« PreviousContinue »
The term Gehenna, was never used but to the Jews, unless accompanied by an explanation. To the Gentiles it is never threatened in the New-Testament. Let every one examine for himself, the places where it is mentioned, and no reasoning of ours will be necessary, to demonstrate the fact. Our Saviour, indeed, was not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and it may be contended that he could not be supposed to denounce a threatening to those who were not the subjects of his ministry. But what shall we say of the ministry of the apostles? Did they in a single instance, threaten the damnation of hell to their hearers, whether Jew or Gentile? Search their preaching through, as recorded in the Acts of the apostles, and not one instance can be found of this threatening. Whatever then be the meaning of the term, either the apostles were unfaithful or incompetent teachers, or the denunciation of suffering in Ġehenna was not a part of their ministry.
But another remark, calculated to throw light on this subject, is, that in nine of the twelve places where Gehenna occurs, it is specially directed to his particular disciples. To them he spoke, as if it might be avoided, but to the unbelieving Jews, as their certain doom. But is this the practice of modern teachers ? we all know it is not. Those who are in the churches are considered as in the ark of safety ; while those who are without, are often mentioned as fit fuel for hell fire. Did John, the forerunner of Christ, once mention, even to the Jews, the punishment of Gehenna? No. True, he inquired, Who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? But he never mentioned, that this wrath was to be exemplified in a coming state. The wrath to come, was the wrath coming upon the Jewish nation, from which the believers in Jesus escaped. Signs were given them, by which they well understood the calamities which were ready to be poured out on their country.
Let us now attend to Mat. 23: 15. Here a wo is pronounced on Scribes, Pharisees, and hypocrites, who make their proselytes two fold more the children of hell than themselves. As we have already seen to what hell these Jews were liable, and which they could not escape, in the examen of the 33d verse of this chapter, perhaps very little will be necessary on this subject. Let it then be observed, that proselytes from another faith, are more frequently the recipients of unholy zeal, and blind fanaticism, than those by whom they have been converted. To ingratiate themselves into the good will of their spiritual fathers, requires a more constant regard to the prescribed regimen of the sect, and an over-solicitude for the wellbeing of the sect which they have joined, lest they be accused of lukewarmness. And in this view of the subject, we see how much more likely would be the opposition of proselytes to bring on themselves swift destruction, than that of even the Jews. No man in his senses, would contend, that if both Jews, and Gentile converts to Judaism, were to be endlessly miserable, the proselytes would be “doubly damned.
As to Mat. 5: 29, 30, we cannot better express our own impressions, than by quoting from Mr. Balfour's remarks on them.
“ What did our Lord mean by these offending them? It is well known that the word translated offend, signifies to cause to stumble, and is in some places translated a stumbling block. By their right eye or hand offending them, then, must be meant, their unsubdued passions and propensities causing them to stumble and fall from their profession of Christ's name. If these proved a stumbling block, or caused them to offend, they thereby exposed themselves to the punishment of hell fire. It was profitable, therefore, for them to subdue these, or to part with them, though dear to them as members of their bodies, than expose
themseves to such a punishment. This, so far, I presume, will be allowed as our Lord's meaning, whatever sense we give the word Gehenna or hell in this passage. Is it then asked—What does our Lord mean by Gehenna or hell? I answer, the very same punishment which he threatened the unbelieving Jews with, Mat. 23: 33, when he said to them, “how can ye escape the damnation of hell ?"-If his disciples indulged their lusts, and proved apostates from their profession, they should be involved in the same dreadful calamities with the rest of the Jewish nation. Accordingly, he said to his disciples, Mat. 24: 13,-" he that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved.” If the question is asked, -Saved from what? The context clearly shows, that they should be saved from all the temporal calamities foretold by our Lord, which were to come on that generation. All who did endure to the end of the Jewish state, were saved. M'Knight, in a note on Mat. 24: thus writes : " The people of the church in Jerusalem being ordered by an oracle given to the faithful in that place, by revelation, left the city before the war, and dwelt in a city of Perea, the name of which was Pella." This oracle, perhaps, was no other than the information our Lord
his disciples in Mat. 24. If they attended to it, they needed no other oracle. But I only notice this, without pretending to decide about it. As to his disciples, the following is very evident. Patient enduring to the end, was not only connected with their temporal safety, but attention to the directions given Mat. 24. If one of them, being in the field, returned back to take his clothes, the safety promised might not be obtained. No worldly consideration was to be an apology for a moment's delay, but with the utmost speed they were to make their escape.
When our Lord spoke of the punishment of hell to the unbelieving Jews, he mentioned it as a thing they could not es
саре. . “How can ye escape the damnation of hell ?" They had nearly filled up the measure of their iniquity, and upon them was to come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth. But when he spoke to the disciples about this punishment, he spoke of it as a thing they might escape, if they attended to the instructions which he gave them. See Matth. 24 : where he is at great pains in pointing out the course they must pursue, if they would avoid the impending destruction.
We then see a very good reason why our Lord said so much to his disciples about the punishment of hell, and so little to the unbelieving Jews. Allowing that hell does not mean a place of endless misery, but the temporal calamities coming on the Jews, every thing said about it is just what might be expected. But can it ever be rationally and scripturally accounted for, that our Lord should only once mention “the damnation of hell” to the unbelieving Jews, if thereby he meant a punishment in eternal torment? Besides, does not this view rationally and Scripturally account for the very extraordinary fact, that not a word about hell or Gehenna is said to the Gentiles by any of the inspired writers? How is the fact to be accounted for on the common view given of the punishment of Gehenna ? If my view be allowed correct, it rationally, and I think Scripturally, accounts for these things. That it does account for them, is some evidence that it is correct.
“Let us now consider the language of this passage, and see if it does not confirm these views of the subject. It is said twice,-“and that thy whole body should be cast into hell, or Gehenna." This language is not in unison with the common ideas entertained of hell. Do we ever hear a preacher tell his audience, that their “whole body shall be cast into hell, or that body and soul shall be cast into it?" No; they al
how that the soul only goes there at death, and the body returns to the dust, and not at least until the resurrection, do both go there together. The phrase "thy whole body," appears to be of the same import with that expressed in another passage by the words "soul and body.
We shall show hereafter, that by the word soul, is not meant, as is generally believed, the spirit, which exists in a separate state from the body, but natural life. See on Mat. 10: 28. below. Another thing ought to be noticed, that preachers now only threaten men with the punishment of hell if they continue in unbelief; but here our Lord threatened his disciples with it if they did not cut off a right hand, and pluck out a right eye; or, in plain language, did not part with every thing dear to them, rather than disobey the Saviour. Besides, he said most about hell to those in least danger of it, and only mentioned it once to those in the greatest danger.— The conduct of preachers in our day, about this, is precisely the reverse of his. All they say of hell is said to the wicked.
* By consulting the context of this passage, it will be seen, that there is nothing in it to support the idea, that hell is a place of endless misery. Any evidence it affords, rather goes to prove the view I have given of it. But as a consideration of it, would only lead to similar remarks made already, I pass it over."
As to Mat. 18 : 8, 9, these are so obviously of the same import, that any thing which can be said, would be a mere repetition. It may not be amiss, to state that the use of the term fire, as connected with God's judgments on the Jewish nation, is not a new application of the word for the purpose. Moses, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Amos, Jeremiah, and David, all used it in this manner, and we have before seen, that if the Jews were not to understand the words used by Christ, as they had been accustomed to understand the writings