The following Storrs' article was published in his magazine, "The Bible Examiner", sometime in the 1850s. It likely was originally written many years earlier.
CHRIST THE LIFE-GIVER OR, THE FAITH OF THE GOSPEL
"Earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the Saints." Jude 3
THE Syriac version reads, "Maintain a conflict for the faith," &c. It will be my object first to determine what is the faith spoken of; and then note the importance of the apostolical exhortation, earnestly contend for it. "The faith," I apprehend, is expressed in the previous part of the verse, under the appellation of the "common salvation." It is "the faith" of salvation by or through our Lord Jesus Christ. But what is the distinctive feature of that salvation?
In answering the question, I wish to avoid the looseness which seems to pervade most men's minds when they speak of salvation, or being saved. The terms saved, and salvation, have a great latitude of meaning; and hence the sense of these terms will accord with the fancy, prejudice, or judgment of different individuals, according to their preconceived notions, unless we can show that they have a definite sense, when used in relation to man as the object of God's favor. Such a sense I believe the New Testament writers have in the use of those terms. To assist in determining that sense, I shall bring to our aid the Syriac New Testament, as translated by Prof. Murdock, late of the Theological Institution of Andover, Mass.
Of the "Peshito Syriac Version of the New Testament," Prof. Murdock says - It "is very generally admitted to be the oldest version that has come down to us, of the New Testament in any language. It is called by the Syrians the Peshito version on account of its style or character. The Syriac verb signifies to unfold or spread out that which was folded up, so that it can be seen in its true form, dimensions and character. Hence the participle signifies spread out, not involved or folded up, simplex and not duplex; or as applied to a translation, explicit, free from ambiguities, direct, simple, and easy to be understood. And precisely such is, in fact, the character of this venerable version." - P.489. Among the principles which Prof. Murdock adopted in his translation of this version, the "5th" is, "In general, to avoid using technical theological terms, when good substitutes could be found, in order to call away attention from the word to the thing." In his illustration of this principle, he says - "Saviour is rendered Vivifier, as being more literal, for the verb properly signifies to make alive, to vivify; and its derivatives properly signify life, life-giver, or vivifier. These are the usual terms of the Syriac version, denoting that salvation which Christ bestows on fallen men." Preface, p.7.
In accordance with the principle here laid down, the Professor gives us "life, Life-Giver," or "vivify and Vivifier," throughout his translation, where it is save, Saviour, &c., in the common English version.
In following his translation, I shall use the term Life, and Life-Giver, where he, in some instances, has inserted vivify and Vivifier, &c.; as these last terms have a Latin cast, and do not as clearly express to the mere English reader the sense of the text.
With the light shed on the Scriptures by this venerable Syriac version, I shall be able to satisfy my own mind, at least, as to what "the faith" is, of which Jude speaks. In the first part of the verse from which my text is taken, Jude says - "My beloved, while I take all pains to write to you of our common life;" - Syriac. The great theme of Jude and all the apostles was, that of Life - Eternal Life, through Jesus the "Life-Giver." This was the faith, the doctrine, the great matter to be believed, the truth to be preached, the faith for which they were "earnestly to contend."
In further presenting this subject, I shall pass over, for the present, the multitude of texts in the common English version which express the same great and glorious truth, and call attention directly to the Syriac version, where life, Life-Giver, &c., occur in place of save, saved, salvation, and Saviour in our version. I begin the examination with Matthew 19:25; where, after our Lord had spoken of the difficulty of a rich man entering into the "kingdom of God," the disciples wondered greatly, and said: Who then can attain to life?" Here, attaining to life is the salvation looked for. Our version reads - "Who then can be saved?" What the salvation is, might be a matter for dispute, as that term is more or less indefinite: but life is a definite term, and brings us at once to the nature of the salvation. It is salvation from death, into life.
Again, Matt.27:42; when Jesus hung upon the cross, our translation reads - "He saved others, himself he cannot save." The Syriac has it - "He gave, life to others; his own life he cannot preserve." This version is truly open, and easy to be understood. He gave life to several during his ministry; and that which determined the Scribes and Pharisees to put him to death, at all hazards, was the fact that he gave life to Lazarus, who had been dead four days: see John 11:48-53. He was a Life-Giver.
