« PreviousContinue »
20. vii. 23.
10. In fine, we hence appear obliged to yield up SERM. ourselves wholly to the service of our Saviour; to XXVII. the promoting of his interest and glory: since we, 1 Cor. vi. as St. Paul admonisheth us, are not our own, being bought with a price; and must therefore glorify God in our body, and in our spirit, which are God's, by a purchase so dear and precious; since, as that apostle again mindeth us, Christ died for all, 2 Cor. v.15. that they which live might not live to themselves, but to him that died for them; this being, let us not wrong the Lord who bought us, by withholding his 2 Pet. ii. 1. due, the price of his dearest blood; let us not abuse him, by defeating his purpose, no less advantageous to ourselves, than honourable to him; but as by being our Saviour he hath deserved to be our Lord, so in effect let him ever be; let us ever believe him so in our heart, confess him with our mouth, and avow him in our practice; which that we may do, God of his infinite mercy, by his holy grace, vouchsafe unto us, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Now, Unto him that loved us, and washed us Rev. i. 5. from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father: to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever.
Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive Rev. v. 12. power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.
Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be Rev. v. 13. unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. Amen.
He descended into Hell.
ACTS ii. 27.
Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell. SERM. ST. PETER in his sermon to the Jews cites these XXVIII. words of the Psalmist to prove the resurrection of Christ. And because upon these words our Saviour's descent into hell seems to be grounded, I shall from this text take occasion to discourse of this article of the Creed, Κατελθόντα εἰς ᾅδου, He descended into hell.
This article is of later standing in the Creed, and doth not appear to have had place in any of the most ancient ones public or private; excepting that of Aquileia; into which also perhaps it might have been inserted not long before Ruffinus's time; and the meaning thereof hath always (both in more ancient times among the Fathers, and afterwards among the Schoolmen, and lately among modern divines) been much debated, having yielded occasion to many prolix and elaborate discourses: to recite the several opinions about it, or different explications thereof, with the reasons produced to maintain or disprove them, were a matter of greater time and pains than I can well afford; and to decide the controversies about it, a matter of greater difficulty than
I could hope to achieve. Wherefore (both upon SERM. thes accounts, and because I rather choose to insist XXVIII. upon matters more clear in their nature, and more practical in consequence) I should be willing altogether to wave this obscure and perplexed subject; yet however somewhat to comply with expectation, I shall touch briefly upon some things seeming conducible to the clearing, or to the ending of the controversies about it.
Now whereas there may be a threefold inquiry; one, concerning the meaning of these words (he descended into hell) intended by those who inserted them; another, concerning the most proper signification of the words themselves; a third, concerning the meaning they are in consistency with truth capable of;
1. The first I resolve, or rather remove, by saying, it seems needless to dispute, what meaning they, who placed the words here, did intend; since, 1. It is possible, and by many like instances might be declared so, and perhaps not unlikely, that they might both themselves upon probable grounds believe, and for plausible ends propound to the belief of others, this proposition, without apprehending any distinct sense thereof; as we believe all the scriptures, and commend them to the faith of others, without understanding the sense of many passages therein: and since, 2. Perhaps they might by them intend some notion not certain, or not true, following some conceits then passable among divers, but not built upon any sure foundation, (like that of the millennium ; and the necessity of infants communicating, &c. which were anciently in great vogue, but are now discarded:) and since, 3. To speak roundly, their
SERM. bare authority, whoever they were, (for that doth XXVIII. not appear,) could not be such, as to oblige us to be of their minds, whatever they did mean or intend; they perhaps were such, to whom we might owe much reverence, but should not be obliged to yield entire credence to their opinions. But further, 4. Were I bound to speak my sense, I should say, that, supposing they had any distinct meaning, they did intend to affirm, that our Saviour's soul did, by a true and proper kind of motion, descend into the regions infernal, or beneath the earth; where they conceived the souls of men were detained: for this appears to have been the more general and current opinion of those times, which it is probable they did comply with herein, whencesoever fetched, however grounded.
2. As to the second inquiry, concerning the signification of the words, what may be meant by he descended; whether our Saviour himself, according to his humanity, or his soul, or his body, called he by synecdoche: what by descended, whether (to omit that sense, which makes the whole sentence an allegory, denoting the sufferance of infernal or hellish pains and sorrows, as too wide from the purpose; whether, I say) by descending may be signified a proper local motion toward such a term, or an action so called in respect to some such motion accompanying it; or a virtual motion by power and efficacy in places below: what by hell, whether a state of being, or a place; if a place, whether that where bodies are reposed, or that to which souls do go; and if a place of souls, whether the place of good and happy souls, or that of bad and miserable ones; or indifferently, and in common of both those; for such a manifold
ambiguity these words have, or are made to have; SERM. and each of these senses are embraced and contended for: I shall not examine any of them, nor further meddle in the matter, than by saying,
alto vastitas, et in ip
bus ejus ab
1. That the Hebrew word sheol (upon the true Nobis infenotion of which the sense of the word hell (or hades) terræ et in in this place is conceived to depend) doth seem originally, most properly, and most frequently (perhaps sis viscericonstantly, except when it is translated, as all words strusa prosometimes are, to a figurative use) to design the Tertul. de whole region protended downward from the surface of the earth to a depth (according to the vulgar opinion, as it seems anciently over the world) indefi- Ag. nite and unconceivable; vastly capacious in exten- 20. sion, very darksome, desolate, and dungeon-like in quality, (whence it is also frequently styled the pit, a the lowest pit, the abyss, the depths of the earth, Isa. d the darkness, the depths of hell.) I need not la- Ps. lxxxviii. bour much to confirm the truth of this notion, since Ecclus. xxi. it is obvious, that this sheol (when most absolutely b Ps. Ixxi. and properly taken, the circumstances of discourse John ii. 6. about it implying so much) is commonly opposed to Rom. x. 7: heaven, not only in situation, but in dimension and 20. distance; as when Job, speaking of the unsearch- 13. ableness of the divine perfections, saith, It is as high 3. as heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than hell; Eccles. vi. what canst thou know? and the prophet Amos; 1 Sam. ii.9. Though they dig into hell, thence shall mine hand 18. take them; though they climb into heaven, thence Amos ix. 2. will I bring them down.
c Psal. lxxi.
d Job xvii.
e Prov. ix.
Job xi. 8.
2. I say further, because the bodies (or visible re- xxxii. 22. mainders) of persons dying do naturally fall down, or Isa. Ivii. 9.) are put into the bosom of this pit, which is therefore an universal grave and receptacle of them, therefore
BARROW, VOL. V.