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    FACTS FROM GOD’S WORD FOR CONSIDERATION

    Before I proceed further, I wish to call attention to a few facts from the Scriptures of divine truth.SSII 38.1

    The word “Eternal” occurs but twice in the Old Testament. Once in Deuteronomy 33:27, and is applied to God - “The eternal God is thy refuge” - and once in Isaiah 60:15, and is spoken of the city of God - “I will make thee an eternal excellency.”SSII 38.2

    The phrase “Eternity” occurs but once in the Bible, viz., Isaiah 57:15, and is applied to God - “Thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity.”SSII 38.3

    How common to hear men talk about eternity - and to hear ministers tell their hearers they are going into eternity - and urge that consideration upon them, to call up attention. “Prepare for eternity,” say they. To my mind, it is evident, that consideration is not made use of in the Scriptures, to lead men to God. I conceive it is false, in fact, to say a man has gone into eternity, because nothing can be clearer than that time will continue endlessly to any being that had a beginning: if he continues in life a relation will always exist to the period when life commenced, and that relation cannot be separated from time. To say, then, that a man has gone, or is “going into eternity,” is saying that which is not true; and to urge upon a person such a consideration is to be “wise above what is written.” Jesus Christ, nor his apostles ever used it. They preached that men were perishing - dying - exposed to death - in danger of losing everlasting life - traveling in the way that leadeth to destruction, etc.; and exhorted them to repent - believe - to lead a new life - to save themselves from this untoward generation - to lay hold on eternal life, etc. - but never told their hearers - “You are hastening to eternity;” for, I repeat it, that is not true, in fact.SSII 38.4

    When men die they “sleep in the dust of the earth:” Daniel 12:2. They wake not till Christ returns “from heaven;” or till the last trump. See 1 Corinthians 15:18, 32, 51, 52; Philippians 3:11, 20, 21; and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.SSII 39.1

    The phrase “eternal life,” occurs no where in the Bible, except in the New Testament, and is always spoken of the righteous; it never has connected with it any qualifying terms, such as “happy,” “blessed,” or “miserable,” etc., but simply denotes life in opposition to the death of the wicked. See Romans 6:21-23. “What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. But now being made free from sin, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life; for the wages of sin is death: but the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.”SSII 39.2

    Here life and death are put in opposition, and no intimation is given that the death of the wicked is eternal conscious being in torments.SSII 39.3

    It is very common to hear people talk about a happy eternal life - a blessed eternal life - a glorious eternal life; as though the language of the Bible were not explicit enough. Such additions to the word of God, give evidence, if we had no other, that there is something defective in their theory. Such additions ought always to be looked upon with suspicion; and, if received at all, be received with great caution.SSII 39.4

    In interpreting the Scriptures, if we would be saved from the wild fields of conjecture, and save ourselves from an entire dependence upon others for the knowledge of what the Bible teaches, we must have some settled principles of interpretation. The following I consider the most important: -SSII 40.1

    First - That words are to have their primary and obvious meaning, unless there is a clear necessity of departing from it. By their primary and obvious meaning, I mean the plain and direct sense of the words, such as they may be supposed to have in the mouths of the speakers, who used them according to the language of that time and country in which they lived, without any of those learned, artificial, and forced senses, such as are put on them by those who claim the right to be the “authorized expounders of the Bible.” Such forced sense is, usually, nothing more than the peculiar notions they have been brought up in, and may have no better foundation than the superstition of some good old ancestor.SSII 40.2

    The next principle of interpretation I would lay down is, That it is a truth, from which we are not to depart without the clearest evidence, that words are never used to mean more than their primary signification; though they may be, and often are, used to signify something less. Not to adhere to this principle is to make revelation no revelation. Those who abandon it may as well admit, at once, that the common people ought not to have the Bible, for it will only lead them astray. Why should Protestants boast over the Catholics in this respect? Do not both, virtually, claim that the language of Scripture is mystical, or has a meaning that does not appear in the common signification of the words? and, therefore, the Priests must interpret them to the people? Might we not as well give our Bibles altogether into the hands of these interpreters? Especially, if the plain common sense meaning of words is not to be followed, when there is no clear necessity for departing from it.SSII 40.3

