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This difficulty is nothing more than what might rationally be expected, for it is undoubtedly true that sentiments and opinions which are erroneous, having been imbibed in youth while the mind is tender and susceptible of quick and deep impressions, frequently never cease to act in some degree on the mind while the person lives, notwithstanding, perhaps he may see cause to change the general sentiments of his mind in respect to religion.
It is a fact poticed in the scriptures, that those Jews who were converted to Christianity were superstitiously fond of the ceremonies of the law of Moses, while those who were converted from heathen idolatory, frequently retained some superstitious reverence for an idol.
Such powerful influences are by no means so easily shook off as many may imagine, and while they think they are well purged from the old leaven of the Pharisees, some tinctures may still continue to agitate the affections and to blend the mind. Under such disguised and improper influence, no reasonable doubt ought to be entertained, that in the reformation from Popery, the Protestants retained some doctrines of the Catholic church which are as characteristic of the beast as any in their whole creed ; and while the reformers paid great attention to apply the power of cleansing to the outside, too much uncleanness which lay within was passed by unnoticed.
Of all those doctrines which constitute the dark mystery of iniquity, and stand in opposition to the doctrine of the gospel of life, none can, with equal right, challenge so high a rank as that of the never-ending, unmerciful punishment above-mentioned. Should we consider this doctrine in relation to the character which it gives to the father of our spirits, it must shock the n.ind with very sensible surprise, to see those cruelties which marked the characters of heathen gods, sublimated to infinity in the merciful Jehovah whose tender mercies are over all his works. Nor does the consideration of this sentiment in relation to its effects on the human heart, any more endear it to the embrace of those affections, which having been turned into the current of gospel grace, extend a Christian charity to all mankind.
Being confident that the foregoing remarks, on the doctrine of endless punishment, are uncontrovertible in the nature of things, it is conceived to be perfectly safe to begin our examina. tion of the second death with an expectation of finding it to stand on different ground from the commonly received opinion.
If the result of the present disquisitions prove a disappoint
ment to those who are in the habit of believing in the common opinion, this disappointment must be a yery happy one, for if this result differ from the common opinion, it must of necessity, issue in something better, as it is impossible that it should in any thing worse.
As we take the scriptures for our guide, wherever this guide leads we ought to be willing to go, and by no means compel our pilots on to rocks and quicksands for the sake of gratifying notions erroneously formed.
The death of which an illustration is to be attempted, being called the ó second death” renders it necessary that we inquire, to what death is it second ?
Therefore labours on this general subject may be properly directed to ascertain,
Ist. That death to which the second death may be properly considered second. And,
2d. The second death, and its similarity to the first.
The general opinion represents those deaths as differ ent in their nature and circumstances as is possible to conceive. The first death is supposed to be the death of the body, and the second a state of never-ending misery.
The death of the body consists in a total extinction of life with all its appendages. In this situation there is no sense of desire, no sense of pain, or pleasure ; no hopes, of course no disappointment ; no love, nor fear ; in short no happiness nor misery. Second to this, it is believed that a state of positive sufferings in the eternal world is properly placed, but we think erroneously. One moment of rational reflection would suggest the greater propriety of calling the above mentioned state of punishment, the second life ; because in such a supposed state there are many appendages which bear a likeness to the life of man in this world, while there is not one which bears the least resemblance of the death of the body. The death which it seems proper to state as the first death is the apostacy of the Jewish church, which apostacy we shall find to be called or represented as a death. See St. John viii. 21, “ Then said Jesus again unto them, I go my way, and ye shall seek me and shall die in your sins : whither I go ye cannot come.” 24, “ I said, therefore, unto you, that ye shall die in your sins ; for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins." The common opinion that Christ spake in the above quotations, of the death of the body, is corrected by the 51st verse of the same chapter. “ Verily, verily, I say unto you, if a man keep my sayings, he shall never see death.” Jesus could not mean here that a man could avoid seeing the death of the body by keeping his sayings, but that a man might avoid seeing that death which those would die who did not believe in him.
