Mercy And Judgment by Canon F.W. Farrar
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MERCY AND JUDGMENT
THE OPINIONS OF MANY FATHERS, SAINTS, AND DIVINES, IN ALL AGES, HAVE BEEN MORE HOPEFUL THAN THOSE OF THE CURRENT TEACHING.
' Ip. ou mentoi eiwqasin anqrwpoi ogomazein outwV .
Sw. poteron, w Ippia, oi eidoteV h oi mh eisoteV ;
' Ip. oi polloi .
Sw. eisi d outoi oi eidoteV talhqeV, oi polloi ;
' Ip. ou dhta . - PLATO, Hippias Major.
"How often in the reading of our ecclesiastical journals and controversial writings are we reminded of the truth of the saying, 'qui pauca considerat, facile pronnunciat.' But even worse than those rash and hasty judgments is the passion which within the last few years has grown up for an organized system of religious suspicions. One is tempted to believe that amongst certain divines the old rule, 'quilibet praesumitur esse bonus, donec probetur esse malus,' is reversed in all cased where ecclesiastical orthodoxy is in dispute… It would be far better for us if we could always remember that no theologian has a right to give out a mere theological opinion on the doctrine of a particular school as an article of faith sanctioned by the Church. The great scholastic theologians maintained that it was no less heretical to declare that to be an article of faith which was not de fide, than to deny an article of faith altogether." — DOLLINGER (Speech at the Munich Congress).
In the preface to Eternal Hope *(1), I singled out four statements as forming part of the current pulpit teaching about "Hell" in this and in many previous ages; and I did not shrink from stating my belief that they were unauthorized accretions to the true doctrine; that they were unsupported by Scripture, and repugnant to reason; that they were matters of individual opinion, not parts of the Catholic faith. Those four points, which I will here arrange in a different order, were as follows: -
That the fire of "Hell" is material, and that its agonies are physical agonies.
That the doom of "everlasting damnation" is incurred by the vast majority of mankind.
That this doom is passed irreversibly at death on all who die in a state of sin.
That the duration of these material torments is necessarily endless for all who incur them.
*(1) Eternal Hope, p. xxxii.
Every one of these four opinions has been enforced for centuries by many teachers as forming part of the Church's teaching, as though they were infallibly derived from the revelation of God in Scripture. It derived from the revelation of God in Scripture. It is true that in recent times there has arisen a habit — perhaps half unconscious — of veiling them over with misty phrases; of letting it be assumed that they are held, while euphemisms are used which serve to conceal their naked horror. This course has been taken even by those who still profess to hold these opinions. But the same style has been adopted by those who would gladly repudiate them; - partly out of the principle of "oeconomy," partly from the mental inertia, which avoids meddling with current "orthodoxies," partly because men were afraid to express views which, however true and sacred, would yet be denounced by the ignorant as dangerous innovations. But it seemed to me (as I have said), that if these four propositions be indeed tenets of our faith, they ought to be incessantly obtruded by all who hold them; nay, more, that they ought to be depicted by all if not as vividly, at least as unmistakably, as they have been portrayed by such teachers as Jonathan Edwards and Mr. Spurgeon. If any religious teacher can really think as Mr. Spurgeon (for instance) appears to think about the nature of "Hell," he is only acting the part of a true man in preaching of Hell as Mr. Spurgeon has preached of it. These views, I say again, should either be held or not held. "Ay and No too," as Shakspeare taught us, "was no good divinity." If they are held, it is disgraceful not to avow them. Half-heartedness in impressing doctrines so momentous must surely be a criminal unfaithfulness. But, on the other hand, I repeat that "if, as I believe, these current opinions about 'Hell' are not tenets of our faith, they cannot be too honestly or too distinctly repudiated." *(1)
*(1) Eternal Hope, Preface, p. xiviii.
Dr. Pusey, fortunately, regarded that sentence as a challenge to Churchmen to express their present views on this subject, and he has replied to that challenge in his book, What is of Faith as to Everlasting Punishment. Although his book is an avowed answer to mine, I find myself so entirely in accordance with Dr. Pusey on every essential point — for the apparent differences between us arise, as I shall easily show, from the use of terms in different senses — that I read his Essay with unspeakable thankfulness. With the exception to which I shall immediately draw attention, Dr. Pusey has shown that the views which I repudiated are no parts of Catholic doctrine, but are, as I had said, unauthorized accretions to it; and that the general drift of what I had urged is not only tenable, not only permissible, but is in reality far nearer to the Catholic verity, far nearer to the views of the Primitive Church, than the opinions which have been repeated by the majority of post-reformation writers. To show that I am not exaggerating the amount of agreement which exists in all essential particulars between myself and the eminent theologian who answered my appeal, I may quote this sentence from one of the letters which I had the honour to receive from him: "It is a great relief to me," he says, "that you can substitute the conception of a future purification [instead of a state of probation] for those who have not utterly extinguished the grace of God in their hearts. This I think would put you in harmony with the whole of Christendom." Now I can have no sort of difficulty in accepting the view of a future "purification," instead of "future probation," because, so far as I can discover, I had scarcely even referred to the idea of probation at all, and certainly had laid no stress upon it. My sermons would never have been written had the views now authoritatively stated as those of the Church been the views which were generally taught. The differences between Dr. Pusey and myself are much smaller than those between him and the popular errors which I wrote to repudiate. Dr. Pusey has in no instance been guilty — he could not be guilty — of that misinterpretation — that suppressio veri and suggestio falsi as to my views, which I find in the criticisms of many of my reviews. "If I had had time," he says in the letter which I have already quoted, "I would have re-written my book, and would have said, You seem to me to deny nothing which I believe. You do not deny the eternal punishment of souls obstinately hard and finally impenitent. I believe in the eternal punishment of no other. Who they are God alone knows. I should have been glad to begin with what we believe in common, and so to say there is no need to theorise about a new trial." Now I have said already that "a new trial" is no essential part of my view; not directly or consciously a part of it at all. The phrases, "a new trial," and "fresh probation," are more definite than I feel entitled to employ. I can heartily accept Dr. Pusey's own words (p. 17), "How souls shall, in the long intermediate state, be prepared for the vision and justice of God we can plainly know nothing, unless God reveal it." It is remarkable that in writing to Dr. Plumptre, Cardinal Newman — whose theological knowledge no one, I imagine, will venture to dispute — uses almost the same language. "It seems to me," he says, "that you do not deny eternal punishment; but you aim at withdrawing from so awful a doom vast multitudes who have popularly been considered to fall under it. There is nothing I think, in the view of incompatible with the faith of Catholics. What we cannot accept is….that man's probation for his eternal destiny, as well as his purification, continue after this life.
Here, then, are the testimonies of two very eminent living theologians, one Roman, and one Anglican, that the views which I urged (which are substantially the same as those of my late honoured teacher, Professor Maurice, and my friend and former teacher, Dr. Plumptre), widely as they differ from the popular dogmatism, differ in no perceptible degree from those of the Universal Church. If the great Roman Catholic theologian Perrone be right in saying, "This alone is matter of faith, that there is a hell," that is a doctrine which I never denied: nay, I expressly stated my belief that there was a "hell" (i.e. a future retribution), and that I could not teach that all would ultimately be delivered from it. Those who were anathematizing my views were anathematizing a portion of the Catholic faith; those who were maintaining what I repudiated were maintaining human errors founded neither on Scripture nor on the Creeds, but on the loose sand of unauthorized inferences and perverted metaphors.
I can make this clear at once. Some part or other of all that I repudiated is practically repudiated, and all that I ever maintained is stated or implied, in almost every one of the following passages. Those who aimed their weapons at me must aim them also at every one of the ancient Saints and Fathers, and the modern divines, whom I shall proceed to quote, as expressing the truths which I have always maintained. The world and the Church may judge whether these great men are heretics in the opinions which I share with them, and which many, even of my former critics, are now anxious to adopt. Never in the history of any controversy have I witnessed so rapid a transition of popular thought through the three phases of "It is false and heretical;" *(1) "It is very possibly true;" and "We have always thought so all along." *(2)
*(1) "You cannot but have oft observed how common a practice it is with those who either cannot dispute, or begin to be tired with it, to make short work with their adversaries by calling them heretics." — BISHOP RUSE , A Short Account of Origen (The Phenix, vol. I. p. 61).
* (2) What Perrone says of Purgatory expresses exactly what I have said of future punishment: "Omnia quae ad locum, tempus, poenarum naturam et acerbitatem spectant, dogma non attingunt."
