A novel attempt to make eternal punishment palatable
The doctrinal confusion of the time or ‘the chaos', as Hugh McLeod heads his discussion of the Victorian uncertainties about traditional Christian teaching, was offered some sort of solution, as far as eternal punishment was concerned, in the form of T. R. Birks', The Victory of Divine Goodness. To some extent a compromise between the traditional harsh view and restorationism (universalism) Birks' view preserved the eternal nature of final punishment but purged it of the necessity for evil to endure. Essentially, Birks approached the problem of hell in the context of theodicy. However, because he sought to make the judgement of God more acceptable in an age of scepticism about such things, he became the victim of orthodox impatience with any attempt to modify basic doctrine; and a number of the leaders of the Evangelical Alliance censured him.
One's interest in Birks was first aroused by the account of his views, and his subsequent persecution for them, in Geoffrey Rowell's comprehensive study, Hell And The Victorians. However, attempts to acquire Birks' The Victory of Divine Goodness for a fuller and first-hand examination of his views proved frustrating and protracted. Help was not available from the British Library, the Evangelical Library, other specialist libraries or even the archives of the Evangelical Alliance. It was only after much persistence that a copy was found in Cambridge University. It has been somewhat surprising to discover the general ignorance of this character among evangelicals, even those associated with the Evangelical Alliance, in which Birks once enjoyed a reputation of some distinction. Surprisingly, not even the exhaustive study of Leroy Edwin Froom nor David Powys' detailed examination of the nineteenth century debate about hell has any reference to him. However, Bebbington's history of modern Evangelicalism in Britain does have a few useful references to him; but he is surely not accurate when he numbers Birks among "those eminent Evangelicals in the Established Church who have departed from belief in everlasting retribution for the lost", as I hope to make clear. Kessler's study of the Evangelical Alliance in Britain briefly records the troubled episode caused by Birks' book; but here again there could have been more depth and accuracy. For, as I hope to prove, Birks is an original and seminal thinker, and worthy of more recognition, if only because of the motivation behind his controversial views.
Before examining the relevant teaching of Birks and the reaction to it, it would be helpful to note the events of 1845-46 relating to the origin of the Evangelical Alliance and to the introduction of the doctrine of eternal punishment into its basis of belief. This vital stage in the history of evangelicalism, which has been well documented, has been given a detailed examination by Kessler, and the sequence of key events is not too difficult to trace.
The effective inspiration of the emergence of the Evangelical Alliance can be found in the suggestion of Dr. Patton of New York in 1845 that there should be "the calling of a convention in London of delegates from all the evangelical churches"; this suggestion being in the form of a letter included in "Essays on Christian Union", published by Scottish evangelicals at the time in their pursuit of Christian unity. It was envisaged that the document, which would be issued to call this meeting, would lift up "a standard against Papal and Prelatical arrogance and assumption" and would embody "the great essential doctrines" common to consistent Protestants. However, while it was agreed by the Scottish evangelicals that such a venture should to be pursued, it was suggested by the Rev. Dr. David King of Glasgow "that a smaller preliminary meeting was needed to form the doctrinal basis."
This and the further suggestion that this preliminary meeting should be held in Liverpool was accepted by the interested Scottish churches, who appointed deputies for the meeting and issued a circular to the churches in England, Wales and Ireland inviting them also to send delegates to Liverpool. This historic preparatory conference was held during October 1-3, 1845, at the Medical Hall in Liverpool, when 216 leaders representing 20 denominations were present. Evidently, the conference sought to be constructive from the start; for while Dr. King's letter of invitation (urging the need to stand against "Popery and Puseyism") was read out and later appended to the conference report, it was not adopted. Again, despite the tone of his letter of invitation, Dr. King chaired the opening meeting of the conference stressing that the keynote he must strike was love, later adding that "Christian union would be the first object of the Alliance and not controversy."
Of the issues needing to be resolved at this conference, one's chief concern is with the question of the beliefs, which were to be included in the doctrinal basis. This matter was dealt with by a sub-committee, with Dr. R.S. Candlish as its reporter. Much to the rapturous approval of the assembly, the committee reached unanimity within the time allotted to it, and eight points of doctrine were put to those gathered. These were:
- 1. The divine inspiration, authority and sufficiency of Holy Scripture.
- 2. The unity of the Godhead, and the Trinity of Persons therein.
- 3. The utter depravity of human nature in consequence of the fall.
- 4. The incarnation of the Son of God and His work of atonement for sinners of mankind.
- 5. The justification of the sinner by faith alone.
- 6. The work of the Holy Spirit in the regeneration and sanctification of the sinner.
- 7. The right and duty of private judgment in the interpretation of Holy Scripture.
- 8. The divine institution of the Christian ministry and the authority and perpetuity of the ordinances of Baptism and the Lord's Supper.
Candlish explained that this was not meant to be a creed but a "general statement". In the discussion which followed, some concern was expressed that the last article might exclude groups such as the Quakers and the Plymouth Brethren; but it was felt in response that the opening of the Alliance meetings with prayer would exclude the Quakers anyway and that this clause need not exclude the Brethren. The statement of faith was then adopted without alteration, apart from the change of "regeneration" to "conversion" in the sixth article.
The name, ‘Evangelical Alliance', was adopted in the final session of the conference; and it was agreed that the provisional committee should meet in Birmingham in January and April, prior to the great London conference.
The remarkable display of the harmony of truth and love so evident at the Liverpool conference was not to exist intact for too long. At the second meeting of the provisional committee in April 1846 the doctrinal basis had to be re-examined in the light of objections that had arisen. However, the criticism that Sabbath observance had been omitted only encouraged the provisional committee to endorse the Liverpool decision to include it under the "practical aims" of the Alliance. More serious was the unease felt by some that the doctrinal basis implied a distinction between essential and non-essential truth. To satisfy this disquiet, the committee added a supplementary clause to the doctrinal basis pointing out that truths which had been omitted were not necessarily unimportant and that the basis was not to be regarded as a kind of definitive statement for the testing of brothers in Christ. Commenting on the composition and purpose of the doctrinal basis, Kessler insists that it was not meant to be taken as a summary of the fundamental truth of the gospel, but - and here he quotes Dr. J.W. Massie - only as a "basis for the Evangelical Alliance" simply providing the "prominent characteristics of the designation evangelical"; and he sees the omission of the doctrine of the second coming of Christ as support for Massie's view.
For our purposes, the most significant doctrinal issue considered at this preparatory stage was that of eternal punishment. The provisional committee met again on August 13 1846 to sort out some remaining problems before the great inaugural conference, which was to take place the following week. First, the Scottish members of the committee were anxious that the kingship of Christ should not be neglected; and to allay this concern the fourth article was augmented with the words, "and His mediatorial intercession and reign". Further, the American representatives were eager to have something included about life after death; and this led to the addition of a ninth article:
- 9. The immortality of the soul, the resurrection of the body, the judgement of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ, with the eternal blessedness of the righteous and the eternal punishment of the wicked.
Some years later the monthly chronicle of the Evangelical Alliance, Evangelical Christendom, recalled (in defence of Birks) that this article was not in the original basis and that it was added "at the pressing instance of American brethren" because of two errors prevalent in Germany and America namely, annihilation and ultimate restoration [or conditional immortality and universalism].
