« AnteriorContinuar »
ture faith he did, to the Spirits that were in Prison". But the Place of Torment is never determinately expressed in Scripture by the Word Hades, which both the Scripture and the Creed use in this Article, but by very different ones; though unhappily our Tranflation hath used the same English Word for both, instead of calling ihe former, what ir strictly signifies, the invisible State or Region. Besides, we do not read of our Saviour's triumphing over the Devil any where, but on the Cross And the Spirits in Prison, to whom St. Peter faith Chrift by his Spirit preached, he saith also were those, which were disobedient, when the Long-suffering of God waited in the Days of Noah. And therefore Christ's preaching to them by his Spirit probably means, his exciting by his Spirit, which strove with them for a Time, that Patriarch to be a Preacher of Righteousness among them, as the same St. Peter, in his other Epistle calls him. But not hearkening to him then, they are now in Prison, referved for the Sentence of the last Day. This Opinion therefore' hath no sufficient Foundation. Nor would it be found, on further Trial, agreeable either to Reafon or Scripture.
Others have thought the Word, translated Hell, to signify in this Article, as it seems to do in fome Paffages of the Old Testament, and as the English Word anciently did, merely a Place under Ground, by which they understand, the Grave. And they plead for it, that the first Creeds, which mentioned our Saviour's descending into Hell, used no other Words to express his being buried, and therefore designed to express it by these. But allowing that, still our Creed, expressing the Descent into Hell after the Burial, must mean a different Thing by it.
And indeed the most common Meaning, not only among Heathens, but Jews and the first Christians, of the Word Hades, here translated Hell, was in general, that invisible World, one Part or another of which, d 1 Pet. iii. 19.
P 1 Pet. iii. 20. D 2 Pet. ii. 5.
e Col. ii. 14, 15.
& Gen. vi. 3•
the Souls of the deceased, whether good or bad, inhabit. And this, how ftrange foever it may seem to the unlearned, yet is by others acknowledged i. Probably therefore all that was intended to be taught by the Expreffion, now before us, is, that when our Saviour died, as his Body was laid in the Grave, so his Spirit went where other separate Spirits are. And we should remember, in repeating these Words of the Creed, that this is the Whole of what we are bound to profess by them. But in what Part of Space, or of what Nature, that Receptacle is, in which the Souls of Men continue from their Death till they rise again, we scarce know at all: excepting that we are sure it is divided into two extremely different Regions, the Dwelling of the Righteous called in St. Luke, Abraham's Bofom, where Lazarus was; and that of the wicked, where the rich Man was; between which there is a great Gulph fixedk. And we have no Proof, that our Saviour went on any Account into the latter : but since he told the penitent Thief, that he should be that Day with him in Paradise'; we are certain he was in the former ; where they, which die in the Lord, reft from their Labours, and are blessed "; waiting for a ftill more perfect Happiness at the Resurrection of the last Day.
How the Soul of our Saviour was employed in this Abode, or for what Reasons he continued there during this Time, further than that he might be like unto his Brethren in all Things", we are not told, and need not guess. But probably this Article was made Part of the Creed, in order to affert and prove, that he had really a human Soul, which was really separated from his Body. And its Residence, during the Separation, in the same State and Place, where other Spirits of just Men made
i See Pearson on this Article, P. 239, 240.
* Luke xvi. 22, 23, 2f: 'Luke xxiii. 43. Non ex his verbis in cælo existimandus est esse paradisus. Neque enim ipfo die in cælo futurus erat homo Christus Jesus : sed in inferno secundum animam, in sepulchro autem fecundum carnem. Aug. Ep. 57. ad Dardanum. Pearson, p. 237.
mu Rev, xiv, 13. Heb, ii. 17. 6
perfecto are, surely made a vast Addition to their Felicity. For Abraham, who rejoiced to see his Day P at a Distance, must be inexpressibly more rejoiced to see him present there. All the good Persons, whose going thither preceded the Death of our Lord, must certainly partake in the Joy. And all who came, or shall come, after, must feel much greater Consolation for being in a Place, where their Redeemer had been seen by such Numbers of his Saints; and to which, in some peculiar Sense, his Presence is yet continued : for we learn from St. Paul, that the immediate Consequence of a pious Man's Departure hence is being with Chrift
But were the Reasons of his descending into Hades, or of the Insertion of it into our Belief, ever so obscure; it may suffice us, that the Reasons of his Sufferings and Death are very plain, as well as very important. With these therefore I shall conclude this Lecture.