Here, then, are some of the utterances of Christians of many schools, which I accept as conceding, in one direction or other, all that is essential — all that I care for, all that I wished to maintain — in that "aeonian hope" for which I pleaded. *(1) They might be almost indefinitely multiplied, but I have referred to many similar passages in later chapters, and I have here purposely excluded the opinions of those who, like Origen in ancient times and Professor Maurice in our own, are universally known to have embraced "the larger hope." Other opinions, also leaning to milder views, will be found later on under various heads.
*(1) For the present I omit all reference to the views of the earliest Fathers, which are fully considered in pp. 234-248.
ST. CLEMENS OF ALEXANDRIA , + circ. 218. — "He saves all, but converting some by punishments, and others who follow by their own will….that every knee may bend to Him, of things in heaven and earth and under the earth." *(1)
*(1) "Non solum pro nostris peccatis Dominus propitiatio est, hoc est Fidelium, sed etiam pro toto mundo: proinde universos quidem salvat, sed alios per supplicia convertens, alios autem spontanea assequentes voluntate; et cum Honoris Dignitate, ut omne genu flectatur ei, Caelestium, Terrestrium, et Infernorum; hoc est angeli, hominess, et animae quae ante Adventum ejus de hac vita migravere temporali." — Fragm. I. Joann. (ed. Potter, p. 1009). See further, infra, pp. 243-247.
EUSEBIUS OF GAUL , + 371. — Speaking of "those worthy of temporal punishment," and referring to Matthew v. 26, he says, "In proportion to the matter of the sin will be the lingering in the passage. In proportion to the growth of the fault will be the discipline of the discerning flame; in proportion to the things which iniquity in its folly hath wrought will be the severity of the wise punishment." — De Epiph. Hom. iii.
ST. AMBROSE, + 397. — "Those who come not to the first, but are reserved for the second resurrection, shall be burned till they fill up the times between the first and second resurrection; or if they should not have fulfilled them, shall remain longer in punishment." *(1)
*(1) In Ps. i. 54. For the views of St. Ambrose, see infra, pp. 278 fg.; and see De Bono Mortis, p. 28; De Fide Resurrect. P. 33.
ST. AUGUSTINE , + 430. — "When the resurrection of the dead takes place, there will not be wanting some to whom, after the punishments which the spirits of the dead suffer, pity may grant that they be not sent into eternal fire." *(1) "Purge me in this life, and make me such that there may be no further need for the amending fire." *(2)
*(1) "Sicut etiam facta resurrectione mortuorum, non deerunt quibus post poenas, quas patiuntur spiritus mortuorum, impertiatur misericordia, ut in ignem non mittantur aeternam." — De Civ. Dei, xxi. 22.
*(2) "In hac vita purges me et talem me reddas cui jam emendatorio igne opus non sit." — In Ps. xxxvii.
On the views of St. Augustine, see infra, pp. 287 fg.; and compare,
"The carnal who are to be saved by fire." — De Civ. Dei, xvi. 24.
"In these judgments there will be some purifying judgments for some." — c. Julian. vi.15
ST. PAULINUS OF NOLA, + 431. — "That which the flame has not burnt, but proved, will be rewarded with a perpetual reward. He who hath done things which should be burned shall suffer loss, but shall himself escape safe out of the fires. Yet, wretched with the marks of his scathed body, he shall keep his life, not his glory." *(1)
*(1) "Qui concremanda gesserit, damnum feret, sed ipse salvus evolabit ignibus." — Paraphr. Ps. i.
ST. METHODIUS, 3 rd cent. — "The world shall be set on fire in order to purification and renewal….The Scriptures usually call 'destruction' the turning to the better at some future time." — De Resurrect. viii.
THEODORET, "THE BLESSED," + 458. — "For the Lord, who loves man, punishes medicinally that He may check the course of impiety." — Hom. In Ezech. vi. 6.
SIBYLLINE BOOKS. — "To them [the good] God shall grant to save mankind….For gathering each from unwearied flame, removing them elsewhere, He shall send them, for His people's sake, to a life different and aeonian to immortals." — Orac. ii. 331.
ST. ISIDORE, + 633. — "When the Lord says, 'Neither in this world nor in the world to come,' He shows that, for some, sins are there to be forgiven." *(1)
*(1) De Off. Eccl. I8. "Demonstrat quibusdam illic dimittenda peccata."
JOHANNES SCOTUS ERIGENA, + 883. — "This, however, we say, not that nature will be happy in all, but that in all it will be set free from death and misery." *(1)
*(1) De Divisone Naturae, v. 3. As Origen was one of the greatest, if not the greatest, in natural genius of all the Fathers, so Johannes Scotus Erigena was one of the greatest, if not the greatest, of all the schoolmen. He was a man who towered above the heads of all his contemporaries. As the fifth book of his De Divisione is in reality a profound and subtle argument for the universal restoration of mankind, I would have given some extracts if space had permitted. He used language which sounds like the ordinary view, but completely explains away its significance, and says that only the phantasiae of evil will be eternal in individual consciences. (De Div. Nat. v. 31.) He calls it absurd to think that Christ only saved a fraction of mankind, v. 27.
THEOPHYLACT, + 1071. — "Jesus did not say, 'Fear Him who, after He hath killed, casteth into Gehenna,' but 'hath power to cast into Gehenna.' For the sinners who die are not always cast into Gehenna; but it remains in the power of God also to pardon. He doth not, therefore, always, after He hath killed, cast into Gehenna, but hath power to cast." — Theoph. In Luc. xii. 5.
ST. ANSELM, + 1109. — "It is not just that God should altogether suffer to perish His creature which He hath made." *(1) "God demands from no sinner more than he owes; but since no one can pay as much as he owes, Christ alone paid for all more than the debt due." *(2)
*(1) Cur Deus Homo, ii. 4. The chapter is so remarkable that I here append it almost entire. "ANS. — Ex his est facile cognoscere quoniam aut hoc de humana natura perficiet Deus quod incepit, aut in vanum fecit tam sublimem naturam ad tantum bonum. At si nihil pretiosius agnoscitur Deus fecisse quam rationalem creaturam ad gaudendum de se, valde alienum est ab Eo ut ullam rationalem creaturam penitus perire sinat. BOS. — Non potest aliter putare cor rationale."
*(2) "Deus non exigit ab ullo peccatore plus quam debet." Compare the remark of Bishop Butler, that "Every one shall be equitably dealt with." "Every merciful allowance shall be made, and no more required of any one than might have been equitably expected of him." — Analogy, ii. 6.
ST. THOMAS AQUINAS, + 1274. — Referring to Ps. 1xxvi. 8, which (like all the other passages which seem to open large hopes of God's mercy in the world to come) he explains away, he still says, "This is understood of pity making some relaxation, not of pity which entirely sets free, even if it be extended to the damned. Whence David does not say, 'He will restrain His pity from,' but 'in anger,' because punishment will not be entirely taken away, but even while punishment itself continues, mercy will work by diminishing it." — Summa Theol. Suppl. Pt. iii. Qu. xcix. Art. 3.
LUTHER, + 1546. — "God forbid that I should limit the time for acquiring faith to the present life. In the depths of the divine mercy there may be opportunity to win it in the future state." — Letter to Hansen von Rechenberg, 1523. (Luther's Briefe, ii. 454.)
COELIUS SECUNDUS CURIO, + 1569, Professor of Theology at Basle . — "Whatever God wishes, that is right and lawful to Him, and since He wishes to be called rich in goodness and mercy, it follows that He wishes to pour forth His goodness and pity on the most, and not upon a few. Otherwise, why does He wish to be called Father of Mercy and God of all consolation? And envious are all who wish so great a good to belong to a few only." — De Amplitudine Beati Regni, libri duo quibus demonstratur numerum Salvandorum majorem multo futurum quam reproborum. (At p. 25 he attributes the opinion of the fewness of the saved to the devil.) *(1)
*(1) Curio was an Italian Reformer. His book is written in a tone of sincere piety, but is not a treatise of much force. Although we are now told that the doctrine that the majority are lost is no doctrine which the Church requires, Curio was generally abused and persecuted for his book. A certain Bishop Vergerius, a man apparently of questionable antecedents, accused him to the senate of Basle for teaching that men might be saved without Christ. It was easy for him to prove that the charge was false. See his defence in Schelhorn's Amoenitates Literariae, xii. 592-627.
VALENTIN WEIGEL (+1588) an orthodox mystic, inclined to Curio's position.
SUAREX, + 1617. — "Whether any one may be delivered from hell is a disputed point, and one which does not pertain to faith." — De Peccatis, Disp. Vii. 3.
SIMON EPISCOPIUS, + 1643. — "Quomodo autem Deus poenam hanc sensus, sive dolorem hunc aeternum inflicturus est Ipsi relinquendum est. Sufficit enim si dicamus Deum justissimum et sapientissimum judicem neminem puniturum praeter aut supra modum. In assignando modo Aeternitatis fruatur suo quisque judicio."
