« AnteriorContinuar »
wilt not leave my soul in hell.” Did then the rational soul of Jesus descend into the regions of the damned ? The question needs no answer. The bare possibility is too revolting to be entertained. The Hebrew word sheol means the invisible regions of the dead, and not necessarily the place of torment. Isaiah xiv. 9, describes the interest which the death of the king of Babylon excited throughout those ghostly caverns.
Sheol is there represented as raising up the shades of departed monarchs, and insulting the potentate on his being reduced to the same low estate of impotence and dissolution with themselves. “Sheol from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming; it stirreth up the dead for thee, even all the chief ones of the earth," &c. If, then, the intelligent spirit of Jesus did not descend to the abyss of woe, whither did it depart? To suppose that the Saviour's soul ascended to heaven is contrary to his own declaration to Mary: “ Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father; but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father; and to my God and your God." Said Jesus to the repentant malefactor, " To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” In this may be found a partial solution of the difficulty. We regard paradise as one compartment of hades, just as gehenna is the opposite division. As the grave is the dwelling-place of our corporeity, so hades is the receptacle of the spirit. In this respect Jesus is our forerunner. Amid darkness and distress he explored the regions of the dead, and opened out a pathway to immortality. Confidence in his Father's guidance sustained him in that lonely pilgrimage, until he arose from the dead, and realised that dignity and felicity which awaited him in the presence of God. Here we observe that Jesus commenced at the lowest condition, and passed through the higher to the highest. He lived on earth, then joined the innumerable congregation of the dead, and thence ascended to the right hand of the Father. In this, as in other matters, has he not left us an example that we should follow his steps? In keeping with this would we interpret 1 Peter iii. 18-20. There are two words in this passage which demand attention, namely, “Spirit” and “prison.” The apostles and their amanuenses employed the uncial characters or capital letters exclusively. In the apostolic manuscripts no difference was made in the word “spirit,” whether used to designate the Holy Ghost or the human soul. Our translators and editors have employed the capital S where they believed the sense required it. They were but fallible men; so that even in the use of a single letter
grave theological questions may be involved. In 1 Tim. iii. 16, is “spirit” meant the third person in the Trinity or the Saviour's human soul? And in this passage in Peter, is “spirit” to be understood of the Holy Ghost or the opposite of flesh ? May
not flesh (sarki) and spirit (pneumati) constitute antithetic terms ? The word “prison” is the strongest rendering for phulake. Had the word been translated « confinement” it would have still been correct, and would have relieved the passage of its present uncertainty and severity. We would paraphrase the text thus: that at death Christ's rational and intelligent soul descended into this place of separation, here called a prison: that he preached not only to the spirits of those who had died in the time of Noah, but to all the disembodied under the Old Testament age. Now if we can discover a purpose sufficiently worthy of the person and work of the Son of God, then the descent into hell may be a comfortable and glorious truth. In a volume written by Dr. Joseph Parker, entitled “Hidden Springs," a sermon occurs on 1 Peter iii. 19. The author regards the lost as those who died impenitent under the foregoing ages, and that Jesus went into hades to seek and save the lost, or in other words, “ that he might supply an evangelical basis of judgment, and an evangelical possibility of spiritual life.” If Dr. Parker here alludes to the heathen who died in utter ignorance of the Saviour, then in their case an evangelical basis of judgment is unnecessary; for these “having not the law, are a law unto themselves.” If, however, the author means by the lost those who enjoyed the light of revelation, but died in utter rejection thereof, then his position is untenable. The very fact that men possessed the means of enlightenment and salvation constitutes
an evangelical basis of judgment, and an evangelical possibility of spiritual life.” Are we to conclude that only those worthies mentioned in scripture were saved in the Old Testament age ? The high probability is that countless numbers trod in the footsteps of the patriarchs and prophets. In the enumeration given in the epistle to the Hebrews the writer seems overwhelmed with numbers : And what shall I say more? for the time would fail me to tell.” The same means were, therefore, available for those who died impenitent as for that goodly fellowship who have obtained the promises. Dr. Parker appears to exhibit more sentiment than judgment in the following: “If the disembodied Messiah was accepted as a Saviour by every imprisoned spirit; if he left the old deceiver, the devil, trembling in the solitude of a lonely hill, without one human victim to break the appalling silence, I should cry out with gladdest joy." Yes, and we would help the author in that cry did we see its possibility ; but the case is hopeless. Said Jesus: "For verily I say unto you, that many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.” Under the foregoing age an intense longing for the coming of the Messiah was manifested. To die then was to pass away under a shadow; to be bereft of a sight of the
“ Consolation of Israel ;" to be deprived of an intimate acquaintance and fellowship with His work. “These all died in faith, not having received the promises." We may now discern some high and holy purpose to be accomplished in Christ's visit to the dead. He descended to the congregation of the disembodied to submit to the condition of the dead; to assert His dominion over the power and territories of death ; to assure the spirits of the departed that the work of redemption was effected by the shedding of His blood; and to proclaim the tidings of a coming resurrection, which to the good would be a source of joy, but to the evil a source of misery. To the dead no less than the quick Jesus “ brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” We deny that the preaching of Christ afforded any redemptivegrounds. It was declarative, and not restorative. As Calvin puts it : “ While the souls of the righteous obtained an immediate view of that visitation which they had anxiously expected; on the contrary, it was more plainly revealed to the lost that they are altogether excluded from salvation.” Why the days of Noah should be mentioned in preference to any other Old Testament period, see Bengel's “Gnomon.”
