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supports of that sentiment, we propose to examine it at some length, and make the notes as particular as possible.
1. What is intended by cutting off a hand, or a foot, or plucking out an eye. The evident sense of the figure is, let nothing prevent you from embracing my gospel, and entering into life. By observing Matt. v. 28, it will be perceived that Jesus had been speaking of a sin, into which men were led by the instrumentality of the eye. He then immediately adds, "If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee." Forego all gratifications inconsistent with virtue, and the moral laws of my kingdom; for it is better so to do, than by giving yourselves up to sin, to be totally destroyed. ArchBishop Newcome says on these words, "if thy d hand offend thee, &c. "This is a strong eastern manner of expressing that seductions to sin, and particularly stumbling blocks in the way of openly professing the gospel at that season, should be avoided at all events; and that the causes of guilt and apostacy should be removed, whatever favorite gratifications were foregone, whatever temporal evils were endured." Mr. Ballou has taken
1 Newcome's Observations, Charlestown, 1810, pp. 32, 33.
We shall show what is intended by cutting off a hand, or a foot, or plucking out an eye. 2. What is intended by entering into "life" (ver. 43) or "the kingdom of God" (ver. 47.)
3. The true sense of the word "hell," and of the phrase "hell fire."
4. Consider the words, "Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. Vers. 44, 46, 48.
5. Illustrate the proposition, that it was better to part with the offending member, than to be cast into "hell fire."
a little different view of this subject. "The evident meaning of the Saviour," says he, "seems to be this: if one of your nearest connexions in the world, even if one as dear to you as a hand, should oppose your yielding obedience to the gospel, part with this dear connexion råther than part with divine truth. And though you thereby feel as one who has lost a hand, yet what you gain is more than what you lose. In this connexion Jesus mentions the cutting off of a foot, and the plucking out of an eye, for the same cause as the cutting off of the hand; and it is very evident that this recommendation was given on account of the opposition that was constantly in exercise against the cause of truth, and which he knew would increase unto grievous persecution." The views taken by both these writers may be considered just. No temptations, no friends, nothing on earth, should have hindered men from entering the kingdom of Christ; every thing must have been foregone when put into competition with this; since, in that age, the greatest calamities ever known fell on the enemies of the Son of God.
2. What is intended by entering into "life," or the "kingdom of God." That these two phrases are synonimous will be evident by comparing vers. 43 and 47. To enter "life" in the scriptures, is to enter into the belief and enjoyment of the truth. Hence the Saviour saith, "THIS IS LIFE ETERNAL, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent." John xvii. 3. Here the knowledge of God is called "eternal life." Again, in John, v. 24, we read, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and
1 See Lecture Sermons, p. 217.
shall not come into condemnation, but is passed (i. e. is already passed) from death unto life." John says, "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren: he that loveth not his brother abideth in death." 1 John iii. 14. These passages certainly make the subject plain; and shew that coming to the knowledge and enjoyment of the truth is "entering into life." Now this is precisely what is meant by entering into "the kingdom of God." The kingdom of God, or the kingdom of heaven, both signifying the same thing, are put for the spiritual kingdom of Christ, which he came to set up among men.1 John the Baptist commenced his ministry by saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Matt. iii. 2. When Jesus began to preach, he announced the approach of his moral kingdom in the same manner. "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Matt. iv. 17. In the instruction, which Jesus gave his apostles, when he sent them out, he says, "as ye go, preach, saying, the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Matt. x. 7. His kingdom was not afar off, it was at hand; it was not in another state of existence, it was here on the earth; it was the moral reign of Christ among men. Jesus said to the Pharisees, "the kingdom of God is come unto you." Matt. xii. 28. On another occasion he said, "The kingdom of God cometh not with observation, neither shall they say, lo here! or lo there! for behold the kingdom of God is within you," or among you. Luke xvii. 19, 20. To enter into the kingdom of God, was to embrace, profess and obey the gospel. Whosoever did this was un
1 See Dr. Campbell's Version of all the passages where these phrases occur, and his Preliminary Dissertation on the same subject. See also Adam Clarke on Matt. iii. 2.
der the government of Christ; he was in the reign of Christ; he was in the kingdom of Christ. And as all the real disciples of the Redeemer were saved from those tribulations which fell on the unbelievers of that age, Jesus warned his followers that no consideration whatever should induce them to decline entering into the kingdom of God. These views will be more fully confirmed as we proceed.
3. Let us seek for the true sense of the word "hell," and of the phrase "hell fire." The Greek word here rendered "hell," is Gehenna.1 This word, as every person of common biblical science knows, signified the valley of Hinnom, near Jerusalem. It is a compound of two Hebrew words, ge, the land or the valley, and Hinnom, the name of the owner. It was there the cruel sacrifices of animals, and sometimes children, were made to Moloch, the Ammonitish idol. This place is sometimes called Tophet, as some think from Toph, a word which signifies a drum, because drums were beat to drown the cries of the suffering children; or according to others, from a particular fire stove in the place. In the reign of the good king Josiah, the idolatrous worship into which the Jews had been led, was broken up, and Gehenna was defiled, and made the receptacle of the filth of Jerusalem. A continual fire was kept burning, to destroy car
1 There are four words rendered hell in the Bible, viz. Sheol. Hades, Tartarus, and Gehenna. Sheol is a Hebrew word, and of course is always found in the Old Testament. It occurs in sixty four instances, in thirty-two of which it is rendered hell, and in the other thirty-two, pit and grave. Hades is a Greek translation of Sheol, and always has the same meaning. It occurs eleven times, ten of which it is rendered hell, and once (1 Cor. xv. 55,) grave. Tartarus does not really occur at all, but a denominative verb derived from it, which is rendered "cast down to hell." It is found once only, in 2 Peter, ii. 4. Gehenna occurs twelve times, and is uniformly rendered hell. In the common English version, the word hell occurs, in both Old and New Testaments, fifty-five times.
casses thrown in; and, in a word, Gehenna became as abominable under the reign of Josiah, as it had been sacred during the idolatrous worship of the Jews. In process of time, as all writers agree, Gehenna came to be a place of punishment where criminals were caused to suffer death by burning; and in this sense the Saviour uses the word when he says, "but whosoever shall say thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire," i. e. the fire of Gehenna.1 With such abhorrence and dread, under all these circumstances, did the Jews regard this place, that they used it as a figure of dreadful woes and judgments; and so we find it used both in the Old and New Testament. Thus in Jer. xix. the destruction of Israel is foretold;* and in summing up what he had said the prophet adds, ver. 12, "thus will I do unto this place saith the Lord, and to the inhabitants thereof, and even make this city as Tophet." Here Gehenna is certainly used as a figure to represent Jerusalem under its tribulations. We recommend the reader to peruse the whole of Jer. xix. See also Jer. vii. 31-34. Jesus used the word in the same sense. Of this we think there cannot be the shadow of a doubt. He said to the Pharisees, "ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of Gehenna?" Matt. xxiii. 33. He immediately adds, "Verily I say unto you, all these things shall come upon this generation." Ver. 36. Whatever Jesus here meant by the "damnation of Gehenna," he certainly confined to that generation; and can there be a question in the mind of any judicious
1 On this passage, the learned Parkhurst, a strict believer in endless misery observes, "Gehenna of fire does, I apprehend, in its outward and primary sense, relate to that dreadful doom of being burnt alive in the valley of Hinnom.'