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learn, that both are not a corruption of their religion? How could they be any thing but a corruption of their religion, when not found in their Scriptures? If this is denied, let proof be produced to the contrary. After reading the above quotation from Whitby, no one can doubt that the Jewish religion was very much corrupted. It was a corruption, however, as any one may see, which flattered themselves, and sufficiently expressed their enmity against the Gentiles. After seeing this quotation, and considering the strange and even ridiculous opinions held by the Jews, what credit can any man give to any thing such persons could say about Gehenna being a place of endless misery? One would certainly be disposed to think, that, so far from the doctrine being true, it was invented for the purpose of showing the deep-rooted aversion which they had to Gentiles. If Gehenna or hell, held by them to be a place of endless misery, for all the Gentiles, be a truth, yet all the other things stated in the above quotation are considered corruptions of their religion, we honestly own that we have seldom seen a truth held with so many absurd notions. However, if it can be proved that this part is a truth, and all the others are errors which they blended with it, we shall be happy to give the evidence produced a candid examination. To say the least of it, the testimony of such witnesses, is very suspicious.
3d, But we should like to know how the writers of the Targums, Josephus, and Philo, quoted above, came by the information, which they detail to us concerning hell or Gehenna. By what means did they come to know, that it was a place of punishment for the wicked, that the punishment was to be literal fire, and endless in its duration? I repeat the question,Where did the above persons get all this information which they communicate to us about hell? Did they derive it from the heathen, or did they invent it them
selves? If from neither of those sources, let it be shown from what source they did derive it. Until it can be proved that this information was derived from God's authority, no man ought to believe it.
But it may be objected to this, by saying, is it not said, in the above quotations, that "our Lord speaks, Mark ix. 47. and Matth. v. 22. of the wicked being cast into the fire of hell, and of their being cast into a furnace of fire, Matth. xiii. 42. ?" The two first of these passages have been considered before, being two of those in which Gehenna occurs. It has been shown that Gehenna in no one instance, signifies a place of endless misery for the wicked. As to the last passage, we have shown in an Inquiry into the import of the word aion, translated everlasting, &c. that it has nothing to do with a place of endless misery, but that it refers to the same temporal calamities which are spoken of under the emblem of Gehenna, by the prophet Jeremiah. We can show that our Lord did not derive his allusions to a "furnace of fire" in the above passages, from the Targums, but from the Old Testament Scriptures. This, however, we cannot do here. It is very certain, that almost all professing Christians, not only in our day, but for many ages past, have believed that Gehenna or hell, is the place of eternal punishment for all the wicked. One should think that it would not be difficult to show from what source this information was derived. We might also expect, that instead of referring to the Targums and the Apocrypha, God's authority would be appealed to at once, and that the Scripture evidence of its truth, would be full and explicit. A subject of such universal and deep interest to the human race, we think would not be left as a matter of doubtful disputation, depending on the sense which the writers of the Targums give to the word Gehenna. Even when such writings are appealed to, they afford
but little satisfaction, as to proof of the doctrine, and give us but a poor opinion of either the piety of the writers or the correctness of their religious opinions. If eternal punishment in hell, be a part of the revealed will of God, at some time or other this revelation must have been given. Now I am willing to believe it, and shall teach it with all the ability God has given me, if it can be shown that such a revelation has been given, during any part of the four following periods of time: which includes all periods in which it could be revealed.
1st, I shall believe it, if it can be proved, that it was revealed at any time during the Old Testament dispensation. That such a doctrine, as the eternity of hell torments, was not revealed during this period, is now generally admitted. It is denied that it was revealed under the name of Sheol, Hades, Tartarus, or even Gehenna, during that dispensation: and it is not pretended that any other name is used to express this place of endless punishment. I therefore observe
2d, That I shall believe this doctrine, if it can be proved, that God revealed it any time from the completion of the Old Testament Scriptures to the commencement of the gospel dispensation. The time which elapsed between these two events, was about four hundred years. The Apocrypha and Targums are supposed to be the writings which fill up this chasm; but it is not pretended that any of these writers were inspired to reveal this, or any other doctrine. Though hell is spoken of in these writings, yet it has no more claim to our belief, than many other things stated in them. Malachi, in closing his book commanded attention to be given to the law of Moses, until the coming of John the Baptist, but gives no injunction to pay attention to the Apocrypha or the Targums. And we have no account, during the above period, that any inspired prophet arose, and
revealed such a doctrine to the world. To quote any writer from Malachi to John the Baptist, in proof of this doctrine, is nothing to the purpose.
3d, I will believe this doctrine, if it is proved that God revealed it since the New Testament was completed. This is not supposed, for it is contended by all who hold it, that it was revealed long before this. We have seen that it is spoken of by the writers of the Targums, Josephus, and Philo, which sets this question at rest. To contend that it was revealed after the New Testament was completed, would be to give it up as a Scripture doctrine, and sanction all the wild pretensions to inspiration since that period. If we do not end our revelations with the New Testament, we shall have a host of inspired fanatics, and an inundation of enthusiastical reveries, for the faithful sayings of God.
4th, I will believe this doctrine, if it can be proved that it has been revealed by God to men during the ministry of Christ or any of his apostles; or, in other words, if it can be proved from the New Testament. On this ground it is placed by Dr. Campbell, and all who contend for endless misery, in Gehenna or hell. In support of this sense of the term Gehenna in the New Testament, the Targums and the Apocrypha are appealed to, and it is taken for granted, that this is its sense there, without any examination of the passages where it occurs. All these passages we have considered, and we think have shown, that no such doctrine is taught in them. Besides, we adduced a number of facts, at variance with such a view of the subject. Are we then implicitly to believe what those uninspired writers say about Gehenna, and in face of all the evidence we have adduced to the contrary? No reasonable man can expect this of us. But we have a few remarks to make on the above quotations, of a different nature from those already made.
1st, We cannot help noticing the similarity of opinion among the Jews in those days, and good people in these, respecting those who are to go to hell or Gehenna. In those days the Jews considered all Gentiles as fit fuel for hell fire. They exempted themselves from such a punishment; for no Jew could go to hell! If any Jew ever went there "hell fire hath no power over the sinners of Israel, because Abraham and Isaac descend thither to fetch them thence." The merit of circumcision, and the odour of their foreskins was sufficient to save them from hell. Such was the faith of the persons on whose authority we are to believe Gehenna or hell to be a place of endless misery! Gentiles now retaliate on the Jews, and in their turn, consign all the Jews to the punishment of hell. Ask persons who believe in the doctrine of hell torments, "do you expect to go to hell?" "Oh! no," say they, "God forbid, that we should go to hell." And why should not they go to hell, as well as any other persons? You will find that they have similar reasons to assign as the Jews had, why they are exempted from this punishment. They have Abraham, or some good man for their father; they have been baptized; they have joined the church. These or something similar has put all their fears to rest about their going to hell! The fact is, I never met with a person in my life who believed that hell was a place of punishment for himself, but always for some other persons, such as Jews and heathen, and wicked persons in their town or neighbourhood. Yea, we have known some, even of the best of men, who, while their children, relations and neighbours lived, looked on them as in the broad road to hell, but when they died, and that without much evidence of repentance, still hoped that they had gone to heaven. This conduct of theirs, has reminded us of the ancient Romans, who, while