1. The first is, that he might be an Example to his Followers. For so he became the nobleft and moft engaging Pattern imaginable of that great and hard Duty, patient Submission to the Will of God: fince being of a Rank infinitely superior to the Amictions of this World, and having done Nothing to deserve the least of them, he most willingly chose, and chearfully bore, the most grievous that were possible. Well then may we, Mortals and Sinners, take whatever befalls us, in Life or in Death, meekly and contentedly; because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an Example, that we mould follow his Steps: who did no Sin, neither was Guile found in his Mouth, who yet, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him, that judgeth righteously? The Example also of Kindness and Love to Men he thewed yet more fully by his Crucifixion, than by his Incarnation : forefeeing, as he plainly did, all the Pains and Torments he should undergo, in executing his great Design of reforming and saving Mankind; yet deterred by Nothing from under• Heb. xii. 23.
John viii. 56. 9 Phil. i. 23. See Peters on Job, § 11. p. 399.
ri Pet. ii. 33.
taking it, and persevering in it. If therefore he fo loved us, we ought also, as St. John argues, to love one an. other: and because he laid down his Life for us, we ought, if a proper Occasion require it, even to lay down our Lives for the Brethren'.
2. A fecond Reason of his dying was, that he might thus confirm the Truth of his Doctrine: to which it must needs add a very powerful Confirmation, that, though the Jews expected a warlike and victorious Mera fiah, and therefore his taking upon himself a meek and suffering Character muft grievously prejudice them against him; yet he declared from the very first, what you
read in St. John, that as Moses lifted up the Serpent in the Wilderness, so should the Son of Man be lifted up"; signifying, as the fame Evangelist elsewhere assures us, what Deuth he should diew. And he all along persisted in this Declaration ; rejected every Opportunity of worldly Power ; fearlessly taught the most provoking Truths, and voluntarily met what he foretold he should suffer. Stronger Evidences of Sincerity, than these, a Man cannot give : and therefore St. John thus reckons up the Testimonies to Christ's Mission : There are three, that bear Witness in Earth ; the Spirit, the Water, and the Blood. And St. Paul observes, that before Pontius Pio late he witnessed a good Confeffion Y; on Account of which he is called in the Book of Revelation, the faithful Witness, or Martyr 2.
3. The third, and principal Reason of our Saviour's Death was, to put away Sin by the Sacrifice of himself, that being justified by his Blood, we may be saved from Wrath, and reconciled to God. But as I cannot now enlarge on this Doctrine suitably to its Importance; and the Article of the Forgiveness of Sins will be a proper Place to treat of it; I shall only add at present, that God hath made him to be Sin for us, ruho knew no Sin, that we
2. Rev. io
$ 1 John iv. 11.
1 John wi: 16.
John iii. 14. John xii. 32, 33. xviii. 32. 1 John v. 8.
TiTim, vi. 13. * Heb. ix. 26.
b Rom, v. 9, 10. D
might be made the Rightecusness of God in him. For if one died for all
, then were all dead: and he died for all, that they which live, mould not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him, which died for them, and rise againd. This we should do with great Dutifulness; for we are not our own, we are bought with a Price : and with great Thankfulness ; for he hath delivered us from the Bondage of Corruption into the glorious Liberty of the Children of God. Unto him therefore, that loved us, and washed us from our Sins in his own Blood, and hath made us Kings and Priests unto God and his Father, unto him be Glory and Dominion, for ever and ever. Amen.
Article V. The third Day he rose again from the
TAVING carried on the History of our Saviour
to the lowest Act of his Humiliation, our Creed fets forth, in the next Place, how God was pleased to exalt him for undergoing it. And the first part of this brighter View of Things, was his Resurrection : that is, the restoring of his Body to a Condition of performing the several Functions of Life, as before ; and the Reunion of his Soul to it. In discoursing of which, I shall fpeak, First, concerning the Reality of his rising again: Secondly, the Circumstances; Thirdly, the Uses of it.