That "Life is sweet" is a self-evident fact. "All that a man hath will he give for his life." This is true of life as it now is, with its many hardships, pains and disappointments. That life was a blessing, and felt to be so, in the beginning, is evident from the fact that death was the punishment or penalty of the law as first given to man. If death had been as good as life it would not have been a punishment for sin; and if life was not a self-evident blessing there was no force or utility in the threat of death.
Every one who has experienced, if but for a moment, the exhilarating energy and glow of health, even in this mortal state, knows how sweet life is. When one is in full possession of all the nobler faculties, and is successfully engaged in what he is conscious of being a good and noble and unselfish work, is not his whole being thrilled with the rapturous pleasure of life? No man in possession of reason, who sanctifies his energies to what he sincerely believes to be a good work, fails to feel that life is a blessing--even mortal life--for which deep gratitude is due to the Source and Giver thereof.
To test this let us suppose one asking himself if he would like to have such a moment of thrilling pleasure perpetuated, and who would doubt as to the answer? If, taking the present lifeís bitterness with its sweetness, a man will give all that he hath for his life, what would he say were he promised undisturbed endlessness of the pleasure he has momentarily experienced when in the full exercise of his nobler faculties?
Had life remained as it was in man when he was created, its possession must necessarily have been unmarred happiness and pleasure, even though its recipients were "of the earth and earthy;" its enjoyment, no doubt, being intensified according as its possessors exercised the mental and moral faculties with which they were endowed; the range being not between bad and good, but between good and better, with the superlative degree possible by an ultimate ascension to a nature of greater capacity and consequently of still greater and grander blessings.
But man sinned and mortality, with all its consequent evils, befell the race, and here we are with life but a little span, a flower of but a day, which buds, blossoms and then withers and vanishes away. Its perpetuation is impossible now, because the present is life manifested in mortal bodies, journeying from birth to death under the heavy burden which sin has imposed upon a fallen race. And now, what will meet the requirements and supply the needs of man in this state but a beneficent offer of eternal life? And this is what a God of love has offered: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (Jno. ). This is a life which essentially involves the blessings which belong to life. To be possessed of it is to be possessed of all its consequent and inseparable blessings; and endless life therefore cannot possibly be or become the possession of any but those who fit themselves for it by complying with the conditions of the Great Life Giver.
When we show from the Scriptures and reason that death is real, those who advocate the immortality of the soul, without stopping to hear the rest, cry out, "Materialism! Infidelity!" and delude themselves with the idea that if death is the cessation of life then death ends all. But if we show that death is real, we also show that there is resurrection. If we show that in death life ends, we also show that in resurrection life again begins. If we teach that man dies, we also teach that he may live again. If we, in harmony with scripture, set forth that man has not now the power of endless life, we also show that if he complies with the conditions he "might not perish, but might have everlasting life." Surely this is more consistent than to teach that every man, good, bad and indifferent, is in possession of the power to live forever. Reason would say that those only who are fit to live forever ought to live forever. There is a state of fitness for eternal life set forth in the Scriptures, and where this fitness is not, eternal life is not given. Everlasting life is therefore a matter of promise and may be hoped for by those only who believe the promises and do the commands. All must admit that salvation depends upon belief of the gospel. The principal promise in the gospel is eternal life. Now if one believes that he is in possession of eternal life, or a "never-ending soul" by birth independently of the gospel, he cannot believe the true gospel; for how can he hope for that which he already hath? The apostle Paul says: "The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. ). Here is death on one hand and life on the other. The "orthodox" theory is that all men will live forever, the only difference between the good and the bad being in the place where they live. They say the good will live in "heaven" and the wicked will live in "hell;" and when they are asked how long will the wicked live in "hell" they answer, Just as long as the good live in heaven, and that is eternally. Therefore the wicked have been given eternal life to live in "hell" and the good have been given eternal life to live in "heaven;" so that Paulís words should be changed to read, The wages of sin is eternal life in hell and the gift of God is eternal life in heaven. With them the gospel is not to save men from perishing and to give them everlasting life; for they are "never-dying souls" and therefore never-perishing souls, but according to the word of God it is that they "might not perish, but have everlasting life," that God has sent His Son.
