The Restitution of all Things
Part 6: Appendix
Scripture use of the words “death” and “destruction.”
The opinion of the annihilation of the wicked, which has at different times been held by some, as a refuge from the doctrine of never-ending punishment, is not only opposed to the whole analogy of our regeneration, which shews how death and judgment are the only way of life and deliverance for a fallen creature, but also so directly contradicts what is said of “death” in Scripture, that it is difficult to conceive how it could ever have been accepted by believers. Even before the reason of the Cross is seen, the very letter of Scripture, one might have thought, would have kept men from concluding that the “death,” “destruction,” and “perishing,” of the wicked means their non-existence or annihilation. For what is “death”? What is “destruction”? How are these words invariably used in Holy Scripture?
First, as to “death,” are any of the varied deaths, which Scripture speaks of as incident to man, his non-existence or annihilation? Take as examples the deaths referred to by St. Paul , in the sixth, seventh, and eighth chapters of the Epistle to the Romans. We read, (chapt. vi. 7,) “He that is dead is freed from sin.” Is this “death,” which is freedom from sin, non-existence or annihilation? Again, where the Apostle says, (chapt. vii. 9,) “I was alive without the law once, but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died,”—was this “death,” wrought in him by the law, annihilation? Again, where he says, (chapt. viii. 6,) “To be carnally minded is death,” is this death non-existence or annihilation? And again, when he says (chapt. viii. 38,) “Neither death nor life shall separate us,” is the “death” here referred to annihilation? When Adam died on the day he sinned, (Gen. ii. 17,) was this annihilation? When his body died, and turned to dust, (Gen. v. 5,) was this annihilation? Is our “death in trespasses and sins,” (Eph. ii. 1, 2,) annihilation? Is our “death to sin,” (Rom. vi. 11,) annihilation? When the “corn of wheat falls into the ground and dies,” (S. John xii. 24,) is it annihilated; or is St. Paul right in saying, (1 Cor. xv. 37,) “That which thou sowest is not quickened except it die?” Do not these and similar uses of the word prove beyond all question, that whatever else these deaths may be, not one of them is non-existence or annihilation? On what grounds, I ask, are we to assign a sense to this particular death which confessedly the word “death” has not and cannot have elsewhere? Where is the proof that there is and can be no resurrection from the second death?
The truth is, death for man is simply an end to, and separation from, some given form of life which he has lived in. Death to God is separation from His world of light, by the destruction, through the lie of the serpent, of the divine life of light and love in us. Death to sin, the exact converse of this, is the separation from the world of darkness, by the destruction, through the truth, of the dark life of unbelief and self-love. The death wrought by the law is the end of, and separation from, our fallen carnal life of self-sufficiency; while what is commonly called death, namely the death of the body, is simply our separation from the outward world, in which we live, as partakers of its outward life, while we are in the body.
Once let us see that there are three worlds, each having its own life,--a light world, a dark world, and this outward seen world,--and then what is said in Scripture of the new birth, or of the varied deaths we pass through, becomes at once self-evident. For the only way into any world is by a birth into it, even as the only way out of any world is by a death to it. We have by sin died to God's light-world, to fall into and live in a spirit-world of darkness. We must by the truth, that is by Christ, die to this dark spirit-world, to return to live in God's light-world. The outward birth and death of the body, and its life, have only to do with the outward seen world.
For this reason it is that the word “destruction,” as used in Scripture, never means annihilation. Take for instance the words of the xcth Psalm, “Thou turnest man to destruction: again Thou sayest, Come again, ye children of men.” Can “destruction” here be annihilation? Is it not rather that dissolution which must take place if fallen creatures are ever to be brought back perfectly to God's kingdom. So again, Job says, (chapt. xix. 10,) “He hath destroyed me on every side, and I am gone”; and again, (chapt. ix. 22,) “This one thing I said, He destroyeth the perfect and the wicked.” But does he mean to say that he is brought to non-existence, or that the “perfect” will be so destroyed, that they will exist no longer? So, again, St. Peter says, (2 Ep. iii. 6,) “The world that then was perished.” So, again, of the present heavens and earth it is said, (Heb. i. 11, 12,) “They shall perish, . . . and be changed.” So, again, both of Israel and Jerusalem it is said, (Deut. xxx. 18; Jer. xii. 17; xv. 6;) that they shall be “destroyed” and “perish.” But does any one suppose that therefore they will be annihilated? So, again, as to the expression, “them that perish,” sometimes translated “the lost”; (see 2 Cor. iv. 3; 1 Cor. i. 18; 2 Cor. ii. 15;) do we not know that these “lost,” though they “perish,” still exist, and exist both as “lost” ones and “saved” ones, as text on text will testify abundantly. So as to the righteous, in the well-known passage of Isaiah; (chapt. lvii, 1;) “The righteous “perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart”;--is this “perishing” non-existence? So, again, where we read, in Psalm lxxxiii. 16-18, “Fill their faces with shame, that they may seek thy name, O Lord: let them be confounded and troubled for ever; yea, let them be put to shame and perish; that men ” (literally “ they ,” for the word “ men ” is not in the Original,) “may know that Thou, whose name is Jehovah, art the Most High over all the earth;”—men are to be “confounded for ever and perish, that they may know Jehovah.”
