Page images

hell to us Gentiles, as a place of endless misery? To what chapter or verse, in any book of the New Testament, can they refer us, where an inspired apostle ever did so? Let every one who preaches this doctrine, consider, if he did not learn this from his catechism, when a child; from hooks he has read, and from the preaching he has heard since he became a man, and not from his Bible? Let him also consider, before he condemns my view, whether he has ever given this subject a thorough and impartial examination. We are all too prone to receive things in religion on such kind of authority, and too ready to condemn opinions contrary to our own, before we have duly considered the evidence brought in support of


To this we are aware that it may be objected"Gehenna was a Jewish figurative mode of speaking of future eternal punishment, and had it been used by the apostles in preaching to the Gentiles, they could not have been understood; for the Gentiles knew nothing about Gehenna, as a place of future punishment." To this I reply,

1st, That this objection would have some force, if it was found that the apostles, in preaching to the Gentiles, made use of their own modes of speaking about future eternal misery to them. Had they said to the wicked Gentiles, "how can ye escape the damnation of Hades, or Tartarus," we might suppose that this was the reason they avoided the use of the term Gehenna. But do we find this to be the true state of the case? We certainly do not. No such conclusion, we conceive, therefore, can be drawn that the apostles said nothing to the Gentiles concerning Gehenna, because it was a Jewish figure which they could not understand. But,

2d, Admitting that the term Gehenna was a mode. of speaking of eternal misery the Gentiles did not un

derstand, they could have explained it to them, as they have done other things of seemingly less importance. Let any one read John's gospel, and he will see that he explains Jewish names and customs; some examples of which we have given in another place. But,

3d, The above objection takes it for granted that the Gentiles were unacquainted with the term Gehenna. But ought it to be so? Is there not as good reason to think that the heathen, in their intercourse with the Jews, should imbibe their notions of Gehenna, as that the Jews should imbibe the heathen notions concerning Hades or Tartarus, in their intercourse with them? Their mutual intercourse would produce a mutual interchange of opinions. This being the case, if the spirit of God recognized either the Jewish notions of Gehenna, or the Pagan notions of Hades, as truth, we might expect that the apostles would have preached this doctrine to both Jews and Gentiles. Had both been recognized, we might expect Hades and Gehenna to be used indiscriminately by the apostles, in speaking of future eternal misery. But this is not done by them, if we may judge of their preaching from what is contained in the New Testament. If they believed both to be true, they would have spoken at least of Gehenna to Jews, and of Hades to Gentiles, as a place of eternal punishment in a future state.

4th, But this objection takes it for granted, that the Jews in our Lord's day, did use the term Gehenna to signify a place of endless misery, and that this was its exclusive sense. That this could not be its exclusive sense we have proved; for in reading the Old Testament Scriptures, they could not understand it so; or, if they did, they must have perverted them to an extent I am unwilling to believe, even of the Jews. The objector must then prove, that the Jews, in our Lord's day, did use the term Gehenna, exclusively to express

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

« PreviousContinue »