Keep in mind that this death in sin is a consequence which the Saviour connects with unbelief, in the words following « For if ye believe not that I am he ye shall die in your sins." A few scriptures relating to the unbelief of the Jews, and the state of death and condemnation into which their unbelief brought them, will here be considered. St. John xii. 37-41. « But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not in him ; that the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? And to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed ? Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, he liath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart ; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory and spake of him.” Mat. xiii. 13, 14, 15. “ Therefore speak I to them in parables : because they seeing, see not : and hearing, they hear not ; neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, by hearing ye shall hear and shall not understand ; and seeing, ye shall see, and shall not perceive ; for this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed ; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them."
Rom. xi. 7-10 « What then ? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for ; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded (according as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see and ears that they shculd not hear) unto this day. And David saith, let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumbling block, and a recompence unto them : let their eyes be darkened that they may not see, and bow down their back alway." Dan. xii. 2, “ And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt."
This passage in Daniel very fitly corresponds with the words of St. Paul before quoted, “ The election hath obtained it and the rest were blinded,” the dust of the earth in which the Jewish Church was asleep, was the carnal ordinances of the law, and the added traditions by which they made the law void. St. John V. 28, 29, “ Marvel not at this ; for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in their graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” St. Mat. xxv. 46, « And they shall go away into everlasting punishment : but the righteous into life eternal.” For an illustration of the passage quoted from Daniel, that quoted from St. John v. and this in St Matthew the reader is refered to No. 2d p. 85. Those scriptures which I have quoted in this case are generally understood to refer to the same state of endless punishment which is supposed to be denominated the second death in Revelations.
But it is worthy of notice that the state of condemnation, into which unbelief brought the Jews, is never called, in scripture, the SECOND DEATH, though it is represented as a death. The plain reason is, it being a death of unbelief and apostacy under the first dispensation, or Covenant, it is the first, and not the second death.
That the state of condemnation into which the Jewish Church fell, is not a state of endless punishment, is evident from many scriptures, particularly Rom. 11. where the Apostle continues his discourse from the above quotation, “ I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall ? God forbid ; but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.” Verse 15, « For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be but life from the dead.” And more to this effect may be seen in the same chapter.
2d. The death which the scriptures represent as second to the death which has been here illustrated, is the apostacy of the Christian church, and the state of condemnation connected with it. To this subject our minds may be directed by the following scriptures. · Heb. x. 26-29. “ For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin, but a certain fearful looking for of Judgment and firey indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses' Law died without mercy under two or three witnesses : of how much soever punishment, suppose ye shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden uuder foot the Son of God, and hath counted, the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite to the spirit of Grace ?” Rom. xi. 20, 21, 22, « Well, because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not high minded, but fear : for if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.
Behold, therefore, the goodness and severity of God : on them which fell, severity ; but towards thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness : otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.” The evident meaning of the Apostle here, is, on the Jews who FELL, God's severity fell ; and if you, Gentile believers, do not continue by faith in God's goodness, you also will receive the severity of God, in being cut off, as the unbelieving Jews were broken off through unbelief. 2 Thes. ii. 3, “ Let no man deceive you by any means : for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.” St. Paul spoke of the fall of the Jews in the quotation above, and here he speaks of the falling away of the Christian church and of the setting up of the man of sin. The blessed Jesus who sowed the word of the kingdom, in the hearts of the believers, knowing that this falling away, in the then future age of the church, would take place according to the signs given under the law by the travel of the Jewish church, represented it in his usual method, by a parable. See St. Mat.' xiii. 24, 25, &c. “ Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, the kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field : but while men slept his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way, &c. 1 Tim. iv. 1, “ Now the spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils."
The first passage where the words second death occur, stands in such a connection as to render its meaning easy to understand. And it will appear, on a careful examination, not only to favour the idea which has been suggested, but to contain, argument within itself, to satisfy Christian professors, in general, that the second death does not mean a state of endless punishment. See Rev. ii. 8–11. “ And unto the Angel of the Church in Smyrna write; these things saith the first and the last, which was dead and is alive ; I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the Synagogue of satan. Fear none of those things which thou shalt sufferi: behold, the devil shalt cast some of you into prison, thạt ye may be tried ; and ye shall have tribulation ten days ; be thou faithful un