Page images

revealed such a doctrine to the world. To quote any writer from Malachi to John the Baptist, in proof of this doctrine, is nothing to the purpose.

3d, I will believe this doctrine, if it is proved that God revealed it since the New Testament was completed. This is not supposed, for it is contended by all who hold it, that it was revealed long before this. We have seen that it is spoken of by the writers of the Targums, Josephus, and Philo, which sets this question at rest. To contend that it was revealed after the New Testament was completed, would be to give it up as a Scripture doctrine, and sanction all the wild pretensions to inspiration since that period. If we do not end our revelations with the New Testament, we shall have a host of inspired fanatics, and an inundation of enthusiastical reveries, for the faithful sayings of God.

4th, I will believe this doctrine, if it can be proved that it has been revealed by God to men during the ministry of Christ or any of his apostles; or, in other words, if it can be proved from the New Testament. On this ground it is placed by Dr. Campbell, and all who contend for endless misery, in Gehenna or hell. In support of this sense of the term Gehenna in the New Testament, the Targums and the Apocrypha are appealed to, and it is taken for granted, that this is its sense there, without any examination of the passages where it occurs. All these passages we have considered, and we think have shown, that no such doctrine is taught in them. Besides, we adduced a number of facts, at variance with such a view of the subject. Are we then implicitly to believe what those uninspired writers say about Gehenna, and in face of all the evidence we have adduced to the contrary? No reasonable man can expect this of us. But we have a few remarks to make on the above quotations, of a different nature from those already made.

1st, We cannot help noticing the similarity of opinion among the Jews in those days, and good people in these, respecting those who are to go to hell or Gehenna. In those days the Jews considered all Gentiles as fit fuel for hell fire. They exempted themselves from such a punishment; for no Jew could go to hell! If any Jew ever went there "hell fire hath no power over the sinners of Israel, because Abraham and Isaac descend thither to fetch them thence." The merit of circumcision, and the odour of their foreskins was sufficient to save them from hell. Such was the faith of the persons on whose authority we are to believe Gehenna or hell to be a place of endless misery! Gentiles now retaliate on the Jews, and in their turn, consign all the Jews to the punishment of hell. Ask persons who believe in the doctrine of hell torments, "do you expect to go to hell?" "Oh! no," say they, "God forbid, that we should go to hell." And why should not they go to hell, as well as any other persons? You will find that they have similar reasons to assign as the Jews had, why they are exempted from this punishment. They have Abraham, or some good man for their father; they have been baptized; they have joined the church. These or something similar has put all their fears to rest about their going to hell! The fact is, I never met with a person in my life who believed that hell was a place of punishment for himself, but always for some other persons, such as Jews and heathen, and wicked persons in their town or neighbourhood. Yea, we have known some, even of the best of men, who, while their children, relations and neighbours lived, looked on them as in the broad road to hell, but when they died, and that without much evidence of repentance, still hoped that they had gone to heaven. This conduct of theirs, has reminded us of the ancient Romans, who, while

their Cæsars lived, counted them devils, but after they were dead, deified them.

2d, If the writers of the Targums did use the term Gehenna to express the place of endless misery, and if the Jews considered the Gentiles fit fuel for hell fire, it ought to be considered how they came by such opinions. This we shall attempt to inquire into, and, if possible, ascertain the source whence they were derived. There are several points fixed about this, which will enable us, at least, to come to some general conclusions on the subject. 1st, The word Gehenna does not occur in the Old Testament in the sense of a place of future punishment for the wicked. It is apparent, then, that these opinions held by the Jews, could not have been derived from the Old Testament Scriptures. Here is one point settled, about which there can be no dispute.

2d, That the word Gehenna was used to express a place of endless misery in the days of our Lord, is not only affirmed by Dr. Campbell, but at this period it had come to be confined to this sense. He says that this is always and indisputably its sense in the New Testament. Admitting this to be true, let me observe

3d, That Dr. Campbell also declares, that the term Gehenna came gradually to be used in this new sense, which it had not in the Old Testament. Who first began to give it this new sense, or how long a time elapsed before it came to be confined to it, he gives us no information. At this distance of time, it is perhaps impossible to settle these questions. One thing, however, is certain, that this new sense affixed to the word Gehenna, was not of divine authority, but came gradually to have this sense given it by the Jews. This leads us to inquire

4th, About what period of time the Jews began to give it this new sense. This appears to have been

after their captivity in Babylon. It was long after this period that the Targums were written. Where then could the Jews learn their opinion of a place of eternal punishment but among the heathen? That they did learn this from the heathen, we think, bas been shown in a quotation from Dr. Campbell. See chap. i. sect. 3. But observe, that though they learned among the heathen that Hades was a place of eternal misery, they did not learn from them to call it by the name Gehenna. This was a Hebrew word, and its application to the place of future punishment was most likely to be done by the Jews. It is not denied but that the Jews did so apply it, and it is not said to be so applied by the heathen. If the question is asked, how did the Jews come to give to this place of future punishment such a name as Gehenna? We think the answer to this is both easy and natural. Could there be any thing more natural than to call it by the name of the most horrid and abominable place known to Jews, which was Gehenna, or the valley of Hinnom. In proof my assertion, I quote Jahn's Archæology, p. 527. He says "In the later periods of the Jewish kingdom, this idol was erected in the

גי בן הנם or גי הגום .valley south of Jerusalem, viz

in the valley of Hinnom, and in the part of said valley called tophet, nan, so named from the drums, n, d'an, which were beaten to prevent the groans and cries of children sacrificed, from being heard, Jer. vii. 31, 32.: xix. 6-14. Isai. xxx. 33. 2 Kings xxiii. 10. The place was so abhorrent to the minds of the more recent Jews, that they applied the name Ge Hinnom or Gehenna to the place of torments in a future life. The word Gehenna is used in this way, (viz. for the place of punishment beyond the grave,) very frequently in oriental writers, as far as India. Compare Wetstein's New Testament, at Matth. v. 5." We have seen that Dr. Campbell has said that, after the cap

tivity, the Jews began to speak of heaven, or the place of happiness for the good, by the name of paradise, and Abraham's bosom, the happiest or most pleasant places they had any idea of. And is it not as natural to think, that they should speak of a place of endless punishment by the name of Gehenna, the most abominable place they had any idea of? They, in this case, did nothing more than men do every day, in expressing some new thing, by the name of some other thing, which they think most resembles it.

5th, How came the Jews, then, to exempt themselves from the punishment of Gehenna, and declare all the Gentiles fit fuel for hell fire? This ought to be carefully examined. With a view to ascertain how this took place, let the following things be carefully considered. We have shown, chap. ii. sect. 1. that Ge henna in the Old Testament, was made by the prophet Jeremiah an emblem of future temporal punishment to the Jewish nation, and which came upon it as described by our Lord, Matth. xxiv. This we think is beyond all dispute. The Jews could not help seeing such a punishment predicted by their own prophFrom their intercourse with the heathen they had learned the heathen notion that Hades was a place of punishment for the wicked. Observe, also, that a strong prejudice existed in the minds of the Jews against the Gentiles. They counted them dogs and excluded them from all participation of the blessings of Messiah's reign. Every one may see from Acts, chaps. x. xi. how strong this prejudice was, even in the minds of the disciples. They refused to eat and drink with them. Yea, even the Jews had no dealings with the Samaritans; and whilst they admitted that they ought to love their neighbours, they thought that they ought to hate their enemies. The whole New Testament shows to what extent self-love, self-righteousness, national pride, and vanity had

« PreviousContinue »