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Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1833, BY LUCIUS R. PAIGE,
in the Clerk's office of the District Court of Massachusetts.
MANY passages occur, in the New Testament, which, by some, are understood to indicate endless. misery in the future life, and, by others, to indicate severe temporal judgments in the present life. In their interpretations of these passages, Universalists have been accused of wresting the Scriptures from their true import. And, not unfrequently, it has been remarked, that, if Universalists are correct in their expositions, it is unaccountable, that some of the pious and learned divines of the last two centuries should not have discovered the true meaning of the controverted passages. I do not mean that any reputable critic has urged this apology for an argument: but it is a favorite theme with many laymen; and some clergymen have not hesitated to adopt this expedient, to persuade their hearers that the views, exhibited of the Scriptures by Universalists, must necessarily be false; and that they are adopted and defended, merely to give some semblance of support to a favorite theory.
To remove this objection, and to exhibit the
true state of the case, is the principal object of the following pages. It will be discovered that these pious and learned divines, although they believed in the endless misery of the wicked, have yet given interpretations of the Scriptures similar to those now given by Universalists. Hence it follows that the charge, alleged against Universalists, of thus interpreting Scripture, merely to support a favorite theory, is unfounded and unjust; for orthodox commentators have given the same interpretations, in spite of their own theory.
Of course, it is not pretended that any one orthodox commentator explains every disputed text in accordance with the views entertained by Universalists. But among them all, some have furnished us authority on every text of this description, with a very few exceptions; some furnishing authority on one text, some on another.
It is proper to observe, in this place, that I would not be understood to adopt, as correct, all the expositions contained in the body of this work. The quotations are introduced, on each text, with reference to a single point; to wit, does this text teach or imply a state of misery in the future life, or does it not? When any commentator allows that it does not, I consider him to be proper authority to quote, in confirmation of the exposition given by Universalists, even though they do not agree with him in regard to what the text does mean. I will illustrate my meaning, by a single example. By referring to the notes on Rev. vi. 12
-17, it will be seen that Hammond and Lightfoot interpret the passage as descriptive of the 'destruction of Jerusalem and the whole Jewish state;' the authors of the Assembly's Annotations think it relates to the troubles that were to befall the Roman empire;' while Clarke says that all these things may literally apply to the final destruction of Jerusalem, and to the revolution which took place in the Roman empire under Constantine the Great.' Clarke adds, 'some apply them to the day of judgment; but they do not seem to have that awful event in view.' These writers differ among themselves concerning the precise meaning of the passage; but they agree that it is descriptive of events which should be accomplished on the earth, and that it does not refer to the future life. Without deciding which is correct, in regard to the point in which they differ, and even without necessarily adopting either opinion as correct, I quote their authority in relation only to the point before mentioned,—does this passage teach or imply a state of misery in the future life, or does it not? They all agree that it does not, and declare that it has especial reference to temporal concerns, not having what is called the day of general judgment in view. So much may suffice to show the propriety of agreeing with these commentators in relation to what a text does not mean, even though we may disagree in relation to what it does mean. I only add, that, in a large majority of cases, the interpretations quoted in this work are precise
ly the same which are now given by Universalists; and which, when so given, are by some of our opposers, stigmatized as foul heresy.
I have not given a full illustration of the passages quoted, according to the views which generally obtain among Universalists.* I have omitted doing this, for two reasons: (1) such a course would have very considerably increased the size, and, consequently, the expense of the book; (2) my object was, not so much to prove the correctness of our views, as to show that they are not novel; that they are not the effect of an overweening desire to support a theory, even at the expense of reason and common sense; but that our opposers themselves have given the same or similar interpretations, when their own theory was not allowed to influence their judgment. I know the opinions quoted are only the opinions of men; that they do not furnish positive proof that we are correct in our expositions of scripture: but a very strong, even a violent, presumptive evidence is furnished, when men, who firmly believe in the endless misery of the wicked, interpret a given passage to relate, not to such misery, but to some temporal judgment or calamity, notwithstanding their creed and their prejudices, so far as they operate, would induce a different interpretation.
I have taken the liberty to omit the Greek
The Universalist's Guide,' by Rev. Thomas Whittemore, recently published, occupies this ground. It is a very valuable work, and should be in the hands of every Universalist.