The great inaugural or founding conference of the Evangelical Alliance began at the Freemasons' Hall, Great Queen Street, London on August 19, 1846. Eight-hundred Christians from fifty denominations were present, 84% from Britain, 10% from America and 6% from various European countries. They came in their capacity as individuals albeit some would have been backed financially by their churches. Sir Culling Eardley Smith [leader of the anti-Maynooth committee] was elected chairman of the conference; and he echoed the tone of the preparatory Liverpool conference by stressing the need to combine truth and love. The first two resolutions stressed unity in Christ, without seeking to remove denominational structures; albeit, Dr. King was bold enough to express the hope that this could lead to organic union later. In the afternoon session of the second day it was proposed that the conference should form the Evangelical Alliance. This was passed unanimously; and the doxology was sung, the delegates standing and shaking hands.
The third morning began a difficult and threatening phase of the conference, when the doctrinal statement was being considered. Unfortunately, prior to this conference the provisional committee had sought fit to add an introductory clause: "that the parties composing the Alliance shall be such persons only as hold and maintain what are usually understood to be evangelical views, in regard to the matters of doctrine understated." As Kessler observes, this addition vitally affected the purpose of the doctrinal statement. Originally it had been designed simply as a "rallying call" to those interested in the Evangelical Alliance; now it was being used in a limiting way, restricting membership to those who could agree with all its details. Despite the unease felt, Edward Bickersteth, the father-in-law of T.R. Birks, proposed acceptance of the doctrinal basis; and claimed that it was a summary of the most vital truths and that it was his "creed". (Bickersteth had not been present, due to illness, at the second meeting, at Birmingham, when the provisional committee was seeking to express the feeling that the doctrinal basis was not a test or instrument of exclusion.) However, Bickersteth did concede that there were Christians who did not believe everything in the statement, implying that not all the doctrines were essential for salvation.
As the discussion developed it became clear that the majority present wanted the doctrinal basis to be as small as possible and to allow the inclusion of the greatest number of members possible; and in this connection the additions to the original Liverpool formula were criticised not for their content but for the fact that they lengthened the original statement. Kessler bemoans the fact that continued discussion to achieve a clearer theological understanding of the basis was discouraged; for he feels that such further discussion would have made clear the provisional nature of the basis, preventing some seeing it as an "absolute standard" or test. Again, probably such clarification of the meaning and purpose of the basis would have made the later attack upon Birks' views less likely.
On the evening of the fifth day, the doctrinal basis (including the introductory and supplementary clauses) was accepted unanimously and unaltered, apart from a change in the order of the articles. (This is when the ninth article, on the afterlife and eternal punishment, would have become the eighth.) At this manifestation of unity, Edward Bickersteth's joy was ecstatic, and spontaneously he led the assembly in praise and worship.
T.R. Birks, himself, made a notable contribution on the seventh day of the conference when [almost prophetically considering the later controversy surrounding him] he proposed the resolution that the "great object" of the Alliance was to aid the unity existing among true disciples of Christ and to discourage strife and division. However, a couple of days later the conference was to take a dramatic turn, which effectively was to contradict this spirit of love and harmony.
On the ninth day, as delegates were becoming weary, with some ready to leave, a discussion had started about a proposed international conference in New York in 1849, when the Rev. J.H. Hinton, a Baptist minister from London, who was a leader of the anti-slavery movement, "proposed an amendment barring all slaveholders from the oecumenical Alliance". The reaction was understandable, if most unfortunate, in that the American delegates did not take too kindly to what was being seen as a general measure of censure being forced on them by the British; and the conference was prolonged by four days of vigorous debate, which filled 180 closely printed pages of the conference report. A sub-committee was appointed and it reported back, strongly condemning slavery, which consolidated the attitude of the British contingent and also seemed to satisfy the Americans. However, the latter reconsidered their position and the debate was reopened - somewhat inconclusively. Kessler, regrets that this part of the conference has too often been passed over too briefly, considering the way it reveals the difficulties in the way of Christian unity. However, suffice it say (so that we do not stray too far into another doctrinal or moral area) that the inability of the two sides to agree on this matter, obliged the conference to abandon the idea of an ecumenical or world Alliance. Instead, it adopted the British suggestion of loosely linked national organisations, which were not responsible for each other's actions. The membership of the Evangelical Alliance proper would be limited to those present at the London conference (none of whom were slaveholders); and these founding members would set up seven regional organisations in Great Britain, U.S.A., Belgium, France and French Switzerland, North Germany, Canada, and the West Indies. The British members of the Alliance met again in November that year in Manchester to establish the British Organisation.
Later, during the controversy surrounding his book, The Victory of Divine Goodness, Birks stressed that he was a founding member of the Evangelical Alliance as well as of its British Organisation, a privilege lacked by his detractors, Baxter and Matheson, who were members only of the latter. As we will continue to discover as we leave this summary of the historical background, Birks was a character of some significance in the origin and continuing story of the Evangelical Alliance.
* * * * * * *
Thomas Rawson Birks (M.A., Cantab.,1837) was the incumbent of Holy Trinity, Cambridge where Charles Simeon had been vicar from 1782-1833), when he published his controversial book. Geoffrey Rowell notes that the young Gerard Manley Hopkins described him in 1864 as "almost the only learned Evangelical going"; and indeed he was to succeed F. D. Maurice as professor of Moral Philosophy in Cambridge, in 1872. In 1861 he wrote The Bible and Modern Thought, described by Bebbington as "a single-handed riposte" to the notorious Essays and Reviews, published the previous year. His links in the fraternity of evangelicals were also strong, being the son-in-law of Edward Bickersteth, a distinguished academic and cleric and a founder of the Evangelical Alliance in 1846, and brother-in-law of Edward Henry Bickersteth, poet and future bishop of Exeter, who shared his views.(See below.) Setting him and his book in the context of the concern engendered by his book, the evangelical periodical, Evangelical Christendom, granted him the highest of accolades :
. . . a very distinguished member of the Alliance, the Rev. T. R. Birks, for nineteen years Honorary Secretary of the British Organisation [of the E.A.], and having an extensive Evangelical connection and high reputation, published a book which has proved the occasion for no small disturbance and controversy. [It later describes him as] . . .a member of the University of Cambridge of considerable distinction, and as a preacher is generally assigned by public opinion to the Evangelical party in the Church of England.
Considering the historical context, we note that Birks' book appeared not long after Darwin's controversial The Origin of Species, 1859. Bebbington assures us that Birks repudiated the theory of evolution, which he saw as "rejecting a Guiding Intelligence." Yet, in his account of the dispute, which rocked the Evangelical Alliance, Kessler seems to imply that Birks was influenced by the idea of development, and that his theory had to do with "the possibility of a development in the life after death."
"The Victory of Divine Goodness"
In the Preface, Birks introduces The Victory of Divine Goodness as a sequel to his earlier works Difficulties of Belief and the Ways of God (which were published in1855 and 1863 respectively). The book is in three parts :
- I. LETTERS TO AN INQUIRER ON VARIOUS DOCTRINES OF SCRIPTURE;
- II. NOTES ON COLERIDGE'S CONFESSIONS OF AN INQUIRING SPIRIT;
- III. THOUGHTS ON THE NATURE OF THE ATONEMENT AND OF ETERNAL JUDGMENT.
