Page images

speak of Sheol, or hell, in regard to themselves, renders the subject palpably obvious. They speak of going to hell as a matter of course, as men now speak of death, or the grave. Could they have done this, with the same views which modern christians have concerning it? Impossible. But, if the ideas of scripture writers, relative to these words, were the same as are those which we frequently hear from the pulpits, how shall we account for the incongruity of their expressions? Nothing which they say, intimates any such idea as is generally attached to the words in modern times. No word expressing endless duration is used in connexion. By what means then, are we to conclude they meant what they have not expressed? The truth is, that a departure from the sense of escripture, requires a departure from the language of scripture."

But whatever strength is gathered from preceding facts, are corroborated by a circumstance about which we cannot well be deceived. If the fears by which the moderns are held in bondage, and frequently tormented to desperation, were harboured by the prophets and apostles, is it not beyond measure strange, that they have not somewhere expressed it? Do either of the writers of the sacred oracles, express a fear of endless punishment, for himself, or others?-Who will affirm this? Do they any where express a belief that their writing, or preaching, would be availing to save men from the horrors of an endless hell? No. Do they once intimate their fears for the safety of departed friends? No. But if they had these fears, and these sorrows, they certainly had language in which to express them. We have accounts of the bereavement of parents, and friends, in very affecting circumstances, but not a word of these dreadful fears relative to their eternal welfare. In the affecting lamentation of David for the death of his parricidal son, not

a word escapes him which should lead us to conjecture that he formed the horrid idea of interminable misery. But if this was the current belief in those days, why was it not in some way expressed? We leave this for those to answer who think themselves competent to the task.

But does not Noah plead with God not to damn eternally the whole world of men? O no-he knew nothing about endless punishment in Sheol, or hell, and Gehenna was not then known. But Abraham knew that God was about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, and did he not plead for the people? Yesbut he never asked of Jehovah that they should be saved from a hell of future torment. He knew nothing of such a doctrine. The gospel, as preached to him, contained no damnation :—that has been added by his followers. The gospel with which he was acquainted, was blessing to the whole race of man, in these words-In thee shall all nations be blessed. Nor do we find in any other instance of exemplary destruction, that any person deplored the endless destruction of any individual, or nation, destroyed on account of his or their iniquities. But, if the doctrine were known in those days, why do we not learn this from Bible history? When the Ninevites were threatened with destruction, was a hint given, that a fearful and an endless hell, awaited them? Nothing like it is recorded of the preaching of Jonah. Nay, if endless misery were the threatening which he was commanded to preach, how does it appear that he was faithful to his duty? And further-if he knew this, what shall we say of his anger because God did not send to interminable destruction the inhabitants of a populous city? But was any prophet of the Lord ever sent with a threatening of hell torments, as a means of reclaiming the people? Every reader of the Bible knows better. The following extract from Mr. Bal

four is worthy your careful attention, and to your better judgment we submit it.

"One thing we think must be admitted by all who have read the Old Testament with attention. It is this good people in those days, do not appear to have had the fears and anxieties of mind which haunt men's minds now, about their children, their relations, their neighbours, and a great part of mankind, as all going to a place of endless misery. You may read the Old Testament, until your eyes grow dim with age, before you find any thing like this there. How is this silence to be accounted for, if the doctrine of endless misery was known and believed? If by Sheol they understood the same as men do now by the word hell, is it possible, that good people in those days could feel so easy on such a subject? Whatever ideas they attached to this word, we think it is certain, they did not mean by it a place of endless misery.

The question is likely then to be asked, seeing that Sheol or hell does not mean a place of eternal misery, -what does it mean? What is the idea which the Old Testament writers affixed to this word? From the remarks already made, we think something has been said in answer to this question.-By Sheol, seems evidently to be meant, what Job calls, chap. 30: 33,"The house appointed for all the living." And it is the same to which Solomon alludes, when he says, Eccles. 3: 20.-"all go to one place." The question still returns, What place is this? What place it is, may belearned further from the following passages. In 2 Sam. 12: 23. where David is speaking of his dead child, he says, "I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me." This, it may be said, only provokes the question-where was his child? In heaven, most people would answer, and some have quoted this text to prove the salvation of all infants. Nothing more, I conceive, is meant, nor could be rationally inferred.

from the text than this,-that his child was in the state of the dead, or in Sheol, and David, impressed with a sense of his own mortality, intimates, that he would soon follow him to the same place. So Jacob speaks of himself in a similar way in reference to his son Joseph. But further, we find in 1 Sam. 28: 19. Samuel thus speaks to Saul," to-morrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me." Where was this? It may be asked, When Saul desired the woman to bring up Samuel, was it from heaven he expected him to come? Surely not; for in this case Samuel would have been brought down, not up. Was it then from hell, the place of eternal misery, he expected him to come? This cannot be admitted, for neither Saul, nor any one else, ever thought that Samuel was there. From what place then did Saul wish the woman to bring Samuel? I answer, from Sheol, the same place to which Jacob said he would go down mourning to Joseph. The same place in which the Saviour's soul was not left. If Saul and his sons went to hell, a place of endless misery, it is certain Samuel was there before him. And it is equally certain, that if Samuel was in heaven, Saul and his sons were there soon after with him. But what appears simply to be meant is this,-Samuel was in Sheol, or the state of the dead, and the issue of the battle proved, that Saul and his sons were with Samuel, and with all the dead who had gone before them. As to the woman's having power to bring Samuel from Sheol, we do not believe any such thing. We believe that she was an impostor, but this is not the place for assigning our reasons, or entering further into this part of the history of Saul. We have merely referred to it as showing what were the popular opinions in those days on the subject before us.


An examination of the only passage in the New Testament, where our Lord threatens the Jews with Gehenna punishment.


As we are about to examine the most dreadful threat: ening which has been denounced against transgressors, let us come to the subject with minds solemnized by reflections on its vast importance. If this threatening is shown to require interminable misery for its accomplishment, our duty to ourselves, our country, and the world, calls upon us for its developement. No circumstance, and no concern below the throne of God, should divert our minds from the most prayerful investigation, and the most untiring promulgation of the dreadful fact. Whatever have been our previous views of the subject, let us come to the examination with minds imbued with the love of truth, and a determination to sacrifice on her altar every prejudice, and every desire to turn away from what is contained in the oracles of God. If the facts be against us, we cannot reverse the determination of the Almightynor can we avoid the bright shining of the sun, by shutting our eyes on his refulgent beams.

The words under consideration are recorded by Mat. 23: 33. "Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?" We think every person will be satisfied, that if endless misery is not asserted in this passage, the doctrine is not taught in the New-Testament. In addition to the word Gehenna, which is here translated hell, and which Dr. Campbell asserts, is used to designate the place of endless misery, the word damnation is also added. Thus fortified with terrific horrors to the imagination of thousands, we venture to examine the citation fully and fearlessly, and to give our readers the result of the investigation.

« PreviousContinue »