Imágenes de páginas

2d. To disprove the doctrine generally deduced from them.

My hearers will be surprised by the declaration, that not one of the original words, which our translators have rendered Hell, conveys the idea of a place or state of punishment in another mode of existence; and consequently their just indignation will be excited against that deceptious system of duplicity, which has so long abused mankind by the misuse of terms, and perversion of reason and religion. The word Hell, in its modern acceptation, excites in the mind a very diferent idea from that which the term formerly expressed. To our notions of it the words of the Latin poet apply.


Tempora mutantur, et nos mutamur ab illis.” The word has lost its primitive signification, which, like the original words of which it is the translation in our Bibles, was perfectly innocent, and has acquired the modern and hideous idea of a place appropriated to the execution of interminable punishment. The word Hell, therefore, by the consent of the ablest commentators of all denominations, should be expunged from our Bibles; and no longer used as the translation of the Greek or Hebrew terms; for there is, confessedly, no word in the original scriptures to express the modern idea of Hell! The word, says Dr. A. Clarke, is derived from the Anglo-Saxon Helan, which signifies to cover, conceal, or hide; and hence the tilings or covering of a house, and the covers of books are to this day called Heling, and the phrase to hell is still used as synonymous with to cover or hide, in several of the western counties of England, especially, Cornwall and Lancaster. Thus the true and primitive meaning of the word hell, was perfectly accordant with the idea suggested by the Hebrew sheol, and the Greek Hades; for as nouns, all the three words imply something unseen, concealed, or invisible; and have there

fore been employed with propriety to convey the notion of an unseen world, the grave, or state of the dead in general. Similar are the sentiments of the learned Archbishop Usher, expressed in his Treatise de Lim. Patr." We have no word in the French or English language to express the idea conveyed by the Hebrew sheol, the Greek hades, or the Latin inferni. Our English word hell had anciently this meaning; being derived from the German hill, to hide. Hence the an cient Irish used to say 'hill the head,' meaning to cover the head. So that our hell then answered to the Greck hades, which signifies an unseen place." Drs. S. and A. Clarke, Campbell, Whitby, and others, approbate the above definition of hell, and harmoniously unite in opinion, that hell originally answered to the Greek and Hebrew terms, but ought not to be used in the modern sense, as the translation of sheol or hades.

How strange then, that from the term hell, should have arisen those dreadful notions, which are so as siduously progagated in the world, and which men of fruitful imaginations have so effectually made to operate as the means of delusion and aggrandizement. It is not however surprising, that superstition should act most powerfully on the fears of her votaries, since the human fancy can paint with greater energy the misery than the bliss of a future state.-With the two simple ideas of darkness and fire, we can create a sensation of pain, which may be aggravated to an infinite degree, by adding the idea of endless duration. Hence from the greater facility of depicting the horrors which dis-tract the mind or ruin the peace of society, hell, which contained just as much happiness as misery, in its idea, came to be used by religious impostors of every description, as a fit engine to awe the mind of the credulous into that pliability, necessary to favour the views of the avaricious priest or tyrannical monarch. Egypt,

the mother of gods, superstition, and mystery, gave origin to the whole doctrine of Hell; if we lop off the exuberances of infuriated orthodoxy, during the dark ages of papal delusion. These happy plains, says Diodorus, extending from the Nile to the Pyramids, where once stood the famous Memphis, reported to be the abode of the just after death, are no other than the beautiful country in the vicinity of the lake Acherusia, near Memphis. It is not without foundation, that the dead have been said to reside here; for here terminate the funeral ceremonies of most of the Egyptians. Their bodies, having been conveyed across the Nile and the lake Acherusia, are finally deposited in tombs constructed under the surface of these plains. The ceremonies yet practised in Egypt correspond with all the notions of the Greeks, concerning the infernal regions.


This word, which is translated Hell in the scriptures of the Old Testament, signifies only the state of the dead indiscriminately. Thus Ps. 89: 47, according to the translation of the common prayer, reads, what man is he that liveth, and shall not see death; and shall he deliver his soul from the hand of hell? What Solomon says, (Prov. 27: 20,) hell and destruction are never full, is perfectly explained by chap. 30: 15, there be three things which are never satisfied-Sheol or Hell, etc.

