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preaching. No example is given in scripture, of a person's 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 Ahithophel, 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 that the doctrine of eternal punishment in hell was one of these doctrines ? Certainly 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 mention it in all their writings. It is however calculated 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 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 conclusive. We have seen, that it is a conceded point, 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 taught by them? It is well known, that the silence of scripture about any doctrine, in other cases, is often 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.
But perhaps it may be said, that the Bible is not silent about Gehenna's being a place of endless misery for the wicked. We ask, then, in what part of the Bible is it taught? We think we have candidly examined every text in which this word is found, and, so far from teaching this doctrine, it has been shown that they have a very different meaning. We think it will not be easy to show, that we have strained or perverted any of them; nor will it be easy to get rid of the facts we have adduced in confirmation of the interpretation given. If this can not be done, it is evident, that the Bible is as silent as the grave, with regard to teaching us that hell or Gehenna is a place of endless misery. Should the texts in which this word occurs, all be abandoned, yet some may think that the doctrine of future eternal punishment is sufficiently established in scripture, from other passages. If this be so, we are willing to consider them, and have considered some of them, at least, on which the greatest reliance is generally placed, but have found them to fail, in teaching such a punishment. But this is not the place for introducing a consideration of them. To give up the texts, however, which speak about hell fire, is abandoning the foundation stone on which the doctrine of eternal misery is built. All other texts which are supposed
to favor this doctrine, are only, adduced as corroborative evidence of its truth. Of so much importance are the texts which speak of Gehenna or hell considered, that all writers in defence of the doctrine, take it for granted, that these texts name the place, and describe the punishment to be endured in it. We do not expect that all these texts will be given up, and this doctrine continue to be defended, any more, than that a building will stand after its foundation gives way.
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 Cesar; as in league with Beelzebub, and as a blasphemer. 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 accused 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 Cesar. 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 shall destroy this 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 duration?”—The man, who can believe this to be a mere oversight in these witnesses, in not mentioning such a material charge against Stephen, is prepared to believe any thing. But they could not bring such an accusation against him or any of the first preachers, for as we have seen, none of them ever used the word Gehenna or hell in preaching either to Jews or Gentiles. Had they done all who had ever heard them preach, could have
been called as witnesses to prove, that it was a false accusation. Such a false charge, would have been in face of public opinion to the contrary. But let us see what were the accusations which the Gentiles brought against the followers of Christ. They accused them of turning the world upside down; of turning away much people, saying, that “they were no gods which were made with hands.” In consequence of this they were accounted Atheists, enemies to 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, or by any person, that they ever threatened men with endless punishment in hell or Gehenna? No: all the jesuitical ingenuity in the world, cannot find a word said, which has such an appearance. Had the apostles then ever 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 I 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 Gehenna. This is a fact we think beyond all fair discussion. Not a word did any of the apostles say to the heathen about punishment in either of these places. If they had preached future punishment in Gehenna to them, they might have said, we have heard of future punishment in Hades, but why preach this new doctrine, a punishment in Gehenna? Their not preaching a punishment in Hades, show sthat they did not believe this heathen notion; and the Gen