So as to the question, “Wilt Thou shew wonders to the dead? Shall the dead arise and praise Thee? Shall thy loving-kindness be declared in the grave, or they faithfulness in destruction?”—is the true answer, Yes, or No? Is not the “losing” or “destruction” of our fallen life the only way to a better one? Does not our Lord Himself say more than once, (S. Matt. x. 39; xvi. 25; S. John xii. 25;) that the way to “save our life,” or “soul,” is to “lose it,” or “have it destroyed,” in its fallen form, that it may be re-created?
These last words should of themselves settle this question, for in one place, (S. Matt. x. 39,) they occur in immediate connexion (see verse 28,) with those other well-known words, as to “fearing him who can destroy both body and soul in hell,” which are constantly quoted by some to prove, as they think, that “destruction” must be non-existence. And yet, in the very closest connexion with these words, our Lord repeats the self-same word, “destroy,” (in our Authorized Version translated “lose”—it is the word apollumi, on which some build so much,) to express that death and dissolution of the soul, which, so far from bringing it to non-existence, is the appointed way to save it. Christ saves it, as we have seen, by death; for being fallen into sin, what is needed is “that the body of sin should be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” (Rom. vi. 6.) The elect, that is the first-fruits, are the living proof of this. A “new man” is created in them, and the “old man” dies and is destroyed, while yet he in whom all this is done remains through all the same person. It may be, and is, a riddle, like “dying, and behold we live: having nothing, and yet possessing all things”; yet it is only the riddle of the Cross, that “by death God destroys him that has the power of death.” Therefore, though destruction, like death, may be, and is, a ceasing from some particular from of life which has been lived in by man, yet it is never non-existence absolutely; rather it is the means to bring the fallen creature into a new life, a chaos being ever the necessary condition for a new creation.
As for the argument, founded by some on the word apollumi , that because it is one of the strongest in the Greek language to express destruction, therefore that destruction must be irremediable, the simple answer is, that the question is not whether the destruction is great, but whether God is not still greater, and therefore whether He is not able even out of the destruction to bring forth better things. This at least is certain, that both in the New Testament and in the Classical Greek, the word in question is used of those who though “destroyed” are yet “saved.” To the passages already quoted from the New Testament I will only add one more:--“The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost :” (S. Luke xix. 10.) As an example of the Classical use of the word, I give the following from one of the Greek poets, (quoted by Justin Martyr, De Monarchia , cap. 3; and by Clement of Alexandra, Strom , lib. v. cap. 14,) bearing on this very question of the restoration of the lost:- “__________” And the New Testament use of the word _______ proves that it describes, not so much preservation from future or threatened judgment, (in which case ______ would be used, as in S. John xvii. 15, Rev. iii. 10, Jude 1, 1 Thess. v. 23, &c.) but rather deliverance out of some present and oppressing evil. So we read, (S. Matt. ix. 21, 22,) “And the woman said within herself, if I may but touch His garment, I shall be made whole,” that is restored to health; “and the woman was made whole,” that is restored to health, “from that hour.” So again, (S. Mark v. 23,) “And Jairus besought Him greatly, saying, I pray Thee, lay Thy hands upon her, that she may be healed.” So too, (S. Mark vi. 56,) “And as many as touched Him were made whole.” So too, in reference to Lazarus, (S. John xi. 12,) “Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well,” that is, he shall be restored to health. See also S. Luke viii. 36; xviii. 42; Acts iv. 9; S. James v. 15; &c. See also what is said of our Lord, (Heb. v. 7,) that “in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers unto Him that was able to save Him from death,” (literally “ out of death,”) “He was heard in that He feared.” But He was not preserved from death, but delivered out of it. Our salvation also, like our Lord's, for we are His members, is not from death, but by it, and out of it.
Extracts from the Fathers.
The following extracts from some of the greatest of the Greek Fathers will sufficiently shew what were their views on this subject.
I give an extract from Origen first, as, though not the earliest, he is the best known advocate of the doctrine of Universal Restitution. He writes as follows: ( Comment. In Epist. Ad Rom. lib. viii. cap. xi.)--
“But he that despises the purification of the word of God, and the doctrine of the gospel, only keeps himself for dreadful and penal purifications afterwards; that so the fire of hell may purge him in torments whom neither apostolical doctrine nor gospel preaching has cleansed, according to that which is written of being “purified by fire.” But how long this purification which is wrought out by penal fire shall endure, or for how many periods or ages it shall torment sinners, He only knows to whom all judgment is committed by the Father. . . . But we must still remember that the Apostle would have this text accounted as a secret, so that the faithful and perfect may keep their perceptions of it as one of God's secrets in silence among themselves, and not divulge it everywhere to the imperfect and those less capable of receiving it.”