In the Preface he explains that the Letters to an Inquirer were written seven years earlier to a ‘gentleman of rank', who had written to him on ‘several topics which had caused him either perplexity or distress'. He goes on to make clear that the reason for his delay in publishing them has been the sensitive and controversial nature of the subject of the fifth letter (viz. eternal punishment):
On that solemn topic it is dangerous to speak, when Scripture, on the surface at least, appears to keep silence.
However, he feels that the time has now come to make his views known openly:
The subject has of late been revived, and has acquired new prominence among the theological and ecclesiastical controversies of the present day. Any contribution, in a reverent and cautious spirit, to the guidance and relief of perplexed minds, is now more seasonable than ever.
He is, of course, referring to the considerable volume of thought and literature devoted to this topic in the second half of the nineteenth century; and which has already been dealt with in the previous chapter. Significantly, he says also on the same page that these views he is about to publicise have been in his mind for the past thirty years.
Before examining Letter V, On Future Punishment, a look at the earlier letters will reveal much about the direction of his thinking related to other aspects of theodicy. In Letter III, The History Of The Flood, he deals with the problem of the fate of those lost in the Deluge. He rejects the usual idea of a second probation, but he does not see their situation as necessarily hopeless. Accepting the possibility that many of those who drowned repented before they finally perished, he claims that I Peter 3: 18-20 would support the hope that Jesus presented them with the Gospel of forgiveness, between His death and resurrection: that those who had so repented might gain eternal salvation, despite losing the salvation afforded by the ark. Although I Peter refers specifically to those lost at the time of the Flood, Birks is prepared to see this posthumous offer of salvation extended to all since Adam, who expressed some kind of secret repentance before they finally expired, e.g. the Egyptian host lost in the returning waters and the Canaanite armies.  Yet, we must not assume too readily that such ideas reflect an inability to face up to the demands of a holy and just God. On page 27 he sees no room for any "sickly sentimentalism" in these matters; and in Letter IV, The Canaanites, when tackling the moral problem of their destruction, he defends the actions of God and argues that the more we grow in holiness the more we appreciate "the ways and counsels of the Holy One".
It is in Letter V, On Future Punishment, that he begins to express his ideas: views which may well appear idiosyncratic, albeit they offer an attractive alternative to the horrific nature of the traditional view - at least to those searching for a more rational and compassionate understanding of the final judgement. He starts by facing up to the inherent tension in the problem. Answering his inquirer he writes :
"Nothing," you remark, and I agree with the statement, "can be more positively laid down by our Lord, than that the reward of heaven and the punishment of hell are eternal . . ." On the other hand, a perfect love seems to imply a sincere desire for the happiness of every conscious and intelligent creature, and a perfect victory of Almighty love that this desire should not fail through the strength of evil, but be at length fulfilled . . .
Fundamentally, he shares the traditional thinking that the Bible teaches that final punishment is eternal. He is hardly unorthodox, either, when he speaks of the perfect love and the perfect victory of God. Before going on to share his thoughts on approaching this problem, he reminds his correspondent that his mind has been greatly exercised by this for many years; however, he has received light on the matter, and this he now wishes to impart, yet :
. . . without daring, by unauthorized guesswork, to tamper with the entire truthfulness of the solemn messages of God.
Clearly, then, he does not consider his contribution to the amelioration of the doctrine to be speculative or innovative.
Enumerating the steps in his argument, he starts by pointing out that our being is both personal and individual and also relative or federal. So, for example, "in Adam all die" but "the soul that sinneth, it shall die", too. Secondly, in those who are not completely selfish there is the capacity for personal joy and sorrow and the ability to share objectively in the experiences of others and in external and objective truth. There are the two aspects of happiness: personal and federal. Thirdly, and here Birks quotes a number of biblical texts (but without references), when it comes to the issue of eternal judgement, it is on the personal basis that we are sentenced; and this allows for "unequal degrees of punishment and bliss."
Originality of Birks
It is the fourth stage of his thesis which indicates the novelty of his approach:
4. Let us now suppose that these statements of Scripture on the eternal contrast between the righteous and the wicked, the saved and the lost, however true, and however solemn, are not the whole truth, but that there is a further objective or federal element, common alike to both, which is nowhere in the Bible, in set terms, explicitly revealed. Let us suppose that the future condition of the lost will combine, with the utmost personal humiliation, shame, and anguish, the passive contemplation of a ransomed universe, and of all the innumerable varieties of blessedness enjoyed by unfallen spirits, and the ransomed people of God; such a contemplation as would be fitted, in its own nature, to raise the soul into a trance of holy adoration in the presence of infinite and unsearchable Goodness. If this were true, still there are weighty reasons why this aspect of God's purpose should not be early revealed. That love, which is the source of all the Divine messages, may be the reason why the All-wise refuses to unveil a part of the truth, which, even in clearing His character from the blasphemies by which it is now assailed, might, through the perverseness of sinful hearts, deaden the conscience, paralyze the will, and obscure the momentous contrast between the results of present obedience and disobedience, so as to defeat one main object of all Divine revelation.
That his theory is "nowhere in the Bible in set terms, explicitly revealed" must have disturbed his fellow evangelicals, committed to the completeness of the revelation of divine truth in Scripture. For many, this admission would weaken the appeal of the rest of the argument: any hint of eisegesis quickly loses the sympathy of those who see unadulterated Scripture as our sole doctrinal authority. Above, we noted how Birks was careful to stress that he would not dare to tamper with biblical truth, yet here he could be accused of that error. However, granted that he is not dealing with Scripture in a cavalier or bigoted manner and that he is searching for a genuine solution to the vexed question of unending conscious damnation, there is much that is challenging and moving in the originality of what follows. It is a most noble and intriguing sentiment that the damned in hell will, despite their shame and misery, go through eternity not cursing God but dwelling on his holiness and goodness. Moreover, Birks anticipates the objection that such a truth should have been so hidden, by noting that, despite the opportunity afforded by this ‘truth' to clear God's name of any charge of cruelty, he (God) has not unveiled it so far to prevent sinners abusing it and losing their respect for his righteous judgement . He goes on to say that this refusal of God to make this knowledge easily available will be acknowledged one day as "the most wonderful illustration of God's love", who will not weaken the terrors of the lost, and thus encourage false hope (in those in this present world, who need to be saved). Birks seems more concerned about the glory of God than he is about the hopelessness of the lost: theodicy not sentimentalism is his chief motivation:
The willingness of the Most High to remain exposed for ages to all the blasphemies hurled against Him because of these solemn threatenings, may be found to add a crowning excellence and beauty to the perfect manifestation of His redeeming love.
His fifth point opens by defending his view despite the silence of Scripture, which, he feels, does not disprove its truth. On the contrary, the implicit teaching of the Bible is against the popular notion that "lost souls are their own mutual tormentors, and given up to Satan to be tormented by him forever." Birks is adamantly opposed to any idea of Satan's power continuing after the judgement. In my view, he rightly sees this as a kind of dualism, which perpetuates the power of evil:
To assume the perpetual continuance of active malice and permitted blasphemies, is to ascribe to God a dominion shared for ever with the powers of evil.