Now that eternal life is a matter of promise to the righteous only the following testimonies will clearly show; and these carefully read and studied will make manifest that man by nature is not related to the law of life and immortality--only to the law of sin and death; and that if he ever obtains eternal life it must be by becoming related to the law of life, which he can do only in the way God has revealed in His Word.
ETERNAL LIFE A HOPE AND PROMISE
And this is the promise that he hath promised us, EVEN ETERNAL LIFE, through Jesus Christ.--I. Jno. .
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to The PROMISE OF LIFE which is in Christ Jesus.--II. Tim. 1: 1.
IN HOPE OF ETERNAL LIFE, which God that cannot lie promised before the world began.--Titus 1: 2.
That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to THE HOPE OF ETERNAL LIFE.--Titus 3: 7.
Who will render to
every man according to his deeds; to them who by patient continuance in
well-doing seek for glory, honor and immortality, eternal life.--
For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God, and when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, THEN shall ye also appear with him in glory. Col. 3: 4.
All that are in the graves shall hear his voice and shall come forth; they that have done good unto the resurrection of life.--Jno. 5: 28, 29.
He that soweth to the spirit shall of the spirit reap life everlasting.--Gal. 6: 8.
They which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world 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.--Luke 20: 35, 36.
Could anything be more clear than these testimonies? God "hath promised us eternal life through Christ," not given it to us by natural descent from Adam; Paul was an apostle "according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus," not a life in us regardless of promise. "In hope of eternal life," not in possession of it. "Heirs according to the hope of eternal life," not yet inheritors of it; to those who seek, God "will render eternal life;" not that it is the possession of all without seeking. "Your life is hid with Christ in God;" not hid in us in the form of an immortal soul--hidden so that it was never seen by any one; "Shall come forth unto the resurrection of life;" not that they are in possession of it when dead and do not need resurrection to it; "Shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting;" not that it comes through fleshly inheritance without sowing or reaping; "Shall be accounted worthy, * * * shall die no more;" not that they will never die whether they are worthy or unworthy.
In the struggle to escape the force of these testimonies the immortal soul theorist falls back upon his inventive powers and produces a meaning for the words "eternal life" that is as much opposed to the Scriptures as the dogma he seeks to sustain. The meaning of eternal life, he says, is not a living without end, but it is happiness. No doubt if he were allowed to revise the Bible he would make many improvements (?) in the phraseology of the prophets, Christ and his apostles; and if his theory is the true one the words and inspired men need much revision--no, not revision, but radical change. When the angel declared to the prophet Daniel that some who "sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake to everlasting life," according to this "orthodox" invention that the meaning is happiness, the angel should have said, "come forth to everlasting happiness." The Saviourís words, "Strait is the gate and narrow is the way that leadeth unto life" should have been, "leadeth unto happiness;" for the popular belief is that those who go in the "wide way" that our Saviour says "leadeth to destruction" do not go to destruction, but to a life that lasts as long as that of those who go in the "narrow way." Those, however, who reverence the Word of God will never allow such changes to be made by uninspired men. They will not charge men who spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit with using the word life instead of happiness. They will believe that the "narrow way leadeth to life and the wide way to destruction," and that eternal life is what the gospel offers to the good, and eternal destruction, not eternal preservation, to the bad.
Of course eternal happiness will be the boon of those who are given the power of endless life; for only those worthy of happiness will be allowed to live forever; and therefore the great object is to get life through Christ, in whom eternal life is hid till he appears. When this life is obtained at the appearing of Christ, "then shall ye also appear with him in glory" (Col. 3: 4), and that glorious life will necessarily bring happiness.
Refuge is again sought in such statements as these:
"He that hath the
Son hath life" (
With these quotations, snatched out of their connection, the champion of the immortality of the soul becomes vehement, especially when he presses down with all his might upon the little harmless word "hath." A man with a poor case has generally a poor memory and is sure to confuse and contradict himself. Our opposers, when dealing with the testimonies quoted showing that eternal life is a matter of promise, claim that the meaning is eternal happiness, and that we are not to enter upon a realization of eternal happiness till death; but forgetting this when quoting the texts now under consideration, they place all dependence upon the word hath as proving present possession of eternal life. Come, gentlemen, we must remind you of your own definition and hold you to it in these verses; and you must be prepared to read your definition into these disconnected statements you quote, in doing which do not forget to put your whole stress upon the word hath. You must now quote thus: "He that hath the Son hath eternal happiness," "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting happiness." Do you really believe that he who is a true follower of Christ hath this happiness now? If so, how about the "much tribulation" through which we must enter the kingdom? Met in this way our opposers are quite ready to say that "hath" is used in a prospective sense. But this concedes the entire question; for if hath is prospective when applied to eternal happiness, and if eternal happiness is synonymous with eternal life, then eternal life and eternal happiness, so far as actual possession is concerned, are prospective and not a present possession.
The texts are quoted with the emphasis on the word "hath" to prove the immortality of the soul. The claim is this: We have souls that are immortal, and therefore must live forever. When we read such phrases as "hath life" they mean that we have immortality or "immortal souls." Now let the reader calmly consider the disconnected quotations in the light of the context and it will be seen at once that if it be allowed that "hath life" means actual present possession, the possession is conditional upon believing in the Son of God, and therefore has no reference whatever to the delusion of natural inherent immortality. If the word "life" in the texts means "immortal soul," then they could be read, "He that hath the Son hath an immortal soul." "Yes," say some of our opposers before they see what they are stumbling into, "that is just it; hath an immortal soul." But it is "he that believeth on the Son of God" that hath, while you claim that all men have immortal souls whether they know anything of the "Son of God" or not. And now if you will quote the verses in full you will see that they declare that "He that hath not the Son hath not life." Let us now have a little emphasis upon the word "not" and it will relieve the hard-pressed little word hath of the ponderous weight you put upon it. For argumentís sake you may stick to your cherished unscriptural phrase "immortal soul" and read: "He that hath not the Son of God hath not an immortal soul." This works disastrously to the "immortal soul" and present possession of eternal life cause; and it shows that when it says eternal life it means eternal life, and that it is conditional upon believing in the Son of God, and therefore never to be the possession of the wicked.
A drowning man will snatch at a straw, and finding defeat inevitable on every hand our opposers will sometimes say: "Well, we will grant your claims for conditional life and that it is for the righteous only, and we will still hold you to the phrase Ďhath lifeí--that is, that the believer hath eternal life as an actual possession; for the text says: ĎHe that hath the Son hath life.í" Very well; stick to the text, the whole of it, and not a garbled part of it, and we shall soon see the fallacy of your present actual possession theory. You now want to have it that every man who believes in Christ is in actual possession of eternal life. Now suppose there is a "falling away from the truth and a giving heed to fables," does the actual possession cease to be actual possession? For when one departs from the Truth and "falls away" and "crucifies the Son of God afresh and puts him to open shame" (Heb. 6: 6), surely such an one "hath not Christ;" and the text says, "He that hath not the Son of God hath not life." Is it that one can come into actual possession of eternal life and then lose possession; and, if his sin is not unto death, repent and again come into actual possession, and so on and so on? No sane man would accept such an absurdity, and a theory that so enslaves one as to shackle him with such chains of darkness and folly had better be relegated to the darkness whence it came.
Now the words "hath life" are clearly explained by the apostle Paul when he says: "Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God." It is yours so long as you believe in and are faithful to Christ; but you must thus hold fast to Christ in order to have the life, for the life is in him now, not in you. "When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory" (Col. 3: 3). "As the Father hath life in himself, so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself." And now, as the Son hath life in himself, so will he, at his appearing, give to the righteous man to have life in himself. The difference between now and then is that now the faithful man hath life in Christ, while then Christ will give him that life and he will have it in himself. Then it will be present actual possession; but the possession of the worthy only, never of the unworthy.