DENIS PETAU (PETAVIUS) + 1652. — "De hac damnatorum saltem hominum respiratione nihil adhuc certi decretum est ab ecclesia; ut propterea non temere tamquam absurda sit explodenda sanctissimorum Patrum haec opinio, quamvis a communi sensu Catholicorum hoc tempore sit aliena." — De Angelis, iii. ad fin.
BISHOP JEREMY TAYLOR, + 1667. — "I observe that the primitive doctors were very willing to believe that the mercy of God would find out a period to the torment of accursed souls which should be nothing but eternal destruction, called by the Scripture 'the second death'….Concerning this doctrine of theirs, so severe, and yet so moderated" (which he attributes to Justin Martyr and Irenaeus), "there is less to be objected than against the supposed fancy of Origen; for it is strange consideration to suppose an eternal torment to those to whom it was never threatened, to those who never heard of Christ….to people surprised in a single crime to those that die young in their natural follies and foolish lusts, to them that in a sudden gaiety and excessive joy, to all alike; to all infinite and eternal, even to unwarned people; and that this should be inflicted by God, who infinitely loves His creatures, who died for them, who pardons easily, and pities readily, and excuses much, and delights in our being saved, and would not have us die…."
"It is certain that God's mercies are infinite, and it is also certain that the matter of eternal torments cannot truly be understood; and when the school-men go about to reconcile the divine justice to that severity, and consider why God punishes eternally a temporal sin or a state of evil, they speak variously and uncertainly and unsatisfyingly." — Sermon on Christ's Advent of Judgment. (Works, iv. 43.) *(1)
*(1) On the views of Bishop Jeremy Taylor, see infra, p. 275.
DR. HENRY MORE, 1688. — "The sovereign of these [divine attributes] was His goodness, the summity and flower, as I may so speak, of the Divinity: and that particularly whereby the souls of men became divine….The measure of providence is the divine goodness, which has no bounds but itself, which is infinite….As much as the light exceeds the shadows, so much do the regions of happiness exceed those of sin and misery"…."But this is a marvel of marvels to me, that the goodness of God, being infinite, the effects thereof should be so narrow and finite as men commonly conceit; if there be no incapacity of the things themselves that thus straitens them. That one such share of the divine goodness should be active, but that the infinite remainder thereof, as I may so speak, silent and unactive, is a riddle, a miracle that does infinitely amaze me." — Divine Dialogues, pp. 479, 515.
RALPH CUDWORTH, + 1688. — After arguing that "no man can endure the pain of sense eternally," and that "material fire an prey only on the body," he adds, "For if you have recourse unto supernatural means, and miracles, to conserve it, then I see no reason why God may not as well change the course of nature, and work a miracle for man's salvation as well as for his destruction." — MSS. On Future Punishment (Theological Review, April, 1878).
BISHOP RUST, 1661, author of De Veritate, and successor of Bishop Jeremy Taylor, whose funeral sermon he preached: -
"Therefore we may be assured there are such reserves in God's most wise and gracious providence as will both vindicate His sovereign goodness and wisdom from all just disparagement, and take such course with and so dispose of all His creatures as they shall never be in such a condition which, all things considered, will be more eligible than never to have been.
"For certainly if He had cast His eyes to all possible conditions they [His creatures] might afterwards fall into, and seen this never-to-be-ended doom of intolerable pain and anguish of body and mind, the infinite compassionateness of His blessed nature would scarcely have given so cheerful an approbation to the works of His hands.
"I leave you to judge whether the whole subject matter in this periodical doom, the nature of that fire and its fuel, the power of a spirit incorporate, be not such as to ensure that it will be shorter than some men do; who, having got easy ways of assuring themselves it shall not be their portion, do as little pity those calamitous souls whose lot it may be, as they darkly fancy God Himself does." — "Letter concerning the Opinions of Origen." — The Phenix, i. P. 828.
BISHOP BURNET, + 1699. — "Instead of stretching the severity of justice by an inference, we may rather venture to stretch the mercy of God, since that is the attribute which of all others is most magnificently spoken of in the Scriptures; so that we ought to think of it in the largest and most comprehensive manner." — On Art. XVIII
SPENER, + 1705. — This learned and holy leader of the Pietists expressed a hope that there would be "better times" for the lost in the distant future. — Schrockh, viii. 292.
DR. WHITE, + 1712. Fellow of Trinity College , Cambridge , Preacher to the Council of State, Domestic Chaplain to Oliver Cromwell. *(1)
"As sin and death were not brought in at first, so it is certain that they shall not be the end; for grace the beginning of all, and the end must be grace also." — Restitution of All Things, p. 245.
*(1) This learned and pious divine was so disturbed by his inability to reconcile the ordinary teaching about endless torments with the goodness and love of God, that he fell into a dangerous and almost fatal sickness. "But in it, at the worst, he had a beam of divine grace darted upon his intellect with a sudden warm and lively impression, which gave him immediately a new set of thoughts concerning God and His works, and the way of His dealing with His offending creatures….And upon this he presently recovered." The account was given by himself to his publisher, John Denis, who mentions it in the preface to the edition of 1779.
SIR ISSAC NEWTON, + 1723. — "The degree and the duration of the torments of these degenerate and anti-Christian people should be no other than that which would be approved of by those angels who had ever laboured for their salvation, and that Lamb who had redeemed them with His most precious blood." — On Rev. xiv. 10, 11.
BISHOP BUTLER, + 1752. — "Virtue….is militant here, but it may combat with greater advantage hereafter….There may be scenes in eternity lasting enough, and in every way adapted to afford it a sufficient sphere of action….And….suppose all this advantageous tendency of virtue to become effect amongst one or more orders of vicious creatures in any distant scene or period throughout the universal kingdom of God; this happy effect of virtue would have a tendency, by way of example, and possibly in other ways, to amend those of them who are capable of amendment and being recovered to a just sense of virtue." — Analogy, i. 13.
"All shadow of injustice, and indeed all harsh appearances in the various economy of Providence, would be lost if we would keep in mind that every merciful allowance shall be made, and no more required of any one than what might have been equitably expected." — Analogy, ii. 6.
"Our whole nature leads us to ascribe all moral perfection to God, and to deny all imperfection of Him….And from hence we conclude that virtue must be the happiness and vice the misery of every creature, and that regularity and order and right cannot but prevail finally in a universe under His government." — Analogy, Introd.
MGR. DE PRESSY, Bishop of Boulogne, 1790 (an eminent theologian). — This passage (Matt xxv. 46), and another in Scripture (Matt. Viii. 12, "Non dixit Christus ibi erit fletus perpetuus"), "etant susceptible de plusieurs sens, il convient, ce semble, de les interpreter dans le sens le moins rigide, le plus favorable, le plus conforme a cet autre texte sacre sentite de Domino in bonitate, et a la principe du droit odia restringenda ampliandi favores."
ARCHBISHOP WAKE, + 1737. — "It may, with much more agreement to the text (Matt. Xii. 32), follow that all men, be their sins what they may, shall have grace of repentance whereby they may be pardoned in the world to come, the blasphemer against the Holy Ghost alone excepted." — Discourse of Purgatory, p. 20. (He adds that the Jews certainly believed that, in the world to come, "some sins not elsewhere remissible might be forgiven.")
DR. ISSAC WATTS, + 1748. — "There is not one place of Scripture where the word 'death', as it was first threatened in the law of innocency, necessarily signifies a certain miserable immortality of the soul either to Adam, the actual sinner, or to his posterity." — The Ruin and Decay of Mankind, Question xi.
J. A. EMERY, Superior of St. Sulpice (an eminent theologian), 1796. — "Peut-on trouver mauvais que nous rappelions des opinions innocents qui vont a nous faire exalter la misericorde de Dieu et a favoriser notre compassion pour ceux des nos freres qui ont eu le malheur de mourir dans la disgrace de Dieu." — Sur la Mitigation des Peines des Damnes.
DR. SAMUEL JOHNSON, + 1784. — "The generality of mankind are neither so obstinately wicked as to deserve everlasting punishment, nor so good as to merit being admitted into the society of the blessed spirits; and God is therefore graciously pleased to allow a middle state, where they may be purified by a certain degree of suffering." "Some of the texts of Scripture on these subjects are, as you observe, indeed strong, but they may admit of a mitigated interpretation."
MACKNIGHT, + 1800. — "Nevertheless, whether an end is to be put to their misery, and at what period, and in what manner it is to be ended, is not revealed, and rests with God alone to determine."