This is the heart of Birks' theory. Its value lies in its attempt to address boldly the full requirements of sound theodicy and to demonstrate that the highest view of God is not consistent with the ongoing existence (and triumph) of evil. Of course, this does not mean the end of Satan, for Birks does not support conditionalism/annihilationism in any form. Evil will cease; but Satan, like the rest of God's fallen and impenitent creatures, will go on through eternity, not in enmity against God but, as with all the lost, acknowledging the ultimate justice of God :
. . . the descriptions of that final doom imply the utter prostration and entire repression of all actings of the rebellious will under the immediate display of Infinite Holiness.
Satan's remorse and acquiescence in the justice of God is dealt with more fully in E. H. Bickersteth's, Yesterday, To-Day and For Ever, which vividly portrays his pathetic acquiescence in his eternal fate. (See below.)
The next stage of the argument is crucial to our ability to grasp how the lost, condemned to unending suffering, can acquiesce in rather than be sinfully angry at the justice of God.
Now if the doom of lost souls involves an unwilling [italics mine] acknowledgement of God's justice in their own sentence, must it not also imply a compulsory but real perception of all other attributes of the Almighty? Must not the contemplation of infinite wisdom and love, however solemn the punishment and the compulsion by which alone it is made possible for those who have despised their day of grace, be still, in its own nature, unutterably blessed.
That the acceptance of their final lot is not repentance on the part of the lost is clearly implied in their unwillingness and in the compulsion of God. This we will develop below. Further, and here reason, imagination and compassion are stretched to the limit, this response or state of the lost will be unutterably blessed. If we may be allowed to see some aspect of happiness in the word blessed, then we are confronted with the daring notion of the eternally damned experiencing something positive emotionally or mentally. Even if we cannot elevate this blessedness to anything resembling happiness, at least we may accept that the experience of the damned is not wasted- if only because they are engaged indirectly, albeit under compulsion, in glorifying God; and this after all is the chief end of man. Another startling but crucial element in Birks' theory follows.
The personal loss and ruin may be complete and irreparable, the anguish intense, the shame and sorrow dreadful, the humiliation infinite and irreversible. Yet out of its depth there may arise such a passive but real view of the joys of a ransomed universe, and the unveiled perfections of the Godhead, as to fulfil, even here, in a strange, mysterious way, the predicted office of the Redeemer of souls, and to swallow up death in victory.
This contemplation of the joys of a ransomed universe and the unveiled perfections of the Godhead recall what we noted earlier about the relative or federal aspect of our character, which is able to sympathise with the joys of others and to contemplate external and objective truth. In a sense, we may argue that this capacity to see beyond ourselves is a vicarious blessedness, which we associate normally with a renewed nature, and which also reminds us of the selfless altruism of Moses and the apostle Paul, both of whom were prepared to forfeit their own personal salvation in the wider interests of the people of God. However, we need to remember the tension we find here in Birks between a real acquiescence in the perfect ways of God and his salvation of the redeemed, and the divine coercion, which makes this attitude possible.
Another key issue here is the predicted office of the Redeemer of souls, which Birks cryptically sees fulfilled even here (i.e. in hell). This intriguing idea we will examine in detail when we come to the final section of the book.
Letters VI and VII deal with The State Of The Departed and Mutual Recognition, respectively. He is more interested in the final resurrection of the body than in the immortality of the soul. Abstract speculation on the nature of the soul he considers to be unprofitable. Instead, we ought to concentrate on resurrection, which is more certain and which he describes as the "great revealed hope of the Gospel". While he is positive that there is an intermediate state, he is not too certain about the finer points:
"Is it one of perfect consciousness? Will the righteous, at once, be perfectly happy, and the unrighteous entirely wretched? Does the idea of a sleep of the soul involve a denial of the resurrection, and do the departed saints at once recognize and hold intercourse with each other?" 
He repudiates the common assumption in religious circles that the righteous go at once to heaven, when they die. He finds no support for this at all in the Bible. Concerning how aware or conscious the departed are in this intermediate state he is somewhat agnostic and reserved. He is even prepared to accept that post-mortem experiences might differ; and that, depending on the sovereignty of God, the consciousness of some might be exceedingly dim or virtually non-existent, while that of others might be bright and clear. He quotes David and Paul, without references, to underline this contrast :
David pleads for life in the words, "In death there is no remembrance of Thee; in the grave who shall give Thee thanks?" while St. Paul has "a desire to depart, and be with Christ, which is far better."
His reluctance to develop this aspect of death and its sequel may be due in part to the implied aversion to purgatory, which we noted above; and in line with this he goes on to suggest :
Why may we not believe that separated spirits, according to their previous state, or the sovereign pleasure of God, may, some of them, be in a state so exclusive of all activity, as to be equivalent to "perishing" (1 Cor. xv. 18), if no awakening were to follow; and others in such joyous consciousness of the love of Christ, as to be far better than their ripest experience, while dwelling in the mortal body . . .
However vague this view of the intermediate state, it leaves no room for any form of purgatory. This needs to be remembered in the context of Birks' attempt to mitigate the terrors of hell. Augustine, C. S. Lewis and others can afford to have a strong view of the torments of hell, when they have a purgatory to relieve some of the horrors of the traditional doctrine !
As for the question of mutual recognition after death, Birks feels that this would be a "distraction and humiliation" while "the work of redemption is still incomplete." This he does not imagine in terms of a purgatorial experience but rather as an undistracted resting in the fellowship of the Lord. Speaking of the spirits of the just he goes on to describe their interim purpose as:
. . . their abiding in one unbroken trance of communion with the Lord. It may be well for them to remain undisturbed by lower fellowship, till their spiritual faculties, often so unripe when they leave the body, are strengthened and made ripe to endure the brightness of the judgment day and of the kingdom of God.
Although this time will be one of strengthening and ripening for the saints, it is a far cry from the purifying pains of purgatory, which are in a different context to that of quiet fellowship with the Lord.
He completes this Letter VII by addressing the inquirer's hope "that ultimately all created beings will be pardoned". Such pardon, he reckons cannot be the cessation of vindictive malice of God because such malice does not exist. Again, it cannot mean the admission into God's presence of the unholy in an unchanged state as this is an inherent impossibility. Further, he is unable to accept that God will effect a sudden change in the impenitent after death, which the Gospel and the Spirit did not accomplish in this life. Finally, it is vain to think in terms of God's mercy removing the distinction between the saved and the lost, as this would make God out to be a liar in view of the many warnings given to sinners in this life. However, he does not want to leave an entirely hopeless picture as :
. . . the infliction of just punishment is not the whole of God's purpose towards the lost.
For, as he has already made clear earlier in the fifth letter, condemned sinners can find some hope even in their eternal loss. So he adds here that:
. . . there will, even in the depth of that ruin, be such a display of the unchangeable love of the Holy Creator to all the creatures of His hand, such depths of compassion to the self-ruined, as, without reversing their doom, may send a thrill of wondrous consolation through the abyss of what else would be unmingled woe and despair . . . the sure victory of good over evil, and the mingling of mercy with judgment in the perfections of the Most high.
