« PreviousContinue »
find similar ideas, and similar language in the Old Testament, as are in common use in our day about a place of eternal misery, must have read his Bible with more attention than I have done. After repeated and careful perusals of it, I frankly confess my inability to find either such ideas or language. I ask then, if the Old Testament writers had any such ideas, why did they not express them? I ask further, if they never expressed such ideas, how do we know that they had them ?
2d, How is it to be accounted for, that the fears and feelings and exertions of good people under the old dispensation, were so different from the fears and feel ings. and exertions of Christians in our day, about saving men from hell? It was no object of fear, of feeling, or of exertion in those days. In these, it is the ultimate object, of the fears and feelings and exertions of the religious community. To begin with their fears ; I do not find that they express any, and it is fair to conclude that they had none, If they had any fears, I have no doubt that on some occasion or other they, would have expressed them. As I do not find them expressed, I cannot produce any examples of their fears about their children, their relations, their neighbors, or the world at large, going to eternal misery.--As to their feelings, I do not find a sigh heaved, a tear shed, a groan uttered, a prayer offered, nor any exertions made, as if they believed men were exposed to endless misery in a future state. We see parents, and others, deeply affected at the loss of their children and friends by death. We see pious people deeply grieved on account of their disobedience to God's laws, but where do we find any expressions of feeling, arising from their belief, that such persons would lift up their eyes in endless misery? I find nothing of the kind expressed, either in the way of anticipation before death, or after such persons had been removed from the world. Now, is it not strange, that all this should be the state of the fears and feelings
of good people, if they did believe endless misery was to be the portion of the wicked ? The whole race of mankind is swept from the earth by a flood, 'Noah and his family excepted; but, does this good man deplore, in any shape, that so many precious souls should be sent to heil ? God also destroyed the cities of the plain : Abraham intercedes that they might be spared, but used no argument with God, that the people must go to hell to suffer eternal misery. Now, suffer me to ask, if Abraham believed this doctrine, is it possible he should have failed to urge it as an argument, that all those wicked persons must go to hell, if God destroyed them? No notice is taken of the very argument, which in our day, would be most urged in prayer to God, if any thing similar was to take place. All who have read the Old Testament know, what vast numbers were cut off in a day, by war and pestilence, and other means, yet you ever hear it deplored by a single individual, as it is often done in our day, that so many were sent out of the world to eternal misery? If, in short, this doctrine was then believed, a dead silence and the most stoical apathy were maintained even by good men about it.
Under the Old Testament dispensation, the sinful condition of the heathen nations, is often spoken about. But do we ever find the inspired writers representing those nations as all going to eternal misery, or did they use similar exertions to save them from it as are used in the present day? If the doctrine of eternal misery was known and believed in those days, is it not very unaccountable, that so many ages should pass away, before God commanded the Gospel to be preached to every creature, and before those who knew their danger, should use exertions to save them from it? If the doctrine be false, we may cease to wonder at this, but if it be true, it is not easy to reconcile these things with the well known character of God, and the feelings of every good man, What an immense multitude of hun
man beings, during four thousand years, must have lived and died ignorant that such a place of misery awaited them in a future state. It is evident, that both Jews and Gentiles, during the above period, were often threatened with, yea, suffered temporal punishment. God raised up, and sent prophets to warn them of his judgments against them. I am then totally at a stand, what to say,
. in justification of God's character, the character of the prophets sent by him, yea, of all good men in those days, that, knowing eternal misery awaited every heathen, yea, every wicked Jew, that nothing should be said to them on this subject. Jonah was sent to Nineveh, and the sum of his message was,"yet forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown." But did he
. receive, or did he deliver any message to them, that their souls were in danger of eternal misery? No; and every one who has read the Old Testament knows, that this is only a single example from many more I might adduce. The very reason why Jonah refused to go to Nineveh was, he knew that God was a merciful God, and would spare Nineveh. After he did go, his pride was hurt, because God did not destroy the city as he had predicted. His peevish disposition was sufficiently manifested about this ; but not a word escapes him, that the Ninevites were exposed to endless punishment. I ask, can a single instance be produced from the Old Testament, where a prophet of the Lord, was ever sent to any people to warn them against eternal misery in a place called Sheol or hell? I do not find, that either true or false prophets did so under that dispensation, or that this doctrine was known and believed by a single individual. As men were not threatened with such a punishment, so none were ever congratulated as being saved from it. As it was never held up to deter men from sin while ignorant of God, so it was never urged on believers to stimulate them to gratitude and obedience. Is it possible then, that this doctrine could be believed, yet all remain silent on the subject ? If no revelation was given about it, how could men avoid such a punishment ? If a revelation was given, how is it accounted for, that it is not mentioned by one of the Old Testament writers? If it is mentioned by any of them under any other name than Sheol, I am ignorant of it; nor is this even pretended by those who believe the doctrine.
3d, Another fact deserving notice, is, that the living. in speaking of their dead friends, never speak as if they were to be separated from them after death, but always as associated with them. This appears to have been the case, whether the persons were good or bad. An instance to the contrary, cannot be produced, where a person ever expressed himself
, as if he expected after death to be separated, and separated from his friends forever. But it is well known, that persons in our day, not only expect to be separated from many of their friends forever, but say, they shall give their hearty amen to their everlasting condemnation. Yea, it is even said, that the happiness of those in heaven, is to be greatly enhanced, by their looking down on those in eternal torments, in seeing the smoke of it ascend forever and ever. This was once current popular divinity, and though not yet altogether out of use, yet I am happy to say, sober-minded men reject it. But, it may be asked, is it true, that persons under the Old Testament expected to be associated with their deceased friends after death? I do not recollect a single instance to the contrary, and shall here, in proof of the assertion, refer to Jahn's Biblical Archæology, p. 234. To this it may probably be objected, that association with their friends after death, only referred to their bodies mingling in the dust together, and had no reference to their spirits after death. Admitting this to be true, permit me to ask, can any proof be adduced, that their spirits were separated from each other after death? I
further ask, did their spirits exist in a state of either happiness or misery after death? I demand proof of this. As I am unable to adduce any proof, I request those who say so, to produce evidence of this from the Old Testament. I shall give it all due, consideration. At any rate, if the Old Testament is silent on the subject, it ill becomes us to assert that such was the case. Its very silence, is to me an indication, that no such idea was entertained in those days. If it was, it is somewhat surprising that no person ventured to express it. And if it is not expressed by any of the Old Testament writers, how is it known that such an idea was entertained by them.
In concluding this investigation of the term Sheol, we shall briefly notice the following objections.
1st, Does not David intimate his child was alive somewhere after death, when he says—“I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.” 2 Sam. xi. 23. • To this we answer no. David no more says his child was alive, than Joseph was after death when his father said "I will
down into Șheol unto my son mourning.' But let me ask, where did those parents suppose their children were after death? In hell ? Surely not, for why were they in this case desirous to go to them? If there, well might Jacob say he would go down to Joseph mourning. Were they then in heaven? If so, Jacob ought to have said he would go down to Joseph rejoicing. But if in heaven, why did he speak of going down to him, for people always speak of going up to heaven. Where then did David and Jacob
suppose their children had gone? I answer to Sheol; the house appointed for all the living. Job xxx. 33; the place Solomon refers to, when he says, “all go to one place.” Eccl. xii. 23. All, good or bad, went to Sheol. Psal. lxxxix. 48. This was the world of the dead; and the small and the great are there. There the wicked cease from troubling; there the weary be