SCHLEIERMACHER, + 1834. — "Through the force of the Redemption a universal restoration of souls will follow." — Glaubenslehre, 163.
DR. CHALMERS, + 1847. — "There may be some mysterious conveyance, there necessarily must, as we believe, an egress be found for God's goodness to the sinner; but towards the sin there is nought in God but the most unsparing and implacable warfare." — On Matt. Viii. II.
PERRONE, 1834. — "All agree in saying that it is too violent to admit at once into heaven all those who only repented of their past evil life at the end, and who indulged too much in the sensualities of this life, since nothing defiled enters there; also it is too harsh to assign all such to eternal torments." — De Deo Creatore, p. 119, n. 7. (Comp. Dr. Newman, Development, p. 388.)
F. W. ROBERTSON, + 1853. — "He is gone….Why should we have wished him to remain a little longer? Better surely as it is. And as to the eternal question….we know of him all that we can ever know of any one removed beyond the veil which shelters the unseen from the pryings of curiosity — that he is in the hands of the wise and loving Spirit has mingled with Spirit. A child more or less loving has gone home. Unloved by his Father? Believe it who may, that will not I. " — Memoirs.
"In bodily awful intolerable torture we believe no longer. At the idea of a bodily hell we have learned to smile." — Sermons, i. 133.
DEAN ALFORD, + 1871. — "The inference every intelligent reader will draw from the face [of Christ preaching to the once-disobedient dead]: it is not purgatory; it is not universal restitution; but it is one which throws blessed light on one of the darkest enigmas of divine justice: the cases where the final doom seems infinitely out of proportion to the act which has incurred it. And….it would be presumption in us to limit the occurrence or the efficacy of this preaching….Who shall say that the blessed act was confined to them?" — On I Peter iii. 19.
CANON KINGSLEY, + 1875. — "Can these dark dogmas be true of a Father who bids us be perfect as He is, in that He sends His sun to shine on the evil and the good, and His rain on the just and unjust? Or of a Son who so loved the world that He died to save the world, - and surely not in vain?
"These questions….educated men and women of all classes and denominations — orthodox, be it remembered, as well as unorthodox — are asking, and will ask more and more until they receive an answer. And if we of the clergy cannot give them an answer which accords with their conscience and reason, if we tell them that the words of Scripture and the integral doctrines of Christianity demand the same notions of moral retribution as were current in the days when men racked criminals, burned heretics alive, and believed that every Mussulman whom they slaughtered in a crusade went straight to endless torments, - then evil times will come both for the clergy and the Christian religion for many a year henceforth." — Water of Life, p. 71.
REV. DR. GUTHRIE, + 1873. — "My belief is that in the end there will be a vastly larger number saved than we have any conception of. What sort of earthly government would that be where more than half the subjects were in prison? I cannot believe that the government of God will be like that." — Life, p. 773.
DEAN MILMAN, + 1868. — "To the eternity (endlessness) of hell torments there is and ever must be — notwithstanding the peremptory decree of dogmatic theology, and the reverential dread in many minds of tampering with what seems to be the language of the New Testament — a tacit repugnance." — History of Latin Christianity, vi. 253.
To these testimonies of good men and great theologians — most of them of unquestioned orthodoxy — of many ages down to the present day, I add the testimonies of a few out of very many eminent living divines who have spoken on these subjects in accents very different from those of the popular theology.
DR. PUSEY. — "But their minds may be more disposed to believe in a preparation of souls by which….they may cast off their slough and, amid whatever process of purifying it may please God to employ, and after whatever time, be admitted to the Beatific Vision of the All Holy God." — What is of Faith, & c. p. 121.
REV. DR. LITTLEDALE. — "The answer which the popular theology has been tendering for centuries past will not be accepted much long….I disclaim any desire to uphold that theology, which I have never aided in propagating….The popular theology is a very ineffective deterrent from sin….The Scriptures of the New Testament contain two parallel and often seemingly contradictory sets of statements as to the last things….one of which does make for popular theology, and another which more than implies a full restoration and the final victory of good over evil….An attempt was made to procure a formal condemnation of Origen's doctrines on this head….but the effort failed, and the question remains an open one to this day….There is great significance in the fact that in the simplest of our symbols, the Apostles' Creed, and in the most universal of them, the Nicaeno-Constantinopolitan, we are called on to express our belief in the life, but not in the death, to come *(1)….This view [that of 'endless torments'] puts God on a moral level with the devisers of the most savagely malignant revenge known to history — the deed known in Italy as la gran vendetta….The horror with which we read of such a crime ought to make us all careful lest we should give our assent to the teaching which predicates it, only on an infinitely vaster scale, of the just and merciful God." — Contemporary Review, 1878.
*(1) "And although the Athanasian hymn may obviously be cited adversely, it is to be noticed that it restricts itself in its closing verses to the citation of the exact words of Scripture, and does not undertake to "gloss them for us." — Id.
REV. H. B. WILSON. — "The mode, extent, and duration of future punishments were open questions in the primitive Church, and the words 'everlasting fire' [i. e. aionion pur] and similar expressions were employed by persons who formed very different and even opposite conceptions as to the nature of it." — Speech, p. 104.
CARDINAL NEWMAN. — "It seems to me that you do not deny eternal punishment, but you aim at withdrawing from so awful a doom vast multitudes who have popularly been considered to fall under it, and to substitute for it in their case a purgatorial punishment extending (as in the case of the antediluvians) through long ages; at the same time avoiding the word 'purgatory,' because of its associations. There is nothing, I think, in this view incompatible with the faith of Catholics." — Letter to Dr. Plumptre, July 26, 1871, Contemporary Review.
BISHOP MARTENSEN OF SEELAND, 1870. — "As no soul leaves this present existence in a fully complete and prepared state, we must suppose that there is an Intermediate State, a realm of progressive development, in which souls are prepared and matured for the last judgment….The intermediate state, in a purely spiritual sense must be a purgatory determined for the purifying of the soul." — Christliche Dogmatik, 276, on Der Mittelsustand in Todtenreich.
REV. J. LLEWELLYN DAVIES. — "Whether there is no such a thing as an ultimate extremity of 'eternal death,' who shall say? What we are now concerned with is this, that the dissolution of the body is nowhere spoken of as the beginning or as the fixing of this state. It belongs to this life, in which escape and forgiveness are possible, as well as to the next." — Forgiveness after Death, p. 6.
BISHOP FORBES OF BRECHIN, 1868. — "The deep instincts of humanity, combined of pity and of justice, demand a belief in some punishment, but deprecate eternal punishment in the case of many who go out of this world; there such teaching as has been cited from the Early Church comes in to our aid. Nay, not such as these poor outcasts only, whom men have most in their eyes and their minds, because their sins are more tangible and coarse, but — and even yet more than these — rich and educated men and women who have more light than they, yet who, to outward appearance, live mere natural lives, immersed in worldliness, yet not altogether, it is hoped, separated from God, are, as they are, seemingly ripe neither for heaven nor for hell." — On the Articles, ii. 343.
"The true doctrine of which the opinion condemned in Article XXII. is an exaggeration and excess, is founded on the tenderest and deepest sympathies of our common human nature. Mankind will not endure the thought that, at the moment of death, all concern for those loved ones who are riven from us by death comes to an end. Nay, we go so far as to say that….though death puts an end to each man's probation, so far as he is concerned yet the Infinite Love pursues the soul beyond the grave, and there has dealings with it." — On the Articles, ii. 311.
BISHOP MOORHOUSE OF MELBOURNE . — "The 41 st and 42 nd Articles (against Millenarians and Universalism) were withdrawn because the Church knowing that men like Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and Tertullian were Millenarians, and men like Origen, Clemens of Alexandria, and Gregory of Nyssa were Universalists, refused to dogmatise on such questions. From these facts it appears to me that we are entitled to draw three important conclusions: First, we are at liberty to think and teach about the future of the wicked as we believe that Holy Scripture teaches us. Secondly, varying interpretations are not only allowable, but inevitable, upon mere matters of opinion. Thirdly, if perchance we hold 'the larger hope', as I will not conceal from you that for twenty years and more I have done, we shall yet be ready to acknowledge the obscurity which surrounds it, and the right of any of our brethren to think and teach differently from ourselves." — Speech before Church Assembly, September 17, 1878.
DEAN CHURCH. — "I should be disloyal to Him whom I believe in as the Lord of Truth if I doubted that honest seeking should at last find Him. Even if it do not find Him here, man's destiny stops not at the grave, and many, we may be sure, will know Him there who did not know Him here."