Section III. THOUGHTS ON THE NATURE OF THE ATONEMENT AND OF ETERNAL JUDGMENT takes us a great step forward in understanding how Birks can maintain such a positive and hopeful frame of mind when considering the eternal future of the lost. In the first part of this final section headed, THE NATURE AND EFFECTS OF THE ATONEMENT, he asks a number of pertinent questions, of which three, which are virtually rhetorical, point us clearly to where his thinking tends with respect to the atonement: Did our Lord bear the sins of the saved only, or of all mankind? What are the results of the sacrifice itself, and what are those which depend on the faith and repentance of the sinner? Is all punishment of those for whom an atonement has been made illegal and unjust?  He sees no limitation to the atonement; and with copious Bible references, e.g. 2 Cor. v. 19, "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself", he seeks to establish that the extent of the atonement is universal, and, that while there are texts which claim that Christ died for his sheep or the Church, there are none which state that he died for his sheep or the Church only; while on the other hand there are many which claim that he died for all.  (This bold assertion alone would have been guaranteed to alienate him from the Calvinistic fraternity, as indeed we will note later in Candlish's attack upon him.) He also finds support for this in Article XXXI, the summary of the Creed, in the Catechism, and in the Communion prayer and thanksgiving.
The next step in his theory of the atonement deals with the question of whether the sinner, whose sins have been atoned for, can still perish. If people are still lost despite the inclusiveness of the atonement, then :
. . . must we not lower its efficacy, and admit that, in many cases, Christ has died in vain?
He avoids this conclusion by arguing that, while the sin of the world has indeed been borne by Christ, it is only in one of its two aspects that sin can be transferred. Sin is both a debt and a disease and :
It is a transgression of the divine law, without and above the sinner. It is a transgression, also, against the health and life of the spirit within. Each view of it is equally Scriptural, equally important. The debt needs a ransom, the disease a cure. If sin were only a disease, there would be much room for sympathy, none for substitution. Atonement and propitiation would be wholly out of place . . . If sin were only a debt, substitution would be a complete Gospel, and all for whom an atonement was made would be heirs of salvation, because of that substitution alone. Those for whom Christ died would be saved, even before they believe.
He goes on to clarify this point with the illustration of a workman unable to work because of a serious illness and who finds himself consequently in debt, which he is unable to pay. His predicament requires both a physician to heal him and a benefactor to clear his debt. The crux of the illustration helps us to grasp Birks' view of the atonement in relation to this dual nature of sin :
The medicine would not pay the debt, nor the payment heal the disease; and still the payment and the first step in the cure would be linked inseparably in one work of love.
The next significant step in his development of the atonement is to relate these two aspects of sin respectively to the Law and the Gospel, the Old Covenant and the New. The Law deals in a condemnatory manner exposing sin and making plain that death is its outcome. It deals objectively with sin and, while making no provision for repentance, it does allow the transference of guilt to a substitute, in a divinely sanctioned manner. In contrast, the Gospel deals subjectively; and provides not only the ransom for the debt or guilt but also the medicine for the sickness.
The third part of this section deals with the state of mankind before God apart from the Atonement. Because of sin and the debt incurred, mankind is under the curse of the Law, which is death. Here we need to enumerate carefully the features of death in Birks' thinking at this juncture as they form the key to his theory on death and punishment :
- It is the same as that threatened in Paradise, and which entered through Adam's sin;
- It is a contrast to the second death (and when one is inflicted the other is abolished): "And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire" Re. xx. 14);
- It is not the mere act of dying, for it is ascribed to the soul even when separated from the body;
- It is temporal only because of a mighty work of redemption alone : but for God's intervention it would be everlasting;
- It applies to the whole man body and soul. Its work with reference to the body is a sign and sacrament [illustration ?] of its work respecting the soul: just as death causes a parting between the body and its soul-life so it separates the soul from God; and just as the soul-less body becomes subject to corruption, decay, etc., so the soul apart from God would be left to itself to sink into all manner evil and unrestrained degradation and :
Sin would thus become, under the name of death, a "finished" evil, its own ever-growing torment, and the soul sink deeper in an abyss of hopeless misery.
It is now that we are beginning to appreciate the full relevance to our enquiry of Birks' somewhat novel and involved theory of the Atonement! He goes on to distinguish carefully between the first and second deaths. Clearly, his object is to demonstrate that there is something more constructive and less hopeless about the second death, the lake of fire, than there is with the first death, the curse of the law. A full account of the contrast is merited here:
One is "the lake of fire", solemn indeed and most awful, yet bounded in its range, shut in by firm land on every side. The other is "the deep," the abyss, "the bottomless pit," evil reigning, rioting, growing, deepening without limit and without end, in its fatal descent, farther and farther, from light, happiness, and heaven. By the sentence of the law, fulfilled without atonement or redemption, mankind, once fallen, would be shut out from God's presence, and sink and sink, and sink for ever in this abyss of hopeless and endless ruin. There would have been, through ages without end, the awful reality of a God-dishonouring, God-hating, God-blaspheming, self-tormenting universe. Such death is the wages of sin . . .
Without confusing the issue, at this point we need to note something of a tension in Birks' system. It was noted earlier, in his discussion of the intermediate state, that his account of the post-mortem experience of the departed is not simple but somewhat ambiguous. To some degree his view even approaches soul-sleep. This could encourage us to assume that the horrors of the suffering of the first death and sequel will be missed, especially since Birks speaks so passionately of the victory of the atonement, with respect to the first death. However, we need to recall first his reluctance to develop his ideas on this intermediate state, and secondly the fact that this ultimate victory over the first death (and all that is associated with it) will not be until the resurrection of mankind. Later, when examining Bickersteth's epic, we shall discover a clearer view of this intermediate state.
In the next part of his theory, which now addresses more directly the nature of the Atonement, Birks deals with the curse Christ endured for us. As the Lamb of God taking away the sin of the world, sin was ascribed to him as one vast collective whole; and in this act of substitution he bore the curse, the first death. God's holiness and justice were dealt with once for all. Incidentally, he sees no value in trying to explain it by a law of mechanical compensation by claiming that the sufferings of Christ for a few days and nights exactly equalled those of mankind. He now boldly and vividly describes exactly what Christ's vicarious suffering entailed. He endured the curse of the law, death, without the removal of its sting and, as the cry of dereliction showed, he was separated from God. Suffering the pains of death he was subjected to the lowest abasement of shame and sorrow; and descended to the deep of Sheol, where he endured the bitterness of darkness and separation. Indeed:
He endured the deep, fathomed its dark abyss, and endured the worst extreme of separation from His Heavenly Father . . .
Thus he exhausted the curse of the law and reconciled the world to God. This he did for all. Yet, the removal of the curse of the first death does not mean automatic full salvation for all.
The curse and condemnation of the Law is done away in the cross of Christ. The condemnation of the Gospel alone remains.
Here he is referring to the need of an extra work: the regeneration of the sinful nature, which is the inner saving and sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. This is not directly connected with the Atonement, albeit, there is an indirect or moral association, in the sense that the death of Christ prepares the way for and is the incentive for this response of repentance and faith. It is not Christ as substitute but Christ in his incarnation, glorious resurrection and ascenscion, i.e. as Federal Head of mankind, and more especially of the Church, who relates to us in this second aspect of salvation, and who, thereby, removes this curse of the Gospel. Later he underlines this further :
The curse of the Law can be removed by the Atonement alone, believed or disbelieved. The curse of the Gospel, the moral guiltiness of present rebellion, the sore sickness and disease of indwelling sin, can be removed by repentance and faith alone, and in no other way. Here substitution can have no place. Each must repent for himself. Each must believe for himself . . . To bear the burdens of others is the law of Christ, which finds its highest fulfilment in his atoning sacrifice alone. But this work of the Redeemer in our stead must be followed by a work of the Holy Spirit within us, in which the spirit of man is a fellow-worker . . .
