« AnteriorContinuar »
gelist, differs only in number from morim, the com pellation with which Moses and Aaron addressed the people of Israel, when they said, Numb. xx. 10. with manifest and indecent passion, as rendered in the English Bible, Hear now, YE REBELS, and were, for their punishment, not permitted to enter the land of Canaan. The word, however, as it is oftener used to imply rebellion against God than against any earthly sovereign; and as it includes disbelief of his word, as well as disobedience to his command, I think better rendered in this place miscreant, which is also, like the original term, expressive of the greatest abhorrence and detestation. In this way translated, the gradation of crimes, as well as of punishments, is preserved, and the impropriety avoided of delivering a moral precept, of consequence to men of all denominations, in words intelligible only to the learned." This, we think, fully meets the objection, and the gradation of crimes, as well as of punishments, is preserved.
The next passage occurs in verses 29, and 30. of the same chapter. "And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell." On this passage it may be observed in general, that if the word hell does not mean the place of endless misery in verse 22. it is not in the least probable that this is its meaning here. Our Lord surely would not use it with the same breath in two such different senses, without any intimation of this, and especially in addressing the same persons. But I shall proceed to consider this passage; observing that many of the remarks to be made, apply to several other passages yet to be con
sidered. The reason of this is obvious. In other passages the very same things are stated, and in almost the very same words. By considering them all here, it will save time and labour, and supersede the necessity of again repeating the same remarks when we come to those other passages.
1st, Then, let us consider what our Lord meant by a right eye, and a right hand. It should be remem bered that he was addressing his disciples. All will allow that this language is not to be understood literally. What our Lord meant by this figurative language, is explained in verse 28. and other preceding verses, to be their evil passions and propensities, dear to them as a right eye or hand.
2d, What did our Lord mean by these offending them? It is well known that the word translated offend, signifies to cause to stumble, and is in some places translated a stumbling block. By their right eye or hand offending them, then, must be meant, their unsubdued passions and propensities causing them to stumble and fall from their profession of Christ's name. If these proved a stumbling block, or caused them to offend, they thereby exposed themselves to the punishment of hell fire.. It was profitable, therefore, for them to subdue these, or to part with them, though dear to them as members of their bodies, than expose themselves to such a punishment. This, so far, I presume, will be allowed as our Lord's meaning, whatever sense we give the word Gehenna or hell in this passage. Is it then asked-What does our Lord mean by Gehenna or hell? I answer, the very same punishment which he threatened the unbelieving Jews with, Matth. xxiii. 33. when he said to them, "how can ye escape the damnation of hell?"—If his disciples indulged their lusts, and proved apostates from their profession, they should be involved in the same dreadful calamities with the rest of the Jewish
nation. Accordingly, he said to his disciples, Matth. xxiv. 13," he that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved." If the question is asked,-Saved from what? The context clearly shows, that they should be saved from all the temporal calamities foretold by our Lord, which were to come on that generation. All who did endure to the end of the Jewish state, were saved. M'Knight, in a note on Matth. xxiv. thus writes:-"The people of the church in Jerusalem being ordered by an oracle given to the faithful in that place, by revelation, left the city before the war, and dwelt in a city of Perea, the name of which was Pella." This oracle, perhaps, was no other than the information our Lord gave his disciples in Matth. xxiv. If they attended to it, they needed no other oracle. But I only notice this, without pretending to decide about it. As to his disciples, the following is very evident. Patient enduring to the end, was not only connected with their temporal safety, but attention to the directions given Matth. xxiv. If one of them, being in the field, returned back to take his clothes, the safety promised might not be obtained. No worldly consideration was to be an apology for a moment's delay, but with the utmost speed they were to make their escape. When our Lord spoke of the punishment of hell to the unbelieving Jews, he mentioned it as a thing they could not es cape. "How can ye escape the damnation of hell ?" They had nearly filled up the measure of their iniqui ty, and upon them was to come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth. But when he spoke to the disciples about this punishment, he spoke of it as a thing they might escape, if they attended to the instructions which he gave them. See Matth. xxiv. where he is at great pains in pointing out the course they must pursue, if they would avoid the impending dostruc
We then see a very good reason why our Lord said so much to his disciples about the punishment of hell, and so little to the unbelieving Jews. Allowing that hell does not mean a place of endless misery, but the temporal calamities coming on the Jews, every thing said about it is just what might be expected. But can it ever be rationally and scripturally accounted for, that our Lord should only once mention "the damnation of hell" to the unbelieving Jews, if thereby he meant a punishment in eternal torment? Besides, does not this view rationally and Scripturally account for the very extraordinary fact, that not a word about hell or Gehenna is said to the Gentiles by any of the inspired writers? How is this fact to be accounted for on the common view given of the punishment of Gehenna? If my view be allowed correct, it rationally, and I think Scripturally, accounts for these things.. That it does account for them, is some evidence that it is correct.
3d, Let us now consider the language of this pas sage, and see if it does not confirm these views of the subject. It is said twice," and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell or Gehenna." This lan-guage is not in unison with the common ideas entertained of hell. Do we ever hear a preacher tell his audience, that their "whole body shall be cast into hell, or that body and soul shall be cast into it?" No; they allow that the soul only goes there at death, and the body returns to the dust, and not at least until the resurrection, do both go there together. The phrase "thy whole body," appears to be of the same import with that expressed in another passage by the words "soul and body." We shall show hereafter, that by the word soul, is not meant, as is generally believed, the spirit, which exists in a separate state from the body, but natural life. See on Matth. x. 28. below. Another thing ought to be noticed, that preachers now only
threaten men with the punishment of hell if they continue in unbelief; but here our Lord threatened his disciples with it if they did not cut off a right hand, and pluck out a right eye; or, in plain language, did not part with every thing dear to them, rather than disobey the Saviour. Besides, he said most about hell to those in least danger of it, and only mentioned it once to those in the greatest danger.-The conduct of preachers in our day, about this, is precisely the reverse of his. All they say of hell is said to the wicked..
By consulting the context of this passage, it will be seen, that there is nothing in it to support the idea, that hell is a place of endless misery. Any evidence it affords, rather goes to prove the view I have given of it. But as a consideration of it, would only lead to similar remarks made already, I pass it over.
The next passage is Matth. xviii. 8, 9. "Wherefore, if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. And. if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire."-It need hardly be noticed, that the remarks made on the preceding passage about a right hand or eye offending, equally apply here, and need not be repeated. If correct there, they must be so here. The remarks also about Gehenna, are applicable here, and neither need they be repeated. I shall therefore proceed to notice some additional observa-. tions which this passage affords us on the subject.
Observe then, that the same phraseology, "to be cast into hell," occurs in this passage, which occurred in Matth. y. 29, 30. The only difference is, that here, in verse 9, the word fire is added, which is there omit