In John 3:17, our translation reads, "For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved." The Syriac - "That the world might live by means of him." Here the nature of the salvation is clearly expressed, and no doubt is left on the mind as to its real character. It is life - that's what the world, the dying world need; and Christ came that they might live.
Acts 2:21, reads - "Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved." The Syriac - "Shall live." Thus showing that Life is the great proffered blessing to the human race; and the doctrine of life, through Jesus, is "the faith delivered to the saints," and which they are to maintain, earnestly contending for it.
Acts 4:12, reads - "There is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved." The Syriac - "There is not another name under heaven which is given to men, whereby to live." Here, as in the previous texts, there is a definiteness that forms a firm basis for faith. The salvation is life. Who is it that gives this life?
Acts 5:31 - "Him [Jesus, who was raised from the dead] hath God exalted to be a Prince and a Saviour." Syriac - "Him hath God established as a head and Life-Giver." Jesus, Messiah, died - God raised him from the dead and made him "head" of another life, even an endless life, and constituted him the Life-Giver; he is to bestow that life of which he is now the fountain. It is not in ourselves, but in him who was dead, but, is alive again, and lives forevermore; who also has "the keys of death and hades."
When the angel directed Cornelius to send for Peter, as related Acts 11:14, he said - "Who shall tell thee words whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved." The Syriac reads - "He will utter to thee discourses by which thou wilt live," &c. Here again the nature of the salvation is definite: it is life.
And our translation so construes the salvation, verse 18, when those who heard Peter's relation of the matter said - "Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life."
Acts 13:26, Paul in addressing the "children of the stock of Abraham," &c., saith - "To you is the word of this salvation sent," Syriac - "To you is this word of life sent." Again in the same chapter, verse 47, Paul saith - "That thou shouldest be for salvation to the ends of the earth." Syriac - "That thou shouldest before life," &c. In the previous verse, he had said to the blaspheming Jews - "Seeing you judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles." The salvation, then, is "everlasting life."
In corrupting the Gospel, Acts 15:1, some said, "Except ye be circumcised, ye cannot be saved." Syriac - "Ye cannot have life." And when this matter was under discussion in the council of apostles and elders at Jerusalem, at verse 11, Simon said, as the Syriac reads - "We believe that we, as well as they, are to have life by the grace of our Lord Jesus Messiah." The great theme was life. Well did Peter answer Jesus, when he asked the twelve, John 6th, "Will ye also go away?" "Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life." That was "the faith" - the doctrine "once delivered to the saints."
When the maid possessed of a spirit of divination followed Paul and Silas, Acts 16:17, she said - These men are servants of the Most High God, and they announce to you the way of life." She understood what they preached; it was about Life. Though this spirit, on this occasion, spoke the truth - "as rapping spirits" sometimes do in these days - yet, "Paul was indignant" [Syriac] and refused to suffer such liars to testify, and commanded it to depart. For this act, Paul and Silas were whipped and cast into prison. But happy in the hope of life, they praised God in their chains and dungeon. The jailor was convicted, and came trembling before the apostles and said - "What must I do that I may have life?" - Syriac. How came his first inquiry to be about life? Clearly, because he understood that was the grand theme of the apostles' preaching. They answer him - "Believe on the name of our Lord Jesus Messiah, and thou wilt have life," &c. Here is clearness, beauty, and force. There is no vague and indefinite something, under a general term, but a specific one is used, which brings us at once to the nature of the Gospel salvation. It is, obtaining life. Rom.1:16, Paul says - "I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God unto life, to all who believe it." - Syriac. Again, chap.10:1, he saith of Israel - "The desire of my heart, and my intercession with God for them is, that they might have life" And in the same chapter, verse 9, he states the conditions of the proffered blessing, thus - "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth our Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thy heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt live." And at the thirteenth verse he saith - "Every one that shall call on the name of the Lord, will have life." In speaking of the stumbling of Israel, chap.11:11, he saith - "By their stumbling, life hath come, to the Gentiles." - Syriac. In chapter 13:11, Paul, exhorting to wakefulness, saith "For now our life hath come nearer to us, than when we believed." Eternal life is only actually bestowed at the resurrection unto life, at Christ's return from heaven. Every day brings it nearer; and that consideration should arouse us from all stupidity, and excite us to diligence. All these expressions, as found in the Syriac, go to show the great idea of salvation as it lay in the apostle's mind - it was the "one idea" of Life.
