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to every creature;'7 promising to be with them always, even unto the end of the age.8
St. Peter, the author of the passage which is at the head of this article, was the first who went to the Gentiles with the gospel ministry. He enjoyed the high satisfaction of seeing his labors among them blessed, to the enlightening of great numbers of these' minds of men in prison,' who had been without God and without hope in the world. And when he gave the rest of the apostles and brethren at Jerusalem the information which Christ had given him, and related to them the effects of his preaching to the Gentiles, they glorified God, saying, 'Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.9 When Jesus converted Saul, he commissioned him to go unto 'the people and the Gentiles; to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power (the captivity) of Satan unto God.'10 And when Paul and Barnabas witnessed the contradiction and blasphemy of the Jews in Antioch, they said to them, ' It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you; but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles ; for so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth.' u
Now all these things were done after Christ was put to death in the flesh, and quickened by the spirit. And as the apostles did all things, in the work of their ministry, through Christ who strengthened them ;1a through their preaching to the Gentiles who were held captive in sin, Christ was preaching to men who were in prison. St. Paul ascribes directly to Christ this gospel ministry, which the apostles bore unto the Gentiles after his resurrection: Speaking to Gentile believers, who had been strangers from the covenant of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world, he says, 'But now in Christ Jesus ye, who sometimes were far ofF, are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; and came and preached peace to
you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.' ** In this case, St. Paul speaks of what was done, after Christ, by his death and resurrection, had broken down the middle wall of partition between Jews and Gentiles. Before his ascension, Christ did not go personally on a mission to the Gentile nations. The ministry of peace, here mentioned, was borne by his apostles to the Gentiles, who are signified by them who were afar off. Yet St. Paul ascribes the work directly to Christ, saying, 'He .... came, and preached peace to you which were afar off.' In this way, through the ministry of his word by his faithful disciples, after he was put to death in the flesh and quickened by the spirit, Jesus went and preached unto the benighted Gentiles, to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sat in darkness out of the prison house. And this, we are fully persuaded, is the fact which St. Peter intended to express by the words under consideration.
» Mark xvi. 16. 8 Matt. xxviii. 20. 8 Acta X. and xi. 1° Acta
xxri. 18. •1 Acta xiii. 46, 47. «• Phil. iv. 13. 1• Eph. ii. 13—17.
How then shall we understand the saying, 'By which he went and preached to the spirits (or the minds of men) in prison, which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah V Must not this language be understood to mean, that Christ preached to the same individuals who were drowned by the flood? In answer, we remark, that the same description of people are sometimes, in the Scriptures, spoken of as the same people, when the same individuals are not meant. Wakefield, in his ranslation of the New Testament, supplies the word as here, o express the sense which he thinks the connexion autho"izes. He thinks that the scope of the apostle's discourse, and especially the word few, (' wherein few were saved upon the water') denotes a comparison, which must be expressed by supplying the word as,—thus: 'By which he went and preached to the minds of men in prison, who were disobedient as those upon whom the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah:' meaning that he preached to the Gentiles who were alive on the earth in the apostolic age, but were as disobedient as the antediluvians. But we do not perceive the need of this supplement of the word, as, to express the sense in this case. We would take it as it stands. Christ, after his resurrection, preached to the same people, (in the sense in which the Scriptures often speak of a people, though not to :he same individuals,) who were sometime disobedient in the jays of Noah. Gjd said to Abraham, 'Thy seed shall be a ttranger in a land that is not theirs, nnd shall serve them four hundred years. And also that nation whom they shall serve will I judge; and afterward they shall come out with great substance.' u Not one of the individuals who went down into Egypt lived to go out again; yet they who went out were the same people. And long after all the individuals who went out of Egypt were dead, their posterity were addressed, even from generation to generation, as the same people who were chosen of God and redeemed from the bondage of Egypt. These formed one grand division of the human race. Another grand division was called heathens, or Gentiles. And although these particular names were not applied to them in Noah's time, there was then the same description of people; indeed, they then constituted a very large portion of the world. They were men in prison, ignorant, idolatrous, and disobedient. Such they were in Noah's time, aud such St. Paul describes the Gentiles to be in his time.15 But to this people, men in prison, without hope and without God in the world, and upon whom the preaching of Noah when the longsuffering of God waited while the ark was preparing, was so ineffectual that only eight persons were saved upon the water, —to them Christ, after his resurrection, preached the gospel by his inspired servants, to the enlightening and liberating of thousands. The comparison is between the few who were affected by Noah's preaching, and the many of the same description of people who were affected by the preaching of Jesus Christ; for though but one side of the comparison, the few, is directly expressed, the other is implied.