Those passages which are so pregnant of future bliss are nearly, if not altogether, based on the second advent. Very few texts indeed favour the belief that we shall gaze upon the vision of God immediately after death. On the contrary, companionship with Christ is connected with that event when He shall 66 second time without sin unto salvation.” Turn to Job xix. 25-27; Psa. xvii. 15; John xiv. 3 ; Col. iii. 4; 1 John iii. 2, &c. We may regard the spirits of the departed as still anticipating fuller manifestations of the Deity; still desiring to be clothed upon ; still waiting to depart and be with Christ. The righteous dead walk in the garden of the Lord, and banquet upon ineffable delights. They may occupy a relation to the Divine One somewhat similar to that of Moses on Sinai. Like him they may pray, Thy glory." The Divine hand may cover them whilst the glory of the Lord passes by; but to see Him as He is is a privilege reserved for the ultimate embodied state. They are concealed in the cleft of the rock ; the limnings of the glorified One may break upon them, awakening intensest longing, and kindling the brightest hope; but they are still in the cloud. They see through a glass darkly, but hereafter face to face.
The doctrine of an intermediate state is one of the most venerable articles in religious belief. Of all confessions of Christian faith the Apostles' Creed is the most antiquated and authoritative. If it was not composed and recited by the twelve, it must have originated early in the post-apostolic age. When attending the Anglican service, a good churchman has to recite every Sunday, “He descended into hell." On this article Pearson says,
66 It will
65 Shew us
appear to have been the general judgment of the Church, that the soul of Christ contradistinguished from his body, that better and more noble part of his humanity, his rational and intellectual soul, after a true and proper separation from his flesh was really and truly carried into those parts below, where the souls of men before departed were detained; and that by such a real translation of his soul he was truly said to have descended into hell.” Such a state seems to have been recognized in ancient mythology. Æneis, in witnessing an “airy nation” sporting about the borders of Lethe, requests an explanation of the souls that throng the flood; to whom Anchises replies :
“The relics of invet'rate vice they wear ;
And spots of sin obscene in ev'ry face appear,
It would appear that the heathen entertained the opinion that there was a place into which the absent shades departed, and in which they were purified and fitted for ample fields, and
“ The soft Elysian air.”
Is it from this source that the Roman Catholics derived their doctrine of purgatory? Can purgatory exist without an intermediate state ? No. Can an intermediate state exist without a purgatory? Yes. This verity in the Latin creed becomes an indirect testimony to the existence of hades. The money which is paid and the masses which are offered for the repose of the soul, proclaim what is the belief of the Western Church. Of course the doctrine has been corrupted and prostituted by a selfish and an immoral priesthood; but what doctrine has escaped the debauching policy of the Papal See ? Purgatorial fires have been kindled and blown into hottest intensity by blind superstition or intensest greed. By constructing an intermediate state into a purgatorial process, and by proclaiming redemption from its pains on certain conditions, an ample opportunity was afforded the Romish hierarchy of enriching the pontifical treasury. We hold to the one, but despise the other. The Roman Catholic dogma is neither a sequence nor a correlative of the doctrine of an intermediate state. It is a foreign graft, and not an original shoot. No necessary relation exists between them. We object to any purgatorial expiation, on the grounds that no countenance is given to such in the canonical scriptures ; because all sin must be forgiven in this life; and inasmuch as we are utterly ignorant of any remedial measure existing and operating in that state. Similar objections lie against Universalism.
ART. VIII.-THE UNITY OF GOD.
OD has revealed himself in his works and in his word. The
harmony exhibited in the order of the universe, in the relation of parts to parts, in affecting definite results, is proof of design and the existence of a DESIGNER. The gradation of being by which the various departments of nature merge into one another, renders it impossible to ascribe one department to one creator, and another to another creator. Solids, fluids, and gases are but different forms of the same substances. We are conscious of design in ourselves when we arrange and modify material things so as to render them subservient to our purposes.
There are also a proportion and a similarity in the works of the same individual. The style and phraseology of another are recognisable in all the productions of his pen. The peculiar lineaments of the artist and mechanist are traceable in all the efforts of their genius. Now this unity of design is manifested throughout all the realms of creation, and is demonstrative of the existence of ONE GOD. There is a certain character in the operations of the Divine Mind which everywhere announces, amidst an infinite variety of detail, an inimitable unity and harmony of design, which we shall illustrate by a few examples.
The gradual development of the nervous system of animals attests oneness of design. The alimentary system and the concomitant organs are additional illustrations. The teeth of animals bear a relation to their food, so that a canine tooth, adapted for the carniverous tribes, has never been found in any of the ruminant orders, nor associated with a hoof fit for supporting the body, but totally useless as a weapon for a beast of prey. The alimentary organs are uniformly furnished with such quantities of the gastric juice as are suited to the chemical composition, solidity, or solubility of the food on which the creature subsists. skeleton and organs of motion, in their relations to each other, and the contour of the animal, exemplify harmony of design ; for