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Pearson, "in his Tractate proving that Christ is God, makes this exposition of Isaiah xlv. 2. “ I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron, and I will open the treasures of darkness, the hidden riches of secret places will I show thee.” It is “ hades," says Chrysostom, “ that he so calls; for HADES held holy souls, and possessed rich furniture, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob being there ; wherefore he calls them its treasures.” -“For the salvation of the souls in HADES, who had been waiting many ages for the opening of it, he went thither."*
“ He went to the lower parts of the earth, that he might redeem the righteous from thence.”+
" As the Godhead was to consummate all things according to the mys. tery of the passion, he went with his soul to the lower parts of the earth, to accomplish the salration of those that had before fallen asleep, that is, of the holy patriarchs." -“ Although the body of Moses did not appear on earth, we no where read of his being in heavenly glory, till after the Lord, as a pledge of his own resurrection, had loosed the bonds of hell, and raised from thence the souls of the pious.” I – 66 The saints who were kept in that place hoped for the loosing of their bonds at the coming of Christ. After his death, therefore, Christ descended thither. As the angel descended into the Babylonian furnace, to deliver the three children, so Christ descended to the furnace of hell, where the souls of the just were kept shut up. He broke open the prisons of the inferi ; he wasted and spoiled them, delivering out of them the souls that were bound.
Here then it is evident, as Pearson observes, that some of the ancient fathers 66 thought that Christ descended to that place of Hades where the souls of all the faithful, from the death of the righteous Abel to the death of Christ, were detained ; and there dissolving all the power by which they were detained below, translated them into a far more glorious place, and estated them in a condition far more happy in the heavens above.”
Pearson, however adds, that “others understood no translation of place, or alteration of condition there, conceiving that the souls of all men are detained below still, and shall not enter heaven till the general resurrection.' To establish this assertion he quotes Justin Martyr, Irenæus, Tertullian, Hilary, and Gregory of Nyssa ; but the passages cited do not clearly prove that those fathers believed none to have been taken out of hades at the Lord's descent thither, but only, that all who should die afterwards were to be reserved there till the final judgment.
But there were some who thought that the place in which the patriarchs and principal saints resided could not properly * Euseb. Dem. 1. x. 8.
† Cyril. Cat. iv. 8. Amb. 1. iv. De pic.
Ş Hieron in Eccl.
be called hell, nor was ever so named in the Scriptures : Thus Augustine says, “ I do not see what benefit was conferred, by the Lord's descent into hell, on those righteous persons wil were in Abraham's bosom; for they had never ceased to enjoy the beatifie presence of his Divinity."* These were of opinion, that the end of the Lord's descent into hell, was, to deliver « less piurified souls,” and to translate them to a place of happiness and a glorious condition.” Thus Augustine says again, “ Let us hold fast the belief confirmed by the most sure authority, that Christ died according to the Scriptures, and was buried, and the third day rose again; and the other things which are written concerning him with most certainly attested truth. Among which is this : that he was present with those below, loosing for them those pains by which it was impossible for himself to be held ; whence we rightly understand, that he loosed and delivered whom he would.”+ Again : 6. This that is written, Having loosed the pains of hell, it is not to be understood of all, but of some, whom he deemed worthy of such deliverance ; that it may neither be thought, that he descended thither in vain, conferring no benefit on any who were kept there ; nor that it follows thence that what the divine mercy and justice granted to some, was bestowed on all.”Ś So Capreolus : “He in his Humanity, deigned to visit the hidden depths of the inferi, terrifying those that had the power of death by the
presence of his invincible majesty ; and, to deliver whom he would, he commanded the gates of hell to be unlocked.”|| And Ambrose: “He, being free among the dead, having loosed the law of death, gave remission to those who were in hell.”' But Cyril carries the matter very far indeed : “He spoiled all hades, says he, “and, opening the inevitable gates to the spirits of them that slept, he rose again, leaving HADES desert, with none in it but the devil."
Pearson informs us, further, that it was “the general opinion of the fathers,” that “the preaching of the gospel to the dead,”
idea of which we have seen above, was the means by which that good was wrought for the souls below which was effected by his death." Thus Irenæus : « Therefore the Lord descended to the parts under the earth, preaching the good tidings of his coming to them also, and becoming remission of sinş to those who believed on him. But all those believed on
* Ep. ad Euod. 99, al 164. § 8.
Ibid. $ 5.
De Incarn. c. 5.
him who had hoped in him; that is, they who had foretold his coming and obeyed his requirements, the righteous men, the prophets, and the patriarchs ; whose sins he remitted, as he
Pearson gives extracts to the same effect from Clement of Alexandria, Cyril of Alexandria, and Jobius.