It is no use to deny facts. For poor suffering, mortal man to persuade himself that he is now in possession of eternal life is worse than folly, when his own feelings of weakness are a standing denial of such a delusion. Surely when we are thrilled with the power of endless life our experience and sensations will be very different from what they are now. The conception we can now have of the exhilarating delight that possession of such a boon will impart can only be of the faintest character, by momentary feelings of ecstacy and by living hope and longing anticipation. However brightly and warmly such a hope may burn within us, the actual fact of our present condition will cry out, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" Why should it be thought for one moment that the power of endless life is the natural possession of all men, when it is seen that it necessitates the eternal perpetuation of evil, sin and sinners? Ought not the beautiful thought that life eternal is only for the good, and that all evil, all sin and all sinners will at last cease to be; ought not, I say, such a consistent thought, based upon scripture and commendable to the highest faculty of reason as it is, summarily and forever banish from the mind any theory that would necessitate the endlessness of sin, sorrow and suffering? It is true and everything to the contrary is false, that "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him might not perish but have everlasting life." Let the glorious sound go out, "Ho everyone that thirsteth, come ye to the waters;" for he who is our life has said: "I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely." No longer let us "spend our money for that which is not bread and our labor for that which satisfieth not;" but let us hearken diligently and God will make with us an everlasting covenant; yes, a covenant of life and peace and joy, and give us at last the "sure mercies of David."
"IS PASSED FROM DEATH UNTO LIFE"
When our Lord says he who believeth on him shall not "come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life," he shows clearly that only those who believe are in any way related to the law of life and immortality. Before they "passed from death unto life" they stood related to the law of sin and death only; and therefore the only way one can pass into a relation to eternal life is by complying with the conditions laid down. This goes to more fully establish the fact that eternal life is conditional and not a natural inheritance. But the words, "is passed from death unto life" are sometimes used in the fruitless attempt to prove present actual possession of eternal life, and the conditional feature of the text is ignored. We have said sufficient to show that actual possession now is out of the question; and it is necessary under this heading only to show how the words in question can be understood in harmony with the facts in the case and the general teaching of the Scriptures.
We often say of one condemned to death, "He is a dead man," as soon as the law has pronounced him guilty, though the execution may be put off for a considerable length of time. By this we mean that legally the man is dead, and his actual physical death is, as a consequence, only a question of time. When such a person is pardoned by the mercy of the officer having the legal power we can truthfully say. "He is passed from death unto life." We are, of course, speaking of his relation to law. Under the sentence the person is legally dead, having no rights as a citizen. When he is pardoned he passes back into the relation he once was in and is again a living citizen, having the rights of a citizen, and is, as lawyers say, "known in law."
Now the apostle Paul says: "By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned" (Rom. 5: 12); and, "By one offense judgment came upon all men to condemnation" (5: 18). So we are all born under the sentence of death that was passed upon Adam, he being the whole race in one man, and the condemnation followed as he became multiplied generation after generation. Men are thus "by nature children of wrath" (Eph. 2: 3). In addition to this all adults are sinners by personal transgression. Thus are all men by nature and by actions under the just condemnation of God, "born in sin and shapen in iniquity" and "dead in trespasses and sins" (Eph. 2: 1). Here is relationship to the law of sin and death. Now when we by belief of the gospel and baptism into Christ pass out of this hopeless state and in him who is our life are "made free from the law"--the condemnation or the sentence--"of sin and death" there is "no condemnation." We are "in Christ Jesus." The "law of the spirit of life in Christ hath made us free from the law--the condemnation--of sin and death" (Rom. 8: 1, 2), and the "dead in trespasses and sins are quickened" or made alive (Eph. 2: 1). We were dead legally and morally. When we were dead legally and morally we were waiting death physically without hope of life; now that we are alive legally and morally we are waiting the "redemption of the body" (Rom. ). Legally and morally it is therefore true of one in Christ that "he is passed from death unto life;" and if he continue faithful he "shall not come into condemnation."