We now proceed to his other epistles. 1Corth.1:18 - "Our discourse concerning the cross is to them who perish foolishness; but to us who live it is the energy of God." In chap.10:33, speaking of his course as a preacher, he says - "I do not seek what is profitable to me, but what is profitable to many, that they may live." Chap.15:1,2, he saith - "I make known unto you, my brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, and which you received, and in which ye stand, and by which ye have life." 2Corth.1:6 - "Whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation, and for your life." Chap.2:15 - "Through the Messiah, we are unto God a sweet odor, in them that live, and in them that perish," &c. Chap.7:10 - "For sorrowing on account of God, worketh a conversion of the soul which is not to be reversed, and a turning unto life: but the sorrowing of the world worketh death." To the Ephesians, chap.1:13, Paul saith - "In whom [Messiah] ye also have heard the word of truth, which is the gospel of your life." The good news, or gospel, is that of life to dying men. To the Philippians, 1:28, he saith - "In nothing be ye startled by those who rise up against us; [which is] an indication of their destruction, and of life for you;" and in chap.2:12, he saith - "My beloved, as ye have at all times obeyed, not only when I was near to you, but now when I am far from you, prosecute the work of your life more abundantly," &c. The great work we have to do is to work for life. In chap.3, Paul having spoken of the conduct and end of the wicked, and said "whose thoughts are on things of earth," adds - "But our concern is with heaven; and from thence we expect our Life-Giver, our Lord Jesus the Messiah; who will change the body of our abasement, that it may have the likeness of the body of his glory," &c. This is a life-giving work: a work which "the Father, who hath life in himself," hath entrusted to his Son to accomplish for all that obey him.
1Thess.2:16, Paul saith the Jews "forbid us to speak to the Gentiles, that they may have life." Chap.5:8,9, he thus speaks - "Let us who are the children of the day be wakeful in mind, and put on the breast-plate of faith and love, and take the helmet of the hope of life: for God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to the acquisition of life by our Lord Jesus the Messiah." The hope of life is that which sustains the Christian in all his conflicts; and is the great gospel motive to labor and suffer for the Messiah's cause: it is life God has set us to acquire.
2Thess.2:10, Paul saith that the Evil One will by signs and lying wonders deceive them that perish; "because they did not receive the love of the truth, by which they might have life." He adds - "We are bound to give thanks to God . . . . brethren . . . . that God hath . . . . chosen you unto life, through sanctification of the Spirit, and faith in the truth." Life is kept prominent as the great gift of God and object of pursuit, as well as that for which the Spirit of God works in us.
Paul opens his first epistle to Timothy with the announcement that God is "our Life-Giver." As he proceeds, verse 15, he says - "Faithful is the declaration, and worthy to be received, that Jesus the Messiah came into the world to give life to sinners." He adds, that Messiah displayed on him "all his long-suffering, for an example to them who were to believe on him unto life eternal." In the next chapter, he exhorts to prayer, &c. for all men, "for this is good and acceptable before God our Life-Giver, who would have all men to live, and be converted to the knowledge of the truth." In chapter 4:10, he uses this language - "We toil and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Life-Giver of all men, especially of the believers." He directs Timothy, verse 16, "Be attentive to thyself, and to thy teaching, and persevere in them: for," saith he, "in doing this thou wilt procure life to thyself and to them who hear thee."
Thus the testimony is uniform in regard to the great end of the gospel; it is to call men to life, and bestow it upon them. The language, by this translation of the Syriac, is divested of all vagueness and speaks out to the comprehension of all minds. "We will, however, present a few more places where Saviour, save, and salvation, in the common English version, are in the Syriac Life-Giver and life. 2Timothy 1:10, "The appearing of our Life-Giver, Jesus the Messiah, who hath abolished death, and hath made manifest life and immortality by the gospel."
