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another. Now any passage which treats of a day of judgment, though it should appear that the passage applies to the present world, is in reality a confutation of your system; as it supposes that the judgment does not take place at all times, at one period as much as at an other.
4. In order to understand any writer, it is necessary to take into view the opinions of those to whom he addresses himself. This is a principle of interpretation to which no reasonable man can object. Now let us apply this wholesome rule to the case before us. What then was the opinion of those to whom the gospel was addressed? They believed in a future state of rewards and punishments. Not only the Jews, but the heathen, believed in a future judgment and punishment. For the truth of this, there is the best authority.* Mr. Balfour, a late writer on your side of the question, has clearly proved on the authority of Dr. Whitby, Dr. Campbell, Le Clerc, and others, that the Jews and all the heathen nations believed in a state of rewards and punishments after death. When we speak of the Jews as believing in a future punishment, it will of course be understood that we except the small sect of the Sadducees, which did not believe in a future state at all. Such then was the opinion of those to whom our Savior and his apostles addressed themselves; they all believed in a future judgment and punishment. I do not mention this as affording direct evidence of a future judgment; but I do contend that it is necessary to consider this circumstance, in order to a right understanding of those passages which speak of a day of judgment. Every person of any discernment must know that the same terms and phrases will be understood differently by different persons, and
* See Tappan's Lectures on the Jewish Antiquities, Josephus' Works, Bruker's Historia Critica Pbilosophica, Prideaux's Con. nections, &c.
that their different customs and opinions contribute to this in a very great degree. Tell a person in the State of New-York that you will give him a shilling for a certain article, and he will understand you mean by the term shilling, 124 cents; but if you tell a person in New-England that you will give him a shilling, he will understand you to mean 16 cents. Now this difference in understanding the same term, arises solely from custom; they being in a habit of reckoning 8, and we but 6 shillings to the dollar. We should both on hearing the word shilling, conclude that the person used the word in its common acceptation with us, and so should understand it differently.
And it is precisely so with regard to matters of opinion. For instance, the phrase, great God, would con. vey very different ideas to different persons.
All persons who have enjoyed the light of revelation, would understand the phrase to denote the self-existent Jehovah. But the heathen who believed that Jupiter, the son of Saturn, was the greatest of all the gods, would understand the phrase, great God, to denote Jupiter. It is manifest therefore, that every person, when he hears any language made use of, will interpret it according to his own opinion, or in other words, will understand it in its common acceptation, unless he is expressly told that the terms are to be understood in another sense. Now any Christian who should go among the heathen, and speak in praise of the great god, with a knowledge that they would, of course, understand him to allude to Jupiter, would be accused of dishonesty. And he could not vindicate himself against this charge, without saying that he meant to confirm them in their opinions, being persuaded of their truth. Every person who means to be understood, will vary his language according to the opinions of those to whom he speaks.
Now let it be distinctly remembered that those to
whom Christ and his apostles addressed themselves, were believers in a future judgment. “Now if this doctrine be false,” says a judicious writer,* "we should naturally expect that Christ would have offered something directly against it; or if he had not thought proper to have done this, he would have avoided the use of expressions, which are calculated by their natural import to support the doctrine. We think it will not be denied, that a number of passages, with comparatively 'few exceptions, have been understood by the Christian world to refer to, and clearly support the belief of such a period. For instance, let us take the expression of our Lord. For every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give an account thereof in the day of judgment. These words are spoken without comment to a people who already believed in a future judgment and retribution, and were written as a standing testimony of our Savior for the benefit of their posterity, who would naturally interpret them according to these circumstan
ces. It is a well known fact, that every man who means it to be understood, calculates to adapt his language to the
situation of his hearers in such a manner, as to accommodate himself to their customs and usages. People seldom think, when a man uses their language, that he means something very different, unless particularly instructed that such is his meaning, or his known sentiments and mode of speaking suggest the idea. But we know not that Jesus ever offered any plainer language on this subject, than has reached our times. To bring this matter to ourselves, we think the public will bear us testimony, that our brethren who oppose our views on
* Rev. Samuel C. Loveland, of Reading, Vt. I will embrace this opportunity to recommend to the attention of the public, five “Dissertations on future punishment,” written by our author, and published in Vol. IV. of the Christian Repository, of which he was then the Editor, as an able defence of our views on this Bubject. I shall avail myself of several quotations from them on the subject of the judgment.
this subject, very seldom or never find occasion in their writing or sermons, to mention such passages of scripture without a labored comment, to show that they do not favor either future punishment, or the common doctrine of endless misery. And why is this ? No doubt, because they suppose the public prejudices are such, that those texts cannot safely be adverted to without being misunderstood. Well, if the public are liable to be led astray by the natural import of such passages now, were they in a better situation in the days of Christ p**
Since Christ and his apostles, when speaking to those who believed in a future judgment and punishment, used language which naturally teaches such a doctrine, it is manifest that they meant to inculcate that doctrine, They could not with any propriety, nay, they could not with common honesty, use such language to persons in that situation, unless they intended to countenance a future retribution. And the use you make of such passages is evidence of this. The prevalence of the doctrine of a future judgment and punishment in the apostolic age,
will account for the manner in which the sacred writers have treated it. They do not introduce it very frequently, and when they do, they do not labor the point so fully as they do some others. This circumstance, however, instead of weakening the evidence, tends to strengthen it. It shows that this opinion was not disputed, and that the little they said would be readily understood ; and this was confirming the doctrine in the strongest manner possible. St. Paul, when writing to his own countrymen, speaks of a future judg. ment as a truth admitted by all. He refers to it as to an acknowledged fact, and makes use of it to illustrate the death and resurrection of Christ. “As it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment, so
* Christian Repository, Vol. IV. pp. 11, 12.
Christ once offered up himself."* This passage not i only contains direct proof of a future judgment, but it 9 goes also to show that a future judgment was believed one by the Hebrews. St. Paul assumed it as an admitted Ni principle, as a truth of the greatest notoriety, which he
never would have done, if this opinion had not been preEr valent. When the same apostle assumes the universat'i lity of the atonementet and argues from it as a truth of
ps notoriety, the passage, as you will admit, contains the e greatest proof possible, that Christ died for all. It not
only shows that this was the apostle's opinion, but it shows at the same time, that those to whom he wrote
acknowledged the same truth. And so of the passage la in Hebrews. The apostle in that passage not only ce teaches his belief in a judgment after death, but he cock teaches us at the same time, that this was a sentiment me which none who believed in a future state, presumed to cele call in question.
Having hinted that but few passages comparatively the apply to a future state at all, and consequently that the the passages which treat of a future judgment, cannot be
very numerous ;-that the very idea of judgment inintre cludes punishment ;-that all passages which designate to be any particular period as the time of judgment, necesci sarily involve a future retribution ;-and that those to niks whom the gospel was first preached, were believers in a 1019 future state of rewards and punishment, and conseoli quently that the New Testament writers could not with med safety or even with honesty use such language as they I did, unless they intended to teach a future judgmentjulle we will now call your attention to some of those scrip
tures which appear to inculcate the doctrine in question.
The first text I shall introduce to prove a future uz judgment is Acts xxiv. 25; "And as Paul reasoned of
• Heb. ix. 27, 28.
+ 2 Cor. v. 14, 15.