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salted with salt. Just so, the fire itself shall act on these victims of the divine justice: like salt, sprinkled on your legal victims, it shall preserve these offenders entire, and in a perpetual capacity of subsisting to that use, to which they are destined.”
. Now, if such be the sense of the words, they contain the fullest and most decisive proof of that tremendous doctrine, the eternity of future punishments," which is any where to be met with in Scripture. For the words, being given as a reason and explanation of the doctrine, are not susceptible of any vague interpretation, like the words eternal or everlasting, in which it is usually expressed; but must necessarily be understood, as implying and affirming the literal truth of the thing, for which they would account. And, this being supposed, you see the use, the unspeakable importance, of this text, as addressed to all believers in Jesus. But,
II. There is another sense, of which the. text is capable: and, if you think it not allowable to deduce a conclusion of such dreadful import from words of an ambiguous 'signification, you will incline perhaps (as it is natural for us to do) to this more favourable interpretation, which I am going to propose.
I observed, that the text, as read in connexion with the preceding verse, is most naturally, according to our ideas of interpretation, to be understood, as I have already explained it. But, what is the most natural, according to our modern rules and principles of construction, is not always the true, sense of passages in ancient oriental writers (who did not affect our accuracy of connexion), and particularly in the writers of the New Testament.
To give a remarkable instance in a discourse of our Lord himself. He had prescribed to his disciples that form of prayer, which we know by the name of the Lord's prayer, consisting of several articles; the last of which is - - for thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory for ever 4. Now, to this concluding sentence of his prayer he immediately subjoins these words -- FOR if we forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But, from the illative particle, for, according to our notions of exact composition, was to be expected a reason, or illustration, of the immediately foregoing elause, the doxology, which shuts up this prayer: whereas, the words, which that particle introduces, have respect to another and remote clause in the same prayer, namely, forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors"; and express the ground and reason, only, of that petition.
q Matt, vi.
In like manner, the illation expressed in the text—For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt--may not be intended to respect the preceding words — where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched - but something else, which had been advanced in our Lord's dis course, though at some distance from the text; and possibly; the general scope or subject of it. Consider, then, what that subject is. It is necessary, our Lord tells his disciples, for such as would escape the woes, threatened, and approve themselves faithful followers of him, to subdue or renounce their most favourite inclinations, by which they might bé, at any time, tempted to offend, though the
of this self-denial should be ever so grievous to them.
To reconcile their minds to this harsh doctrine, he
may then be supposed to resumé that
r Ver. 12.
topic, and to justify the advice, which, with so much apparent severity, he had given them. And then we may conceive him to speak to this effect:
:“I have said, you must not regard the uneasiness, which the conduct, I require of you, will probably occasion. For every one, that is, every true Christian, every one that is consecrated to my service, and would escape the punishment by fire, in the world to come, shall be salted with fire, in the present world; that is, shall be tried with sufferings of one kind or other, can only expect to be continued in a sound and uncorrupt state, by afflictions ; which must search, cleanse, and purify your lives and minds, just as fire does those bodies, which it refines, by consuming all the dross and refuse, contained in them. The
process may be violent, but the end is most desirable, and even necessary. And, that it is so, ye may discern from the wisdom of your own Law, which requires that every sacrifice, fit to be offered up to God in the temple-service, shall be salted with salt ; that is, preserved from putrefaction, and even all approaches to it, by the application of that useful, though corroding substance. Now, the fire of affiction shall be to your moral natures, what salt
is to the animal. It may agitate and torment · your
minds, but it shall eat all the principles of corruption out of them, and so keep them clean and untainted; as is fit, considering the heavenly use that is to be made of them, it being your duty, and even interest, to present them, as a sacrifice acceptable and well pleasing to Gods."
In this way, you see, the text is reasonably explained of moral discipline in this world, not of future punishment. What may be thought to occasion some little difficulty, or, at least, particularity, in the mode of writing, is, that one metaphor seems here employed to explain another. But we should rather conceive of. the two metaphors, as employed, jointly and severally, to express this moral sentiment « That affliction contributes to preserve and improve our virtue.' The allusion to the effeets of salt was exceedingly obvious and natural in the mouth of a Jew, addressing himself to Jews t Not but it was common enough, too, in Gentile writers u. And the other allusion to the effects of fire (though the two figures are in a manner run together by speaking of
s Phil. iv. 18. t See Whitby in loc. u See passages cited by Dr. Hammond.