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LOVE’S FINAL VICTORY
Ultimate Universal Salvation on the
Basis of Scripture and Reason
An Orthodox Minister
“That which is incredible to thee thou shalt not, at thy soul’s peril,
attempt to believe. Go to Perdition if thou must, but not with a lie in
thy mouth. By the Eternal Maker, no.”—Carlyle.
“Is not Universal Salvation the Divine Corollary of Universal
Atonement?”—Extract of a letter from the Author to an eminent
Methodist minister in England.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Fear of Punishment—Early Impressions—Men of Piety and Learning—Facts
and Figures—Mental or Material Fire—The Theory of Conditional
Immortality—Why Invented—Moody—Divine Failure Impossible—Future
Operations of Grace—Restoration—A Plea for Charity—Other Worlds—The
Heathen—Devout Use of the Imagination.
CRUELTY OF FORMER VIEWS.
Unconditional Election—Children of Believing Parents—An Arrogant
Pretension—God’s Own Children—The Heathen of All Time—A Baleful
Shadow—Former Cruelty—Herbert Spencer—Dr. Farrar’s Eternal Hope—A
Lady With An Open Mind—Dr. Dawson’s Larger View—The Universal
THE CHURCH IN TRANSITION.
No Definite Note of Warning—Preachers Afraid of Discipline—Divided As
to Restoration or Extinction—Plea for Liberty—Liberalism of the
Episcopal Church—Advance in Christian Unity—Dr. Edward
White—Conditional Immortality—Endless Torment—If True Ought to Be
Preached Morning, Noon and Night—Awful Penalty of Sin—Extinction—True
Religion Is Reasonable—Enlarged Conceptions.
A Strong Argument—Universal Atonement—Infinite Justice Satisfied—A
Candid Methodist Minister—Can Man Commit An Infinite Sin?—Everlasting
Punishment Could Not Be Rendered—Uses of Suffering—Punitive and
Remedial—The Penalty Has Been Paid—Moral Effect—Mystery of Pain—Not
Punishment but Chastening—Extending Our Outlook Beyond—Boundless Time
and Space—Operations of Grace in the Next Life—Infinite
Power—Infinite Mercy—Infinite Love—Incentive to Endless Praise.
HARMONY OF THE DIVINE ATTRIBUTES.
Our Limitations—Development—Our Capacity—Divine Foreknowledge—No
Divine Failure—The Heathen—Unchangeable Dove—Union of Four
Attributes—Eternal Wisdom—A Marvel of Coercion and Freedom—The Day of
Divine Power—An Unfathomable Mystery—Future Revelations—Coming to
Zion with Songs.
THEORY OF EQUALITY.
Abraham Tucker’s View—Ingenious and Reverent—Variety of
Endowment—Maximum of Happiness—Imparting and Receiving New
PROCESSES OF PURIFICATION.
Different Processes—The Case of Saul—Changed in a Moment—No Violence
to Human Freedom—The Case of Nebuchadnezzar—Sudden or Slow—Basis of
Warning—An Object Lesson—Function of Suffering.
THE INTERMEDIATE STATE.
Meagre Details—Good Reasons Why—Extent of the Universe—Future
Glory—Sin in Other Worlds—No Revelation—Future Abode of the
Righteous—Solid or Ethereal—Impossible Revelations—Present Duties and
Interests—Our Limitations—Necessity of Purification—Preaching to the
Spirits in Prison—Stages of Progress—The Law of Gradual Development.
THE SPIRITS IN PRISON.
The Descent of Jesus Into Hades—Singular Reserve of
Preachers—Purgatory—Dr. Gerhardt’s Book—A Bodily Resurrection—The
Spirit World Requires a Spirit Body.
Infinite Being and Perfection—Grades of Being—Variety—Man’s
Limitations—Moral Beings—Hopeless Surroundings—All Are the Children
of God—Righting the Wrongs of Time—”The Heart of the Universe Is
Love”—Eternal Conscious Torment Incredible—Conquering Power of
Love—Eternal Purpose Will Not Fail—Omnipotence in the Moral Realm—The
Divine Expression of Love—Universal Atonement Involves Universal
Salvation—Final Success of God’s Designs—Will Evil Necessarily
Perpetuate Itself?—Triumph of Good Over Evil—Few Stripes or
Many—Reformatory Punishment—Bringing Good Out of Evil—Possibilities
of Redeeming Grace—The Ransomed of the Lord—Wrath but the Shadow of
Love—Former Eternity of Sinlessness—Wrath No Constituent of the Divine
Character—Pity and Indignation.
Extent of the Atonement—The Dilemma of Universal Atonement and Partial
Salvation—Human Systems of Truth—Methodist Theology—Tradition and
Reason—Dr. Dale’s View—No Divine Failure—Imperfection of All
Theological Systems—”Sufficient but Not Efficient”—Undeveloped
Possibilities—The Angel in the Apocalypse—Omnipotence Both in the
Physical and the Moral Realm—The Short Epoch of Time—Advance of
the Presbyterian Church in the United States—Individual
Congregations—Hardening Effects of the Narrower View—The Softening
Influence of Dreams—Divine Capacity of Suffering—Persistence of What
Is Good—Good Men Who Are Not Christians—Insanity—Blind Tom.
A FEEBLE NOTE OF WARNING.
The Creed of Eternal Torment—Do Ministers Really Believe It?—If They
Do, Why Not Say So?—No Decisive Note of Warning—Definite Missionary
Incentive Is Wanting—The Phrase, “Eternal Death,” Often Used—Does It
Mean Annihilation, or Eternal Torment, or What?—Vague Reference to
Punishment Fosters Unbelief—An Age of Compromise—Professor Faulkner’s
Testimony—The Idea of Restoration Would Fully Meet the
Difficulty—Honesty and Candor—Carlyle’s Scathing Warning—Ultimate
Fulfilment of Prophecy—Eternal Songs.
PROPHECIES YET TO BE FULFILLED.
Enlarging Vision—Promise to Abraham—A Host of Similar Promises—Many
of Them Not Merely National—Their Fulfilment—Not Limited by the
Short Epoch of Time—The Present Only One Part of the Divine
Administration—Why the Revelation Was Not Given Sooner—Groping in the
Twilight—Growing Illumination—A Time for Everything—Dazzle or
Enlighten—Discoveries in Science are Really Revelations—Our Slowness
in Receiving Spiritual Truth—Limitations of Great Men.
TESTIMONY OF SCRIPTURE.
The Unrevealed—Scripture and Reason—Bishop Butler’s Dictum—Reverence
of Kepler—Moral Courage of Sir Oliver Lodge—Increase of Laxity—The
Spirit’s Almighty Power—Supreme Authority of Scripture—The Proper
Sphere of Reason—Fate of the Heathen—Singular Reserve of
Preachers—Sin Is Abnormal—Union of Divine Power, Wisdom, and
Love—Reasonableness and Harmony—A Multitude of Scripture
Promises—Discipline Instead of Eternal Torment—Dr. Funk’s View—The
Great Panacea for Unbelief—Ingersoll—No Divine Failure.
TESTIMONY OF REASON.
Divine Gift of Reason—Its Proper Sphere—No Dogmatism—Is Sin An
Infinite Evil?—Infinite Penalty Impossible to Be Rendered—Justice Can
Delay—Good Cannot Perish—Testimony of Dickens—Endless Punishment
Would Increase Moral Evil—The Divine Character Never Changes—Time but
a Short Epoch—Our Capacity of Development—Salvation of Infants—The
Insane—Imperfect Christians—Their Destiny—Good Unchristian Men—Where
Will They Go?—”All Souls Are Mine”—Worth Preserving—Fate of the
Heathen—Reclaimed in the Next Life—Human Freedom Never
Destroyed—Provision for All—A Dreadful Hymn—Divine Sacrifice Not in
Vain—Bringing Good Out of Evil—Final Triumph of Goodness—Sin Is
Abnormal—Will Therefore Cease—Law of Gradual Change—Sins of the
Mind—The Race Might Easily Have Been Intercepted—Endless Torment
Cannot Be Believed—The Mind’s Affinity for Truth—True Punishment Is
Reformatory—Alleged Divine Cruelty—Agony of Eternal—Ingersoll and
His Shafts of Ridicule—Incentive to Good Works—Unfathomable Divine
Love—”Joy Cometh in the Morning”
THE CASE OP SAUL.
Divine Methods of Reclaiming Men—”The Chief of Sinners”—Changed’ in a
Moment—No Violence Done to His Freedom—Yet Sovereign Power—The
Mystery of Grace—View of McCosh—Supremacy of Conscience—Sir Isaac
Newton’s Wonderful Alertness of Mind—Reason and Intuition—Capturing
the Most Incorrigible—Evil Environment—Suffering a Necessary
Factor—Agony of Remorse—Eternal Hope.
An Everlasting Pang—David and Absalom—Strained Ideas of Late Momentary
Repentance—King Solomon—King Saul—The Gracious Character of
Sympathy—George Eliot’s View—A Strong Argument for Restoration—Heresy
of a Minister’s Wife—A Minister’s Orthodox View—Wonderful Goodness of
a Criminal—Where Will He Finally Go?—Our Very Imperfect
Friends—Glossing Over Their Faults When They Are Gone—Our Instinctive
Hope for the Worst—Restoration the True Solution—A Final Era of Joy.
NOT REALLY BELIEVED.
Present Enthusiasm for Missions—Former Lassitude—The Basis of
Missionary Enterprise—Supposed Damnation of the Heathen—If Really
Believed Would Drive Us to Frenzy—Minister’s Monday Meeting—Pretence
Cuts the Nerve of Enthusiasm—Restoration the True Incentive—Effective
Because Reasonable—Torment Not Really Believed—The Heart Often Truer
Than the Head—Necessity for Preparatory State—Could Not Have Details
Revealed—Orthodoxy of the Torment View—Trying to Believe It—Be Not
Afraid of the Truth—Extreme Calvinists Signally Honored—The Reason
Why—Our Innate God-given Convictions—Meagre Expenditure for
Missions—Tacit Acknowledgment That Endless Suffering Is Not Believed.
WORKING MEN AND THE CHURCH.
Efforts to Attract Working Men to the Church—Restoration Would Largely
Solve the Difficulty—Common Sense of Working-Men—Glorious Expansion of
Truth—Recasting Traditional Views—The True Basis for Unity.
THE SEEN AND THE UNSEEN.
Beauty Evolved from Chaos—Future Capacity of Motion—Gleams of the
Invisible—Changing Into the Divine Image—Crying Out for God—From
Barrenness to Beauty—The Glow of the Firefly—The Effulgent
Divinity—Universal Sense of Beauty—Sunset on the Prairie—Guardian
Angels—Death As Seen from This Side and That—Sunset on Yellowstone
River—A Drop of Dew—Reality of Heaven—The Literal and the
Figurative—The Spiritual Body—Expanding Glory of Creation—Sunset in
Dakota—Lights Dim and Clear—Christ’s Unsullied Purity—A Rent in the
Cloud—An Imprisoned Lark.
THE FINAL DAY.
Everlasting Love—Resources of Infinite Wisdom and Power—Redemption of
the Whole Race—Forecast of the Final Day—The Conquest of Love
—Christ Is Satisfied—He Is Singing with Joy—Ancient Prophecy
Fulfilled—Adoration of the Heavenly Hosts—The Saviour Crowned.
The circumstances under which these pages came to be written are rather
peculiar. I am in favor of church unity, and I had thought of writing
something that would tend to bring the churches into closer harmony. I
am persuaded that their unity of doctrine is greater than is usually
supposed; I endeavored to make this apparent by citing a long list of
doctrines on which the churches tacitly agree.
But in all faithfulness I had to recognize a striking difference of
opinion when I came to speak of the doctrine of future punishment. On
this profound question I had to recognize that there are honest
differences of opinion. These could not be summarily dismissed by a
hasty yea or nay.
There are three views that are entertained, which may be expressed thus:
Extinction; Restoration; Endless Suffering. Not only do these different
views prevail among different churches; they prevail also among
individuals in all the churches. In fact, it would be hard to find a
thoughtful church of any name in which each of these views is not
While there is this diversity of view, there ought surely to be
toleration. It is a profound subject; I am very conscious of that; yet
I think there may be ultimate harmony if we are only candid enough to
lay aside all prejudice, and give the matter our serious and impartial
consideration. And surely, it is worthy of that. In my view, there is a
right conception of the matter, which if generally entertained would go
far to lift a dark shadow from the heart of the world.
