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requires no further remark from me; for surely no one will attempt to prove the doctrine of endless misery from the mere figuratite use of the term Gehenna.
Such are all the texts in which the word Gehenna is used by the New Testament writers, and such are the remarks which have occurred to me in my examination of them. According to every just rule of Scripture interpretation I am acquainted with, I do not see how I could have interpreted them differently. Indeed, to me it is surprising how the doctrine of eternal misery was ever founded on any of the texts which speak of Gehenna or hell. If I am correct, it also affords a striking example how far we may be misled, in a proper understanding of the Scriptures, by attaching to a single word a sense different from that given it by the inspired writers. How far I am correct, my readers must judge for themselves. I hope they will, on the one hand, guard against receiving my error, if it be one, and on the other, beware of rejecting my view, if true, from prejudices of education. Under the influences of these prejudices, I began to examine this subject, and have been obliged to relinquish my former views of Gehenna, from the force of the evidence I have already stated, and which I have yet to adduce on this subject. If my views of Gehenna are, upon examination, found correct, it is also a striking proof how far we may be misled, in a proper understanding of the New Testament, from our inattention to the Old. If the word Gehenna in the New, is used in a similar sense as in the Old Testament, all the false views we have had of the texts in which it occurs in the former, have arisen from our inattention to its usage in the latter. Whether I am right or wrong in my views of Gehenna in the New Testament, no man, we think, will deny, that there is a degree of plausibility in what I have stated between the Old and New Testa
ment usage of this word. It would be foolish in me to think that I have brought forward all that can be urged for or against this view of Gehenna. The subject is brought forward for deliberate and serious consideration. If I am wrong in my views, I shall have an opportunity of being better informed. If right, I have only performed a duty which I owed to mankind.
Before closing this section, it is proper to notice any objections which have occurred against the sense given to Gehenna or hell in the passages we have been consideringa 1st, One of the most popular objections likely to be urged, is, that the sense I have given to Gehenna is very contrary to the long established ecclesiastical use of this word. This is frankly and fully admitted; but certainly this is no certain evidence that my views are incorrect. In the present case, I have done no more than what is done by Presbyterians, Hopkinsians, Congregationalists, Baptists, Methodists, yea, by all sects in religion. They all, in their own way, take the liberty of thinking that Scripture usage of words is, sometimes at least, different from long established ecclesiastical usage of words. That the ecclesiastical use of some words is very different from the Scripture usage of them, few will deny. That they are different, and also how little we ought to regard the ecclesiastieal use of words when contrary to Scripture usage of them, we here quote the authority of Dr. Campbell. He says, p. 416. of bis dissertations,—"ecclesiastical use is no security that the word, though it be understood, conveys to us the same idea which the original term did to those to whom the gospels were first promulgated. In a former dissertation, the fullest evidence has been given, that in regard to several words, the meaning which has been long established by ecclesiastic use, is very
ditferent from that which they have in the writings of the New Testament."
It is easily seen from this quotation, and more fully from the other dissertation to which he refers, that he did not scruple to disclaim the ecclesiastical use of words, if that use did not agree with New Testament usage. We have examined the Scripture usage of the words Sheol, Hades, Tartarus and Gehenna, and if ecclesiastical usage considers any of these words to mean a place of endless misery, we must say that it is not supported by the Bible. But of this our readers must judge. If it can be proved that we have erred in the sense we have given to Gehenna or those other words, we shall be glad to see the error exposed.
2d, Another objection closely connected with the former, is, that my views of Gehenna are contrary to the opinions of almost all the learned in the present day, and in the ages past of the Christian Church ; yea, contrary to the authors of the Targums and the Apocrypha. This may be true, yet my view of Gehenna be the correct and Scriptural one notwithstanding. I am again supported in this by Dr. Campbell. He says, p. 91. of his dissertations," the opinion of Grotius and some learned Rabbis, unsupported by either argument or example, nay, in manifest contradiction to both, is here of no weight. Scriptural usage alone must decide the question. These commentators (with all deference to their erudition and abilities be it spoken) being comparatively modern, cannot be considered as ultimate judges in a question depending entirely on an ancient use, whereof all the evidences that were remaining in their time, remain still, and are as open to our examination, as they were to theirs. In other points where there may happen to be in Scripture an allusion to customs or ceremonies retained by the Jews, but unknown to us, the case
is different. But nothing of this kind is pretended here.” We have attempted to decide the question, what is the meaning of the term Gehenna, by an appeal to Scripture usage of this word, and we must say it is our present opinion that it is not once used, either in the Old or New Testament, to express a place of endless misery for the wicked.
We conclude this section with two brief quotations from Mr. Stuart, in his letters to Mr. (now Dr.) Channing, which we wish were engraven on every man's heart, never to be effaced. In page 14. he says, “the claims of the Bible to be authoritative being once admitted, the simple question in respect to it, is, what does it teach in regard to any particular passage; what idea did the original writer mean to convey? When this is ascertained by the legitimate rules of interpretation, it is authoritative. This is orthodoxy in the highest and best sense of the word; and every thing which is opposed to it, which modi. fies it, which fritters its meaning away, is heterodoxy; is heresy; to whatever name or party it is attached." He adds, p. 109—"after all, it is a principle, by which, if I have any knowledge of my own heart, desire forever to be guided, to call no man master, on earth.' I would place the decision of Scripture, fairly made out, IMMEASURABLY ABOVE all human opinions. I regard the one as the decision of an unerring God; the other as the opinions of fallible men.”
ADDITIONAL FACTS STATED, PROVING THAT GEHENNA WAS
NOT USED BY THE SACRED WRITERS TO EXPRESS A PLACE OF ENDLESS MISERY.
The facts which have been stated in a preceding part of this investigation, are certainly very singular, if it indeed be true that Gehenna of the New Testa ment signifies a place of endless misery for the wicked. Those I am now to adduce, are to me also strange, upon such a view of this subject. Some of them have been slightly hinted at in the course of our remarks, but deserve a more distinct statement.
1st, If Gehenna means a place of endless misery for the wicked, it is a fact that the apostles never preached it, either to Jews or Gentiles. The history of the Acts of the apostles, contains an account of their preaching for thirty years, but not once is the subject of hell or Gehenna torments, mentioned by them. They were commanded to preach the gospel to every creature, and they did so, but to no creature under heaven, did they ever preach this doctrine. No living being did they ever threaten with such a punishment. They addressed the worst of characters, but to none of them did they ever say, "how can ye escape the damnation of hell ?” They did threaten men sometimes with punishment, but never with eternal punishment in hell. Saul said to Elymas, the sorcerer"0! full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease