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necessary, it could be easily shown that the same original word is rendered punishment in some other places of our common version.
The sense then is, "how can ye escape the punishment of hell or Gehenna?" The word damnation determines nothing about the place, the nature, or the duration of the punishment. It expresses punishment to the persons addressed; but all these things must be determined from some other sources of evidence, than the word damnation. As in the preceding passage, the whole depends here on the sense we affix to the word Gehenna or hell. If we say that it means the place of future eternal misery for the wicked, our Lord's meaning evidently is, "how can ye escape the punishment of eternal misery?" But here again observe, that this sense of the word must not be taken for granted; for this is taking for granted the very question in debate as true, which must be proved true. How are we then to decide in what sense our Lord used the term Gehenna in this passage? There are two ways at least in which we may form a decision respecting this; namely, an examination of the context in which this passage stands, and scripture usage of the word Gehenna. No person can object to these rules of interpretation. On the contrary, they are such as every man of any intelligence highly approves.
1st, Then, let us examine the context in which these words stand. It is evident from verse 1. of the chapter, that what is contained in it, was addressed to the multitude, and to the disciples. From verse 2, to 13. our Lord spoke to his disciples concerning the Scribes and Pharisees, and warned them against several evils in those men. But notice, that at verse 18, he begins a direct address to the Scribes and Pharisees, which he continues to the end of the chapter. That many of those men were
present, seems evident, for the discourse has every appearance of a very pointed address to them. All must have noticed how often our Lord says to them, "wo! or alas! unto you Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites." No man, who reads from verse 13, to 32. can help seeing in what a plain, forcible, and pointed manner, our Lord exposed their wickedness and hypocrisy. He says to them, in verse 32. "fill ye up then the measure of your fathers." Then immediately follow the words under consideration "ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?"-Two questions here present themselves for consideration,-how were these men to fill up the measure of their fathers? and what damnation of hell was it which they could not escape?
1st, How were these men to fill up the measure of their fathers? If we consult the context for an answer to this question, we find the following very plainly given us in verse 34.-"Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and Scribes; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city." That this is a just answer to the question, I presume will not be disputed. Their fathers, our Lord told them, in verses 30, and 31. had killed the prophets, and they gave but too good evidence that they were the children of such fathers. The measure of their fathers they were to fill up, by their crucifying him, and persecuting those whom he was to send them, as described, verse 34. Compare also John xvi. 1-3. and 1 Thess. ii. 16.
2d, What damnation of hell was it which those men could not escape? Let us again consult the context for an answer to this question. If verse 34. answered the first question, verse 35. must answer the second.-"That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon
the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel, unto the blood of Zacharias, son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar." That this is the true answer to the second question, is not easily denied. Those who believe the expression, “damnation of hell," means future eternal misery, will readily admit, that my interpretation of the words, "fill ye up then the measure of your fathers," is correct. This cannot well be disputed; for the context clearly decides this to be our Lord's meaning. Suffer me then to ask, why my interpretation of the words, "damnation of hell," should not also be correct? Surely the context as clearly points out the latter interpretation to be our Lord's meaning, as it does the former. If the context decides the sense in the one case, it must decide in both. Besides, is it not a strong confirmation that my interpretation is correct, that this expression, "the damnation of hell," occurs in this discourse about the destruction of Jerusalem, and in no other discourse our Lord ever delivered. Had he used this expression when preaching the gospel, and enforcing the necessity of repentance on the Jews, it might be supposed that he referred to eternal punishment. But as it occurs in this discourse, and is never used by him on any other occasion, it seems to put it beyond all doubt that I have justly interpreted the words damnation of hell.
No man doubts that what is said verse 35. refers to the punishment inflicted on the Jews at the destruction of their city and temple, and more fully described in chap. xxiv. The succeeding verses of the chapter in which the words stand, confirm the view I have given. At verse 36. our Lord says,-" verily I say unto you, all these things shall come upon this generation," and surely the damnation of hell was a part of them. See also the three remaining verses, which I need not transcribe.
It is now seen that the context of this passage not to interpret the words "damnation of hell," of punishment in a future state, but of the temporal calamities coming on the Jewish nation, during that generation. If ever the context of any passage decided in what sense the writer used a word or phrase, it is certainly decided in the one before us.
But I ought to be allowed the liberty, with those who may oppose my view of this passage, to call upon them to avail themselves of the context as I have done, and show, if they can, from it, that by the damnation of hell, our Lord meant a place of future eternal misery. Let only the attempt be made, and nothing is so likely to convince them as this, that my interpretation is the true one. It was in making such an attempt, that I was led to the views which have been stated. Not a vestige of evidence does the context afford, that our Lord attached such a meaning to these words as is generally given them. The only thing in support of such a meaning, is the false and entirely gratuitous sense affixed to the word hell in the passage. But who does not see, and who will not allow, that if we are at liberty to affix what sense we please to the words of the Holy Spirit, there is an end put to all just interpretation of the scriptures?
I am aware, that from verse 3. of chap. xxiv. "What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?" it has been thought that our Lord blends in one description, the end of the Jewish state, and the end of this material world; and that the calamities of the former were intended as a faint description of the latter. Perhaps some may think that something similar is the case with the passage we are considering; that when our Lord said, "how can ye escape the damnation of hell," he included in one expression, the temporal miseries of the
Jews, and the eternal punishment of the wicked. Prophecies, say the objectors, have often a double meaning, and though in the first instance, our Lord by the damnation of hell, referred to the vengeance coming on the Jewish nation, it may also include the endless punishment of the wicked. In answer to this, I would observe, that this double view of Matth. xxiv. is now given up by most critics and commentators, and that even by those who call themselves the orthodox. Mr. Stuart, in his letters to Dr. Channing, p. 126, gives it up. He says,"of that day and hour knoweth no man; no, not the angels, which are in heaven, neither the son, but the father. The day and hour, according to some, is the day of judgment; but as I apprehend (from comparing the context) the day of vengeance to the Jews is meant."Here Mr. Stuart sets aside this double view of Matth. xxiv. and precisely by the same rule of interpretation, that I have set aside the popular sense attached to the words "damnation of hell," in the passage before us. If the context shows him, that by "that day and hour," is not meant the day of judgment, but the day of vengeance to the Jews, the context of the passage we are now considering as clearly shows, that, by the damnation of hell, is not meant a place of eternal misery, but that this very vengeance is meant. The fact is, this double view of Matth. xxiv. is not only abandoned by Mr. Stuart, but by Whitby, M'Knight, Gill, and other commentators. But we are willing to notice this objection a little further. It is said in the above objection, that the damnation of hell may refer to the endless misery of the wicked, as well as to the temporal calamities coming on the Jewish nation, because prophecies have often a double meaning. In answer to this, we would simply remark, that the words damnation of hell are not a prophesy, but a very