For myself, I may say that I was brought up in an orthodox church that
professes to believe in endless suffering. I had not, even at a mature
age, examined that doctrine critically. In fact, I shrunk from examining
it; I think most people do who professedly accept it. It is the doctrine
of the church, and the easiest way is to assume that it is all right. If
it was formulated by our learned and pious ancestors, the usual idea is
that it’s good enough for us.
A thoughtful mind, however, could not but recognize that there is a
serious difference on this question in different churches that are
admitted to be evangelical. Not only that, but there is a difference
between thoughtful men in the same church. Hence, I was led to adopt,
and to state, my own views here. The arguments that I was thus compelled
to use expanded far beyond my expectation. Then I recognized that a plea
for unity along with the advocacy of a contested vital doctrine, do not
hang well together. Moreover, the space that I felt compelled to give to
this doctrinal defense, induced me to cut it loose from my plea for
unity, and present the matter separately.
* * * * *
On this most serious question I must say that I have read but very
little. Even Dr. Farrar’s standard work on “Eternal Hope” I have not
read. But I considered this to be no serious disadvantage, on the whole.
I conceived—and I think it was no undue egotism—that my own
originality and naturalness would balance in a large degree the
completeness which otherwise I might have attained. I think it is no
small advantage to see the natural working of an open mind, not warped
by other people’s opinions and arguments.
But there was more than that. It is said of Christ that He is “The true
Light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” I cannot but
think that I have had some illumination from that Source. Once in the
night season, when I wished above all things to sleep, I was kept awake,
and an idea came to me that was never in my mind before. In the morning
the idea was written down. The following night the same thing would
occur again, and again a new thought was written down. The same thing
continued for weeks, with hardly an intermission.
It did not strike me until afterwards that this might be a special,
divine illumination. Yet why should it not be, except that I was
utterly unworthy? But then I remembered that it is to “every man,”
however unworthy he may be, that this divine Light comes. So it may come
to many when they do not know it.
In this case it was not really so surprising. When we think of the Power
and Grace that are so bound up with the theory of Restoration that are
as yet so little recognized, might we not expect special, divine aid in
making known such a glorious revelation? As I have noticed elsewhere in
this treatise, neither of the two alternative theories brings anything
like such glory to Christ as the theory of Restoration. Is not this an
overwhelming argument that the theory is true?
At all events, there is now more toleration for such views than there
was some time ago. I know that many Congregational ministers hold to the
doctrine of Conditional Immortality; and there is no bar to such views
in that church. Dr. Farrar’s “Eternal Hope” does him no discredit to-day
in the Episcopal Church. So with Dr. Edward White’s doctrine of
Conditional Immortality. But there are some who still hold tenaciously
to the orthodox faith, and are quick to resent any departure from it.
Well do I remember a conference that was held in Dr. Parker’s Tabernacle
in London several years ago. The occasion was the meeting with the Rev.
Henry Ward Beecher. The large church where we met was nearly filled with
ministers. During Mr. Beecher’s talk one of these zealots for orthodoxy
flung out the inquiry, “Do you believe in everlasting punishment?”
Beecher—manly man that he was—immediately responded that he did not.
At once there was an uproar. The great majority, I believe, whether in
sympathy with Mr. Beecher or not, would have allowed the matter to pass
in respectful silence. But there was a small minority who felt bound to
stand up for orthodoxy. For a time there was great confusion. I remember
Parker’s dignified protest. “Brethren,” he said, “this is a Conference;
it is not an Inquisition.”
Truly, it does seem strange that men should be ostracised for not
believing that the great majority of mankind is in everlasting fire!
That is really the sum and substance of their offending. It seems that
is an offense for which no greatness or goodness can atone. In the case
referred to the man who was condemned was confessedly head and shoulders
above his peers. Yet we boast of our culture and progress, and our
emancipation from medieval darkness. Truly, it would be funny, if it
were not sad.
* * * * *
On the occasion referred to I had no sympathy with Mr. Beecher’s view,
nor for several years after. But the idea took hold of me about five
years ago. So far as I know, it came spontaneously; no, perhaps not
spontaneously, but as a direct suggestion from the unseen. I had been
reading nothing that would naturally lead up to it; I had no former
leanings in that direction; nor was I in contact with any person who
would suggest it. But suddenly the idea took hold of me, and pursued me
night after night with new arguments. All the time there was nothing in
my reach along this line that I could read; and I had read almost
nothing beforehand. So I sought for nothing, realizing that it might be
better to present the case solely from my own point of view.
I mention these matters in no spirit of egotism, but simply to show that
the matter occurred to me at a time unlooked for, and without any
extraneous help. If I had resorted to outside aids, I might perhaps have
made the argument more complete; but would I have made it more
* * * * *
I am not in the habit of ventilating these views on all occasions; but
in certain cases lately there were some remarkable results. For
instance: I met a Presbyterian minister whom I knew, and we drifted into
these ideas. I said I would give him one argument for universal
salvation, and one only. When I had stated the argument he said it was
absolutely conclusive, and that there could be no such thing as
Lately, I met a Presbyterian D.D. on the train, and we drifted into
these questions. He argued the case strongly from the orthodox point of
view, and I defended the more liberal theory. We argued the question for
two hours. When we were at the end of our journey he frankly confessed
that he was quite with me, and that he “had gone through the mill.” Yet
that D.D. is supposed to be orthodox. I believe he is one of many who
suppress their honest inner convictions.
A teacher in the Methodist body, a man of deep thought, and fine
culture, during a few minutes’ conversation, endorsed several of my
views, and began to advance some of his own.
Lately, I visited a highly cultured Christian lady, who was once a
member of my congregation, and I referred casually to some of these
ideas. Thinking afterwards that I might really have done her an injury
by merely mooting such a subject, I went back the next evening, and went
into it fully. The result was that she expressed her hearty concurrence
in such views.
Cases like these convince me that the public mind is more open than it
was some time ago, and that when the matter is presented reasonably, in
many instances it will be accepted. Surely, the light of God is
beginning to shine into our gloom!
