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was now near, even at the doors. Unless we suppose the Jews ignorant of the predictions of Jeremiah, they could be at no loss what our Lord meant by the damnation of hell. Indeed, nothing but blindness of mind could have prevented them from fearful anticipations of such dreadful calamities. Accordingly they asked no explanation, nor seemed surprised or offended at our Lord's saying," how can ye escape the damnation of hell?" Is this likely to have been the case, if by this expression the Jews understood our Lord to threaten them with eternal misery in the world to come? No sentiment our Lord ever uttered, was more calculated to shock their feelings, and rouse their indignation against him. To understand our Lord in this sense, was entirely at variance with their pride, prejudices, and religious opinions; for the Jews had no idea that any of their nation should ever suffer eternal misery. See Whitby's note on Rom. ii. hereafter quoted, sect. v.
3d, Let us for a moment suppose, that any of the declarations concerning Gehenna, in the New Testament, had occurred in the above predictions of Jeremiah. For example, let us take the words of our Lord before us, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?" I ask any candid man how the Jews would have understood these words, had they been uttered by the prophet, or how we would understand them? It will, I presume, be readily answered, that the prophet would be understood as threatening the temporal punishment which he had been predicting. Must the words damnation of hell, then, only mean temporal punishment, in the mouth of Jeremiah, but in our Lord's, eternal misery? If these words would have conveyed no such idea in the days of Jeremiah, why should they in the days of our Lord, and especially as he not only seems to allude to Jeremiah's prophesy, but introduces them in a discourse to the same
people, and in treating of the same temporal punishment? It will not be said that our Lord was discoursing about a future state of existence, or even on a different subject from that of the prophet when he used this expression. No: the subjects are precisely the same, and the same people were addressed.
4th, I ask, was the expression, "damnation of hell," understood when our Lord used it, or was it without any meaning? If the latter, then the idea of eternalmisery is given up, at least from this expression. Besides, it is not very honourable to our Lord to say that he used this expression without any meaning. If the former is contended for, in what way was our Lord understood by his hearers? Nothing is said in the Old Testament, intimating that Gehenna was to have a different meaning under the gospel dispensation. Nor in the New Testament is any thing said, showing that Gehenna was used there in a different sense from that which it had in the Old. By whose authority, and upon what rational and Scriptural ground, do we then interpret Gehenna, in the passage before us, so differently from its allowed sense in the Old Testament? Our Lord was a Jew, and he spoke to Jews, who had the Old Testament in their hands.. Until it is proved to the contrary, we must conclude that the Jews must have understood our Lord, by Gehenna, as their Scriptures had taught them. We think all will allow that this is at least a rational conclusion.. That it is a correct one, ought not to be denied, unless it can be shown that our Lord laid aside the sense in which Jeremiah had used the word Gehenna, and adopted a new sense on the authority of the writers. of the Targums. If our Lord did this as to the word Gehenna, we doubt if another instance of the kind can be produced from the New Testament. If it were proved that he did so, it follows, that instead of calling the attention of the Jews to the true sense of Scrip
ture, he rather encouraged them in a sense put on Scripture words of men's own invention. We have seen that Dr. Campbell avers, that our Lord spoke to the Jews in the dialect of their own Scriptures, and used words to which their reading of the law and the prophets had accustomed them; and yet he contends for a sense given to Gehenna in the New Testament, which it never had either in the law or the prophets.
5th, If we are to be indebted to the Targums how to understand the word Gehenna or hell, but few people could ever understand the New Testament on this subject. Is there one in a thousand who ever saw the Targums? and is there one in ten thousand who ever read them? But until we have learned from such writings the true sense of the word Gehenna, we must either remain ignorant, or take this sense at second hand from others. But put the Bible into a man's hands, let him search it on this subject, and compare the New with the Old Testament, would he ever conclude that the New Testament sense of Gehenna was so different from that of the Old? No; he would soon perceive, that there is an agreement, and a very striking agreement, between the writers of both Testaments in their sense and application of the word Gehenna. Scripture usage, and the context, safe rules in all other cases, would soon lead such a person to the same conclusion to which I have come, that our Lord by "the damnation of hell," did not mean punishment in a place of endless misery. But it seems these safe rules of interpretation, must all be laid aside, to sit down at the feet of the writers of the Targums, to learn the meaning of Gehenna. But it is well known, how little confidence most people place in those writings in other cases, though their authority is considered good by many in the one before us. See the argument drawn from the Targums and Apocrypha considered, sect. v.
6th, That Gehenna was made an emblem of temporal punishment to the Jews, rests on divine authority. But, that it was made an emblem of eternal misery, rests merely on human authority. Let us state a case, where system, and preconceived opinion being out of sight, we would give a just decision, which of these authorities ought to be preferred. Suppose this case then reversed. In the Old Testament, let us suppose the word Gehenna to mean the place of eter nal punishment for all the wicked. That this was its allowed sense, by critics and commentators, and that it never, in a single instance, meant temporal punishment. Suppose further, that the term Gehenna occurred twelve times in the New Testament. That upon examining one of the texts in which it occurred, say the passage before us, it evidently had the same. sense as in the Old Testament. That the text and context clearly decided this to be its meaning. But one, say a Universalist, comes forward and informs us, from the Targums, that Gehenna, in the Old Testament, in process of time, came to be used as an em-blem of temporal punishment, and at last came to be confined to it; and that this was always and indisputably its meaning in the New Testament. This he roundly asserts, without any attempt at proof on the subject. I ask what decision we would form in this case? Let candour decide, if we would not say that the doctrine of eternal punishment was put beyond all debate. And would not every man agree to condemn the Universalist? Happy, then, we would say, is the man who condemneth not himself in the thing which he alloweth. But what would be the decision in favour of eternal punishment, and against the Universalist, if upon examining all the other eleven places in the New Testament, it was found, that Gehenna had the same or a similar sense as it had in the Old Testament, and in the one in the New Testament
where the context so clearly decided? The triumph of the doctrine of eternal misery would be complete.We shall leave it for the decision of every man of candour, what to say, if it is proved that all the remaining passages which speak of Gehenna, corroborate the views I have advanced on the passage we have been considering. But all this would be considered as strongly confirmed, if a number of facts were adduced, showing that no other sense could be rationally attached to the term Gehenna. We have adduced a few facts already, and have yet some more to produce, proving, that Gehenna cannot mean a place of endless misery for the wicked, but that it referred to the temporal vengeance coming on the Jewish nation. We should like to see an equal number of such facts produced, showing that Gehenna does not mean this temporal vengeance, but eternal misery, before we are condemned for refusing to believe that this is its meaning.
7th, Supposing that the term Gehenna, in this passage, was equivocal, as it certainly is not, still, according to Dr. Campbell, my interpretation of the passage is correct. In his third Dissertation, sect. xi. he says: "Nothing can be more pertinent, or better founded, than the remark of M. Le Clerc, that 'a word which is equivocal by itself, is often so clearly limited to, a particular signification by the strain of the discourse, as to leave no room for doubt.”” The strain of our Lord's discourse in this chapter, fixes the sense of Gehenna, to be what I have stated, so clearly and decisively, that no room is left for doubt. But let us hear Dr. Campbell further. In his ninth Dissertation, part i. sect. 13. he says,-"When a word in a sentence of Holy Writ is susceptible of two interpretations, so that the sentence, whichsoever of the two ways the word be interpreted, conveys a distinct meaning suitable to the scope of the place; and when