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p78 F G Patterson, One great cause of error on this subject is, that the saints do not make the difference which scripture does between the government of God exercised over this earth and the necessary rejection of sin by God's nature - His wrath from heaven. The evangelical world does not make the difference, and hence is liable to be misled, and unable to answer, though God may preserve souls by the instinctive sense of what is in scripture. Israel may be carried to Babylon, but Daniel finds it his sure path to heaven. All above twenty years old fall, save two, in the desert, but Moses and Aaron, and very likely many others, find their place in heaven too.

These dealings of God must be in connection with God's character, and immediately flow from it; but they are not the expression of it: they are His ways in and through men. Life and incorruptibility were brought to light by the gospel. Just judgment was expressed in these ways, but not the judgment of the secrets of men's hearts, but of men on the earth, for their conduct on the earth. This is so true that, though there are passages which lead the spiritual mind to see the loss and ruin of man ("He drove out the man:" that God was lost to man: that man had left God, the way back to the tree of life being barred), yet the express positive judgment as pronounced does not go beyond this world, even when it reaches death. Man was made out of the dust, and returns to the dust: but that is man, the object of our senses here; nor was more openly revealed. But the breath of God was not dust nor made out of the dust. Hence death, and destruction, and the like, in the Old Testament, though they may imply that displeasure which is the sign of what is connected with eternal misery, yet mean habitually, in the Old Testament, death and destruction by judgment in this world: a solemn and dreadful thing as God's displeasure, but which is not in itself eternal misery. The state of the soul afterwards may be learned from other truths, but what is expressed is present judgment without the smallest hint of what comes of the soul afterwards. It is judgment here.

The New Testament recognises this even to death, as judgment here too, but passes on to the revelation of what follows because life and incorruptibility are brought to light, and that the absolute incompatibility of God's nature and sin (not merely His governmental approbation of righteousness) is plainly revealed. But these, those who deny the immortality of the soul confound; and for the most part evangelicals too. The latter hold the truth in effect, but they accept the application of terms and passages to what is eternal, which puts a weapon in the hands of those who teach error, against which it is logically hard to defend themselves, though their faith may be right. Universalists are in the same error, but it does not so immediately affect the question on the surface of the matter; but it does as really, because the nature of sin and wrath is in question.

Another source of error for the Universalist, allied to this, is the not perceiving that an entirely new life is given in Christ. The evil of the flesh of the old man is unaltered. They confound and forget, in looking only at the practical effect on our state, the real gift of life, and suppose that a process after death can form the soul for God. Where eternal life is, punishment can break the will, give seriousness, restrain under the sense of God's hand, and so work effects; but no punishment can ever give life, nor does grace alter the old man. I only speak of general principles, which lead to these errors here, because in universalism either Satan and the evil angels, to be more precise, can be saved without propitiation (and so can we then too), or their plea of God all in all is false, and mere human selfishness; and the evil spirits remain unsaved, for Christ did not take up the cause of angels.

But I return to general principles. The Old Testament passages which furnish the vast majority of alleged proofs of the destruction of the wicked, speak of judgment and destruction in this world only. All beyond, save glimmers which traversed the gloom for faith, was dark and invisible. That system was the government of God, not salvation for God's presence and eternal life, though these were saved and quickened. Destructionism holds that eternal life is given in Christ alone, but confounds eternal life and the immortality of the soul, two entirely distinct things. As regards spiritual divine life, we have no life in us at all; we are dead. It is not merely that it is not immortal life; we have none. It denies that we are alive - not that the soul is immortal but that we have life in us. They might as well, and more truly, use it to prove we are not alive at all - for that is what is said - than that the soul is not immortal. It does not apply to the question.

As regards destructionism, another false assumption, which formed the basis of thought in most minds affected by it, is that death is ceasing to exist. This is wholly groundless. Indeed it begs the whole question. It may or may not be, as far as man can say from what he sees; for beyond death he sees nothing. He may reason that the cessation of outward organisation does not and cannot affect that of which he has the consciousness, and have the strongest ground for rejecting the supposition when 'to be or not to be,' that is the question. He may speculate with Plato, or reason closely with Butler; but he knows nothing. As far as the intimations of the Old Testament go for faith, they furnish the thought which Pharisees had thus acquired of the subsistence of the soul after death. Thus Samuel is brought up: David says, "I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me." Enoch and Elijah gave yet brighter hopes in the darkness, though darkness still was there. So that the Lord could rebuke the Sadducees as not knowing the scriptures nor the power of God in rejecting the resurrection; and the resurrection involved the necessary truth expressed in Luke 20:37-38, that "all live unto him." Nor did scripture know in this respect any difference between saints and sinners: not only was He the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob ("not the God of the dead, but of the living"), but the ground of this was not their piety, but that for God all lived, even when for man they died. Sadducees are no new race; but they "err, not knowing the scriptures." The Old and New Testaments alike forbid the thought that in man's case death is ceasing to exist: believers die, (Christ died just as much and as really as sinners.) If death as such means ceasing to exist, then the saints and Christ ceased to exist. Nor can what has ceased to exist ever be raised again.

But there is another vital point in this question. The atonement is lost, and the responsibility in us to which it applies. If I have no more soul than a beast, though a more intelligent animal nature in degree, responsibility is gone. You cannot make a dog or an elephant responsible for sins. When I am converted, I repent, I judge my past sins; I feel I have failed in my responsibility; I learn that through infinite grace Christ has died for my sins. It is not merely that He becomes life - new life to my soul. Thank God that is true; but He died and has made atonement for my guilt, my sins, when I had not yet that life. He died for our sins; and this that I might live. If eternal life were given to an animal, it could not repent of previous guilt; the Lord, with reverence be it spoken, could not make atonement for its previous sins: He has, blessed be His name, for mine.

Responsibility and atonement disappear with this doctrine, and in its value with universalism too; because, in the latter system, sin does not bring exclusion from God, but merely a measure of torment: the nature and character of sin is denied - by some, indeed, expressly. And in the destructionist system, even the punishment of sin, temporary punishment after death has no ground. If I have only animal life, and can no more really sin than a dog or an elephant, what am I tortured for afterwards, and so destroyed?

It is well to remark, that not only do the two systems of destructionism and universalism denounce each other as utterly unscriptural, but there are two parties among Destructionists. One holds death to be death, and the end of man as of a beast. They are consistent, at any rate; for if we cease to exist, we cease to exist. But then, if scripture be owned at all, we read "after this the judgment"; and so the other party bring them up again, though saying death is ceasing to exist, and then destroy them gradually in the fire: though, as I have said what for, it is hard to tell if they have only animal life; or who is raised, is hard to tell if they have ceased to exist. But there is the judgment after death; that is, they have not ceased to exist at all. The soul is a distinct thing; it survives the body: "All live unto him."

I only seek here to review the bearing of the question, not to enter into detailed proofs.