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understand it otherwise would represent the Thessalonians as being grieved only at the death of their believing relations, and no way concerned for the future condition of such of them as died heathens.
Such are the objections, of any importance, which we have heard urged against the views which we have advanced concerning hell or Gehenna. Some of them, we frankly admit, are too trifing to have been noticed. After a consideration of them we must say, that not one of them, nor all of them taken together, have even led us to suspect, that what we have said concerning hell, is contrary to Scripture. But let our readers consider them, and judge for themselves.
Ir the sentiments advanced in the preceding pages have been attended to by the reader, he no doubt perceives, that the conclusion which results from them is, that there is no place of endless misery taught in Scripture, for all the wicked, as is commonly believed by most Christians. This we admit to be the fair inference which results from what has been stated, unless it can be proved, that such a place of endless misery is revealed in Scripture under some other name than Sheol, Hades, Tartarus, or Gehenna. It is our deliberate and candid opinion, that these words are never used in Scripture to express such a place of misery. We have laid the evidence on which this opinion has been formed, before our readers, and they are left to judge for themselves as to its truth or falsehood. Some, no doubt, will condemn and reject what we have said, without giving the evidence produced a patient hearing. The popular, but senseless, cry of heresy, is sure to be rung in people's cars, to deter them from paying any attention to the subject. From such persons we expect nothing but noise and abuse, for they have no desire that their faith should stand in the wisdom of God. But there are others, whose good sense, judgment and piety we respect, who, no doubt, will conclude, that my inquiry has ended in a great and fatal error. To all such I would offer a few remarks, in vindication of myself, against this sentence. of condemnation.
1st, Let those who thus condemn me, consider, if they do not take for granted, the grand question which has been under discussion. Do they not first determine in their own minds that hell is a place of endless misery, and because my investigation has not brought me to this conclusion also, therefore I must be in a great error? But why ought not such persons to admit, that they may be in an error on this subject; and instead of condemning me, bring the subject to the Bible for examination? It is not our work to make a Bible, to alter it, nor bend it to support any sentiment, however popular in the religious world. It is a duty incumbent on every man, to study that precious book with serious care and attention, and by every just rule of interpretation, to ascertain, what is its true meaning. This I have attempted to do, and unless I shut my eyes against evidence, and am determined to be an implicit believer in the doctrine of endless misery in hell, to what other result could I come on this subject? If after all the care and attention I have been able to give this subject, it can be proved that I am in an error, let this be done, and I pledge myself to renounce it. I have the testimony of my own conscience, that I have sought after the truth, and that without any regard either to the favour or the frowns of my fellow creatures.
2d, But if we are not to examine into the truth of religious doctrines, unless our examinations end in the belief that the popular and long established views of them are true, all inquiry and investigation might as well be spared. It is much easier to adopt the popular belief at once; for after all our labour and care, to this we must come at last. Besides; in this way we avoid all the pain and popular odium, which a change of religious opinion frequently involves. But, had this course been pursued by all who have gone before us, what would our condition now have
been as to science or religion? We had to-day been sitting in the region of darkness, and saying to the works of our own hands-"ye are our gods." The Bible is the religion of Protestants, and among all the sects into which they are divided, free inquiry is, to a certain extent inculcated. Most sects, however, have their limits fixed, beyond which if a man goes, he becomes suspected, and perhaps is denounced as an heretic. He may inquire and investigate as much as he pleases to support the peculiar tenets of his sect, but beyond this it is dangerous to proceed. Should he push his inquiries further, and find some of them the inventions of men, he must conceal his discoveries, for if he does not, the vengeance of the whole sect, if not the whole religious community, will be poured on his head. I must be very fond of suffering thus to expose myself.
3d, Since I am to be condemned because my investigations have not resulted in the popular belief of the doctrine of hell torments, I do not see any possible way of getting rid of error, or increasing in knowledge. I have done no more than thousands have done before me; to examine the Bible for themselves, and state the result for the consideration of others. Such as have done so have seldom escaped the appellation of heretics. But the first to condemn others, are generally the last to examine for themselves what is truth on any religious subject.
If in this investigation I have travelled beyond the record, let this be pointed out by an appeal to the same record. If a man under mistaken views of a religious doctrine, avows his mistaken sentiments, and thereby brings more truth to light and excites inquiry, are not these valuable ends served to society?
4th, Supposing the views which have been advanced, had been the universal belief of the religious community as long as the doctrine of eternal misery, and
that this doctrine had never been known in the world. Allowing that I had come forward and attempted to show that endless misery in hell was a doctrine taught in Scripture, and that the contrary was a mistaken view of the subject. Beyond all doubt I should be liable to the very same condemnation to which I am now subjected. The trumpet would sound loud and long, by all religious parties against me. It would be sagely and gravely remarked, "what a dreadful doctrine he has embraced. What dreadful views his doctrine gives of the God who made us. He represents him as dooming a great part of his creatures to endless misery in bell. His inquiries have led him into a most dreadful error." I appeal to every candid man if this would not be my fate, and if as good ground was not afforded for such conclusions and condemnations in the one case, as in the other.-In concluding this subject, we shall view the two opposite doctrines in the following points of light.
1st, How does the two doctrines affect the character of God? Let us view them as to the promises of God. He promised that the seed of the woman should bruise the head of the serpent. To bruise a serpent's head is to kill or destroy it. But is the serpent's head bruised, if the greater part of the human race are to be eternally miserable? Even this is too gross to be believed by respectable orthodox writers in the present day. Mr. Emerson, in his book on the Millennium, commenting on Gen. iii. 15. thus writes: p. 11. "Now the question arises, Has the serpent's head been bruised in any degree answerable to the manifest import of the passage under consideration? A great part of mankind have gone to destruction. Does this look like bruising the serpent's head? If the greater part of the human race are to be lost by the cunning craftiness of satan, will that look like bruising his head? To me it would seem far otherwise.