Imágenes de páginas

implication of the word punishment in addition; nor yet upon the words “depart” and “go away into,” as signifying a condition or abiding state to which the wicked are remanded. There is fearful accumulation of evidence in the added declaration, that this is the very fire and punishment “prepared for the devil and his angels.” Now does the Bible teach that this fire is to annihilate the devil, or simply to torment him? Let Rev. xx, 10, answer: “And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night forever and ever.”

To the same effect are all those passages, in the parables and elsewhere, which represent the punishment of the lost by the figure of an exclusion from the feast in the palace, and an expulsion into the utter darkness without, where they stand venting their rage and disappointment in unavailing cries. The figure points not to extinction of being but of happiness. The narrative of the rich man and Lazarus, which must be taken as depicting future scenes before, not after the resurrection, is also at war with annihilationism, in so far at least as this, that in its use of flame as a symbol of punishment, it points wholly to torment and not to extinction. The figure of fire, upon which, as used in other passages, great reliance is placed to prove that the wicked are to be utterly burned up and consumed, like the chaff of the thrashing-floor, is there set forth not as the symbol or instrument of destruction, but of torment. “I am tormented in this flame," said the rich man; and Abraham, while denying the request that Lazarus should be sent with a drop of water to cool his tongue, did not intimate, as might have been expected on the annihilation theory, that after a while relief would come in the cessation of consciousness as the fire should do its work and reduce him to nothing! So also in the parable of the tares and of the net, fire is as obviously used to denote suffering and not destruction. “They (the angels) shall sever the wicked from among the just, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire; there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” One other, a significant expression of the Saviour, may be quoted as implying continued being : “He that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.". The use of the present tense-precisely as in the case of the life ascribed to the believer: “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life”-seems to denote that God's wrath begins even now to rest upon the man and continues thenceforward to crush him down into ruin.

6. The last objection which I bring to the theory in question is its lack of sufficient moral power. It is confessedly resorted to by those who shudder at the thought of endless misery, and wish to find some other explanation of Christ's words without embracing the absurd interpretations of the Universalists. They thus imply the fact that annihilation is preferable to everlasting punishment. And precisely here is its weakness as a threatening against sin, and that in three respects :

(1.) It does not seem to provide for degrees of punishment according to degrees of guilt, as insisted upon so frequently by Christ and by the inspired writers. If the penalty of the divine law is simple death, in the sense of annihilation, then the same punishment overtakes all the wicked whatever their guilt; for how can there be degrees in annihilation? Thus there is no restraint for the transgressor in the thought that added wickedness will bring added punishment. If, to escape this fatal objection, the annihilationist contends that the process of annihilation will be gradual, by the operation of some divine law, and that preceding the extinction of being there will be suffering, which may be made to vary in length and in degree, he in effect gives up an important part of his theory, and in a way too to endanger the whole. For in that case the penalty is after all not mere annihilation, but annihilation preceded by intense, and in many cases protracted suffering. But if that be the meaning of death, and if much of its moral power lie in that fact, he is assuming new ground, and departing from his pertinacious arguments as to the proper and literal meaning of the threatening. And if he thus enlarges the signification to embrace a distinct idea, found to be necessary to fill out the Saviour's meaning, how shall he resist those who present evidence that the idea of suffering is the prominent and characteristic one, especially when simple annihilation is thus made the smallest degree of punishment for the lightest offenders ? Besides, this view of a gradual process of annihilation, as by some natural law, is either purely materialistic or without any evidence whatever. Allowing that the body may be consumed in

the flames, can fire touch the spirit? Or is there any literally destructive power in sin by which it actually wastes the constitution of the soul until it is reduced to nothing? Wicked spirits lose goodness, and the peculiar developments of intellect and sensibility which depend thereupon, but where is the proof that they lose physical or psychical vitality? In that sense, is Satan less alive and energetic now than he was six thousand years ago?