Chap.2:10 - "Therefore I endure everything for the elect's sake, that they may obtain life in Jesus the Messiah, with eternal glory." Life is still the theme; and the glorious object set before us.
Chap.3:15 - "From thy childhood thou wast taught the holy books, which can make thee wise unto life, by faith in Jesus the Messiah."
Chap.4:18 - "My Lord will rescue me from every evil work; and will give me life in his heavenly kingdom." One theme still - one end in view, viz: life - life in the kingdom of God.
To Titus Paul writes, on opening the epistle, "In hope of eternal life . . . grace and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord Jesus the Messiah, our Life-Giver." Chap.2:10,13, - "For the life-giving grace of God is revealed to all men; and it teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live in this world in sobriety, and in uprightness, and in the fear of God, looking for the blessed hope, ["hope of eternal life;" see chap.1:2] and the manifestation of the glory of the great God and our Life-Giver, Jesus the Messiah."
Chap.3:4-6 - "When the kindness and compassion of God our Life-Giver was revealed . . . . according to his mercy . . . . by the renovation of the Holy Spirit, which he shed on us abundantly, by Jesus the Messiah, our Life-Giver, that we might . . . . become heirs in the hope of eternal life." Thus the author and giver of life is clearly set before our minds; and in a manner that cannot fail to make an impression of our obligation, and of God's great mercy.
Paul, in writing to the Hebrews, speaking of angels, asks, chap.1:14 - "Are they not all spirits of ministration, who are sent to minister on account of them who are to inherit life?" He asks, chap.2:3 - "How shall we escape if we despise the things which are our life?" &c. Again, verse 10 - "It became him . . . . [who] bringeth many sons unto glory, to perfect the Prince of their life by suffering." How forcible are right words? All the commentaries in the world cannot make plainer the work of Messiah, and the blessing he came to give the perishing.
Chap.5:7-9 - "When he [Jesus] was clothed in flesh, he presented supplication and entreaty, with intense invocation and with tears, to him who was able to resuscitate him from death; and he was heard. And though he was a son, yet, from the fear and sufferings he endured he learned obedience; and thus he was perfected, and became the cause of eternal life to all them who obey him."
Chap.7:25 - "He is able to vivify [give life] forever, them that come to God by him, for he always liveth, and sendeth up prayers for them." And chap.9:28, Paul saith Messiah will "a second time . . appear for the life of them who expect him." What is Messiah coming a second time for? For the life of his followers: to give them the "crown of life." We now come back to Jude, the point from which we started. He calls this life, which we have been tracing out, "the common life" of the "beloved." This is that which so deeply interested them all - which the saints were exhorted to lay hold of; for which they labored and suffered; for which they hoped, believed, and fought; and in the firm persuasion of possessing it, when called to lay down their lives, met death without terror, knowing that God, who cannot lie, had promised it to all who by patient continuance in well-doing seek for it.
If such, then, is "the faith" of the gospel, the importance of "contending earnestly" for it can hardly be magnified. The necessity of such a course is as apparent as that nearly all Christendom have departed from "the faith," and perverted the very words in which the Bible presents the subject, to mean "happiness" instead of life; thus corrupting the testimony of God, and affirming that it is not life that man needs, but something else: yea, insisting that all men have endless life in themselves; so that he who would maintain the Bible truth on this subject must contend earnestly for it, and is in danger of being denounced as an "infidel" for believing that God, Messiah, and the apostles, mean what they say, and speak what they mean. Surely, there never was a subject or topic that Christian men needed apostolical authority more to sustain them in their work, than the one we have been contemplating. "Fight the good fight of faith," said Paul to Timothy, "lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called." And he adds - "I give thee charge, in the sight of God . . . . that thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ." 1Tim.6:12-14. Can a subject of such importance be magnified above its just claims? I think not. Let us, then "earnestly contend for" it, as "the faith once delivered to the saints." Let those be admonished who assume that man has immortality or endless life in himself, that they are not by such a course, contending for the faith once delivered to the saints, but for a fable imposed upon them by tradition and the corruption of the words of God. May they quickly have they their eyes open to see the truth, and be able to defend it.
