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such a world described by the name Gehenna, or by any other name? I cannot find it. Mr. Stuart tried to find it under the name Sheol, but his attempt to establish this, was a total failure. I appeal then to every candid man, how could any Old Testament writer, make Gehenna an emblem of a world of woe, when no such world was known to him ?
4th, The Jews in after ages, derived their notions of punishment in a world of woe from the heathen, and to this the term Gehenna was applied. But both the place, and the sense given to Gehenna, are of human invention. They are alike unknown in the Old Testament writings. Nor are they to be found in the New, when it is correctly understood. Let the reader judge, if the passages which speak of Gehenna, teach any such doctrine, for they have all been laid before him.
Such are all the texts in which the word Gehenna is used by the New Testament writers, and such are the remarks which have occurred to me in my examination of them. According to every just rule of Scripture interpretation I am acquainted with, I do not see how I could have interpreted them differently. Indeed, to me it is surprising, how the doctrine of eternal misery was ever founded on any of the texts which speak of Gehenna or hell. If I am correct, it also affords a striking example, how far we may be misled, in a proper understanding of the Scriptures, by attaching to a single word a sense different from that given it by the inspired writers. How far I am correct, my readers must judge for themselves. I hope they will, on the one hand, guard against receiving my error if it be one, and on the other, beware of rejecting my view, if true, from prejudices of education. Under the influence of these prejudices, I began to examine this subject, nd have been obliged to relinquish my former views of Gehenna, from the force of the evidence I have already stated, and which I have yet to adduce on this subject.
If my views of Gehenna are found correct, it is also a striking proof, how far we may be misled, in a proper understanding of the New Testament, from our inattention to the Old. If the word Gehenna in the New, is used in a similar sense as in the Old Testament, all the false views we have had of the texts in which it occurs in the former, have arisen from our inattention to its usage in the latter.
Before closing this section, it is proper to notice any objections which have occurred against the sense given to Gehenna, in the passages we have been considering. 1st, One of the most popular objections likely to be urged, is, that the sense I have given to Gehenna is very contrary to the long established ecclesiastical use of this word. This is frankly admitted ; but certainly this is no certain evidence that my views are incorrect. In the present case, I have done no more than what is done by Presbyterians, Hopkinsians, Congregationalists, Baptists, Methodists, yea, by all sects in religion. That the ecclesiastical use of some words is very different from the Scripture usage of them, few will deny. That they are different, and also how little we ought to regard the ecclesiastical use of words when contrary to Scripture usage of them, we here quote the authority of Dr. Campbell. He says, p. 416. of his disertations,—“ec
, clesiastical use is no security that the word, though it be understood, conveys to us the same idea which the original term did to those to whom the gospels were first promulgated. In a former dissertation, the fullest evidence has been given, that in regard to several words, the meaning which has been long established by ecclesiastic use, is very different from that which they have in the writings of the New Testament.
It is easily seen from this quotation, and more fully from the other dissertation to which he refers, that he did not scruple to disclaim the ecclesiastical use of words, if that use did not agree with New Testament usage.
We have examined the Scripture usage of the words Sheol, Hades, Tartarus and Gehenna, and if ecclesiastical usage considers any
of these words to mean a place of endless misery, we must say that it is not supported by the Bible. But of this our readers must judge. If it can be proved, that we have erred in the sense we have given to Gehenna or those other words, we shall be glad to see the error exposed.
2d, Another objection closely connected with the former, is, that my views of Gehenna are contrary to the opinions of almost all the learned in the present day; in ages past of the Christian Church ; and to its sense in the Apocrypha and Jewish Targums. This may be true, yet my view of Gehenna be the correct and Scriptural one notwithstanding. Dr. Campbell, says, p. 91. of his dissertations,—"the opinion of Grotius and some learned Rabbis, unsupported by either argument or example, nay, in manifest contradiction to both, is here of no weight. Scriptural usage alone must decide the question. These commentators (with all deference to their erudition and abilities be it spoken) being comparatively modern, cannot be considered as ultimate judges in a question depending entirely on an ancient use, whereof all the evidences that were remaining in their time, remain still, and are as open to our examination, as they were to theirs. In other points where there may happen to be in Scripture an allusion to customs or ceremonies retained by the Jews, but unknown to us, the case is different. But nothing of this kind is pretended here." We have attempted to decide the question, what is the meaning of the term Gehenna, by an appeal to the Scripture usage of this word, and we must say it is our present opinion, that it is not once used either in the Old or New Testament, to express a place of endless misery for the wicked.
We conclude this section with two brief quotations from Mr. Stuart, in his letters to Mr. (now Dr.) Chan
ning, which we wish were engraven on every man's heart, never to be effaced. In page 14. he says,—“the claims of the Bible to be authoritative being once admitted, the simple question in respect to it, is, what does it teach in regard to any particular passage ; what idea did the original writer mean to convey? When this is ascertained by the legitimate rules of interpretation, it is authoritative. This is orthodoxy in the highest and best sense of the word; and every thing which is opposed to it, which modifies it, which fritters its meaning away, is heterodoxy, is heresy; to whatever name or party it is attached.” He adds, p. 109—“ after all, it is a principle, by which, if I have any knowledge of my own heart, I desire forever to be guided, to call no man master, on earth.' I would place the decision of Scripture, fairly made out, IMMEASURABLY ABOVE all human opinions. I regard the one as the decision of an unerring God; the other as the opinions of fallible men."
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 section 2d, are certainly very singular, if it be true, that Gehenna in 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
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
did they say
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 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
“how can ye escape the damnation of Gehenna, 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;
"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.” 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. I then ask, how this fact is to be rationally accounted for, if the apostles believed 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