Page images
PDF
EPUB

signifies . an unseen place."" To this agree, also, Dr. Campbell, of Aberdeen, and many others.

Not only in regard to the literal sense of the Old Testament word rendered hell, are learned commentators agreed, but also in regard to the fact, that the idea of punishment beyond death was not entertained by the Jewish people, nor inculcated in their sacred oracles : this must surely be admitted a highly important concession. Look at it, reader. The Jewish economy continued down to the four thousandth year of the world, and after. For all this period, then, no revelation had been made to man concerning a hell beyond the grave. And although Jehovah had established a church on earth, and revealed to that church his character and his laws; although he addressed the human will by every motive likely to influence it; yet, for four thousand years and more, no disclosure was made relative to a fact the most awful that finite mind can contemplate; a fact (if true) which ought to have been traced in words of flame on every object in nature !!!

There was not in the Hebrew language a word denoting such a state or place as an ultra-mundane hell; for although in our version of the Old Testament, we occasionally meet the word hell, yet it is derived from a term (sheol) which literally signifies the separate state. The Jews evidently supposed that all the dead go to the same place. Their usual phraseology in regard to a deceased person was, (whatever might have been his character,) "he was gathered to his fathers.” Nor did this relate merely to the body of such individual, for we find it used in reference to those who were interred in foreign lands, as well as to such as were buried in the family cemetery with their progenitors.

That the term sheol suggested no idea to the mind of a Jew answering to the modern signification of the word hell, must be extremely apparent to every candid student of the Old Testament; see for proof the following, among numerous similar instances of the application of this term.

When the patriarch Jacob supposed his son Jatob to be torn in pieces by a wild beast, he excl ed, “I will go down unto [sheol] the grave unto my son, mourning.” (Gen. XXXV. 37.) Job, in the midst of his troubles, supplicated his Maker as follows: “Oh, that thou wouldst hide me in (sheol] the grave, that thou wouldst keep me secret till thy wrath be past.” (Job, xii.

ever."

14.) David exclaims, on one occasion, “Oh Lord, thou hast brought up my soul from (sheol] the grave.” (Ps. xxx. 3.) i another place the psalmist saith, “ For thou wilt not leave my soul in [sheol] hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.” (Ps. xvi. 10.) Peter represents him as having used this language in reference to Christ. (Acts xiii. 15.) 66 The Lord killeth, and maketh alive; he bringeth down to (sheol] the grave, and bringeth up.” (1 Sam. ii. 6.)

" The grave (sheol] is my house.” (Job.) This was no doubt said in allusion to the “long-home” of man—"the house appointed for all the living." Jonah cried unto the Lord “ out of the belly of [sheol] hell.” This was while he was in the belly of the fish; he viewed himself as already cut off from the living, and included among the inhabitants of the separate state, and therefore he says “the earth' with her bars closed against me for

Yet he lived after this to preach to the Ninevites. • Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in sheol, whither thou goest.” (Eccl. ix. 10.) People cannot well be tormented in flames, without knowing something about it, but Solomon says,

" there is no knowledge in sheol!"..consequently, sheol cannot be a place of torment.

The king of Babylon was threatened with being “ brought down to [sheol] hell, to the sides of the pit," and that while there, the kings of the earth should see him, and taunt him with his former boasted greatness, saying, “Is this the man that made the earth to tremble? (Isa. xiv. 15, 16.) Hell (sheol] is confounded with “ the nether parts of the earth.' (Ezek. xxi. 22.) In 'Amos ix. the Lord threatens to bring the sword upon the Jewish nation, and he says, “ 'Though they dig into [sheol] hell, thence shall my hand take them."

These must fully suffice to show that sheol, in Old Testament times, was not supposed a receptacle of damned spirits. Jacob surely did not imagine that his beloved Joseph had gone to a world of misery--nor did he expect that his own gray hairs would sink in sorrow to such a place-neither did David allude to a realm of fire when he said his soul should not be left in hell -nor did Jonah mistake the whale's belly for such a realm-nor did Peter think that Christ's soul went, at death, to a hell of VOL. 1.-X

No. 12.

modern description. No, no; no such spectre-peopled limbo as starts up in modern imaginations at the mention of that word, was ever associated with it in the ininds of the inspired writers.

The same is on all hands, acknowledged true in regard to the Greek term hades ; which, by the most eminent critics, is defined as signifying an unseen state ; and is literally used to denote the state of the dead in general. This (even if we set aside the etymological evidence in the case,) is most satisfactorily proven by the fact, that the seventy Jews who translated the Hebrew scriptures into Greek, under Ptolemy Philadelphus, about 270 years before Christ, have employed hades as a corresponding word for sheol, and it so stands in their version, called the Septuagent, from which Christ and his apostles were in the habit of quoting. It is true, that of the eleven times it occurs in the New Testament, King James' translators have but once rendered it by the word grave; but it is exceedingly manifest that, in all its literal applications, grave or the separate state, would have better conveyed the sense of the original, than does the term hell.

Both sheol and hades are occasionally used in the scriptures in a figurative, or accommodated signification ; between which and the primary idea, there is undoubtedly a close analogy. Previous to the introduction of christianity, the ideas of men respecting the future state were vague, dark, and uncertain ; we must all remember that such were our own feelings, in our childhood, in relation to death and its consequences ; an uneasinessa terror of an indefinable nature, is the natural state of the mind in relation to that undisclosed realm beyond the grave, until the light and hopes of the gospel have calmed the fears of the spirit, and composed its flutterings. It is then not to be won dered at, that the Jews, to whom the state of the dead was equally undefined, should occasionally accommodate the terms sheol, and hades, to express a condition of mental suffering and disquietude, proceeding from whatever cause, more especially from temorse of conscience. Such is unquestionably the meaning of these words in their figurative application.

“ The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of (sheol] hell got hold of me. I found trouble and sorrow.” (Ps. cxvi. 3.) Now all this occurred to him in this life; and intense as these hell-sufferings were, yet he survived them,

David says,

for he continues, “In my distress I cried unto God, he stooped from above, he took me, he drew me out of many waters." Let it be remembered, that although the general tenor of David's life was upright, yet there were instances in which he very greatly sinned. It was, therefore, meet that he should greatly suffer, which he did, as appears from the text just quoted, and the following truth was no doubt recorded from his own bitter experi

ence,

6. The wicked shall be turned into (sheol] hell, with all the nations that forget God.” (Ps. ix. 17.) That is to say, moral darkness, degradation and misery shall be their infallible portion. There is such a thing as national, as well as personal damnation. “ Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” (Prov. xiv. 34.) The nations of the plain were turned into sheol literally, i. e. into the invisible state. The Jewish nation was often turned into sheol morally, i. e. into the blind, abject, enslaved, unhappy state, to which forgetfulness of God in. variably sinks an individual or nation. 6. Because of the transgression of a land, many are the princess thereof." (Prov. xxviii. 2.) How true is this ? Wickedness disposes a people to be slaves, and they multiply their princes or oppressors accordingly. But free, and “happy is that people whose God is the Lord." (Ps. cxliv. 15.)

David had not only been in sheol, but the lowest sheol. Nevertheless, he survived to thank God for his deliverance. “ Great is thy mercy towards me, for thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest [sheol] hell." , (Ps. lxxxvi. 13.) His soul, prostrated under an overwhelming sense of guilt (probably on account of his cruel conduct in the case of Uriah) experienced a depth of moral wretchedness not to be described, save by the expressive phrase lowest sheol.Now there cannot be a lower than the lowest, and the wise man, as well as the psalmist, testifies, that the state implied in this expression is experienced in this life. Speaking of the wicked woman, Solomon says, “ her guests are in the depths of (sheol] hell.(Prov. ix. 18.) Yes! the deluded debauchee greatly mistakes his road to happiness, while he is rioting in brutal gratification; midnight gloom settles upon his soul, and, in regard to moral enjoyment, it resembles a waste and parched desert, without one verdant spot on which his hopes can

is not very

light for sustenance. There is still another instance of the use of this phrase. The reader may examine it, and determine whether it can be referred to a future life.

“ For a fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest (sheol] hell, and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains. I will heap mischiefs upon them ; I will spend mine arrows upon them. I will also send the teeth of beasts upon them, with the poison of serpents of the dust. The sword without, and the terror within, shall destroy both the young man and the virgin, the suckling also, with the man of gray hairs.” (Deut, xxxii. 22–25.) I have quoted thus much, that the reader may the more readily perceive its inapplicability to the spiritual state. And yet uncommon for learned ministers to quote certain detached parts of it with such a reference! This text expresses what should be the fate of the Jewish nation when it should “forget God;" and such shall be the fate of all nations similarly guilty.

And now, reader, need more be added for your conviction concerning the meaning of the term sheol? If it properly refers to a place of ceaseless suffering, is it not surprising that it is not once used in the bible in express reference to such a place? Yet such is the fact—as must be acknowledged by every candid biblical student. Observe, this is the only hell of which the world knew any thing authentically for 4000 years! If there be any truth in the modern dogma concerning an infernal prison in a future world, is it not very remarkable that Jehovah did not disclose the momentous fact to his covenant people, amidst the many threatnings which he denounced against them in case they should relapse into idolatry? It really seems to me incredible, that a circumstance of such immense consequence should have been kept secret-seeing a truth of this nature is of such vast concern to mankind, and their utter ignorance respecting it for so many ages, is certainly no inconsiderable evidence that no such place exists.

The same remarks are applicable to hades; the most striking instance of its figurative application is in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. I have already noticed this at some length, and shown that it cannot be understood as belonging to a future world without gross impropriety ; because the party represented therein as having gone to hades, (or rather as having been buried

« PreviousContinue »