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ward of merit, but the gift of God to those who have faith and righteousness. And why should we suppose the word to be used in a strict metaphysical sense in either clause of the verse ? If the promise of a life of blessedness of long, indefinite duration is given to the Christian, can he not trust the grace of the Everlasting Father, that he will not annihilate a holy and happy being? Suppose that we should construe Matthew xii. 28 as strictly as some construe the verse under consideration, would it not follow, that all sins except the sin against the Holy Ghost might be forgiven in the world to come, as well as in this world ? In fact, this verse was so understood by no less a saint than Augustine.*
4. That the verse under consideration may be understood in such a sense as not to exclude the opportunity of faith and repentance in the future world, is favored by the character of God as revealed and manifested in Christ, and by the mild and merciful character of Christ himself, who knows how to have compassion on our infirmities. This last consideration certainly belongs to the province of interpretation. All writers on hermeneutics lay it down as a principle, that language is to be interpreted in harmony with the known character and sen. timents of the speaker or writer. Even in the writings of Paul, who is very strong in denouncing punishment against the wicked, there are passages in which he speaks of the purposes of God, and of the riches of his grace, in such a manner as to make it difficult to believe that he contemplated the strictly eternal punishment of all who die in sin. We refer to the manner in which he speaks of the salvation of all Israel in Romans xi., and the putting down of all enemies to the kingdom of Christ in 1 Corinthians xv. 25 – 28. We cannot, indeed, find an express declaration in the Scriptures of the final salvation of all men. Enemies may be put under one's feet by confinement in a place of punishment, as well as by being converted into friends. But the spirit of those passages, which makes so much to depend on means which the wisdom and mercy of God have, as it were, in reserve, is not very favorable to the doctrine of the endless misery of all who are leaving the world with a sinful character, or who have left it since the creation of man. The thought of Paul logically carried out leads to a very different conclusion, and awakens the most cheering hopes.*
* He says, in a passage which we translate literally, “as in the resurrection of the dead there will be some, who, after the punishment which the spirits of the dead suffer, will receive mercy, so that they will not be cast into everlasting fire. For it could not with truth be said of some, that their sins would not be forgiven in this world, or in that which is to come, unless there were others who would be forgiven in the world to come, though not in this world." - De Civitate Dei, Lib. XXI. Cap. XXIV. § 2.
In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus we have a glimpse of the change of disposition which may be effected by a change of circumstances. The rich man, who was so hard-hearted, while he lived, as to refuse to the poor beggar the crumbs which fell from his table, is represented as turning his eyes on his brethren whom he had left on earth, and longing to warn them of the consequences of sin. It seems as if his punishment had begun to work a change in his disposition; just as the prodigal son came to himself, when he was reduced to the necessity of feeding on the husks which the swine did eat. We know that the instruction from this part of the parable is only incidental, and formed not its express de. sign. But still it was suggested by Christ in view of what he knew of the effect of punishment on the human heart.
But the most direct testimony from the New Testament for the possible recovery from sin and punishment in the future world, is to be found in the First Epistle of Peter. There we read expressly, ch. iii. 18, 19, that our Saviour after his death went and preached to the spirits in prison, who had been disobedient while they lived on earth ; and again, ch. iv. 6, that the glad tidings, eúnyyedio on, were preached to the dead, the disobedient dead. We are aware of the extremely forced and arbitrary interpretations which have been put on these verses in modern times, partly caused by an inordinate dread of Papal superstition, and partly by objections from reason against the descent of Christ into the regions of the dead. But the great body of interpreters, of the Protestant as well as the Catholic Church, and the great body of Christians from the earliest times, have under. stood these verses in their obvious meaning, as asserting that Christ after his death did preach to the dead, the disobedient dead. There has also been a difference of opinion in regard to the substance of the message of Christ to the dead. But we are wholly unable to im. agine how he could have announced glad tidings to them, unless he had proclaimed to them the opportunity of release from their prison through faith and repent. ance.* The Apostle Peter, therefore, who had a good opportunity of understanding the mind, of our Lord, did not understand any denunciations of punishment, which he had heard from him, as inconsistent with an opportunity for faith, repentance, and restoration to the Divine favor in the world beyond the grave.
* The impartial and sharp-sighted De Wette finds still more actually expressed in 1 Corinthians xv. 25 - 28 than we can. He says in his Com. mentary ad loc. : “ The idea of the restoration of all things is here undeniable. For if at this time there were any in a state of damnation, in whom the influence of God was felt in punishment and not in love, he would not be all in all. Also after the destruction of Satan and death, verses 24 - 26, damnation is no longer conceivable.” Schleiermacher, after a logical discussion of the subject, says: “There are great difficulties in supposing that the final result of redemption will be such, that only some will be partakers, while others, and indeed the greater part, according to the common representation, of the whole human race, will be consigned to endless misery. We cannot receive this view without the most decisive testimony that such a result was foreseen by Christ himself. But this testimony we by no means have. With at least equal justice may we maintain the milder view, of which there are some traces in Scripture, (see 1 Corinthians xv. 26, 55,) that through the influence of the Christian redemption there will at some future time be a general restoration of all human souls." — Christliche Glaube, Band II. p. 505.
