon after the pattern of Christ's glorious body. Paul had, moreover, good examples to follow some in that “great cloud of witnesses ”-in striving after a resurrection. Women had received their dead raised to life again ; and others accepted not deliverance from torture, “ that they might obtain a better resurrection" (Heb. xi. 35). This could not have been conversion. Again, the phrase "were already perfect " evidently does not refer to moral perfection, or holiness, but recalls the expression in Heb. xii. 23: “the spirits of just men made perfect ;” and this apparently signifies the being made complete, in the resurrection state. It is in almost so many words, “ the resurrection of the just.” Again, to say that Paul was sure of a resurrection is not to touch the point in question. To be