Birks' contention that only the debt of sin and not its disease is directly affected by the atonement could be questioned, incidentally, in the light of the later Pentecostal claim that there is "healing in the atonement". Admittedly, though, it may well be that we are dealing with two different aspects of soteriology. Anyway, this is a small issue compared with the greater objections that some would make about the universal atonement, and others about the lack of efficacy of the atonement regarding the more subjective side of sin.
If not in soteriology, certainly in phraseology, Birks has well anticipated that great classic on the atonement, Christus Victor.  Certainly, they both share a high view of the triumphant work of Christ on the cross. However, because our present concern is eschatology rather than soteriology, we cannot offer here a fuller critique of Birks' theory of the atonement.
In the second part of this final section, which is headed, ON ETERNAL JUDGMENT, Birks begins by noting the close link in Scripture between the atonement and the coming judgment. He continues with the remark that the comments on this subject in previous letters need to be developed. Before doing this he brings up the double perplexity which troubles every thoughtful person, viz. the problem of how multitudes can be lost if Christ died for all and that of the everlasting misery of creatures made by a God of love. Out of these arises another question concerning the nature of the first death abolished by Christ and the second, which lasts for ever.
In reiterating the full blessings of those who believe and obey the Gospel and the other effects which apply to all, he amplifies this by saying that this good purpose of God centred in the spotless Lamb explains all the gifts of God bestowed on sinful mankind since the beginning of time. He is saying in effect that God would not be showering the world in his providential generosity, if his ultimate purpose would be the ‘wasting' of the finally impenitent.
Next he stresses the biblical truth that, because of Christ's redeeming work, there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust. (Paul's words in I Corinthians ch. 15 that as all die in Adam, so all will live in Christ he applies universally.) But temporal blessings and future resurrection are not the only benefits arising from the atonement, even for those who will die in their sins; and Birks repeats the conviction that, because Christ has abolished death, which is God's last enemy all will be spared self- tormenting wickedness, unrestrained by the hand of God, etc.
He now gives a more detailed account of his theory, which is an emphatic rejection of any dualistic notion that the lost will continue to exist in a state of death characterised by ongoing evil.
For God "is not the God of the dead, but of the living," and the reign of death would imply the awful fact of an empire of evil, rivalling both in extent and continuance the dominion of the living God, the God of love.
This aspect of Birks' teaching shows the depth of his thinking as a champion of divine goodness. Certainly, the concept of evil continuing without end and of lost sinners in hell getting diabolically worse and worse does little or nothing to enhance the glory of God! However, he does not wish to lessen the sinfulness of sin nor the awfulness of hell; and again he warns against tampering with the word of God on this matter. Scripture is solemn and fearful on this subject; and he gives what must be his strongest account of the terrors of God's judgement:
"Their worm," our Lord tells us repeatedly, "dieth not, and their fire is not quenched." They rise to "shame and everlasting contempt." . . .God is to be feared, because He "is able to destroy both body and soul in hell." They suffer the vengeance of eternal fire." They "are tormented in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb," and "the smoke of the torment goeth up for ever and ever." Even the Gospel itself is defined by the Baptist and St. Paul, as a message of deliverance from the "wrath to come." 
Such remarks show that, broadly speaking at least, Birks' teaching is in keeping with that of traditional evangelical doctrine and and preaching. However, it is what he appears to read into Scripture, which could alienate him from fellow Bible-centred Christians. Nevertheless, he again defends his views and continues to claim that they are secretly implied in Scripture; and explains its silence on this matter as being for the good of those, who might otherwise see little need for repentance. Safeguarding himself from the charge of presumptuousness in revealing what God has kept veiled hitherto for the benefit of mankind, he comes up with a somewhat curious argument. He claims that people have a better grasp of God's goodness than they do of the truth and authority of his word; and, if what they read in Scripture about God's final judgement does not seem to fit in with what [instinctively?] they feel about his goodness, then they are likely to reject his word. Uncovering and propagating this fuller and hidden truth will protect or rehabilitate the authority of the Bible. In this context, no harm could follow the disclosure of a fuller picture, that there is mercy even in the judgement of God. Evangelical Christendom frowned on this gratuitous assumption of private revelation wondering if his "subjective individual experience" was to replace the "objective truth to the Evangelical clergy." Incidentally, Birks' contemporary, John Henry Newman, has been criticised for a similar tendency by the twentieth century evangelical leader, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Again, the nineteenth century Baptist preacher, C. H. Spurgeon, appears to follow the same apparent aberration in his explanation of, "The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him" (Psalm 25:1):
It is the righteous that is God's friend, it is to him that God is joined in a loving familiarity, it is to him that God revealeth his secret, telling him what misery and torments he hath reserved for them who by wickedness flourish in this world.
Birks is even more innovative and daring when he claims that the saved in glory will acquiesce eternally in the doom of the lost (the complement of what he said earlier), not with hardened hearts but in sympathy with the goodness of God, who has so condemned them. Indeed, this will serve to safeguard them against any act of apostasy, to which they could be drawn after years, countless years, in glory, when they might forget the consequence of sin and rebellion. This suggestion of the potential rebellion in heaven of the redeemed is as startling as it is apparently unique - albeit, a similar view has been recently expressed by Clark Pinnock, at a conference entitled, A Theology for Revival, in London in late November 1997. Pinnock an evangelical and Professor of Theology at McMaster Divinity College, Ontario, made some astonishing statements, perhaps reminiscent of aspects of ‘process theology', that since God can and does relate to humans, he must be in time; that it is still uncertain as to who would triumph in the end - God or Satan, good or evil; that purgatory may be possible and that we may be able to fall away from God's grace even in heaven; and that the final defeat of evil or of God depends heavily on our co-operation.
As far as the issues of evil, divine sovereignty and dualism are concerned, Birks' theology and theodicy are more in line with orthodoxy, than are Pinnock's, especially when we understand that the possibility of a heavenly mutiny by the saints is only hypothetical for Birks: their constant musing on the plight of the lost is designed to ensure this.
A further insight into his reasoning about the eternal ‘welfare' of the lost is given by his remarks about God's perpetual concern for those he has made:
Even while He punishes guilty rebels, He cannot cease to honour in them the workmanship of His own hands.
Whereas, as we have noted above, the first death is the enemy of God, the second death is a work of God, who therein displays both his love and his holy anger against every sinner. The real predicament lies in our ability to maintain the tension between such love and the exercise of righteousness in everlasting punishment. He insists, however, that they can co-exist:
It may be a deep mystery how the Divine love can possibly reveal itself, where Divine righteousness has to be displayed for ever in a sentence of everlasting shame and punishment. But if righteousness and grace co-exist for ever in the infinite perfections of the Most High, their exercise may co-exist for ever in His dealings even with those whose guilt requires that righteousness should assume the form of irreversible and lasting punishment.
He returns to the more positive aspect of his theory and develops earlier points about the universality of Christ's redeeming work and "life-restoring resurrection", so that as all died in Adam all are made alive in Christ : there is to be a "federal recovery" as there has been a "federal ruin". As negative and ruinous is the eternal misery of the second death, the redemptive work of Christ will be positive in its application to all.
