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III. Gen. vi. 3. “And the Lord said, my spirit shall not always strive with man."
By what rule can the doctrine of endless misery be inferred from this
passage e ? Different views have been taken of its sense. Some suppose that God will not always strive with man, because, after he has striven sufficiently, he will give them over to punishment. Thus, Adam Clarke, “God delights in mercy, and, therefore, a gracious warning is given : even at this time, the earth was ripe for destruction, but God promises them one hundred and twenty years' respite ;- if they repented in that interim, well : if not, they should be destroyed by a flood,” (Com. on Gen. vi. 3.) not sentenced to endless misery. There are others, who suppose God's spirit will not always strive with man, because it will be rendered unnecessary by the conversion of the creature. It is supposed by some, that it would be impossible for man, a child of dust, to endure always the strivings of his Maker ; and, for this reason, he will not always strive with man:
So Isaiah seems to speak, in God's behalf. " I will not contend forever, neither will I be always wroth : for the spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made." Isaiah lvii. 16. Whichever view of the passage the reader may adopt, we are sure, that no just interpretation will favor the doctrine of endless misery.
IV. Deut. xxxii. 22. “For a fire is kindled in mine anger, shall burn unto the lowest hell."
This passage is quoted by Parsons Cooke, and J. M. Davis as proof of endless misery. Certainly, the passage has no reference to the future state. See the whole verse and context. “For a fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest (sheol) hell, and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains. I will heap mischief upon them ; I will spend my arrows upon them. They shall be burned with hunger, and devoured with burning heat, and with bitter destruction ; I will also send the teeth of beasts upon them, with the poison of
serpents of the dust.
The sword without, and terror within, shall destroy both the young man and the virgin ; the suckling, also, with the man of gray hairs.” Can this passage be justly applied to the future state? Will men be burnt with hunger in the immortal world ? Will the teeth of beasts be upon them there ? and the poison of serpents ? Will the sword destroy them in that world ? Adam Clarke honestly applies the passage to the temporal destruction of the Jews. He says, the lowest hell signifies, “the very deepest destruction ; a total extermination ; so that the earth, their land, and its increase, and all their property, should be seized, and the foundations of their mountains, their strongest fortresses, should be razed to the ground. All this was fulfilled in a most remarkable manner, in the last destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, so that of the fortifications of that city, not one stone was left upon another.'” Commentary on the place. The learned Lightfoot says, “ The destruction of Jerusalem is very frequently expressed in Scripture, as if it were the destruction of the whole world, Deut. xxxii. 22, 'a fire is kindled in mine anger, which shall burn unto the lowest hell,' (the discourse there is about the wrath of God consuming that people ; see verses 20, 21).” So far Lightfoot, Works, XI. p. 303. Dr. Allen, late President of Bowdoin College, in his Lecture on Universal Salvation, grants, that the punishment referred to in this passage, is “ cutting off from life, destroying from the earth by some special judgment, and removing to the invisible state of the dead."
V. Job viii. 13, 14. “ The hypocrite's hope shall perish: whose hope shall be cut off, and whose trust shall be a spider's web.”
It is difficult to believe, that any sensible person would adduce this passage as proof of endless punishment ; yet such is the fact. We find it adduced in Hawes's “ Reasons,” in J. M. Davis's “Universalism Unmasked,” and in Edwards against Chauncey. Does the hypocrite never find, in this life, 'that his hope has perished ? that it has become like a
spider's web ? Look at the context. " He shall lean upon his house, but it shall not stand.” Thus his hope, his confidence, his support on which he leaned, failed him. - He shall hold it fast, but it shall not endure. He is green before the sun, and his branch shooteth forth in his garden.” Does this language apply to the immortal existence ? Evidently it does not.
VI. Job. xi. 20. “ But the eyes of the wicked shall fail, and they shall not escape, and their hope shall be as the giving up of the ghost."
All this frequently happens in the present state of being ; such is the fate of the wicked in all ages; and yet Edwards, Strong, and Hawes adduce this text in proof of endless punishment. The language in Job xi. 20, is that of Zophar, see xi. 1. At the conclusion of the chapter, in reviewing what Zophar had said, Adam Clarke remarks, Zophar seems to have had a full conviction of the all-governing providence of God; and that those who served him with an honest and upright heart would be ever distinguished in the distribution of temporal good. He seems, however, to think, that rewards and punishments were distributed in this life ; and does not refer, at least, very evidently, to the future state. Probably his information on subjects of divinity did not extend much beyond the grave.
