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public, represents an old man seized with fear at the
approach of death, and full of inquietude with regard to objects that never occupy the season of health. Then it is, says he, that we reflect on our crimes, on the injustice we have committed, and that often, in our agitation, we start in our sleep, and are frightened like children. As soon as some were found among the ancients who had overcome these fears, it was pretended that such had never existed among them: we might as reasonably judge of the public belief at this day, by the opinions in which some modern writers have been pleased to indulge themselves. The testimony of those of antiquity who opposed the prejudices of their times, their very attempt to dissipate those fears, and to turn them into ridicule, rather proves how deeply they were rooted. Observe with what solicitude Lucretius every where endeavours to burst the bonds of religion, and to fortify his readers against the threatenings of eternal punishment. The observation of Juvenal, so often cited, that nobody in his day believed in the fables of hell, is that of an enlightened mind, which takes no part in the opinions of the vulgar. The same thing is to be said of what we read in Cicero, and in some other writers, on the same subject: and when Virgil exclaims, 'happy the man that can tread under foot inexorable Destiny, and the noise of devouring Acheron,' he indicates, in a manner sufficiently precise, that it was the province of philosophy alone to shake off the yoke of custom, riveted by education.
66 Those who were unable to conquer these vain terrors, found consolations of a different kind. Religion stretched forth her kind hand to encourage their hopes, and to relieve their despondency. When remorse had brought back, within her pale, an unfortunate wanderer from the paths of justice, she informed him that, by a true confession of his guilt, and sincere repentance, forgiveness was to be obtained. With this view expiatory sacrifices were instituted, by means of which the guilty expected to participate in the happiness of the just.”
Such were the views of the ancient Greeks about Hades, or Tartarus, and its punishment. There is considerable similarity in the above quotation to some descriptions given of hell torments by modern preachers. I shall leave all to their own reflection on it. One or two things I shall merely notice.
1st, The doctrine of punishment in Tartarus, seems to have originated with legislators, for the purpose of restraining the passions of the multitude, and to alarm 6 them on all sides with the most frightful representations." The Persians, Chaldeans, Egyptians and Greeks, all introduced punishment after death. The Jewish nation is an exception. Some deistical writers have even blamed Moses as a legislator for not introducing eternal punishment into his code of laws, as a curb on men against licentiousness. It is generally allowed that the punishments threatened in the Old Testament are of a temporal nature.
2d, From the above quotation it appears, that though punishment after death in Tartarus was believed by the heathen generally, yet the better informed among them did not believes in the fables of hell,” but turned them into ridicule. Juvenal took no part in those opinions of the vulgar; and Virgil says—" it was the province of philosophy alone to shake off the yoke of custom, riveted by education.” Is it not then strange, that a doctrine, which was invented by heathens, and treated with contempt by their own wisest men, should be a fundamental article in the faith of christians? How is this to be accounted for? 3d, I may just add, that when the heathen were made converts to the Christian faith, all allow, that many of their previous notions were soon incorporated with it. This, together with the erroneous views held by the Jewish converts, laid a foundation for such a corruption of Christianity, which, if it were not attested by evidence indisputable, could not be believed. That punishment in Hades, or Tartarus, after death, is not a part of this corruption of Christianity derived from the heathen, at least deserves to be seriously considered. The evidence we have adduced, proving that it is, we submit to the reader's judgment.
To conclude this chapter. We have shown, that neither Sheol, Hades, nor Tartarus, is ever used by the sacred writers to signify a place of endless misery for the wicked. This was all we were bound to do, in opposing the common opinion on this subject. But we have also shown, that this opinion originated with the heathen; and that the Jews learned it from them. To invalidate the evidence which has been produced, the very reverse must be proved.
Note. In the course of this work some texts are introduced, in which the original words olm, aion, and aionion, are rendered eternal, everlasting, &c. The reader is once for all informed, that none of these texts are fully considered. They are only noticed, so far as was necessary in the present Inquiry. To have done otherwise, would have led to too long digressions from the subject. These texts, and all others, in which such original words occur, we have considered in a separate Inquiry, which may afterwards be published, if called for, and sufficient encouragement be given. In the passage we have just been considering, we read of the angels that sinned, and of their being delivered into chains of darkness. In the parallel text, Jude vi. these chains of darkness are called “everlasting." In the Inquiry referred to, these two texts are considered together, which will account to the reader why we have said nothing about these things here. We shall here merely subjoin the following notes from the im. proved version. On 2 Peter ii. 4. it is said, “Or, if God spared not the messengers who had sinned, i.e. the spies who were sent to explore the
teed of Canaan, &c. See Simpson's Essays, p. 205, &c. But if the common interpretation be admitted, it will not establish the popular doctrine concerning fallen angels. For, 1. The epistle itself is of doubtful authority. 2. From the change of style this is the most doubtful portion of the epistle. 3. By those who admit the genuineness of the epistle, this chapter is supposed to have been a quotation from some ancient apocryphal book, and the apostle might not mean to give authority to the doctrine, but to argue with his readers upon known and allowed principles. See Sherlock's Diss. and Benson and Doddridge's Introductions to this epistle. The epistle of Jude is supposed to allude to, or quote from, the same apocryphal work.” On Jude, the following general note is given : “ This epistle is one of those books, the genuineness of which was disputed in the primitive ages, and which therefore, as Dr. Lardner well observes, 'ought not to be alleged as affording alone sufficient proof of any doctrine.' Grotius ascribes it to a bishop of Jerusalem in the reign of Adrian ; but it is commonly believed to have been written by Judas, otherwise called Lebbeus and Thaddeus, the son of Alpheus, the brother of James the less, and first cousin to our Lord. The design of the epistle is to guard its readers against the errors and the crimes of the Gnostics. He is thought to have made quotations from the same apocryphal work which is referred to in the second epistle of Peter; which epistle Dr. Benson conjectures to have been consulted by him while he was writing his own. The epistle of Jude bas as little evidence, either external or internal, in its favour, as any book of the New Testament.” And on verse 6th, the following note is added : “Or,' the messengers who watched not duly over their own principality, but deserted their proper habitation, he kept with perpetual chains under darkness (punished them with judicial blindness of mind) unto the judy. ment of a great day, i.e. when they were destroyed by a plague.' Allud. ing to the falsehood and punishment of the spies. Numbers xiv. See Simpson's Essays, p. 210. Perhaps, however, the writer may refer to some fanciful account of a fall of angels contained in the apocryphal book which lay before him, without meaning to vouch for that fact any more than for the incident mentioned, ver. 9. He might introduce it merely to illustrate his argument. At any rate, a fact so important is not to be admitted upon sach precarious evidence.”
If the statements made in these notes are correct, we might have saved ourselves the labour of writing the whole of this last section. We were perfectly aware of these statements before we began to write, but as most people who read the English version consider such passages as true in. spiration, we were unwilling to avail ourselves of these notes. I shall leave all my readers to consult the orthodox authors referred to in the above notes, and judge for themselves.