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Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain of the brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also.” (Acts xvii. 1–6.) I cannot doubt that it is to these the apostle refers in his letter to the christian church in this place, when he says, “ it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you :" for such was the rancorous enmity of these Thessalonian Jews to the cause of Christ, (and indeed of the Jews in general,) that they followed the apostles with persecutions even to other and distant places : see what is said of their conduct at Berea. 6 But when the Jews of Thessalonica had knowledge that the word of God was preached of Paul at Berea, they came thither also, and stirred up the people.” (ib. 13.) Similar notices of the opposition of this bigoted people to the apostles appear in several places in the book of Acts: see the following, for example, which relates to Antioch. 66 And the next sabbath-day came almost all the whole city together to hear the word of God. But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming.” (Acts xiii. 44, 45.) “And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region. But the Jews stirred up the devout and honourable women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts." (ib. 49, 50.)
“ But what," it may again be asked, “are we to understand by a destruction from the presence of the Lord ?!” &c. Literally, the presence of God is every where : “ Whither shall I go from thy Spirit ? or whither shall I flee from thy presence ? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, an dwell in the uitermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold
If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and
the light are both alike to thee.” (Psl. cxxxix. 7—12.) There can be no getting out of God's presence, then, literally : this must necessarily be understood in some qualified sense, and that sense may well be supposed, a banishment from such place or places as Jehovah was supposed specially to manifest himself in. I need not inform my heaters that the land of Judea was thought by the Jews to be such a place ; more especially Jerusalem, and more especially still the temple there: To it, in their banishments, they turned their faces when they prayed.—There shone the shekinah, the representative of the divine presence—there was the holy of holies, where Jehovah was supposed to dwell between the cherubim. Jonah expressly identifies the temple as the place of God's presence : “Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple." (Jonah ii. 4.) So says David, repeatedly, (Psl. xcv. 2: c. 2.) The fact of Jerusalem being regarded in that light is still more plainly evinced in the following passage, which commemorates the forbearance of God toward the Jews, in not exiling them from their country : “ And the LORD was gracious unto them, and had compassion on them, and had respect unto them, because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and would not destroy them, neither cast he them from his presence as yet.” (2 Kings xiii. 23.) The following is also to the same effect:
“ For through the anger of the Lord it came to pass in Jerusalem and Judah, until he had cast them out from his presence, that Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon.” (ibid. xxiv. 20.) Now if even the Jews were sojourning in foreign lands, yet, as they were in the habit of going to Jerusalem at the times of their great feasts and religious festivals, they might with equal propriety all be said to have been driven from God's presence, when their beloved city and temple were consumed with flames their civil and ecclesiastical privileges taken from them, and they, scattered as a conquered and captive people amongst the different nations of the Roman empire.
“ But the punishment is termed everlasting, and this,” it may be said, “signifies duration without end.” On this feature of the case I shall not at present devote much time, as I design by and by to consider the scriptural uses of these words at large. One only view of the subject will I here take, which, however, I think
ought of itself be sufficient. If the word everlasting, as used in the scriptures, strictly, and generally, mean endless duration, we then have two communications, resting equally on divine authority, which are in direct, and irreconcilable contradiction to each other. The one of these is an absolute promise that the Israelites should hold the land of Canaan by an everlasting possession. (Gen. xlviii. 4.) The other is that they should be exiled from their country, and scattered amongst all the nations of the earth. I need not quote authority for the latter, as it occurs in several places, and long since is so strikingly confirmed by fact. If the everlasting banishment the Jews from their country were now brought to a close, it would even then have proved of as long duration as did the everlasting possession; but the former may still continue as long in the future, for aught that appears to the contrary, as it already has in the past.
Let us now to the passage in Heb. ix, in which it is thought the doctrine of a judgment after death is directly asserted. Surely no text has been more trifled with, or more wrested from its purpose, than this : in order to make it speak a sense which it was never meant to speak, it is a usual practice of our opponets to mutulate it at both ends; from the beginning are clipped the words, “ And as,” which agreeably to the laws of grammar, connect it inseparably with what goes before: and at the end is unceremoniously lopped off all that follows the word “judgment;": whereas the adverbial conjunction, “so,” by the same laws, indissolubly joins it to what comes after! By thus mincing the passage, our opponents have brought it into tolerable subserviency to the notion of a post mortem judgment. Correctly quoted it reads as follows: “ And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment; So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many: and unto them that look for him shall he
appear the second time, without sin unto salvation.” (Heb. ix. 27, 28.)
