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the days of Christ had acquired a signification different from what it had in the Old Testament, we must go back to this to ascertain the sense in which it is used. Here it occurs in two senses, 1. For the literal valley of Hinnom 2. As a figure to represent the temporal punishment, that God was to bring on the Jewish nation. See Josh. xv. 8; xviii. 16; Neh. xi. 30. 2 Chron. xxviii. 3; xxiii 6. Jer. xxxii, 35. where it signifies the valley of Hinnom.See Jer. vii. 29-34 and xix. 4-15. where it is used figuratively, to represent the destructionof the Jewish nation. Let us observe here the exact language of the Prophet. He says, the valley shall no more be called Tophet nor Hinnom, but the valley of slaughter, that the Counsel of Judah and Jerusalem shall be made void, that they shall fall by the sword of their enemies, that their carcasses shall be meat for fowls and beasts, and that in their siege they shall eat their sons and daughters, and that they shall bury in Tophet till there is no place to bury. Now this prediction had a literal fulfilment, at the destruction of Jerusalem, when six hundred thousand bodies were suffered to lie unburied and were meat for fowls and beasts, when parents feasted upon their children, their land became desolate and their city as Tophet.
In connexion with this prophecy, let us consider, that in all the places where Gehenna is used in the New Testament, it was spoken to Jews, who were familiar with the old Testament. Must they not then have understood it in the sense of the Old Testament? And if our Lord did not use it in this sense, "did he not deceive rather than instruct"?
In Matt. x. 28, some difficulty exists in con
Having considered all the instances where Gehenna is used as a figure of judgment upon the Jews, I will briefly notice the three remaining cases, where it occurs. In Matt. v. 22, it is used in a manner which clearly teaches its meaning. Jesus speaks of three sins; and in describing their punishment refers to three kinds. of punishment among the Jews-the Judgment, Council and Gehenna. The 1st was beheading; the 2d stoning; and the third burning alive in Gehenna. Now as he spoke of three sins of different magnitude, and employed three figures to represent their punishment, it is evident that he had no reference to endless misery. We might as well say, by Judgment and Council he intended to teach endless wo, as by Gehenna. But as none believe the former teach endless wo, why believe the latter does? Besides, the first sin, bore the same proportion to the second, that the second did to the third; and so it must be with the punishment. But where is the proportion between endless and limited misery?Gehenna then, cannot here signify endless punishment.
On Matt. xxiii. 15, I will only say, "two fold more the child of hell," must mean, doubly deserving the punishment of Gehenna. What this punishment was can be learnt from the woes denounced in the chapter-woes that were to come on the generation then living. See v. 36.
James iii. 6, is the last text. "The tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body,and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell." The author of these words was a Jew, and wrote to believing Jews.
To these no figure could be employed to express greater wickedness and misery, than the valley of Hinnom. Therefore, when he would show the evils of the tongue, he borrows a figure from this place, as it was the most abominable of any known to the Jews.
Thus, dear sir, do we see, that not a single instance can be found, where Gehenna means endless punishment. By adopting this view of the word, we can rationally account for the fact, that it was only used by Christ and James, and that it is not to be found, in the Gospel of John. Christ and James addressed Jews, and hence they spoke of Gehenna. John wrote his Gospel for the Gentiles, and thefore says nothing of Gehenna. Paul was the Apostle of the Gentiles-hence the reason that he never preached Gehenna. If this be not proof, that the present use of the word was unknown in the Apostolic age, I know not the nature of proof.
You say, the Gentiles were unacquainted with the word. Unacquainted! When Paul preached among them twenty or thirty years, and wrote fourteen epistles!! Let a Methodist Minister go among a people ignorant of the word hell, and how long do you fancy, they would remain thus? If the Gentiles were ignorant of Gehenna, and Paul declared the whole counsel of God, he would have instructed them respecting it, had he believed it to be a place of undying wo. They were ignorant of Christ, repentance and salvation, and he taught them.
The word hell not once used to the Gentiles! And yet the Gospel spread among them as on wings of light. Say not then, that our silence respecting hell, has a licentious tendency. Fi
nally sir, you may as well argue against the sun, as against the fact, that Gehenna was only addressed to those familiar with the Prophets and connected with the Jewish nation; for had it signified a punishment to which Gentiles as well as Jews were exposed, they would have been instructed respecting it, and warned of their danger. I am, very respectfully, your friend, OTIS A. SKINNER
LETTER NO. V.
BALTIMORE, Nov. 27, 1834.
To Rev. Otis A. Skinner;
Dear Sir:-On reading your first letter, I find a large quantity of extraneous matter, which can shed no light on the point at issue between us, but must necessarily bewilder and darken it more or less. What has the present controversy to do with the 'eternal decrees,' 'infinite sin,' 'infants' skulls,' the damnation or salvation of the Heathen,' &c. The subject before us is 'Universalism,' which, I suppose may be embraced in the question, whether the punishment due to sin, is eternal or temporary, in its nature. You hold the latter. I hold the former. Therefore, all we say should have a direct bearing on this subject; which I consider to be of paramount importance. You state that there is but a trifling difference between Universalists. All believe that punishment is designed to re
form." Now I believe that all chastisements and afflictions in this life are designed to reform So far I agree with Universalists. But, I believe that all punishment in a future state of existence is vindictive and not disciplinary. On this point I differ with the Universalists. I pur pose attending to this point, in a future letter, if permitted.
I shall attend to your four questions concerning 1 Thess. i 5—10, at a future period. As there is nothing else of any importance, in this letter, I shall dismiss it for the present, and proceed to theconsideration of your second letter.
You appear greatly dissatisfied with my manner of quoting authorities, and speak in as strong terms as if you had convicted me of fraudulent dealing; but, I can see no reason for all this warmth and dissatisfaction only that the truth pinches a little too tight. If you can show that I have perverted the views of an authority, or given that for his language which was not his, I am ready to stand publicly corrected. But as to the length of the quotation, it is with my own judgment to determine, and not for you to prescribe the quantity of matter I am to transcribe. The charge of taking things at 'second hand' comes with a very had grace, from one, that is in the constant practice of the same thing.
I see that you have denounced, as an erroneous bigot, Dr. Clarke, who was one of the most learned men of his age, merely, because he has presented the truth in such a strong and clear point of view, as to cut up the heresy of Universalism, both root and tranch. What will the gerious and considerate think of this?