(2.) The moral power of the appeal made by the threat of annihilation diminishes very rapidly with the degree of sin. The good man would feel it sensibly, but the depraved man in a very small degree; and depravity has only to gain a moderate development before the restraining power ceases, and a marvelous power to the contrary appears. The proof of this assertion lies in numberless facts of human history. The most glaring is that Boodhism, which for centuries has numbered its votaries by millions in India, Burmah, and China, has actually presented annihilation (or the state called nigban or nirvana) as the summit of hope, the final point of desire and perfection to be reached by gods and men! Thus in the Memoir of Dr. Judson we read that “it is the common opinion that nigban is non-existence, and that annihilation is the greatest good after which we can aspire. Nor is this the belief of the uneducated alone; the priests themselves teach this doctrine, and defend it on philosophical principles. They hold that it ... is base and groveling to cling to existence . . . and noble and philosophic, the mark of a superior mind not in love with mean and paltry things, to choose not to be.What a commentary is this upon the annihilation theory! How it demonstrates at a glance its impotence to restrain human depravity, or to stand as the representative of divine justice! But we need not wander to the far East, amid the mazes of its subtle philosophy, to find the proof we need. Who does not know that annihilation has been the favorite infidel theory, both in the form of Greek and Roman philosophy, and of modern Deism and Atheisın? “Death is an eternal sleep," was the motto of the French skeptics in the time of their revolution, and they wrote this creed of one article over the gate of the cemetery. If we descend to those who occupy themselves less with reasoning than with sinning, and who are mere sensualists in character and practice, who is not aware that such gratify their lusts on the avowed principle of getting all the pleasure possible out of the present life, seeing that soon they shall cease to exist ? Thus Isaiah (xxii, 13) says that when God called the Jews to repentance: “Behold joy and gladness, slaying oxen and killing sheep, eating flesh and drinking wine: let us eat and drink; for to-morrow we die.” And Paul plainly intimated that such would be the universal effect of a disbelief of a future life, such as he was pleading for in connection with the resurrection : “If, after the manner of men, [that is, reasoning as men ordinarily will,] I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, (that is, exposed my life for Christ's sake,] what advantageth it me? If the dead rise not, let us eat and drink; for to-morrow we die.” Thus Paul asserts the necessity of faith in a future life, (through the resurrection,) in which men will receive according to their present deeds, in order to restrain them from virtual atheism of heart and life. Nor is the case essentially altered if a resurrection be conceded of a temporary nature, to be followed by the desired annihilation.

Annihilation is indeed revolting to a thoughtful, serious, cultivated mind; and still more to a truly Christian soul, filled with the hopes of the Gospel. Such will dread it next to Bible perdition. But let them not think that all minds are thus affected. In proportion as men are rude and uncultivated, or are inclined to pantheistic or atheistic views, or are devoted to sensual indulgence, or are in any respect degraded or imbruted by sin, in that proportion will the idea of non-existence lose its repulsiveness and even come to be a welcome thought. The theory may not work great and immediate mischief when received by persons trained under the ordinary views, who may be Christians at heart, and who at present are a very small minority of the community. But should such a doctrine become prevalent, there is reason to apprehend disastrous results to morals and religion, for practically and negatively it would operate as modified Universalism. Sinners, delivered from fear of an eternal hell, and having nothing but annihilation to dread, would easily consent to forego a pious heaven hereafter to secure unlimited indulgence in sin on earth. Men ought not so to act, nor should they be influenced by fear alone in avoiding sin; but the course indicated would be natural; sin always tends in that direction,

and therefore the doctrine of annihilation is morally weak and of evil tendency.*

(3.) Once more, if we expand our thoughts and embrace a conception of God's moral universe in its future history, if we realize that it is now probably in its infancy, and will receive eventually a development far beyond our anticipations in the creation, training, and confirmation in holiness of new races of beings; and if we ponder the hints in Scripture which authorize us to believe that God will use the facts of human history as means of impressing younger races, we shall see that the moral power of the annihilation scheme will be unspeakably less in these wide relations than that of the orthodox. An eternal hell will be an eternal warning against sin, always visible and accessible, and of untold power in counteracting temptation to sin. Who can affirm that it will not be a necessary instrumentality to that end, and that God may not have wisely and benevolently appointed it for that purpose? And if there shall need to be an appeal on that side of mind, who does not perceive that the mere blank left by annihilation (which indeed would not be discoverable in itself, but would need to be revealed) would have far less power of moral impression ?

Thus viewed, from every side, the annihilation theory is found both for immediate and ultimate use, among men and among other orders of beings, to be devoid of the necessary moral force.

The reader has now had opportunity to judge whether Christ taught that doctrine. Errors of fact, of philosophy, and of biblical interpretation upon which it is based, have been pointed out, and were the writer discussing the question without any restrictions of space or method, these indications of error could

* The writer is far from wishing to make appeals to theological prejudice. He would not confound annihilationism with Universalism in order to load it with undeserved opprobrium. In their positive affirmations the two theories are widely dissimilar; the former allowing the grand doctrines of evangelical religion, and even of rigid Calvinism, and giving a testimony, fearful to many minds, against the fatal consequence of persisting in sin; and the other being at war in theory and influence with the whole scheme of Christianity. We should count it great gain if all Universalists became annihilationists. Still, in the negative and incidental working of the annihilation doctrine, it will operate in common with Universalism, and we have not been pleased with the manifestation of personal and spiritual affinities or sympathies between the advocates of the two views. If annihilationists would claim recognition as evangelical Christians, they must treat Universalism as fundamental heresy.

« AnteriorContinuar »