Thus the judgment itself on the lost is based on a present work of redemption, which they share with the saved; and on a victory over death, wrought by Christ, and by the power of His atonement and resurrection. Their bodies are first restored completely from the ruin of the grave, and the dominion of death, so far, is wholly abolished.
A somewhat cryptic remark, which follows, helps us to advance our grasp of the inherent duality in God's relationship with the lost :
The lesson of the Law is thus repeated by the Gospel in a deeply mysterious form. The wicked will be punished for his wickedness by the righteous Judge, but his brotherhood with the Judge will be eternally revealed by the resurrection which precedes the judgment.
We are not far now from talking about the lost as if, in some sense, they are saved! Indeed, Birks goes on to use this very vocabulary. And, when he asks Is there a sense in which they [the lost] may be saved . . .?,  he is affirmative and claims :
- They will be saved from bodily corruption;
- They will be saved from the curse of hopeless vanity, from the first death;
- They will be saved from the abyss, unfathomable in its depth and darkness;
Will they not also be saved from that utter, hopeless misery, where no ray of light or comfort breaks in on the solitude of everlasting despair? Will they not be saved, in a strange, mysterious sense, when the depth of their unchangeable shame and sorrow finds beneath it a still lower depth of Divine compassion, and the creature, in its most forlorn estate, is shut in by the vision of surpassing and infinite love?
In this glorious paradox even the unending misery of the lost has some hope because it has not escaped the love of God. In defence of Birks at this point we may apply, syllogistically, the argument that if there is nowhere where God is not, and if that God is essentially love, then even in eternal damnation there is no hiding from him or his caring of his creatures. When the Psalmist says that he cannot get away from God even if he makes his bed in "hell", he is alluding to the same truth, albeit he is speaking of Sheol rather than Gehenna..
Birks' reluctance to see the lost parted from God is reminiscent of separation anxiety. In line with this we note again his remarks about the ‘comfortable' spatial finitude, as we might describe it, of the second death or lake of fire, despite its eternity, contrasted with the awfulness of the abyss without limit, which is the first death. As noted earlier :
One is "the lake of fire," solemn indeed and most awful, yet bounded in its range, shut in by firm land on every side. The other is "the deep," the abyss, "the bottomless pit," evil reigning, growing, deepening without limit and without end, in its fatal descent, farther and farther, from light, happiness, and heaven.
He concludes his book with a reference to the words of Jesus to the guilty traitor :
"Good were it for that man if he had not been born."
He stresses that the original word is kalon and not agathon and that the loss of the damned is that of their honour rather than the inner ability to perceive divine goodness. (At least this is what he appears to be saying in this curious if not obscure passage!) His conclusion of this point is a fitting conclusion to the work as a whole :
And still, out of the depths of their shame there may dawn such a vision of the perfect goodness of the most high, such a discovery of the wisdom, holiness, and love which have borne with a world of rebels, such strange and vast unfoldings of victorious goodness through the ages to come, as may become a message of real mercy to those who abide for ever under the solemn sentence of the Most High.
"Difficulties of Belief"
In 1876 Birks published these ideas again in the second edition of Difficulties of Belief. In the preface he explains that nearly one half of the Victory of Divine Goodness, published ten years earlier, contained notes on Coleridge's Confessions, which had no proper unity with the rest. Also, he points out that the letters to his correspondent were too fragmentary. He is, therefore, including in this revised work only the two essays on the Atonement and Eternal Judgment, somewhat revised. He is also prefixing a brief summary of the biblical evidence for the doctrine and giving some examples of some of the current attacks on it. Actually, the subject matter taken over from Victory occupies the concluding four chapters, XI-XIV, headed respectively, On The Nature Of The Atonement, On Eternal Judgment, Objections And Explanations, On Eternal Judgment Concluded. This is a more readable presentation; and in some ways avoids the stigma, which some attached to the previous work. However, there are no substantial or significant differences as far as doctrine is concerned. The section on the atonement is exactly the same as that in the Victory. The chapters concerned with eternal judgement, however, have been noticeably revised in form. Yet, there is no evidence of recanting or phasing out the idiosyncracies, which made his earlier work objectionable to some and controversial.
One striking addition to his former account of his views concerns the wider truth of redeeming grace, which appears to be his version of the ‘larger hope'. He affirms :
The church of the first-born, the mystic bride of Christ, does not sum up and exhaust all the fruits of redeeming love. In the glory of that church the truth of electing grace will be manifested for ever. But a wider truth of redeeming grace will also be seen in successive generations of redeemed men, the subjects of Christ's kingdom, over whom He will reign with his Church in that new earth, where righteousness is to dwell for ever. . . Thus the number of the elect church may be far less than of the souls that are condemned in the judgment, but the number of the saved who walk in the light of the celestial city may be vastly greater, and continually increase without end.
Evidently, this optimism, based on the idea that the Church is less than the Kingdom of God, did not conflict with his complementary view of the unending punishment of the lost; although it must have helped him again to accept the lot of those finally and irretrievably condemned. Of course, it was put into print some years after the controversy with the Executive Council of the Evangelical Alliance, which we consider next. No doubt the extension of divine mercy to those outside the Church as such could have fuelled the controversy further! However, it did not seem to have bothered F. W Grant, whose critique of Birks follows in the next chapter.
Essential to Birks' doctrine of hell is the presence of God. For him eternal punishment is not separation from God. Here we may briefly note the virtually opposite ways in which orthodox subscribers to the doctrine of hell understand this. Briefly anticipating later individuals in the development of this doctrine, we think, e.g., of Kendall S. Harmon, a recent champion of orthodoxy and opponent of conditionalism, who understands personal exclusion, complete separation from God, to be one of the key concepts in coming to terms with the Christian view of hell. Tony Gray goes as far as to suggest that Harmon's position might provide a third way in the traditionalist/conditionalist debate. This is something we hope to probe when considering the contribution of the twentieth century to the progress of this doctrine.
 Class and Religion in the Late Victorian City, op. cit. p. 214f.
 The Victory of Divine Goodness, Rivingtons, London, Oxford and Cambridge, 1867.
 G. Rowell, Hell And The Victorians, op. cit. pp. 123f
 L.E. Froom, The Conditionalist Faith of Our Fathers, op. cit.
 D.J. Powys,The Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Debates about Hell and Universalism, in N. Cameron's Universalism and the Doctrine of Hell, Carlisle, Paternoster, 1992, pp. 93-138.
 D.W. Bebbington, Evangelicalism in Modern Britain, London, Routledge, 1989, p. 145.
 J.B.A. Kessler, A Study of the Evangelical Alliance in Great Britain, Oosterbaan & Le Cointre N.V. - Goes, Netherlands, 1968. In the account of the coverage of the dispute in Evangelical Christendom p. 66 he wrongly gives the date of the original editorial as January, 1868 instead of February, 1870.
Of primary significance to him are the relevant conference reports, Conference on Christian Union; being a Narrative of the Proceedings of the Meetings held in Liverpool, October 1845, (1845), London, James Nisbet and Proceedings of the Conference held at Freemasons' Hall, London 1846, (1847), London, Partridge and Oakley. He also uses Dr. J.W. Massie, The Evangelical Alliance, its Origins and Development, London, 1847 and Dr. David King's paper, The Religious Condition of Christendom, London 1851.
