« VorigeDoorgaan »
ishment after death, as is said of paradise as a place of happiness after death? Let our readers judge, if there be any affinity between paradise and Gehenna, and if these two words are used to express future eternal blessedness and misery alike, in Scripture. The objector takes it for granted that paradise is used in the Old Testament. But in this he is mistaken, for the word does not once occur there. Paradise is not even a Hebrew word but is allowed to be Persian. Had the objector noticed that this word is not used in the Old Testament, it might have prevented such an objection's being made against my views. We have the sanction of the New Testament writers, that paradise is used as a figure for future blessedness but that Gehenna is used as an emblem of eternal misery, we are referred to the Targums as authority. But this objection is founded in a mistake and did not deserve any consideration.
It has been also objected—that the reason why John said nothing about Gehenna was, that he was the beloved disciple: and that the reason why all the apostles are silent about it is, they wished to save men by love, and not by the terror of hell torments. This objection has some comfort in it, even if it does not convince us of our error. In reply, we may remark,
1st, That if the reason why John and the apostles said nothing about Gehenna or hell torments, was, as is asserted, because they wished to save men by love, it would seem to be the reason why modern preachers preach hell torments, because they wish to save them by terror and not by love. How then does the objector account for, and is he prepared to defend, the difference between apostolic and modern preaching? This objection agrees with my views so far, that God makes men obedient by love and not by terSo far well.
2d, It should seem from this objection, that the more we become apostolic, or like John, in love, this will lead us to say little, or rather nothing about hell torments to others. If we can only like John, be beloved disciples, and like the apostles in our tempers and dispositions, we shall not mention endless misery in our preaching or our conversation to the world around us, though we may be full in the belief, that they are all in the downward road to it. For
3d, This objection, notwithstanding all the love in John and in the apostles, and their desire to save men by love and not by terror, supposed Gehenna or hell a place of endless misery for the wicked. The ob jection proceeds on the supposition that John and all the apostles believed this, yet said nothing about it because they wished to save men by love rather than terror. If it is alleged that in the places where our Lord used the term Gehenna, he meant a place of endless misery, John and all the apostles differed from him about this, for it seems he wished to save men, yea, even his own disciples by terror of hell torments. The objector seems to approve of their conduct, and thinks that this was not only a lovely disposition in them, but that it showed love to the persons whom they addressed, in saying nothing to them about hell. Let no man say that this is love. What! John and the rest of the apostles, love men's souls, and believed them exposed to endless misery in hell, yet never once mention their danger to them? All will here agree with me in saying that this is any thing but love or faithfulness to the souls of men.
It is further objected-if Gehenna signifies wrath to come, it was natural to speak to Jews of endless misery by the former, and to Gentiles by the latter mode of expres sion. Why it was natural to speak to Jews of eternal misery by the one expression and to Gentiles by the other, we are not informed. But 1st, allowing that
this is the case, can it be proved that Gehenna, and the phrase wrath to come, are used in Scripture to express either to Jews or Gentiles endless punishment in a futore state? We have shown that Gehenna is not so used in Scripture, and we think can show that the expression wrath to come, does not refer to a future state of existence. Wrath, yea, even the wrath of God, may be wrath to come, and yet be wholly confined to the present world. We think it will be difficult to prove that the wrath to come, mentioned in Scripture, had any reference to a state of existence after death. 2d, Upon examination, we think it will be found, that the phrase, wrath to come, refers to punishment, and is spoken of to Jews as well as Gentiles; but as the damnation or punishment of hell or Gehenna, had a particular reference to the temporal miseries of the Jews at the destruction of their city and temple, we never find it spoken of to the Gentiles.
It has also been objected-that if my views of Gehenna be correct, my interpretation of the passages where our Lord spoke to his disciples concerning it, goes to show, that he was more concerned for their temporal safety than their eternal welfare. This objection, to some, will appear more plausible than many others which we have stated. But in answer to it, we remark 1st, That this objection assumes the question in debate, the whole of the present Inquiry being to prove "that the eternal welfare of the disciples was not in danger." This objection goes on the presumption, that the disciples were in danger of eternal misery, and that according to my interpretation of the passages in which our Lord spoke of Gehenna, he was more concerned about their temporal safety, than he was about their deliverance from eternal misery. The objector has then got to disprove the evidence I have adduced, showing that Gehenna does not refer to a place of endless miscry, and to establish his own views by ev
idence drawn from the New Testament that this is its meaning. 2d, That our Lord should be more concerned for the temporal safety of his disciples, than for that of the unbelieving Jews, many reasons might be assigned. They were his disciples, and their temporal safety could not be a matter of indifference to him. Their temporal safety also made manifest his character, in not destroying the righteous with the wicked. And was not this very sparing them, as a father spareth his only son that serveth him, a fulfilment of what God had spoken? See Mal. iii. 17, 18. and comp. chap. iv. But above all, was it not a matter of importance that our Lord should show concern for the temporal safety of his disciples, as they were to be witnesses of his resurrection, and the heralds of his salvation to the ends of the earth? All these and other things which could be mentioned, account for our Lord's solicitude about the temporal safety of his disciples, without supposing that their souls were in danger of endless punishment in Gehenna.
It is further objected-if there be no such thing as hell or place of misery in a future state, yet seeing it was commonly believed both among Jews and Gentiles, that there was such a place, why is it that neither Christ nor his apostles ever took occasion to contradict this false notion, but on the contrary expressed themselves in appearance, at least, so much in favour of this opinion that a great part of mankind from that time to this have supposed it fully taught in the New Testament. Some remarks are made in chap. i. sect. 3. which in part meet this objection. We offer a few additional remarks here in reply to it. 1st, Then, we ask, how came they by such a belief? It was not from the Old Testament, for it is allowed that it does not teach such a doctrine. In chap. i. sect. 3. it has been shown, that the Jews learned this doctrine from their intercourse with the heathen. This made such a belief common to both Jews and
Gentiles, and not that it was common to both, from divine revelation. 2d, But the point of this objection lies in the following things. It is asked,-"why is it that neither Christ nor his apostles ever took occasion to contradict this false notion that hell was a place of misery?" In answer to this we ask in our turn-" If Christ and his apostles believed this doctrine common to both Jews and Gentiles, why did they not avail themselves of this universally received notion to inculcate and enforce this doctrine?" To have taught it, could have given no offence to either of them; yet we find them silent on the subject, that Gehenna or even Hades is such a place. The only exception to this, is the parable of the rich man, which has been shown not even to teach an intermediate state of punishment. If this popular belief then, was true, and believed to be so by the Saviour and his apostles, why did they not avail themselves of it, and enforce it on both Jews and Gentiles? 3d, If we are to conclude, that because Christ and his apostles never expressly contradicted this false notion, common to both Jews and Gentiles, and that they by their silence sanctioned it as true, it follows, that all the false notions entertained by Jews and Gentiles not expressly contradicted by them are true. But we presume few would admit this, though it is a natural consequence from this objection. When any man will fairly make out, that their not contradicting expressly all the false, Jewish and heathen notions, is proof that those about which they are silent are true, we shall admit the one in question to be of the number. But another part of the point of this objection is, that--" on the contrary they expressed themselves, in appearance at least, so much in favour of this opinion, that a great part of mankind from that time to this have supposed it fully taught in the New Testament." In reply, we would ask in what parts of the New Testament do