Imatges de pÓgina
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Si certum finem esse viderent
Ærumnarum homines, aliqua ratione valerent
Religionibus atque minis obsistere vatum.
Nunc ratio nulla est restandi, nulla facultas;
Æternas quoniam penas in morte timendum.

LUCRETIUS, book i. 108.
If it once appear
That after death there's neither hope nor fear;
Then might men freely triumph, then disdain
The poet's tales, and scorn their fancied pain;
But now we must submit, since pains we fear

Eternal after death, we know not where.--CREECH. It was therefore true, that among the lowest classes of the people, some laughed at hell, and others trembled at it. Some regarded Cerberus, the Furies, and Pluto, as ridiculous fables, others perpetually presented offerings to the infernal gods. It was with them just as it is now among ourselves :

Et quocumque tamen miseri venere, parentant,
Et nigros mactant pecudes, et Manibu' divis
Inferias mittunt multoque in rebus acerbis
Acrius admittunt animos ad religionem.

LUCRETIUS, iii. 51.
Nay, more than that, where'er the wretches come
They sacrifice black sheep on every tomb,
To please the manes; and of all the rout,
When cares and dangers press, grow most devout.

CREECH. Many philosophers who had no belief in the fables about hell, were yet desirous that the people should retain that belief. Such was Zimens of Locris. Such was the political historian Polybius. “Hell,” says he, “is useless to sages, but necessary to the blind and brutal populace."

It is well known, that the law of the Pentateuch never announces a hell.* All mankind were involved

* In the Encyclopedia, the author of the article THEOLOGICAL HELL appears to make a strange mistake when quoting the twenty-second and following verses of the thirty-second chapter of Deuteronomy. The passage has no more reference to hell, than to marriage and dancing. It describes God as speaking thus : “ They have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God, and they have provoked me to anger with their vanities, and I will move them to jealousy with that which is not a people, and I will provoke them to anger with a foolishi nation. A fire is kindled in

in this chaos of contradiction and uncertainty, when Jesus Christ came into the world. He confirmed the ancient doctrine of hell, not the doctrine of the heathen poets, not that of the Egyptian priests, but that which christianity adopted, and to which everything must yield. He announced a kingdom that was about to come, and a hell that should have no end.

He said, in express words at Capernaum in Galilee, * " Whosoever shall call his brother "Raca,' shall be condemned by the sanhedrim; but whosoever shall call him fool, shall be condemned to gehenna hinnon, gehenna of fire."

This proves two things, first, that Jesus Christ was adverse to abuse and reviling; for it belonged only to him, as master, to call the pharisees hypocrites, and a 'generation of vipers.'

Secondly, that those who revile their neighbour deserve hell; for the gehenna of fire was in the valley of Hinnon, where victims had formerly been burnt in sacrifice to Moloch, and this gehenna was typical of the fire of hell.

He says, in another place, t“ If any one shall offend one of the weak who believe in me, it were better for him that a mill-stone were hanged about his neck and he were cast into the sea.

And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off; it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than to go into the gehenna of inextinguishable fire, where the worm dies not, and where the fire is not quenched.

mine anger, and it shall burn to the borders of the infernal regions, and it 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 cause them to die with hunger; the birds shall devour them with bitter destruction ; I will send the teeth of beasts against them with the poison of reptiles and serpents. The sword of the destroyer without, and terror within shall destroy the young man and the virgin, and the suckling also with the man of grey hairs.".

Is there anything here, let me ask, which intimates punishments after death? Do burnt-up hierbs, biting serpents, slaughtered young women and children, at all resemble hell? Is it not disgraceful to mangle and mutilate a passage in order to find in it what it does not contain ? If the author was himself deceived, I excuse him; if he wished to deceive others, he is unpardonable. * Matthew v. 22.

+ Mark ix, 41.

“And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off; it is better for thee to enter lame into eternal life, than to be cast with two feet into the inextinguishable gehenna, where the worm dies not, and where the fire is not quenched.

“ And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out; it is better to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than to be cast with both eyes into the gehenna of fire, where the worm dies not, and the fire is not quenched.

For every one shall be burned with fire, and every victim shall be salted with salt.

