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[ tary, or if by any other means he becomes reformted, and returns to society a good man, this same :: disposition will lead us to receive him to our resipect, and give him a brother's hand, as if he had e never transgressed. It will dismiss his sins, or blot them out of remembrance.
Here then is a man who has been punished and forgiven in human society. I do not mean that he has had his punishment forgiven. But he has had his punishment administered, and his transgressions forgiven. His transgressions are blotted out of remembrance, and society receives him as a just man.
And when we possess and practice the spirit here described, which scorns retaliation, and desires and seeks the good of all, we can safely and consistently pray to our Father in heaven, Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who trespass against us.'
Destruction of the Material Universe.
UNDER this head we shall notice several expressions which occur in the New Testament, and which by many readers are supposed to imply the dissolution of the elements of nature ; or to use a more common phrase, the destruction of the material universe. This subject, of itself, may not be of the first importance ; for it matters little to us, as individuals, whether the present system of nature be dissolved at some far distant period, or whether it shall continue in operation without end. Yet the subject derives a certain degree of importance from the fact, that some of the expressions to which we allude, occur in connexion with the phrase ' day of judgment,' or with some other phrase, importing that the virtuous shall be rewarded and the vicious punished. Hence in attempting to prove the doctrine of a judgment and punishment after death, many have contended that the passages which we are about to notice and others of like nature, imply a literal destruction of the material world; and therefore the judgment, and the punishment, mentioned in connection with such destruction, must of necessity take place in the future existence.
În this view of the case, it is certainly important to ascertain, if we can, whether these expressions are used by the sacred penmen in a literal, or in a
figurative sense. If they are used in a literal sense, then, to say the least, the argument we have mentioned, has much plausibility. If they are used in a figurative sense, then that argument may be considered unfounded and inconclusive.
It will not be expected, nor is it necessary, that we should notice every passage in which these questionable expressions are found; it will be sufficient to consider two or three which are the most frequently quoted, and on which disputants have apparently relied with the most un. doubting confidence. These may serve for a specimen of the whole class.
I. 'And as he sat upon the Mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be ? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world ?' 1
We have introduced this passage, not because any reputable critic understands it to imply a destruction of the material universe ; but partly, because many well meaning but uninformed readers do so understand it, and partly because it may assist us more easily to understand the import of other passages, wherein a similar phraseology occurs.
It may be observed that the word here translated world is aion, which has reference to duration rather than substance, and which is probably never used in the scriptures to denote the material world.2
1 Matt. xxiv, 3.
2 Univ. Expo. vol. i, p. 98, note.
But there are expressions in the context, which, if understood literally, would seem to imply the destruction of the visible heavens and earth. In reply to the question of his disciples, Jesus enumerated several signs and wonders and tribulations which should precede the end of the world. Having done this, he continued ;—'Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and : the powers of the heavens shall be shaken. And
then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in :heaven; and then shall all the tribes of the earth rmourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming
in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great
sound of a trumpet ; and they shall gather to.gether his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.'i
This is strong language ; perhaps as strong as any which is supposed to import the destruction of the visible heaven and earth. sage is understood by all commentators, orthodox as well as heterodox; to be descriptive, not of a
universal destruction hereafter to occur, but of let the overthrow and total dissolution of the Jewish
state. Nothing can be more certain than that the 1 events here mentioned have long since been fully
accomplished; for Jesus distinctly affirmed that some who then lived should witness their full accomplishment, saying, • Now learn a
parable of the fig-tree : When his branch is yet he tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that
Yet this pas
1 Matt. xxiv, 29-31.