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of the prophets, the labour of Christ must have been worse than vain. Nay, they must have been designedly obscured for the very purpose of deceiving the "And if thy
Let us now quote Mark 9: 43-49. hand offend cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched; where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched; where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell-fire; where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt."
Notwithstanding the length, and terrific appearance of this passage, whoever reads it may soon be satisfied that it is only a repetition of the same discourse noticed in Matt. 18: 8, 9. Commentators allow that Mark wrote at Alexandria, or at all events, out of Jewry, which laid on him the necessity of adding to the term Gehenna, the fire that never shall be quenched. This addition was not necessary in Judea, where every thing relative to Gehenna was known, while to Gentiles it was absolutely important for the true understanding of the language. Nevertheless, it is now considered as next to proof positive that a state of punishment in a post mortem state, is clearly taught in the New Testament. But this idea originates from a false view of the subject. The contrast exhibited is supposed to justify this view, which a brief examination will exhibit in a very different light from the
common sentiment. Christians have supposed that the phrases, to enter into life, into the kingdom of God, and into the kingdom of heaven, all allude to a state of immortal beatitude in a future world. That this is not their meaning, is soon made obvious, by a recurrence to the scriptures where they are used. Dr. Campbell says on this very passage, they must lay aside their ambition and worldly pursuits, before they be honored to be the members, much more the ministers, of that new establishment he was about to erect." Mr. Balfour, on this passage, has the following:
"Thus in Luke 21: 31, 32. so ye, when ye shall see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand. Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass away till all be fulfilled." It is evident from this passage, that the kingdom of God, in some sense or other, was not to come till the end of the Jewish dispensation. It was at this period to come with power, Mark 9: 1. and comp. Matth. 16: 28. See Whitby on these texts, who takes the same view of our Lord's kingdom which is here given. But in proof of this view of entering into Christ's kingdom, I shall here quote the following from Dr. Campbell's note on Matth. 19: 28. He says:-"We are accustomed to apply the term regeneration solely to the conversion of individuals; whereas its relation here is to the general state of things. As they were wont to denominate the creation yevedis, a remarkable restoration, or renovation of the face of things, was very suitably termed raλyysvedia. The return of the Israelites to their own land, after the Babylonish captivity, is so named by Josephus, the Jewish historian. What was said on verse 23, holds equally in regard to the promise we have here. The principal completion will be at the general ressurrec-tion, when there will be, in the most important sense,
a renovation, or regeneration of heaven and earth, when all things shall become new; yet in a subordinate sense, it may be said to have been accomplished when God came to visit, in judgment, that guilty land; when the old dispensation was utterly abolished, and succeeded by the Christian dispensation, into which the Gentiles, from every quarter, as well as Jews, were called and admitted.
"Let us now apply these remarks to the texts under consideration. To enter into life, or to enter into the kingdom of God, is in the passage before us contrasted with going into, or being cast into hell. As the former does not mean to enter into heaven, the place of the righteous, but into Christ's kingdom, or reign, in this world, so the latter cannot mean, cast into a place of endless misery, but to suffer the punishment of which we have seen Gehenna made an emblem." Understanding our Lord, "by entering into life," or "into the kingdom of God," in this way, what he says in this passage to his disciples, was pertinent, and peculiarly suited to their circumstances. It was "better," it was "profitable" for them thus to enter into his kingdom with the loss of every thing dear to them, rather than retaining these, to be cast into hell fire, or to suffer all the dreadful calamities foretold by Jeremiah in the predictions considered above, and described by our Lord, Matth. 24. At the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, the unbelieving Jews were to suffer the damnation of hell, and at this period all his disciples who endured to the end, were not only to be saved from this punishment, but were to enter into his kingdom, or reign with him; and the apostles to sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. But such of his professed disciples as did not cut off a right hand and pluck out a right eye, or did not endure to the end, should share in the same calamities, or suffer the punishment of
which we have seen Gehenna made an emblem by Jeremiah, and also by our Lord. Whitby, on Luke 21. 34-36. thus writes:-" Here our Saviour calls upon the believing Christians to take care, and use the greatest vigilance that they do not miscarry in this dreadful season, by reason of that excess and luxury which may render them unmindful of it,, or those cares which may render them unwilling to part with their temporal concerns, lest they should be involved in that ruin which would come on others, as a snare, suddenly and unexpectedly; and that they should add to this vigilance constant prayer to God, that they may be found worthy to escape those tremendous judgments, and might stand safely and boldly before the Son of man, when he comes to execute them on the unbelieving Jews.
"It is easily seen that this passage not only agrees with the preceding texts, but also accounts for the fact why the Saviour should say so much to the disciples concerning hell or Gehenna, and so little to the unbelieving Jews. Besides, it also accounts for the fact which can never be accounted for on the common view of hell, namely, that not a word is said concerning it to the Gentiles. If the punishment of hell be as I have attempted to show, the temporal vengeance which came on the Jewish nation, all is plain, consistent, and rational. But how can it ever be accounted for on rational and Scriptural grounds, that no Gentile was ever threatened with such a punishment? We are sinners of the Gentiles, and are threatened with everlasting punishment in hell by preachers in our day. It becomes them to account for this, seeing they are without any authority either from Christ or his apostles for so doing. If they never said a word about hell in their preaching to the Gentiles, from what source of information is it learned that preachers now are authorized to teach such a
doctrine to them? Are we obliged to receive this implicitly on their ipse dixit?
Relative to the peculiar phraseology of this passage, the acute writer quoted above, says :
It is then, said of hell or Gehenna," where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched." Were these words understood strictly, and literally of a place of endless misery, it would prove that there is not only material fire there, but that there are also worms in hell. Some have maintained, and a few perhaps still maintain, that the fire of hell is a literal fire. It is evident that most orthodox preachers still continue to speak as if the fire of hell was real, literal fire. Why speak about it as such if they do not believe it to be so, unless they intend to practise deception on the people? But we presume no one ever believed that there were worms in the place called hell, or eternal misery. If such an opinion was ever held, we are ignorant of it. But why not believe that there are worms in hell as well as literal fire? for if Gehenna signifies a place of endless misery, it teaches literal fire and literal worms on the same authority? Besides, it is implied that the body is there, for worms to feed on, which they could not do on the spirit. I am fully aware that the worm that shall never die, has been long and universally interpreted to mean conscience, which is to torment the subject of it forever. But this is a private interpretation; for I do not know of a single text in the Bible, in which conscience is ever spoken of under the figure of a worm, either in this or a future state of existence. Unless then, something like proof of this is produced from the Bible, such an interpretation cannot be for a moment admitted. It may then be asked,-" what do these words mean?" Let us hear what Mr. Parkhurst says on the words,- "where their worm dieth not, and their fire is not quenched." He thus writes