A Letter To G. V. Wigram,

Containing Brief Comments on “The Reply of Philomath to the Brief Scriptural Evidence on the Doctrine of Eternal Punishment for Plain People”

Montpellier, March 22nd, 1848.

My dear Wigram,

The pamphlet you have sent me has a voice, which, though it may be in a disagreeable way, has given me pleasure. For it surely proves that my tract has taken effect; and the effort to undo the testimony is so utter a failure, that it confirms me in the conviction that the Lord was with me in the matter of the publication. I have been even much struck with the way in which some very important points acquire new weight by the utter inability to meet them. I return you a notice of the tract, in case you should have need for any one: of course, I pass by all the abuse.

As to the tract of W. B., noticed in the first page, Mr. Seabrook should have explained, that it denies entirely every doctrine and every principle which he holds on the subject. It teaches that death and destruction involve the cessation of existence, and that no man has life out of Christ, and that, unless men are saved by being regenerated in this life, they perish totally and entirely when the judgment comes—exist no longer. Its principle is entirely the contrary of Mr. S.’s, of universal salvation. They are one only in rejecting the doctrines of scripture. W. B. has not been honest in his book; he speaks of immortality as if scripture spoke of it in passages where he knows full well the word means the incorruptibility of the body, of which he has himself given the evidence in his tract. In the Lord’s mercy, the progress of the error was arrested. I had answered the tract, and left my answer, on going abroad, to be printed. The publication having been stayed in my absence, at the instance of a friend of W. B., because I had noticed the want of honesty; when returned, I found the progress of the doctrine so completely dropped, that I found it needless to print the reply.

As to the force of the texts strung together, I leave it still to every honest, simple mind. In page 5 of Mr. S.’s tract I note the remark, that age, in Matthew 8 (aion in the singular) is used for a specific period—this age. I believe it is; but my previous remark, called mystification, is the whole matter. The fact that the judgment spoken of in that passage takes place at the end of this age, does not in the smallest degree affect the duration of the punishment to which that judgment sentences the guilty. They are cast at the end of this age, by the sentence pronounced, into a furnace of fire, where is wailing and gnashing of teeth.

As regards the second paragraph, I was not aware that the writer went so far in error as he does. He tells us that the eternal life here spoken of is a reward life. Now I read in scripture that eternal (aionios) life is the gift of God, not the reward of works, though its full enjoyment may close and crown them. As to the persons referred to in Matthew 25, I believe they are the Gentiles living on the earth when the Lord comes. What then? What has that to do with the duration of the punishment inflicted on them? They are unbelievers and believers, as I judge, and the third class are the messengers from among the Jewish people, as I apprehend; their reception of them, as bringing the word of testimony, the Lord considers as being equivalent to receiving Himself, though they, on receiving graciously the messenger, were unaware that the Lord took it as done to Himself. That was all they were ignorant of: and what has that to say to the duration of the punishment of the goats, who also were ignorant that, in rejecting the messenger, they would be treated as rejecting the Lord Himself? Otherwise, note, the special privilege called eternal life is obtained by natural kind conduct, with no real motive which refers to Christ at all; for they acted in ignorance of what they were about and that which merited eternal life, which redemption does not acquire for any one. Mr. S. says, page 6, “It is not said, everlasting torment”; but the only other time kolasis is used, it is translated torment in the English version, and rightly enough, though punishment be equally well given as the sense here. Mr. S. says, the word is age-lasting punishment. That is easily said; it is what I positively deny: his business is to prove, not to say it. I shall quote farther on some passages to shew that it cannot be assumed to be so. Next he says, as minister of the circumcision, the Lord refers to Isaiah 66. This is an unhappy remark, because the Lord positively declares that this applies to Gentiles, and His throne as Son of man: “He shall gather before him all nations,” or all the Gentiles. The judgment of the Jews was closed in Matthew 24:31.