Here, certainly, though mixed with some misconceptions, we have the plain testimony of the early Christians to the great facts for which we are contending. Important truths, though variously apprehended, were evidently at the bottom of all the above ideas. If, on the one hand, it is not true, as many supposed, that all the good who had died from the beginning of the world remained in hades till taken thence by the Lord Jesus Christ, but, as Augustine judiciously concludes, they who are described as being in Abraham's bosom were actually enjoying the beatific presence of God, or in other words, were in heaven; and if, on the other hand, it is not true, as many
supposed, that all who were in hades, without exception, were taken into heaven by the Lord Jesus Christ ; the genuine truth, of which these are exaggerations, nevertheless shines through them, and adopting the sentiment which lies between the two extremes, we may safely conclude, that some who could not be elevated to heaven before, were taken out of HADES by the Lord at his first advent. And even the assertion of Cyril, that all were then delivered except the devil, is perfectly true, if we understand the word “ devil” in its spiritual sense, as denoting, not a single fallen angel, but all, considered in one great aggregate, who are inwardly wicked, All such, at a general judgment, are not only not taken into heaven, but are plunged irrevocably into hell; but all who are not inwardly wicked, thus all who are inwardly good, are then taken out of the places in the spiritual world where they had in the mean time been rese
served, and are ele. vated into heaven. Such a work was performed by the Lord at the judgment he executed at his first advent; and hence the fathers of the first ages so positively, and so unanimously, affirm, that he delivered from hades whom he would
- that is, as we have seen it explained by Irenæus, all who were capable of believing on him in conséquence of having, while in the world, lived in faith and obedience.
I cannot help regarding this testimony of the ancient fathers as extremely valuable ; for it surely must have a strong tendency to satisfy every candid mind, that the doctrine of the New Church upon this curious and important subject, is the doctrine of the Scriptures and of the true Christian religion, It is true, that modern divines reject these views of the primitive
* Allv. Hær. 1. iv. 45.
Christian writers, and strain to different meanings the texts upon which they are founded; but it is of no small importance that we are able to show, that the views which modern Christians are so unwilling to receive, respecting the operations performed in the spiritual world — in fact, the accomplishment there of a general judgment — by the Lord at his first advent, are completely in agreement with the sentiments of the early Christians; and that, when our views are compared with those of the primitive times, even what in the latter was erroneous is seen only to have originated in the partial and too literal apprehension of certain general truths. (It might also be easy to show, and, in fact, it already in part appears from the above extracts, that the sentiments of the early Christians on the subject of Redemption were completely in agreement with ours. Instead of that unscriptural and artificial "scheme of redemption" so much in vogue at the present day, they viewed redemption as consisting in the subjugation, by the Lord, of hell, and the consequent deliverance of man from the power of the devil : and though on this subject also they fell into some misconceptions, these, likewise, were only such as originated in the partial and too literal apprehensions of general truths).
2. We are, in the second place, to endeavor to evince, That the deliverance of the good who were thus reserved at the time of the Lord's coming, or in consequence of the Lord's going and preaching to the spirits in prison, with the final dismissal to hell of the wicked, is what is specifically meant by those texts, which speak of the dead as coming out of their graves, and which are erroneously applied in favor of the doctrine of the resurrection of the body. I particularly mean John v. 28 : “ The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation :”
And Matt.. xxvii. 52, 53 : “ And the graves were opened, and many bodies of saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many."
The fathers we have seen following the language of Scripture, affirm, that the place out of which the Lord took the spirits that were bound, was under the earth, and in the lower parts of the earth. This phrase, though obviously untrue if used of the material earih, is taken from the arrangement of things in the spiritual world, and is agreeable to the appearances which there take place when a judgment is performed ; for the intermediate place in which the spirit first appears after death is spoken of in Scripture as the earth of that world; and
under this are the places of security for those who are to be taken up to heaven at the judgment. This is evident from the remarkable passage, Rev. vi. 9, 10, 11, slightly noticed above, John the Revelator there says, “I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth. And white robes were given unto every one of them, and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow servants also, and their brethren, that should be killed as they were should be fulfilled.” These souls are evidently those who are reserved in places of safety during the interval preceding the time of the judgment. They are de. scribed as being under the altar, which is the same thing as saying that they were under the earth, only the term 'altar, which of course is supposed to stand on the earth is used as a symbol of the Lord's Divine love under the protection of which they were. These places of reservation being thus to appear. ance, under the earth, they are called, in other passages of Scripture graves. Indeed, the idea attached to the word graves in Scripture, in the literal sense, is not so much, as with us, from our mode of burial, that of a place to which the body is committed to be out of the way, or of a place of rejection, as of a place of preservation : thus the Jews had chambers hewn out of the rock for depositing their dead, the mouths of which were closed with a great stone; as in the case of the grave of Lazarus, and that of Joseph of Arimathea, in which the body of the Lord was laid. Such graves for the preservation of the dead body, afforded a suitable image of the places provided in the spiritual world, for the preservation of those who were to be transferred to their final homes at the time of judgment; wherefore, in the .symbolic language of Scripture, these are called by the same
Thus when the Lord says, “ The hour is coming in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth ; they that have done good, unto the resurrec. tion of life, and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation*;" the specific reference of the divine declaration is, to the bringing out of the places of reservation in the spiritual world, at the judgment he was then about accomplishing, of those, who like the souls under the altar, could not previously be elevated to heaven; and also, of those who, from the former preparatory judgment in the days of Noah,were “reserved in chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day;" thus of those whom Peter calls “ the spirits in prison,"
* See above, p. 154.