We find the same doctrine still more fully stated by Origen, in his work De Principiis , lib. i. c. 6, para. 1, 2, where he quotes Psalm cx. 1, 1 Cor. xv. 25, S. John xvii. 20-23, Phil. ii. 10, and other passages of Scripture in support of it. At the same time he did not deny, Contr. Celsum , lib. vi. C. 26, that the doctrine might be dangerous to the unconverted. He therefore, on the principle of reserving some things from those who might abuse them, speaks in Hom . xviii. in Jerem . para. 1, of “the impossibility of being renewed except in this world.” Yet in the very next homily, Hom . xix. in Jer . 4, he calls the fear of everlasting punishment, (according to Jer. xx. 7,) “a deceit,” though it is beneficial in its results, and is brought about by God Himself as a pedagogical artifice “For many wise men, or such as were thought wise, having apprehended the truth, and rejected the delusion, respecting the divine punishments, gave themselves up to a vicious life, while it would have been much better for them to believe as they once did in the undying worm and the fire which is not quenched.”
It is, I believe, owing to this principle of reserve in communicating certain points of religious knowledge, that we find comparatively so little on the subject of Restitution in the public writings of the early Fathers. For, in accordance with the Apostle's words, “Which things we speak,” and again, “We speak wisdom among them that are perfect,” (1 Cor. ii. 6, 13,) they felt that they might “speak” to mature and well-instructed souls things which it would not be wise to “write” for all.
But to pass on to a second witness to the doctrine of Restitution. Clement of Alexandria, who, in the 5 th and 6 th books of his Stromata has written so fully on this subject of reserve,--see especially book 6, chapter 15,--in his notes on the Epistle of S. John, ( Adumbrat . in Ep. i. Johan ., printed at the end of his Treatise, Quis dives salvetur , p. 1009, Potter's Edit.) has these words:
“The Lord, he says, is a propitiation, ‘not for our sins only,' that is, of the faithful, ‘but also for the whole world.' Therefore He indeed saves all universally; but some as converted by punishments, others by voluntary submission, thus obtaining the honour and dignity, that ‘to Him every knee shall bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth,' that is angels, and men, and souls who departed this life before His coming into the world.”
Other writers of the Alexandrian School might be here cited as holding substantially the same doctrine.
The following passage from Theophilus of Antioch, A.D. 168, is perhaps even more striking; ( Ad Autolychum , lib. ii. c. 26:)
“And God shewed great kindness to man, in this, that He did not suffer him to continue being in sin for ever; but, as it were, by a kind of banishment, cast him out of Paradise, in order that, having by punishment expiated, within an appointed time, the sin, and having been disciplined, he should afterwards be recalled. Wherefore also, when man had been formed in this world, it is mystically written in Genesis, as if he had been twice placed in Paradise ; so that the one was fulfilled after the resurrection and judgment. Nay further, just as a vessel, when on being fashioned it has some flaw, is remoulded or re-made, that it may become now and entire; so also it happens to man by death. For he is broken up by force, that in the resurrection he may be found whole, I mean spotless, and righteous, and immortal.”
Irenaeus, A.D. 182, holds the same view, of death being a merciful provision for a fallen creature. His words, ( Contr. Hoer . lib. iii. c. 23, para. 6,) are:
“Wherefore also He drove him out of Paradise, and removed him far from the tree of life, not because He envied him the tree of life, as some dare to assert, but because He pitied him, (and desired) that he should not continue always a sinner, and that the sin which surrounded him should not be immortal, and the evil interminable and irremediable.”
Origen has the same doctrine, ( Hom . xviii. in Jerem .) as have others of the Fathers.
To the same effect is the whole work of Athenagoras, A.D. 177, On the Resurrection . The argument throughout is so connected that it is not easy to make a brief extract. The following concluding sentence of the work may however sufficiently shew the general doctrine: ( De Resurr . c. xxv.)
“And as this follows of necessity, there my by all means be a resurrection of the bodies which are dead or even entirely dissolved, and the same men must be formed anew. . . . for if this takes place, the end befitting the nature of men follows also. And the end of an intelligent life and of a rational judgment, we shall make no mistake in saying, is to be occupied uninterruptedly with those objects to which the natural reason is chiefly and primarily adapted, and to delight unceasingly in the contemplation of Him who is, and of His decrees; notwithstanding that the majority of men, because they are affected too passionately and too violently by things below, pass through life without attaining this object. For the large number of those who fail of the end that belongs to them does not make void the common lot, since the examination relates to individuals, and the reward or punishment of lives ill or well spent is proportioned to what each has done.”