My next remark, on which Mr. S. comments in page 6, I repeat, as of an importance which no cavil can touch. John 5:29 contrasts a resurrection to life and a resurrection to judgment; and that resurrection to judgment is not at the beginning of the millennium, so as to last that age, but at the end, when Christ on the great white throne judges the dead, when the millennial age is over, and after which Christ gives up the kingdom, that God may be all in all, when without are dogs and murderers, etc. Judgment at the close of all is contrasted with a resurrection to life. Mr. S. says, We know full well that there are those who will be justified in judgment. The answer is, The word of God says no man living will. Those who believe in Jesus will not come into judgment (for that is the word, as Mr. S. justly insists in John 5). The passage in Psalm 143 is not cited in Romans 3, nor is it an unconverted person out of Christ. “No man living,” comprises all men, without exception. If God entered into judgment with them, they would be condemned. Moreover, the Psalmist speaks of a pious and converted man, who felt the holiness of God: “Enter not into judgment with thy servant.” “My soul thirsteth after thee as a thirsty land.” “Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God.” In a word, the whole psalm shews that the divine life was unquestionably there. It is not the present state of all men, but as far as possible from it; and because he was not in that state, he knew that no man living could be justified. And mark, that eternal life is not the term used in this passage; resurrection to judgment is contrasted with resurrection to life. Further, life and death are not God’s holy contrasts here at all, but life and judgment: some are raised for life, and some for judgment: if raised for judgment, they are clearly alive. But scripture does not speak of life merely in this low physical sense—does not use it as meaning that men are not dead. “She that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth.” Living men are “dead in trespasses and sins”; and “to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son shall not see life.” And I beg the reader to remember and bear this in mind, because a great handle is made of it without any foundation. As I have based nothing on any use of hades or sheol (pp. 8, 9), I have nothing to add on the subject, nor have I any views that hell is always used for hell-fire, for hell is used for it sometimes. But here I have a more serious remark to make on the statements of Mr. Seabrook. “Hell-fire,” he says, “is always spoken of as the fire of gehenna, and of bodies.” Now the very text that Mr. S. quotes particularly insists on the contrary. Both do in sense, but one of them in terms. Matthew 10:28: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell.” What can I say of this being referred to, to prove that hell (gehenna) only refers to bodies? The reader will readily see that the same emphasis is found in sense in Luke 12:5. I have said nothing of hades as a ground of argument; Mr. S. has of gehenna, of which the reader must judge for himself. Mr. S. is mistaken in saying, I have not read or thought; but it requires no comment.

His statement on the work of Christ goes far to satisfy me of the unsoundness of his views on it; and for this reason— the entire silence as to substitution or bearing of sins. Universalists always base redemption-efficacy on the Person of Christ, to the exclusion of the bearing of sins. Mr. Seabrook seems to me to do the same here; he speaks of the essentially divine character, and a work equal to His Person, but declares, which I beg earnestly the reader to note, that there is no forgiveness of the punishment of sins, but only the gift of life, as the forgiveness of Adam’s own sin; but that, as regards sins, “God will render to every man according to his works,” and “Jews and Gentiles are said to be punished according to their misdeeds.” “There is no remitting the punishment for personal sinful actions to any one.” “Adam was punished before he died, but the wages of his own transgression brought death, both personal and relative.” What does ours bring? What does it deserve? Do our sins deserve the wrath of God? or, if we are all punished for our sins, and “the Bible never speaks of forgiving or remitting the punishment for personal, sinful actions to any one, for God will render to every man according to his works,” “Jews and Gentiles being punished according to their misdeeds” —if this be so, why did the Lord not only lay on Christ the iniquity of us all, but He was “bruised for our iniquities, wounded for our transgressions; the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed”? Why is it said, He shall bear their iniquities? Why does Peter, referring to this passage, say, “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree”? And why is the remission of sins, not of sin merely, the grand primary declaration of the gospel, and the free gift, of many offences unto justification, in contrast with the unity of Adam’s one act, which brought in death? “For the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift of many offences unto justification.”