* * * * *
I suppose that the contracted view of divine love and power that
prevailed in former times was largely due to the failure of men to see
that God rules in all worlds and through all time. Because grace does
not take effect in the case of every person now and here, it was
concluded that this was a part of the divine decree; for could not God
do as it pleased Him? But now we realize that this life is not all; that
divine love and power are from everlasting to everlasting; that we see
here but “parts of His ways;” that the great redemptive scheme may be
completed in the ages to come.
* * * * *
In this treatise I have chiefly in view the great mass of people who
believe in the plain statements of Scripture, and also in reason. And I
will say this, for the sake of those who have been brought up with the
idea that the Scripture teaches eternal torment, that there are many
incorrect Scripture translations, and that these largely account for the
long persistence of the old theory. Its origin is really due to the
Roman Catholic Church, which invented it to keep its adherents in due
It is well to note that in two of the views I have referred to there is
a degree of harmony. In the theory of Extinction and that of Restoration
there is a tacit repudiation of endless torment. That seems to be an
intuition in harmony with our highest range both of thought and feeling,
when thought and feeling are not unduly warped by tradition. The old
theory may sound orthodox; it may be consecrated by many tender
memories; but I would ask if you have thought over it seriously, and if
in your inmost soul you believe it. Then be faithful to that inner
conviction. It is the light of God. It is what Carlyle calls “the direct
Inspiration of the Almighty.”
* * * * *
Pending the final solution of this great problem, I think there ought to
be enough charity to disagree, with all good will and mutual confidence.
And in all contemplated union of the churches this liberty ought to be
clearly recognized. For this question, though of tremendous importance,
is not a saving one by any means. Men, of whose goodness there can be no
question, hold different views. Truth is greater than orthodoxy, and is
sometimes to be found outside of orthodoxy. In this connection, the
words of Professor Faulkner, of Toronto University, are well worth
pondering. He says: “The fear of not being orthodox is, in my opinion,
the reason why theology is under a cloud at the present time.”
Closely related to this subject, it may be opportune to quote an article
of mine that lately appeared in the “Homiletic Review” on the
“Doctrinal Basis of Union in Canada.”
The contemplated organic union of the Presbyterian, Methodist, and
Congregational Churches in Canada has not yet been consummated. One
thing that involved some delay has been the discovery of a basis of
doctrine that would suit the three churches. At length such a basis has
been formulated. It contains one statement, however, which I am rather
surprised to see. It says that the doom of the finally impenitent will
be “eternal death,” Now what does that mean? Might it not be honestly
taken to mean two very different things? Might it not be taken to mean
“eternal torment” or “eternal extinction?” The manifest ambiguity of
such a statement would seem to me highly objectionable. I quoted the
phrase to two thoughtful friends, and asked them what it meant. They
made a long pause, and said they did not know.
If the phrase has been adopted on purpose to make it the expression of
the two views referred to, such a course is surely wanting in candor and
honesty. To be sure, it is a Scriptural phrase, but inasmuch as it is
taken to express two very different views, it ought not to be adopted.
By all means be clear and simple and straightforward.
There has been too much vagueness on the part of preachers on this most
solemn theme. Lately I heard a preacher speaking of unsaved men as
“miserable failures, going out into the darkness.” Now what did he mean?
Either he has no definite idea himself, or he judged it unwise to
express it. Does not such a statement as I have quoted pander directly
Surely, the time has come when we ought candidly to recognize that on
this question there may be a legitimate difference of opinion. There
are men whose godliness and ability are beyond all question, who hold
diverse views on this matter. Whether it be the theory of eternal
torment or extinction or Restoration that is held, let us concede all
honor and confidence to the men who hold it. The more of that spirit we
really possess, the sooner will the divine light break upon our souls.
With regard to a basis on which conscientious men can really unite, is
it well to go so much into detail? Mere creeds will never conserve the
truth. Men will think, whether we will or no; and men will have diverse
views. Do we not put a premium on dishonesty by constructing a creed for
all details, and expecting men to subscribe to that creed? Have we not
had too much of that in the past? A noted official in the Methodist body
told me lately that he does not believe in eternal torment, but that if
it were known, he would lose his position. But eternal torment is in the
Methodist creed, and he had profest his adherence to it. It is so with
many Presbyterians. I have spoken privately with several, and not one
profest to believe in that doctrine. But we say, “Truth is mighty and
will prevail.” Yes, I believe it will; but it would surely prevail
faster if we were always loyal to it. Besides, is there anything that
makes more directly for degeneracy of character than such evasion?
To avoid all peril of this kind, how would it do to take for a basis
of doctrine this simple statement. “I believe the Scriptures of the Old
and New Testaments to be the Word of God?” Or, “I believe the Scriptures
of the Old and New Testaments to contain the Word of God?” Then, with
further “light breaking from God’s holy word,” we would not need to
expunge anything from our creed, or add anything to it.
For the present, let us be faithful to the light we have. As Canon
Farrar well says: “There is but one failure; and that is, not to be true
to the best one knows.”
* * * * *
It will be noted that throughout this discussion I have made no attempt
to indicate anything of the nature of the divine reformatory processes
in the next life. That is far beyond me. The principle may be the same
that operates now, but the details may be very different, and the
effects produced may be quick or slow, just as in this life. We have
instanced the case of Saul’s conversion as exceptionally thorough and
immediate. There may be somewhat similar cases in the next life; we do
not know; but there is reasonable ground for hope. Then too, as now,
there may be cases of incorrigibility which ages may be required
* * * * *
Mistranslations of certain passages of Scripture on this subject are so
numerous, and in some cases so utterly opposed to the original, that I
made out a list of them, to be presented here. On second thought I have
omitted them, for the reason that this treatise is intended more
especially for plain, common sense people, who do not trouble much about
translations, but who are dominated largely by reason and good sense.
For those who give more attention to translations, I could wish that
some competent and impartial person would compile a list of
mistranslations and present them as a separate treatise.
* * * * *
I am satisfied that in the English Bible there is abundant support for
every position I have taken. I do not mean merely direct, verbal
support; but also the support of reason and common feeling, which come
from the same divine Source.