DEAN STANLEY. — "To Gregory of Nyssa, and through him to the Council of Constantinople, the clause which speaks of 'the life of the world to come' must have included the hope that the Divine justice and mercy are not controlled by the power of evil, that sin is not eternal, and that in that 'world to come' punishment will be corrective and not final, and will be ordered by a Love and Justice, the height and depth of which it is beyond the narrow thoughts of man to conceive." — Christian Institutions, p. 335.
REV. PROFESSOR CHALLIS, M.A., F.R.S. *(1) — "May it not hence (from the phrase aionia kolasis) be argued that, as among men the punishment of the guilty has not for its purpose the infliction of pain and penalty, but rather is the means employed to the end that laws may be obeyed, so the end of divine punishment is for correction, and for giving effect to and establishing the law of universal righteousness?" — Scriptural Doctrine of Immortality, p. 71.
*(1) Plumian Professor of Astronomy, Cambridge .
REV. PROFESSOR PLUMPTRE, D.D. — "Does this imply that repentance, and therefore pardon, may come in the state that follows death? We know not, and ask questions that we cannot answer; but the words at least check the harsh dogmatic answer in the negative. If one sin only is excluded from forgiveness in that coming age — the darkness behind the veil is lit up with at least a gleam of hope." — On Matt. xii. 32 (in Bishop Ellicott's Commentary).
ARCHDEACON REICHEL, D.D. — "With this assurance [that Christ is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world], and with the hope that it holds out in prospect; with this converging testimony of three of the apostles, men so different, and yet all coinciding on this point, let us console ourselves….looking forward to that final stage in the divine government when death itself shall be abolished….and when, God being All in All, the whole creation shall rest on the never-ending fruition of the divine." — Sermon in St. Patrick's, June 28, 1877.
GUILLAUME MONOD. — "L'entendez-vous, chretiens? Le Juge du monde est l'Agneau qui porte le peche du monde; sa colere c'est la colere de l'Agneau. Que nous faut-il de plus? O mon ame, sois tranquille et attends en paix le jour des vengeances eternelles. C'est le jour de Christ, et ce sont les vengeances de Christ. C'est donc un jour de salut, et ce sont des vengeances d'amour. Juge du monde parais et frappe tes ennemis; ils tomberont a tes pieds, aneantis, aneantis par l'amour; et a leur place il ne se trouvera plus que des chretiens pleurant sur leurs crimes et sur tes douleurs, et repentant avec tout l'univers: Dieu est amour." — Le Jugement dernier, p. 28.
REV. PROFESSOR J. B. MAJOR. — "It is impossible for one who has learnt that the end of punishment, when it passes beyond the elementary stage of self-preservation, is not revenge, but reformation, to believe that divine punishment can be conducted on lower principles than men have attained to; it is impossible for one who has learnt that goodness cannot be happy in presence of the vice and misery of others, except in so far as it may hope to convert the vicious and to comfort the miserable; it is impossible for such a one to believe in the happiness of heaven co-existing with the sin and misery of hell." — Contemporary Review, vol. xxxii. 1878.
"CHURCH AND WORLD," i. 246 (a book presented by Bishop Wilberforce to Convocation in 1866). — "The Church has never in any way indicated for how many, or for how few, eternal punishment may be reserved; and the doctrine of purgatory, or rather any doctrine of purgatory, covers and indefinite portion of the ground on which the subject can be discussed. It was first brought before me by the death of a school girl about twelve years old….There was nothing about her indicating any devotion of the soul to God, yet the notion that she was gone to endless torment was utterly inadmissible….Reunited Christendom will one day, no doubt, define the doctrine more categorically, and probably the legitimate development of the truth contained in Our Lord's descent into hell will furnish a solution to all difficulties."
A. J. BERESFORD-HOPE, M.A., M.P. — "All reason all experience, all Scripture, unite in the teaching that the Divine work of teaching goes on behind as well as before the veil." — Contemporary Review, vol. xxxii. 1878.
REV. T. GRIFFITH, Prebendary of St. Paul's. — After quoting Is. xxv. 6, 1xv. 17-25, Hos. xiii. 14, Rom. viii. 26, I Cor. xv. 25, 53, Eph i. 9, Col. i. 20, he adds, "All things are perfect in their type. But they shall be carried on at last into perfect harmony with their original idea. The evil, therefore, which now marks them is subordinate to their ultimate perfectionments. And then cometh the end; when the Son shall have subdued all things to the Father; when He shall have put down all opposing rule and authority and power; when He shall have negatived the negatives, and reconciled the antagonism through which things travel onwards to their ultimate affirmation and harmony; when the whole scheme of the Father for all His creatures shall reach its consummation, and God Himself be all in all." — Fundamentals, p. 212.
These passages, I say, represent all for which I have pleaded, and sometimes even more. They are taken from very different writers, and from writers who, even on this subject, probably differed very widely from each other. This only renders them more valuable as showing the great common basis of Eternal Hope — that is of Hope for a future World — by which they were all at least so far animated that the utterance of their hearts at their best and loftiest moments in some instances even led them to say more than they would have always ventured to formulate in their systematic creeds. I quote their authority, not as proving the truth of the views which they have expressed, but only as proving that those views may be held, and in all ages have been held, not only in abditis fidei but openly, by great teachers and faithful Christians. I do not think that one of the passages which I have quoted accords with the crude tenets of the popular theology.
I might even produce an array of the very great and eminent authorities — Saints and Fathers and Bishops and Archbishops and eminent Divines — who have gone very much farther than I have done, and have pleaded for far more definite results, - some of them indicating the ultimate extinction of the wicked, some implying a belief in the ultimate deliverance of all.
Again I repeat I am not a Universalist. If I could see in Scripture, or in any source of divine teaching, grounds sufficiently decisive to authorize my conscience to embrace that blessed hope for all, I would embrace it with all my heart, and with unspeakable gratitude. Any man who would not do so — any man who would wish that any should perish, were it possible to save them — must have a mind utterly alien from that of Him whose mercy endureth for ever — whose tender mercies are over all His works — who loveth not the death of a sinner — who willeth all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth — who while we were yet sinners sent His Son to die for us. Yet however intensely a good and holy man would grasp at such a hope — however fiend-like must be the nature of that theologian who would not so grasp it, could he see it to be permissible *(1) — yet, while I reverently cherish every word and sentence of Scripture which seems to open to all some distant gleam of possible deliverance; - while I cling to the hope that the restitution of all things, and the aeon wherein, as Scripture tells us, God shall be "all things in all," may have a wider meaning than men have thought, - yet, out of reverence for those other words of Scripture which seem to throw uncertainty on such an expectation; and also out of perplexity respecting the present existence of misery and evil; and further out of inability to judge of the possible power of resistance in man's free will; and lastly out of willingness to respect the preponderant opinion of Christian divines, - I have never been able to say, even in my most secret thoughts, that I believe that every single soul of man will ultimately be saved. The Church has never in any Catholic Creed categorically condemned that view; nor has she ever excluded from her pale those who have held it or leaned to it; nor (as I shall try to prove) has she ever repudiated it in any oecumenical decree. Far be it from me, then, to echo the fierce invectives of those who, unlike St. Augustine , have raved rather than written against these "our party of pity." I cannot embrace the hopes of the Universalists; but I am not called upon to utter a fervid Amen if others like to hurl against them either the Damnamus of Augsburg or the Anathema of Trent. For consider these utterances — few out of many which I might adduce — of men who held the positions of pillars of the Church, and who in all ages have asked, uncondemned, for mitigations far larger than those for which I have asked of the "terrible decree" of popular Calvinism, or of its partial survival in the current teaching.
*(1) "He is not a Christian, he is not a man, he hath put off the tenderness and bowels of a man, he hath lost humanity itself, he hath no so much charity as Dives expressed in hell that cannot readily cry out 'This is good news if it be true'" — JER. WHITE, Restoration of All Things, p. 9.
ST. GREGORY OF NYSSA, + 395. — Among other passages to the same effect, he speaks of Christ by His Incarnation "freeing both mankind from their wickedness, and healing the very inventor of wickedness" i.e. the devil. *(1)
*(1) Orat. Catechet. 26. ton te anqrwpon thV kakiaV eleuqerwn kai auton ton thV kakiaV eurethn
iwmenoV. - For further remarks on his teaching, see intra, pp. 255-262.
"For it is necessary that at some time the evil should be removed utterly and entirely from the realm of being….For since by its very nature evil cannot exist apart from free choice, when all free choice becomes in the power of God, shall not evil advance to utter abolition, so that no receptacle for it at all be left?" — Dial. De Anim. Et Resurrect. *(1)
*(1) crh gar panth kai pantwV exaireqhnai pote to kakon ek tou ontoV....epeidh gar exw thV proairesewV h kakia einai fusin ouk ecei, otan pasa uroairesiV en ty Qey genhtai eiV pantelh ajanismon h kakia mh cwrhsei gy mhden authV apoleifqhnai doceion; - De Anim. Et Resurrect. (Opp. ii. 661.)