But it is not true, that it was by Adam’s sin to the exclusion of ours that death reigns; for the apostle says, “and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” And James 1:15 declares the universal effect of it in man. Now, as to remission of sins. Let the reader take his Bible, and read Matthew 26:28; Mark 1:4; ch. 3:28, 29; Luke 1:77; ch. 3:3; ch. 5:20. So Matthew 18 and the whole parable, which is very instructive on this point; ch. 24:47; Acts 2:38; ch. 5:31; ch. 10:43, ch. 13:38; ch. 26:18; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14; Hebrews 1:3; ch. 10:2, 12; 1 John 1:9. Let me beg the reader to consult these passages, and he will soon see what place this capital truth holds in the testimony of the gospel, which Mr. S. here boldly denies. See also as to the fruit of personal sin, even as to temporary death, 2 Samuel 12:13. Mr. S.’s statement has no sense, but I suppose it is merely a mistake: “the sin of fallen nature, which is death.” When he says, the wages of the sin is death, his translation is wrong, and the usual one right. He must know that abstract nouns have the article in Greek, and have not in such a sentence in English. The authorized translation is perfectly correct—“The wages of sin is death.”

But let the reader well note what this Universalist doctrine, which pretends to exalt God’s love, ends in (and I suppose Mr. S. has “read, thought, and enquired about it”)—total silence as to substitution, and total omission of the doctrine of Christ’s bearing sins, and consequent denial of the forgiveness of them, as every man is to be punished according to his misdeeds. And then, reader, if so, what have they deserved? It is clearer and clearer that this doctrine is not Christianity, though Christians may fall into it.

As to what follows in page n, I beg the reader’s attention. The attempt to get rid of the doctrine of eternal punishment is sought to be sustained by declaring that the Greek word, aionios, so translated, does not mean eternal, in the common sense of the word, but millennial. This, of course, puzzles people. I did not avoid the question. Their whole system depends on it. If eternal does mean what we all take it to mean, their system is a cruel and wicked deception of the enemy. And now watch the result. I challenge the advocates of the error to produce a single passage which proves that aionios means millennial. There are about seventy passages in the New Testament, in which the word is used. They cannot produce one! Yet all their system depends on this. Mr. S., to get out of the difficulty, calls it carnal, and asks me to produce one which contradicts it. Surely, when they affirm a word means something, and their system depends on its having this meaning, their business is to produce a passage which proves it. The absence of this meaning is the whole point. It might have any other meaning possible; that would make no difference. It has not that meaning which is necessary to their system: it rests with them to prove it has. Who ever thought that scripture was written to contradict false meanings given to words? Universalists build a false system on the meanings of a word, declaring that others have mistaken its meaning. They are challenged to produce one which proves it has the meaning they allege, and they cannot. I have no need to bring one to contradict it. They must prove what they allege.

But now, reader, I go farther, and I will produce a great many which contradict their assertion, and prove that aionios does mean eternal in the common sense of it. Indeed, I had done so already.

2 Corinthians 4:18: “The things which are seen are temporal” the things which are not seen are eternal.” That is, not temporal, nor merely millennial, nor for an age, nor for many ages merely, but not temporal, nor for time. The visible are proskeira, for a time; the invisible, aionia, eternal, not for a time: if the word aionios meant millennial, that would be for a time too. Aionios does not mean, and is not, millennial, but eternal in the plain sense of the word. So in 2 Corinthians 5:1: “We have an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” Philemon 15: “For perhaps he therefore departed from thee for a season, that thou shouldest receive him for ever,” aionion, eternally again contrasted with for a season. Hebrews 13:20: “Through the blood of the everlasting covenant.” The efficacy of Christ’s blood (according to, or in the power of which, He was raised from the dead) I suppose lasts longer than the millennium. So Hebrews 9:12: “He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.” Is it only for a thousand years Christ has obtained redemption for us? And mark here, it is not eternal glory, or men might cavil about its being the vestibule to the universal happiness which followed, but eternal redemption. Again, Hebrews 9:14: “Who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God.” By no possible artifice can eternal be made to mean and to be millennial here. Romans 16:26: “According to the commandment of the everlasting [aionion] God.” Here again the application of the term millennial would be blasphemous nonsense. Further, more particularly as to life, aionial life does not mean millennial life, though those who possess eternal life now will no doubt be in millennial glory. See 1 John 1:1, 2: “That which our hands have handled of the Word of life. For [and] the life was [has been] manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us.” That is, Christ, as He was with the Father, and as He was seen in the world, was eternal life. This expression certainly, therefore, does not refer to the millennial state, but to something far more essential, fundamental, and important, blessed as that state may be and surely is.