We find the same doctrine hinted at in Gregory of Nazianzus; ( Orat. Quadrag . para. 36. p. 664, Ed. Paris. 1630.)
“There is another fire, I know, not for purging, but for punishing; whether it be of that kind by which Sodom was destroyed, . . . . or whether that prepared for the devil, . . . . or that which goes before the face of the Lord, and which, more to be dreaded than all, is conjoined with the undying worm, which is not quenched, but lasts perpetually, (or through the ages) for the wicked. All these are of a destructive nature. Unless even here to regard this as done in love is more in accordance with (God's) love to man, and more worthy of Him who punishes.”
Gregory of Nyssa speaks more clearly; ( Dial. de Anima et Resurrect . tom. iii. p. 227, Ed. Paris. 1638.)
“For it is needful that evil should some day be wholly and absolutely removed out of the circle of being. . . . . For inasmuch as it is not in the nature of evil to exist without the will, when every will comes to be in God, will not evil go on to absolute extinction, by reason of there being no receptacle of it left.”
And again, in his Catechetical Orations , (Chapter 26,) Christ is spoken of as “the One who both delivers man from evil, and who heals the inventor of evil himself.”
Both the passages, and their contexts, are well worth turning to. Referring to them Neander says, ( Church Hist . vol. iv. p. 455,) “We may notice here another after-influence of the great Origen upon individual church-teachers, . . . in the writings of Didymus, and Gregory Nazianzen. Though in the writings of Didymus, which have come to our knowledge, there are no distinct traces to be found of the doctrine of Restoration, yet in his work De Trinitate , published by Mingarelli, (Bologna 1769,) an intimation of this kind may be found in his exposition and application of the passage in Philipp. ii. 10, where, in reference to the ______ as well as the _______, he speaks of ‘every knee bowing at the name of Jesus:' (lib. iii. c. 10.) But this particular doctrine was expounded and maintained with the greatest ability in works written expressly for that purpose by Gregory of Nyssa. God, he maintained, had created rational beings in order that they might be self-conscious and free vessels for the communications of the original fountain of all good. All punishment are means of purification, ordained by divine love to purge rational beings from moral evil, and to restore them back to that communion with God which corresponds to their nature. God would not have permitted the existence of evil, unless He had forseen that by the Redemption all rational beings would in the end, according to their destination, attain to the same blessed fellowship with Himself.”
Now when it is borne in mind that Gregory of Nazianzus presided at the Second General Council, and that to Gregory of Nyssa tradition ascribes all those additions to the original Nicene Creed, which were made at the same Second General Council, and which we now recite as portions of it, (Nicephor. Eccl. Hist . lib. xii. c. 13,)—when we remember the esteem in which the name and works of this same Gregory of Nyssa have ever been held, both during his life and since his death, and that he was referred to both by the Fifth and Seventh General Councils, as amongst the highest authorities of the Church, (Tillemont, Memoires , tom. ix. p. 601,)—we shall be better able to judge the worth of the assertion, which is sometimes made, that the doctrine of final restitution is a heresy.
Diodorus of Tarsus, the tutor of Chrysostom, in his work on the Incarnation, ( De Oeconomid, ) may also be cited as holding the same view; as also Theodore of Mopsuesia, the most distinguished critic of the Syrian School ; ( Comment. In Evang .) The passages are given in Assemanni Biblioth. Orient . tom. iii. part. i. pp. 323,324.
Here perhaps I ought to add, that, while the doctrine of Universal Restoration was clearly held by the above-named Fathers, two even earlier Christian writers, Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, seem to have held the doctrine of the annihilation of the wicked. Justin Martyr, in his First Apology , c. viii., says indeed that the wicked will undergo “everlasting punishment;” but elsewhere, (in Dial. c. Tryph . c 5,) he plainly says, that “those who have appeared worthy of God die no more, but others are punished as long as God wills them to exist and be punished.” Irenaeus has the same language. “The Father of all,” he says, “imparts continuance for ever and ever to those who are saved; for life does not arise from us, nor from our own nature, but is bestowed according to the grace of God. He therefore who shall keep the life given to him, and render thanks to Him who imparted it, shall receive also length of days for ever and ever. But he who shall reject it, and shew himself ungrateful to his Maker, deprives himself of continuance for ever and ever.” ( Contr. Hoeres . lib. ii. c. 34. para. 3.) We find the same doctrine also in the Clementine Homilies, ( Hom . iii. 6.)
It is instructive also to notice how Augustine, the great champion of the doctrine of endless punishment, writes of those who held Universal Restoration. He says, ( De Civ . Dei , lib. xxi. c. 17.)