    The primary meaning of the term death is, “the extinction of life.” To say that when God threatens men with death, he does not mean they shall die, but be kept alive in eternal torments is not warranted by any ordinary use of language.SSII 41.1

    What should we think of a law that says, “For murder thou shalt die,” if we were told the meaning is not, that the transgressor shall actually die, but be kept alive in indescribable torments, protracted to the greatest possible extent? Would any man think he was fairly dealt with by such an administration? And would he not have just cause of complaint at the want of definiteness in the terms used to denote the punishment threatened!SSII 41.2

    The term “Immortal” occurs but once in the Bible, viz.: 1 Timothy 1:17; and is applied to God, “The king eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God.”SSII 41.3

    If we were to judge by the frequency that we hear the phrase “immortal soul,” we should suppose it was the most common expression in the Scriptures. You will hardly hear a sermon without the preacher often telling, with great emphasis, about “the immortal soul,” as though he thought that qualifying term was all important to impress his hearers with a sense of the soul’s value; not content, with the Saviour to ask - “What is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” No, that would be quite too weak, in his estimation, and he must strengthen it by adding, “immortal.” To show the absurdity of such a course, I have only to say - That which is immortal cannot be lost. Hence, the persons who use this qualifying term, have to add another, and say - lose all “happiness.” Now, the loss of the soul, and the loss of happiness, are two very different things, and each capable of being expressed in appropriate language. To say, when our Saviour said, a man may “lose his own soul,” he did not mean that he will come short of immortality, perish, or cease all sense and life, but only that he shall lose the happiness of his soul, is, in my mind, corrupting the word of God.SSII 41.4

    As in sermons, so it is in prayers. Men seem to think prayers have but little power, unless they spice them often with “immortal soul:” and they would probably regard you as an infidel, if you were to tell them the Bible no where speaks of an immortal soul. How often, too, do we hear men talk about “the undying soul,” in direct contradiction of the testimony of God, which expressly declares, “the soul that sinneth, IT SHALL DIE.” A hymn, often sung begins as follows:SSII 42.1

    “A charge to keep I have, A God to glorify, A never dying soul to save And fit it for the sky.”SSII 42.2

    The same hymn ends thus: -SSII 42.3

    “Help me to watch and pray, And on thyself rely, Assured if I my trust betray, I shall forever die.”SSII 42.4

    How a never dying soul can forever die, it will take a poet to tell; or a very learned divine. Common people are not skilled in such palpable contradictions. The hymn under consideration is one of great beauty and excellence, with the exception of this defect.SSII 43.1

    The term “immortality,” occurs only five times in the Bible, and is never spoken of the wicked; but is either applied to God and His Christ, or brought to view as something to be sought after, and to be found alone in Christ. “To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for honor, glory, immortality, - eternal life,” Romans 2:7. Why, I pray, are men to seek for it, if it is the inheritance of all?SSII 43.2

    “Shall mortal man be more just than God?” Job 4:17. Man’s body is neither just nor unjust in itself; this text, therefore, speaks of the man, as such; or the whole man, who is said to be mortal. Paul, in Romans 8:10, says, “If Christ be in you, the body is dead” (i.e. mortal, doomed to die,) “because of sin; but the spirit is life” (why? because the soul is immortal? No; but) “because of righteousness;” clearly implying that it is being righteous, or having Christ in them, and possessing the Spirit of God, that is to make them immortal. This is further evident from the next verse, where he assures them that their mortal bodies should be quickened, i.e. be made immortal by the Spirit of Him who raised up Jesus from the dead.SSII 43.3

    Man is said to be “corruptible,” in opposition to the “incorruptible God.” See Romans 1:23. Again; “They that sow to the flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption,” not immortality. See Galatians 6:8. The wicked shall “utterly perish” in their own “corruption.” 2 Peter 2:12.SSII 43.4

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