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They say they prove it from 1 Pet. iii. 19, where it is said, that Christ by his spirit went and preached to the spirits in prison ; the words in the Greek are, ἐν ᾧ καὶ τοῖς ἐν φυλακῇ πνεύμασι πορευθεὶς ἐκήρυξεν. But do these words imply that those spirits were in prison at that time that he preached to them? Not at all; but the entire sense of them is this: He preached to the spirits in prison; that is, Christ in the days of Noah, by his spirit, preached to and strove with those disobedient spirits, which spirits are now in prison, or in hold, for so èv puλaky signifies; that is, they are held in chains of darkness to the judgment of the great day: as, suppose I should say, that Christ preached to many hundred souls in hell, does it follow hence, that they were in hell while he preached to them? No, but it must be took in a divided sense, that many hundreds, who are now in hell, were once preached to by Christ.

And thus having shewn the nullity of this argument, I think it is clear that Christ descended not into purgatory, for that which is not cannot be descended into. But I wonder why men should be so solicitous in finding out a purgatory; for if they go not to heaven, they need not doubt but that there is room enough in hell, without providing themselves of a third place.

5. In the fifth and last place therefore, I conceive these words in the text to bear the same sense with, and perhaps to have reference to, those in Psalm cxxxix. 15, where David, speaking of his conception in his mother's womb, says, that he was framed and fashioned in the lowest parts of the earth. In like manner, Christ's descending into the lowest parts of the earth may very properly be taken for his incarnation and conception in the womb of the blessed virgin.

That this is so, yet with submission to better judgments, I judge upon these grounds.

1. Because the former expositions have been clearly shewn to be, some of them, unnatural and forced, and others impertinent but those four being removed, there is no other besides this assignable.

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2. It is usual for the apostles to transcribe and use the

Hebrew phrases of the Old Testament: and since Paul here uses David's very words, it is most probable that he used them in David's sense.

3. I add, that these words of Christ's descending and ascending, are so put together in the text, that they seem to intend us a summary account of Christ's whole transaction of that great work of man's redemption from first to last; which being begun in his conception, and consummate in his ascension, by what better can his descending be explained, than by his conception, the first part and instance of this great work, as his ascension was the last? So that by this explication the apostle's words are cast into this easy and proper sense, that the same Christ, and eternal Son of God, who first condescended and debased himself so far as to be incarnate and conceived in the flesh, was he who afterwards ascended into heaven, and was advanced to that pitch of sublime honour and dignity, far above the principalities and powers of men and angels.

And thus much for the first thing, Christ's humiliation and descension, both as to the manner how, and the place whither he did descend.

II. I come now in the next place to consider his exaltation and ascension. For shall he so leave his glory, as never to re-assume it? Shall such a sunbeam strike the earth, and not rebound?

As for the way and manner how he ascended, I affirm, that it was according to his human nature, properly and by local motion; but according to his divine, only by communication of properties, the action of one nature being ascribed to both, by virtue of their union in the same person.

As for the place to which he advanced, it is, says the apostle, far above all heavens. In the exposition of which words it is strange to consider the puerile fondness of some expositors, who will needs have the sense of them to be, that Christ ascended above the empyrean heaven, the highest of all the rest, and there sits enthroned in the convexity and outside of it, like a man sitting upon a globe: for, say they, otherwise how could Christ be said to have ascended above the heavens? But if they will stick to this term above, let them also stick to the

other, far above, and then they must not place him just upon the empyrean heaven, but imagine him strangely pendulous in those spatia extramundana, those empty spaces that are supposed to be beyond the world. How improper, and indeed romantic, these conceits are, you easily discern.

But the words of the text have something of figure, of hyperbole, and latitude in them; and signify not, according to their literal niceness, a going above the heavens by a local superiority, but an advance to the most eminent place of dignity and glory in the highest heaven.

Besides, the very common use of the word does not of necessity enforce the former interpretation; for we think we say properly enough, that a man is upon the top of an house or tower, if he be but in one of the uppermost parts of it, without his standing upon the weather-cock: but it is the usual fate of such over-scrupulous adherers to words and letters, to be narrow men and bad interpreters.