"Since, however, it is necessary that the stains which have been implanted into the soul from sin, should be taken away by some process of healing, therefore in the present life the medicine of virtue is applied to it for the healing of such wounds; but if it remains unhealed, the healing is reserved in the life beyond." — Orat. Catech. *(1)
*(1) epeidh creia tou kakeinhV taV emfueiaV ex amartiwn khlidaV dia tinoV iatreiaV exaireqhnai toutou eneken en men th paroushzwh to thV arethV farmakon eiV qerapeian twn toioutwn proseteqh traumatwn, ei de aqera-peutoV menei en ty meta tauta biw tamieuetai h qerapeia. - Or. Catechet. 8. (Opp. ii. 493.)
ST. GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS, + 389. — "Perhaps there they [who go their own way, not Christ's] shall be baptized with fire, the last baptism, and more laborious, and more enduring, which devoureth what is coarse like hay, and consumeth the lightness of all evil." — Orat. xxxix. I. *(1)
*(1) Dr. Pusey says that the allusion to I Cor. iii. 13, and so to temporary punishment, is manifest; but Chrysostom, Jerome, Photius, Theophylact, &c., understood the passage of the fires of hell. — See Petav. l. c.
"I know also of a fire, not cleansing, but also punishing; whether that fire of Sodom which God raineth on all sinners, or that which was reserved for the devil and his angels, or that which goeth before the face of the Lord, and which burns up His enemies, and that which is more formidable than these, which is joined with the sleepless tortures, which is not quenched, but is unending throughout eternity with the wicked. For all these belong to destructive power, unless any one wishes to understand them too in a milder way, and worthily of Him who punisheth." — Orat. xl. *(1)
*(1) Oida kai pur ou kaqarthrion alla kolasthrion eite kai Sodomitikon k.t.l. panta gar tauta afanistikhd esti dunamewV ei mh ty filon kan-taiqa noein touto filanqrwpoteron kai tou kolazuntoV epaxiwV. Both the Benedictine editors and Dr. Pusey (p. 212), try to explain away the obvious expression of a possible hope involved in these last words; but Petavius frankly says (iii. 7, 14) that "it is manifest that in this place St. Gregory is speaking of the punishments of the damned, and doubted whether they would be eternal, or rather to be estimated in accordance with the mercy of God, so as at some time to be terminated." And this language is very remarkable, because if this last sentence had not been added the passage would have been always quoted as a most decisive proof that this eminently great Father and theologian held, without any modification, the severest form of the doctrine of endless torments. For the views of the Gregories, see infra, pp. 249-262.
"VERY MANY" (NONNULLI IMMO QUAMPLURIMI). — At. Augustine, while meeting them with arguments singularly inconclusive, admits that "some, nay, very many, with human feelings compassionate the eternal punishment of the damned, and their continual torments without intermission, and so believe not that it will take place — not indeed in the way of opposing themselves to the divine Scriptures, but by softening, according to their own feelings, all the hard sayings, and by turning into a more gentle meaning such things in them as they think to be said rather to excite terror than as though true. For 'God forgetteth not, they say, to be gracious, neither will He in His anger shut up His tender mercies.'" [After trying to explain away the force of this text, St. Augustine adds] "But they may judge, if this pleases them, that 'the pains of the damned are at certain intervals of time in some measure mitigated.'" — Enchiridion, c. III.
ST. JEROME , + 420. — "As we believe that the torments of the devil, and of all demons, and of the impious who have said in their heart that there is no God, are eternal, so of sinners, and of the impious who are still Christians, whose works are to be proved and purged in the fire, we think that the judge's sentence will be moderate and mingled with clemency." — In. Is. *(1)
*(1) "Sic peccatorum atque impiorum et tamen Christianorum quorum opera in igne probanda sunt atque purganda, moderatam arbitramur et mixtam clementiae sententiam judicis." — Jer. In fin. Comment. In Esaiam.
"If however Origen denies that reasonable creatures are to be destroyed, and attributes penitence to the devil, what is that to us, who say that the devil and his servants, and the impious, perish eternally, and that Christians, if they have been overtaken by death, are to be saved after punishments?" — In Pelag. *(1)
*(1) Heiron. In Pelag. I. On the Views of St. Jerome, see further, infra, pp. 281-287.
ST. MARTIN, + 397 (QUOTED BY SULPICIUS SEVERUS, De Vita B. Martini, p. 488, ed. 1647). — Addressing the devil, St. Martin is reported to have said, "If thou thyself, O wretched one, wouldst desist from the persecution of man, and wouldst even now repent of thy deeds when the Day of Judgment is very near, I, with true assurance in the Lord, would promise to thee the pity of Christ."
[This is an anticipation by centuries of Burns's famous, "Oh, wad y tak' a thocht and men'! Ye aiblins might — I dinna ken — Still hae a stake —", except that the mediaeval saint speaks with far more confidence than the Ayrshire ploughman.]
PETER LOMBARD, + 1160. — "That some sins are remitted after this life, Christ shows in the Gospel (Matt. xii. 32). Whence it may be understood, as holy doctors teach, that some sins are pardoned in the future….But in that cleansing fire some are purged more slowly some more speedily, according as they have loved those perishing things less or more…..Those who build gold, silver, precious stones, are secure from either fire: not only from that eternal fire which will torture the impious for ever, but even from that fire of emendation in which some will be purged who are to be saved." — Sentent. iv. Dict. xxi. A.B.
During the middle ages the hopes afforded by the doctrine of Purgatory sufficed, amid "the deep slumber of decided opinions," to make men tolerate the lurid pictures of "Hell," as Dante, for instance paints them. Yet both St. Thomas Aquinas and Durandus shows us that, even in their day, absolute Universalism was not unknown. It was the opinion of the school of Gilbert of Poictiers (St. Thos. Aqu. Sent. iv. 45, 2) and "aliquorum juristarum" (Durandus).
ARCHBISHOP TILLOSTSON, + 1694. — "It can in no sense be said to agree with the justice of God to punish temporary crimes with eternal punishments, because if justice preserves a proportion between offences, between temporal sins and eternal punishments, there can be no manner of proportion. And if it be so hard to reconcile this with the justice of God, it will be much more to explain how it can possible consist with that infinite mercy and goodness which we so much ascribe to Him." — Serm. xxv. *(1)
*(1) His view was that God reserves a right to withdraw His own threatenings, as very remarkably in Jonah iv. II; and all the more because His promises are also understood quite conditionally. — Num. xiv. 34; I Sam. ii. 30.
RICHARD COPPIN, + 1655. — "God hath declared in Scripture, both by the mouths of the prophets and apostles, the salvation of all men, without respect of persons (I Tim. ii. 4-6). Thus we may say, 'Lord who hath resisted Thy will? Let Thy will be done.' Paul says that as by one man death came to all, so by One life and salvation to all; else Christ were not sufficient to save all that Adam lost." — Truth's Testimony.
J. ALFORD, M. A., FELLOW OF ORIEL, 1644. — The title of the book was The Church Triumphant, a comfortable treatise of the amplitude and largeness of Christ's kingdom; wherein is proved by Scripture and Reason that the number of the damned is inferior to that of the elect.
GERARD WINSTANLEY, + 1669. — "He will dwell in the whole creation in time, and so deliver all mankind out of their fall." — Mystery of God, p. 9.
R. STAFORD, + 1693. — "'With righteousness shall He judge the world, and the people with equity' (Ps. 1xxxix. 9). Now equity is a mild thing which doth state, moderate, and adjust a matter. And then after all God will reserve mercy even after judgment and condemnation; for that is its proper place (Is. 1vii. 18, Rom. Xi. 32)." — Some thoughts of the Life to Come.
BISHOP STILLINGFLEET, + 1699. — "Comminations do only speak the delictum poenae and the necessary obligation to punishment; but therein God doth not bind Himself as in absolute promises: the reason is because commination confers no right to any which absolute promises do, and therefore God is not bound to necessary performance of what He threatens." — Ol. Sacr. i. 222.
REV. DR. THOMAS BURNET (MASTER OF THE CHARGTERHOUSE, AUTHOR OF THE Theory of the Earth), + 1715. — "Several things have occurred to me…by which I am sensible that others have been persuaded, as well as myself, that God neither wills nor can endure the perpetual affliction and torment of His own creatures." — De Statu Mortuorum, p. 343.
