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"descent into hell, what the Churches of the West de“ nominated his burial.”
VII. At what time these synonymous expressions began to be joined as if they differed in meaning, cannot be exactly ascertained. Erasmus is of opinion that this was done by Thomas Aquinas, who flourished about the year 1365. I find in Socrates,* however, that the Arians, by the appointment of Acacius, met at Constantinople, to the number of fifty, and there compiled a Creed, in which they profess that they believe in Christ, “ who was dead, and buried, and who "penetrated the subterranean regions, at whom even “ Hades was struck with terror.”+ By these expressions they appear to understand something more than burial. This happened about the year 359.
VIII. Nevertheless, though the article respecting the descent of Christ into hell, does not occur, in express
words, either in sacred Scripture or in the most ancient | Creeds, we sincerely believe and assert it, when rightly
explained. In examining the sense of the expression, we shall not inquire so much, what several of the ancients may have understood, as what, in conformity with the analogy of faith and the language of Scripture, they ought to have understood by these words. Nor, provided the subject itself be placed in a perspicuous light, shall we deem it of great importance, in what order we find this article now arranged in the Creed; in which, we have shown that originally it was entirely omitted.
IX. When we profess that Christ descended into hell, the expression is to be referred, we apprehend, partly to the BODY, and partly to the soul.
* Lib. ii. cap. 41. edit. Græc.---Latin Vers. cap. 32.
X. As it respects the Body, it denotes burial, or the retention of the body in the grave, and in the state of death. Among all persons of candour it is undoubted, that the Hebrew term Scheol,* which the Greeks render Hades,t often denotes the grave, or the state of dead men of every description. To omit many other instances which are adduced by the learned, it expressly denotes the grave in Psalm cxli. 7. “ Our bones are “ scattered at the mouth of the grave, Scheol.”—And the state of death, Psalm xlix. 14. “ Like sheep they “ are laid in the grave, Scheol;" that is, they die like sheep, which are not usually buried, and which surely do not penetrate into the hell of the damned, or into what is called a Limbus. I
xi. Further, as Scheol and Hades denote the state of the dead and the grave, so to go, or to descend into Scheol, or Hades, signifies to pass into that state and .. place. Hezekiah says accordingly: " I said, in the cut“ ting off of my days, I shall go to the gates of the “ grave, Scheol ;" I shall be added to the number of the dead and buried; “ I am deprived of the residue of my “ years.”j The patriarch Jacob, in like manner, said: “ I will go down into the grave, Scheolah, to my son, “ mourning."" This most directly refers to the state of death; but there is nothing material to hinder the expression from being explained also of the grave. Admitting that Jacob may not have thought that Joseph was buried, yet in descending to the grave, he was to go to Joseph, though unburied, and, as he supposed, to
t'Adusi # A Latin term, applied by Roman Catholics to a supposed region in the world of spirits. See the 14th and 17th sections of this Dissertation. T. j Is. xxxviii. :0.
k Gen. xxxvii. 35.
be with him among the dead. It is not those only who are interred in the same tomb with their fathers, that are said to “ go to their fathers,” or to be “ gather“ed with” them; but those also, who, by descending to the grave, are brought into the same state of death even with ancestors that had not been honoured with a
tomb. This interpretation may suffice, without resort| ing to the gloss of Solomon Jarchi, who explains it
thus: “ I will descend into Scheol on account of my son ;" * referring the expression to the cause of death, not to fellowship in death.
XII. Whoever intends, then, to express our Lord's condition in the grave and in the state of death, in the language employed by ancient patriarchs and prophets, cannot make use of more elegant or striking terms than these: “ Christ descended into hell, hades.” And this is the native, proper, and literal sense of the expression.24
XI11. But we have said that it may also be referred to the Soul. Our reason for saying so, however, is not that it is written, Psalm xvi. 10, “ Thou wilt not leave “ my soul in hell;" for it is not necessary to understand those words of that part of man which we call the soul or the mind. The Hebrew word Nephesh,t which the Psalmist here uses, sometimes means a living creature, whether irrational, or rational.m The following passages refer to the latter : “ Whosoever hath killed any “soul—person;"n “ Let my soul,let me die the death “ of the righteous ;” and “ Let my soul,let me die
f wos. Gen. i. 20, 21.
m Gen. ii. 7. 1 Cor. xv. 45. n Num. xxxi. 19.
• Num. xxiii. 10. 94 See Note XXIV.
“ with the Philistines.”p The expression, Psalm xvi. 10, might be explained in the same sense : « Thou wilt “ not leave my soul,” that is, MYSELF. But, what is more in point, Nephesh signifies even a dead animal, or a corpse: “ He that toucheth the dead body of any “ man, shall be unclean seven days :"9 “ Whosoever “ toucheth the dead body of any man that is dead,"? &c. Innumerable phrases of the same sort might be quoted. Why then may we not, with the venerable Beza, in his first edition of the New Testament, understand at least, if not translate, the Psalmist's expression thus; “ Thou wilt not leave my dead body in the grave.” For we have now seen that a dead body is sometimes meant by Nephesh; and from what was formerly said, it is sufficiently evident that Scheol sometimes means the grave.
Xiv. We acknowledge, nevertheless, that, even with respect to the soul, Christ descended into hell; but truly not in that sense which was maintained by several of the ancients, and is now embraced by the Church of Rome. These hold, that the soul of Christ, when separated from the body by death, actually, properly, and locally visited certain subterranean places, either in the abode of the damned, that he might display to the men consigned to everlasting punishment, and even to the Devils themselves, the power of his kingdom, and the victory which he had obtained over sin ;-01 in a kind of Limbus, a region alleged to be situated on the confines of the place of torment, that he might announce to the souls of the fathers the salvation which
p Judges xvi. 30.
9 07877 WDD . Num. xix. 11.
במת בנפש האדם *
he had procured, and might bring them thence along with him, and exalt them to heaven.
xv. The Scriptures, the only rule of our faith, give us no intelligence respecting any such descent of Christ's soul into hell; nor was such a descent at all necessary or expedient. The Saviour, when about to die, in solemn and express language, commended his spirit into the hands of his Father. s This he did, doubtless, with the same views with which it was done, by David before him, and by Stephen after him :u of the latter of whom, at least, it is certain, that he had no conception of descending to hell. Besides, the same day on which he suffered, Christ assured the penitent thief that he should be with him in paradise. Now paradise is not in hell. Nor is it probable that the soul of Christ,
after conducting the soul of the malefactor to paradise, . straightway left it, descended into hell, called out the fathers, and forthwith hastened back again, and introduced them to heaven; whence, at the commencement of the third day he returned to the body,-having, within so short a period, travelled over the space of the whole world, no less than four times.
XVI. And what purpose could be served by the soul of Christ taking such a journey to the place of the damned? Was making a show of his victory among devils and condemned spirits of so great moment, that he should have preferred an excursion to the centre of the earth to the enjoyment of rest in heaven? Was
that the most proper season for a triumph, when, being Li still bound with the chains of death, he rather resem
• Luke xxiii. 46.
" Acts vii. 59. VOL. II.
Ps. xxxi. 5.