Many sensible people will, with propriety, say, "Why all this labor to establish the meaning of one word?" And the author confesses that such a labor should be unnecessary. Men ought to refuse to credit such a doctrine as that of endless punishment on higher grounds than those of verbal definitions. Reverence, not to say respect, for God, the fact that he is the Father of mankind, should cause all to reject the doctrine of endless torment, though the weight of argument were a thousand fold to one in favor of the popular definition of this word. But there are many who disregard the moral argument against the doctrine, which is unanswerable; who crush under the noblest instincts of the heart and soul, which plead, trumpet-tongued, against that horrible nightmare of doubt and unbelief; who cling to the mere letter of the word which kills, and ignore the spirit which gives life; who insist that all the voices of reason and sentiment should be disregarded because the Bible declares the doctrine of endless punishment for sinners. It is for such that these facts have been gathered, and this essay written, that no shred nor vestige even of verbal probability should exist to mislead the mind, and so seem to sanction the doctrine that defames God and distresses man; that it might be seen that the letter and the spirit of the word agree, and are in perfect accord with the dictates of reason, the instincts of the heart, and the impulses of the soul, in rejecting the worst falsehood, the foulest of all brood of error, the darkest defamation of the dear God's character that ever yet was invented, the monstrous falsehood that represents him as consigning the souls he has created to his own image to interminable torment. The word under examination is the foundation stone of that evil structure.
Thus it has appeared as the result of this discussion that
1. There is nothing in the Etymology of the word warranting the erroneous view of it.
2. The definitions of Lexicographers uniformly given not only allow but compel the view we have advocated.
3. Greek writers before and at the time the Septuagint was made, always gave the word the sense of limited duration.
4. Such is the general usage in the Old Testament.
5. The Jewish Greek writers at the time of Christ ascribed to it limited duration.
6. The New Testament thus employs it.
7. The Christian Fathers for centuries after Christ thus understood it.
Hence it follows that the readers of the Bible are under the most imperative obligations to understand the word in all cases as denoting limited duration, unless the subject treated, or other qualifying words compel them to understand it differently. There is nothing in the Derivation, Lexicography or Usage of the word to warrant us in understanding it to convey the thought of endless duration.
If our positions are well taken the Bible does not teach the doctrine of endless torment, for it will be admitted that if this word does not teach it, it cannot be found in the Bible.
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