« AnteriorContinuar »
As the great object of the Messiah was to close the old, and to introduce the new dispensation, of which the former was but a shadow, of GOOD THINGS to come, we find a great proportion of the New-Testament parables pointed to this event. As the revolution was to be so great, no wonder the Saviour so frequently cautioned his disciples to beware of the fate which was certainly coming on their country. In this light we view this discourse to his disciples. They were to endure persecution, and many trials, which an apostle calls "fiery trials;" but these cautions are so numerous that they need not be cited. The circumstance which may labour in the minds of some very honest people, is the use of the word soul, which is by common usage considered the spirit, or immortal part of man. The word will therefore be particularly examined.
The word xn, psuche, here rendered soul, is thus rendered from Nephish, of the O. T. In speaking of this word, Mr. Pilkington has the following remarks. He says, it is sometimes used expletively, sometimes means life, sometimes the whole man, and sometimes is applied to the irrational part of creation." Among its various uses we quote the following:-Gen. 12: 13, my soul shall live because of thee. 10: 20, let me escape thither, and my soul shall live. Exod. 12: 16, which every soul must eat. Lev. 5: 2, if a soul touch any unclean thing. 20: 11, if the priest buy a soul with his money. Num. 11: 6, our soul is dried away: 31: 28, one soul of five hundred, both of the men, and of the beeves, and of the asses, and of the sheep. Ps. 57: 4, my soul is among lions: 106: 15, he sent leanness into their soul. Mat. 2: 20, they are dead which sought the young child's psuhe, or life. 7: 25, take no thought for your life, psuhe-Luke 12: 23, the life, psuhe, is more than But the cases are so numerous, that one has but to read and satisfy him
self, that the principle laid down is correct. That the word is used expletively, or as might otherwise be expressed by the word unnecessarily, at least in our idiom, in one of these instances, is evident by comparing the different expressions of Matthew and Luke. One mentions the destruction of soul and body in hell, while the other speaks of God as being able to cast into hell. The distinction which appears to obtain between the terms soul and body, is a mere Hebraism, as is evident from Matthew's account, which is allowed to have been written in Hebrew. But let us suppose that both body and spirit, the corporeal and the intellectual part of man are here intended, and that by hell we are to understand a place of suffering in the coming life. Will this agree with the orthodox theory? Who of all our opponents, believes that a corruptible body, with an immortal spirit, will be consigned to literal fire in a future state? Not one thus believes. We know that the body is scattered among the elements of which it is composed, and that dust returns to dust. But perhaps those who see the difficulty in this view of the text, are ready to refer this to the resurrection-state. This is assuming too much, for not the least intimation is here given of a resurrection. But it is not said that God will do this. His power is represented, not his designs. But, even if this were admitted as a certain catastrophe, we have no data on which to build the doctrine of endless misery. Nay, if we understand kill, and destroy, as equally applicable to both body and Spirit, it is very evident that annihilation is more probably meant, than ceaseless misery, for not the least hint is given of their after existence, in either happiness or misery.
But let us inquire of Paul, if psuhe, life, and pneuma, spirit, are both one. He speaks of dividing asunder of soul and spirit, Heb. 4: 12, and again makes the same distinction, 1 Thes. 5: 23. which may be exam
ined at your leisure. But one case more may be cited, which ought to put the subject at rest. Christ, when on the cross commended his pneuma, spirit, into the hands of his Father; while his psuhe, soul, went to hades, in which place it was not left, for the body was
aised by the power of God, and its psuhe, life, restored. But the context to the passage under consideration, is explicit as to the meaning of the word rendered soul. Mat. 10: 39. he that findeth his psuhe, life, shall lose it. Here it is evident, that our Lord's meaning was this: he that refuses to believe me in the prediction of that destruction which was at hand, will assuredly perish, while those who take my counsel will be saved from the threatened evil. This we find true in point of fact. The unbelieving Jews, thought that if the religion of Jesus should prevail, the Romans would come and take away both their place and nation. His religion was a peaceable, non-resisting religion, and they expected a conquering Prince, who should free them from the Roman yoke. The dreadful sufferings of the Jews when their city was taken, proved the words of the Saviour true.
One apparent difficulty remains yet to be solved. It may be asked, what are we to understand by the expression in Luke, which implies, that the destruction which God can effect, is after the body is killed. Man, indeed, can do no more than dissolve the connexion between the body and its life, or in other words, kill the body. God can, indeed, withhold his power, and the life would be annihilated, and were we taught by God that he will in any instance thus act, we might indeed, strongly assert the doctrine of annihilation, but it would be doing nothing in favour of endless misery. No power but his who alone hath immortality, can preserve the spirit in an immortal state. But we must find some very different passage, on which to build either the one or the other dogma. But we shall
present a question worthy of due consideration. Does killing, or destroying the life, signify continuing it in existence in any state? When this can be duly answered, we will find time to re-examine the subject.
A vast deal more might be said on this subject, in illustration of the foregoing, but we refer the reader to Mr. Balfour's 1st Inquiry, and his answer to Rev. J. Sabine, as our room will permit no more than a single quotation.
"We have now one remark to make, and we deem it conclusive on this subject. Supposing then that Gehenna, in the passages under consideration, does mean the place of endless misery. Let this be considered for argument's sake, a truth: yea, let it also be granted that the punishment of this place is of endless duration, I ask what follows from these passages? It only follows that the body, or if you please, body and soul, or the life, are destroyed there. It does not follow that the pneuma, spirit, or immortal part, has any concern in this punishment. No; for we have seen them expressly distinguished; and in these passages not a word is said about its being in Gehenna, or punished there. No: nothing like this is to be found in the Bible. We read there of nephish, psuhe, soul, or life, going to Sheol or Hades, and hear of its being destroyed in Gehenna; but do we ever read of the pneuma, spirit, being in any of those places? No; at death, it returns to God, who gave it. So far from the pneuma, spirit, being tormented, killed, or destroyed in Gehenna, or any of those places, it is never represented as being in them at all. We call on any man to produce an instance from Scripture where it is ever said the pneuma, spirit, is in Gehenna, or killed or destroyed in Gehenna. Though nothing like this is to be found in the sacred writings, yet people, from the passage we are considering, conclude that the immortal spirit of man is to be killed or de
stroyed in Gehenna. Even in the parable of the rich man, it it is not said his pneuma, spirit, was there, or tormented in Hades. No such representations are given in the Bible, either about Hades or Gehenna. But ought not such representations to be found there, if the common belief be the doctrine of Scripture? It certainly is the common opinion that the spirits of the wicked go to hell, at death. But from what part of the Scriptures do we learn this? If evi dence of such a doctrine is to be found there, let it be produced."
James 3: 6, is the last place in which we find Gehenna in the N. T. And that it is here used in a figurative sense, no one will dispute. "And 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." In examining this passage, we believe few would be such fanatics, as to declare that the fire which kindles on the tongue, was lighted in a place of endless misery, or even in the literal Gehenna to which James alluded. Every one may see, that the apostle alludes to the impurities of Gehenna, with which the pollutions of the tongue are compared. But this is illustrated by other passages of scripture. For instance, we are told that iniquity burneth like fire; and Peter advises, that he who would see good days, should refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile. Our Lord also speaks of the tongue in a similar manner, when he says, that out of the heart proceed blasphemies, evil speaking, &c. But we need go no further into this subject than our own observation. How many families, churches, societies, communities, and whole nations are set on fire by the improper use of the tongue! Nay, look at the desolating wars which blacken the page of history, and the almost inextinguishable fires of wrath which are kindled by the