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bring forth fruits meet for repentance, and (think it not sufficient to) say within yourselves, we have Abraham for our father, Matth. iii. 8, 9. The Chaldee paraphrasts do often mention their expectation of being preserved for the merits or good works of their forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; and their writers add, that hell fire hath no power over the sinners of Israel, because Abraham and Isaac descend thither to fetch them thence. 2d, They held that circumcision was of sufficient virtue to render them accepted of God, and to preserve them from eternal ruin; for they teach that no circumcised person goes to hell; God having promised to deliver them from it for the merit of circumcision; and having told Abraham, that when his children fell into transgression, and did wicked works, he would remember the odour of their foreskins, and would be satisfied with their piety. And, 3d, They taught that all Israelites had a portion in the world to come; and that notwithstanding their sins, yea, though they were condemned here for their wickedness: whereas, of all the Gentiles, without exception, they pronounce that they are fuel for hell fire." Let persons then, who quote the Targums in proof that Gehenna or hell is a place of endless misery, take their choice. They must either reject their authority altogether, or be willing to go to hell on the same authority; as Gentiles we must all be content to be fuel for hell fire. Let us then make up our minds, whether we shall, for the sake of maintaining the authority and honour of the Targums in the one case, be willing to submit to the punishment they assign us in the other. We must either accept of both or reject both.-We might here take our leave of the Targums: for what has now been stated, is sufficient to convince any man, that their authority is not for a moment to be regarded. But we shall proceed.
2d, Parkhurst says in the above quotation, that, "the Jews in our Saviour's time used the compound word, ge enm, for hell, the place of the damned." And he adds, that "this appears from that word's being thus applied by the Chaldee Targums and by the Jerusalem Targums and that of Ben Uzziel." And why does it not also appear that all the stories, and glosses, and fables, which they introduced into their Targums, are also true? We have the same authority for the one as for the other. If it should be said, that the Targums are only appealed to for the manner in which the Jews used this word, we reply that this is not the whole truth, for it is in the way the Jews did use this word in the Targums, that the doctrine is attempted to be proved. The sense in which our Lord used the word Gehenna is assumed, and the Targums are appealed to not only for the sense of this word but for the truth of the doctrine. Let it be shown from the context of the passages in which it is used, that this is its sense, and there is no necessity to appeal to the Targums. But if this be true which is stated in the above quotations why does it not also appear, that the Gentiles were fuel for hell fire? By this way of making things appear to be true, it will be no difficult thing to show, that all the silly, sick-brained stories of the Apocrypha, Targums, and Talmuds, are true. Besides, by the same rule, we ought to believe, that the fire of hell is literal, mate rial fire, for the Targumists appear to have believed this, as is plain from the above quotation. But notice, that Whitby says, that "the Jewish religion was very much corrupted at our Saviour's coming." By what evidence does it appear, that the Gentiles were fuel for hell fire, and that this is a corruption of their religion, but that hell fire itself was not also a part of this corruption? Neither of these is taught in the Old Testament. From what source, then, do we
learn, that both are not a'corruption of their religion? How could they be any thing but a corruption of their religion, when not found in their Scriptures? If this is denied, let proof be produced to the contrary. After reading the above quotation from Whitby, no one can doubt that the Jewish religion was very much corrupted. It was a corruption, however, as any one may see, which flattered themselves, and sufficiently expressed their enmity against the Gentiles. After seeing this quotation, and considering the strange and even ridiculous opinions held by the Jews, what credit can any man give to any thing such persons could say about Gehenna being a place of endless misery? One would certainly be disposed to think, that, so far from the doctrine being true, it was invented for the purpose of showing the deep-rooted aversion which they had to Gentiles. If Gehenna or hell, held by them to be a place of endless misery, for all the Gentiles, be a truth, yet all the other things stated in the above quotation are considered corruptions of their religion, we honestly own that we have seldom seen a truth held with so many absurd notions. However, if it can be proved that this part is a truth, and all the others are errors which they blended with it, we shall be happy to give the evidence produced a candid examination. To say the least of it, the testimony of such witnesses, is very suspicious.
3d, But we should like to know how the writers of the Targums, Josephus, and Philo, quoted above, came by the information, which they detail to us concerning hell or Gehenna. By what means did they come to know, that it was a place of punishment for the wicked, that the punishment was to be literal fire, and endless in its duration? I repeat the question,Where did the above persons get all this information which they communicate to us about hell? Did they derive it from the heathen, or did they invent it them
selves? If from neither of those sources, let it be shown from what source they did derive it. Until it can be proved that this information was derived from God's authority, no man ought to believe it.
But it may be objected to this, by saying, is it not said, in the above quotations, that "our Lord speaks, Mark ix. 47. and Matth. v. 22. of the wicked being cast into the fire of hell, and of their being cast into a furnace of fire, Matth. xiii. 42. ?" The two first of these passages have been considered before, being two of those in which Gehenna occurs. It has been shown that Gehenna in no one instance, signifies a place of endless misery for the wicked. As to the last passage, we have shown in an Inquiry into the import of the word aion, translated everlasting, &c. that it has nothing to do with a place of endless misery, but that it refers to the same temporal calamities which are spoken of under the emblem of Gehenna, by the prophet Jeremiah. We can show that our Lord did not derive his allusions to a "furnace of fire" in the above passages, from the Targums, but from the Old Testament Scriptures. This, however, we cannot do here. It is very certain, that almost all professing Christians, not only in our day, but for many ages past, have believed that Gehenna or hell, is the place of eternal punishment for all the wicked. One should think that it would not be difficult to show from what source this information was derived. We might also expect, that instead of referring to the Targums and the Apocrypha, God's authority would be appealed to at once, and that the Scripture evidence of its truth, would be full and explicit. A subject of such universal and deep interest to the human race, we think would not be left as a matter of doubtful disputation, depending on the sense which the writers of the Targums give to the word Gehenna. Even when such writings are appealed to, they afford
but little satisfaction, as to proof of the doctrine, and give us but a poor opinion of either the piety of the writers or the correctness of their religious opinions. If eternal punishment in hell, be a part of the revealed will of God, at some time or other this revelation must have been given. Now I am willing to believe it, and shall teach it with all the ability God has given me, if it can be shown that such a revelation has been given, during any part of the four following periods of time: which includes all periods in which it could be revealed.
1st, I shall believe it, if it can be proved, that it was revealed at any time during the Old Testament dispensation. That such a doctrine, as the eternity of hell torments, was not revealed during this period, is now generally admitted. It is denied that it was revealed under the name of Sheol, Hades, Tartarus, or even Gehenna, during that dispensation: and it is not pretended that any other name is used to express this place of endless punishment. I therefore observe
2d, That I shall believe this doctrine, if it can be proved, that God revealed it any time from the completion of the Old Testament Scriptures to the commencement of the gospel dispensation. The time which elapsed between these two events, was about four hundred years. The Apocrypha and Targums are supposed to be the writings which fill up this chasm; but it is not pretended that any of these writers were inspired to reveal this, or any other doctrine. Though hell is spoken of in these writings, yet it has no more claim to our belief, than many other things stated in them. Malachi, in closing his book commanded attention to be given to the law of Moses, until the coming of John the Baptist, but gives no injunction to pay attention to the Apocrypha or the Targums. And we have no account, during the above period, that any inspired prophet arose, and