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early with holy aspirations, devoutly longing for him during his absence, and freely presenting to him ourselves with all that we possess. This, without doubt, will prove far more grateful to him than the most costly spices, or even the extremely magnificent temple erected by Constantine at his tomb, and described by Eusebius in very pompous terms. *
• De Vita Constant. lib. iii. cap. 24. et seq.
ON CHRIST'S DESCENT INTO HELL.
1. Our LORD'S DESCENDING INTO HELL has attracted great attention, and given rise to much discussion. The Dissertations on this subject which have already been given to the world are extremely numerous; and since it has been so copiously discussed by others, it may be proper for us to treat it the more briefly and concisely.
II. I would observe, first of all, that this expression, Christ descended into hell, nowhere occurs, in so many words, in holy writ. He is said to have descended ; he is said to have been in hell: but we never find the expression, he descended into hell.
III. Paul affirms that he descended “into the lower "parts of the earth.”a In these words the Apostle seems to include the whole state of Christ's humiliation, which began in his nativity, and ended in his death and burial. The whole universe is divided into two parts, the upper, which is heaven; and the lower, which
* 'EIS TA XATWTIQUE peegn ons yns, Ephes. iv. 9. VOL. II.
is the earth. Christ, therefore, when he came forth from the Father out of heaven, clothed himself with human flesh and appeared on the earth,—descended into the lower parts of the world. It deserves to be considered also, whether the following expression in . Isaiah may not have the same meaning: “ Sing, Oye “ heavens, for the Lord hath done it; shout, ye lower “ parts of the earth ;b break forth into singing, ye moun- : “ tains, O forest, and every tree therein,” &c. “ The . “ lowest parts of the earth,” or the earth which is be
veral parts of which, namely, the mountains and the woods, are afterwards mentioned, are here opposed to the heavens, which are above. The Psalmist, too, appears to have metaphorically styled the womb of his mother, “ the lowest parts of the earth.” “ I was “ made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest “ parts of the earth.”d These words are explained not improperly by Jansenius thus: “ My whole substance, “ which I had in my mother's womb, a place more se“ cret than any cave of the earth, was not hid from thy « sight.”
This exposition, however, does not appear to me to exhaust the meaning of the Apostle. If we attend to the natural signification of the words, “ the lowest parts “ of the earth,” the expression denotes not only the earth itself, as opposed to the highest heaven, but also those parts of the earth which are lower than other parts of it-than “the land of the living.”e It denotes, I mean, the place of death and burial. Accordingly, we read in Ezekiel: “ When I shall bring thee down “ with them that descend into the pit, with the people
bo proxenonan Is. xliv. 23.
Comp. Is. i. 2. Deut. xxxii. 1. d Ps. cxxxix. 15.
• Is. liii. 8.
“ of old time, and shall set thee in the low parts of “ the earth.”£ And, again : “ They are all deliver“ ed unto death, in the midst of the children of men, “ to the nether parts of the earth, with them that go “ down to the pit.”g These passages are sufficient to show the manner in which the phrase is employed in Scripture. Chrysostome expresses the same view of its import in the following words; “ He calls death, the “ lower parts of the earth."* Those that are buried, are even said to be under the earth. Ignatius, says; “ On Sabbath he remained under the earth in the “ tomb." † The Apostle's entire meaning, I think, is briefly expressed by Theophylact thus: “ It is mani“ fest that he who was above, not only descended into “the earth, when he became incarnate ; but also into “hades, when he died.”I
iv. With respect to the time of Christ's continuance in hell, David prophesied, saying; “ Thou wilt not " leave my soul in hell:'h the meaning of which prophecy, is explained by Peter thus: “Men and brethren, “ let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, " that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is “ with us unto this day. --- He, seeing this before, “ spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was “not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.”i We shall attend to the several words of this prediction immediately.
• Tæds ratw peign tas gñs Savator prou. + Το σαββατον υπό γήν μενει εν τω μνημεια. + Δήλον ότι άνω ών κατεβη, και σαρκόμενος εις την γην, και θανων εις τον
'Ezek. xxvi. 20.
& Ezek. xxxi. 14. h xV2 'wo) týn fuxchy He8 és áde. Ps. xvi. 10. i Acts ii. 29, 30.
v. It must also be remarked, further, that this article respecting the descent of Christ into hell, is omitted in almost all the ancient Creeds; which is evident from a long induction of instances by Moulin,* and by Vossius.t The most ancient copy in which it is found, is the private Creed ascribed to Athanasius. But that Creed seems to be falsely attributed to Athanasius; it is, at least, extremely doubtful whether he be its real author. Of this we are fully convinced by the strong arguments of Vossius; who shows that it either did not exist at all, or was not known in the Church, till the beginning of the seventh century. I • VI. In fine, it is worthy of notice too, that anciently those Creeds which had the article of Christ's descent into hell, did not contain the article relating to his burial; and those in which the article respecting the descent into hell was omitted, did contain the article relating to the burial. Learned men are of opinion, that since originally those which exhibited the one omitted the other, both of them, owing to some mistake, afterwards began to be conjoined. In the time of Rufinus, indeed, that is, about the beginning of the fifth century, the Church of Rome herself deemed it sufficient to mention the burial only. The Church of Aquileia, however, had both in their Creed; but if we may adopt the opinion of Rufinus, they supposed that both had one and the same meaning. And here I entirely acquiesce in the sentiment of Vossius : “ that the “ Churches of the East originally understood by Christ's
* In Thesibus.
§ Formerly a flourishing town near the Adriatic Sea, and capital of the territory of Venice. T.