DISSERTATION ON FUTURE PUNISHMENTS (printed with Barrow's Sermons and Fragments in 1834). — "It has never been well resolved to the satisfaction of human understanding how such temporal offences as are committed by men in this world under so many temptations and infirmities of nature…should be justly punishable with an eternity of extreme torments, which is a severity of justice far above all severity of cruelty in the worst of men….The doctrine has so plain an appearance of repugnancy to the essential goodness of God, and is by human reason so hardly reconcilable thereto, that it is not to be accepted on less terms than plain demonstration from Scripture." [This treatise, Whether the damned after the last judgment shall live in everlasting torments, or be utterly destroyed, - in which the author accepts the latter alternative — is not Barrow's and he was unconvinced by it; but in the margin he calls it "admodum ingeniosus, dilucidus, et candidus."]
DR. DODDRIDGE, + 1751. — "We cannot pretend to decide a priori, or previous to the event, so far as to say that the punishments of hell must and will be certainly eternal." — Theolog. Lect. Prop. I and 3.
BENGEL, + 1752. — "Ut sit Deus omnia in omnibus. Significatur hic novum quiddam sed idem summum et perenne. Omnia (adeoque omnes) sine ulla interpellatione, nulla creatura obstante, nullo hoste obturbante, erunt subordinata Filio, Filius Patri. Hoc peloV est, hic finis, et apex." — Gnomon, p. 760.
BISHOP NEWTON, + 1761. — "Nothing is more contrarient to the divine nature and attributes than for God to bestow existence on any beings whose destiny He foreknows must terminate in wretchedness without recover." — Dissert. On the Final State of Man.
WILLIAM LAW, 1766 (AUTHOR OF THE Serious Call). — "As for the purification of all human nature either in this world or some after ages, I fully believe it." — Letters, p. 175.
"Every number of destroyed sinners must, through the all-working, all-redeeming love of God, which never ceaseth, come at last to know that they had lost, and have found again, such a God of love as this."
REV. CAPEL BERROW, M.A., RECTOR OF ROSINGTON, 1772. — "The endless misery of the majority cannot be made reconcilable with any one attribute of the Deity whatever." — Theolog. Dissert. P. II.
J. A. EBERHARD, 1778, PROFESSOR OF PHILOSOPHY AT HALLE . — "Punishment, being an evil, cannot be employed by a good Being unless for ends whose goodness is greater than the evils, and which could not be obtained without inflicting them. God punishes not for the common good only, but also for the reform of the sufferer, which being accomplished, punishment has no further use." — Neue Apologie der Sokrates.
ARCHDEACON PALEY, + 1805. — At college he proposed as a thesis to be supported, "Aeternitas poenarum contradicit divines attributes." The Master of his college, Dr. Thomas, Dean of Ely, took alarm, and by the advice of Bishop Watson he inserted into the thesis the word non. Yet the books which he praises and the expressions which he uses, show that he differed from the popular theology, and he ends his Natural Theology by bidding us all to await death "under a firm and settled persuasion that, living and dying, we are God's; that life is passed in His constant presence; that death resigns us to His merciful dispensations." He also says, "It has been said that it can never be a just economy of Providence to admit one part of mankind into heaven and condemn the other to hell, since there must be very little to choose between the worst man who is received into heaven and the worst man who is excluded. And how know we, it might be answered, but that there may be as little to choose in their conditions?" — Moral Philosophy, i. 7.
REV. DR. HEY (NORRISIAN PROFESSOR OF DIVINITY, CAMBRIDGE ), + 1815. — He expresses a hope "that all men will be happy ultimately, when punishment has done its work in reforming principles and conduct" (Lectures, iii. 154). And again, "The mind of man seeketh for some resource, and finds one only in conceiving that some temporary punishment after death may purify the soul from its moral pollution, and make it at last acceptable to a Deity infinitely pure."
DR. JOHN YOUNG (AUTHOR OF Creator and Creation). — "With great reverence I venture to express the conviction that if the Great Being foreknew…that eternal misery, conscious suffering, would be the doom of even a single creature, it is incredible that He would have given existence to that creature." He calls such a notion as "endless conscious suffering" "Inconceivable and unendurable by any sound and sane conscience."
DR. CHEYNE, + 1742. — "Some individuals may be delivered sooner, some later, according as their expiation and purification is perfected; and at last the whole system and all its inhabitants must naturally and necessarily, but harmoniously and analogically, and according to general laws, undergo some great and general crise, and an universal gaol-delivery will be brought about, but when and how this will be accomplished is beyond conjecture." — Discourses, p. 27
BISHOP EQING, + 1873. — "With me this final victory [of good over evil] is not a matter of speculation at all, but of absolute faith; and to disbelieve it would be for me to cease altogether either to trust or to worship God."
PROF. REUSS. — "If the highest glory consists in being all in all, it is plain that it would be a flaw in the perfection of God were He anything less than this; it would be a detraction from His glory if in some, and those the greater number of mankind, He should be nothing. In religion, conscience, no less than the logical sense, protests against any such imperfection in God and in the system." — Theologie Chretienne, ii. 239.
CANON WESTCOTT, D.D. — "'And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto Me' (John xii. 32). All men: the phrase must not be limited in any way. It cannot mean merely 'Gentiles as well as Jews', or 'the elect', or 'all who believe'. We must receive it as it stands (Rom. V. 18, viii. 32; 2 Cor. V. 15; Eph. I. 10; I Tim ii. 6; Heb. Ii. 9, 6; I John ii. 2). The remarkable reading 'all things' ( ponta, Vulg. omnia) points to a still wider application of Redemption (Col. I. 20)." — Speaker's Commentary, New Test. ii. 183.
REV. S. MINTON, M.A. — "We reject that tradition of man which has obscured the glory of Christ, reduced to an unmeaning form the doctrine that God is Love, produced a frightful amount of infidelity, robbed the Law of its terrors by making it threaten sinners with what they are sure will never be executed, incalculably weakened the saving power of the Gospel, and damaged the believer's whole spiritual constitution by putting upon it an unnatural strain that God never intended it to bear." — Unworthy of Eternal Life, p. 29.
REV. PREBENDARY CONSTABLE, M.A. — "The foundation of this theory" [that future punishment consisted of eternal life spent in eternal pain] "was a mere fancy, that which gave continuity to its parts was but a rope of sand." — Future Punishment, p. 9.
Such views are by no means confined to theologians of the Romish and Anglican Churches. They have been openly held, and are still held, in one form or other by some of the most learned and eloquent divines of Nonconformist communities.
Thus, among the Baptists, the REV. S. COX, Editor of the Expositor and of the Expositor's Notebook, writes in his keen and able book, Salvator Mundi: - "The main object of this book is to encourage those who 'faintly trust the larger hope' to commit themselves to it wholly and fearlessly, by showing them that they have ample warrant for it in the Scriptures of the New Testament."
Again, the REV. J. BALDWIN BROWN, who recently was President of the Independent Conference: "And now that we are emerging from the terrible shadow of the doctrine, we look with a shudder, and ask ourselves how was it possible that Christian men should believe it, and should connect such unutterable horrors with the administration of a Being who has given to us in Calvary the measure of His love." — Contemp. Rev. i. P. 162.
The REV. R. W. DALE of Birmingham , the vigorous and thoughtful leader of the Independents in that town, says: - "The traditional theory of the endlessness of sin and of suffering has lost its authority….The appeal to fear is being silently dropped. Augustine said that it very seldom or never happens that a man comes to believe in Christ except under the influence of terror. This sweeping statement….is flagrantly inconsistent with all that we know of the rise of Christian faith and hope in the souls of men in our own times." — Preface to Dr. Petavel, p. 7.
REV. T. P. FORSYTH, M.A., another able and eloquent Con greg ationalist, says: - "Punish a man for his sins, that is just: punish him for ages…that may be just: but make no end of punishing him for that sin reduce him from a man to a devil, let him become for ever vile, that is not just. The only justice to a sinner in a case like our human one is mercy, is to make his punishment finite according to his works…and of such a nature as not simply to torment the man, but to drive him back to the way of God."
The REV. EDWARD WHITE, the devout and thoughtful author of Life in Christ, writes: - "It is vain to deny that the honest belief of misery to last through Eternity upon all the unsaved…endangers the faith of every thoughtful Christian who accepts it." — Life in Christ, p. 463.
The REV. HENRY ALLON, D.D., writes: - "It does not follow, however, that finality of moral condition implies unending being or unending consciousness of retribution. There is no moral necessity to suppose this, while both the finality and the symbolism are such as would probably find their adequate interpretation in the simple idea of finality — the ending of sin and of sinful being: whether by the natural cessation of the latter — which seems the most plausible — or by other processes, we are not told." — Contemporary Review. *(1)
*(1) Many other names, as for instance that of Dr. Parker, might be added.