“And now I see I must have a gentle disputation with certain tender hearts of our own religion, who are unwilling to believe that everlasting punishment will be inflicted, either on all those whom the just Judge shall condemn to the pains of hell, or even on some of them, but who think that after certain periods of time, longer or shorter according to the proportion of their crimes, they shall be delivered out of that state.”
Augustine's “gentle disputation,” thus introduced, occupies several succeeding chapters of the same book. In chapter 18 he alludes to some of the passages, such as Psalm lxxvii. 7-9, on which these “tender hearts” rested their hopes, and to the view, then held by some, (see chapters 18, 24, and 27,) that the saints would be the instruments for saving all. His main reply, in chapter 23, is that the punishment of the wicked, according to S. Matt. xxv. 46, is as everlasting as the kingdom prepared for the righteous. The passage is worth turning to. To me one chief point of interest in it lies in the evidence it affords, that the views which Augustine combats were in his day held, and could be defended, by true Catholics, “nostri misericordes,” even in the West, and that Augustine only proposes “gently to dispute,” “pacifice disputandum,” with them. I may add that in another place also, ( Enchirid. ad Laurent . c. 29,) Augustine refers to the “very many” (imo quam plurimi,) in his day, “who, though not denying the Holy Scriptures, do not believe in endless torments.”
Even Jerome, at the end of his Commentary on Isaiah , (lib. xviii. in cap. lxvi.) could write:
“But further, those who maintain that punishment will one day come to an end, and that torments have a limit, though after long periods, use as proofs the following testimonies of Scripture:--‘When the fullness of the Gentiles shall have come in, then all Israel shall be saved;' and again, ‘God hath concluded all in unbelief, that He might have mercy upon all;' and again, ‘I will praise thee, O Lord, for Thou wast angry with me; Thou hadst turned thy face from me; but Thou hast comforted me.' The Lord Himself also says to the sinner, ‘When the fierceness of my wrath hath passed, I will heal him.' And this is what is said in another place:--‘Oh, how great is thy goodness, which Thou hast laid up for them that fear Thee.' All which testimonies of Scripture they urge in reply against us, while they earnestly assert that after certain sufferings and torments there will be restoration. All which nevertheless they allow should not now be openly told to those with whom fear yet acts as a motive, and who may be kept from sinning by the terror of punishment. But this question we ought to leave to the wisdom of God alone, whose judgments as well as mercies are by weight and measure, and who well knows whom, and how, and how long, He ought to judge.”
To these testimonies I add one more from Facundus, bishop of Hermiane, who was chosen by the bishops of Africa to represent them at Constantinople in their protest against an edict of Justinian's, which seemed to them to impugn the judgment of the Council of Chalcedon; and of whose writings Neander says, ( Church Hist . vol. iv. p. 274,) that they are “eminently characterized by qualities seldom to be met with in this age,--a freedom of spirit unshackled by human fear, and a candid, thorough criticism, superior in many respects to the prejudices of the times.” The passage is interesting too, as shewing that when Facundus wrote, other bishops besides himself regarding those who held the doctrine of the final salvation of all men to be “most holy and glorious teachers.” Facundus ( Pro defens. trium capit . lib. iv. c. 4: in Sirmondi's Opera Varia , tom. 2. p. 384. Ed. Venet. 1728,) says,
“To all this is also to be added the confession of Domitian of Galatia, formerly bishop of Ancyra . . . . For in the book which he wrote to Vigilius, where he is complaining of those who contradicted the doctrine of Origen,--who maintained that the souls of men had pre-existed in some state of blessedness before they came into bodies, and that all those who were doomed to the eternal punishment should, together with the devil and his angels, be restored to their former state of blessedness,--he says, ‘They have hastily run out to anathematize most holy and glorious teachers on account of those doctrines which have been advanced concerning pre-existence and restitution; and this indeed under pretext of Origen, but thereby anathematizing all those saints who were before and have been after him.'”
These passages shew how widely the doctrine of Universal Restoration was held in the Church during the Second, Third, Fourth, and Fifth Centuries. I will now give two or three extracts, which might easily be multiplied, as evidencing the views of many of the Fathers, not only as to God's end in punishment, and the purification of all by fire, but also as to the ministry of Christ and His elect after death to the departed.
First, as to God's end in punishment,--Clement of Alexandria ( Strom . lib. vii. cap. 16,) says, “He punishes for their good those who are punished, whether collectively or individually.” Clement continually repeats the same doctrine: see Strom . lib. i. cap. 27; lib. vii. cap. 2, and cap. 6; Paedag . lib. i. cap. 8.
So too Theodoret ( Hom. in Ezech . cap. vi. vers. 6,) says, “He shews here the reason for punishment; for the Lord, the lover of men, torments us only to cure us, that He may put a stop to the course of our iniquity. All these things, He says, I do, and bring in desolation, that I may extinguish men's madness and rage after idols.”
