« AnteriorContinuar »
both these senses in the Old Testament, it might not be so easy to decide, in some passages of the New, which of these senses was intended by the writer. This could not, however, be the case with the passage we are now considering, for the context clearly decides the sense in which it is used. But we are happily free from all difficulty here, for, as we have seen, Dr. Campbell assures us, that Gebenna does not occur in the Old Testament in the sense of a place of eternal misery. This we have also proved above, from an examination of all the texts in the Old Testa ament, where this word is found.
2d, Let us now attend to the Scripture usage of the word Gehenna or hell. It has been established, that in the Old Testament the word Gehenna has no respect to eternal punishment. It has also been shown, that the Old Testament writers made Gehenna an emblem of the temporal punishment which was to come upon the Jews, in the destruction of their city and temple by Titus. So far then as Scripture usage of this word in the Old Testament goes, it establishes the interpretation of our Lord's words in the passage before us. The prophet Jeremiah had made Gehen. na, or the valley of Hinnom, an emblem of this punishment of the Jews; and our Lord addressing this very people, says to them,“
how can ye escape the punishment of Gehenna ?" Now notice the following ibings, which all concur to show that our Lord referred to Jeremiah's prophesy above considered. Jeremiah and our Lord evidently spoke to the same people, the Jews. Both speak of a punishment, and a very dreadful punishment, to this people. Both speak of temporal punishment, and not of eternal, to this people. Both, in speaking of this punishment, describe it under the emblem of a punishment of Gehenna. Neither of them give the least hint that the punishment they speak of, was a general punishment
for all wicked men, that it was in a future state of ex. istence, and of endless duration. Jeremiah foretold, some hundred years before, this punisbment to the Jews, to the fathers of those very persons whom our Lord addressed, and to whom he said, “ fill ye up tben the measure of your fathers,” and added, “all these things shall come on this generation." But I may add, that the time referred to by the prophet, when this punishment should be inflicted on the Jews, and that mentioned by our Lord, exactly agree. The time of which the prophet speaks, was when the Lord "was to bring upon them all the evil he had spoken of," and precisely accords with our Lord's words, "for these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled,” Luke xxi. 22. Jer. xix. 15.
Must my view of Gehenna then be erroneous, though supported by Scripture usage of this word in the Old Testament, and the context of the only passage in the New, where any unbelieving persons were ever therealened with the pune ishment of hell ? And must the currmon view of Gehenna be correci, without any support from Scripture usage in the Old Testament, or the context of this passage ?
But further; if by the damnation of hell, our Lord did not refer to this prediction of Jeremiab, it is'cer. tain that in no other place does he ever remind the Jews that such a punishment had been threatened them. Is it then probable that our Lord should entirely overlook such a plain and pointed prediction in speaking to the Jews? Is it possible that he should say so much to them about the punishment coming on their nation, and yet never hint to them, that it had been clearly foretold by one of their own prophets ? He often quotes the prophets; and is it likely Jeremiah's prediction, so full and plain in predicting punishment to that generation, was altogether overlooked by him? But it ought to be particularly noticed, that the passage under consideration occurs in the fullest
and plainest discourse ever uttered by our Lord, concerning the temporal miseries coming on the Jewish bation. Besides, it is the only time he ever said a word about the damnation of hell. Why then, I ask, does it happen to be spoken of in such a discourse as this, and in no other? How comes it to pass, that if the damnation of hell means eternal misery, it should only be introduced in such a discourse ? To this, I feel confident, no satisfactory answer can be given. If any one can account for it, we shall be happy to see it done, on Scriptural and rational principles. But before I dismiss this passage, permit me to bring the prophesy of Jeremiah a little more into view in connexion with it. See this prophesy considered above, chap. ii. sect. 1. which ought to be consulted and compared with the passage under consideration. On both, taken together, I submit the following brief re. marks.
1st, Who does not see that the prediction of Jeremiah and the discourse of our Lord, Mattb. chaps. xxiii. and xxiv. speak of the same events ? Comparing both with that part of Josephus' history of the siege of Jerusalem, we see both minutely and affectingly fulfilled. Such a fulfilment of prophesy is calculated to silence infidels, confirm the faith of Christians, and stimulate their researches into the true sense of Scripture.
2d, It could not appear strange to the Jews, that our Lord should speak to them of the damnation or punishment of Gehenna, for under this very emblem the prophet Jeremiah had foretold great and dreadful calamities to this people. With the prophet's language the ears of the Jews were familiar, so that they had no occasion to ask what he meant by the damnation of hell. Nor could they find fault with him, in calling to their remembrance, a punishment to which they were exposed, so long ago foretold, but which
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 ihey 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 prediciing. 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 eternal: misery 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.