Mark 9:43. And if thy hand offend thee, &c. The discourse here passes from the case of offending to that of being offended. If one who is as useful or dear to thee as a hand or eye, prevent thee from walking in the ways of God, or hinder thee therein, renounce all intercourse with him. This primarily relates to persons; secondarily, to things. See the note on Matthew 5:29-30, where this subject is explained at large. The sum is, It is better to deny one’s self the greatest earthly satisfactions, and to part with any and every person and thing, however precious, represented by the figures of a hand, a foot, and eye, than by these things to cause the weakest of Christ’s disciples to stumble, or to be made to stumble ourselves. Further, the amputation of our hands and feet, and the digging out of our eyes, when they cause us to stumble, import also, that we should deny ourselves such use of our senses and members as may lead us into sin. Thus the hand and the eye are to be turned away from those alluring objects which raise in us lust and ambition. The foot must be restrained from carrying us into evil company, unlawful diversions, and forbidden pleasures. Nor can we complain of these injunctions as severe, since by causing, or even by tempting others to sin, as well as by sinning ourselves, we are exposed to the eternal punishments of hell. Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched “These expressions seem to be borrowed from Isaiah 66:24, in which passage the prophet is describing the miserable end of hardened sinners, by a similitude taken from the behaviour of conquerors, who, after having gained the battle, and beaten the enemy out of the field, go forth to view the slain. Thus, at the last day, the devil, with all his adherents, being finally and completely vanquished, the saints shall go forth to view them, doomed by the just judgment of God to eternal death. And this their punishment is represented by two metaphors, drawn from the different ways of burying the dead in use among the Jews. Bodies of men, interred in the earth, are eaten up of worms, which die when their food faileth; and those that are burned are consumed in fire, which extinguishes itself when there is no more fuel added to feed it. But it shall not be so with the wicked; their worm shall not die, and their fire is not quenched. These metaphors, therefore, as they are used by our Lord, and by the Prophet Isaiah, paint the eternal punishments of the damned in strong and lively colours.” Macknight. To this may be added, that by the worm here spoken of, that dieth not, may be denoted, the continual torture of an accusing conscience, and the misery naturally arising from the evil dispositions of pride, self-will, desire, malice, envy, shame, sorrow, despair; and by the fire that is not quenched, the positive punishment inflicted by the fiery wrath of God. Dr. Whitby’s note on these verses deserves the reader’s particular attention. After observing that these words, Where their worm dieth not, &c., are taken from Isaiah 66:24, (where see the notes,) he adds, “It seems reasonable to interpret them according to the received opinion of the Jews, since otherwise our Lord, by using them so frequently in speaking to them, without saying any thing to show them that he did not understand the expression as they did, must have strengthened them in their error. Now, it is certain, 1st, That gehenna (hell) was by them still looked on as the place in which the wicked were to be tormented by fire. So the Jerusalem Targum, on Genesis 15:17, represents it as a furnace sparkling and flaming with fire, into which the wicked fall. And the Targum, upon Ecclesiastes 9:15, speaks of the fire of hell; and, Mark 10:11, of the sparks of the fire of hell; and, chap. Mark 8:10, of the wicked who shall go to be burned in hell. Accordingly, our Lord speaks here, Mark 9:47, and Matthew 5:22, of the wicked being cast into hell fire; and, Matthew 13:42, of their being cast into a furnace of fire. 2d, The ancient Jews held that the punishments of the wicked in hell will be perpetual, or without end. So Judith says, chap. Mark 16:17, κλαυσονται εν αισθησι εως αιωτος , they shall weep under the sense of their pains for ever. Josephus informs us that the Pharisees held that the souls of the wicked were to be punished, αιδιω τιμωρια , with perpetual punishment; and that there was appointed for them, ειργμος αιδιος , a perpetual prison. Philo saith, “The punishment of the wicked person is, ζην αποθανοντα αει , to live for ever dying, and to be for ever in pains, and griefs, and calamities that never cease: accordingly our Lord says of them, that they shall go away into eternal punishment, Matthew 25:41; that God will destroy the soul and body in hell, Matthew 10:28; and here, that their worm dieth not, and their fire is not quenched.” Whence the doctor concludes, 1st, That though it is not to be doubted that the expression, the worm dieth not, is to be understood figuratively of remorse of conscience and keen self-reflection; yet, that the bodies of the wicked shall suffer in fire, properly so called, this he thinks being suitable not only to the tradition of the Jewish and of the Christian Church, but to the constant phraseology of the Scriptures. And, 2dly, That the punishment of the wicked shall be, strictly speaking, eternal; this also being the constant opinion of the Christian Church, as he shows in a note on Hebrews 6:2; and this punishment being consistent with divine justice and goodness, as he proves in his Appendix to 2 Thessalonians 1:0. It is justly added here, by Dr. Macknight, “The most superficial reader must be sensible, that our Lord’s repeating so frequently his declaration concerning the duration of future punishments, has in it something very awful, and implies that mankind should attend to it as a matter of infinite importance to them. It likewise affords a lesson to all the ministers of the gospel, directing them to enforce the precepts of religion, which they inculcate, by frequently and earnestly holding forth to the view of their hearers the terrors of a future judgment.”
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