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An History of Corruption on Christianity

“In the eighth century, Mosheim says, a notion prevailed, that future punishment might be prevented by donations to religious uses; and therefore few wills were made in which something was not bequeathed to the church.”
—Priestley, Joseph, An History of Corruption on Christianity p. 204


“Some opponents of the doctrine of hell claim that the punishment is disproportionate to any crimes that could be committed, an overkill. Because human beings have a finite lifespan, they can commit only a finite number of sins, yet hell is an infinite punishment. In this vein, Jorge Luis Borges suggests in his essay La duración del Infierno that no transgression can warrant an infinite punishment on the grounds that there is no such thing as an "infinite transgression".”
—Wikipedia, Problem of Hell


“It is true, that in translating heathen poets, we retain the old sense of the word hell, which answers to the Latin orcus, or rather infernus, as when we speak of the descent of Eneas, or of Orpheus, into hell. Now the word infernus, in Latin, comprehends the receptacle of all the dead, and contains both elysium, the place of the blessed, and Tartarus, the adobe of the miserable.”
—Balfour, Walter, Inquiry p. 15
“It is very plain, that neither in the Septuagint version of the Old Testament, nor in the New does the word Hades convey the meaning which the present English word hell, in the Christian usage, always conveys to our minds.”
—Balfour, Walter, Inquiry p. 16

Sheol was thought of as a place situated below the ground (cf. Ezek. 31:15), a place of darkness, silence and forgetfulness (cf. Job 10:21).[4] By the third to second century BC, the idea had grown to encompass separate divisions in sheol for the righteous and wicked (cf. the Book of Enoch),[5] and by the time of Jesus, some Jews had come to believe that those in Sheol awaited the resurrection of the dead either in comfort (in the bosom of Abraham) or in torment.

In the Greek Septuagint the Hebrew word Sheol was translated as Hades, the name for the underworld and abode of the dead in Greek mythology. The realm of eternal punishment in Hellenistic mythology was Tartarus, Hades was a form of limbo where the unjudged dead dwelled.