A few texts have been passed in the foregoing sermons, without special notice, which some rely on as proof of the immortality of man and the endless sin and suffering of the wicked. They were passed simply because they involved the State of the Dead, which the author of the Six Sermons thought best to take up in another work of a more general character. The Rich Man and Lazarus is one of the texts passed. A single remark here is all that is necessary on it till the state of the dead is under consideration.
Suppose the rich man to be actually in a conscious state after death, and in torment, it does not prove him immortal, or that his conscious suffering is to be eternal: for, the advocates of the immortality of man admit the state of the rich man, spoken of, was immediately after death and before the day of judgment. Hence, whatever his state is now it is not his proper punishment - that may be utter annihilation for all there is in the text to prove the contrary: he has not yet passed the judgment; when he has, then comes the real punishment, and the Scriptures elsewhere must determine what it is. We have positive testimony that "The wages of sin is Death:" Rom.6:23.
The phrase "immortal soul" is not once found in the Old and New Testament Scriptures; either in our translation or the original languages in which they were written; while - among many other terms which clearly express the idea of deprivation of life - that of annihilation is found distinctly in the Hebrew Scriptures as expressive of the doom of the wicked.
Prof. Pick, in his "Bible Student's Concordance" - a work of great value to a mere English scholar - gives us two original terms, the literal signification of which is, "to annihilate:" and these terms are applied to the destiny of wicked men in such connection as to make it certain that the Spirit of God - which inspired "holy men of old" - designed to teach the utter extirpation of the wicked, and not a preservation in any living state. These Hebrew terms are Tsomath and Shomad. In our translation they are sometimes rendered destroy, destroyed, and cut off. According to Prof. Pick there are about forty different Hebrew words that are translated destroy and destroyed. We will give a few instances where the terms occur, the literal signification of which, he tells us, is "to annihilate." In Ps.18:40 tsomath occurs. None doubt but that a portion of this Psalm is prophetical of Messiah and what he will do. Thus speaks the word of prophecy - "Thou hast also given me the necks of mine enemies; that I might tsomath - annihilate - them that hate me." Saith Jesus, Luke 19:27, when the Nobleman shall return he will say - "Those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me." Thus the prophecy, in Ps.18, is to have a fulfillment when Messiah, who is to be King on David's throne, shall "return from heaven." So Paul declares, on that return the disobedient "shall be punished with everlasting destruction:" 2Thess.1:9. Thus the Prophet, our Lord, and Paul, witness together, the enemies of Christ are to be annihilated. Again prophecy thus speaks, Ps.54:5 - "He [God] shall reward evil unto mine enemies: tsomath - annihilate them in thy truth." The truth of God is, the wicked shall be annihilated.
In Ps.94:23, tsomath occurs twice; and the verse literally reads thus - "He shall bring upon them their own iniquity, and shall annihilate them in their own wickedness: yea, the LORD our God shall annihilate them." Thus the fate of the wicked is clearly stated. In Ps.101:8, tsomath occurs twice; and as the language is clearly prophetical of Messiah it speaks in language not to be mistaken. "I will early annihilate all the wicked of the land; that I may annihilate all wicked doers from the city of the Lord."
Once more, Ps.143:12, David personating Messiah, prays - "Of thy mercy annihilate mine enemies, and annihilate all them that afflict my soul."
Finally, Ps.145:20, we read - "The LORD preserveth all them that love him: but all the wicked will he shomad - annihilate."
These examples are amply sufficient to warrant us in using the term annihilation in relation to the destiny of all the enemies of God. Those who choose to deny it, and affirm that such a disposal of them is impossible, we leave to settle their controversy with Him who cannot lie, and whose word abideth forever. We believe that men who reject Christ as the Life-Giver will be eternally excluded from life - "be no more" - "be as though they had not been:" Ps.104:35: Obadiah 16. - "The wicked shall perish, and the enemies of the LORD shall be as the fat of lambs; they shall consume: into smoke shall they consume away." Ps.37:20. Thus do the wicked PERISH UTTERLY AND FOREVER.