I have nothing else to add for explication of Christ's ascension, but only to observe and adore God's great and wise methods of exalting, exemplified to us by an instance in his dearest Son. He, we see, is depressed before advanced, crucified before enthroned, and led through the vale of tears to the region of eucharist and hallelujahs. He was punished with one crown before he was rewarded with another, and disciplined by the hardships of shame and servitude to the glories of a kingdom.

And do we now think to have our whole course spun in one even thread? to live deliciously in one world, as well as gloriously in another? to tread softly, and to walk upon paths of roses to the mansions of eternal felicities?

No, it is the measure of our happiness, and ought to be so of our wish too, to be but like Christ. The preferments of heaven will be sure to meet us only in the state of an afflicted abject humility. Christ preached upon the mountain, but he lived and acted his sermons in the valley.

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The way of salvation must needs be opposite to that of damnation. We must (as I may so speak) descend to heaven; for it was Adam's aspiring that brought him down, and Lucifer's fall was but the consequent of his ascension.

III. I come now to the third thing, which is the qualification and state of Christ's person, in reference to both these conditions: he was the same; He that descended is the same also that ascended. Which to me seems a full argument to evince the unity of the two natures in the same person; since two several actions are ascribed to the same person, both of which, it is evident, could not be performed by the same

nature.

As for Christ's descending, I shew that it could not be by his human nature, for that received its first existence on earth, and therefore could not come down from heaven; but it was to be understood of his divine nature, though improperly, and only so, as it became united to a nature here below: but as for his ascending, it is clear that Christ did this by his human nature, and that properly and literally; and yet it is here affirmed, that it was the same Christ who both ascended and descended; a great proof of that mysterious economy of two natures in one hypostasis.

The school of Socinus, we have heard, affirms Christ to have descended from heaven, only in respect of his divine and heavenly origination: but how, according to their opinion, can they make it out that it was the same Christ who ascended? for they affirm concerning the body which he had before his death, and after his resurrection here upon earth, that he did not carry that with him into heaven, but that was left here behind, whether by annihilation, or some secret conveyance of it into the earth by the power of God, they tell us not, nor indeed know themselves; but in the room of it, they say, he had a spiritual, ethereal body, with which he ascended into heaven; a body without flesh and bones, a refined, sublimated, angelical body; which are words enough, I confess, but where the sense is, we may go seek. I wonder they do not further explain their subtile notion, and say, that it is a certain body without corporeity.

But though they will not allow the union of two complete. natures in the same person, yet they and all the world must grant, that two distinct substances, the soul and the body, go to compound and integrate the man: and I know, according

to their usual appellation of him, they will allow him to be the man Christ Jesus.

Now I demand of them upon what principles of reason or philosophy they will prove that to be the same compound, when one entire half, that goes to the making of it, is wholly another thing. When we take white, and mingling it with red, make a third distinct colour; if we could now separate that white from the red, and join it to a blue, do we think that this conjunction would make the same kind of colour that the former mixture did? In like manner can I affirm, that the same soul, successively united to two several bodies of a kind. wholly diverse, if not opposite, makes the very same compound? If the whole be nothing else but its parts united, essential parts totally changed, I am sure, cannot be the same whole.

Neither let them reply, that this argument savours too much of philosophy; for by saying so, they say only that it savours too much of reason.

I confess there are some passages that fell out after Christ's resurrection, that seem to persuade us that the body he then appeared in was not of the same nature with our bodies nowadays, nor with that which he himself had before his death; for we read, that he vanished out of some of the disciples' sight, and that he came into them, the doors being shut.

Which considerations, I suppose, drove Origen to assert, that Christ's soul had such a command over his body, and his body such a ductility to comply with those commands, that the soul could contract or expand it into what compass, or transfigure it into what shape it pleased; so as to command it through a chink, or crevice, or represent it sometimes under one form, sometimes under another.

But to this I answer, that however Christ's body, as every body else, is capable of continuing the same, notwithstanding the alteration of its qualities and outward form; yet, that a body of such a dimension should be contracted to such a thinness, as to pass through a chink or crevice, cannot be effected without a penetration of the parts, and a mutual sink

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