Again, “God hath given to us eternal [aionion] life, and that life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life “(1 John 5:11,12). Here again it is evident as to our possession of it, that it is impossible to distinguish eternal life from the possession of life in the Son; that life is eternal life. He that has the Son has life in the Son, eternal life, for He is eternal life (v. 20); and he that has not that, has no life at all spiritually. The distinction of eternal life being millennial is utterly false. Christ is the true God and eternal life. In John 3:36 we have the same truth, that Christ is life—eternal life; and that he that has not eternal life has none, and never will have, stated in a negative, that is, in the strongest manner. “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting fife; but he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.” It is impossible to state it in a more absolute universal manner—“He shall not see life.” In other cases, as Jude 7, “Suffering the vengeance of eternal fire,” there is no pretence for making it mean millennial. So in 1 Timothy 6:16, “To whom be honour and power everlasting [aionion].” These passages positively contradict the statement, that “eternal” means and is the millennial glory. I might add many more, as the case of the ruler (Mark 10:17); he did not think of millennial glory.

As regards what follows, it is a pity that Mr. S. has not given the passages in which life is connected with world. That eternal is said to belong only to the sheep, believers, the elect, etc., is perfectly true, and (as Mr. S. has failed to produce a single passage which proves that eternal means millennial) very important too. But he has forgotten that life itself is declared not to belong to any others—that they “shall not see life.” Mr. S. tells us “that where life is used in connection with world, eternal [aionios] is not once prefixed.” The reader would perhaps suppose that the scripture speaks often of life in connection with the world. Just twice, and both in the same passage—John 6:33, 51. I have searched under zoe and zoopoieo (life and quickening); and I find only these. If the reader will take the trouble to read the passage from verse 26, he will see that eternal life is expressly in question— only that Christ does not confine it to the Jews, amongst whom He was, but, as universally in the Gospel of St. John, extends the object of His coming to the world. See John 1:4, 7, 9 (the limit of efficacy is given in verse 12, compare verse 21); ch. 3:16, 17, 19. The limitation to faith is in the same passage, and eternal life contrasted with perishing and condemnation; for the distinction between life and eternal life is utterly futile. See John 3:36; ch. 4:42; ch. 6:27 (see also ch. 12:32, where it is expressly referred to the present bearing of the cross); ch. 14:31; ch. 15:18, 19; ch. 16:8, 20:28; ch. 17:18,21,23,25; where again, though the world is the object, the distinction is carefully maintained between the bearing and sphere “of the testimony and the reception of it. “The world hath not known thee, but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me”: so, “I pray for them, I pray not for the world.” (Compare also John 1:10, 5.) Hence, John 6:33, the Lord says He came down from heaven to give life unto the world, but He adds, “But I said unto you, that ye also have seen me, and believe not. All that the Father giveth me shall come to me. And this is the Father’s will that sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.” All that the Father had given then to Jesus would come to Him and have part in the resurrection of the last day, that is, have everlasting life, millennial glory. They would have eaten of the bread and lived by Him; but if they did not eat of the bread, though He was there for life, they would never see life; if they did not eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of man, they had no life in them. That is, His coming for the life of the world, and people having part in that life, are carefully distinguished in the passage. He came down to give life, but He was not received save by those whom the Father gave to Him: that a man may eat thereof, says the Lord, and not die; but whoever ate had not only life, but eternal life (v. 54). The distinction attempted is unknown to, and denied by, scripture. The other verse is 51, where the Lord speaks of His death, namely, that it applied to the world, as He spoke of His incarnation or coming down from heaven. But He declares that if a man eat, he should live for ever (eis ton aiona); that if he did not eat, he had no life in him (v. 51, 53). That is, He positively denies, in the passage, the distinction attempted by Mr. S. “He that eateth me, shall live by me,” but whoso eateth hath eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day; he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever (eis ton aiona). The passage cited levels the whole fabric attempted to be raised on it. Mr. S. has stated in Latin (cum multis aliis, that is) that there are many other passages than these two verses. He should have produced them. It is stated, he says, “over and over again, that the world is to have life.” It is never stated. We have examined the passage quoted. He says there are many others. There are not. As to God being the Saviour of all men, specially of them which believe, it is evident that Saviour here applies exclusively to providence and saving life in this world. God’s careful providence is extended to all, specially to believers. “For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of them that believe.” The apostle trusted in the living God in the midst of all difficulties, and dangers, and insults, because He preserved (and everyone who has examined it knows that soter has this sense as often as, or oftener than, that of eternal salvation) all, and particularly faithful men (not properly believers, but rather faithful men).

