« PreviousContinue »
a place of endless misery. When he has done this, upon the authority of the Targums, he must also prove that this sense of the term was sanctioned by the New Testament writers. Besides, he ought to account for it, if the reason why the apostles never said any thing to the Gentiles, concerning Gehenna, arose from this term's not being understood by them, why they never even speak to the Jews of the damnation of hell? According to this objection, it was understood by them to mean a place of endless misery. The apostles did preach to the Jews as well as the Gentiles, but they did not even name it to them. Will any man affirm, then, that the apostles of our Lord understood him to mean, by Gehenna, a place of endless misery, yet never preached it, to either Jews or Gentiles, in the whole course of their ministry? Whatever excuse we may make for them, in regard to the Gentiles not understanding the term Gehenna, none can be made for them on this ground respecting the Jews.
2d, Another fact is, that the salvation revealed by the gospel, is never spoken of as a salvation from hell or endless misery. No such salvation was ever promised or predicted in the Old Testament, and no such salvation was ever preached by Christ or his apostles. Our Lord received the name Jesus, because he should save his people from their sins. But I do not find that he received this name, or any other because he should save them from hell. Our Lord and his apostles, in preaching, proposed by it to turn men from darkness to light; from the power of satan unto God; from idols to serve the living God; from the course of this world; and from all sin to holiness; but where do we ever read of their saving them from hell? No such salvation was preached by our Lord. In all the texts where he speaks of hell, he was not preaching the gospel, but addressing the Jews about the temporal calamities
coming on them as a people. In no instance did he ever exhort men to bring forth fruits worthy of repentance, because they were exposed to hell torments in a future state. So far from this, in nine instances out of eleven, where Gehenna is used by him, he was addressing his disciples. It is of no use to observe, that his apostles never made use of the punishment of hell to induce men to repentance, for they do not once name it in all their writings. James is the only exception, who mentions hell once, and that only in a figurative sense. Nothing is said in our Lord's commission to his apostles about hell, and as little is said of it by them in their execution of it. To Jew and Gentile, bond and free, they are all silent about it. It is never mentioned by them to any persons, on any occasion, or in any connexion, or on any subject. This silence of the apostles respecting hell, could not be because the people in those days were all so very good, that they did not need to be saved from bell. No; the whole world lay in wickedness around them, yet not a word is said of the torments of hell to alarm their fears, and to turn them from sin to God. No calculations were then made, as in our day, of the number who were daily and hourly going down to hell to suffer eternal misery. No; nor was such a variety of schemes adopted by the apostles to raise funds to save men from hell, as we see resorted to in our day. As they expressed no alarms about the vast crowds going to hell, so we do not find them express their joy because any were saved from it. They were deeply grieved to see men living in sin, and their spirit was stirred within them to see whole cities given to idolatry; but they never assert that all such were on the road to hell. They had great joy to see men walking in the truth, and often congratulated them on account of their being saved from their former course of life, but not a syllable escapes them, that such per
sons had been saved from endless misery. You search the Scriptures in vain to find a single instance where the apostles make any attempt to work on the fears and feelings of men by giving terrific descriptions of hell, or the horrors and howlings of the damned. As they never held up the torment of hell to make men Christians, so we never find them using it as an argument to induce Christians to love and to good works. The latter are often reminded that they formerly were idolaters, working all uncleanness with greediness, to induce them to holiness; but where do we find a word said of their being saved from hell, as any inducement to it?-In view of these things, permit me to ask, how are we to account for them, if they believed hell to be a place of eternal torment for the wicked? Is it possible that they believed this, yet preserved such a dead silence on the subject? This silence is an indisputable fact. To account for it, is above my comprehension.
Perhaps it may be said,-though none are said to be saved from hell, yet they are said to be delivered from the wrath to come, and to be saved from wrath through Jesus. All this is true; but it is nowhere said that this wrath to come was in a future state, or of eternal duration, which is the point to be proved to be conclusive on this subject. I think I can show that the expression, "wrath to come," does not refer to a future state. To do it here, would be too great a digression from our present subject. Nor is this my business, to show that it does not refer to a future state of existence. It is the business of those who say that it does, to prove this, and not to take things for granted at this rate, on a subject of such deep importance, as the one in question, to the human race. But this, and other things, are all taken for granted, as if they ought not, nor could not be doubted. The evidence I have stated, and have yet to produce, has
led me to doubt that Gehenna is a place of future eternal misery. If it is, we shall be happy to see it proved.
3d, Supposing that hell is a place of endless. misery for the wicked, it will not be an easy matter to vindicate either the character of our Lord or of his apostles. It will not be easy to vindicate their character for fidelity to God, or to the souls of men. It is certain our Lord was faithful to him who appointed him. The apostles were also faithful, in declaring the whole counsel of God. But can all this be true, if they knew that hell was a place of eternal misery, and that all the world stood exposed to it, yet said nothing to them about it? It is true, the Saviour mentions hell nine times to his disciples, and twice to the unbelieving Jews. Neither he nor his apostles ever use the word in speaking to the Gentiles. Now I ask, is this like being faithful? Is this being half so faithful as most preachers are in our day? We think every candid man must say no; it is rather being very unfaithful, if they indeed believed this doctrine as it is commonly received among us. Let it then be accounted for, how preaching hell as a place of endless misery now is so much a duty, since it was not done by the apostles, nor even by our Lord himself. The fidelity of preachers in these days, both to God and the souls of men, in preaching the doctrine of endless misery in hell, far exceeds that of the apostles or of Christ, the Saviour. But how is their compassion to the souls of men to be vindicated, if by hell is meant a place of endless misery? The case stands thus. The Saviour, it is thought, knew hell to be a place of endless torment, but we have seen how he acted? He had compassion on the multitude, when they needed to be fed, and wrought a miracle to supply their wants. The compassion of his heart made him weep over Jerusalem, in anticipating the temporal calamities coming upon its inhabitants, and faith
fully to warn them of their danger. In reference to those temporal calamities, he once said to the unbelieving Jews," how can ye escape the damnation of hell?" In reference to the same calamities, he uses the word hell in addressing his disciples. But he sheds no tears, he gives no warnings, he works no miracles to save, when it is said he knew hell to be a place of endless misery to all the wicked. But can any man think so of the Son of God, the Saviour of the world? I ask; can any man believe, that he whose heart was wrung with anguish, at foreseeing temporal evils to be suffered by men, and who could shed tears at the grave of Lazarus, was so callous, so devoid of all compassion, as never to warn men of endless misery in hell? But supposing we should admit, that in all the places where our Lord mentions hell, such a place of misery is meant. In this case, our Lord indeed had a little compassion for the Jews. But neither he, nor his apostles, had any for the Gentiles. The apostles did shed tears, but not a sigh is heaved, nor a tear falls from their eyes, on account of men's being in danger of hell torments. On this subject their bowels of compassion were entirely shut up, for they say not a word about hell to any man.Either then we must allow these men to be devoid of compassion, or admit that they did not know that hell was a place of eternal torment for the wicked. It is a plain case, that preachers in our day far exceed the Lord and his apostles in compassion for the souls of men. How solemnly, and seriously, and frequently do we hear preachers warn men of hell torments? What deep compassion they pretend, at least, to feel for the multitudes of poor souls on the brink of hell, and going down to suffer its torments forever. In what loud and frightful tones do we hear them describe the horrors of this place? Their compassionate hearts they describe as bleeding, because men