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judgment, and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council, but whosoever shall say, thou fool, shall be in danger of hell-fire.”
The judgment, it should be remarked, was a court established in each town to take cognizance of offences within its own limits, but having its decisions subject to an appeal to the council or Sanhedrim, the supreme tribunal of the nation. This then appears to be the sense of the text. Whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause, deserves such a punishment as the judgment is empowered to inflict, and whosoever shall express his anger in words of contempt deserves the vengeance of the Sanhedrim; but whosoever shall say thou miscreant, deserves hell-fire. That this last expression points to the displeasure of God in the next life is highly probable, because the severest capital punishments peculiar to the Jews were pronounced by the Sanhedrim. And from the manner in which Christ teaches the sinfulness of evil thoughts, it appears that he applies the name hell-fire to some punishment which actually follows disobedience. He admits the propriety of punishing men in these various ways and with various degrees of severity, but contends at the same time, that
they deserve these penalties, not for overt offences only, but for unlawful words and feelings. He teaches them the spirituality of the law by asserting that the threatenings directed against wicked deeds, respect also the state of the heart, and will actually be executed against the unholy desires and feelings of the mind, of which human law can make no account, and which men are prone to think God will not regard. In doing this he could properly name such punishments only, as were known to be denounced against overt transgression. To illustrate the evil nature of sin in its incipient and immature stages, he would not mention a punishment not known to have been threatened against the most open and flagrant wickedness. It is therefore my firm persuasion, that Christ intended to carry the illustration through all the threatenings denounced against sin. He would say to his disciples, you acknowledge that certain actions justly expose men to punishments in this life and in that which is to come, but I tell you that these wicked actions merely conceived in the heart or expressed by the lips, expose them to the same penalties. But there are additional reasons
for supposing that reference is made in the text to future punishment. In proof of this I would refer to the following passages in its immediate neighbourhood.
66 Whosoever, therefore shall break one of these least commandments and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of Heaven," that is, shall be excluded from the bliss of the Redeemer's kingdom. “For I that except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and pharisees ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of Heaven." Agree with thine adversary quickly, whilst thou art in the way with him, lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the officer and thou be cast into prison.” Exclusion from the kingdom of heaven is in these passages made the penalty of disobedience. The Pharisees and all whose claims to the approbation of God are no better founded, will never participate in the benefits of Christ's death. That the consequences of such an exclusion extend beyond the grave, is apparent from the spiritual nature of the Redeemer's kingdom. The connexion shows that hell-fire denotes the same punishment. But what fixes the sense of Gehenna
in the text with the greatest certainty is its repeated use in the same chapter with more determinate adjuncts.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." In these verses it has doubtless the same meaning as in the text. But before we inquire what it is, it may be well to explain other expressions here employed The right hand and the right eye being those members of the body which are most highly prized, represent the objects of this world which we hold most dear; to offend, means to lead into sin; and the whole body, in contradistinction to one eye or one hand the representatives of the dearest earthly enjoyments, means happiness on the the largest scale, inclusive of this life and that which is to come.
The sense of the passage will therefore be this. If the enjoyments of the world lead you into sin, renounce them, for it is profitable for you, to be deprived of the en
joyments of this life, rather than to lose all your happiness in hell. Here, it may be suitable to remark, that our Lord is not speaking of an exposure to be burned alive in the valley of Hinnom, for of that no one was in danger; por, of exposure to perish in the destruction of Jerusalem, or to lose their lives in any other way; for the yielding up of the life is no greater sacrifice than is intended by plucking out an eye, and cutting off a hand, since these members of the body are the representatives of those temporal objects which are dearest to the human heart, among which life is the most conspicuous. Of the principle here involved, the following passage is an admirable illustration, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life
sake shall find it;" the sense of which is, that whosoever, through fear of losing his life, shrinks from his duty to Christ, shall lose his happiness beyond the grave, and that whosoever is willing to surrender his life for Christ, shall secure his eternal happiness. It is then nearly certain, that Gehenna is employed in this chapter for a place of punishment in the future state. This is the only sense which meets the necessities of the passage in which