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the flames, can fire touch the spirit? Or is there any literally destructive power in sin by which it actually wastes the constitution of the soul until it is reduced to nothing? Wicked spirits lose goodness, and the peculiar developments of intellect and sensibility which depend thereupon, but where is the proof that they lose physical or psychical vitality? In that sense, is Satan less alive and energetic now than he was six thousand years ago ?
(2.) The moral power of the appeal made by the threat of annihilation diminishes very rapidly with the degree of sin. The good man would feel it sensibly, but the depraved man in a very small degree; and depravity has only to gain a moderate development before the restraining power ceases, and a marvelous power to the contrary appears. The proof of this assertion lies in numberless facts of human history. The most glaring is that Boodhism, which for centuries has numbered its votaries by millions in India, Burmah, and China, has actually presented annihilation (or the state called nigban or nirvana) as the summit of hope, the final point of desire and perfection to be reached by gods and men! Thus in the Memoir of Dr. Judson we read that “it is the common opinion that nigban is non-existence, and that annihilation is the greatest good after which we can aspire. Nor is this the belief of the uneducated alone; the priests themselves teach this doctrine, and defend it on philosophical principles. They hold that it ... is base and groveling to cling to existence . . . and noble and philosophic, the mark of a superior mind not in love with mean and paltry things, to choose not to be." What a commentary is this upon the annihilation theory! How it demonstrates at a glance its impotence to restrain human depravity, or to stand as the representative of divine justice! But we need not wander to the far East, amid the mazes of its subtle philosophy, to find the proof we need. Who does not know that annihilation has been the favorite infidel theory, both in the form of Greek and Roman philosophy, and of modern Deism and Atheism ? “Death is an eternal sleep,” was the motto of the French skeptics in the time of their revolution, and they wrote this creed of one article over the gate of the cemetery. If we descend to those who occupy themselves less with reasoning than with sinning, and who are mere sensualists in character and practice, who is not aware that such gratify their lusts on the avowed principle of getting all the pleasure possible out of the present life, seeing that soon they shall cease to exist ? Thus Isaiah (xxii, 13) says that when God called the Jews to repentance: “Behold joy and gladness, slaying oxen and killing sheep, eating flesh and drinking wine: let us eat and drink; for to-morrow we die." And Paul plainly intimated that such would be the universal effect of a disbelief of a future life, such as he was pleading for in connection with the resurrection: “If, after the manner of men, (that is, reasoning as men ordinarily will,] I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, (that is, exposed my life for Christ's sake,] what advantageth it me? If the dead rise not, let us eat and drink; for to-morrow we die.” Thus Paul asserts the necessity of faith in a future life, (through the resurrection,) in which men will receive according to their present deeds, in order to restrain them from virtual atheism of heart and life. Nor is the case essentially altered if a resurrection be conceded of a temporary nature, to be followed by the desired annihilation.
Annihilation is indeed revolting to a thoughtful, serious, cultivated mind; and still more to a truly Christian soul, filled with the hopes of the Gospel. Such will dread it next to Bible perdition. But let them not think that all minds are thus affected. In proportion as men are rude and uncultivated, or are inclined to pantheistic or atheistic views, or are devoted to sensual indulgence, or are in any respect degraded or imbruted by sin, in that proportion will the idea of non-existence lose its repulsiveness and even come to be a welcome thought. The theory may not work great and immediate mischief when received by persons trained under the ordinary views, who may be Christians at heart, and who at present are a very small minority of the community. But should such a doctrine become prevalent, there is reason to apprehend disastrous results to morals and religion, for practically and negatively it would operate as modified Universalism. Sinners, delivered from fear of an eternal hell, and having nothing but annihilation to dread, would easily consent to forego a pious heaven hereafter to secure unlimited indulgence in sin on earth. Men ought not so to act, nor should they be influenced by fear alone in avoiding sin; but the course indicated would be natural; sin always tends in that direction, and therefore the doctrine of annihilation is morally weak and of evil tendency.*
(3.) Once more, if we expand our thoughts and embrace a conception of God's moral universe in its future history, if we realize that it is now probably in its infancy, and will receive eventually a development far beyond our anticipations in the creation, training, and confirmation in holiness of new races of beings; and if .. we ponder the hints in Scripture which authorize us to believe that God will use the facts of human history as means of impressing younger races, we shall see that the moral power of the annihilation scheme will be unspeakably less in these wide relations than that of the orthodox. An eternal hell will be an eternal warning against sin, always visible and accessible, and of untold power in counteracting temptation to sin. Who can affirm that it will not be a necessary instrumentality to that end, and that God may not have wisely and benevolently appointed it for that purpose? And if there shall need to be an appeal on that side of mind, who does not perceive that the mere blank left by annihilation (which indeed would not be discoverable in itself, but would need to be revealed) would have far less power of moral impression ?
