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DELIVERED AT THE
SECOND UNIVERSALIST MEETING, IN BOSTON,
JANUARY 17, 1819.
BY HOSEA BALLOU, PASTOR.
Published Semi-Monthly by Henry Bowen, Devonshire-street.
MARK ix. 43, 44. " And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off ; it is better for thee to enter into
life maimed, than haring two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched ;-Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is met quenched.
Some of the motives which have inclined the speaker to call the attention of this audience to the consideration of this portion of divine truth are the following:
1. There is, perhaps, no passage in the scriptures, that has been more commonly used to lead the minds of people to believe in the doctrine of endless misery, and to be exercised with the fear of such a state, than this. And as one of the objects of these lectures is to disprove such a doctrine, and to show that the passages, which are usually quoted in its support, are misapplied, it seems proper to notice this passage in a way to show the error of its common use. And,
2. That the opportunity may be embraced to enforce the argument of the text to induce the mind to submit to any privations, which are necessary to the discharge of that christian obedience, by which we enter into the spiritual life of the spirit of truth.
We may, in the first place, institute an inquiry, directed to satisfy the mind respecting the usual application of this scripture to a future state of endless misery.
In giving to this inquiry such a form as may tend to facilitate a judicious conclusion, the following things are premised;
1. The testimony, by which any fact is to be proved, should be of one, who knows the thing to be a reality, to which he bears such testimony.
2. In a case where testimony is all the evidence that can be had, this testimony should be of such a character as to admit of no reasonable doubt respecting its true application.
3. It is indispensable, that testimony, by which the belief of any proposition is to be established shi,uld be entirely free froin any contradictions. And,
4. It is moreover proper to observe, that in proportion to the greatness of the subject, on which we are called to form a judgment, what has been premised enforces its claims on the mind.
As to the inagnitude of the subject, which is now called in question, nothing exceeds it. The doctrine which asserts, that mankind is to suffer unspeakable torments to all future eternity is a subject, that justly requires as direct and clear evidence as any nameable case whatever.
With the foregoing considerations impressed on with a design to ascertain the truth concerning this vast question. “And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off; it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands, to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched ; where their worin dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.”—
This is the testimony on which the doctrine of elernal, never-ending misery is founded. The hearer
is most earnestly requested to lay aside all prepossessions on this subject, and investigate it with as much caution as the interest: wbich we all have in the subject demands.
1. Let us ask, is there in this passage any thing that goes to prove that its author was speaking of what is to take place in a future state of being ? Most certainly, without a doubt, replies the believer in endless punishment, for Jesus here speaks of being cast into bell; and surely hell is not in this world. My dear friend, I humbly asked you to lay aside all prepossessions on this subject; but in room of this, your answer is the production of prejudice. Did this faithful and true witness ever say that hell is not in this world ? Is it asserted in our text, that this hell is in a future state of existence ? Both these questions must be answered in the negative. Will our opposer say, that the whole testimony of scripture must be admitted in this case, and that we must learn where hell is, and what it is, by the united testimony of inspired writers ? To this we agree at once. The prophet David says; "Great is thy mercy toward me ; and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest bell.” Again he says; “ The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me; I found trouble and sorrow.” Jonah says; “I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the Lord, and he heard me ; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice.” Now as certain as David and Jonah were in this world, when they thus spake, so certain it is, that in the days of these prophets, bell was in this world. Why might it not be in this world in the days our Saviour was on the earth?
It appears evident, from the passages just quoted, that a state of extreme trouble and affliction is, in the language of scripture, called hell. There
fore, in order to justify the application of this word to a state of punishment in a future world, there must be a declaration directly to that effect; but there is no part of the text under consideration that can in any way answer such a purpose.
2. Will it be contended, that as the Saviour said; “Where their worin dieth not, and the fire is not quenched,” he must necessarily mean to speak of a future endless torment? To this we reply; as it has already been agreed, that the scriptures must be taken in their connection, and their united testimony admitted in this inquiry, it seems most proper to connect these words of our Saviour with a similar passage in the 66th of Isaiah, which reads thus ; “ For as the new heavens, and the new earth, which I have made, shall remain before me, saith the Lord, so shall your seed and your name reinain. And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord. And they shall go fortb, and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh."
By this passage the case is perfectly clear that the worm, and the fire that is not quenched are in this state of existence, where times of worship are measured by new moons and by sabbaths. And there can be no doubt but the Saviour, in our text had his eye on this passage in Isaiah, and spake of the same subject.
We will now allow the objector liberty to say, that it is evident that the passage in Isaiah alludes to the time of the new heavens, and the new earth, which must refer to a future state.
We reply to the objector, in this case, and say; “Ye greatly err, not knowing the scriptures," for
the prophet in his 65th chapter speaks as follows; “Behold I create new heavens, and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. But be ye glad and rejoice forever in that which I create ; for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy- And they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vine-yards, and eat the fruit of them.” Will houses be built, and vine-yards be planted in a future world ? No; all these scriptures evidently regard things wbich belong to our present state of mortal existence.
By a careful comparison of the passages to which we have referred, and by taking into the connection one in St. Peter, and another in Revelations, on the subject of the new heavens, and new earth, and on the new Jerusalem, it appears clear that those seriptures were designed to represent the gospel dispensation. St. Paul, in his epistle to the Hebrews, who understood the language of Isaiah, says to the believers in Jesus ; “ Ye are come unto mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem.” He does not say, that they will get to this heavenly Jerusalem in a future world, but he tells them, that they have already come to it.
But what does Isaiah mean by saying ; “ They shall go forth, and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me ; for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh?”
Reply-By all flesh, no doubt, the prophet meant the Gentiles of different nations who should come into the gospel church and covenant; and by the men that transgressed against the Lord, he meant the Jews who rejected their Messiah. These Jews are represented as tormented with a gnawing