And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias.…
A zealous partisan of the notion that there is no future punishment was telling his children the story of "The Babes in the Wood," when a shrewd little boy looked up and asked, "What became of the little children?" "Oh, they went to heaven, of course!" was the prompt reply. "And what became of the horrid old uncle?" It was a poser; and for some moments the universalist looked confused. His favourite hobby must, however, be sustained at all costs, and he answered as composedly as he could, "Why, he went to heaven also!" "I am so sorry," said the child, "for I am afraid the bad man will kill them again!" Here was logic in a nutshell, which no theories could overturn. President Nott had preached a sermon setting forth the everlasting punishment of the impenitent, when a man of the same class rudely said, "Well, sir, I have been to hear you preach, and now I want you to prove your doctrine." "I thought I had proved it," was the mild reply, "for I took the Bible for testimony." "Well," persisted the assailant, waxing valiant, "I do not find it in my Bible, and I do not believe it." "What do you believe?" asked Dr. Nott, in a quiet and unconcerned tone. "Why, I believe that mankind will be judged according to the deeds done in the body, and those that deserve punishment will be sent to a place of punishment for awhile, and remain there until the debt is paid, when they will be taken out and carried to heaven." "I have but a word to say in reply," observed Dr. Nott, "and first, for what did Christ die? and lastly, there is a straight road to heaven; but if you are determined to go round through hell to get there, I cannot help it." The man took his leave, the wiser for the interview, and a more careful study of the Bible led him to adopt the orthodox belief. If any one were asked, "Where do you suppose Judas went after death?" could he, in his sober senses, answer, "To heaven?" The thing is utterly preposterous; and we are prepared to read in the text that he went to "his own place" — a place suited to one who had proved himself a child of the devil. Every student knows that the significant expression is used by ancient writers to denote going to one's eternal destiny. Thus the Jewish Targum, in Numbers 24:25, where it is said of Balaam that he "went to his own place," adds, that this "place" was Gehenna, the place of final torment. The Chaldee paraphrase of Ecclesiastes 6:6 declares, "Although the days of a man's life were two thousand years, and he did not study the Law, and do justice, in the day of his death his soul shall descend to hell, to the one place where all sinners go." St. Ignatius, in his Epistle to the Magnesians, wrote, "Because all things have an end, the two things death and life shall lie down together, and each one shall go to his own place." Without referring, then, to many passages of Holy Scripture, the brief allusion to the doom of Judas is enough to settle the question. Hell is not a mere arbitrary appointment of the Almighty, but as the polluted would not be fitted for heaven, and could not enjoy it, there must, of necessity, be some place adapted to their condition, and God teaches us that hell is that place. The guilty and impenitent accordingly will have no ground of complaint if a just God appoints for him precisely such a place as his own conduct in life has prepared him for. An eloquent speaker was attempting to show, from garbled passages of Scripture, that the gospel is peace and good-will, and not terror nor hell fire, when a young man rose and said: "Did Paul preach the gospel before Felix?" "Yes." "And did Felix tremble?" "He did." The young man took his hat, bowed politely, and retired, the rest of the people going out with him. The simplest-minded present could not but understand that the gospel which the apostle preached must have had some reference to future punishment, or the wicked and the haughty Felix would hardly have thus lost his self-command. It is useless to attempt to obviate the necessity for future punishment by insisting that we suffer for our sins in this life. There are such cases, it is true, but they are the excerption, and not the rule. What, then, becomes of the rest? The pirate Gibbs, whose name, for so many years, was a terror to those who sailed among the West Indies, when tried and condemned, confessed that the first few murders did occasion him some twinges of conscience, but that in course of time he could cut the throats of a whole ship's crew, and then eat his supper and lie down and sleep as quietly as a babe! It seems from this that if remorse in this life is God's way of punishing crimes, then the more horrible deeds that bad people commit the less He punishes them! If one act of sin, as in the case of Eve, Uzziah, Miriam, Nadab and Abihu, and thousands more, draw down the wrath of God, what must a whole life of sin! Think of the destruction of the cities of the plain, and then call to mind the Saviour's words, "It shall be more tolerable," etc. Wicked people need no "sending to hell," since they go there of their own accord. The gulf which divides heaven from hell is one of moral unlikeness, and as people have sought the company that suited them here, so they will find themselves in congenial society hereafter. The sinner makes his own damnation, and he cannot blame God with it. "Thou hast destroyed thyself!" There is still another objection, viz., that eternal punishment is too long as the penalty for the sins of a short life. A just God is the best judge of this. The only question is, Was the transgressor duly forewarned? A man who proposes to embark on a steamer does not expect, after he has been told the hour of departure, that the bell will be rung for half a day, or even an hour, in accommodation to his dilatory habits. He may, by losing the voyage, change the prospects of a whole life, and even a few seconds may decide the case. A day is not too short a space for a crime which will be punished by imprisonment for life, and if a note is due at the bank, the loss of credit is not escaped because the promisor had received but one notice. Did any person ever object to eternal salvation, that it is too long to be the reward of this short life? Dante described both heaven and hell most wonderfully, for he had been in both. Once, as the servant of sin, he had known shame and doubt and darkness and despair, — which are certainly the grim portal of hell; and then, through God's forbearing mercy, he had found peace in believing, and love to God, which casteth out fear — and here was the beginning of heaven. And so, when timid people saw him as he glided along the street, they said, with a shudder, "There is the man who has been in hell!" If we would not go where Judas has gone, we must begin our heavenly life on earth.
(J. N. Norton, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias.