ADDITIONAL TESTIMONIES ON THE QUESTIONS DISCUSSED IN THE PRECEDING CHAPTERS.
Since the publication of the first editions of this work, I have come upon other facts and testimonies illustrating and fortifying the positions taken in the general argument respecting the origin of the doctrine of endless punishment. It has seemed to me that it might add to the value of the book and to the satisfaction of the reader, to gather these up, and present them in an additional chapter of authorities.
Still another chapter might be added to the history of the doctrine, - a chapter showing the amazing change which has been brought about in all the churches as regards the style and frequency of preaching it. As Henry Ward Beecher justly says, "The educated Christian mind of all lands, for the last hundred years, has been changing; and milder expressions and a very different spirit have prevailed. It is not preached as it used to be, - not as it was in my childhood. It has not been preached as often as, nor with the same fiery and familiar boldness that, it used to be. Multitudes of men who give every evidence of being spiritual, regenerate, and devout, and laborious and self-denying, find themselves straitened in their minds in respect to this question, and are turning anxiously every whither to see whence relief may come to them." 1 I should be glad to devote a chapter to this interesting, instructive, and prophetic phase of the subject, and emphasize the contrast between the preaching and writing of Calvin, Boston, Edwards, Bellamy, the elder Beecher, Park-street Griffin, and others of the olden times; and Kingsley, Stanley, Brooke, Park-street Murray, and the younger Beechers of to-day. But this must be postponed to another time; my present limits allowing only a place for the chapter of authorities already collected.
ADDITIONS TO CHAP. II, SECT. II TESTIMONY OF ORTHODOX CRITICS AND THEOLOGIANS TO THE FACT THAT THE DOCTRINE IS NOT TAUGHT IN THE LAW OF MOSES.
LEE, in his "Eschatology," says, "If we refer to the Mosaic institute we shall find that its motives are drawn, not from the future, but from the present world. The rewards of fidelity and the penalties for disobedience were of time and earth...In the Pentateuch we find no motives drawn from the future world. The Old Testament makes no allusion to the mode of existence that succeeds the present." Again he says, "It must be remembered that the rewards and punishments of the Mosaic institutes were exclusively temporal. No allusion is found, in the case of individuals or communities, in which reference is made to the good or evil of a future state as a motive to obedience." 2
DR. PAYNE SMITH, in his Bampton Lectures, says, "The distinguishing characteristic of prophecy, as it existed in Moses, is that it gives the whole outline of the gospel truth. There is, indeed, one remarkable exception. Moses did not clearly teach the Israelites the doctrine of a future judgment and of an eternal state of rewards and punishments." 3
REV F.W. FARRAR of Trinity College, Cambridge, Eng., author of the article on "Hell" in Smith's Bible Dictionary, says, "The rewards and punishments of the Mosaic law were temporal; and it was only gradually and slowly that God revealed to his chosen people a knowledge of future rewards and punishments." Very slowly, we should think; for the writer himself admits that it was not till after the exile, B.C. 536-445, that the Jews divided sheol "into two parts; one the abode of the blessed, and the other of the lost." And even at this he offers not a single scriptural text in proof of the assertion, that at this late date, a thousand years after the giving of the law, the Hebrews entertained any such notion of sheol. And, even allowing the assertion, it must strike the careful thinker as very strange that God should reveal this doctrine to His chosen people, not directly, but through the Babylonians or Persians, as Mr. Farrar seems to intimate by his allusion to the exile.
DR. STRONG, one of the editors of Harpers' "Cyclopaedia of Biblical and Theological Literature," gives the following testimony: "The Egyptian religion, in its reference to man, was a system of responsibility mainly depending on future rewards and punishment. The law (of Moses), in its reference to man, was a system of responsibility mainly depending on temporal rewards and punishments." 4
H.W. BEECHER says, "The whole Mosaic economy lies open before us; and there is not one single instance in it where a motive is addressed to a man in consequence of immortality. All the motives are drawn from secular things. Virtue shall bring in this life its reward, and wickedness in this life shall bring its punishment. That is the keynote of that sublime drama of Job."
And he says in another discourse, in substance, that the strangest thing regarding the doctrine of endless punishment is, that, if "we had only the Old Testament, we could not tell if there were any future punishment." 5
And is it not a strange thing to Mr. Beecher, that God, after four thousand years of silence and concealment, should reveal the horrible thing in that gospel which is declared specially to be "good tidings of great joy unto all people"?
ADDITIONS TO SECTION III OF CHAP. II SHEOL, OR THE OLD TESTAMENT DOCTRINE OF HELL.
