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hence, after some time, it was inserted in our Creed, which in the beginning had it not. However, being taught in Scripture, the truth of this doctrine is indubitable; the only question is about the meaning of it.
The first thought of most, or all persons, to be sure, will be, that the word hell, in this Article, signifies what it doth in common speech, the place where the devils, and wicked men, are punished. And it hath been imagined, that Christ went to triumph over the devil there; and some add, to rescue part of the souls which he held under confinement, by "preaching (as the Scripture saith "he did,) to the spirits that were in prison."1 But the place of torment is never determinately expressed in the Scripture by the word hades, which both the Scripture and the Creed use in this Article, but by very different ones; though unhappily our translation hath used the same English word for both, instead of calling the former, what it 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.2 And the spirits in prison, to whom St. Peter saith, Christ by the Spirit preached, he saith also, were those "which were disobedient, when the long"suffering of God waited in the days of Noah."3 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. 5 But not hearkening to him then, they are now in prison, reserved for the sentence of the last day.
(9) Origen against Celsus, 1. 2. § 42. saith, that Christ converted souls to himself there, τας βελομενας, η ἃς εωρα επί της δεστέρας.
(1) Pet. iii. 19. (3) 1 Pet. iii. 20.
(2) Col. ii. 14, 15. (4) Gen. vi. 3.
(5) 2 Pet. ii. 5.
This opinion, therefore, hath no sufficient foundation. Nor would it be found, on further trial, agreeable either to reason or Scripture.
Others have thought the word, translated hell, to signify in this Article, as it seems to do in some passages 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 the souls of the deceased, whether good or bad, inhabit. And this, how strange soever it may seem to the unlearned, yet is by others acknowledged. Probably, therefore, all that was intended to be taught by the expression 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 bosom," where Lazarus was; and that of the wicked, where the rich man was ;
(6) See Pearson on this Article, p. 239, 240.
"between which there is a great gulf fixed."7 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, rest "from their labours, and are blessed ;"9 waiting for a still 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," 991 we are not told, and need not guess. But, probably, this Article was made part of the Creed, in order to assert 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 per"fect" are, surely made a vast addition to their felicity. For Abraham, who " rejoiced to see his day"s at a distance, must be inexpressibly more rejoiced to see him present there. All the good persons, who 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 Christ."4
(7) Luke xvi. 22, 23, 26.
(8) Luke xxiii. 43. Non ex his verbis in cœlo existimandus cet esse paradisus. Neque enim ipso die in cœlo futurus erat homo Christus Jesus: sed in inferno secundum animam, in sepulchro autem secundum carnem. Aug. Ep. 57. ad Dardanum. Pearson, p. 237. (9) Rev. xiv. 13.
(1) Heb. ii. 17.
(2) Heb. xxii. 23. (3) John viii, 56. See Peters on Job, § 11, p. 399.
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 noblest and most engaging pattern imaginable of that great and hard duty, patient submission to the will of God since being of a rank infinitely superior to the afflictions of this world, and having done nothing to deserve the least of them, he most willingly chose, and cheerfully bore, the most grievous that were possible. Well, then, may we, mortals and sinners, take whatever befals us in life or in death, meekly and contentedly; "because Christ, also, "suffered for us, leaving us an example, that we "should 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 suf "fered, he threatened not-but committed him"self to him that judgeth righteously." The example, also, of kindness and love to men, he showed yet more fully by his crucifixion, than by his incarnation: foreseeing, 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. taking it, and persevering in it. If, therefore, "he so loved us, we ought also (as St. John "argues,) to love one another;" 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."7
2. A second reason of his dying was, that he
(5) 1 Pet. ii. 21, 23.
(6) 1 John iv. 11.
(7) 1 John iii. 16.
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 Messiah, and, therefore, his taking upon himself a meek and suffering character, must 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 same Evangelist else. where assures us, "what death he should die."9 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 of Christ's mission: "There are "three that bear witness on earth-the spirit, the "water, and the blood." And St. Paul observes, that, "before Pontius Pilate, he witnessed a good "confession ;"2 on account of which, he is called, in the Book of Revelation, the faithful witness, or martyr.3
3. The third, and principal, reason of our Saviour's death was, "to put away sin by the sacri"fice of himself," that, "being justified by his "blood, we may be saved from wrath, and recon"ciled 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, who "knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."6 For, if one die for
(8) John iii. 14.
(1) 1 John v. 8.
(9) John xii. 32, 33, xviii. 32.
(4) Heb. ix. 26.