« PreviousContinue »
who calls himself “the apostle to the Gentiles,” never once used it, nor any other term answering to the modern idea of hell. It is somewhat singular-nay, it is very remarkable, that while all other nations had their respective hells, the Jews, who were especially instructed in religion by Jehovah, for the space of 2000 years, were without any ideas on the subject! Should not this fact alone suffice to prove, that the doctrine of a region of suffering beyond death is fabulous ?—that it is of heathen origin? and that it has no true and proper connexion with a religion revealed from heaven?
It is probable that the idea of a hell was first taken from those gloomy dungeons, which earthly tyrants have, in all ages and countries, employed as the instruments of their ambition or revenge; hence, with the idea of hell are usually associaied the dismal and heart-sickening imagery belonging to such places as the Bastile of France, the Black-hole of Calcutta, and the Inquisition of Spain or Goa; dungeons, chains, racks, torturing implements, darkness, feverish thirst, groans, shrieks, blasphemies, burning, suffocation, desperation, despair, all these start up in connection with that direful word, which has given to priests their magic power over the souls of men, and which has caused man to start back with horror from the contemplation of that futurity which has been opened to him in the gospel as an object of joyful hope.
In this branch of our general subject it is a high satisfaction to 115, that we have the judgments of all, of all sects, both Jew and christian, in perfect coincidence relative to the radical and primary meaning of Gehenna ; all agree that it comes from the two He brew words Gia and Hinnom, literally signifying the valley of Hinnom. On this point there is no dispute. It is assumed, indeed, that it came by accommodation to be applied to a hell beyond this life ; but it surely ought not to be expected that an assumption of such magnitude will be admitted without the most substantial evidence; and none such, so far as I can learn, has ever been produced, nor do I believe it can be.
Critics are also agreed, as before observed, relative to sheol and hades, and even our English hell. These things must be kept in mind by the reader, for they are of great moment in their bearing upon the settlement of the great question before us, relative to the truth or falsity of universalism.
The celebrated Dr. John Mason Good, in his lecture on the nature and duration of the soul, affirms, respecting the popular tradition, as early as the time of Isaiah, (and Homer, with whom he believes him to have been contemporary,) that " it taught that the disembodied spirit becomes a ghost as soon as it is separated from the material frame : a thin, misty, aerial form, somewhat larger than life; with a feeble voice, shadowy limbs, knowledge superior to what was possessed while in the flesh; capable, under particular circumstances, of rendering itself visible, and retaining so much of its former features, as to be recognised in its apparition; in a few instances wandering about for a time after death, but for the most part conveyed to a common receptacle situated in the centre of the earth, denominated sheol, HADES, HELL, or the world of spirits.
“Such was the general belief of the multitude, in almost all countries, from a very early period of time, with the difference, that the hades of various nations was supposed to exist in some remote place on the surface of the earth, and that of others in the clouds."
It is more than probable that this dim and misty outline of the realm of ghosts was from age to age amplified upon, until it became the abode of the damned, modified amongst different nations according to the diversified policy of their priests, or fancy of their poets : by some it has been located in the interior of the earth; by some on its surface in some remote district; by some in the clouds, in the moon, in a comet, or one of the planets. With some it has been held a hell of fire; with others a hell of ice; with others, of alternate burning and freezing; with others, of darkness and dreary wandering amid every frightful circumstance, of hunger and thirst, etc. The latest refinement upon
amongst christians is, that it has no outward or material existence, but is merely a state of moral suffering, remorse, unavailing anguish, and despair.
If hell be a located place, God made it. He made it with a perfect knowledge of the end to which it should answer, and he of course adapted it to that end. He also created those whose doom it shall be to groan in its depths forever; and he of course knew That such should be the issue of their being. And he is infinitely benevolent, nevertheless! He “ is good to all, and his tender
mercies are over all his works !!” Let those believe these absur. dities who can. I can not, if the penalty be a hundred fold damnation !!!
Thanks be to God! I lie under no such obligation! The light of his word shines sufficiently bright on the pathway of my inquiries on these subjects, to satisfy my understanding and my hopes. It informs me, that " in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” but no mention is made of his having created a HELL!! So, also, at the conclusion, it speaks of " a new heaven, and a new earth,” but nothing whatever of a NEW HELL!! Thus, neither firstly, nor lastly, nor intermediately, do the scriptures recognise such a hell, as at this day is proving, to a frightful extent, a source of terror, and madness, and suicide.
