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It has been urged as an argument against my views oi Gehenna, that unbelievers were addressed by our Lord through the medium of his disciples about this eternal punishment in Gehenna. It will be seen that this objection is intended to bear against the fact stated, chap. ii. sect. 2. that our Lord only mentioned Gehenna twice to the unbelieving Jews, and in all other places where any thing is said concerning it, the disciples were the persons addressed. We do not think that this objection deserves a serious, formal refutation. It is a mere assertion, without any evidence to support it. It is even contrary to the contexts of the passages
where Gehenna occurs, as any one may see by consulting them. See chap. ii. sect. 3. In confirmation of this objection, or rather as another, it is added that the reason why our Lord said so much to his disciples concerning Gehenna or hell was, because Judas, a wicked man was among them, and to save him from its punishment, he addressed him through the disciples. I think it would be trifling with my
readers to refute such objections. I shall simply make on both two brief remarks.
1st, Our Lord, according to such objections, seems to have been very careful not to hurt the feelings of the unbelieving Jews, or of Judas, by saying any thing directly to them.concerning Gehenna or hell. Whether this arose from refined delicacy of feeling, or want of faithfulness on the part of our Lord, I leave others to determine. It is very apparent that he was not so tender of their feelings on other occasions. And it is notorious, that most preachers of hell fire in our day, are not so very fastidious about people's feelings as he seems to have been, according to this objection. But can any man seriously think that our Lord believed Gehenna to be a place of endless misery and that Judas and the unbelieving Jews were exposed to its punishment, and yet took this distant,
round-about manner, to warn them of their danger? Must he spare their present feelings at the expense of their everlasting happiness? Did he, to avoid giving them present pain, expose them to endless misery in Gehenna? The idea is too absurd to be for a moment received concerning the Son of God, the Saviour of the world. If it was true, no preacher could be found more unfaithful than he was.
Besides; it ought to be noticed that Judas himself was a disciple, was not even suspected by the others to be a wicked man; nor had our Lord as yet given any hint concerning him, which could lead them to such a suspicion. According then, to this objection, a disciple was addressed through disciples on the subject of hell torments, whilst nothing was said which could rationally account to them for such addresses.
2d, These attempts to get rid of the fact by such objections, only shows the stubborn nature of it, and that it never can be rationally accounted for, but by admitting that our Lord, by Gehenna or hell, did not mean a place of endless misery for the wicked. We think we have rationally and scripturally accounted for this fact, if even my views are found incorrect. If it is accounted for by my views, we think it is some evidence that they are scriptural, and that they ought not to be condemned, at least, without a patient hearing.
3d, We turn the tables on the objector, and ask him, why did our Lord say so much to his disciples for the purpose of saving Judas, as an individual, yet say so little on this subject to save the whole Jewish nation ? Was be more concerned to save this hypocritical disciple, than the collective body of his nation? It will not do to reply here, did not our Lord address them through the medium of the disciples, as stated in the objection ? No: this will not do, for his apostles after him, never addressed either Jews or Gentiles directly, nor through the medium of the disciples, on the subject of hell torments. If they had done this, it might give a degree of plausibility to the objection ; but as they did not, the fact stands unshaken, and the objections fall to the ground.
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 is 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 terror. So 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 objection 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 apos. tles differed from him about this, for it seems he wished to save men, yea, even his own disciples by terror of hell torments, or at least Judas and the unbelieving Jews, whom he addressed through them. 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 torments. 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 expression. 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. Can it be proved from the Bible, that these are God's usual modes of speaking about this place of punishment to Jews and to Gentiles? 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 future state? We have attempted to show that Gehenna is not so used in scripture, and we think can show that the expression wrath to come, is never said to be wrath to come in 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. But this, and also that Gehenna means a future eternal punishment, seems to be taken for granted, and ought not by any one to be questioned. But we do question this, and demand proof that such was the sense affixed to those expressions by the inspired writers. Were I to take things for granted at this rate, the complaints would be loud, long, and numerous against me, and with good reason.
2d, Upon examination, we think it will be found, that the phrase, wrath to come, is spoken of to Jews as well as Gentiles, but that Gehenna is not once mentioned to the Gentiles. It will also be found, that this phrase refers to the same punishment to which we have referred Gehenna in this Inquiry. This we think could be easily shown, if it were here necessary. Wrath to come, refers to punishment to come, and may be, yea, 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 once 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, and requires a fuller consideration. We must however be brief in our remarks. Notice then