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Perhaps you are by this time ready to inquire what is meant by the great gulf, which completely precluded the possibility of passing to and fro. I presume it means no more than the determination of God, who hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear unto this day. This prediction will most surely be fulfill ed, and nothing but the necessary time to bring in the fulness of the Gentiles is now wanting to close the glorious promises respecting this people. Do you learn that this can never be passed ? on what page of scripture do you find it written. The Jews were to bow down their back alway, but a deliverance is nevertheless promised. That which cannot be performed today, may be accomplished to-morrow. "That which was broken from its own olive tree can be grafted in again, and so all Israel shall be saved, and the top stone of salvation shall be brought forth with joy, crying grace, grace. Christ said to his disciples, as he did to the Jews, whither I go ye cannot come--but the question of a disciple, elicited an answer of peace. But instances of this description are so common, that you will hardly need a repetition in this place.
You may also be ready to ask, who were the five brethren of the rich man. Whether the number five has here any special reference to any definite portion of men, is not perhaps certain. But it is certain, that as the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin were counted but one, so the ten tribes would, in the same ratio, number five. That the Samaritans, or ten tr bes, were acknowledged by the Jews as children of Abraham, is evident, notwithstanding they had no dealings together. And that they felt them nearer of kin, and nearer in feeling, than others called Gentiles, is more than probable. And as the ten tribes never did oppose the gospel as did the Jews, so it might be said, they had not come into the place of torment into
which unbelief has brought the Jews. Hence the whole is easy of understanding. The rich man did not consider Lazarus as his brother-but he saw him in a situation as he supposed, to render assistance. The perplexity of the Jews was great. They were tributary to the Romans, and continually expecting a conquering Messiah, who should rescue them from this state of vassalage. The time of his coming, was at the advent of Christ, and hence they would take him by force and make him a king ; hence also, the populace cried, Ilosanna to the son of David-and the same populace cried, crucify him--his blood be on us and on our children.
But after all which has been said on this citation, some may yet inquire, how comes it about, that so many learned men still persist in using this text as proof of interminable misery? We answer, first, inquiring whether circumstantial testimony, and that very equivocal, is sufficient to outweigh the phalanx of facts which guard this passage from perversion ? If you answer, Yes--you are prepared to believe in the infallibility of Popes, and Synods, and Councils. If you reply, No--the question is answered, and the subject is put to rest.
But again--If the tenet is true, merely because many believe and teach it, why not always go with the current of public opinion ? On this principle, the Jews were justified in their persecution of Christ and his disciples, and you would thus commend the maxim, that the voice of the people is the voice of God. Numbers would thus sanctify error, and that may be orthodox to-day which will be the most damnable heresy tomorrow. On this principle too, the multitude might say to the few who think-Hitherto shalt thou go, and no further. Every advance which has been made in knowledge would thus be an advance in error,
and we might be persuaded to retrace our steps from civilization to the most heathen barbarism.
We have now looked again at the words sheol and hades, and at their use in the scriptures. We have taken one instance of the use of the latter, and that the strongest instance in the New Testament, and on examination, found it wanting, as a support for the vulgar but popular error of endless misery. Scripture, reason, analogy, are all against it, as
term expressing a place of punishment posterior to this mode of existence. We find it used figuratively as an emblem of the shutting up of the Jews from the privileges of the gospel kingdom, and of the entrance of the Gentiles into this kingdom. It is thus, that it fulfils the predictions of the Bible, and affords strong reason for trusting in the fulfilment of every other prophecy yet to be accomplished.
In confirmation of what has been advanced on this passage, we shall quote from Dr. Campbell. On the word adns he says
“Here it is represented as a place of punisment. The rich man is said to be tormented there in the midst of flames. These things will deserve to be examined narrowly. It is plain, that in the Old Testament, the most profound silence is observed in regard to the state of the deceased, their joys or sorrows, happiness or misery. It is represented to us rather by negative qualities than by positive, by its silence, its darkness, its being inaccessible, unless by preternatural means, to the living, and their ignorance about it. Thus much in general seems always to have been presumed concerning it, that it is not a state of activity adapted for exertion, or indeed for the accomplishment of any important purpose, good or bad. In most respects, however, there was a resemblance in their notions on this subject, to those of the most ancient heathen.
“But the opinions neither of Hebrews nor of heathen, remained invariably the same. And from the time of the captivity, more especially from the time of the subjection of the Jews, first to the Macedonian empire, and afterwards to the Romans; as they had a closerintercourse with Pagans, they insensibly imbibed many of their sentiments, particularly on those subjects whereon their law was silent, and wherein, by consequence, they considered themselves as at greater freedom. On this subject of a future state, we find a considerable difference in the popular opinions of the Jews in our Saviour's time, from those which prevailed in the days of the ancient prophets. As both Greeks and Romans had adopted the notion, that the ghosts of the departed were susceptible both of enjoyment and of suffering, they were led to suppose a sort of retribution in that state, for their merit or demerit in the present. The Jews did not indeed adopt the Pagan fables on this subject, nor did they express themselves entirely in the same manner; but the general train of thinking in both came pretty much to coincide. The Greek Hades they found well adapted to express the Hebrew sheol. This they came to conceive as including different sorts of habitations for ghosts of different characters. And though they did not receive the terms Elysium or Elysian fields, as suitable appellations for the regions peopled by good spirits, they took instead of them, as better adapted to their own theology, the garden of Eden or Paradise, a name originally Persian, by which the word answering to garden, especially when applied to Eden, had commonly been rendered by the Seventy. To denote the same state, they sometimes used the phrase Abraham's bosom, a metaphor borrowed from the manner in which they reclined at meals."
TO THE READER.
The following should have appeared as a note, predicated on the word graves, found in John 5: 28. It is copied from “ A summary view of the Millennial Church."
Mvue1015 i. e. monuments or places of remembrance. Much stress is laid
graves, as evidence that Christ alluded particularly to the natural body ; but the original word which is translated graves, was used by the ancient Greeks to signifyplaces of remembrance, called by the Romans monumenta, in English monuments, which is a more correct translation than graves. But if those only who have monuments erected to their memory are to be raised, the number must be very small in proportion to the whole human race ; for a vast portion have never even had the honor of being put into graves. Jesus evidently used the expression in a figurative sense, to show that the time was approaching in which all the fallen race, in their various places and orders, would be brought to a remembrance or consideration of their lost state, and of what they had done ; and that their past lives, with all their sins would come into remembrance and be clearly laid open to their view; and being waked up to a sense of feeling, by the sound of the everlasting gospel, which is the voice of the Son of God, they would either come to the resurrection of life, by honestly confessing their sins, and obeying the gospel ; or to the resurrection of damnation, for condemnation] by obstinately refusing to comply with the calls of the gospel, as many are now doing, con. trary to their own light and conviction.