 Kessler, op. cit. pp. 20-22.
 Ibid., p. 22.
 Ibid., p. 22f.
 Ibid., p. 24.
 Ibid., p. 25. Despite the positive stance taken at the conference, misconception lingered in the minds of some due to the wording of King's letter of invitation and to the fact that Sir Culling Eardley Smith, leader of the anti-Maynooth movement [anti-Catholic], had accepted the invitation to attend the conference. Kessler observes that Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones was also prey to this misunderstanding, when he suggested at the Alliance's National Assembly in 1966 that the E.A. had been formed in the first place as a reaction against John Henry Newman and others seceding to Rome. Kessler is at pains to stress that the Alliance did not start as an opposition movement. See p. 25f. Alan D. Gilbert, on the other hand, maintains that the Alliance was "launched primarily as an anti-Catholic movement during the agitation surrounding the Maynooth Grant . . .". See A.D. Gilbert, Religion and Society in Industrial England, London, Longman, 1976, p. 169.
 Ibid., p. 28. [They are found on p. 33 of the conference report, Conference on Christian Union. Narrative of the Proceedings of the Meeting held in Liverpool, October 1845", London 1845.]
 Kessler, op. cit. p. 28f.
 Ibid., p. 29.
 Ibid., p. 30.
 Ibid., p. 31.
 Ibid., p.31, where he quotes Dr. J.W. Massie, The Evangelical Alliance, its Origin and Development, London, 1847, p. 357.
 Kessler, op. cit.,p. 34.
 Ibid., p. 34.
 Evangelical Christendom, vol. XXIV, William John Johnson, London, Feb. 1, 1870, p. 33.
 Kessler, op. cit., p. 35.
 Ibid., pp. 36-9
 Ibid., p. 39.
 Ibid., p. 39.
 Ibid., pp. 39-40.
 Ibid., p. 40.
 Ibid., p. 41.
 Ibid., p. 42.
 Ibid., p. 42.
 Ibid., p. 43.
 Ibid., p.43.
 Ibid., p. 44.
 Albeit, at least one of the American churches represented at the conference admitted slaveholders to its membership. See Kessler p. 43.
 Ibid., pp. 46-48.
 Evangelical Christendom, April 1, 1870, p. 106.
 Crockford's Clerical Directory, London, 1868. (It lists 24 of Birks' publications.)
 G. Rowell, Hell p. 123f.
 See Bebbington's Evangelicalism . . .p. 140.
 Evangelical Christendom, Vol. XXIV, 1870, pp. 33 & 99.
 See Bebbington's Evangelicalism . . . p. 142.
 See Kessler's Evangelical Alliance, p. 67.
 The Victory p.v.
 Ibid., p. vi.
 Ibid., p. vi. Powys notes such a hope in post-mortem opportunities in the conditionalist Edward White (Life in Christ, 1846), see Cameron's Universalism, p.128.
 Ibid., pp. 27-31.
 Ibid., p. 36.
 Ibid., p. 41.
 Ibid., p. 42.
 Ibid., p. 42.
 Ibid., p. 43.
 Ibid., p. 43f.
 Ibid., p. 45.
 Ibid., p. 45.
 Ibid., p. 46.
 Ibid., p. 46.
 Ibid., p. 47. Such thinking he affirms has "in the words of the Article . . . no warranty of Scripture, but is plainly repugnant to the word of God." The Article in question appears to be no.XXII, on Purgatory. However, Birks' concern here is much wider than Purgatory; so we may assume he is borrowing the strong wording to denounce the similar notions relating to eternal punishment.
 Ibid. p. 47
 Ibid., p.47.
 Ibid., p. 47.
 P. 48 really gives us the crux of Birks' theory.
 Ibid., p. 48.
 We shall note this idea of the loss of hell not being waste, when we examine the views of Henri Blocher : Universalism and the Doctrine of Hell, p. 311.
 Ibid., p. 48.
 Ibid., p. 43.
 Exodus 32:32 & Romans 9:3.
 Ibid., p. 53.
 Ibid., p. 54.
 Ibid., p. 56f.
 Ibid., p. 57.
 Ibid., p. 60.
 Ibid., p. 61.
 Ibid., p. 62.
 Ibid., p. 63.
 Ibid., p. 63.
 Ibid., p. 63.
 Ibid., p. 64.
 Ibid., p. 147.
 Ibid., pp. 148-9.
 Ibid., p. 150.
 Ibid., p. 150f.
 Ibid., p. 151f.
 Ibid., p. 153.
 Ibid., pp. 154-5.
 Ibid., p. 157. (See pp. 156-7 for the description of death.)
 Ibid., p. 157f.
 Ibid., p. 158.
 Ibid., pp. 158-9.
 Ibid., p.160.
 Ibid., p. 161.
 Ibid., p. 163.
 Ibid., p.165.
 In line with Isaiah 53:4 /Matthew 8:17.
 Gustaf Aulen, London, SPCK, 1931.
 The Victory p.167.
 Ibid., p. 168.
 This will be considered more fully later, when looking at F. W. Grant's critique.
 P. 169. Again, we shall note later Grant's rejection of the idea that the first death is God's enemy.
 Ibid., p. 170.
 Ibid., p. 172.
 Ibid., p. 172.
 Ibid., p.175.
 E.C., Vol. XXIV, p. 168.
 D. M. Lloyd-Jones, Knowing The Times,,Edinburgh, Banner of Truth, 1989, p. 341.
 C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, Vol. I, London, Passmore and Alabaster, 1871 (2d Ed.), p. 462, where he quotes Michael Jermin.
 The Victory p.179 & p. 184.
 For a full account of Pinnock's conference address see the article by Daniel Hill in Evangelicals Now, Jan. 1998.
 Ibid., p. 180.
 Ibid., p. 185f.
 Ibid., p. 187.
 Ibid., p. 188.
 Ibid., p. 188.
 Ibid., p. 188.
 Ibid., p. 188f.
 Ibid., p. 191.
 Ibid., p. 191f.
 Psalm 139:8.
 Ibid., p. 157.
 Ibid., p. 194 (ref. to Mark 14:21, A.V.)
 Curiously, Blocher also addresses this issue (referring to the parallel in Mt. 26:24). See Universalism and the Doctrine of Hell, op. cit., p. 311. Unlike Birks, he focuses on the difference between creation and birth (rather than kalon and agathon); but as with Birks one is not left a lot wiser! Blocher notes that Buis quotes the verse against annihilation. Hodge, whose use of this saying (in the context of Mt. 18:5 & 6) is the clearest, uses it against universalism. See C. Hodge, Systematic Theology,London, James Clarke, 1960 edn., p. 877.
 Ibid., p. 195.
 T.R. Birks, Difficulties of Belief, 2nd ed., London, Macmillan, 1876.
 Ibid., p. x.
 Ibid., p. 215f.
 K. S. Harmon, ‘The Case against Conditionalism', in N. M. de S. Cameron, Universalism and the Doctrine of Hell, op. cit. pp. 193-224.
 Tony Gray, ‘The Nature of Hell', in K. E. Brower and M. W. Elliott, The Reader Must Understand (Leicester, Apollos, 1997) p. 240f.