Once again, similar views are expressed, often extending into Universalism and Conditional Immorality, by an ever-increasing number of theologians and pastors in the Reformed Churches of Europe, and also among the Roman Catholics, to whom however the belief in Purgatory has supplied a sensible mitigation of the full horrors of our popular theology.
Thus M. Guillaume Monod, the venerable brother of Adolphe Monod, has for twenty years preached that all men would be saved. *(1) Pere Ravignan (+ 1858), one of the most eloquent preachers in France, advocated views in accordance with my own, and said that they predominate even in the Society of Jesus. The leading preacher in the French Protestant Church has adopted similar opinions. That the view of "conditional immortality" is now almost universally prominent among the members of that Church, was clearly shown in their synod at Marseilles in October, 1880. Dr. Ernest Petavel advocates the immortality of the blessed alone. The theological faculty of Neuchatel teaches in their text-book of instruction that "the condition of a portion of the lost will finally become tolerable." Neander, Tholuck, Ritschl, Hase, Schulz, Gess, Olshausen, Rothe, Reuss, Bishop Martensen *(2), are but a few out of many who have seen and maintained the absolute necessity of supplementing by the views of earlier Christian ages the crude negations of the Reformation Eschatology. Dr. Carl Nitzsch, the well-known author of the System of Christian Doctrine, says, "The idea of eternal damnation and punishment is in so far a necessary one that there cannot be in eternity any forced holiness of the personal being, or any blessed unholiness. On the other hand there is no foundation for assuming that the truth of God's Word and the kingdom of God itself need the existence of beings everlastingly condemned, or that God should maintain the existence of a personal being in eternity in order to deprive him of the possibility of eternal holiness and blessedness." — System, p. 219.
*(1) See an extract from one of his sermons, supra, p. 37.
*(2) For Professors Schulz of Gottingen , and Gess of Breslau, see Byse's French translation of Mr. White's Life in Christ, pp. xviii. And xx. For the views of Ravignan see his Conferences, ii. 521, and Allies' Journal in France , p. 279.
Whether any of the great writers whom I have quoted, living or dead, may have desired their words to be understood with any modifications, I cannot tell. I only say that these passages, many of them from divines of unimpeachable orthodoxy, and deeply reverenced both in the English, Roman, and other churches, have not hesitated, in these passages at any rate, to express a hope which is often even wider and more universal than that for which I argued. Saints and theologians have repudiated all that I repudiated, and have claimed far more than I saw my way to claim in the way of hope for suffering men.
I will now adduce a few other passages which express that belief in the final annihilation of the wicked which is generally known by the name of "Conditional Immortality." This, again, is a view which I cannot accept. I believe, as the Church in all ages with few exceptions seems to have believed, that the soul of man is endowed by God with immortality. I would indeed as a matter of choice be infinitely less terrible to suppose that extinction rather than that endless torment will be the fate of the obstinately wicked; and I fully admit that the literal and inferential meaning of many Scriptural passages seems at first sight to point in the direction of this opinion. I will not here enter into any discussion of it, because it lies apart from the view with which I am directly concerned. For it must be borne in mind that I have never professed to be writing a systematic treatise on Eschatology, but have only tried to separate from Christian eschatology the human additions and inventions by which it is defaced, and to show that it has been surrounded by elements of hopelessness and horror which are not sanctioned by the teaching of Scripture or of the Church. Now the "Annihilationists" hold that the soul is not immortal, and that the agonies of retribution will end for all, because extinction of being will be the fate of the finally impenitent. I, on the other hand, believe that the soul is by the will of God immortal, and have never denied the possibility of even an endless and a hopeless alienation from the peace of God. But without accepting their positive conclusion, I agree with many of their negative results. Believing that much of the popular eschatology is founded on misinterpretation, I feel confirmed in that opinion by seeing how many devout, able, and earnest men have come to the same conclusion, and are unable to accept as Scriptural the "hell" of the Revivalist.
The following then are a few passages out of many in which Christian writers imply, or seem to imply, the final annihilation of the wicked, - a belief which, though uncatholic, has been held by many eminent thinkers, and is now maintained by many thousands of Christians. The fact that so many hold it unchallenged in the bosom of various Christian Churches shows at any rate that the evidence for the popular views of endless torments is not so decisive as to enable any Christian body to demand a belief in them as a part of its necessary faith.
Letter to DIOGNETUS. [Early in 2 nd Century.] — "Thou shalt fear what is truly death, which is reserved for those condemned to the aeonian fire, which shall afflict those committed to it till the end" ( mecri telouV). - Cap. x.
ST. JUSTIN MARTYR, + 167. — "The righteous, being worthy to appear before God, shall not die any more, and the evil shall be punished so long as it shall please God that they exist and be punished." — Dial. Cum Tryph. C. 5. *(1)
*(1) See infra. Pp. 235-238.
ARNOBIUS, + circ. 303. — "This is man's real death — this which leaves nothing behind."
JOHN LOCKE, + 1704. — "By death some men understand endless torments in hell-fire. But it seems a strange way of understanding a law which requires the plainest and directest words that by death should be meant eternal life in misery. Can any one be supposed to intend by a law which says, 'For felony thou shalt surely die,' not that he should lost his life, but be kept alive in exquisite and perpetual torments?"
ARCHBISHOP NEWCOME, + 1800. — "Whatever sentiments thinking men, intimately acquainted with the Scriptures, entertain on this subject, whether that God will for ever inflict a positive punishment on the wicked; or that after a punishment exactly proportioned to their offence He will annihilate them; or that a privation of being by fire will be the mode of everlasting destruction with which He will punish them, revelation is express that their punishment will be dreadful, and coeval with their existence." — Character of Christ.
WHITBY , + 1726. — "This fire may be called eternal, not that the bodies of the wicked shall be for ever burning in it, and never be consumed by it, since this cannot be done without a constant miracle, but because it shall so entirely consume their bodies as that they shall never subsist again, but shall perish and be destroyed for ever by it." — On 2 Thess. (Comment. On the Epistles, p. 391, Ed. 1700.)
DR. ISSAC WATTS, + 1748. — "Who can say whether the word death might be fairly construed to extend to the utter destruction of the…life of the soul, as well as of the body?" — World to Come.
S. T. COLERIDGE, + 1834. — "I am confident that the doctrine (of Conditional Immortality) would be a far stronger motive than the present; for no man will believe eternal misery of himself, but millions would admit that if they did not mend their lives they would be undeserving of living for ever."
OLSHAUSEN, + 1839. — "The Bible knows nothing of the modern dogma of the immortality of the soul…on the contrary, God is called there He who alone hath immortality."
DR. C. J. NITZSCH, + 1844. — "The soul, being dependent on the Creator, does not possess immortality. As sin increases the soul faces destruction in hell and its death. Matt. x. 28; Rev. xx. 15." — System of Christian Doctrine, 122.
ARCHBISHOP WHATELY, + 1863. — "As the effect of worms or fire is not to preserve the body they prey upon, but to destroy and put an end to it, it would follow, if the correspondence hold good, that the fire, figuratively so-called, which is prepared for the condemned, is something that is really to destroy and put an end to them, and is called everlasting and unquenchable to denote that they are not to be saved under it, but that their destruction is to be final." — Lectures on a Future State .
DR. R. ROTHE, + 1870. — "Only one conclusion remains. We are obliged to admit that the sufferings endured in hell by the reprobate will in reality end, but that the end will consist in the destruction of the guilty. This idea is very ancient in the Church…This opinion alone seems capable of satisfying all the conditions. It has nothing to fear from contemporary philosophy, for men have ceased to maintain that the human soul possesses a natural immortality." — Dogmatik, iii. 158.
DR. THOMSON, ARCHBISHOP OF YORK . — "Life to the godless must be the beginning of destruction, since nothing but God and that which pleases Him can permanently exist." — Bampton Lectures, p. 56.
Here then I have collected upwards of one hundred passages from writers of all ages — many of them of the highest eminence — who have lived and died in full communion with the Catholic Church, and who yet use language more or less entirely irreconcilable with the popular theology. And yet numerous as these passages are they do not represent a tithe of those which might have been adduced. Subsequent chapters will, however, prove still more convincingly that even the Fathers and the Schoolmen held doctrines more tenable and more merciful than those which too many of our modern preachers have inculcated — "teaching for doctrine the commandments of men." *(1)
*(1) On p. 24, I have given rather the sense than the words of Luther. He says: "Das ware wohl ein ander Frag, ob Gott etlichen im Sterben oder nach dem Sterben, den Glauben konnt geben, und also durch den Glauben konnt selig machen? Wer wollt darin zweifeln, dass er das thun kunne?"
*** END OF CHAPTER II ***