It is sincerely hoped that the reader will “ search the scriptures," in order to satisfy himself on this point. He will receive but little edification from the perusal of polemical squabbles concerning it. He must “ to the law, and to the testimony ;" and oh ! let him take heed, that nothing short of these high authorities determine him in a belief, so dreadful in its bearings on his own happiness, and so pernicious in its influence on his views of the Divine character.
FOREKNOWLEDGE AND FOREORDINATION.
DOES ABSOLUTE FOREKNOWLEDGE NECESSARILY IMPLY ABSO
LUTE FOREORDINATION ?
So momentous are the consequences involved in this question, that very many have been deterred from adventuring fairly and boldly into a discussion of it; for if, on the one hand, it be settled in the affirmative, it seems clearly to follow that God is the author of sin—that man is without moral freedom that he therefore is not responsible for his actions-and, in that case, promises, threatenings, rewards, punishments, appeals to his interests, his fears, his sense of propriety, &c., are unmeaning mockeries. It seems
to follow, moreover, that God has incorporated a lie in man's moral constitution ; for man has an ineradicable persuasion that he is free that not his actions only, but his volitions also, are entirely subject to his own control ; which, however, is not the case, if all events are the result of divine foreordination. Such are the difficulties on the one side. Milton has alluded to them with much beauty and force in his Paradise Lost, as follows:
“ Ingrate, he had of me
Not me ?” On the other hand, if the question at the head of this article be settled in the negative, it would seem to follow that, in a great measure, things are left to the determination of chance that Jehovah himself may be disappointed in the final issue of affairs, that he is indifferent to the eternal interests of his creatures, or he would not have suspended them upon uncertain contingencies that in innumerable instances the will of man will prevail against the divine will-that, in fact, God can have had no definite purpose in creating, save such as he adopted on the foresight of what man would do; and thus, the doings of the Infinite are shaped and controlled by the ever-changing vagaries of finite beings; and, moreover, the deity is, in truth, as directly accountable for all the events which take place upon the ground of absolute foreknowledge, as upon that of absolute foredetermination.
These difficulties on both sides have induced some to seek a middle position ; none, however, have yet succeeded in the search-there is no sailing betwixt Scylla and Charybdis here. Dr. Clarke (as stated in another part of this work) assumes, that God can be ignorant, if he tries, of such events as he chooses not to know. A most gross solecism, this; it implies that the Infinite
Being, if he please, can dispense with his attribute of omniscience! And if with one attribute, why not with all, and so cease to be God? John Wesley, and others after him, have sought to evade the question by perplexing it. • With the Omniscient Being," say they, “there is no before, no after-all is present—the past and the future are one eternal now.” This is a mere sophism, however; for, after all, the knowledge which precedes the events to which it relates is fore-knowledge; that which is subsequent to them is after-knowledge; all the divine knowledge of events is necessarily antecedent to them, and we therefore say, that he fore-knows all things ; in so saying we conform to the established usages of human speech, and say what none directly question. Why, then, do they seek to mystify the subject, save that it be for the sake of a subterfuge from the force of truth?
Were I an Arminian, I would not hesitate to take the ground, that God does not, and can not, foresee future events; for if they are contingent, if they are shaped by the accidental determinations of the human will, then are there no links connecting them with the past-no clue reaching back to the origin of things, by which their succession can be traced ; and even to Omniscience itself, (it seems to me,) it were impossible to foresee the future, except by a concatenated series of causes and effects it were connected with the past. There are things which, in their own nature, are impossible; error, for instance, cannot be made superior to truth, nor vice to virtue; nor can a part be made to equal the whole, nor the whole to exceed the sum of all its parts; and, to my thinking, it is equally impossible to see an end from a beginning with which it has no necessary connexion.
Maugre, then, all the subtle sophistry to the contrary, we can not avoid the conclusion, that absolute foreknowledge does imply absolute foreordination; just as certainly as there is a connexion between causes and their immediate effects, so are these effects connected with consequences more remote ; and, like the paths in a labyrinth, which, however mazy and numerous, are found, when rétraced, to issue in the single path with which they begun: so the millions of events which form the intricate web of human life, are seen by the eye of Omniscience to be but natural ramifications from causes which originated in his own appointment. Take different ground, if you will, reader, but where will you