In 1 Timothy 2:2-4 the apostle shews that kings, and those who seemed the most removed from the influence of the gospel and hostile to Christ, ought to have our prayers; for that was acceptable to our Saviour God, who shut none out, but was willing all should be saved. But the passage knows no other salvation than coming to the knowledge of the truth. It is indeed written, as Air. S. says, that God has given to us eternal life; and it is indeed not once written that He has given to the world such life; and I add, it is not once written that He has given to the world any life, nor that the world is to have it. 1 John 2:2 says nothing about the world being saved—not a word; it speaks of Christ being the propitiation for the world. That Christ died for all, many scriptures testify; and I firmly believe, the blood (by which every attribute of God was glorified) put on the mercy seat makes it a place of access to all sinners under heaven. But scripture does not ever say that Christ bore the sins of all. This bearing of sins is a truth which universalists carefully keep back.

2 Timothy 2:10 proves nothing at all, save that eternal glory was associated with the salvation he sought for the elect. No one doubts that, I suppose; and it is clear by the following verses the thought of the apostle goes no farther. If it did, it would upset Mr. S.’s theory altogether; for dying with Christ is made the condition of living with Him in any way. Bui it is evident the apostle speaks practically of what was before him. (Compare Col. 2:20; ch. 3:1, 4; and Rom. 6:1, 11.) I have now examined all the doctrine and the scripture.

As regards the shades of difference between universalists, I know nothing; but I know this difference between the deniers of the scriptural doctrine of eternal punishment, that some say that the scripture teaches plainly that all will be saved; and others, that this is absurd, and that it has been plainly and completely refuted by scripture, because scripture says that believers will be saved, and that those who believe not shall be condemned; and these therefore allege on the contrary that those who do not believe will be destroyed after a certain quantity of suffering, and utterly perish. This is a shade, and I should think a deep shade, of difference; inasmuch as one view subverts all the principles, all the reasonings, and all the interpretations of the other. God’s love makes Him save all, according to one; it does not according to the other. The beautiful harmony of salvation for all and glory for some, is all a delusion according to the other. And the texts said to maintain it by one, prove nothing of the kind to the other.

And now a few remarks as to the words.

