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think, that if John believed Gehenna a place of endless misery, he would be silent about it, yet mention to his Gentile readers these things, comparatively of small importance? But why did John omit all these discourses in which our Lord spoke of Gehenna? A very good reason can be assigned for this, and it shows, in what light John viewed the discourses of our Lord, alluded to. It was after the destruction of Jerusalem he wrote his gospel. Whitby in his preface to the gospel of John thus writes: "The fathers of the fourth and fifth centuries do all agree, that he wrote it either in that Isle (Patmos) or after his return from it; when he was ninety years old, saith Epiphanius; when he was an hundred, saith Chrysostom. So that according to the account of all these ecclesiastical writers, John must have writ this gospel a considerable time after the destruction of Jerusalem." Supposing then, that by the damnation of hell our Lord referred to the temporal punishment coming on the Jews, we see a very good reason, why John says nothing about Gehenna, yea, omits all our Lord's discourses in which it is mentioned. The event was past. To have related those discourses, would have been to deliver predictions after they were fulfilled, and warning men of evils to be endured, after they had been suffered. John's conduct is not only then excusable, but highly proper, in saying nothing about Gehenna or hell, and in omitting all these discourses. Does not this very omission strongly confirm the view which I have given of the passages, which speak of Gehenna-And is not this omission irreconcilable with the common ideas entertained on this subject?
2d, Why does not Luke mention Gehenna in his history of the Acts of the apostles? This is the more surprising, as he mentions it in his gospel. On my view of Gehenna, this can be rationally accounted for, but on the common view, is altogether unaccount
able. In his gospel, he relates our Lord's discourses to the Jews, in which he spoke to them concerning Gehenna, in the punishment of which they were alone concerned. But in his history of the Acts of the apostles, he gives us an account of the preaching of the gospel, and its success among the Gentiles, who were not concerned in the punishment of Gehenna, and therefore had no need to have it mentioned to them. If my view of Gehenna be correct, we see that there was no occasion for him to say a word about it. But if he believed, and if the apostles believed, the history of whose preaching he relates, that hell was a place of endless misery, on what grounds are we to account for his entire silence on this subject? If it was a punishment in common to both Jews and Gentiles, who died wicked, will it ever be satisfactorily accounted for, that the apostles did not preach it to the Gentile nations? If they ever preached this doctrine, it is certain, that Luke omits all mention of it in his history. To say they did preach it, is only a gratuitous assertion, and in fact impeaches Luke as a faithful historian. What historian would omit mentioning the doctrine of universal salvation as preached by the Universalists, if he undertook to write the history of their preaching for thirty years?
But if it was right in the apostles, to say nothing in their preaching of Gehenna or hell, it must be right in us, for certainly they are the best models to copy after. Supposing then, that all the preachers among the Gentile nations, should, in imitation of the apostles, say nothing about bell to their hearers, who could blame them? They could urge the example of the apostles in their defence. Here they might take their stand, and bid defiance to the whole world to prove the contrary.
3d, Why did the apostles never mention any thing about hell in any of their epistles to the churches?
Not one of them, James excepted, ever introduces it. The reason of this is equally obvious. The epistles, for the most part, were written to Gentile believers, who were not concerned in the punishment of hell or Gehenna. James wrote to believing Jews, and we have seen, that he once, in a figurative sense uses this word. Now can any one suppose, that if the Gentiles had been exposed to hell or endless punishment, that the apostles never would, in any of their epistles, have reminded those to whom they wrote, that they had been saved from it? They are often reminded that they were idolaters, and wicked, before they believed the gospel, and that they had been saved from such things: not a word is said, intimating that any of them had ever been saved from Gehenna or hell. From the consideration of their being saved, they are often exhorted to love and good works; but never from the consideration of their being saved from hell or endless misery. As it is never said that they were once exposed to such a punishment, so they are never reminded that they were now delivered from it. No selfcomplaisant remarks are ever made, that they were now safe from the torments of hell, nor any whining complaints, that their friends, and neighbours, yea, the whole unbelieving Gentile world were every moment exposed to this punishment. We find the apostles and primitive Christians, expressing the most heartfelt gratitude, that they had been saved from this present evil world; that they were translated from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God's dear son; and using all proper means that their fellow men might believe the gospel, and enjoy like blessings. The New Testament abounds with evidence of this. But do we ever find them saying that they had been saved from hell or Gehenna? Or intimating that their exertions in diffusing the gospel, was for the purpose of saving the heathen from the everlasting torments
of this place? We leave it with every candid man to say, if the apostles and first Christians believed just as people do now about hell or Gehenna, if they could have been thus silent on such a deeply interesting subject.
Further: no instance is left on record where an unbeliever, or a backslider was told, as now they frequently are, that they had sinned away their day of grace, and that everlasting torments in hell would be their unavoidable fate. No: nor is an instance or any thing like it recorded, of a person being driven to distraction, from anticipation of the horrors of hell, produced by apostolic preaching. No example is given in Scripture, of a person ending his days by suicide, to get rid of his present terrors of hell torments. Some instances of suicide are recorded: see the cases of Ahithopel, Judas, &c. but do we find a single hint dropped that it was the terrors of hell torments which drove them to this? Even of Judas it is not said that he went to hell; which, we think ought to teach some persons modesty and caution, who, in the beat of their zeal, affirm that he did go to this place. of punishment. If such persons had the Bible to make, they would express many things very differently from what it has pleased God to do, in the revelation of his will to mankind.
It will be allowed, that from the gospel of John, the Acts of the apostles, and the epistles, we learn what were the doctrines taught to the Gentiles. But can we learn from them that the doctrine of eternal punishment in hell was one of these doctrines? Certainly we can not. Supposing that such writings were published in our day, omitting all mention of hell or its endless punishment, would we not say that they did not teach the doctrine of hell torments? We do not deem it a conclusive argument, that hell is not a place of endless misery, because these writers do not
mention it in all their writings: it is however caleulated to lead us to reflection, and candidly to consid. er, that when in so large a portion of the New Testament no mention is made of hell torments, whether we correctly understand those other parts where this doctrine is supposed to be taught. We have not stated this as an argument conclusive in itself. But we should think, that if none of the other New Testament writers teach this doctrine, the argument is con clusive. We have seen, that it is a conceded point, that Gehenna does not occur in the Old Testament in the sense of a place of eternal misery. If, then, none of the New Testament writers teach it, is not their silence proof, that no such doctrine was known or taught by them? It is well known, that the silence of Scripture about any doctrine, in other cases, is deemed a conclusive argument against it. And why not in the case before us? It would be dangerous to admit the contrary. If it was admitted, then no fault could be found with the doctrine of purgatory and many other things about which the Bible is silent.
We often come to learn what doctrines are held by persons from the accusations of their enemies. Should we bring the doctrine before us to this test, we find some additional confirmation that endless misery in hell was not taught by our Lord, nor his apostles.
1st, Let us inquire what accusations the Jews brought against the Saviour? The Jews accused him of many things: such as his being an enemy to Cæsar; as in league with Beelzebub, and as a blasphemer. On his trial, Pilate said to him, "behold how many things they witness against thee." The principal of these were, that he called himself the Son of God, and said he was able to destroy their temple. But I ask, did the Jews on any occasion, ever accuse him of having threatened them with endless misery in hell? No bad as the Jews were, they never ac