« PreviousContinue »
terms are substituted in their place, to express an idea, wbich was held in common by men in different ages. In each successive generation, both written and oral language receives modifications in sense, which in process of time totally change it. Surely, if in the Old Testament, future punishment is expressed in other langnage, Christ might have applied this new term in speaking of it. The Jews of that day believed in a place of future punishment; to this they applied the name gehenna. Their belief was in this respect correct.
When speaking, therefore, on the same doctrine, Christ would be apt to use the language expressive of it, with which they were familiar, and about which there was no ambiguity. The case is somewhat like that of a christian missionary, who, in translating the Scriptures into the language of a barbarous people, employs as a name of hell, not a new term, but one which they had been accustomed to use in speaking of the abode of the wicked. By doing this he would tell them, that they 'had not been mistaken in believing in such a place, that it is a doctrine of Christianity as well as of Paganism; and he would leave them to learn from other sources the difference be
tween the doctrine, as taught in the bible and as it stands in their fables. So our Lord, by using gehenna in this sense, teaches his disciples that the common opinion in respect to future rewards and punishments, is true, while he also admits the propriety of the name. This is obvious and rational. Vor in saying it, do we rely at all on the opinions of Zoroaster, of the unbelieving Jews, or of the authors of the Apocrypha or of the Talmud. In proof of the doctrine of future punishment, we say, that such was the faith, correct or incorrect, of the Jews in the time of our Lord, and that gehenna was used as the name of the place of torment; whence we have a satisfactory reason for Christ's using it as he did. He did not teach the doctrine, because any fallible men had received it. It is a part of his own religion, a truth common to Christianity and to nearly all the religions of men. Gehenna was a word in use, as a name of the place of torment, and in this sense we have seen he employs it.
2. But it is further said, that the doctrine of future punishment is not taught in the Old Testament, in any language whatever. The assertion however is not true. The doctrines,
not only this but others, are taught less explicitly in the Old Testament than in the New; but still, future punishment is taught even there. So at least thought the writers of the Talmud, who abundantly teach it. And what is the import of such language as this? * The wicked shall be turned into hell and all the nations that forget God.” If it means no more than that the wicked shall be turned into the grave, they might retort; the righteous shall be turned into hell and all the nations that remember God. But should it be admitted, that future punishment is not taught in the Old Testament, does it follow that it cannot be taught in the New ? Admirable powers of logic! Of what value is the New Testament, if nothing can be believed, unless first taught in more ancient scriptures. Accordcording to the principles of the objector, the plainest and most important doctrines of Christ, are not to be believed or may be easily controverted, because they are either not mentioned or only obscurely hinted at, in the Old Testament. Unbelievers have only to raise doubts in respect to these hints, and their task will be accomplished. The plainest assertions of the New Testament, must be rejected
as unintelligible, or as allusions to Pagan errors, or as mis-translations of the original
It is however demonstrably certain, that the doctrine of future punishment is revealed in the Old Testament. This objection is also incompatible with the preceding. Christ could not have obtained, from the Old Testament, a name applied to the place of torment, if future punishment is not there revealed. A new doctrine requires a new term, or one employed in a new sense.
3. There are but two other considerations, which can, with any plausibility, be urged against the result of the foregoing examinations. Nor are they of much force. They only need to be noticed, because they are often and imposingly advanced. In the instances in which gehenna is undeniably used, in the sense of a place of torment in the future state, it is found in discourses addressed to the disciples of our Lord, and not to the unbelieving Jews, who were most exposed. Whereas, in modern times, impenitent sinners and not Christians, are addressed with these terrible denunciations. The manner of our Savior, it is said, indicates, that the disciples were more exposed to gehenna than other
men. In reply, it may be demanded, why he did not warn unbelievers, rather than his disciples, provided gehenna denotes the approaching destruction of Jerusalem. For on this, as well as on the other supposition, unbelievers were in greater danger than his disciples. When that event took place, the apostles were scattered over the Roman empire, preaching the gospel. But there is an adequate reason for teaching his immediate followers, and the future heralds of the cross, the doctrine of future punishment. He was preparing them for their work, by telling them in the ear, what they were commanded to proclaim upon the house-tops. In this, there was an important use, while perhaps he knew, that warnings, addressed to the unbelieving Jews, would be entirely lost.
4. The remaining objection is more plausible, but equally futile. The disciples of Christ never used gehenna, except in a single instance, in their epistles to the churches. He commanded them, to proclaim his instructions
upon the house-tops, but they do not mention a place of torment, under this name. To which it may be replied ;--- By writing and circulating the gospels, containing the