To understand the sense in which we are said to be alive in Christ now we have only to consider the sense in which we were dead in Adam before we were baptized into Christ. It will then be seen that the present phase of the subject has to do only with our relation, our legal and moral status, while the future has to do with the physical change of our "vile bodies." The passing from death unto life in the former sense is essential to that of the latter.
But some ask, If we passed from death unto life legally and morally why do we die? The answer to this is that salvation in Christ is not necessarily to save men from dying now, but to save them out of death. This will be clearly seen by the words of Heb. 5: 7, where it is said Christ "offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death AND WAS HEARD." His prayer was not that he be saved from dying; for in that he was not heard, for he died. It was that he be saved from death, or out of death, and in that he was heard.
Those who are alive when the Lord comes will necessarily be saved from dying; but that is only an incident in the working of the great plan of salvation, which is to save us out of death. While mortal man is walking about the earth or lying in the grave he is in death so far as his physical state is concerned; and when deliverance comes he will be saved out of death in whatever part of its domain he may be found. The final salvation out of death into immortality will be for those only who stand in the relation of things expressed in the words "passed from death unto life," and who have thereby entered into the atonement provided in Christ by the goodness and mercy of God.
How necessary, then, that we should make haste to place ourselves in a right relation now; put off our relation to the law of sin and death and pass into that of the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus, which is the law of life and immortality. Surely the taste we now have of lifeís sweetness, even bowed down with the weight of mortality, is sufficient incentive to strive for that glorious life of eternity, which shall know no sickness, sorrow or pain, but which shall bask in the bliss of perfect health, with all the faculties aglow with divine energy and the sweet realization of a glorious immortality.
What has been said in reference to eternal life is largely applicable to the subject of immortality; for eternal life implies immortality, the distinction being only in that the former has to do with the duration of life, while the latter relates to the nature that is capable of enduring forever and of sustaining endless life.
The word immortal in its adjective and noun forms is only used in the Scriptures six times. So it will be an easy matter to examine and see what manís relation to immortality is. When we confine our investigation on the subject in hand to the sense in which the Scriptures speak of immortality the only possible conclusion is that man is mortal and can become immortal only by complying with the conditions laid down. Following are the passages in which the word is found:
Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory forever and ever.--I. Tim. 1: 17.
Which in his times he shall show, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords; who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light, etc.--I. Tim. 6: 15, 16.
But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and IMMORTALITY to light through the gospel.--II. Tim. 1: 10.
Who will render to
every man according to his deeds; to them that by patient continuance in
well-doing seek for glory, honor and immortality, eternal life.--
For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must PUT ON IMMORTALITY, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written. Death is swallowed up in victory.--I. Cor. 15: 53, 54.
From the first text quoted it will be seen that the word "immortal" is used to describe Godís nature. May we not therefore safely conclude that it describes that, and that only, which is perfect, pure and holy? If the word can be applied to sinners and to the supposed personal monster called the devil, where would be the relevancy of the apostleís words, "Now to the King immortal, invisible?" If the devil is immortal he could be spoken of in the same way. Now to the devil immortal, etc., and if every man is immortal any king could be addressed, "Now to the king immortal." It must be seen therefore that the word is expressive of a nature that is pure and perfect and in no way applicable to sinful, mortal man, nor to an immortal devil.
In the second quotation given we have the word applied to God in this form: "Who only hath immortality." This must mean that it is Godís underived, glorious nature; that He only hath it to give, which implies that when it is given it is a blessing of the highest nature. If, however, it is given to all men regardless of merit--to the most depraved as well as to the most noble and pure in heart--it is not a blessing; for surely the possession of a never-dying nature to the wicked is a curse, not only to them, but an eternal curse, an indelible blot in the universe of God. God only hath immortality underived; and from Him it must have come to any of His creatures who may be in possession of it, and from Him alone can it be derived by any who may yet receive it. He has blessed angelic "ministering spirits" with it. Who will say He has given it to one single being who is not good and acceptable to Him, worthy and fit for endless existence? To say so is to charge God with folly; for it charges Him with imparting His own underived and glorious nature to depraved beings, resulting in the ceaselessness of depravity of the deepest dye.