— Wikipedia, Hell in Christian beliefs

“The whole race of mankind is swept from the earth by a flood, Noah and his family excepted; but, does this good man deplore in any shape, that so many precious souls should be sent to hell?”
—Balfour, Walter, Inquiry p. 52
“It is now generally concluded, by all critics and intelligent men, that endless punishment was not taught under the first covenant. But it is generally believed to be taught under the new and better covenant. If this is true, how can it be called a better covenant, and "established upon better promises?" Is endless punishment a better promise?”
—Balfour, Walter, Inquiry p. 57
“But the opinions neither of Hebrews nor of heathens remained invarialy 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 Roman; as they had closer intercourse with pagans, they insensibly imbided 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 considerable difference in the popular opinions of the Jews in our Savior's time, from those which prevailed in the days of the ancient prophets. As both Greeks and Roman's 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 of Elysian fields, as suitable appleiations 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 gardne, 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.”
—Balfour, Walter, Inquiry pp. 71-72
“Every text of Scripture misunderstood, lays a foundation for a misunderstanding of others; and thus error is not only rendered perpetual but progressive.”
—Balfour, Walter, Inquiry p. 90
“Nor is it even said, that they are reserved there to suffer pain or torment at the day of judgment mentioned.”
—Balfour, Walter, Inquiry p. 97
“It has been shown, that the judgement of the great day, does not refer to a general judgment at the end of this world, but to the judgment of God on the Jews at the close of their dispensation.”
—Balfour, Walter, Inquiry p. 99
“Some diestical writers have blamed Moses as a legislator for not introducing eternal punishment into his code of laws, as a curb on men against licentiousness. It is generally allowed that the punishments threatened in the Old Testament are of a temporal nature.”
—Balfour, Walter, Inquiry p. 103
“Keil and Delitzsch note in their Commentary on the Old Testament, "It [Gehenna is] (the boundary of the tribe of Judah)"”
—Wikipedia, Ghennna
“It would seem that the custom of desecrating this place [Gehenna], thus happily begun, was continued in after ages down to the period when our Savior was on earth. Perpetual fires was kept up, in order to consume the offal which was deposited there, and as the same offal would bread worms, (for so all putrefying meat of course does, hence came the expression, "where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched".”
—Balfour, Walter, Inquiry p. 117
“As proof of this, it may be observed that Matthew, Mark, and Luke, are thought to have written their Gospels for the use of the Jews, and in them Gehenna is used. It seems certain, John wrote his Gospel for the use of the Gentiles, for he explains Jewish places, names, and customs, altogether unneccessary, had he wrote it to the Jews.”
—Balfour, Walter, Inquiry p. 127
“That fire is a common figure to express God's judgments on men for their sins.”
—Balfour, Walter, Inquiry p. 135
“The great object of modern preachers, in warning people about hell, is, to tell them they can easily escape it, by obeying their directions.”
—Balfour, Walter, Inquiry p. 169
“It was long believed, hell is a place of literal fire, but now this is discarded by most intelligent men. The idea, of literal worms being in hell no one ever believed; hence the worm that never dies, is interpreted to mean conscience, which is to torment the damned forever. But this is a private interpretation, for conscience, is not spoken of under the figure of a worm by any sacred writer, either in this world or a future state of existence.”
—Balfour, Walter, Inquiry p. 183
“Another fact is, that the salvation revealed by the gospel, is never spoken of as a salvation from hell or endless misery. No such salvation was ever promised or predicted in the Old Testament, and no such salvation was ever preached by Christ or his apostles. Our Lord received the name Jesus, because he should save his people from their sins. But I do not find he received this name or any other, because he should save them from hell.”
—Balfour, Walter, Inquiry p. 200
“You search the Scriptures in vain, to find a single instance, where the apostles make any attempt to work on the fears and feelings of men by giving terrific descriptions of hell, or the horrors and howlings of the damned.”
—Balfour, Walter, Inquiry p. 201
“The topic of hell torments, on which so much zeal is spent in the present day, is one which they never introduced to their hearers. This topic, hardly forgotten in a single discourse, and so powerful in inducing all classes of society to contribute money, seems to have been unknown in the days of the apostles.”
—Balfour, Walter, Inquiry p. 204
“He says -- "our English or rather Saxon word hell, in its original signification, (though it is now understood in a more limited sense) exactly answers to the word Hades, and denotes a concealed or unseen place; and this sense of the word is still retained in the eastern, and especially in the western counties of England; to hele over a thing is to cover it over.”
—Balfour, Walter, Inquiry p. 208
“We find Hades follows death, and these two are spoken of as connected. But do we ever find it said that Gehenna follows the resurrection of the dead; or that there is any connection between these two things?”
—Balfour, Walter, Inquiry p. 217
“Let us inquire what accusations the Jews brought against the Savior? The Jews accused him of many things; such as being an enemy to Ceasar; as in league with Beelzebub; and as a blasphemer. On his trial, Pilate said to him, "behold how many things they witness against thee." The principle of these were that he called himself the Son of God, and said he was able to destroy their temple. But I ask, did the Jews on any occasion, ever accuse him of having threatened them with endless misery in hell? No: bad as the Jews were, they never accused him of any such thing.”
—Balfour, Walter, Inquiry p. 226
“The Pharisees held, that the souls of the wicked were to be punished with perpetual punishment, and that there was appointed for them a perpetual prison.”
—Balfour, Walter, Inquiry p. 241
“If the doctrine of hell torments, is so well calculated to prevent sin, and promote holiness, why did not our Lord teach it to the Jews, who are allowed to have been a race of very wicked men?”
—Balfour, Walter, Inquiry pp. 266-267
“That the preaching of eternal torments in hell, is one of the principal causes which produce revivals of religion in the present day, will not be denied.”
—Balfour, Walter, Inquiry p. 278
“Nor do we find in those days, what is too obvious in these, the different sects all exerting themselves in every possible way, to secure the greatest number of converts to their different churches. A man must shut his eyes very close, who does not see through all this religious maneuvering.”
—Balfour, Walter, Inquiry p. 279
“The course which the apostles perused was open, manly, and dignified; and the doctrine they preached was glad tidings of great joy to all people. Their object, was not to save men from Gehenna or hell, but from ignorance, idolatry, licentiousness, and unbelief, and to instruct them in the knowledge and obedience of the one living and true God. But, the primary object of preaching in the present day, seems to be to save men from hell; to attach converts to some religious party, and enjoin on them to believe neither more or less, all the days of their lives, than is contained in the creed, which they subscribed to on their admission. ”
—Balfour, Walter, Inquiry pp. 282-283
“Error is not good for men, either in life or in death. It is truth which gives true hope and joy to the mind, and it is truth, which is a light to the feet and a lamp to the path.”
—Balfour, Walter, Inquiry p. 290
“It will not be denied, that a great many who are believers in the doctrine of hell torments have received this doctrine by tradition from their fathers, without any Scriptual examination of it for themselves.”
—Balfour, Walter, Inquiry p. 298
“You hear men every day call themselves Calvinists: but Calvinism now is a very different thing from what is found in the works of John Calvin. You also hear of orthodoxy, but orthodoxy is not the same now that it was twenty years ago, and what is true or orthodoxy in America, would not be orthodoxy in Scottland. The truth is, men are beginning to search the Scriptures for themselves, and are taking the liberty to dissent from their fathers, however learned, or good they may have been. The Reformation was the dawn of the day, after the long night of ignorance and superstition. But were the reformers to rise from the tomb, they would be surprised to see some good, some wise, and learned men, contending that we must advance no farther, but must sit down satisfied where they left us. Happy for us, that we live in an age and in a part of the world, where it would not be in the power of man to stop the tide of inquiry and investigation.”
—Balfour, Walter, Inquiry p. 299
“Evidence is the criterion of truth; nor can a man be said to believe any doctrine, farther than he understands it, and preceives the evidence of its truth. Where the evidence for or against any doctrine is equally balanced, the mind is in doubt, and suspense prevails, until some additional evidence appears, which leads the mind to preponderate to the one side or the other.”
—Balfour, Walter, Inquiry p. 300
“Is the belief that hell is a place of endless misery, which saves any man? And is it unbelief in this doctrine which damns any man to this punishment? here seems to be one radical mistake of the objector. He seems to think that if his doctrine is true, all who have not believed it, must suffer this punishment for not believing it.”
—Balfour, Walter, Inquiry p. 302
“But the first to condemn others, are generally the last to examine for themselves, what is truth on any religious subject.”
—Balfour, Walter, Inquiry p. 328
“For on the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, the doctrine of future punishment is founded. This doctrine among the heathen nations, could not exist without the immortality of the soul.”
—Balfour, Walter, Inquiry p. 341

