Page images
[ocr errors]


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 they are all alike silent on the subject of hell tor

If they believed such a doctrine, let others account for it, why they never preached it. If preachers now took the apostles as their models, we should hear no more about hell from them. We would then, respectfully ask, from what source did preachers learn that they should preach Gehenna or hell torments to us Gentiles? 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 it 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 the above 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 Ge

i henna, as a place of future punishment.” To this I reply.

1st, This objection would have some force, if it was found, that the apostles ever said to the wicked Gentiles, “ how can ye escape the damnation of Hades, or Tartarus.” Had they spoke thus, we might suppose, that

[ocr errors]

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 then can be drawn, that the apostles said nothing to the Gentiles concerning Gehenna, because it was a Jewish figure which they could not understand. But,

2d, Admitting 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 is there not as good reason to think, that the heathen in their intercourse with the Jews, should imbibe their notions of Gehenna, as that the Jews should imbide the heathen notions concerning Hades or Tartarus. Their mutual intercourse 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 the doctrine to both Jews and Gentiles. Had both been recognized, we might expect Hades and Gehenna to be used indiscriminately by the apostles, in speaking of future eternal misery. But this was not done, 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 at least of Gehenna to Jews, and of Hades to Gentiles, as a place of eternal punishment in a future state.

4th, But this objection takes it for granted, 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

That this could not be its exclusive sense



[ocr errors]

we have proved; for in reading the Old Testament Scriptures, they could not understand it so; 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. 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, and yet never preached 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 term 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 he received this name or any other, because he should save them from hell. Our Lord and his apostles, in preaching, proposed by it to turn men from darkness to light; from «the power of satan unto God; from idols to serve the living God; from the course of this world; and from all sin to holiness; but where do we ever read of their saving them from hell ? No such salvation was preached by our Lord. In all the texts where he speaks of hell, he was not preaching the gospel, but addressing the Jews about the temporal calamities coming on them as a people. In no instance did he ever exhort men to bring forth fruits worthy of repentance, because they were exposed to hell torments in a future state. So far from this, in nine instances out of eleven, where

Gehenna is used by him, he was addressing his disciples. It is of no use to observe, that his apostles never made use of the punishment of hell to induce men to repentance, for they do not once name it in all their writings. James is the only exception, who mentions hell once, and that, only in a figurative sense. Nothing is said in

, our Lord's commission to his apostles about hell, and as little is said of it by them in their execution of it. To Jew and Gentile, bond and free, they are all silent about it. It is never mentioned by them to any persons, on any occasion, or in any connection, or on any subject. This silence of the apostles respecting hell, could not be because the people in those days were all so very good, that they did not need to be saved from hell. No; the whole world lay in wickedness around them, yet not a word is said about the torments of hell to alarm their fears, and to turn them from sin to God. No calculations were then made, as in our day, of the number who were daily and hourly going down to hell to suffer eternal misery. No; nor was such a variety of schemes adopted by the apostles, to raise funds to save men from hell. As they expressed no alarms about the vast crowds going to hell, so we do not find them expressing their joy because any were saved from it. They were deeply grieved to see men living in sin, and their spirit was stirred within them to see whole cities given to idolatry; but they never assert that all such were on the road to hell., They had great joy to see men walking in the truth, and often congratulated them on account of their being saved from their former course of life, but not a syllable escapes them, that such persons had been saved from endless misery. You search the Scriptures in vain, to find a single instance, where the apostles make any attempt to work on the fears and feelings of men by giving terrific descriptions of hell, or the horrors and howlings of the damned. As they never held up the torments of hell to make men

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Christians, so we never find them using it as an argument to induce Christians to love and to good works. The latter are often reminded that they formerly were idolaters, working all uncleanness with greediness, to induce them to holiness; but where do we find a word said of their being saved from hell, as any inducement to it?-In view of these things, how are we to account for them, if they believed hell to be a place of eternal torment for the wicked? Is it possible they believed this, yet preserved such a dead silence on the subject? This silence is an indisputable fact. To account for it, is above my comprehension.

Perhaps it may be said,—though none are said to be saved from hell, yet they are said to be delivered from the wrath to come, and to be saved from wrath through Jesus. All this is true; but it is nowhere said, that this wrath to come was in a future state, or of eternal duration, which is the point to be proved to be conclusive on this subject. I think I can show that the expression, “ wrath to come,” does not refer to a future state. To do it here, would be too great a digression from our present subject.

3d, Supposing that Gehenna is a place of endless misery, who can vindicate the character of our Lord or his apostle's, for faithfulness, compassion, or zeal? It is certain our Lord was faithful to him who appointed him. The apostles were also faithful, in declaring the whole counsel of God. But can all this be true, if they knew that this was a place of eternal misery, and that all the world stood exposed to it, yet said nothing to them about it? It is true, the Savior mentions Gehenna nine times to his disciples, and twice to the unbelieving Jews. But he nor his apostles, never use the word in speaking to the Gentiles. Now, I ask, is this like being faithful? Is this being half so faithful as most preachers are in our day? We think every candid man must say no; it is rather being very unfaith

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »