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MINISTER AND HIS FRIEND.
DIALOGUE I. Friend. I have taken the freedom to call upon you, to have a little discourse with you concerning the doctrine of the Restoration of all Things, which it is said you believe; and to propose some objections.
Minister. I am happy to see you, and am willing to discourse, as well as I am able, upon any subject that may be agreeable; but I have always made it a rule never to press the belief of my sentiments upon my friends; and I can safely say, that, though such great pains have been taken by my adversaries, to predjudice people against me, I have never gone about from house to house to propagate my opinions; and I make it a universal rule not to introduce the subject in conversation, unless desired; but yet I never have refused to own my sentiments, when asked, respecting the matter; and am ready, in the fear of God, to answer any objections that can be made, to a doctrine which I believe is plainly revealed in the Scriptures of truth, and appears to me worthy of God.
Friend. I shall first of all bring to view that grand objection, which is formed from the word eternal or everlasting, being applied to a future state of punishment; as in the following, passages: Isaiah xxxiii. 14. “ The sinners in Zion are afraid, fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings.
Dan. xii. 2. “And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasiing life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt."
St. Matt. xviji. 8. “Wherefore, is thine band or thy foot offend thee (or cause thee to offend) cut them off, and cast them from thee; it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands, or two feet, to be cast into everlasting fire.”
St. Matt. xxv. 41. “ Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, depart from me, ye cursed into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” Verse 46, “ These shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal or everlasting." The same word in the original being used for both, though varied by the translators.
St. Mark, iii. 29. “But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost, hath never forgiveness; but is in danger of eternal damnation.”
2 Thes. i. 7, 8, 9. “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."
Judge, 6, 7. “And the Angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day: even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over unto fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire."
These texts, together, form such an objection to the doctrine of the Restoration, that I can by no means believe it, unless this can be fairly answered, and proofs brought from the Scriptures to shew, that the words ererlasting and eternal, (which are translations of the same word and synonymous) being connected with the punishment of the wicked, and their future misery, do not necessarily imply the contin ance of the same while God exists.
Minister. I am glad that you have so fairly and fully stated the matter; and I highly commend yonr resolution, not to believe the universal doctrine, unless this can be answered fully, without any torturing or twisting the Scriptures; and if I am not able with God's assistance, to remove this difficulty, I will publicly recant my sentiments. But, before I come to give a direct answer,
I would beg leave to remark how very seldom this word is used to express the duration of punishment. We should think, by some sermons we hear, that everlasting is applied to misery in every book of the New Testament, if not in eve
ry chapter. A friend of mine told me, that he was once preaching in Maryland, and after sermon a man came and asked him, of what denomination he was ? To which he answered, a Baptist. I think, says the man, that you do not preach up so much everlasting damnation as the Baptists and Methodists among us do. To which my friend replied, everlasting damnation is found in the Scripture. True, answered the man; but some preachers give us more of it in one sermon than is to be found in the whole Bible. The truth of this remark will appear, if we consider that St. Luke, never uses the word aionion or everlasting, as connected with the misery of the wicked, in his gospel; nor St. Mark but once, and then in a particular case only. In the gospel of St. John, it is not to be found at all in that connexion, nor in any of his epistles: in the account of the preaching of the apostles through the world, in the first age of christianity, we do not find it mentioned, in that light, so much as once: no, not in all the sermons, and parts of serrnons, which St. Luke has preserved in the book of the Acts: though the doctrine of everlasting damnation is the substance of many modern discourses. St. Paul never mentions everlasiing destruction but once, though his writings form such a considerable part of the New Testament. Neither are such words found in the epistle of St. James, or in those of St. Peter, and but three times in the gospel of St. Matthew : and only twice in all the Old Testament. But was the word aionion applied to misery but once in the whole Bible, it would deserve a serious consideration; and unless the force of it
can be removed by the authority of the Scriptures, it must remain an unanswerable objection. But I shall proceed to answer it, by bringing an equal number of passages where the word everlasting is applied to things and times, that have had, or must have, an end. As in the following passages: Gen. xvii. 7, 8.“ And I will establish my covenant between me and thee, and thy seed after thee, in their generations, for an everlasting covenant; to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an ererlasting possession; and I will be their God.” Verse 13. “ He that is born in thy house, and bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised : and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant."
Here note that the land of Canaan is called an everlasting possession; and the covena circumcision in the flesh, an ererlasting covenant, though it is certain that the land of Canaan, as well as the other parts of the earth must be dissolved or melted, in the general conflagration; and circumcision is now declared null and void by the Holy Ghost; and the ceremony cannot endure to endless ages.
Of the same kind are the following passages: Gen. xlviii 3, 4. “And Jacob said unto Joseph, God Almighty appeared to me at Luz, in the land of Canaan, and blessed me : and said unto me, behold, I will make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, and will make of thee a multitude of people ; and will give this land to thy seed after thee, for an everlasting possession." And