5. We regard it as no objection to our views, but rather a confirmation of them, that the principle on which they are founded has been held by the great majority of the Christian Church for ages. We are always glad to have a point of doctrinal contact and fellowship with Christians whose religious faith is in many respects different from our own. We know the superstitious and mercenary practices which have been connected with the Catholic doctrine of Purgatory. But so far as this article of the Catholic faith refuses to make the mere circumstance of death an insuperable bar to moral progress, and holds out the hope of forgiveness and the possibility of reformation and purification to those who enter the future world manifestly susceptible of reformation, it is an honor to the Church which makes it a part of her creed. Her honor would be greater, if she would extend her charity beyond the limits of her own communion. It is not, however, by making the Catholic doctrine of Purgatory the subject of ridicule, but by extracting from it what is true and good and consoling to weak and afflicted humanity, while we reject the errors associated with it, that we may hope to keep men from subjection to the Roman hierarchy.
* Justin Martyr accuses the Jews of having abstracted a passage from Jeremiah, which affirms that the Lord “remembered his dead, which slept in the dust of the earth, and descended to them, that he might preach unto them his salvation." - Dialogue with Trypho, $ 72.
In view now of all the considerations which have been, and of many other considerations which might be, mentioned, we cannot help thinking that the passage which we have examined, and similar passages, may be understood in a sense consistent with the possibility and probability of faith, regeneration, and forgiveness in the future world. We do not pretend that we can by exegetical considerations place the precise meaning of Christ's language beyond doubt in our own mind, or in the minds of others. But on the whole we have faith that the plan of the Divine government relating to the future as well as the present world is in accordance with what is beautifully intimated by the Prophet Isaiah (xxviii. 28, 29): –
“ Bread-corn is thrashed;
Yet doth not the husbandman thrash it without limit;
G. R. N.
Art. VII. – AN ORTHODOX VIEW OF THE TEMPTATION
We have been greatly interested in the perusal of an Article in the Bibliotheca Sacra, by the Rev. Dr. Stearns, minister of a Trinitarian Congregational church in Cambridge, on “.The Temptation in the Wilderness." Our interest was not engaged by any novel view set forth in that paper, but by the striking testimony which it
* Bibliotheca Sacra and American Biblical Repository, for January, 1854. Art. VIII. The Temptation in the Wilderness. By William A. STEARNS, D.D.
VOL. LVI. — 4th S. VOL. XXI. NO. II. 26
we musteception those
affords to an increasing willingness, on the part of socalled Orthodox interpreters, to meet some of the sugges. tions presented by the text of Scripture that have often been kept out of sight, and by the accordance of a portion of Dr. Stearns's explanation with that which our brethren have often been assailed for advancing. His paper is written with admirable clearness and simplicity of style, without any parade of learning.
Our readers are all aware that the narrative of the Saviour's temptation is one of those passages of the Bible which warrant the reception of one great canon of criticism, - that we must avail ourselves of the relief afforded by the figurative style of representation often adopted in it, if we would avoid downright absurdities and monstrous conclusions. True, our opponents have rung the changes upon the charge alleged against us, of explaining away the statements of Scripture by metaphors and the license of language; but they do not seem to be aware that they avail themselves of that privilege as much, or even more, than we do, only that it suits them to explain differently what all of us have to explain in some way. But if the principle be allowed, that the strict letter of Scripture may be departed from, sound judgment is made the arbiter in each case.
There was a favorite theory entertained among the old divines, that the insane, the epileptic, and the dumb, whom the Saviour relieved of their miseries, and who are described as “possessed” persons, were actually victims into whose bodies infernal spirits had been allowed to enter for the purpose of being ejected by Christ, in order that his divine power over devils might be visibly manifested, while he was upon the earth. The narrative of the temptation of Christ was also generally taken in the strictness of the letter. We have now before us a venerable copy of the English Book of Common Prayer, which is hard on to two hundred years old, and which bears the tokens of having been reverently valued by former owners. It is profusely illustrated by quaint engravings of Scripture scenes and characters, and an effigies of James Îl. makes its frontispiece. Among these devices is a complete pictorial representation of The Temptation. First, the Saviour is pictured, as he entered the wilderness for his trial. He is seated by the