« VorigeDoorgaan »
Not one of them, James excepted, ever introduces it. The reason of this is equally obvious. The epistles, for the most part, were written to Gentile believers, who were not concerned in the punishment of hell or Gehenna. James wrote to believing Jews, and we have seen, that he once, in a figurative sense uses this word. Now can any one suppose, that if the Gentiles had been exposed to hell or endless punishment, that the apostles never would, in any of their epistles, have reminded those to whom they wrote, that they had been saved from it? They are often reminded that they were idolaters, and wicked, before they believed the gospel, and that they had been saved from such things: not a word is said, intimating that any of them had ever been saved from Gehenna or hell. From the consideration of their being saved, they are often exhorted to love and good works; but never from the consideration of their being saved from hell or endless misery. As it is never said that they were once exposed to such a punishment, so they are never reminded that they were now delivered from it. No selfcomplaisant remarks are ever made, that they were now safe from the torments of hell, nor any whining complaints, that their friends, and neighbours, yea, the whole unbelieving Gentile world were every moment exposed to this punishment. We find the apostles and primitive Christians, expressing the most heartfelt gratitude, that they had been saved from this present evil world ; that they were translated from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God's dear son; and using all proper means that their fellow men might believe the gospel, and enjoy like blessings. The New Testament abounds with evidence of this. But do we ever find them saying that they had been saved from hell or Gehenna ? Or intimating that their exertions in diffusing the gospel, was for the purpose of saving the heathen from the everlasting torments
of this place? We leave it with every candid man to say, if the apostles and first Christians believed just as people do now about hell or Gehenna, if they could have been thus silent on such a deeply interesting subject.
Further: no instance is left on record where an unbeliever, or a backslider was told, as now they frequently are, that they had sinned away their day of grace, and that everlasting torments in hell would be cheir unavoidable fate. No: nor is an instance or any thing like it recorded, of a person being driven to distraction, from anticipation of the horrors of hell, produced by apostolic preaching. No example is given in Scripture, of a person ending his days by suicide, to get rid of his present terrors of hell torments. Some instances of suicide are recorded: see the cases of Ahithopel, Judas, &c. but do we find a single hint dropped that it was the terrors of hell torments which drove them to this? Even of Judas it is not said that he went to hell; which, we think ought to teach some persons modesty and caution, who, in the heat of their zeal, affirm that he did go to this place of punishment. If such persons had the Bible to make, they would express many things very differently from what it has pleased God to do, in the revelation of his will to mankind.
It will be allowed, that from the gospel of John, the Acts of the apostles, and the epistles, we learn what were the doctrines taught to the Gentiles. But can we learn from them thai the doctrine of eternal punishment in hell was one of these doctrines ? Ceriain. ly we can not. Supposing that such writings were published in our day, omitting all mention of hell or its endless punishment, would we not say that they did not teach the doctrine of hell torments? We do not deem it a conclusive argument, that hell is not a place of endless misery, because these writers do not
, do with
mention it in all their writings: it is however caleulated to lead us to reflection, and candidly to consider, that when in so large a portion of the New Testament no mention is made of hell torments, whether Now we correctly understand those other parts where this doctrine is supposed to be taught. We have not stated this as an argument conclusive in itself. But we should think, that if none of the other New Testament writers teach this doctrine, the argument is con clusive. We have seen, that it is a conceded point, then that Gehenna does not occur in the Old Testament in the sense of a place of eternal misery. If, then, none of the New Testament writers teach it, is not their silence proof, that no such doctrine was known or laught by them? It is well known, that the silence of Scripture about any doctrine, in other cases, is deemed a conclusive argument against it. And why not in the case before us? It would be dangerous to admit the contrary. If it was admitted, then no fault could be found with the doctrine of purgatory and many other things about which the Bible is silent.
We often come to learn what doctrines are held by persons from the accusations of their enemies. Should we bring the doctrine before us to this test, we find some additional confirmation that endless misery in hell was not taught by our Lord, nor his apostles.
1st, Let us inquire what accusations the Jews brought against the Saviour? The Jews accused him of many things: such as his being an enemy to Cæsar; as in league with Beelzebub, and as a blasphe
On his trial, Pilate said to him, “behold how many things they witness against thee.” The principal of these were, that he called himself the Son of God, and said he was able to destroy their temple. But I ask, did the Jews on any occasion, ever accuse him of having threatened them with endless misery in hell? No: bad as the Jews were, they never ac
cused him of any such thing. If he ever had done it, would they have failed to bring this forward against him? None of the Jews had any idea of going to hell. Would they, then, have endured to be told so, without a murmur or complaint against him? Would this have formed no ground of accusation? No man can believe this, who has read the four gospels, and has noticed the unwearied opposition of the Jews against the Saviour.
2d, Let us see what accusations were brought against his disciples, and apostles. They also were accused of being enemies to Cæsar. But passing over other accusations, we shall fix on what Stephen was accused of, as a fair specimen of what they were all charged with.—“ This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law: for we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us." Enemies as the Jews were to the disciples of our Lord, did they even so much as insinuate the charge against them, that they ever threatened them with endless torments in hell? They say, that Stephen said_" Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place,” but did they ever say, that either Jesus, or Stephen said, that he would destroy them with everlasting misery in Gehenna or hell? No: let me advocate for once the cause of the Jews, they never brought such a charge against Christ or any of his followers. On this occasion, let it be remembered, that the accusers of Stephen were false witnesses, procured for the very purpose of finding him guilty. Now, does any man think, or can he suppose, that these false witnesses after saying Stephen said, “This Jesus of Nazareth shali destroy ibis place,” would have forgotten to add, such an important charge “ And he also said that he would destroy us and all the wicked in hell to endless dura.
laey Gebenna or hell in preaching either to Jews or Gen. kiparisho false accusation. Such a false charge, would have become Gentiles brought against the followers of Christ. They, prace turning away much people, saying that “they were taken quence of this they were accounted Atheists, enemies gepas
tion ?"__The man, who can believe this to be a mere . Nota oversight in these witnesses, in not mentioning such a su abue material charge against Stephen, is prepared to be the lady lieve any thing. But they could not bring such an accusation against him or any of the first preachers
, pede for as we have seen, none of them ever used the word tiles. All who had ever heard them preach, could be this h have been called as witnesses to prove, ihat it was a been in face of public opinion to the contrary:
But let us see wbat were the accusations which the accused them of turning the world upside down; of no gods which were made with hands.” In conseto the gods, and deserving to be abhorred of men. Now, give me leave to ask, was the charge ever brought against them in any shape, by any person, die that ihey ever threatened men with endless punishment in hell or Gehenna? No: all the jesaitical ingenuity in the world, cannot find a word said, which has such an appearance. Had the apostles then eser threatened the Gentiles with endless punishment in hell would they have failed to bring this as an accusation against them? Should it be objected here " have you not yourself shown in chap. i. sect. 3. that the heathen nations all believed in the doctrine of future punishment, and that the Jews learned this doctrine from their intercourse with them; how then could the heathen be offended with the apostles for teaching one of the tenets of their religion ? To this 1 answer, that the heathen believed in a future punishment in Hades, but observe that the apostles neither taught such a punishment in Hades, nor in Gehenm. This is a fact we think beyond all fair discus