First, it is stated (p. 16), that there is another word for endless applied to “life by Christ.” But Mr. S. carefully abstains from telling us where. It is a pity, too, he has not told us what the word is. There is no such word that I know of or can find. There is a word applied to Christ Himself (Heb. 7:16), “according to the power of an endless life,” in reference to His priesthood; but this has nothing to do with the question: it is the inherent nature of Christ’s life, and means indissoluble. And not only so, but the reference to such a passage would be most unhappy, because the proof given that Christ has a priesthood of such a nature is, that He is so eis ton aiona. That is, the word said by Mr. S. to mean a period which is not endless, in contrast with this power of an endless life, is the word used here to prove that the life is endless. “Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life. For he testifieth, Thou art a priest for ever [eis ton aiona] after the order of Melchizedek.” The truth is, that in this phrase aiona cannot be referred to the millennium, nor to an age, as a short specific period, because it would be rather till the millennium. So in the passage John 6, he that eateth this bread shall live to the millennium, which would be absurd. It is just simply for ever. Again, verses 22, 25, as to the Jewish priests, death forbade them to continue,” but this man, because he continueth for ever [eis ton aiona] hath an unchangeable priesthood, wherefore he is able to save to the uttermost them that come to God by him, seeing he ever [pantote] liveth to make intercession for them.” Here again, eis ton aiona (for ever) is used as the opposite to liability to cessation because of death; that is, to have eternal continuance is equivalent to endless, unceasing life. Further, the great argument used is, that aionial (or eternal) does not mean endless, but millennial. If it does not, the whole question is decided, because punishment is declared to be aionial (eternal).

What does the word then mean in scripture? They say the word does not mean endless. I refer to other Greek books to prove what the word does mean. It is said they were written in a different age, with different notions. But they do inform us what the word means in the language, though of no authority for any notion whatever. The scripture, I am told, is richly sufficient. I turn to scripture: and I ask, of about seventy times the word is used, to produce a passage which proves it has the meaning they allege. They do not venture to produce one; and try to get out of the difficulty by asking me in turn to produce one which contradicts it: I have produced several. Further, I cite Philo, who lived in the same age, and who treats the point in question, and his statement is as plain and positive as possibly can be; he insists in a remarkable definition, that the word is precisely what they say it is not. Mr. S. says, it is assuming the point in dispute: it is assuming nothing. Philo states, in the strongest possible way, that the word specially means what Mr. S. says it does not. Mr. S. says, he probably did not know Hebrew. But we are talking of Greek, which was his native tongue. Air. S. says he did not become a Christian: perhaps not; what then? He says he was a Hellenistic Jew writing in Greek. That is, he used precisely the idiom of the New Testament; the writers of which were, as to their language, Hellenistic Jews, writing in Greek, directly taught and inspired of God. I beg the reader to refer to the citation I have given from Philo, and he will see its force plainly. Mr. S.’s arguments themselves shew it. I fully accept the statement that the proper thing, the grand matter, the only conclusive way, however, is to turn to the Holy Spirit’s use of language in scripture; but there, I repeat, it has not been attempted to produce a passage which proves what is alleged. Several prove that the word has the sense of eternal or endless. On the whole, the attempt to upset the scriptural proof given of the doctrine (in which I have let scripture speak for itself to the conscience of the reader) has only abundantly confirmed what it has sought to impugn. Mr. S. puts the question, as to Matthew 25, “Are the sheep and goats believers and unbelievers? “Now, as this would be plain to ordinary Christians, however obscure the faith of the sheep might be, as they know of no spring of acceptable good works but faith, Mr. S. will excuse my asking if he believes all men are really men, in the ordinary sense of the word. I do not pretend to know his opinions; but there are those who hold that some men are devils by birth, and hence are not included in the salvation of all men, so that the force of this latter statement is only kept to the ear. Is this Mr. S.’s view? It is but fair to know what the positive opinions are we are called on to embrace as scriptural. The principles of universalism, as generally taught, embrace the salvation of devils; for they say that God is love, and God is to be all in all. That is, a salvation without a Saviour, for Christ never became a devil to save devils. Mr. S. has not stated, and does not, that I know of, hold this; but then the argument that God is universal love becomes mere human selfishness. And the second question arises, Does Mr. S. hold that some men are really devils naturally? And is that class of men or devils to be saved? Some may think this too ridiculous and absurd; but what is too absurd for man to hold? And some do hold it seriously. What Mr. S. says is true: men are agitated on this point. Were it not so, I should not have replied to Mr. S.’s publication. As they are, it was well to examine it.

Yours affectionately,
J. N. Darby