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ADDITIONAL FACTS STATED, PROVING THAT GEHENNA WAS NOT USED BY THE SACRED WRITERS TO EXPRESS A PLACE OF ENDLESS MISERY.
THE facts which have been stated in a preceding part of this investigation, are certainly very singular, if it indeed be true that Gehenna of the New Testament signifies a place of endless misery for the wicked. Those I am now to adduce, are to me also strange, upon such a view of this subject, Some of them have been slightly hinted at in the course of our remarks, but deserve a more distinct statement.
1st, If Gehenna means a place of endless misery for the wicked, it is a fact that the apostles never preached it, either to Jews or Gentiles. The history of the Acts of the apostles, contains an account of their preaching for thirty years, but not once is the subject of hell or Gehenna torments, mentioned by them. They were commanded to preach the gospel to every creature, and they did so, but to no creature under heaven, did they ever preach this doctrine. No living being did they ever threaten with such a punishment. They addressed the worst of characters, but to none of them did they ever say, "how can ye escape the damnation of hell?" They did threaten men sometimes with punishment, but never with eternal punishment in hell. Saul said to Elymas, the sorcerer,→
"O! full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?" But does he threaten this man with the damnation of hell? No; he says, "and now behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season." Acts xiii. 10, 11. In the same chapter, verses 40, 41. he says, "beware, therefore, lest that come upon you which is spoken of in the prophets. Behold ye despisers, and wonder and perish." But did he on this, or any other occasion, ever threaten them with the punishment of hell? No; nothing like this is to be found. In this last text the word perish occurs, and perhaps some may think that eternal punishment is included in it. But it should be observed, that Paul was here addressing himself to Jews, and concerning them our Lord had said,— except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish," referring to the temporal destruction which was coming on the Jewish nation.
May I then ask, how this fact is to be rationally accounted for, if the apostles did indeed believe hell to be a place of endless misery? Can any man suppose they believed this, yet in the course of thirty years' preaching, never mentioned it to their hearers? What would we say of a man in these days, who should preach thirty years, yet never say a word about hell to those whom he addressed? Would we not say he was a Universalist ? He would be an outlaw from orthodoxy.
If my veracity in this statement is doubted by any persons, let them read the book of the Acts of the apostles. In the whole of it, whether they preached to Jews or Gentiles, you will find that they are all alike silent on the subject of hell torments. If they believed such a doctrine, let others account for it why they never preach
ed it? If preachers now took the apostles as their models, we should hear no more about hell from them. The word hell would never drop from their lips.
We would then respectfully ask, from what source did preachers learn that they should preach Gehenna or 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 books 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 them.
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 as that the apostles said nothing to the Gentiles concern
ing 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 understand, 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 consequence of 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 consequence of their intercourse with the heathen? Their mutual intercourse, we should naturally think, 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 as the truth, 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 of Gehenna to Jews, and of Hades to Gentiles, as a place of eternal punishment in a future
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. we think we have proved; for in reading the Old Testament scriptures, they could not understand it in this sense ; 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 and the apocrypha, 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?
That this could not be its exclusive sense
According to the 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, when they never after spoke concerning 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 meaning of 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