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6). Now, if anything can be meant by Christ preaching to “the spirits in prison, which sometime were disobedient,” and these as far back as the days of Noah;-and, if anything can be meant by preaching the gospel “to them that are dead,” I ask—what can that meaning be? It cannot, surely, be meant, that the gospel is to be preached to such as are in the prison of hell, if they are not “prisoners of hope"—if hell is to be their portion through absolute eternity? No: why preach the gospel to them : it is, we are told, “that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.” And when he speaks of Christ having, after his resurrection, “gone into heaven, (chapter iii. 22.) angels, and authorities, and powers, being made subject unto him,” there is evidently something more meant by such a range of expression, than the partial subjection that is generally conceded to him. We are assured, of a time, when “God shall wipe away tears from off all faces,”—when “there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away.” And this same Apostle (Peter), refering to that happy period, bids us, “according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness,” after the reconciliation, (2 Peter iii. 13).
It will be allowed, on all hands, that if any one of the apostles drank more deep than another of the spirit of his divine Lord and Master, that apostle was JOHN. Let us hear, then, what he says about universal redemption.
“These things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and he is the propitiation for our sins,"—and least any should appropriate this to themselves, and exclude others, he adds, “and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world,” (chapter ii. 1). Again; “We have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world,” (chapter iv. 14). And, again; “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested that he might destroy the works of the devil,” (chapter iii. 8). It is impossible that any modern universalist, were he to take the whole range of the vocabulary for words to express himself in favour of his doctrine—It is impossible, I say, to frame words more strong, or better suited to his purpose than the above. But not only are these expressions sufficient to settle the point in question, but the whole tenor of his epistles is just preaching and illustrating the doctrine, namely, that “ GoD Is LovE;"—not occasionally, but uniformly;—not partially, but universally. He tells us that “Love is of God,” and bids us “try the spirits whether they are of God.” And it is just as we find that we are like unto God, in love and benevolence, that “We know that we have passed from death unto life;” for, “every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God,” (chapters iii. 14.—iv. 7.) “And this commandment have we received of him, that he who loveth God love his brother also,” (chapter iv. 21). Now, he never can command us to love any whom he hates. Therefore, as he has commanded us to “love all men,” even “our enemies”—“to do good unto all,” &c. so will He as assuredly do. Again:
In the short epistle of JUDE we read that “the angels who kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains, under darkness, unto the judgement of the great day. Even as Sodom and Gommorrah, and the cities about them,” &c. “are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire,” Now, it appears, that nothing more is meant by “eternal fire” here, than that fire which reduced their cities and their bodies to ashes, and which was kept smoking forages, “for an example" to the surrounding nations. But in whatever way you may take it—whether in regard to earth or hell—time or eternity, it still can make nothing against universal redemption: for we are told that those very Sodomites shall “return to their former estate,” after having suffered, (Ezek. xvi. 55).
It is also remarkable that Jude here classes the devils, or “angels who kept not their first estate,” with the Sodomites, thus:— “he hath reserved,” &c. “unto the judgement of the great day: even as Sodom and Gommorrah,” &c. (verses 6, 7). Now, if Sodom and Gommorrah are to be restored, we have ground, from this passage, as also from others already noticed, to believe that they also (the angels that sinned) shall be “restored to their former estate.” And it is worthy of remark how this opinion is strengthened by the following passage in verse 9, “Michael, the archangel, when contending with the devil, durst not bring against him a railing accusation; but said, the Lord rebuke thee.” We are assured that sin shall not go unpunished; but we are no less assured that the sinner shall be saved: For even when this Apostle says (verse 14.) “Behold the Lord cometh with ten thousand of his saints, to execute judgement upon all"—notice what follows, “to convince all that are ungodly among them, of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed.” So that the issue of this judgement is conviction, and salvation.
We are now come, by a cursory survey, to the REVELATION OF SAINT JOHN, the last book in the canon of scripture. Many are the volumes that have been published upon this prophecy, and not a few of them to very little purpose. It is written in such a mystical strain, that for any person to attempt any thing like an explanation of the book, in general, would be to “darken counsel by words without knowledge." Of this, however, I am fully convinced, that the greater part of this book, which is written in such strong and awful language, and which is generally held to refer to a future state, refers, in reality, only to this life. Things, only temporal, are often held, in consequence of the strong and figurative language of scripture, to refer to another state. In this opinion I am fully supported, by many parts of scripture, as I have already shown. In the vision of the horses, for instance (chapter ix. 17.) we read, that “out of their mouths issued fire, and smoke, and brimstone;” and of “them that sat on them, having breast plates of fire, and of jacinth, and brimstone.” And (verse 18.) “By these three was the third part of men killed, by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the brimstone.” These figures, “fire and brimstone,” &c. are only meant to represent temporal calamities: and that they refer only to this life, is plain, from what follows (verse 20.) “And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues, yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and wood,” &c. Now, as we cannot imagine there will be any worshipping of such idols in hell, these expressions must refer to this life. I might cite many passages, in support of this opinion, did my limits permit, but I must not enlarge.
In chapter i. 5. we have Jesus represented as “The faithful witness, the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth,”—all in a general way; there are, here, no exceptions. And it follows (verse 13.) “Behold he cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see him, and they also who pierced him; and all kindreds
of the earth shall wail because of him.—Even so, Amen.” To s
this wailing, I also add my Amen:—But when I do so, I look at Psal. xxii. 27. and similar passages; also at Zech. xii. 10. and others similar; and then I can see such wailing fraught with salvation to the subjects of it, and rob God of none of his attributes, as you do. For, upon your principles, you cannot add your Amen to their wailing, neither in the true spirit of christian philanthropy, nor without robbing God of his darling attribute,_No. “Your Amen carries with it their never-ending damnation. Holding such sentiments, I should like to know what you would make of the following passage (chapter v. 18.) “And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them,” (can words be framed to comprehend, more universally, the whole creation?) “heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever. And the four beasts (or living creatures), said, Amen.” To this I also say, Amen;–but you cannot, unless you admit the doctrine contained in the passage, namely—universal redemption. Pause a little, I beseech you, and consider whether you may not really believe this passage. Why, I again ask you, should “you be found to fight even against God?” Again:— We read in chapter xx. 13. that “the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them;” and it follows, next verse, “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire.” Now, if death and hell are to deliver zip their dead, and themselves to be “cast into the lake of fire,” is not the reign of death and hell at an end?—How say you, then, that they shall reign eternally? We are told that “The last enemy that shall be destroyed, is death,” “Then shall be brought to pass, the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.” And then the triumphant exclamation, “O death, where is thy sting?” &c. But to return;– After we have death and hell cast into the lake, it follows (chapter xxi. 3.) “Behold the tabernacle of God is with men.” Here, the expression “with men,” is quite universal; there is no exception, in that term. The term “men” includes all. And behold what follows, in the next verse, “and there shall be no more death.” That death will be utterly abolished, is not only declared but repeated, and re-repeated, and yet, in the very face of these declarations, you will assert, that death will never cease to reign!—but to return to the passage. “There shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain.” They are all at an end; and, why? “for the former things are passed away—Behold, I make all things new.” But I conjure you to attend to the concluding sentence—“THESE words ARE TRUE AND FAITH FUL." And, remember, also, that it is said (chapter xxii. 19.) “If any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life;" or (as in the margin), “from the tree of life.” Whatever be the nature of this taking away, it is a threatening, to be feared, and ought to caution us against doing away with the force or meaning of any passage of scripture, or of modelling it to suit our systems.
From the survey we have taken, both of the Old and New Testaments, nothing appears to be more plain (as I have frequently remarked), than the election of a certain number from amongst mankind—not to the exclusion of the rest, but as the first fruits, or pledge of the whole. The children of Israel were chosen, of old, to represent his elect people, in all succeeding ages. These are represented, in this book of Revelation (chapter xiv. 3.) as the “sealed of God,” or, “the hundred and forty and four thousand which were redeemed from among men, being the first fruits unto God, and to the Lamb.” In chapter vii. we have the sealing of each tribe, twelve thousand, making a total of an hundred and forty and four thousand “redeemed from among men.” These are represented (chapter xiv. 1.) as standing on Mount Zion, with the Lamb, “having his Father's name written in their foreheads." And, respecting the “new song before the throne," it is said (verse 3.) “no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand which were redeemed from the earth.” These, evidently, refer to his elect, sealed, or chosen people. But mark what follows, in the very next verse, after the sealing of the last tribe of the elect (verse 9.) “After this, I beheld, and lo, a great multitude which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands.”
Here then we have, first, the particular redemption of the “elect,” the “sealed of God,” the “redeemed from the earth,” the “first fruits,” &c. represented by a certain number, namely, “an hun