I can well conceive, however, that some may have a conscientious fear
that there may be something in the original that is opposed to the views
that I have taken. It may appear very unlikely that the orthodox views
that have so long prevailed should find such wide currency if they are
not supported by revelation. It cannot be denied, however, that the
translators of the Scriptures in many instances were strongly imbued
beforehand with certain of those doctrines, and that in many cases they
wrested the Scriptures to support them. So much is this the case that
corrections and modifications have since been made—in some cases
totally contrary to the original translations.
Along with this, let it be remembered that there is, and rightly, a
strong conservative feeling against meddling with the Divine Word.
Notwithstanding this, there is in all honesty a feeling that certain
translations call for a radical amendment. I think this statement will
be thoroughly borne out by some of the translations I will quote.
I have thus been moved to give some instances of mistranslation. Since
writing the foregoing I have met with a treatise by Rev. Arthur
Chambers, an English Episcopal minister, in which he quotes a great
number of these. A number of them bear so directly on the matter we are
treating that I feel that I cannot do better than quote some of them
here. And in order to do this author justice, I will give also some of
his own comments.
Mr. Chambers writes:
THE MEANING OF THE WORD “HADES.”
The Greek language contains two words which are used many times in the
New Testament—”Gehenna” and “Hades.”
When the Greek New Testament was translated into English, one English
word’—”Hell”—was, very unfortunately, made to do service for the two
Greek words named above. “Hell” was used to express both the place of
future punishments, and also the abode of those, who having departed the
Earth-life, are existing as disembodied spirits, physically disembodied.
As was to be expected, confusion of ideas soon arose in consequence, and
ordinary readers became bewildered.
Such a passage is Acts ii. 31: “His soul was not left in Hell,” and the
clause in the Apostles’ Creed—”He descended into Hell”—instead of
being understood as expressing that Christ at His crucifixion entered
into Hades, seem to teach that He went into the place of
punishment—Hell; where He never went.
THE EARLY-CHRISTIAN CONCEPTION OF HADES.
The foregoing conclusion is well-nigh unassailable, in view of the fact
that the early Christians believed in an Intermediate State, which they,
like the Jews and Greeks, called “Hades.”
Justin Martyr (A.D. 147) declares that “those who say that there is no
Resurrection, but that, immediately after death, their souls are taken
up to Heaven, these are not to be accounted either Christians or Jews.”
Tertullian (A.D. 200) states that “the souls of all men go to Hades
until the Resurrection; the souls of the just being in that part of
Hades called the ‘Bosom of Abraham,’ or ‘Paradise.'”
Origen (A.D. 230) expresses the same views. Lactantius (A.D. 306)
writes, “Let no one think that souls are judged immediately after death;
for they are all detained in the same common place of keeping, until the
time come when the Supreme Judge shall enquire into their good or
Our English New Testament represents the rich man as being in Hell. But
the translation is a false one. In the original Greek it is, “In Hades
he lifted up his eyes.”
So, then, the rich man, though in another sphere than that of Lazarus,
was also in Hades. I am aware that some teachers have viewed this
parable as depicting the future condition of man, in happiness or
misery, in Heaven or Hell. But besides the locality in which the two
persons are placed being actually named, the context is against such a
supposition. At the time that Lazarus and Dives are shown in their
after-death experiences, this world is still in existence, and the
brothers of the rich man are then living on the earth, and the Judgment
is still distant. But Heaven and Hell will follow, not precede, the
close of the present Dispensation and the Judgment. We conclude,
therefore, that this parable distinctly affirms the truth of an
The terms “eternal judgment” and “eternal punishment,” have been dinned
into their ears of many from infancy, and they are unaware of the fact
that “eternal” is not a correct translation of the original Greek word
[Greek: aionios]; and moreover, that this word, “eternal” denotes
without beginning as well as without end, and is misapplied to anything
that is not beginningless. Again, there are hosts of earnest seekers
after God and truth (as numbers of letters sent to me testify), whose
acceptance of the Gospel of Christ is barred by this doctrine of
everlasting punishment. They suppose it to be a part of the teaching of
the Saviour; and they cannot embrace a religion which requires assent to
something that shocks all their moral instincts. For the sake of such
persons, it seems only right that we should examine this doctrine; that
we should show them what it really is, and upon what foundation it has
been built. Thus, and only thus, will they be brought to see that this
ugly human conception is not of God.
THE FOUNDATION UPON WHICH THE DOCTRINE OF EVERLASTING PUNISHMENT HAS
We must look for this in the mistranslation of a few words in the Greek
New Testament. These words are:—(aion); (aionios); (krima); (krisis);
(krinein); and (katakrinein).
We shall show that the translators have dealt most misleadingly and
inconsistently with these words. They have translated them, in a number
or passages of Scripture in which they appear, strictly in accordance
with their true meanings, while into the words as they occur in other
passages they have imported meanings not only exaggerated and awful, but
such as to make Scripture contradictory of itself.
For the substantiation of this serious charge, we refer the reader to
the following facts concerning each of the words instanced.
(a) The word (aion), and the adjective derived from it, (aionios).
We place these words first, because they are the terms that have been
rendered by the translators—”world without end,” “forever and ever,”
“everlasting,” and “eternal;” and it is upon the basis of these false
renderings that the terrible doctrine of everlasting punishment has
The word [Greek: aion], in the singular, denotes an age, a period of
indefinite, but limited, duration, which may be either long or short. In
the plural, the word denotes ages, or periods, that may be extended, and
even vast, but still of limited duration.
The word cannot denote unendingness, commonly, but erroneously, termed
“eternity” by those who forget that eternity is without beginning as
well as without end. Else, how could the plural of the word be used, and
how could Scripture speak of “the aions” and “the aions of the aions”
(i.e., “the ages,” and “the ages of the ages”)? There can be no plural
to “eternity,” and it is surely an absurdity to talk about “the
eternities” and “the eternities of the eternities.” And yet the
translators, in some instances have deliberately imported into the word
[Greek: aion] the meaning of everlastingness, while excluding it in
Here is an example, out of many:
In Mark iii. 29, the passage, according to the Greek, is: “He that shall
blaspheme against the Holy Spirit hath not forgiveness all through the
aion (age), but is in danger of aionial judgment (i.e., the judgment
of an age).”
