« AnteriorContinuar »
heaven, from the evil to come, or put in a place of safety, as he did the Christians, by sending them to Pella in Colosyria, previously to the destruction of Jerusalem. But he will burn up the chaff, the disobedient and rebellious Jews, who would not come unto Christ, that they might have life." Com. on the passage. See Paige's "Selections," pp. 29–32, for further authorities.
The phrase "unquenchable fire," has been by some adduced to prove the doctrine of endless misery. The fire mentioned in the passage, is the fire of divine judgment, which God sent upon the land of Judea, and it was called unquenchable, not because it would burn forever, but because it could not be extinguished, and would continue until the material on which it fed should be entirely destroyed. So saith Dr. Hammond. "They put fire to the chaff at the wind side, and that keeps on, and never gives over till it has consumed all the chaff, and so is a kind of unquenchable fire, a fire never quenched till it hath done its work." (Annot. on the place.) In lib. vi. c. 41, of Eusebius's History, there is an account of those who suffered martyrdom for Christianity in Alexandria of Egypt. Two of these martyrs, Cronion and Julian, says Eusebius, were carried on camels through the city, scourged, and finally consumed in "unquenchable fire," avgì door. And again, he says, other two, Epimachus and Alexander, after intense suffering from the scourges and scrapers, were also destroyed in "unquenchable fire," vì áo. Here the evident sense of "unquenchable fire," is fire that should not be extinguished. If it had been arrested in its course, it would not have been unquenchable; but it raged until it went out of itself, for the want of fuel, and thus was not quenched. The phrase has no reference to punishment in the future world. For a valuable treatise on this subject, see "Universalist Expositor," Vol. IV. p. 306.
III. "For I say unto you, that except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven." Matt. v. 20.
What is meant here by the phrase "kingdom of heaven?" It does not refer to the state of glory which awaits us hereafter, but to the moral reign of Christ in the hearts of men, by the power of his Gospel. To enter into the kingdom of heaven, was to become a disciple of Jesus, to acknowledge him as Lord and king, and to obey his laws. No person whose righteousness was like that of the Scribes and Pharisees, could enter, while in such a state, into the moral kingdom of the Messiah.
When John the Baptist began to preach, he said, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Matt. iii. 2. When Jesus began to preach, he announced the approach of his moral kingdom in the same manner. "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matt. iv. 17.) In the instructions which Jesus gave his apostles, when he sent them out, he said, "As ye go, preach, saying, the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matt. x. 7.) His kingdom was not far off, it was at hand; it was not exclusively in another state of existence, it was here on the earth; it was the moral reign of Christ among men. Jesus said to the Pharisees, "The kingdom of God is come unto you.' Matt. xii. 28. On another occasion he said, "The kingdom of God cometh not with observation; neither shall they say, Lo here! or lo there! for behold the kingdom of God is within you," or among you. Luke xvii. 19, 20. To enter into the kingdom of God, was to embrace, profess, and obey the Gospel. Whosoever did this was under the government of Christ; he was in the reign of Christ; he was in the kingdom of Christ. And as all the real disciples of the Redeemer were saved from those tribulations which fell on the unbelievers of that age, Jesus warned his followers that no consideration whatever should induce them to decline entering into the kingdom of God.
Such was the "kingdom of heaven," into which the disciples were invited to enter. The formal, hypocritical righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees would not admit them to that kingdom; but the righteousness of Christ, which was benevolence and love, was the requirement of the divine law.
For a more extended view of this subject, see Paige's "Selections," Section VII. and "Universalist Expositor," Vol. I. pp. 3-23, on the phrase "kingdom of heaven."
IV. "But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause, shall be in danger of the judgment; and whososhall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council; but whosoever shall say to his brother, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire." Matt. v. 22.
The word here rendered hell is Gehenna, yierra. It is found only in the following places in the New Testament, Matt. v. 22, 29, 30; x. 28; xviii. 9 ; xxiii. 15, 33. Mark ix. 43, 45, 47. Luke xii. 5. James iii. 6.
