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In the progress of his discourse, our heavenly Redeemer, among other exhortations, was led to warn his hearers against the guilt and danger of causeless anger, threatening those who were addicted to it, with “ the judgment;" that is, with the condemnation and punishment of the inferior Court of judicature, which was established in the different cities of Judea, and which consisted, in the whole, of three-andtwenty members; a small number of whom formed what we should call a quorum, and were permitted to act. If this disposition to anger, when mixed with pride and insolence, led a man to say to his brother, “Raca,” which is a Syriac word expressive of insult and contempt, he was said to be “ in danger of the council ;" that is, of being arraigned before the Sanhedrim; the supreme Court of the Jews, which assembled only at Jerusalem; and, when full, consisted of seventy members.

But as Palestine was now become a province of the Roman empire, and had been governed by Roman Procurators for about twenty years, i the Jews were deprived of all sovereign power,'t and were not permitted to inflict, on any criminals, the punishment of death, as appears from

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the trial of our blessed Lord ;-from the Galileans, who had been put to death by Pilate, as mentioned by St. Luke;--from the acknowledge mept of the Jews themselves, as recorded by St. John, (chap. xviii. 31.) and from other circum, stances in the Gospel history.

Jón 7UOT The Courts, therefore, which we have just noticed, took cognisance only of minor offences, They settled trifling disputes respecting property among themselves, imposed fines, pronounced ecclesiastical censures, and, in ordinary cases, it is probable, could sentence an offender to the scourge, or shut him up in prison.

"511-01 We next come to the tremendous denuncias tion of the text;—" But whosoever shall say, . Thou fool,' shall be in danger of hell-fire.”<rey Now, admitting the expression, “ Thou fool,!! to be more vulgar, coarse, and vituperative, than either of the former; yet still it is only an abuse of speech, not aggravated with blasphemy, cursing, or swearing; and, therefore, the punishment that is here denounced against it, seems, in the estimation of human reason, disproportioned to the offence: or, if the sentence must strictly apply on the present occa. sion, and consequently with more force, to sins ?

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of greatėr magnitude, we may wel exclaim, when the unavoidable infirmities of our

our nature are considered; sc Who then can be saved pogn

But, to proceed-Our blessed Lord, it is evident, was warning his hearers against three very common forms of transgression, all differing in their gradations of guilt, to each of which he annexed a degree of danger and of punishment, which we may be assured was commensurate and just. The two former are threatened with that exercise of temporal power, which we all know is necessary in every civilised state to restrain violence, or to preserve peace; and, therefore, in the propriety of this part of the sentence we cordially acquiesce ; but, to suppose that our heavenly Redeemer, for the mere difference of saying, “ Raca,” or “ Thou fool," would pass from the petty jurisdiction of the Sanhedrim to the awful sentence, and interminable punishment of “ hell-fire,” is scarcely reconcilable to any rules of justice, that we can comprehend ; and farther, it seems by no means analogous to the context : for, as the two former offences are threatened with temporal punishment and degradation, we may

asunnot that the last, which can admit only of some trifling aggravation of guilt, would be guarded

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against, and restrained, by some additional danger, or some more rigorous condemnation. And I trust that, by patient attention to a critical examination of the text, this will appear very satisfactorily to have been our blessed Saviour's meaning on the present occasion.

The expression rendered in our translation “hell-fire” is literally, in the original, the fire of Gehenna.” This appella

This appellative is compounded of a Hebrew word, which means , “ a valley,” and the proper name, “ Hinnom ;" which, by changing the interposed vowels, and adopting a Greek termination, becomes “Henna.” The word Gehenna, therefore, is equivalent to "the valley of Hinnom,” which was close to the city of Jerusalem.

It is of importance to observe, that this was the spot chosen by the ancient Canaanites, and other idolatrous tribes, for practising their horrible superstitions, and for offering up their children to Molech ; or making them pass through fire to this “grim idol,” as our heroic poet calls him. Even the Jews, we find, were prone to imitate these savage rites; and their Rabbis inform us, that the idol itself was a huge figure of brass, sitting on a throne of the same metal, and crowned with a regal diadem. Its

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head resembled that of a calf, and its arms were extended to receive the miserable victims, who were to be consumed in the flames. The good and pious king, Josiah, in order to shew his detestation of these inhuman and abominable

practices, did every thing in his power to desecrate the place, and to prevent the recurrence of similar abuses. Beside making it a buryingplace for the lowest poor, whose friends could not afford the usual expense of sepulture, he made it the receptacle for all the filth and offal of the city. It was filled, therefore, with bones, the carcases of animals, the refuse of the numerous victims that were offered in sacrifice, and other offensive things, which were consumed by fires, kept constantly burning there for that purpose.

The policy of such a measure will appear obvious to any one, who considers the heat of the climate, the immense population of Jerusalem, and the want of those expedients, which more modern times have discovered and adopted, for preventing contagion, and preserving health.

The loathsome and disgusting scene, which this spot always exhibited, furnished the sacred writers with a suitable emblem, or symbol, for the place of future torments. Hence originated,

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