DR. FAIRBAIRN, the learned professor of divinity in the College of Glasgow, and whose volumes on "Prophecy" and "Typology" have given him high rank among biblical students and interpreters, says without reserve, "Beyond doubt, sheol, like hades, was regarded as the abode after death, alike of the good and the bad." Of course, therefore, to translate it by the English word "hell" is to misrepresent the sacred writers, and mislead the common reader.
EDWARD LEIGH, whom Horne, in his "Introduction," says was "one of the most learned men of his time, and his work a valuable help to the understanding of the original languages of the Scriptures," declares unqualifiedly, that "all learned Hebrew scholars know the Hebrews have no proper word for hell, as we take hell."
F.W. FARRAR says that hell is the word generally and unfortunately used by our translators to render the Hebrew sheol, - unfortunately, because the English word "hell" is mixed up with numberless associations entirely foreign to the minds of the ancient Hebrews. It would perhaps have been better to retain the Hebrew word sheol, or else render it always by "the grave," or "the pit."
ADDITIONS TO CHAP. IV THE JEWS BORROWED THE DOCTRINE FROM THE HEATHEN.
The corruption of the Jewish religion, and the numerous pagan dogmas which had been incorporated into the national creed prior to the time of Christ, are important points in the argument; inasmuch as they show how the way was prepared for the reception of the doctrine of endless punishment into the popular belief. We give place, therefore, to the following additional testimonies under this head.
"Errors of a very pernicious kind," says Dr. Mosheim, "had infested the whole body of the people (Jews). There prevailed among them several absurd and superstitious notions concerning the divine nature, invisible powers, magic, &c., which they had partly brought with them from the Babylonian captivity, and partly derived from the Egyptians, Syrians, and Arabians who lived in their neighborhood." Again he says, "The ancestors of those Jews who lived in the time of our Savior had brought from Chaldaea and the neighboring countries many extravagant and idle fancies which were utterly unknown to the original founders of the nation. The conquest of Asia by Alexander the Great was also an event from which we may date a new accession of errors to the Jewish system, since, in consequence of that revolution, the manners and opinions of the Greeks began to spread among the Jews. Beside this, in their voyages to Egypt and Phoenicia, they brought home, not only the wealth of these corrupt and superstitious nations, but also their pernicious errors and idle fables, which were imperceptibly blended with their own religious doctrines." 6
"The Hebrews received their doctrine of demons from two sources. At the time of the Babylonish captivity, they derived it from the source of the Chaldaic-Persian magic; and afterward, during the Greek supremacy in Egypt, they were in close intercourse with these foreigners, particularly in Alexandria, and added to the magian notions those borrowed from this Egyptic-Grecian source. And this connection and mixture are seen chiefly in the New Testament. It was impossible to prevent the intermingling of Greek speculations. The voice of the prophets was silent. Study and inquiry had commenced. The popular belief and philosophy separated; and even the philosophers divided themselves into several sects, Sadducees, Pharisees, and Essenes; and Platonic and Pythagorean notions, intermingled with Oriental doctrines, had already unfolded the germ of the Hellenistic and cabalistic philosophy. This was the state of things when Christ appeared." 7
This witness of the learned and accurate historian is directly to the point, and opens to us the sources of the gross corruption, the false doctrines, and pagan superstitions and fables, which overlaid the simple faith of Moses and the prophets in the days of Christ.
ADDITIONS TO CHAP. V, SECTION IV THE WORDS ETERNAL, EVERLASTING, FOREVER, &C.
The ground taken up to this time, that the Hebrew olam and the Greek aionios represent a strict eternity, that this is the radical and inherent force of the terms, has been abandoned by Dr. Tayler Lewis, one of the most learned and exact critics of the orthodox school, in a recent dissertation of his in Lange's Commentary. His testimony is as follows: "The preacher, in contending with the Universalist or Restorationist, would commit an error, and, it may be, suffer a failure in his argument, should he lay the whole stress of it on the etymological or historical significance of the words aion, aionios, and attempt to prove, that, of themselves, they necessarily carry the meaning of endless duration."
Again: he says on the Hebrew word in Eccl. I 3, "This certainly indicates, not an endless eternity in the strictest sense of the word, but only a future of unlimited length." On Exod. xxi 16 he says, "Olam here would seem to be taken as a hyperbolical term for indefinite or unmeasured duration;" and then contrasts it with Deut. xxxii 40, as an example of the immense extremes which the context shows in the use of the word, - "I live forever, spoken of God in such a way as to mean nothing less than the absolute or endless eternity. But it is the subject to which it is applied that forces to this, not any etymological necessity in the word itself."
This is the very ground we have always taken in regard to this entire class of words, that their meaning depends upon the connection, or the subjects to which they are applied. And Prof. Lewis, after stating that olam in Eccl. I 3 (and the same is true of its Greek equivalent aionios) "cannot mean forever in the sense of endless duration," very properly adds, that "it may be used for such an idea when the context clearly demands, as when it is employed to denote the continuance of the divine existence, or of the divine kingdom." Again: he says on chap. xii 5, where the Hebrew of "long home" is beth olam, "it certainly does not denote an absolute endless eternity."
The proper meaning of the words, according to the professor, is world-time; "First, as expressive of some great period, cycle, or age, not having its measurement from without, but which goes beyond any known historical or astronomical measurement;" second, "in a lower or more limited sense, - an olam, eon, age, world, or world-time, - which may be historical; indefinite periods coming one after another during the continuance of the same earth or kosmos. Thus we say the ancient world, the modern world, the Greek world, the Roman world, &c. This would correspond to our use of the word 'ages,' and that would make a good sense, Eccl. I 10, 'the worlds or ages that have been before.'"
On Matt. xxv 46 he says, "Aionios may perhaps mean an existence, a duration, measured by eons or worlds (taken as the measuring unit), just as our present world, or eon, is measured by years or centuries. But it would be more in accordance with the plainest etymological usage to give it simply the sense of olamic or eonic, or to regard it as denoting, like the Jewish olam habba, the world to come. These shall go away into the punishment (the restraint or imprisonment) of the world to come; and these, into the life of the world to come. That is all we can etymologically or exegetically make of the word in this passage."
ADDITIONS TO CHAP. VI THE INTRODUCTION OF THE DOCTRINE INTO THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH.
The importance of the subject presented in this chapter will justify the additional proofs which follow. No one familiar with the internal history of the Church in the centuries immediately following the apostolic age will require any farther proof than this knowledge will afford him, that it was scarcely possible that the dogma of endless punishment should not find its way into such a mass of superstition and wickedness, such a sink of theological and moral corruption. The following is from an article in the Contemporary Review on "The Corruption of Christianity by Paganism:" -
"That a vast revolution actually took place in very many of the doctrines, and in all the external usages, of the Church, between the age of Constantine and that of Justinian, is simply a matter of history. The truth is too patent to be denied, account for it how we will. The explanation which seems most probable is that which ascribes the change in Christianity to its gradual fusion with the Paganism of the empire.
"The revolution had, like most others, various predisposing causes, which long wrought in silence before their effect became visible. Three are enough to mention: The irresistible tendency of the age towards superstition; the familiar intercourse between the heathen populace and the lower order of Christians; and, lastly, the credulity and false philosophy of most of the learned Christian divines, and their well-meant but mistaken policy in dealing with corruptions introduced by the ignorant. The condition of the Roman world from the very beginning of Christianity was extremely unpropitious to the preservation of its purity; and, as the ancient civilization declined through misgovernment and social disorganization, it became increasingly difficult for the Church to struggle against the mischievous influences that beset her on every side.
"No doubt many Pagan customs were adopted without any bad intention, or, as in the recommendation of Gregory the Great to Augustine of Canterbury, with the good object of winning the heathen to the gospel. The ceremonial and legendary system of Paganism had many romantic charms which are still retained by them under their Christian dress. But, though some admixture of Pagan ideas and practices might be innocently tolerated, it is quite another matter when we see a vast structure of errors, such as apostles and martyrs died to withstand, superadded to the faith once delivered to the saints." 8
The facts which are gathered into the note below are painful enough; but it is necessary to give place to them in order that the inquirer may fully understand how so abominable a doctrine as that of endless punishment, and so hostile to the spirit of the gospel, should have found its way into the creed of the Christian Church. 9
ADDITIONS TO CHAP. VIII THE COMPARATIVE MORAL INFLUENCE OF BELIEF AND DISBELIEF IN ENDLESS PUNISHMENT. HISTORICAL CONTRAST.
A great many assertions have been made regarding the necessity of a belief in future endless punishment as the safeguard of society, and the only sure foundation of public and private morality. The facts set forth in the chapter to which this section is an appendix show how little ground there is for such assertions; and the history of Pagan nations and tribes everywhere, and in all ages, furnishes the same evidence on this point. No greater wickedness, no more thorough corruption of morals and manners, no more loathsome customs and practices, exist on the earth, than among those very heathen who believe in hells and torments as horrible as language can describe.
But the Christian Church itself also bears witness to the same truth. So long as it was faithful to the doctrines of Christ and to the divine spirit of His gospel, the believers lived according to the law of love and holiness, and honored their profession by the purity of their conversation and conduct. And, as Luke says, "They did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people" (Acts ii). But no sooner do we find a departure from the great truths of Christianity, - the fatherhood of God, the brotherhood of man, the final redemption of all, - than we find a corresponding laxity of morals and looseness of manners; and this increasing with every new remove from the purity of the gospel. The historians of the Church testify with one voice to this corruption and depravity.
"After our affairs degenerated from the rules of piety, one pursued another with open contumely and hatred; and we fought each other with armor of spite, with sharp spears of opprobrious words: so that bishops against bishops, and people against people, raised sedition. Last of all, when that cursed hypocrisy and dissimulation had swum to the brim of malice, the heavy hand of God's judgment came upon us, at first little by little. But when we were not moved by sense or feeling thereof, nor sought to pacify God, but heaped sin upon sin, thinking God would not care or visit us for our sins; and when our shepherds, laying aside the rules of piety, contended and strove violently among themselves, and added strife to strife, and threatenings, mutual hatred and enmity, and tyrannical ambition, - then Jehovah poured his wrath upon us, and remembered us not." 10
"Although examples of primitive piety and virtue were not wanting, yet many were addicted to dissipation, arrogance, voluptuousness, contention, and other vices. This appears distinctly from the frequent lamentations of the most credible persons of those times." "The presbyters imitated the example of their superiors, and, neglecting the duties of their office, lived in indolence and pleasure." Again: "The vices and faults of the clergy, especially those who officiated in large and opulent cities, were augmented according to their wealth, honors, and advantages. The bishops trampled on the rights of the people and inferior clergy, and vied with the civil governors of provinces in luxury, arrogance and voluptuousness." 11
Such the moral results following the growth in the Church of the dogma of endless punishment, or the attempt to drive men, through fear of hell, into a life of purity and goodness. And this state of things grew worse and worse, if possible, through that long dismal period so justly described as the "dark ages."
And now let us take another standpoint, and see what presents itself on the other side. Within the last half-century, there has been a great change in the theology of the Church, a wonderful softening-down of the harsh features of all creeds, and a steady approach once more to the simple and sublime doctrines of the gospel. The great truths of Universalism - the parental character and love of God, the brotherhood of man, and the final restoration of all to holiness and blessedness - have, in the last fifty years, made unparalleled progress in America and Europe; and hundreds of thousands rejoice in the knowledge and faith of them; while hundreds of thousands more in churches of every name have already wholly or mostly abandoned the revolting dogma of endless woe.
And now what is the moral condition of society at the present time in America and Europe, compared with that of the period already alluded to, when the principle of brute force and terror prevailed in religion and governments, and the doctrine of interminable torment ruled the Church and the people? Have the people grown worse, or better? Have the moral and human aspects of society brightened, or darkened, under the influence? Let the history of the present answer.
Look abroad upon the noble philanthropic enterprises which are rousing the nations to a new and higher life. Behold the asylums for the insane, the blind, the deaf and dumb; hospitals for the sick and maimed; temperance societies; associations for the employment and relief of the poor; asylums for aged men and women; Odd Fellowship, and kindred associations recognizing and reducing to practice the great principles of human brotherhood, and the duties of mutual love and aid; associations for Christianizing our laws; peace societies; prison-discipline societies; the extension of education; the increase of Christian liberality and toleration, &c.
Do these things indicate a forward, or a retrograde movement? Do these noble reforms, these Christian enterprises of benevolence and humanity, look as if the morals of society were on the decline? Do they show that the wide diffusion of the doctrines of Universalism has had a dangerous influence on public morals? Or, in other words, do these things show that the growing doubts and disbelief of endless punishment, and all its kindred errors, have taken away any salutary restraint, or opened the way to a general violation of Christian and social laws? Are the people of America or Europe worse now than in the dark ages? less enlightened, less virtuous, less Christian, less charitable and loving toward their fellows, less earnest in their efforts to elevate the moral and social condition of the poor and ignorant and degraded, and to set the oppressed and captive free?
To all these questions the uniform and emphatic answer is No! So far from society growing worse under these influences, it is hourly growing better. Its moral life is more and more developed; and there has never been a period in the political, social, and religious history of the world, when there were signs of greater promise than now; never a time when there were at work more elements of improvement and progress, or when the present and the future looked more hopeful of good than at this hour. 12
Sermon on Future Punishment, preached Oct. 16, 1870.