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be corrupted. It is also observable, that St. Paul, SERM. in the 13th of the Acts, neglecting the former part, XXVIII. Thou shalt not leave my soul in hell, contents himself with the latter, Thou wilt not yield thy Holy One to see corruption; intimating both parts to signify the same thing.
If it be objected as an inconvenience to this explication of the words here in the Creed, that, admitting it, they signify no more than what was before expressed in plain words, dead and buried; and so contain only a needless repetition; I answer,
1. That this objection concerns them who inserted the words here; who yet, even supposing this exposition to be good, might be excusable, as suspecting it possible that our Saviour's being ev adov, according to St. Peter, might imply more than this, although they knew not what distinctly; who also might perhaps intend somewhat by these words different from this sense, but not so truly applicable to them, or agreeable to the truth of the thing; I answer,
2. That to say our Saviour did continue in the state of death for some time, doth add somewhat above his being dead and buried; wherefore thus understanding the descent doth not render it altogether superfluous.
3. That a greater inconvenience seems to arise from expounding them otherwise; the doing so reflecting upon the more ancient compilers both of this and other breviaries of faith, as the Nicene and Constantinopolitan councils, Irenæus, Tertullian, &c. who left them out; which they should not have done, if they contain any thing highly material, and different from what is here otherwise expressed, whose credit is (as I conceive) more to be tendered,
SERM. than of their juniors and followers unknown to us; XXVIII. and so much the more, for that in a matter of this kind, defect or omission is less tolerable, than any redundance in expression. Which inconvenience may seem in a manner to reach higher, even to St. Paul himself; who in the fifteenth chapter of his First Epistle to the Corinthians, declaring the sum of what he both learned and taught concerning our Saviour's last grand performances, only mentions 1 Cor. xv. his death, burial, and resurrection; I delivered unto you first, that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day; which enumeration of his, we may, it seems, well acquiesce in, as sufficient and complete, and may thence with great probability infer, that no other descent of our Saviour into hell, beside his death and burial, was by him understood, or delivered in his catechetical discourses and preachings as a point of faith; so that what is objected as an inconvenience, proves no small advantage to this exposition. But I say further, to the main question, that,
2. Interpreting hell for the mansion, or habitation of souls departed hence, (to omit, that sheol, as I before noted, seems to signify otherwise in the Old Testament, and consequently thence the place in Els is the Acts applied out of the Psalms would not be bais do proper to this purpose; whereby the main ground χεῖον ἐνθένδε τὰς ψυχὰς ass and support of the assertion itself, taken according μετανίστα. Tavira to this sense, were removed; waving, I say, that obai. Greg. Nyss.de Im. consideration, and taking ans, according to the Mirabais meaning which we must confess it sometime to bear εἰς τὸ ἀειδὲς aaqavis. in the New Testament, yet,) there seems to follow
some inconvenience thereon. For then we must
either take it for the place of damned spirits, shut SERM. up in torment or despair, according to which acception the proposition itself would be most certainly uncertain, having no solid ground for it; and most probably false, for that it is affirmed, our Saviour's soul, the same day he died, did go into paradise; This day, said he to the penitent thief, shalt thou be Luke xxiii. with me in paradise,) or we must take it for a place common to all souls, as well good and blessed, as bad and miserable; (for that it in the New Testament at least comprehends the place of torment, is evident by the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.) But I think that St. Austin had reason to doubt, whether it were consonant to the style of the New Testament, that hades, relating to the state of souls, should there be ever taken in a good or middle sense, at least, whereas it is said in the Revelation, that those two inseparable companions, death and Rev. xx. hades, (that hades, which is said to render up its dead to judgment,) were cast into the lake of fire, it is hard to suppose that paradise was cast in there; yea hard it were to say, that hades was cast in thither, supposing that word did then in its usual latitude of signification (as Christians understood it) comprehend paradise. Yea further, this explication forces us upon this inconvenience, that we must suppose paradise to be seated in a place beneath us, or within the earth; that paradise, which is either the same with the third (or highest) heavens in St. Paul, or confining thereto; it is, I say, hard to be forced by an interpretation of these words, to consent, that paradise (that locus divinæ amanitatis recipiendis sanctorum spiritibus destinatus; the place of divine comfort and amenity, destined to
Ty τὸν παράδει
σου, οὔτε ἐν παραδείσῳ τὰ ὑποχθό
via, &c. Greg. Nyss. tom. 2. de Resur. 1. Tertuli. Apol. 47.
2 Cor. xii.
ryg v ὑποχθονίοις
SERM. receive the spirits of the saints) should have its XXVIII. place in the darksome bowels of the earth; no commodious situation, it seems, for a garden, for delightsome walks and bowers: yet so it must be seated, that our Saviour's soul may (at least in rigour and propriety of speech) be said to descend thereinto. The word descend, taking hell for the ancient sheol, is proper enough, and hath ground both in authentic use and the nature of the thing; but taking hell in this sense, (for the place of souls,) it is most probably improper, and hath no certain ground or authority to commend it; for it is said, that our Saviour's soul was in hell, not that it descended thither; nor can it by consequence be inferred so to have done, according to this meaning of hell. How
3. I add, that seeing it is a most certain truth, that our Saviour's soul did immediately go into the place appointed to receive happy souls after their recession from the body, and resignation into God's hands; if we take hell in a general and common sense for the place, or the state of souls departed; and descending for passing thereinto, (by a falling, as it were, from life, or by going away together with the descent of the body; and thence styled descending; what appeareth visibly happening to the body being accommodated to the soul;) if, I say, we do thus interpret our Saviour's descent into hell, for his soul's going into the common receptacle and mansion of souls, we shall so doing be sure not substantially to mistake. And this sense, I conceive, if the words can handsomely bear it, would be very proper to this place, as signifying somewhat distinct from what is otherwise expressed, and serving to
the further establishment of those great articles ad- SERM. XXVIII. joining, our Lord's death and resurrection; it implying the perfect accomplishment of death, for the soul to have deserted the body, and to have been translated into that ἀδύνατον ἅδην, (as the book of Wisdom calls it,) that invisible region, so far distant Wisd. xvii. hence, whence-revocare gradum superasque evadere ad auras, is a labour indeed, and a work not to be effected, but by the power of him whose prerogative it is, to kill, and make alive; to bring 1 Sam. ii. 6. down to hell, and to bring up; to lead unto the gates of hell, and to bring back again.
Tob. xiii. 2.
This is all that I shall say about this intricate point; 13. for I cannot well be at the pain to consider or examine those conceits, which pretend to acquaint us why and to what effect our Saviour descended into hell.
That our Lord went thither to preach unto, convert, and redeem from thence all, or some of the damned souls; (for some say, that he depopulated Iren. iv.45. and emptied that region of darkness; others are not Euseb.Hist. so liberal as to free all thence, but only the fitter ult. objects of compassion and favour; both saying that which hath very weak or no reasons to maintain, very strong and plain objections to assail it.)
ii. p. 163.
vi. p. 271.
monst. x. 8. Athan. Cont. Apol
That he went to rescue and conduct into glory lin. the souls of the patriarchs, and other good persons, from that infernal limbus, in which till then they were detained, (a place by no likely means to be proved existent otherwhere than in the fancy of its inventors;) or, that he went to deliver the souls of the just, and prophets, from the wicked powers, into whose power they had fallen, (as Justin Martyr in his Dialogue with Tryphon, p. 105.)