Page images
PDF
EPUB

hell, we shall be happy to see it. But until the evidence of this is made apparent, the objection has no force. We cannot believe without evidence. The labour of proving this, belongs to the objector. What would he have said, had I assumed, without attempting to prove, that Gehenna, Matth. xxiii. only referred to the temporal punishment of the Jews? When the evidence we have adduced is invalidated, it will be time enough to admit the validity of this objection. So long as an examination of the context, and the Scripture usage of words, are considered safe rules in determining the sense of any Scripture writer, we shall feel somewhat confident, that, by the damnation of hell, a place of endless misery was not intended by our Lord. But this double view of the expression dumnation of hell, is not only assumed, but it is assumed in face of evidence to the contrary. Our Lord, with the same breath, uttered the words, "damnation of hell," and declared, "all these things shall come upon this generation." But does he intimate in any part of the context, that this expression had another meaning, referring to eternal misery in a future state of existence? If the damnation of hell was to come on that generation, is it not in effect saying our Lord was mistaken to affirm that it also means endless punishment? If he intimates no such thing, ought we to put such a construction on his language? And are we at liberty to do this, in opposition to the scope of the context, and Scripture usage of the term Gehenna? But further; why assume this double sense of the term Gehenna in Matth. xxiii. and not give a double sense to almost every discourse eur Lord delivered! If we take the liberty to do so here, are we not at the same liberty to do it in any other of his discourses? But such as do take this double view of Matth. xxiv. we leave them to settle the account with Stuart, Whitby, M'Knight, Gill, and other commentators. Let them answer what these persons

have said, showing that it refers only to the destruction of Jerusalem and its attendant calamities. We are persuaded, that, if a favourite doctrine was not in danger of losing its support from the passage we are considering, such an objection would never be urged. The very circumstance of urging it in this case, is calculated to bring the doctrine into suspicion.

But it perhaps may be also objected against the interpretation we have given, "why should our Lord speak of the temporal vengeance coming on the Jews, as a damnation, or punishment of hell, or Gehenna ? Is there any other part of Scripture, which authorizes such an interpretation of our Lord's words?" In answer to this objection I would observe; supposing there is not, still it remains a fact, that the context of this passage plainly authorizes the interpretation we have given them. Besides, the context gives no countenance to the opposite interpretation. Will it not then be granted, that if I can show this view given, is supported by other parts of Scripture, that my interpretation must be admitted as correct? Moreover, if I can show that our Lord could not be understood in any other sense, allowing the Scriptures to be the best commentary on his meaning, is not my view placed beyond all fair debate?-I have contended that the Jews could not understand our Lord, by the "damnation of hell," to mean a place of eternal misery, because Gehenna had no such meaning in the Old Testament. I now as fully contend, that if Gehenna is not used in the Old Testament in the sense I have given it, neitheir could the Jews understand him in this sense. Candour requires this. Well, on the other hand, ought not candour to allow, that if it is used in the Old Testament as an emblem of the temporal miseries coming on the Jewish nation, that in this sense it was used by our Lord, and understood by his hearers? I frankly admit, that if Gehenna was used in

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 Gehenna 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 Test 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 Gehenna, 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 things, 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 Gebenna. 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 punishment to the Jews, to the fathers of those very persons whom our Lord addressed, and to whom he said, "fill ye up then 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 threatened with the punishment of hell? And must the common view of Gehenna be correct, 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 Jeremiah, it is'certain 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

L

and plainest discourse ever uttered by our Lord, concerning the temporal miseries coming on the Jewish nation. 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 remarks.

1st, Who does not see that the prediction of Jeremiah and the discourse of our Lord, Matth. 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 cal culated 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

« PreviousContinue »