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death of Christ, and was not recognized as a part of the Creed
until that time. The reason of the phraseology doubtless
arose from the prevalent vulgar opinion that hell was situated in some lower region of the earth; therefore, it is represented by the Greeks zarzz3ovia and ra wararies, or by the Latins infernum, or in English, the lower parts of the earth. And so it is immediately comprehended under the term *ēns, because of its invisibility. It would extend the limits of this dissertation too far to attempt to answer all the various explanations of this article, as they represent Christ literally and locally descending into hell, the place of punishment. The descent of our Lord into this hades has been a subject of long and serious disputation. Some declaring that he went locally, in order to instruct the spirits there in prison; meaning one division in this invisible world, wherein the souls confined were to hear the doctrine of Christ's redemption, and thus be delivered from the Limbus
Patrum, or Purgatory. Others consider his descent as merely
meaning his remaining in the state of the dead, or continuing under the power of death for a time. Others have understood it figuratively, that the Lord Jesus did actually endure upon the cross the literal torments due to sin; or, in other words, the torments of the damned. But we find no authority for such interpretations from Scripture, nor in the construction of language, nor the meaning of the specific phraseology generally used by the Greek writers.-And if the Scriptures in their tenor contradict such interpretations, and such construction be not justified by the use of the language prevalent at that time, it would be sinfulness to believe it, and pure absurdity to attempt to overthrow it. He suffered all that was necessary, because all that was required of God, while he remained upon the earth; beeause he bore the weight of infinite wrath. And with respect to his descent into hell in order to preach the gospel unto sinners, or the spirits in prison, we well know that the state of sinners is irreversibly fixed at death, and their doom is sealed for ever; so that such an idea is fabulous; yea, it is worse, it is not true; because it contradicts the word of the Holy God. For if you select an illustration, (and one is sufficient,) the parable of the rich man and Lazarus:–The rich man is soliciting Lazarus to send some one from the dead, and preach the gospel to his brethren, lest they also, by their rejection of the gospel, might at last be sent to this place of inexpressible torment. There was no one to preach the gospel . to him there—his doom was fixed, and fixed eternally. It is said our Saviour descended into hell, because it was a necessary and principal part of his humiliation. Our Saviour's humiliation doubtless comprehends his being confined under the power of death for a time, but this proves nothing about his soul being confined to a particular local situation remote from heaven. Another end of his descent into hell, it is stated, was, to conquer it in his own person, as the Head and Representative of his church and people. This he did in his death. And even before it, the kingdom of Satan was destroying—he was seen falling as lightning from heaven. Christ came into the world, “that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who, through fear of death, were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” Another reason is assigned for our Redeemer's descent into hell, “that he might subject himself to the laws of death, and be in every thing conformable unto us.” And what does this prove & Nothing more than that his death was necessary—that he remained under its power for a time, that he sanctified the grave for his followers, and has given them, in the fact of his resurrection, a proof and a pledge, that “them that sleep in Jesus, God will bring with him.” We are aware of the objection, that the place of departed spirits cannot include either heaven or hell, but must be an intermediate state, because that perfection of happiness or misery cannot be expected, until the resurrection and the judgment-day, when the body and the soul shall be reunited. But the mistake into which Bishops Horsley and Hobart, and many others, have fallen, (for they bring the objection, at least it can be formed from their writing) is this, they forget that
the soul, separated from the body, can be, as the soul, perfectly happy or miserable in itself. When we speak of the soul being perfectly happy in heaven, or perfectly miserable in hell, we do not mean, surely, the person. They forget that the final judgment regards the person, the whole man, body and soul, and not the soul only. So that we cannot possibly perceive an inconsistency in affirming perfect happiness or misery of the soul, and yet that is not the perfection which will belong to persons in the judgment-day. Almost all the ancient Greeks, in speaking of ***, consider it as the place appointed for the universal reception of all that die. But the various apartments appointed either for the happiness of the good, or the punishment of evil men, originated through poetical fancy, vulgar superstition, or wild and foolish fable. JHades being represented as the state of invisibility, it is easy to perceive how naturally death is to be considered as the entrance into it. Death removes the soul from the body; and the body, descending inanimate into the grave, may be aptly considered as the entrance into that invisible state, which is common to the departed spirits of all. Death, or hades, is again personified in the Scripture, as in that remarkable passage of our Lord's address to Peter, when he assured him of the stability of his church, “that the gates of hell, 49es, should not prevail against her;” that is, that she should never become extinct—never disappear from the world; but should remain visible until the accomplishment of every promise, the fulfilment of every prophecy, and the ultimate redemption of her unnumbered sons. But the allusion can prove nothing more, than that this word only represents that invisible state which is the mutual state of departed spirits. With respect to locality, or the intermediate state, as represented in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus:—“This (saith a learned bishop) is designed for no more than a general scenical description of a future state, and the real changes consequent thereupon, without any particular reference to a fact, in either person, time, place, or other circumstances.” Parables present to the mind rather principles than facts. And should we even be very minute in the application of these principles, we should sometimes be led into real absurdities.
If, in such a parable as this, you would strictly confine the
meaning to locality, you might with as much readiness and plausibility believe, that in the day of judgment, when the Lord Jesus, in the character of a shepherd, shall separate between the righteous and the wicked, the righteous are sheep, and the wicked are goats. There is another passage upon which mighty importance is laid: the history of Christ and the thief upon the cross. . It is asserted, from the expression of Christ to the thief, “to-day shalt thou be with me in paradise,” that that paradise must have reference to locality, to an intermediate place distinct from heaven, because the Lord Jesus did not ascend into heaven until after His resurrection—“Touch me not, for I have not yet ascended unto my Father.” Very true : His body was to descend down to the grave, and remain under the power of death for a time; but who can prove that His immortal soul did not rise to the realms of glory immediately when it left the body ? And indulging for a moment in the idea of local bliss,
we well know, that with respect to paradise, the Jews believed.
it to be the highest place of enjoyment; or, in other words, heaven. Here, then, is again the error, that the soul cannot be perfectly happy apart from the body. With respect to the body and the soul, in the intermediate time after death, Revelation informs us of a few particulars worthy to be noticed. And here we cannot present them more
aptly, than in the language of Bishop Law. But these unques
tionably cannot affect the subject of the perfect misery or happiness of the soul separated from the body, but represent facts connected with the person, or the whole man. 1. That we shall not awake, or be made alive, until the resurrection. 2. That the wicked shall not be severed from the righteous until the resurrection.
3. Our Christian course and improvements terminate in the
resurrection, the coming or day of our Lord.
4. The elect shall not be gathered together until the resurrection. 5. The world shall not be judged before the resurrection. 6. Holy men shall not be rewarded until the resurrection. 7. Wicked men will not be punished till the resurrectien. . As to some intermediate state of enjoyment or misery, some limbus patrum apart from hell, connected with the mode of gradation in the moral government of God, we can perceive in it no application nor force. This would be an attempt to be wise above that which is written; and would substitute, in the room of the wisdom, the power, and majesty of God, the foolish speculations of modern philosophers. We would be inclined to believe, upon the whole, that the true meaning of the term ***, represents the state of invisibility, without prime regard to locality, to the enjoyment of the righteous, or the punishment of the wicked; and, at the same time, that death and all its consequences, are comprehended under its meaning. Finally—Look at the consequences connected with the moral government of the world. The idea of some intermediate abode, apart in the meantime from either heaven or hell, would be an encouragement to the wicked, and the cause of grief to righteous men. The idea of protracted time, before punishment was executed, would embolden impiety. This would be another opportunity, only to question the truth of God, to grow more hardened in iniquity, and fill the world with unmingled wo. It would contradict the ideas of distinguished men, whose tongues were touched with holy fire, and whose minds were inspired by the Spirit of God. The martyred Stephen expired with the holy aspiration upon his lips, and with the assurance of immediate admittance into the mansions of the Lord— “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” The Apostle Paul, that venerable man of God, was willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. To him, to live was Christ, and to die was gain. He had a desire to depart and to be with his glorified Master, which was far better. He desired to be mingled with the spirits of just men made perfect, yea,