The apostle Paul means the same thing when using the word immortal in reference to God that the apostle Peter does when he uses the words "divine nature." What is the "divine nature?" we may ask. Immortal, Paul answers. What is manís nature? let us ask. Only presumption will dare answer that it is also divine nature. What is the devilís nature? we may also ask. Only blasphemy will answer that it is divine nature. God never did and never will give His pure and perfect nature to sinners. The word immortal when used in relation to man speaks of the great blessing he may attain to through Christ. It is "brought to light through the gospel," hence offered to man in the gospel. To claim that all men are in possession of immortality is to deny the gospel; for it is to claim possession of what the gospel offers, and in effect to say we do not need what God in His goodness has offered us.
When man was created he
was "made a little lower than the angels" (Heb. 2: 7), a fact which
shows that angels are not "departed spirits" of the Adamic race; but
that they are beings of a preadamic race. It is not revealed what or where they
had been, nor upon what conditions they became what
they were when man was made "lower" than they. That they were immortal
when man was made "lower" is proof that man was not made
immortal; and that they were immortal is clear from the Scriptures. In the
resurrection the righteous are to be "made equal to the angels" to
"die no more" (Luke ); and
it is then "this mortal shall put on immortality" (
By "patient continuance in well-doing" we must "seek for glory, honor and immortality" if ever we come into its possession; but one deluded with the belief that he is in the possession of it by nature will not be apt to seek for it. To put ourselves in the right position to believe and receive the benefits of the gospel we must discard the tradition of natural immortality and accept the truth of manís mortality, and his natural relation to the law of sin and death. All who do this will now seek for immortality, and at the resurrection this corruptible will put on incorruption and this mortal will put on immortality, and then shall be brought to pass the saying, "Death is swallowed up in victory." Now we are suffering from the sting of death; but then the righteous will triumphantly exclaim, "O death! where is thy sting? O grave! where is thy victory?" And our praise will go up to a merciful and beneficent Creator in the words, "Thanks be to God who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
THE FINAL END OF ALL EVIL
A correct understanding
of manís relation to the law of sin and death and of life and immortality opens
the way out of the dreadful and God-dishonoring thought of the perpetuity of
evil, sin and sinners, and leads out into the light of scripture and reason in
which is to be seen the final end of evil in all its forms, leaving a world
filled with the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the deep. In the
brightness and glory of this view God is seen to be triumphant over all that
defaces the beautiful work of His creative power and wisdom and everything is
removed that interferes with the exquisite joy and eternal well-being of the
righteous. Why should it be thought for one moment by civilized, not to say
reasonable, people that if there is an eternal God there must be an eternal
devil? Why should it ever enter the minds of intelligent men that if there is
an everlasting heaven of happiness there must be an eternal hell of misery?
Does the existence of God depend upon the existence of a devil? Does His
shining brightness depend upon the deep darkness of a monster of wickedness and
woe? Does the happiness of the everlasting and glorious
If immortality is the
nature of the fabulous devil of "orthodox" religion, of course he
must exist as long as God exists; if every wicked and depraved human being is
an immortal soul, as much in possession of immortality as the righteous will
ever be, of course their existence must be co-eternal with that of the good and
the pure. But what a reflection upon the character of a wise and omnipotent
Deity it is to entertain such heathen dogmas. The horrors of an eternal burning
hell were conceived in the savage heart of heathenism and used by the "philosophers"
as a "pious fraud" to frighten into submission brutes in human form
whose depravity made reason and moral suasion absolutely useless and powerless.
The theory was "with the people equally true, with the philosophers
equally false and with the statesmen equally necessary." As with modern
Jesuitism, the policy with the "learned" was to "do evil that
good might come," in pursuance of which Plato declared: "If falsehood
be indeed of no service to the gods, yet useful to men in the form of a drug,
it is plain that such a thing should be touched only by physicians but not
meddled with by private persons. To the governors of the state then (if to any)
it especially belongs to speak falsely for the good of the state."
"Not to deceive for the public good is wrong" was
The savage doctrine of endless misery found fertile soil in what Luther terms the "Roman dunghill of decretals." As some of the profligate emperors of Rome "exhausted the whole art of pleasure, so that a reward was promised to any who should invent a new one, so have Romish persecutors exhausted all the art of pain; so that it will now be difficult to discover or invent a new kind of it which they have not practiced upon those marked out as heretics." Men whose practices were so in this life, would manifest the same savage revenge on the one hand and a reveling in luxury and fleshly pleasure on the other in theories of the future life. The secular powers have overcome and subdued the power of priest-craft and put a stop to its wicked practices so far as the infliction of physical suffering goes; but the theory of the thing is still abroad, not only in Romanism, but in so-called Protestantism. Public sentiment is against the present execution of the laws of this abominable doctrine; but the skeleton is still in the closet, and frequently is exhibited in the pulpits of so-called orthodox churches. If the "earth has helped the woman" and the "two witnesses" have shut the heathen heaven that it may not rain fire and brimstone upon the "heretics" now, the messengers of darkness fail not to give expression to their inmost souls in picturing up the "infernal regions" of heathenism and the horrors they expect to witness in an "eternal hell," while they enjoy in heaven the spectacle throughout eternal ages. "Listen," they say in their lurid pictures of the future, "to the tremendous, the horrible uproar of millions and millions of tormented creatures mad with the fury of hell. Oh! the screams of fear, the groanings of horror, the yells of rage, the cries of pain, the shouts of agony, the shrieks of despair from millions on millions. There you hear them roaring like lions, hissing like serpents, howling like dogs and wailing like dragons," and so on, in language so overwhelmingly dreadful that the pen almost refuses to write. If there is a mind that can really believe this, how can there ever be a smile? How can there ever be a peaceful moment in this life? Why did nature make a moment of this life sweet and become possessed of the power to sing or experience a moment of rejoicing? If it be said that it is so because of the possibility of a few being saved, how can the few, even with the hope of their own salvation, spend one moment of peace of mind with the thought of witnessing or of even knowing that there is such a thing as the eternal torture of mothers, fathers, children and friends, or even of creatures of their own nature and feelings whom they never saw? No rational mind can believe such a horrible thing; it is not for belief; it is for delusion, not of civilized minds, but of heathen, whose slavish subjection can be accomplished only by fears and frowns.
True the doctrine of endless misery is kept behind the scenes when "refined" audiences are addressed from the pulpits of our times; and some of the leaders are inclined to be ashamed of the common red pictures of some of the painters of the past; and this being looked upon as an artistic age, the pulpit artists are softening the colors to suit the taste of modern religious art. The result is a modification in their teachings. But with all their fine art and soft colors they still will have an eternal hell of eternal misery. Change it, if you please from hot coals and burning brimstone to a deathless worm knawing the consciences, and you still have eternal misery, and you still keep the blot upon the character of a wise and just God. Some, it is true, of the "orthodox" leaders have renounced and denounced the doctrine; but they still hold to its parent theory, the "immortality of the soul," the one that is the root of all the evil. So long as you keep in your creed the immortality of the soul you are bound to one of two conclusions, both of them bad, but one worse than the other--eternal torment of the wicked, or their salvation in spite of themselves. That which is indestructible cannot be destroyed; and if the wicked are indestructible souls they must exist eternally somewhere and in some condition. The fact is, there is no escape except in relegating the fabulous thing to the myths of a superstitious, benighted past, and in letting the light of Bible truth reveal to reason that man is a destructible being, and his destiny, if unfit for perpetuity, is destruction; and that only those who will be an honor to God will be allowed to survive and enjoy the power of an endless life.