The translators have rendered this: “He that shall blaspheme against the
Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness (i.e., not forgiveness forever), but
is in danger of eternal damnation.”
In this case, it will be seen that they have imported the idea of
unendingness into the word [Greek: aion] and the idea of “eternal” into
its adjective, [Greek: aionios].
In Matthew xiii. 39, the passage, according to the Greek is: “The
harvest is the end of the aion (age);” and in 2 Tim. iv. 10: “Demas hath
forsaken me, having loved the present aion (age).”
The translators have rendered these passages: “The harvest is the end of
the world.” “Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world.”
In these cases, it will be seen that they have rightly excluded the idea
of unendingness from the word [Greek: aion]. But why? we ask. If it was
right to include it in Mark iii. 29, it was wrong to exclude it in the
two last-named passages. Then why exclude it? The answer is, that it
would have been too utterly foolish to translate Matthew xiii. 39, as
“The harvest is the end of the forever,” and 2 Tim. iv. 10, as “Demas
hath forsaken me, having loved the present eternity”—and so the
translators in these instances gave the word its true signification.
But can it, we ask, be right to treat language in this way—to make a
word mean one thing to serve the purposes of a doctrinal idea, and to
make it mean something essentially opposite, when that idea is not
involved? Does anyone imagine that the translators would have introduced
this contradiction, and have translated the Greek of Mark xiii. 29, as
they have done, unless they had gone to this text with the preconceived
idea that a certain sin can never be forgiven, and therefore that the
passage must be strained and contorted to endorse the idea? It is an
instance, not of founding theology upon Scripture, but of twisting
Scripture to suit theology. One thing is quite certain. It cannot be
right to translate a word in some passages in one sense, and to
translate it in other passages in an antagonistic sense. The word
[Greek: aion] cannot denote a period of limitation, and also
unendingness. If it denotes the one it does not denote the other. The
one definition excludes the other. No one, in his senses, dreams of
defining a day as a period of twelve hours under one set of
circumstances, and also as being the equivalent of all time under other
circumstances. We have to determine what is the true definition of
[Greek: aion]. If it can be shown that the essential meaning of the word
is that of limited duration, then the case is very clear; the
translators were not justified in foisting into it the idea of
unendingness; and this being so, a huge superstructure of doctrine,
reared upon the mistranslation, will totter and fall, and an awful
nightmare will be lifted from the Christian religion.
An adjective qualifies its noun, and we cannot import into the adjective
more than is contained in the noun. We may speak of the race of mankind
as “humanity,” and describe the existence of the race as “human life,”
but we should not be so absurd as to define “human” in that phrase as
And yet the translators have been guilty of committing a similar error
in translating the word [Greek: aion] in the passages instanced as
“world,” which is equivalent to an age, and expresses limitation; while
translating [Greek: aionios] as “everlasting” and “eternal;” both of
which terms exclude limitation.
We ask, does this commend itself as being a fair way of dealing with a
book which contains a record of Divine truth?
We pass on to the brief consideration of a few other words that have
been dealt with unfairly, in order, if not to found, at all events to
buttress, this doctrine of everlasting punishment.
(b) The word (krima). The word denotes judgment; the sentence
pronounced. As such the translators of the Authorized Version rightly
rendered it in many passages of the Gospels, the Acts, and the Epistles
(e.g., Matt. vii. 2; John ix. 39; Acts xxiv. 25; and Rom. ii. 2). But
here is the inconsistency. In Matt, xxiii. 14; Mark xii. 40; Luke xx.
47; Rom. in. 8; xiii. 2; I Cor. xi. 29; and I Tim. v. 12, they
substituted the word “damnation” for it. We will say nothing about this
word “damnation,” except that it is an evil-sounding word, whose
original meaning has been exaggerated and perverted; and a word that
more than any other has been employed to support the awful doctrine we
But why did the translators alter the reading? Why render [Greek: krima]
as “judgment” in some places, and as “damnation” in others? The answer
is—These last named passages were viewed as pointing to future
punishment; the translators’ idea of future punishment was that of
endless suffering and misery; and the word “damnation” was considered to
be better suited to the popular theological error than the proper and
milder word, “judgment.” Our contention is, if the word “damnation” be
right in one passage, it is right in another. Why, for example, did they
not translate John ix. 39, so as to represent our Lord as saying—”For
damnation ([Greek: krimas]) I came into this world?” They gave the true
rendering in this and other passages, because it would have been too
absurd not to do so.
That these criticisms are not unjustified is seen in the fact that the
New Testament revisers have discarded the word “damnation” in the above
passages, and in Rom. xiii. 2 and I Cor. xi. 29, have correctly rendered
[Greek: krima] as “judgment.”
We are thankful to them for this service in the interests of truth.
We must briefly consider—
(c) The word (krisis).
It also denotes judgment, i.e., the process of judging; and in forty-one
passages of the New Testament the translators so rendered it. But in
Matt, xxiii. 33; Mark in. 29; and John v. 29, they deliberately
substituted the word “damnation” for “judgment.” With what object?
Plainly, to add emphasis to their preconceived idea of an endless hell.
But does this commend itself as being a fair and consistent way of
dealing with Scripture?
Why,—except that it was too utterly foolish,—not have rendered the
following passages as they did the three just instanced?
“Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye … pass over
damnation ([Greek: krisis]) and the love of God” (Luke xi. 42).
“As I hear, I judge, and My damnation ([Greek: krisis]) is just” (John
“So opened He not His mouth; in His humiliation His damnation ([Greek:
krisis])_ was taken away” (Acts viii. 32, 33).
Seeing that the Greek word is the same in every one of these passages,
is it not very wrong to give it an improper and grossly exaggerated
significance in three texts, while translating it correctly in forty-one
Again, it is suggestive that the revisers of the New Testament, in Matt,
xxiii. 33 and John v. 29, have flung away the word “damnation,” and in
its place put “judgment” as the proper rendering of [Greek: krisis]. If
the translators of the Authorized Version had done this, one of the
supports of an ancient error would have been knocked down.
(d) The word (krinein).
The word denotes—to judge; and eighty-one times in the New Testament
the translators so rendered it. And yet in regard to the same Greek word
which occurs in 2 Thess. ii. 12, they made the translation run:—”That
they all might be damned who believed not the truth.”