Who, that reads the whole connexion, can suppose the writer had any allusion to the death and judgment of men in common ? Understood in such light it is as whimsical and vagrant an episode to the subject in hand, as was ever perpetrated by a writer in sober prose! It is a link of sand in a chain of gold !
Truth is, that Paul (or whoever is the author of this epistle) is speaking of a particular class of men, and not of men in general ;
this is confirmed by the Greek reading of the text. “ And as it is appointed unto the men (Tols av&pwmois) once to die,” &c. Those, namely, with whom he is contrasting Jesus Christ in his priestly capacity—the Jewish high-priests. It is quite impossible for any one who candidly attends to the connexion to deny this. But I may be asked, “ In what peculiar sense did these men die ? and what are we to understand of the judgment which followed ?" Fair questions these, and they shall be fairly answered.
Paul, as I have said, is running a parallel between the Levitical priesthood and that of Jesus Christ; the former did not continue long in one person “ by reason of death,” but Christ continuesh forever, and therefore “ hath an unchangeable priesthood :” the saviour “ needeth not daily as those high-priests to offer up sacrifices,” for this, (" when he offered up himself,”) he did once, forever: the Levitical priests went into the holy places made with hands,” but Christ “into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us :" the former entered “ with the blood of others, but Christ with his own blood ;" the annual death of the former was but typical, not actual ; the one sacrificial death of Christ was real, and personal. When the Jewish high-priest came out from the holy of holies, (having died, in the manner stated, “for his own sins, and for the sins of the people,”') he pronounced a judgment upon the congregation who waited without the tabernacle for his re-appearance; this was a sentence of acquittal of their errors of the past year; it was in the following words: “ The Lord bless thee, and keep thee The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee; The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.” (Num. vi. 24—27.) The author of the epistle to the Hebrews has most ingeniously accommodated this circumstance in the usages of Jewish worship to illustrate certain facts under the gospel : as, for example, the Levitical high-priest was seen after his ceremonial death by the congregation, looking for him, to their joy, and justification from the sins of the past year. So Christ, though dead, shall appear in the hearts of all believers unto their salvation--salvation, not from the condemnation for sin merely, but from sin itself
So much for this passage, so strongly relied upon by many in proof of post-mortem judgment. I put it to your candor and good
sense, my hearers, if it can be properly considered as being at all to that purpose ? That cause must be sadly put to it for authorities which resorts to one so really foreign to its object, as is the text before us to the object of the doctrine of a general judgment after death. It is any thing but probable that a short isolated declaration, about men in general being judged after they died, should have been thrown into the midst of a chain of argumentation, which had for its object the exemplifying the superiority of the christian over the Jewish priesthood! And besides, if we even lose sight of this absurdity, and admit the clause to refer to a general judgment after death, then tell me pray, what analogy can be found betwixt that circumstance, and the sacrificial offering and subsequent appearance of Christ to believers ? Can you discover any, whatever ? If none, then that circumstance cannot be the one intended by the writer in the text, but some other with which Christ's death and subsequeut appearance will compare ; and I have already shown what that is.
Well, my opponent has given us two other texts—one in Daniel vii, the other in Revelation xx: he confesses them somewhat obscure and enigmatical, and he therefore leans not on them with much reliance; we will glance at them nevertheless, for if they will not serve to prove the position of our friend, they may to refute it.
As to the one in Daniel, it wholly relates to what should take place in the days of the fourth kingdom-which, as all good eritics unite in saying, is the Roman empire. These kingdoms were first shadowed forth to the mind of Nebuchadnezzar in a dream, under the representation of a large image of a human figure; the head thereof, being of gold, symbolized the Assyrian empire; the breast and arms of silver, symbolized the MedoPersian (which subverted the Assyrian ;) the belly and thighs of brass, represented the Macedonian (which subverted the MedoPersian ;) the legs and feet of iron and clay, shadowed forth the Roman power (which subverted the Macedonian ;) the ten toes of the image represented the ten kingdoms of which the Roman power was composed. “And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed : and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it