The triumphing of the wicked is short and the joy of the hypocrite but for a moment. He shall perish forever like his own dung; they which have seen him shall say, Where is he? He shall fly away as a dream and shall not be found; yea, he shall be chased away as a vision of the night.--Job 20: 5-8.
For yet a little while and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place and it shall not be. But the wicked shall perish, and the enemies of the Lord shall be as the fat of lambs; they shall consume; into smoke shall they consume away.--Psa. 37: 10-20.
But the transgressors shall be destroyed together; the end of the wicked shall be cut off.--Psa. 37: 38.
Let the sinners be consumed out of the earth and let the wicked be no more.--Psa. 104: 35.
The Lord preserveth all them that love him; but all the wicked will be destroyed.--Psa. 145: 20.
There is a way that seemeth right unto a man; but the end thereof are the ways of death.--Prov. 16: 25.
Behold all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine; the soul that sinneth IT SHALL DIE.--Ezek. 18: 4.
For, behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly shall be stubble; and the day that cometh shall burn them up saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. * * * And ye shall tread down the wicked: for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet.--Mal. 4: 1, 2.
Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.--Matt. .
As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so shall it be in the end of this world.--Matt. .
For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.--Rom. .
And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power.--II. Thess. 1: 9.
But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not, and shall utterly perish in their own corruption.--II. Pet. 2: 12.
Many more testimonies could be added, but these are sufficient to show the general tenor of the Scriptures, and what do they say? Do they need comment? How can anybody change the words or the meaning to derive a shadow of support for the doctrine of the endless preservation of the wicked in misery? To "perish forever" is surely not to live forever. To "cease to be" is not to always be. To "consume into smoke" is not to dwell in fire and smoke eternally. To "be destroyed" and "cut off" is not to be preserved. To die is not to live. To be "burnt up root and branch" and become "ashes" is not to writhe in torment eternally. To "utterly perish in their own corruption" is not to be incorruptible and imperishable. Men may confuse with words with all the theological ingenuity they possess, but these words of divine truth will still speak the same thing; and, pray, what is it that they declare? Why are there such strenuous efforts to make them mean what they do not say? They declare the end of sinners. Will it be a calamity for the world to attain such an end? Why should there be such a strong desire to have sin, sinners and the great evil of a hell of torment perpetuated? Which will redound to the glory of God, an end or no end of evil?
When paradise was planted in Eden and our first parents formed and given life, every thing was pronounced "very good." There was no hell of torment then; no sin, no sinners. How is it to be at the finish? Is the beginning to be viewed as "very good" and the end very bad? What else but very bad will it be if there are millions of wretches writhing in indescribable misery with no chance of escape? Can the comparatively few saved in "heaven" compensate for the countless millions of tortured in hell? Will the Adamic cycle have proved a success in evolving divine good and glory out of human evil and woe, when millions are sorrowful and sighing, groaning and moaning and cursing their own existence and that of their Creator? Who can scan the cycle of Adamís race and view such an outcome with the remotest idea that it yields glory to God? To teach or to believe the doctrine of endless evil is to blaspheme the name of God and to outrage His blessed Word.
God has given man power over the creatures of the earth; and the man who would invent methods of torture for even a dog would be denounced by all reasonable people; and the man who would falsely report that another had subjected a dog to torture would be equally denounced. To represent God as having provided a deathless devil and an endless hell to torment the fallen sons of a sinful race is to represent Him as worse than wicked man; and the one who does so represent him is a slanderer of His great and glorious Name.
The evil brought upon
the race by the sin of our first parents is defined and there need be no
misunderstanding about it. The extent of the curse is given; and it does not
extend to an eternal hell of evil and torment. It is a curse that brings thorns
and thistles in the earth, hard toil and sorrow, mortality and sinfulness upon
man, ending in, "Dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return." To
extend it beyond this is to go beyond what is written in the sentence. The end
of evil is the end of this, and as by the first Adam the evil was originated,
so by the second Adam it is to be brought to an end. Hence the apostle Paul
declares of Christ, "For he must reign till he hath put all enemies under
his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death" (