Facts and Theories as to a Future State
PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION
A NEW edition being called for, I have sought to make it as complete as possible; and the book having been stereotyped, the new matter has been put in the shape of an appendix. This has had its advantage, however, in allowing some systems of unbelief which have only lately obtained prominence, and have received, so far as I am aware, little or no examination, to be more thoroughly investigated - a thing demanded by the fact of their doctrines being disseminated over the face of the country with a zeal worthy of a better cause. May the Lord grant in mercy that the answers furnished to these, though still brief, may be used of Him to preserve some from the flood of error, ever rising higher. The testimony to this is decisive. The fact can surprise no one who is intelligent as to the Scripture-witness to the apostasy of the last days. Mr. Spurgeons "Down-grade" papers in The Sword and Trowel are well known, and his withdrawal from the Baptist Union gives emphasis to his statements as to the decline of orthodoxy upon the subject of eternal punishment along with other fundamental truths.
Seven years before, a lecture by Mr. Edward White traces the spread of the doctrine of Conditional Immortality over the world, and names as its adherents many of the most noted writers and thinkers in all the Protestant denominations. Among these appears the name of Dr. Joseph Parker, of the City Temple, London, who shortly after Mr. Spurgeons letters, announced in Boston that "not one leading Congregational minister in England, as far as he knew, preached now the eternal retribution of sin in the world to come, but rather a gospel of hope." While quite recently Dr. Hannay, secretary of the Congregational Union, is reported as saying that "in England, the doctrine of Eternal Torment was practically dead, the doctrine of Conditional Immortality stationary, and perhaps declining, while that theory of the future life known as the larger hope was being widely accepted."
This must be taken, of course, with qualification. That such statements can be made, however, shows but too well the drift. If here in America the same things cannot be yet said, the tendency is still in the same direction. There is need, and urgent need, for that which meets it. No argument known to me, of the least importance, has been omitted from the present volume; while a full index of texts and another of subjects will give any one who consults its pages the means of ready reference to the whole contents. To the Lords grace and blessing it is now commended.
THE present work is the development of one published some years ago, and now out of print, but which took up only a portion of the subject here considered, and at much less length. The rapid spread of the views in question, their variety and their importance, render a prolonged and patient examination of them absolutely necessary. The question has become one of the leading questions of the day, and nothing short of an extended appeal to Scripture will satisfy the need of those entangled by the error, or of those who may be in danger of becoming entangled. For others also, quite outside of these, the careful examination of Scripture upon a subject of such deep interest will be found very far from unprofitable. Truth as a whole is so connected in its various parts, that we cannot apprehend any one of these more fully, without this leading us to a fuller apprehension of many other points in which kindred truths touch this. While the perfection and profundity of the word of God will more and more be realized as its ability is proved to satisfy the real need of the soul and meet the natural thoughts and questions of the mind. Scripture thus proved will be its own best evidence as a Divine revelation.
No doubt there is abundance of external witness to its truth; but the surest of all is its own direct testimony to mans heart and conscience. Without Scripture he is an enigma which his own wit cannot explain: he knows not from whence he came or whither he is going; he knows neither himself nor God. With Scripture, "light is come into the world;" and what makes all things manifest needs not, although it everywhere finds, a testimony outside itself. Truth speaks for itself -"commends itself to every mans conscience in time sight of God"- although the true it is who alone will hear it.
In the following pages, then, the doctrine of Scripture is what is first examined, not merely negatively an answer sought to certain views. The statement of the truth is the only proper answer to the error. This the writer has sought everywhere to keep in mind, while yet endeavouring to meet whatever has been advanced on the other side as fully as possible. Especial attention has naturally been given to certain writers who are most prominently identified with the theory of annihilation on the one hand, or of universal salvation in its various modifications upon the other; and they are allowed to speak for the most part in their own words, and at sufficient length to ensure that there shall be no doubt or mistake as to the views they hold. Among these, Mr. Constable has challenged criticism of his arguments, and to him I have naturally sought the more fully to reply. To the arguments of Mr. Roberts also, the present leader of the Christadelphian body, who has printed an extended examination of my original volume, "Life and Immortality," I have necessarily devoted considerable space. May the Lord in His pity and love to souls, for whom He has died, be pleased to use these pages for the blessing of many, and to His own glory!
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