Fifth Edition - 1875CHAPTER XV
IT has been so often asserted that the theory of Augustine was the theory always held in the Christian Church, that our treatise would not be complete if we did not show that such was not the case. We wholly deny it. The doctrine of the Apostolical Church was on this question in perfect agreement with Scripture. We see this from those "Writings of the Apostolical Fathers" which have been preserved to our time, and which are now readily accessible to the English reader in the admirable issue of the "Ante Nicene Christian Library," edited by Rev. A. Roberts, D.D., and James Donaldson, LL. D. From beginning to end of them, there is not one word said of that immorality of the soul which is so prominent in the writings of the later fathers. Immortality is by them asserted to be peculiar to the redeemed. The punishment of the wicked is by them emphatically declared to be everlasting. Not one stray expression of theirs can be interpreted as giving any countenance to the theory of restoration after purgatorial suffering. The fire of hell is with them, as with us, an unquenchable one; but its issue is with them, as with Scripture, "destruction," "death," "loss of life"
2. We could not, within a moderate volume, attempt to examine the writings of all these several fathers. We must content ourselves with the general view we have given above of their teaching. We beg to refer our readers to the volume which contains their writings from which they can judge for themselves. We challenge our opponents to controvert our view of them in a single particular. In our present chapter we propose to give at some length the views of one of these fathers, Clement of Rome. We select him, because his first epistle is a work of whose authenticity there is little doubt. If genuine, it is the work of a man who was a contemporary, and highly-valued friend of the apostle Paul.1 It would thus rank in authority of statement next to the testimony of an apostle. It was in fact "read in numerous churches" of the apostolic age "as being almost on a level with the canonical writings."2 In the succeeding chapter, we propose to exhibit the views of two of the principal fathers immediately following the apostolic age, viz., Justin Martyr and Irenaeus. We will after them give a sketch of the rise of the theory of eternal life in hell; and of that doctrine of universal restoration which was man's indignant revolt from man's cruel hell.
3. The first thing we will notice in Clement is his silence on certain points. He very often speaks of future punishment. It is a theme upon which no Christian teacher can with fidelity be silent. Yet Clement never speaks of the immortality of the soul which is so indissolubly bound up with the theory of punishment as taught by Tertullian and Augustine. Nor is there throughout his epistle (we speak only of his first epistle as the authenticity of the second is generally doubted,) a single passage descriptive of future punishment which can be paralleled in expression with passage after passage from every writer who holds the Augustinian theory. In Tatian, and Tertullian, and Hippolytus, and Athanasius, and Augustine, we find expressions which have no parallel in the epistle of Clement.
4. He differs from them just as much in what he says as in his silence. His descriptions of human nature are quite unlike the lofty descriptions of Plato copied by his Christian imitators. With Clement, man is a material being, made out of that matter which from the time of Aristotle downward was distinguished from the intelligent principle, the mind. With him man has come out of a sepulchre, from utter darkness. So far from being an immortal, he is, in Clement's phrase, a mortal creature, consisting only of dust and ashes— his life as but the life of one day.3 Such is Clement's general description of man with which we will find his particular accounts in perfect harmony.
5. We believe that for the Greek word ajqanasiva, (athanasia, ) translated "immortality" there is but one meaning. We have never seen but one meaning given to it in any dictionary we have used, no matter what were the theological bias of its editor. Its root, qanatoz, thanatos, has acquired new figurative senses; but this derivative has but one sense, showing emphatically the original and proper sense of the root from which it sprung. Immortality, or eternal existence, is its only sense. Clement tells us that this immortality is one of God's gifts to the redeemed that if we would gain it we must "earnestly strive" for it: that if we do not thus strive for it we shall not obtain it. 4 He distinguishes it expressly from the moral qualities that make up the believer's character, his righteousness, truth, faith, holiness. Clement did not believe that the lost were possessed of, or should ever obtain, any immortality at all.
6. We come to another word Zwh, zoe, "life," and will see how Clement uses it. The meaning of this word is not so undisputed as that in the last paragraph. Many people suppose it means "happiness," "well-being," etc. We will however confine ourselves to Clement's use of it. In one place he speaks of it as that life of Christ which was taken from the earth. It can here have no meaning but existence. In another place he describes it as that life of man which may last but for a day. Here too existence is its only sense. In another place he expressly distinguishes it from that "righteousness," or moral well-being of man, with which so many confound it: with him righteousness is not life, but the way to life. And lastly he tells us that this life when joined to immortality is God's gift to His people, for which they must strive.5 Clement did not think that there was any everlasting existence for the lost.
7. One of Clement's descriptions of what will happen to the wicked hereafter, is that they will suffer "death" (qanatoz, thanatos ). He probably took this from the epistle to the Romans where it is the usual expression of Paul. The ready definition of this phrase by Augustinian theorists, whence derived we cannot see, is that it means death temporal, spiritual death in sin, and everlasting misery. This was not Clement's sense of it. In the first place he expressly distinguishes it from spiritual death or the ill-being of the moral condition of man. Death, he tells us, results from this. In the next place he identifies the death which sinners will hereafter endure with that death which Enoch was exempted from, which certainly was only the death which men, whether good or evil, ordinarily undergo. And he also identifies it with the death which Abel, Christ, and the martyrs endured.6 When Clement tells us that death is the ultimate fate of the wicked he means that they will be deprived of their existence.
8. While we do not know whether Clement ever directly uses the verb "to destroy," (apollumi, apollumi, ) in his descriptions of future punishment, he leaves us in no doubt what is his established meaning for it. He applies it to the death of the people of Jericho by the hand of Joshua, to the death of the army of Pharaoh in the Red Sea, to the death which has come on all, good and evil, through sin.7 We also see what force he attributes to it, when we find him making it the equivalent for such verbs as anairew, qanatow, teleutaw, (anaireo, thanatoo, teleutao .)8 Our readers will see the force of this from the consideration of the force of one of these verbs, teleutao. This verb never has the meaning of bringing misery or moral ruin on a man. It meant originally "to bring about," "finish," "accomplish," "end," and hence it came absolutely to signify "to die," as the end of human existence. We thus see Clement's meaning for that word apollumi, one of the most usual in Scripture for the end of the wicked. It meant, with him, their loss of existence.
9. There can be no doubt then of Clement of Rome's view of future punishment. By his silence and by his words he tells us what it was. With him there was no immortality for any but the redeemed of Christ. Endless life was, with him, only for those who would use it to the glory of the Giver. For all others there was, after resurrection and judgment, the sentence to a second death, the loss of existence for ever, from which they were never to be recalled to another life, another probation, another opportunity of salvation. What we have established in the case of Clement, we could with equal ease establish in the case of all the other apostolical fathers. Every one of the men who were contemporaries of the apostles, and have left to our times any of their writings, agree with our view of future punishment as consisting in the destruction of the ungodly, their becoming as a thing of nought.