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That deeply learned individual, Grotius, says, that this text is, in its literal meaning, a prophecy of the restoration of the Jewish government under the Maccabees ; though he thinks it has a spiritual allusion to the general resurrection. See Critici Sacri, in Dan. xii.
XXX. “ For behold the day cometh that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble; and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.” Mal. iv. 1.
That the destruction of the Jews is set forth under the figure of burning, is too palpably true to need confirmation. Isaiah xxxi. 9; Ezek. xxji. 17 – 22. So evident is it that this passage has no reference to a judgment beyond the grave, that Dr. A. Clarke abandons it entirely as a proof of future misery. His notes on the passage, are the following. " The day cometh that shall burn as an oven, the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. And all the proud, this is in reference to verse 15, of the preceding chapter. The day that cometh shall burn them up, either by famine, by sword, or by captivity, all these rebels shall be destroyed. It shall leave them neither root nor branch ; proverbial expression for total destruction, neither man nor child shall escape.” m. on Mal. iv. 1. Thus it will be seen, that Clarke applies the passage wholly to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans.
PASSAGES FROM THE NEW TESTAMENT EXPLAINED, WHICH ARE ADDUCED TO DISPROVE THE SENTIMENTS OF UNIVERSALISTS.
I. “O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come ?” Matt. iii. 7.
The parallel passage is Luke iii. 7. What is meant here by the “ wrath to come ” ? Dr. George Campbell translates the phrase, “the impending vengeance," and says it signified the "wrath about to come,” which was then very near, and just ready to break forth upon the. Jewish nation. By the consent of the best of the commentators, who themselves believed in endless misery, it refers to the destruction which was about to fall on the Jews. Adam Clarke says, the wrath to come was “the desolation about to fall on the Jewish nation, for their wickedness. * * * * * This wrath or curse was coming ; they did not prevent it by turning to God, and receiving the Messiah, and therefore the wrath of God came upon them to the uttermost. (Com. on the place.) To the same purport is Lightfoot's exposition (Works; IV. 264); and also that of Bp. Pearce (Com. on the place); that of Dr. Hammond (Par. and Annot. on the place), and of Dr. Gill (Expos. on the place), and many others. It is not necessary for us to occupy much room in proving that this is the true definition of this passage, since the fact is so generally conceded by the commentators who believed in the doctrine of endless misery.
See “Notes and Illus. of Parables,” 35, 36, and Paige's “ Selections,” Sec. II.
II. " Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” Matt. iii. 12. Luke iii. 17.
This is a continuation of the same subjeet mentioned in Matt. -ili. 7, (which we have already considered,) and also in ver. 10. We offer the remarks of Adam Clarke, as expressing the true' view of the passage. Whose fan is in his hand. The Romans are here termed God's fan, as in ver. 10 they were called his axe, and in chap. xxii. 7, they are termed his troops or armies. His floor.
Does not this mean the land of Judea, which has been long, as it were, the threshingfloor of the Lord. : God says he will now, by the winnowing fan, (viz. the Romans,) thoroughly cleanse this floor, -- the wheat, those who believe in the Lord Jesus, he will gather into his garner, either take to heaven, from the evil to come, or put in a place of safety, as he did the Christians, by sending them to Pella in Cælosyria, previously to the destruction of Jerusalem. But he will burn up the chaff, the disobedient and rebellious Jews, who would not come unto Christ, that they might have life.” Com. on the passage. See Paige's “ Selections,” pp. 29 – 32, for further.authorities.
The phrase "unquenchable fire,” has been by some adduced to prove the doctrine of endless misery. The fire mentioned in the passage, is the fire of divine judgment, which God sent upon the land of Judea, and it was called unquenchable, not because it would burn forever, but because it could not be extinguished, and would continue until the material on which it fed should be entirely destroyed. So saith Dr. Hammond. “They put fire to the chaff at the wind side, and that keeps on, and never gives over till it has consumed all the chaff, and so is a kind of unguenchable fire, a fire never quenched till it hath done its work.” (Ănnot. on the place.) In lib. vi. c. 41, of Eusebius's History, there is an account of those who suffered martyrdom for Christianity in Alexandria of Egypt. Two of these martyrs, Cronion and Julian, says Eusebius, were carried on camels through the city, scourged, and finally consumed in “unquenchable fire,” nvoi doéto. And again, he says, other two, Epimachus and Alexander, after intense suffering from the scourges and scrapers, were also destroyed in 5 ünquenchable firė,” avpi do Sorø. Here the evident sense of “unquenchable fire,” is fire that should not be extinguished. If it had been arrested in its course, it would not have been unquenchable ; but it raged until it went out of itself, for the want of fuel, and thus was not quenched. The phrase has no reference to punishment in the future world. For a valuable treatise on this subject, see “ Universalist Expositor," Vol. IV. p. 306..
III. “For I say unto you, that except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Matt. v. 20.
What is meant here by the phrase “ kingdom of heaven?” It does not refer to the state of glory which awaits as hereafter, but to the moral reign of Christ in the hearts of men, by the power of his Gospel. To enter into the kingdom of heaven, was to become a disciple of Jesus, to acknowledge him as Lord and king, and to obey his laws. No person whose righteousness was like that of the Scribes and Pharisees, could enter, while in such a state, into the moral kingdom of the Messiah.
When John the Baptist began to preach, he said, “ 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
“ Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matt. iy. 17.) In the instructions which Jesus gave his apostles, when he sent them out, he said, “ As ye go, preach, saying, the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matt. x. 7.) His kingdom was not far off, it was at hand
; it was not exclusively in another state of existence, it was here on the earth; it was the moral reign of Christ among men.
Jesus said to the Pharisées, “ 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 under 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.
Such was the kingdom of heaven," into which the disciples were invited to enter. The formal, hypocritical righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees would not admit them to that kingdom ; but the righteousness of Christ, which was benevolence and love, was the requirement of the divine law.
For a more extended view of this subject, see Paige's “ Selections,” Section VII. and “ Universalist Expositor,” Vol. I. pp. 3-23, on the phrase “kingdom of heaven.'
IV. “But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause, shall be in danger of the judgment; and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council; but whosoever shall say to his brother, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.” Matt. v. 22.
The word here rendered hell is Gehenna, yćevya. It is found only in the following places in the New Testament, Matt. v. 22, 29, 30; X. 28; xviii. 9 ; xxiii. 15; 33. Mark ix. 43, 45, 47. Luke xii. 5. James iii. 6.
It will be well to recollect, that these are the only instances in which the word occurs,
that is, seven times in Matthew, three in Mark, one in Luke, and one in James. John, it seems, never used the word, nor does it occur in the Acts of the Apostles, nor in any of Paul's epistles, nor in the epistles of Peter, nor in Jude, nor in the Apocalypse. · It is now generally allowed, that neither Sheol, Hades, nor Tartarus signify a place of eternal punishment ; but the whole dependence for proof of such a place of punishment, is placed on the word Gehenna. Is it not, then, a little singular, if this word signifies a place of eternal punishment, that it occurs in only four books of the New Testament, and but twelve times in the whole ?.
If this passage is to be understood in the literal and proper sense, then Gehenna refers to the valley of Hinnom near Jerusalem, where judicial punishment was frequently inflicted in the days of Christ. Adam Clarke says,
Our Lord here alludes to the valley of the son