The Hebrew word, sheol, is derived from shaal, to ask, pray, or hide. Kennicot, who compared the Bible with above 1000 Mss. and thus became a practical Hebrician, affirms that the radical meaning of shaal, is to ask or pray. In this sense our translators understood it, Gen. 32: 29. Deut. 4: 32, and 37: 7. Josh. 4: 6, Jud. 18: 5, etc. The Septuagint renders it aitesan, in Ex. 3: 22, and every impartial inquirer will be satisfied by consulting Pool's Annotations on

[ocr errors]

the passage, Whitby on Acts, 2: 27, Kennicot's first dissertation, p. 390, and Shuckford's Connexions, vol. 2, p. 340.

The learned Buxtorf defines sheol, the "general place of the dead;" and another very competent judge and excellent Commentator, Dr. Whitby, says, according to the scriptures, the Jewish writers, the ancient Fathers and the still more ancient heathen, the Hebrew Sheol, and the Greek Hades, which answers to it in the translation of the Seventy, signifies the place of reception of all the dead. In this sense alone can we understand the sacred writers. In the first place where the word sheol as a noun occurs, Gen. 37: 35, we find the pious Patriarch, saying, "I will go down into Sheol, to my son mourning." How absurd to suppose that Jacob believed his beloved son to be in a place of torment! And how desperately wicked the language both of the holy Jacob and the patient Job, if we attach to the word Hell the modern meaning. The former exclaims, "I shall go to Hell," and the latter prays, "Oh that thou wouldst hide me in Hell till thy wrath be past!" Job 14: 13. In the views of our modern evangelical preachers, Hell is the very focus of the Divine wrath, yet Job prays to be hid in it, in order to escape that wrath! O how confounded is the language of Babel! Our modern Babel-builders have long pretended to speak a holy, ancient, and Biblical language, but God Almighty, in respect for the truth, has manifested their character by the confusion of tongues.

It is proper here to notify my readers, that in the Old Testament, the word Sheol, does not mean the place of separate spirits; for the writers of the Jewish scriptures had no knowledge of a future mode of existence. They neither feared nor hoped for any thing beyond the grave! Sheol therefore only implies the state of the dead, or that chaos of nonenity that was

supposed to follow dissolution. Neither friend nor foe, learned nor unlearned can put his finger on a single passage in the Old Testament and say, here is information, that man shall live again. Had the sacred writers ever thought that Sheol meant the abode of spirits, or had they believed in a separate state, they would not have declared, "there is no device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in Sheol. Eccl. 9: 10. In death there is no remembrance of God, and none shall give him thanks in Sheol, Ps. 6: 6. Sheol cannot praise God, Is. 38: 18. And that the dead know not any thing, Eccl. 9: 5. A man hath no pre-eminence above a beast for all go into one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again. Eccl. 3: 19, 20. As the waters fail from the sea, and the flood drieth up, so man lieth down and riseth not! Job

14: 12.

We have shown that sheol, as a verb, signifies to ask or inquire; as a noun it conveys the idea of asking, or inquiry, and denotes that solicitous desire of man to know his fate or destiny after death. Hence we see that it differs radically from the hades of the Greeks, or the Hell of the moderns. Sheol, or Saul, was also a common appellative name in Israel. Their first king was so called, as also the great apostle of the Gentiles; but surely none would have been so wild as to have called their dear children by the name of sheol, or hell, had they conceived it to mean the accursed region of the damned! We therefore fairly and rationally conclude, from a full investigation of the passages, that the sheol or hell of the Old Testament denoted inquiry, a request, or figuratively, the invisible world, great solicitude, anxiety, or trouble: and any person accustomed to etymological investigation, will readily perceive how easily and naturally the figurative sense

rises from the literal. In the figurative sense we understand it, Ps. 9: 17; 30: 3; 86: 18; 116: 3; and

« AnteriorContinuar »