But why not have been consistent? Why not have rendered 1 Cor. vi. 2, in
this way; since in both passages the verb [Greek: krinein] is the
same,—”Do ye not know that the saints shall damn the world? And if the
world shall be damned by you, are ye unworthy to damn the
I will trouble the reader with only one other word.
(e) The word (katakrinein). Its meaning is—to condemn. It is a
stronger word than [Greek: krinein] to judge, but there is nothing in it
that corresponds to that awful meaning supposed to reside in the word
“damn.” And yet the translators did not hesitate to give it
How did they treat this verb, [Greek: katakrinein]? Just as they treated
other verbs and nouns, when they wished to bolster their theological
idea. In seventeen instances in the New Testament they translated it
rightly as “condemn,” but in Mark xvi. 16 and Rom. xiv. 23, doctrinal
preconceptions prevailed, and so these two passages were rendered—”He
that believeth not shall be damned.” “He that doubteth is damned if
And for centuries, an everlasting hell-fire has been read unto the
* * * * *
I might continue in this strain at great length. The quotations I have
given may be taken as samples of many more. It is surely time that the
sad and sombre clouds of so-called orthodoxy should be dispelled by the
rising beams of the Sun of Righteousness.
The word “for ever,” taken in its rigid literal sense, is a stumbling
block to many. I lately asked a very eminent man in England, the
president of a theological college, how he would get over that
difficulty. He replied that he believed that the word “aion” would more
fully meet the case, and that that word would more exactly accord with
the capacity of our finite mind, the word “forever” expressing an idea
entirely beyond our comprehension. That seems to be good sense, and more
in harmony with the whole trend of Revelation.
* * * * *
I have issued this treatise under an assumed name; not because I am
specially careful of my reputation, but rather because I wish the work
to be regarded solely on its own merits. If any reader feels disposed to
write me, either briefly or more at length, and whether in criticism or
commendation, I shall be glad.
Care Austin Publishing Co.,
Rochester, N. Y.
Fear of punishment—Early Impressions—Men of piety and learning—Fact
and figures—Mental or material fire—The theory of conditional
immortality—Why invented—Moody—Divine failure impossible—Future
operations of grace—Restoration—A plea for charity—Other worlds—The
heathen—Devout use of the imagination.
There is a general fear of suffering after death. Such fear may be
derived in part from early impressions and education, and in part from
the conscience that God has given to every man. But whatever their
secondary origin, these sources of fear have been divinely ordained as
means to an end. Such fear could not be divinely inspired if it were not
founded on fact. And the fact is, that there is suffering in reserve for
evil doers. There is no mistaking the statements of Scripture as well as
the voice of conscience on that point.
What that suffering is, for what object inflicted, and how long it will
continue, have been of late years much discussed, and with diverse
views. Some of these views are very literal interpretations of the
divine Word, and others of them are very figurative. The fact is, it is
not always easy to distinguish between symbolism and reality, whether in
nature or in revelation. I remember that the first time that I saw Mount
Tacoma in the distance, I could not distinguish as to what was mountain
and what was cloud. When I got very near, then I knew. And so in several
Scripture statements it is not easy, for the present, to distinguish
between what is fact and what is figure. When we get nearer no doubt we
shall know. So it is with the nature and the duration of future
punishment. Some take a more literal, and some a more figurative view.
The result is, that the Christian world is at wide variance on the
subject. And I think he would be a bold man, and not a very wise one,
who could be very dogmatic in such a realm of investigation.
* * * * *
Now, with regard to the portion of the wicked in the next life, there
are three main theories that are held.
First: There is the theory of everlasting conscious torment of the most
terrific kind. It is not clearly defined whether the suffering is of the
body or the mind, or both; but the general idea is that it is of both.
The bodily suffering is usually conceived of as being inflicted by fire;
but whether the fire is material or of some other kind, is not clearly
defined. The mental suffering is usually represented as the most
Then second: There is the theory of extinction at death or after. The
idea is that there is utter destruction both of the body and the mind at
Then again: Some hold that the wicked are given another opportunity
after this life of obtaining salvation; that many will do so, and that
the remainder will be destroyed. We may call this the theory of
DR. EDWARD WHITE’S THEORY.
Some are very definite in locating the period of a second probation as
co-extensive with the Millenial reign. Others do not pretend to know
when it will happen, or how long it will last; they simply believe it
will happen. This idea of a second probation is very similar to Dr.
Edward White’s theory of Conditional Immorality. He held that life in
the Scripture simply means life, and that death simply means death. He
believed that those who are fit for life will live, and that the rest
I would say here that the idea of Conditional Immortality, favored by
many, does not seem to me to be well conceived. Evidently the theory was
invented in order to escape the doctrine of endless torment. The idea
is, that if you are fit to live you are destined for a glorious
immortality; otherwise you are extinguished. Such a view does not seem
to comport with our highest thoughts of God, and His ways of working. In
my mind, it represents God as being too dependent on circumstances.
When we realize that Christ died not only for “all,” but for “every
man”; and when we realize that the invitations of mercy are extended to
“every man,” without equivocation, it does seem to me something like a
failure of the divine plan if “every man” is not saved.
But since every man is evidently not saved in this life, we project our
view into the next life, and we think of God’s operations of grace
there. No doubt that is a larger view than that which has so long
prevailed. But it is not unreasonable by any means. Divine operations
are surely not restricted to this short epoch of time. God’s mercy is
from everlasting to everlasting.
And can anything defeat His purpose? He has expressed His purpose to
save all men, in the fact that He gave His Son to die for the world, and
that He invites all the world to be partakers in the great salvation.
That is His purpose; and “His purpose will stand, and He will do all His
We should never forget this great truth. As Mr. Robert E. Speer well
“We escape much difficulty from literalistic and mechanical
interpretations by remembering that both space and time are merely
conceptions of our present order, and that there is neither space nor
time in God.”
The third theory is, that everyone will be restored. Those who hold this
view do not generally define the period when this will take place, or
the means that will be used to bring it about; but they believe that the
wisdom, love, and power of God will somehow be effectual to that end.
