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And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from
the rich man's table. Luke xvi. 21.
The table was not anciently covered with linen, but was carefully cleansed with wet sponges.
"The seats with purple cloth in order due,
Pope's Homer. Odyss. Book ii.v.189.
So also Martial:
Kaec tibi sorte datur, tergendis spongia mensis.
They made no use of napkins to wipe their hands; but did so with the soft and fine part of the bread, which they called umojeydanla. “This they afterwards threw to the dogs." This custom is again mentioned by Homer, Odyss. Book ii.
Ως δ' οταν αμφι ανακλα κυνες δαιτηθεν ιονία, &c.
“As from some feast a man returning late,
Hence we clearly understand what were “the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table;" and perceive the force of the words of the woman of Canaan, “The dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their master's table."*
* Matt. xv. 27. See also Mark vii. 28.
EXPLANATION OF 1 PETER, iii. 19, 20.
In the interpretation of Scripture, particular attention should be paid to what is usually termed the Analogy of Faith. One doubtful passage should not be explained so as to contradict the plain sense of another. Through the want of due regard to this rule, erroneous principles are frequently deduced from the word of truth. The apostle Peter's expression, referred unto at the head of these remarks, has been thus perverted Speaking of Christ, he had said, that he was "put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:" and then he adds, "By which also, he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; which sometime were disobedient, when once the long-suffering of God waited, in the days of Noah, while the ark was preparing."
From this passage the Papists infer the descent of Christ's human soul, immediately after his crucifixion, into hell, or the place of the damned. Some of the ancient fathers entertained this opinion. What is styled the Apostles' Creed, seems to countenance the idea. But the ancient fathers were fallible men; and the Creed, called the Apostles', was not composed by the Apostles themselves. Neither the one nor the other, therefore, has proper authority to determine our judgments on this particular. There is indeed a passage in the Psalms, in which David, personating the Messiah, says, “Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell."* But the term hell there, does not, in the original, signify the place of the damned; but the invisible, or separate
* Psalms xvi, 10.
state of the dead.* This is sufficiently evident, even to the English reader, from its immediate connexion with the following phrase: “Neither wilt thou suffer thine holy One to corruption.” The former part of the sentence informs us; that the soul of Christ should not continue in its state of separation from the body: the latter, that his body itself should not be so long separated from his soul, as to be reduced to a state of putrefaction.
As to the quotation from Peter, which now lies before us, it says nothing respecting the human soul of Christ, much less of its descent into hell. It speaks only of his preaching. Literally rendered indeed, it is, she went and preached unto the spirits in prison.” The phrase, however, does not imply local motion, but only the act of preaching. We have a similar mode of expression in Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians (ii. 17.) “He came and preached peace to you, who were afar off, and to them who were nigh.” Does the apostle here mean to assert, that Christ actually went to the Ephesians, in order to preach to them? The case is too evident to admit an interpretation like this. The word which, in both these passages, literally denotes local and personal motion, is lost in that which expresses the act of preaching. "Many similar phrases," as Macknight observes, "might be produced from the best Greek authors.” That the apostle Peter did not here intend to convey the idea of the actual descent of Christ's human soul into hell, is evident from the passage itself; for he speaks of his preaching, not personally, but
* See Parkhurst's Hebrew and Greek Lexicon. See also Ainsworth's Annotations on Genesis xxxvii. 35; and on Psalms xvi, 10.
by his Spirit; by that Spirit which, as the words immediately preceding express, quickened or raised him from the dead. This certainty was not his human soul, but the Holy Spirit himself. The notion respecting the descent of Christ's human soul into hell, immediately after its separation from the body by death, is evidently contradicted by our Lord's address to the dying thief: “To-day shalt thou be with me in Paradise.” This declaration of Christ, so far as it related to himself, had respect to his soul in its separate state; and it informs us, that paradise, or heaven (hades, or the invisible world) was the place of its immediate reception and residence.
The sentiment to which I have adverted is not the oniy error that has been deduced from this passage. Some taking it for granted, that the apostle speaks of Christ's descent into hell, in order to preach there to the spirits in prison, have hence inferred the probability of the final salvation of the damned themselves. It appears, however, from what has been already said, that the passage does not contain the principle from whence they argue; consequently, their conclusion is groundless. It might be further urged, if the passage relates to the descent of Christ into hell, that he might preach unto the damned, in order to their salvation; why are the unbelievers in Noah's time only mentioned, and not those of other generations? And why does the apostle say nothing of the success of Christ's preaching to the spirits in prison? Surely, he would have spoken in a very different manner, if he had meant to inform us of the probable deliverance of those who are imprisoned in hell. To put this matter beyond all doubt, many passages of Scripture expressly teach, that the misery of those who die in a state of unbelief and impenitence, is properly eternal; equal, in point of duration, to the blessedness of those who are saved.*
This controverted passage will be better understood by considering, a little more particularly, the persons to whom Christ is here said to have preached, the time when, and the medium through which he preached unto them. Respecting the persons, we observe, they were “disobedient in the days of Noah;” and, at the period when Peter wrote this epistle, they were disembodied spirits, confined for their disobedience in the prison of hell. The time of Christ's preaching unto them is not here expressly specified; but, by comparing Scripture with Scripture it will not be difficult to point out this period. From what has been already advanced, we may safely infer that it was not in the time of their imprisonment. The Analogy of Faith directs us to conclude rather, that it was during their life of disobedience, “when once the long-suffering of God waited, in the days of Noah while the ark was preparing." This interpretation exactly accords with the evident meaning of a parallel passage in this same epistle. If we turn to chap. iv. ver. 6, we find the following expression: "For this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.” The persons here spoken of, were certainly dead at the time when the apostle made this remark; but can any one suppose, for a moment, that he meant to say thai the gospel was preach:
* 2 Peter ii. 1--9. Jude v. 6,7. Matthew xxv, 46.