“ Salt is good; but if the salt have lost its savour, with what will you salt?

“ You have salt in yourselves, preserve peace one with another.”

He said on another occasion, on his journey to Jerusalem,*

*“ When the master of the house shall have entered and shut the door, you will remain without, and knock, saying Lord, open unto us; and he will answer and say unto you

Nescio vos,' I know you not ; whence are you? And then ye shall begin to say, we have eaten and drunk with thee, and thou hast taught in our public places; and he will reply · Nescio vos, whence are you, workers of iniquity? And there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see there Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the prophets, and yourselves cast out.”

Notwithstanding the other positive declarations made by the Saviour of mankind, which assert the eternal damnation of all who do not belong to our church, Origen and some others were not believers in the eternity of punishments.

The Socinians reject such punishments; but they are without the pale. The Lutherans and Calvinists, although they have strayed beyond the pale, yet admit the docrine of a hell without end.

When men came to live in society they must have perceived that a great number of criminals eluded the severity of the laws; the laws punished public crimes; it was necessary to establish a check upon secret crimes; this check was to be found only in religion. The Persians, Chaldeans, Egyptians, and Greeks, entertained the idea of punishments after the present life, and of all the nations of antiquity that we are acquainted with, the Jews, as we have already remarked, were the only one who admitted solely temporal punishments. It is ridiculous to believe, or pretend to believe, from some excessively obscure passages, that hell was recognised by the ancient laws of the Jews, by their Leviticus or by their Decalogue, when the author of those laws says not a single word which can bear the slightest relation to the chastisements of a future life. We might have some right to address the compiler of the Pentateuch in such language as the following :-You are a man of no consistency, as destitute of probity as of understanding, and totally unworthy of the name which you arrogate to yourself of legislator. What! you are perfectly acquainted, it seems, with that doctrine so eminently repressive of human vice, so necessary to the virtue and happiness of mankind—the doctrine of hell; and yet you do not explicitly announce it; and, while it is admitted by all the nations which surround you, you are content to leave it for some commentators, after four thousand years have passed away, to suspect that this doctrine might possibly have been entertained by you, and to twist and torture your expressions, in order to find that in them which you have never said. Either you are grossly ignorant not to know that this belief was universal' in Egypt, Chaldea, and Persia; or you have committed the most disgraceful error in judgment, in not having made it the foundation stone of your religion.

* Luke xiii. 25.

The authors of the Jewish laws could at most only answer,-We confess that we are excessively ignorant; that we did not learn the art of writing until a late period; that our people were a wild and barbarous horde, that wandered, as our own records admit, for nearly half a century in impracticable desarts, and at length obtained possession of a petty territory by the most odious rapine and detestable cruelty ever mentioned in the records of history. We had no commerce with civilised nations, and how could you suppose that, so grossly mean and grovelling as we are in all our ideas and

usages, we should have invented a system so refined and spiritual as that in question?

We employed the word which most nearly corresponds with soul, merely to signify life; we knew our god and his ministers, his angels, only as corporeal beings; the distinction of soul and body, the idea of a life beyond death can be the fruit only of long meditation and refined philosophy. Ask the Hottentots and Negroes, who inhabit a country a hundred times larger than ours, whether they know anything of a life to come? We thought we had done enough in persuading the people under our influence that God punished offenders to the fourth generation, either by leprosy, by sudden death, or by the loss of the little property of which the criminal might be possessed.

To this apology it might be replied:You have invented a system, the ridicule and absurdity of which are as clear as the sun at noon-day; for the offender who enjoyed good health, and whose family were in prosperous circumstances, must absolutely have laughed you to scorn.

The apologist for the Jewish law would here rejoin,—You are much mistaken; since, for one criminal who reasoned correctly,

there were a hundred who never reasoned at all. The man who, after he had committed a crime, found no punishment of it attached to himself or his son, would yet tremble for his grandson. Besides, if after the time of committing his offence he was not speedily seized by some festering sore, such as our nation was extremely subject to, he would experience it in a course of years. Calamities are always occurring in a family, and we, without difficulty, instilled the belief that these calamities were inflicted by the hand of God taking vengeance for secret offences.

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