VII. “ The triumphing of the wicked is short, and the joy of the hypocrite but for a moment. Though his excellency mount up to the heavens, and his head reach unto the clouds, yet he shall perish forever,” &c. Job xx. 5 - 7.
Strong and Hawes both adduce this passage as proof of endless punishment ; but what circumstance is here mentioned, that will prove endless misery? He shall perish forever. So far from regarding this expression as proof of endless misery, Dr. A. Clarke, on the contrary, supposes, that it rather shows, that the writer of it did not believe in any future existence whatsoever. His comment is as follows. 56. He is dust, and shall return to the dust from which he was taken.' Zophar here hints his disbelief in that doctrine, the resurrection of the body, which Job had so solemnly asserted in the preceding chapter, or he might have been like some in the present day, who believe that the wicked shall be annihilated, and the bodies of the righteous only be raised from the dead ; but I know of no scripture by which such a doctrine is confirmed.” How sadly the advocates of endless misery disagree in regard to their proof texts.
VIII. “The wicked is reserved to the day of destruction, they shall be brought forth to the day of wrath.” Job xxi. 30.
This is one of Dr. Strong's proof texts of endless misery ; Dr. Ely also adduces it with much confidence. But is there the least hint given, that this day of destruction and wrath is after death? If this punishment is not to commence until death, it is hardly possible, that Job would have said concerning the wicked to whom he referred, “ The clods of the valley shall be sweet unto him.” This would be singular language if Job had believed, that the punishment of the wicked was reserved until his death. Ev. A. C. Thomas remarks, rah and his company were reserved until the people had departed from the tents of those wicked men,' and then the earth opened and swallowed them up, with all that appertained to them. Numbers xvi. The Sodomites were reserved until Lot had departed from the city,
then they were destroyed, together with all that grew upon the ground. Gen. xix. The antediluvians. were reserved until Noah' and his family were safe in the ark, - then came the day of destruction, and every living thing died that moved upon the face of the earth, Gen. viii. You thus perceive, that the wicked are reserved to the day of destruction, and of wrath, in the present life.” Theological Discussion, p. 96.
IX. “ For what is the hope of the hypocrite, though he hath gained, when God taketh away his soul?" Job xxvii. 8.
This is adduced by Edwards, in his book against Chauncey. The hope of the hypocrite is good for nothing at any time, neither in the hour of prosper
ity or adversity, of life or of death. Let any one read the remainder of the chapter, particularly verses 13 - 23, and he will see, that Job did not intend to be understood, that the punishment of the wicked is not in this life. By reading the whole chapter, the subject is made plain.
X. “ Is not destruction to the wicked ? and a strange punishment 'to the workers of iniquity ? Job xxxi. 3.
This is adduced as proof of endless misery by Strong, in his book against Huntington. Is it declared, that this destruction is in the future state ? that this strange punishment is beyond the grave ? No, not the slightest hint of that kind is given ; and therefore the passage proves nothing in favor of endless misery.
XI. 6 Thou hast rebuked the heathen, thou hast destroyed the wicked, thou hast put out their name forever and ever.” Psalms ix. 5.
[Strong and Dr. Ely quote Psalms i. 5, 6, in proof of endless misery ; but it is unnecessary to notice passages that are in their true sense so obviously and utterly remote from the subject to which they are applied.]
Psalms ix. 5, is adduced by Strong and Hawes. The evident sense of the passage is, thou hast destroyed the heathen from off the face of the earth; and they shall be remembered no more. A. Clarke says, on this verse, "we know not what this particularly refers to; but it is, most probably, to the Canaanitish nations, which God destroyed from off the face of the earth.” Thou hast put out their name forever, he understands to signify, that these nations will never again be restored to Canaan.
XII. “ The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God." Psalms ix. 17.
Strong, Hawes, Lee, Cooke, Davis, Ely, Stuart, and a host of others of like faith, agree in applying this passage to the subject of endless punishment. It is evidently regarded as one of the strong proof texts of that doctrine. But let us be careful Does the passage say, the