It will be well to recollect, that these are the only instances in which the word occurs, that is, seven times in Matthew, three in Mark, one in Luke, and one in James. John, it seems, never used the word, nor does it occur in the Acts of the Apostles, nor in any of Paul's epistles, nor in the epistles of Peter, nor in Jude, nor in the Apocalypse. It is now generally allowed, that neither Sheol, Hades, nor Tartarus signify a place of eternal punishment; but the whole dependence for proof of such a place of punishment, is placed on the word Gehenna. Is it not, then, a little singu lar, if this word signifies a place of eternal punishment, that it occurs in only four books of the New Testament, and but twelve, times in the whole?
If this passage is to be understood in the literal and proper sense, then Gehenna refers to the valley of Hinnom near Jerusalem, where judicial punishment was frequently inflicted in the days of Christ. Adam Clarke says, "Our Lord here alludes to the valley of the son
of Hinnom. This place was near Jerusalem. It is very probable that our Lord means no more here than this; if a man charge another with apostasy from the Jewish religion, or rebellion against God, and cannot prove his charge, then he is exposed to that punishment (burning alive) which the other must have suffered if the charge had been substantiated." (Com. on Matt. v. 22.) Parkhurst remarks, "a Gehenna of fire, does, I apprehend, in its outward and primary sense, relate to that dreadful doom of being burned alive in the valley of Hinnom." See his Lex. on the
During the idolatrous worship of the Jews in the valley of Hinnom, that place was regarded by them as sacred; but after this haunt of idolatry was broken up, and made the receptacle of the filth of Jerusalem, it became abominable in the sight of the whole nation. In process of time, as all writers agree, it came to be a place of punishment, where criminals were caused to suffer death by burning; and in reference to such a kind of punishment, Jesus used the word, when he said, "whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of a Gehenna of fire, (translated in the common version, hell-fire,) in which the Jewish laws ordained the burning of criminals.
With such abhorrence and dread, under all these circumstances, did the Jews in time regard this place, that they came to use it as a figure of dreadful woes and judgments; and so we find it both in the Old and New Testament. Thus Jeremiah, chap. xix. foretells the destruction of Jerusalem, and makes use of Tophet, or Gehenna, as a figure of the desolations God would bring on that ill-fated city. "I will make this city desolate, and a hissing; every one that passeth thereby shall be astonished and hiss, because of all the plagues thereof, &c. Thus will I do unto this place, saith the Lord, and to the inhabitants thereof, and EVEN MAKE THIS CITY AS TOPHET." Verses 8, 12. See also Jer. vii. 31-34. This is the metaphorical sense
of Gehenna, or Tophet, in the Old Testament; and with this knowledge let us turn to seek the sense in which it is used in the New Testament. The first instance where we find the word is Matt. v. 22; "Whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause, shall be in danger of the judgment; and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council; but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of the fire of Gehenna," (hell-fire in the common translation.) Now that this cannot refer to a state of punishment in the future world, is evident from the terms of the passage. The "JUDGMENT " here was, as Professor Stuart explains it, (Exeget. Essays, p. 142,) "a lower court, viz. that of the Septemviri among the Hebrews;" the "COUNCIL," (to quote again the Professor's words) was "the Sanhedrim, or highest council, who could inflict severer punishment than the court of Septemviri, q. d. he will deserve still severer punishment than he who is merely angry;" the "hell-fire" was the fire of the valley of Hinnom, as says the same author; "but he who shall say, thou fool, shall be obnoxious to the fire of the valley of Hinnom, q. d. to a still higher and more severe punishment, [viz.] such as is inflicted by burning to death in the valley of Hinnom." Now it is certain, that "the judgment" was in this world; it is equally certain, that "the council" was in this world; and it is just as certain, that the punishment of Gehenna was in this world. If this passage is to be understood in a secondary or metaphorical sense, why then should we understand Gehenna to refer to the future world more than the other terms? If the primary sense of Gehenna, as all must confess, was the punishment of the valley of Hinnom, as much as the judgment was the lower, and "the council" the higher court of the Jews, by what rule of interpretation shall we consider the two latter terms to refer to punishment in the present state of being, but Gehenna to refer to punishment in the future state? We have no proof that the word had ever been applied to punish