Than as to the baptism by fire,--Gregory of Nazianzus, in a passage where he is alluding to the Novatians, ( Orat . xxix. para. 19, p. 690. Ed. Paris. 1778,) says, “These, if they will, may go our way, which indeed is Christ's; but if not, let them go their own way. In another place perhaps they shall be baptized with fire, that last baptism, which is not only very painful, but enduring also; which eats up, as if it were hay, all defiled matter, and consumes all vanity and vice.”
So too Gregory of Nyssa ( Orat. pro Mortuis , ad. fin. p. 634, Ed. Paris. 1638,) says, “Wherefore that at the same time liberty of free-will should be left to nature and yet the evil be purged away, the wisdom of God discovered this plan, to suffer man to do what he would, that having tasted the evil which he desired, and learning by experience for what wretchedness he had bartered away the blessings he had, he might of his own will hasten back with desire to the first blessedness, . . . either being purged in this life through prayer and discipline, or after his departure hence through the furnace of cleansing fire.”
So too Ambrose, ( Serm . xx. para. 12, in Psalm . cxviii. p. 1225, Ed. Paris. 1686.) “It is necessary that all should be proved by fire, whosoever they are that desire to return to Paradise . For not in vain is it written, that, when Adam and Eve were expelled from Paradise, God placed at the outlet a flaming sword which turned every way. All therefore must pass through these fires, whether it be that Evangelist John whom the Lord so loved, . . . . or Peter, who received the keys of the kingdom of heaven, &c.”
So again, ( in Psalm . i. para. 54, p. 763, Ed. Paris. 1686,) he says, “Our Saviour has appointed two kinds of resurrection, in accordance with which John says, in the Apocalypse, ‘Blessed is he that hath part in the first resurrection'; for such come to grace without the judgment. As for those who do not come to the first, but are reserved until the second resurrection, these shall be burnt, until they fulfil their appointed times, between the first and the second resurrection; or, if they should not have fulfilled them then, they shall remain still longer in punishment.”
The same views are constantly stated by Origen; ( Hom . vi. para. 4, in Exod .; Hom . xxv. para. 6, in Num .; Hom . iii. para. 1, in Psalm . xxxvi. 14; and elsewhere;) and in more general terms by Clement of Alexandria. ( Strom . lib. vii. c. 6.)
As to the ministry of Christ and His elect after death to the departed, several of the Fathers speak very distinctly.
Clement of Alexandria ( Strom . lib. vi. cap. 6, p. 763, Ed. Potter,) says, “Wherefore the Lord preached the gospel to them also who were in hades, &c. . . . And His apostles also, as here, so there also, preached the gospel to those of the heathen who were ready to be converted.” After which immediately follows a quotation from the Shepherd of Hermas , (lib. iii. cap. 16.) to the same effect.
We have the same doctrine stated again by Clement, in the second book of the Stromata , and the ninth chapter; (p. 452, Ed. Potter;) also by Ignatius; ( Epist. ad Trall . cap. ix.) and by Irenaeus; ( Hoer . lib. iv. cap. 22.) and by Justin Martyr; ( Dial . c. Tryph . cap. 72.)
The following passage from Gieseler, ( Eccl. Hist . vol. i. para. 82,) will shew that these views have not been confined to followers of Origen. He says,--“The opinion of the indestructible capacity for reformation in all rational creatures and the finiteness of the torments of hell, was so common even in the West, and so widely diffused among opponents of Origen, that though it might not have sprung up without the influence of his school, yet it had become quite independent of it.”
My own conviction, the result of some acquaintance with the Fathers, is, that the doctrine of Universal Restitution was held by many who in their public teaching distinctly asserted endless punishment. To take the great and good Chrysostom as an example. If we only looked at his statements as to the end of punishment, we should say that he must also hold Universal Restoration. For his doctrine is, that “if punishment were an evil to the sinner, God would not have added evils to the evil;” that “all punishment is owing to His loving us, by pains to recover us and lead us to Him, and to deliver us from sin which is worse than hell.” ( Hom . ix. in Ep. ad Rom . v. 11. See also Hom . v. para. 13, de Statuis , and Hom . iii. para. 2, in Ep. ad Philem . i. 25.) Yet in his sermons he repeatedly states the doctrine of everlasting punishment; (e.g. Hom . ix. para. 1, 2, in Ep. 1. ad Cor . iii. 12; Hom . x. para. 6, in Ep . 2. ad Cor . v. 10; and Hom . viii. para. 2, in Ep . 1. ad Thess . iv. 15; &c.) His view however of what he calls an “oeconomy,” (that is some particular line of conduct, whether of God or man, pursued for the benefit of certain other persons,) that “those who are to derive benefit from an economy should be unacquainted with the course of it: otherwise the benefit of it will be lost;” ( Comment in Galat . ii. 5, 6;) and the strong feeling which he often expresses as to the evil of communicating certain higher truths to the uninitiated; (e.g. Hom . xl. para. 2, in Ep . 1. ad Cor . xv. 29; and Hom . xviii. para. 3, in Ep . 2. ad Cor . viii. 24;) go far to explain why in sermons addressed to the multitude he has spoken as he has on this subject. We know however, that, spite of his popular language as to everlasting punishment, among the accusations brought against him when he was summoned to the Synod of the Oak, one distinct charge was his Origenism. It is certainly significant, that, in his 39 th Homily on the 1 st Epistle to the Corinthians, he alludes to the opinion of those who asserted that St. Paul , in 1 Cor. xv. 28, taught an ______________________, without answering it.
So again with Ambrose. Not only are there passages, in his book De Bono Mortis , which, as it appears to me, can never be reconciled with the doctrine of never-ending punishment, but the whole drift of the book is in an entirely opposite direction. For he asserts that “death is the end of sin;” (cap. iv.) that, even with the wicked, “it is worse to live to sin than to die in sin; for, while the wicked man lives, he encreases his sin: if he dies, he ceases to sin.” (cap. vii.) The whole 4 th chapter is to prove, that “death is altogether good, as well because it is the end of sin, as because it redeemed the world.” In a word, according to Ambrose, sin is the great evil, while what we call death is God's means to deliver man from the evil; “for those who are unbelievers descend into hell, even while they live: though they seem to live with us, they are in hell.” (cap. xii.) But all this is directly opposed to the popular notion of future punishment, which regards the second death as hopeless, endless torment.
A thoughtful reader too cannot but be struck with the way in which in their controversies with the Manichees and others, who held the eternity of two opposing principles of good and evil, the advocates of the truth, that there is but One God, only prove their point either by asserting that all evil shall one day cease, or else by arguing that evil is really nothing. Thus in the Debate between Manes and Archelaus , (A.D. 277,) the truth that there is but One God, and He a good one, is only sustained against the Manichean view by the declaration that all evil may and will cease. “When,” asks Manes, (para. 17,) “will that happen which you tell of?” “I am only a man,” replies Archelaus, “and do not know what will come: nevertheless I will not leave that point without saying something on it.” He afterwards says, (para. 29,) “Therefore it (death) has an end, because it began in time; and that is true which was spoken, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.' It is plain therefore that death cannot be unbegotten, seeing that it is shewn to have both a beginning and an end.” (Routh's Reliz. Sacr . vol. v. p. 111. Ed. Oxon. 1848.) The argument of Athanasius is, that evil in its own nature is nothing. “Those things,” he says, “are, which are good: those things are not, which are evil. And good things have being, because their patterns are in God, who truly is; but evil things have not being, because, nothing in themselves, they are the fictions of men.” And again, “As a substance, and in its own nature, evil is nothing; the Creator has made all things.” ( Orat c. Gentes , c. 4, &6. Opp. tom. i. pp. 4, 6) Basil has the same doctrine:--“Evil is no real thing, but a negation or privation.” ( Hom . Quod Deus non est auctor malorum, c. 5.) Gregory of Nyssa also uses very similar language. ( Orat. Catech . c. 28.) And so too Augustine, replying to the Manichees, says, “Who is so blind as not to see that evil is that which is opposed to the nature of a thing? And by this principle is your heresy refuted; for evil, as opposed to nature, is not a nature. But you say that evil is a certain nature and substance. Then what is opposed to nature struggles against it and would destroy it. So that which exists tends to make non-existence.
For nature itself is only what is understood, after its kind, to be something. . . . If then you will consider the matter, evil consists in this very thing , namely in a defection from being, and a tendency to non-being.” ( De Moribus Manich . lib. ii. para. 2, & 3.) We find the same doctrine also in his Confessions : (lib. vii. c. 12.) But if this be so, what becomes of Augustine's doctrine of never-ending punishment, which surely is never-ending existence in evil?
So much then as to the view of some of the greatest teachers of the Early Church . After Augustine's time, partly through his great authority, but even more in consequence of the general ignorance both of Greek and Hebrew, which for centuries prevailed in the Western Church, and which kept men from reading the Scriptures in the original languages, the doctrine of Universal Restoration was well-nigh silenced in the West until the revival of learning in the 16 th century. My own impression is that the doctrine of Purgatory, properly so called, which gradually grew up from the 5 th to the 7 th century, in contradistinction to the earlier view of purifying fire held by Clement of Alexandria and Origen, was a natural result of the efforts of Augustine and others to silence the doctrine of Restitution. In the 9 th century, however, John Scotus Erigena once again, and in the most decided way, bore witness to the hope of Universal Restitution. Having at an early age visited Greece, he brought back with him into the West a system of doctrine which was the fruit of a careful study of the Greek Fathers, particularly of Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, and Maximus. For a brief but good account of this writer's teaching, I may refer the reader to Oxenham's Catholic Doctrine of the Atonement , Second Edition, pp. 151-154, or to Neander's Church History , vol. vi. pp. 254-260. Since the Reformation many of our English divines,--among the Puritans, Jeremiah White and Peter Sterry,--and in the English Church, Richard Clarke, William Law, and George Stonehouse,--in Scotland, Thomas Erskine of Linlathen and Bishop Ewing,--and among those on the Continent, Bengel, Oberlin, Hahn, and Tholuck,--have been believers in final restitution.
