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We have already seen the concession of the learned, that neither Gehenna, nor any other word in the Old Testament, is there used to signify a place of endless, nor of limited misery, in any other world than this. It is past controversy, that if the ancient people of God knew no such place, they had no name by which to call it. The first question to be settled, is, how did those on whom Christ denounced this threat. ening, understand him? If we can learn the true answer to this question, the subject is closed, and the meaning demonstrated.
That we may gain the best light on the subject which our means will afford, we shall first present a few remarks from Dr. Campbell. He says," if the words and phrases employed by the apostles and evangelists, in delivering the revelation committed to them by the Holy Spirit, had not been agreeable to the received usage of the people to whom they spoke, their discourses, being unintelligible, could have conveyed no information, and consequently would have been no revelation to the hearers. Our Lord and his apostles, in publishing the gospel, first addressed themselves to their countrymen the Jews ; a people who had, many ages before, at different periods, been favoured with other revelations.
“ As the writings of the Old Testament are of a much earlier date, and contain an account of the rise and first establishment, together with a portion of the his. tory of the nation to whom the gospel was first promulgated, and of whom were all its first missionaries and teachers, it is thence unquestionably that we must learn, both what the principal facts, customs, doctrines, and precepts are, that are alluded to in the apostolical writings, and what is the proper signification and extent of the expressions used.
The good sense of this quotation is obvious, and we £an render it no higher praise than by attending to its
instructions. We have then to inquire, what was the * received usage of the people” to whom Jesus addressed the words in question? This is easily answered by the fact, that Gehenna is "a compound of the two Hebrew words, Ge hinnom, the valley of Hinnom, a place near Jerusalem. That this valley formed a division line among the children of Israel, is evident by Josh. 15: 8. · And the border went up by the valley of the son of Hinnom, unto the south side of the Jebusite ; the same is Jerusalem : and the border went up to the top of the mountain that lieth before the valley of Hinnom westward, which is at the end of the valley of the giants northward.” This is again mentioned in the same way, ch. 18: 16, and is occasionally noticed in other places of the Old Testament, in a way to put the subject of origin, as to the name, entirely out of dispute. Of the use to which they put this valley, we have already given abundant evidence. To a Jew, nothing could convey a more dreadful idea. Pollution and temporal suffering were the images with which the name was always associated, after it was used as a place of sacrifice for human victims, a depot of filth, and a repository for the carcasses of condemned malefactors.
As people have supposed that our Saviour used the term Gehenna as a figure to represent the sufferings of men in the invisible world, it may not be amiss to quote from the Old Testament, a prophecy which was on the eve of fulfilment when he delivered this threatening.
6. The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, Stand in the gate of the Lord's house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the Lord, all ye of Judah, that enter in at these gates to worship the Lord. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place. Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The temple of the Lord, The
temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord, are these. For if ye thoroughly amend your ways and your doings; if ye thoroughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbour ; If ye oppress not the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and shed not innocent blood in this place, neither walk after other gods to your hurt: Then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers, for ever and ever. Behold, ye trust in lying words, that cannot profit. Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods whom ye know not; and come and stand before me in this house, which is call. ed by my name, and say, We are delivered to do all these abominations? It is this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes ? behold even I have seen it, saith the Lord. But go ye now unto my place which was in Shiloh, where I get my name at the first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel. And now, be. cause ye have done all these works, saith the Lord, and I spake unto you, rising up early and speaking, but ye heard not; and I called you, but ye answered not; therefore will I do unto this house, which is called by my name, wherein ye trust, and unto the place which I gave to you and to your fathers, as I have done to Shiloh. And I will cast you out of my sight, as I have cast out all your brethren, even the whole seed of Ephraim. Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither left up cry nor prayer for them, neither make intercession to me: for I will not hear thee. Seest thou not what they do in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem ? The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead their dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink-offerings unto other gods, that they may provoke me to angere, Do they provoke me
to anger ? saith the Lord : do they not provoke themselves to the confusion of their own faces? Therefore thus saith the Lord God: Behold, mine anger and my fury shall be poured out upon that place, upon man, and upon beast, and upon the trees of the field, and upon the fruit of the ground; and it shall burn, and shall not be quenched. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel ; Put your burnt-offerings unto your sacrifices, and eat flesh. For I spake not unto your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt-offerings or sacrifices : But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people : and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you. : But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear, but walked in the counsels and in the imagination of their evil heart, and went backward, and not forward. Since the day that your
fathers came forth out of the land of Egypt unto this day; I have even sent unto you all my servants the prophets, daily rising ap early and sending them; Yet they hearkened not unto me nor inclined their ear, but hardened their neck: they did worse than their fathers. Therefore thou shalt speak all these words unto them: but they will not hearken to thee: thou shalt also call unto them ; but they will not answer thee. But thou shalt say unto them, This is a nation that obeyeth not the voice of the Lord their God, not receiveth correction: truth is perished, and is cut off from their mouth. Cut off thine hair, O Jerusalem, and cast it away, and take up a lamentation on high places; for the Lord hath rejected and forsaken the generation of his wrath. For the children of Judah have done evil in my sight, saith the Lord : they have set their abominations in the house which is called by my name, to pollute it. And they have built the high places of Tophet, which is in
the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire ; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my
heart. Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that it shall no more be called Tophet, nor the valley of the son of Hinnom, but the valley of slaughter: for they shall bury in Tophet, till there be no place. And the carcasses of this people shall be meat for the fowls of the heav. en, and for the beasts of the earth ; and none shall fray
Then will I cause to cease from the cities of Judah, and from the streets of Jerusalem, the voice of mirth, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride: for the land shall be desolate."
The reader is now requested to bear in mind the three last verses of this chapter, and while reading the 19th chapter, quoted below, notice the correspondence.
“Thus saith the Lord, go and get a porter's earthen bottle, and take of the ancients of the people, and of the ancients of the priests ; and go forth unto the valley of the son of Hinnom, which is by the entry of the east gate, and proclaim there the words that I shall tell thee;
the word of the Lord, O kings of Judah, and inhabitants of Jerusalem : Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, the which whosoever heareth, his ears shall tingle. Because they have forsaken me, and have estranged this place, and have burned incense in it unto other gods, whom neither they nor their fathers have known, nor the kings of Judah, and have filled this place with the blood of innocents; They have built also the high places of Baal, to burn their sons with fire for burnt-offerings unto Baal, which I commanded not, nor spake it, neither came it into my mind : Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that this place shall no more be