Cast Into Hellfire

"And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee; for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into Hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee; for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into Hell." Matt. 5:2829. "And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into Hell-fire." Matt. 18:9. "And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into Hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched. And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off; it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into Hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into Hell-fire." Mark 9:43-49. These passages mean that it is better to accept Christianity, and forego some worldly privilege, than to possess all worldly advantages, and be overwhelmed in the destruction then about to come upon theJews, when multitudes were literally cast into Gehenna. Or it may be figuratively used, as Jesus probably used it, thus: It is better to enter the Christian life destitute of some great worldly advantage, comparable to a right hand, than to live in sin, with all worldly privileges, and experience that moral death which is a Gehenna of the soul. In this sense it may be used of men now as then. But there is no reference to an after-death suffering, in any proper use of the terms. The true idea of the language is this: Embrace the Christian life, whatever sacrifice it calls for. The latter clause carries out the idea in speaking of the undying worm.

"Where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched." Undoubtedly Jesus had reference to the language of the prophet: "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 forth, and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me: for the worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched: and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh." Isa. 66:23-24.

The prophet and the Savior both referred to the overthrow of Jerusalem, though by accommodation we may apply the language generaly understanding by Hell or Gehenna, that condition brought upon the soul, in this world by sin. But the application by the prophet and the Savior was to the day then soon to come. The undying worm was in this world. The worms that bred in the filth of "Gehenna are made emblems of the corruption of the sinful soul in this world; so Isaiah taught, and Jesus quoted his language.

Strabo calls the lamp in the Parthenon, and Plutarch calls the sacred fire of a temple "unquenchable," though they were extinguished ages ago. Josephus says that the fire on the altar of the temple at Jerusalem was "always unquenchable," abeston aie, though the fire had gone out and the temple was destroyed at the time of his writing. Eusebius says that certain martyrs of Alexandria "were burned in unquenchable fire," though the fire was extinguished in the course of an hour! The very expression in English, which Homer has in Greekasbestos gelos, (Iliad, i:599) unquenchable laughter.

Bloomfield says of this text in his Notes: "Deny thyself what is even the most desireable and alluring, and seems the most necessary, when the sacrifice is demanded by the good of thy soul. Some think that there is an allusion to the amputation of diseased members of the body, to prevent the spread of any disorder." Dr. A.A.Livermore adds: "The main idea here conveyed, is that of punishment, extreme suffering, and no intimation is given as to its place, or its duration, whatever may be said in other texts in relation to these points."

Dr. Ballou says (Vol. I, Universalist Quarterly): "Jesus uses this well-known example of a most painful sacrifice for the preservation of corporeal life, only that he may the more strongly enforce a corresponding solicitude to preserve the moral life of the soul. And if so, it naturally follows that those prominent particulars in the passages which literally relate to the body, are to be understood as figures, and interpreted accordingly. If one's eye or hand become to him an offence, or cause of danger, it is better to part with it than to let it corrupt the body fit to be thrown into the valley of Hinnom."

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