I may perhaps add here that it is confessed by the highest authorities of the Roman Church, that the opinion of the mitigation or intermission of the sufferings of the damned, which has been held by some, is nowhere condemned by the Catholic Church. Dr. Newman in his Grammar of Assent , p. 417, has quoted, without contradiction, and apparently with sympathy, the following passage from Petavius, ( De Angelis , ad. fin.)—“De hac damnatorum saltem hominum respiratione, nihil adhuc certi decretum est ab Ecclesia Catholica; ut propterea non temere tanquam absurda sit explodenda sanctissimorum Patrum haec opinio; quamvis a communi sensu Catholicorum hoc tempore sit aliena.”
It ought not to be forgotten also, that our English Church , having in her original Forty-two Articles had a Forty-first, declaring of “Millenarians,” that they “cast themselves headlong into a Jewish dotage,” and a Forty-second, asserting, that “All men shall not be saved at length,” within a very few years, in Elizabeth 's reign, struck out both these Articles. Surely this is not without its significance. The Creeds, which are received both by East and West, not only make no mention whatever of endless punishment, but in their declaration of “the forgiveness of sins” seem to teach a very different doctrine.
On Hebrews ii. 9, 16.
The possibility of the recovery of fallen angels is said to be absolutely negatived by the Apostle's words, in Hebrews ii. 16, that our Lord "took not on Him the nature of angels." Angels therefore, it is argued, cannot be restored.
But is it true that our Lord has never taken the nature of angels? What then is taught in such Scriptures as Gen. xxii. 15, 16; xlviii. 16; Judges vi. 12, 14, 22, 23; xiii. 21, 22; Isa. lxiii. 9; Zech. iii. 1; Mal. iii. 1; Acts vii. 38; Col. ii. 10; &c; where our Lord is shewn to have appeared before His Incarnation as an angel?
In the next place, is it true that the verse in question really says that our Lord "took not on Him the nature of angels?" To answer this we have only to turn to the Original, where (as the marginal note of our Authorized Version shews even to an English reader,) the words, translated in the Authorized Version " took not on Him the nature of ," are seem to be simply, " is not laying hold of "; the statement being, that Christ is not now laying hold of angels, but only of the seed of Abraham.
That this is the meaning may be shewn from countless passages, such for example as S. Matt. xiv. 31; S. Luke ix. 47; Acts xvi. 19; xxiii. 19; Heb. viii. 9. See also the LXX. In Gen. xxv. 26; Exod. iv. 4; and Judges xvi. 3, 21, &c. This verse therefore gives no support whatever to the doctrine based on the translation (corrected in the margin) of our Authorized English Version.
There is however a passage in the same second chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews, which, if we take what appears to have been the original reading, teaches, as Bengel and others have shewn, a very different doctrine. I allude to the 8 th and 9 th verses, where our Version reads, "that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man." It is not generally known that an older reading is, "that He should taste death for all excepting God." This is the way Ambrose, A.D. 370, quotes the verse; and long before his time, when Origen wrote, A.D. 203, this was the usual reading, though in his Commentary on S. John (tom. i. para. 40,) he allows that "in some copies," the other reading was also then to be met with. The ancient Syriac Version was also then to be met with. The ancient Syriac Version too has followed the reading ______________. The following notes on the passage, from Cornelius a Lapide,--who gives us Ambrose's exposition,--from Origen, and lastly from Bengel, shew how strong the evidence is in favor of ____________.
Cornelius a Lapide's note is as follows."______'" Which explanation of the words shews that Ambrose accepted the reading, __________ though he would draw another conclusion from it.
Origen constantly quotes the passage, with the reading ________; e.g. Comment. in Johna . tom. i. para. 40; (vol. iv. p. 41. Ed. Delarue, Paris, 1733-59;) and again tom. xxviii. para. 14, (vol. iv. pp. 392, 393.) And again in his Comment. In Epist . ad. Rom . lib. iii. para. 8; (vol. iv. p. 513.) And again lib. v. para. 7, of the same; (p. 560.) In quoting the verse in his Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans , (lib. v. para. 7. pp. 559, 560.) he says, "_______________."
NEXT--Additional Note (not contained in original manuscript)