Thus viewed, from every side, the annihilation theory is found both for immediate and ultimate use, among men and among other orders of beings, to be devoid of the necessary moral force.
The reader has now had opportunity to judge whether Christ taught that doctrine. Errors of fact, of philosophy, and of biblical interpretation upon which it is based, have been pointed out, and were the writer discussing the question without any restrictions of space or method, these indications of error could
* The writer is far from wishing to make appeals to theological prejudice. He would not confound annihilationism with Universalism in order to load it with undeserved opprobrium. In their positive affirmations the two theories are widely dissimilar; the former allowing the grand doctrines of evangelical religion, and even of rigid Calvinism, and giving a testimony, fearful to many minds, against the. fatal consequence of persisting in sin; and the other being at war in theory and influence with the whole scheme of Christianity. We should count it great gain if all Universalists became annihilationists. Still, in the negative and incidental working of the annihilation doctrine, it will operate in common with Universalism, and we have not been pleased with the manifestation of personal and spiritual affinities or sympathies between the advocates of the two views. If annihilationists would claim recognition as evangelical Christians, they must treat Universalism as fundamental heresy.
be greatly multiplied. Enough, however, has been said to show the impenitent sinner that he cannot safely comfort himself in his sin with the idea that at the worst he will only sink into a state of nothingness, devoid indeed of joy, but equally free from pain. He has begun to live under God's government, and he can never pass away from it. He must exist forever, and it is for him to say whether that forever shall be filled with bliss or woe.
• ART. III.- ANOTHER NEW HYMN BOOK.
The Sabbath Hymn Book: for the Service of Song in the House of the Lord. New York: Mason Brothers. Boston: J. E. Tilton
& Co. The preparation of a new volume of hymns for Christian worship is a difficult task. It requires not only an acquaintance with the religious poetry of the language, and a general knowledge of similar preceding publications, but good judgment, poetic taste, and not a little patience. Attention is to be paid not only to the doctrinal teaching of every hymn, but to the language in which it is taught. The rejection of doggerel is as imperative as the insertion of poetic gems, while no beauty of diction can excuse false theology.
We welcome the appearance of every new hymn book. We expect it to be better than any of its predecessors. It ought to be, inasmuch as the compilers have had the benefit of the labors of all who have gone before them. With such expectation we took up this volume, the title of which we may say, at the outset, did not strike us as exceedingly happy. Not to speak of its affected quaintness, it seems to restrict the use of the book to public worship in church on Sundays. This is by no means the intention of the compilers. They tell us, on the contrary, that it is designed “to aid in the more private social devotions in the conference room, the family, and the closet.” It is certain, moreover, that many of the hymns are not at all adapted for congregations of mixed worshipers on Sunday.
at the professinecialities of eit book
There is another objection to the title of this collection of hymns. It is calculated, to mislead the public. It seems to imply that sectarianism has been kept out of sight. It is not a book for the service of any one religious denomination. It is The Sabbath Hymn Book, implying that, in the judgment of the compilers, those who cannot use it are not evangelical Christians. Surely they ought to know that it is too late in the world's history to base the title of a volume of sacred poetry upon the arrogant assumption that Calvinism and Christianity are synonymous. The revelations of the last census, by which it appears that not one half of the professing Christians of the United States have any sympathy for the specialities of Calvinism, ought to have suggested the propriety of giving their book a more modestly-distinctive title, or of omitting many of the hymns that have found a place in it. We transcribe a few specimens of its theological teaching:
I cast my burdens on the Lord,
The Lord sustains them all;
That saints shall never fall.-H. 199, v. 5.
With all the fates of men;
Drawn by th' eternal pen.-H. 235, v. 3.
Dispense his favors as he will;
And yet be just and gracious still ?-H. 238, v. 1.
The meanest of his sheep;
His hands securely keep.-H. 882, v. 2.
What have I to do with fear?-H. 980, v. 3. *It is due to candor to add that in one of the hymns of this collection (1106) a different doctrine seems to be taught:
He knows the secret line which led
Those youthful steps astray ;
Might fall from him away. This stanza possibly found its way into the book through carelessness on the part of the compilers. If those who are holiest might fall away, and we suppose they might, one would think it were better to be numbered among those very mean sheep whom "his honor" has engaged to save.