Universalism, the doctrine of the Bible

“It is plain that in the Old Testament the most profound silence is observed in regard to the state of the deceased, their joy or sorrow, their happiness or misery.”
—Moore, Asher, Universalism, the doctrine of the Bible p. 103
“Besides, it should be well understood and never forgotten, that the Gospel is expressly called a new and better covenant than the legal, because established upon better promises--and not because it reveals dreadful and horrible evils that were altogether unknown to the old dispensation.”
—Moore, Asher, Universalism, the doctrine of the Bible p. 105

Discourses relating to the evidences of revealed religion

“If the heathen philosophers became so vain in their imaginations, when they speculated concerning the nature of God.. much more did they wander in uncertainty and error, with respect to the doctrine of a future state, concerning which, as I have observed, the light of nature gives us no information at all.”
—Priestly, Joseph, Discourses relating to the evidences of revealed religion pp. 202-203

Principles of nature

“Hell is a bugbear of superstition, which has never answered, and never can answer, any valuable purpose even in preventing crimes.”
—Palmer, Elihu, Principles of nature p. 32
“It is neither in the upper nor lower regions; it is not in heaven nor in hell, that the origin of moral evil will be discovered; it is to be founded only among those intelligent beings who exist upon the earth. Man has created it, and man must destroy it.”
—Palmer, Elihu, Principles of nature Gb. 129
“What then constitutes a moral evil? It is the violation of a law of justice or utility, by any one of the human species, competent to distinguish between right and wrong.”
—Palmer, Elihu, Principles of nature Gb. 129

Other Books

“The primary religion of mankind arises chiefly from an anxious fear of future events; and what ideas will naturally be entertained of invisible, unknown powers, while men lie under dismal apprehensions of any kind, may easily be conceived. Every image of vengeance, severity, cruelty, and malice must occur, and must augment the ghastliness and horror which oppresses the amazed religionist. ... And no idea of perverse wickedness can be framed, which those terrified devotees do not readily, without scruple, apply to their deity.”
—Hume, David, The Natural History of Religion, section XIII