I think that these are mainly the views that are entertained on this
most solemn subject. And it must be said that each one of them is
apparently supported by one or more passages of Scripture. Men of the
most devout spirit, intellectual acumen, and profound scholarship,
uphold these various theories. Such men are honest and sincere in the
last degree; above all things anxious to know what God has revealed
in His Word.
UNFOLDING LIGHT OF REVELATION.
Yet on this momentous question they differ. It is really no wonder. I
think I may say that there is no clear deliverance in Scripture, in
absolute support of either of these views; or if there is, it is offset
by some other statement that seems contrary. In the unfolding light of
revelation we do not seem to have come to the time when this momentous
question will be made absolutely and universally plain. It may be one of
those questions on which we are to exercise faith alone. “Shall not the
Judge of all the earth do right?” That was Abraham’s consolation when he
did not know what God was going to do. And it may be our consolation.
The Judge of all the earth will certainly do right. Yes, and He will do
more than right. He is love. We can rest on that. Uncertainty as to
details may best become us now. But the eternal morning will break and
the shadows flee away. Meantime, while this uncertainty prevails, surely
there ought to be abounding charity of judgment.
When we come to think of it, we are not so much surprised that we have
but a partial and limited revelation on this subject. There may be more
divine kindness in that than at first sight appears. When we contemplate
the vastness of creation, we see that there are myriads of other worlds
far larger and more glorious than our own. Every one of these is likely
to have a moral history—it may be more important than ours.
Now, if we had a complete revelation of the destiny of our race,
possibly that would involve a history of some or many of those worlds;
for the affairs of this world may be largely involved in theirs.
Therefore, if God would give us such a revelation now, we can easily see
that it is quite beyond us; the subject would be too vast for us now and
here; we would be utterly bewildered, and rendered unfit for the
ordinary duties of life. How much wiser and kinder it is to give us but
a limited revelation, leaving unrevealed matters entirely to faith.
It is not remarkable, then, that so little is revealed, even of Heaven.
We do not know what activities will have place there. What particular
business will engage redeemed souls, we do not know. We have a
sufficient revelation to stimulate hope, but not enough to pander to
curiosity. Such a limited revelation as we could receive would probably
only confuse us. It is not remarkable, then, that we have but a meagre
account of the preparatory processes for final blessedness.
Yet, while all this is true, we can hardly help inclining more or less
to one or other of the theories named, in reference to the future. But
in this, as I have just said, we ought to be very charitable with each
other, as to our special conviction. If it were a fundamental question,
likely the Word of God would have made it plain. But it is not a
fundamental question. We may take whichever view seems the most
agreeable with Scripture or with reason; and for so doing we ought not
to be ostracised as heretics.
On this very question of future suffering there has been far too much
intolerance. The theory of eternal torment has especially been held to
be the only orthodox view. Surely, it is time for more liberality. On
this question I would make a special appeal for charity and good-will,
on the ground that there is no positive deliverance in revelation.
If anyone claims that there is, I would ask, How comes it that men of
the highest character and candor take different views? The time may come
when we shall see eye to eye on this matter; or it may not come in
Meantime we can agree to differ. What are we that we should arrogate to
ourselves any assumption of certainty on a matter unrevealed, that takes
us into the eternities, and fixes the doom of uncounted millions of
THE DEPARTED MORE AMENABLE.
Explain it as we may, we have always to remember that there are myriads
of human beings living now, and other myriads who have departed, who had
no chance to know the way of life. Will not the God of all mercy and of
all resource provide them with a chance on the other side of death? The
mere accident of death makes no change in them. And who knows if the
departed may not be more amenable to good influence then, than now? I
have heard of heathens who heard the Gospel but once, and they received
it, and were saved. It may be so with poor lost souls who had no
opportunity on this side of time.
One thing I cannot understand; and that is, the liberal terms in which
men at times express themselves, who yet profess the narrow orthodox
view. I do not say they are insincere; but it does seem as if they
deliberately ignored their own creed, and that they spoke for the time
out of the conviction and sincerity of their hearts. Just now, glancing
through a certain magazine, I have come on an instance of this kind. The
writer is a professor in a so-called orthodox Seminary. I leave any
fair-minded reader to say if his utterances are at all in harmony with
his professed orthodoxy. Here are a few of his sentences, selected
almost at random from a long article:
“In this swift day of unmatched opportunity, the Church is laboring,
perplexed and heavy, over its message.” That is true enough. And I think
the secret of the Church being “perplexed and heavy” is, that preachers
must have an inward, unspoken conviction that their message of a limited
salvation is unworthy of God, and unsuited to the needs of the world. No
wonder the Church is “perplexed and heavy!”
Again this author says: “Men want to know that all the lines of diverse
human life converge into one infinite, beneficent hand.” But if that
“infinite, beneficent hand” has cast by far the greater part of the
human race into eternal torment, it is no wonder if thoughtful men are
“perplexed and heavy.”
Yet the writer of this article believes in universal love. He says:
“Men want to see that their single life, so lost alone, is vitally bound
into the bundle of universal love.” So the author’s instinct is better
than his creed. He professes to believe in universal love. That is
surely all right. But notwithstanding that, he professes to believe that
untold millions of the human race are in endless suffering.
In another place he says: “Men long to be assured that this is no
universe of short, fortuitous details.” He also says: “The Kingdom of
God is too great for less than universal participation.” Is this not
universalism? Yet, if the author were asked, would not his creed require
him to repudiate such an idea?
Again, this author says: “A few years ago science and human thought were
accepting an account of life which let a man fall like a beast in the
field, or a tree in the wood. To-day that explanation satisfies no one.
It is agreed that the meaning of life can be complete only in terms of
spirit and immortality.” Is not the old doctrine of reprobation here
utterly denied? Yet that old doctrine of reprobation stands in the creed
of the orthodox church to-day.
One more quotation will suffice. Speaking of the divine plan, the author
says that it is “a plan so complete that no sparrow falls beyond it,
that no act falls fruitless, that there shall never be one lost good,
that no living soul made in God’s image can ever drift beyond His love
and care.” Is not this a flat contradiction of the author’s orthodox
creed? We believe that all he claims is absolutely true. But is he
candid? Why has not the church the courage to expunge the old fatalism
from her creed, and present to the world a statement that she really
believes? I am persuaded that such candor is the desideratum of the