That St. Peter, while, speaking of Christ's having died for the unjust to bring them to God, and going after his resurrection and preaching to the spirits in prison, had his mind on the extension of the gospel to the benighted Gentiles, appears furthermore evident from what follows in the next chapter: 'Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh,
arm yourselves likewise with the same mind For the
time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries; wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them, to the same excess of riot; speaking evil of you: who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the
"Gen. xv. 13. » Rom. i. 21: Eph. ii. 1.
dead.'16 Our opinion on this last clause Dr. Adam Clarke shall express for us: 'They shall give account of these irregularities to Him who is prepared to judge both the Jews and the Gentiles. The Gentiles, previously to the preaching of the gospel among them, were reckoned to be dead in trespasses and sins, (Eph. ii. 1—6.) The Jews had at least, by their religious profession, a name to live; and, by that profession, were bound to live to God.'
Our apostle proceeds to say, (v. 6.) 'For this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might bejudged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.' Wakefield translates this verse as follows: 'For this indeed was the effect of the preaching of the gospel to the dead, (the unconverted Gentiles,) that some will be punished as carnal men, but others lead a spiritual life unto God.' Macknight renders it, 'For this purpose hath the gospel been preached to the dead, (i. e. the Gentiles,) that although they might be condemned, indeed, by men in the flesh, (their persecutors,) yet they might live eternally by God in the Spirit.' Knatchbull's translation of it is, ' For this cause was the gospel preached to them that were dead; that they who live according to men in the flesh may be condemned; but that they who live according to God in the Spirit, may live.' All these agree in understanding the dead in this case to mean the Gentiles. They were morally in prison and in the region of the shadow of death. St. Paul, addressing Gentile believers, said, ' You'hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.'17
But to return to the words which are placed at the head of this piece : the arguments which we have presented render it clear to us, that this passage has reference, not to an infernal prison for the literally dead, but to the diffusion of the benefits of the gospel among the benighted Gentiles, subsequently to the death and resurrection of Christ.
Reader, let us be grateful to God, that he has sent the blessed gospel of life, through a crucified and risen Saviour, to them who were in darkness and in the prison-house, and that we, who are of Gentile descent, are set free upon the high hills of gospel light, where the Lord commandeth his blessing, even
1« 1 Pet. iv. 1—5. » Eph. ii. 11.
life forevermore. And let us well regard the sentiment which our apostle enjoins upon us, to be like-minded with Christ, who suffered even for the good of the unjust; and who, when he had died and risen again, visited with the blessings of his love the poor and imprisoned of our race. s. c.
The Popular Doctrine of Atonement.
Among the principles of doctrine embraced by that portion of the Christian community which claims exclusive soundness of faith, there are none deemed more important than those which relate to the atonement by our Lord Jesus Christ. And yet, perhaps, in relation to no principle has there been a greater departure from the original purity and simplicity of the Christian faith, than in this instance; nor have effects more deleterious to the cause of Christianity been produced by any other corruption of the pure gospel of Christ. Such is the attachment of all Trinitarians to this doctrine, that, however ardent may be the piety of an individual, however fir.ni his faith in his redeemer, however pure his character, and how blameless soever may be his whole life and conduct, without a belief in a vicarious atonement, he can hardly be allowed the name of a Christian.
Atonement, according to the popular acceptation of the term, 'is the satisfying of divine justice, by Jesus Christ giving himself a ransom for us, undergoing the penalty due to our sins, and thereby releasing us from that punishment which God might justly inflict upon us.' Included in this doctrine, is that of imputation, which is defined as being ' God's gracious donation of the righteousness of Christ to believers, and his acceptance of their persons as righteous, on the account thereof. Their sins being imputed to him, and his obedience being imputed to them, they are, in virtue hereof, both acquitted from guilt, and accepted as righteous before God.' The doctrine of satisfaction, included in that of atonement, is thus defined: 'In the Christian system, it denotes that which Christ did and suffered in order to satisfy divine justice, to secure the honors of the