Page images

that God will redeem his people from the power of sheol, if it be not from sufferings in sheol after death, while death is left to feed upon the wicked? How can it be that death shall feed upon the wicked in a sense in which it does not upon the righteous, if there be no distinction by happiness, and punishment beyond the grave? In the 73d Psalm, we have also the same general ideas. The writer was envious at the foolish when he saw the prosperity of the wicked, and thought that he had cleansed his heart and washed his hands in vain, until he went into the sanctuary of God and understood their end. And his doubts are solved by contrasting their end with his own, by seeing them (in the light of the sanctuary, not by any knowledge from earthly sources,) brought into desolation and consumed with terror, but himself guided by God's counsel, and afterwards received to glory-being assured that while his heart and his flesh faileth, God is the strength of his heart and his portion forever. That this reverse in favor of the righteous, and against the wicked is to take place in their "end" after death is evident, because it is far from being a fact, that the wicked are in all cases brought into desolation and consumed with terrors, and that the righteous are always exalted, on this side of the grave.

Psalm 9: 17. The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God. Do you say that sheol here means only the place of the dead, and make the sense of the passage-The wicked shall be turned into the grave? I answer, shall not the righteous too be turned into the grave? But Mr. Balfour tells us "it is one thing to die and another to be cut off by the judgment of God from the earth." Yes, but death is death in both cases. And Mr. Balfour is desired to inform us what there was in the death of the heathen, which he says are here meant by all the nations that forget God, in which a marked and terrible distinction was made from the death of Israelites. When was, or ever will be the time, when all heathen nations will die a death, so marked by the finger of God. He raises a difficulty out of its being asserted that all the nations of heathen shall be turned into sheol,-assum

ing that it cannot be that all will go to hell. It is asserted that the wicked and those that forget God will be turned into hell. But if there be any Jews or Gentiles who are neither wicked nor guilty of forgetting God, they of course will be saved. But that forgetting God, is in God's esteem a grievous sin, you may see in Psalm 50: 22. Now consider this ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces and there be none to deliver.


Prov. 5: 5. Her feet go down to death, her steps take hold on hell. Prov. 9: 18. But he knoweth not that the dead are there, and that her guests are in the depths of hell. Sheol in both these instances is made the end of intercourse with lewd And as neither a sudden nor violent death was the necessary result of that sin, there seems to be little propriety or force in the expressions, unless a punishment after death be intended. But Mr. B. tells us, allusion is here had to the disease which attends such intercourse. And says that medical men aver that this disease had existence as early as when this was written. But what medical man has averred it, or is competent to do so, we wait to be informed. Suffice it to say, there is a total absence of proof that any such disease existed then. And yet the matter needs to be proved before it can be used to his purpose.

Deut. 32: 22. A fire is kindled in mine anger, and it shall burn to the lowest hell. Mr. B. here suggests that if we understand by the lowest hell, the place of endless misery, there must be three divisions of it. So I may say if we understand by it the place of the dead, there must be three divisions of it, and therefore it cannot be the place of the dead. And suppose the language did fairly support Mr. B.'s inference, would that prove it not to be a place of punishment. Is he able to show an absurdity in the idea of different degrees of misery in hell? The imagery of the text is that of a fire, kindling upon the surface of the earth, and burning down, to the place which the imaginations of men at that time peopled with the spirits of the dead, which place had become the name for hell.

These are not all the instances in which I conceive the word

has that meaning, but they will serve as a specimen of the use of the word, when employed in its secondary sense. Does it seem strange to any, that the place of future punishment is not revealed with more clearness in the Old Testament, they will do well to inquire with how much distinctness the place of future happiness is there spoken of. There is as much said, and as distinctly said in the Old Testament, of hell, as there is of heaven. Mr. B. makes much of the fact that there is no instance of the use of the word where it means of itself the place of eternal misery, that is, that the word does not of itself determine the duration of that punishment. But with what fairness let the reader judge. Is it the property of a name of a place of punishment to determine the duration of that punishment? Does heaven the name of the place of happiness, of itself determine the duration of that happiness? If I should undertake to prove that there is no future happiness for the righteous, I could with as much propriety say, that the word heaven is no where used as the name for a place of eternal happiness. Of the same character is the following suggestion of Mr. B.—“It is now generally conceded that the doctrine of endless punishment is not taught in the Old Testament. Mr. Stuart does not pretend that it is taught there, but begs his readers to grant that probably future punishment may be taught in five texts." Here are almost as many misrepresentations as words. The assertion that it is generally conceded that endless punishment is not taught in the Old Testament, is false, and Mr. B. ought to know it-I do not say that he does. I think I may say that he knows that orthodox writers generally interpret Daniel 12: 2. Some to shame and everlasting contempt—and Isaiah 33: 14. Who can dwell with everlasting burnings—as teaching the doctrine of endless punishment. Then he conveys the idea that Mr. S. concedes that it is not taught there, when from the very book of Mr. S. out of which he professes to take the concession, and to which he has published two professed replies, he might have read, and it is charitable to presume he has read Mr. Stuart's interpretation of the word ever

lasting in Daniel 12: 2, to mean a proper eternity. But the falsehood ends not here. He tells us Mr. S. begs his readers to grant that future punishment may be taught in five texts, when Mr. Stuart has referred his readers to fifteen texts in which the doctrine is probably implied. The readers of Balfour who have never seen Stuart's Essays, must have strange impressions of that book.

I will now notice Mr. B.'s general concluding remarks upon the chapter upon sheol. His first remark is that "In no passage is sheol represented as a place of fire or torment. Nothing of this kind stands connected with it in the Old Testament." This is false. For in Deutronomy we read-A fire is kindled in my anger, and it shall burn to the lowest sheol.

His second remark is-"That olim rendered everlasting, forever, &c., is never connected with sheol in any shape whatever." This is true, and what is more—this world olim is no where connected with the word translated heaven, meaning the place of future blessedness.

Remark 3d. "No persons are said to be alive in sheol, to be punished in any way by any means whatever." This is false in two particulars. In Isaiah 14. it is said, sheol from beneath is moved for thee, to meet thee-all they shall speak and say unto thee, &c. This you say is figurative. Very well. But the use of such a figure presupposes life and consciousness in sheol. In regard to the assertion that none are said to be punished there, its falsity appears in the Psalmist's assertion that death shall feed on them there. But suppose we grant all that is here asserted, and what follows? Cannot a place of punishment be named without being accompanied with descriptions of the several inflictions of punishment there?

Remark 4th. "The Old Testament writers and modern christians speak very differently about sheol and hell if both designate the same thing." Here is palpable unfairness. Mr. B. knows that none pretends that sheol is in all cases synonymous with hell, so that hell could properly be used for it where it means the grave. It would be strange if the Old


Testament writers should not use a word which most generally meant the place of the dead, differently from our use of the word hell. And it is neither their fault nor ours, that the English word hell, has not the same extent of meaning with the Hebrew word sheol. Our author has some strange notions about the nature and origin of language. And p. 47, he arraigns before him all the users of the English language for 200 years back, to answer for the crime of perverting the meaning of the word hell in the following terms: "Who has been so kind as to make the world of future misery the exclusive sense of hell, since the common translation was made?" And then he goes on to give his charge a wider range and a longer reach. "I ask why should hell have the sense of future misery at all." Sure enough Mr. Balfour-why should there be a word to express such an idea. But men always will be so wicked have words to express their ideas. And when you shall succced to blot from the minds of men every trace of the idea of future misery, you will be able to redeem that word hell from perversion. Mr. B. says, "If their belief was the same as in our day, why do we never find them express that belief, about eternal punishment, as is now done in books and sermons and conference meetings and in common conversation." This question might be retorted. If the Old and New Testament writers believed there would in the future world be no difference between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not, why do we never hear them express that belief, as it is now expressed in books and sermons and conference meetings? Perhaps if we had as much knowledge of the books and sermons and conference meetings and common conversation of David and Solomon and Isaiah and Ezra, as we have of those of the present day, this question would not have been asked. It is an unheard of requisition, that the only book that has survived of a nation that flourished 3,000 years ago shall give us all the detail, of what passed in books and sermons and conference meetings and common conversation.

« PreviousContinue »