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and more practical in consequence) I should be willing al- SERM. together to wave this obscure and perplexed subject; yet
XXVIII. 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 confistency 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; fince, 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 fince, 2. Perhaps they might by them intend fome notion not certain, or not true, following some conceits then passable among divers, but not built upon any fure 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 bare authority, whoever they were, (for that doth 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 farther, 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 opi
SERM. nion of those times, which it is probable they did comply XXVIII. 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 fynecdoche : what by defcended, 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 fignified 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; and each of these fenses are embraced and contended for: I shall not examine any of them, nor far
ther meddle in the matter, than by saying, Nobis infe- 1. That the Hebrew word fheol (upon the true notion ri-in foffo of which the sense of the word hell (or hades) in this terræ et in alto vafti place is conceived to depend) doth seem originally, most tis vifceri properly, and most frequently (perhaps constantly, except bus ejus ab- when it is translated, as all words sometimes are, to a fifunditas. gurative use) to design the whole region protended downTertul, de ward from the surface of the earth to a depth (accord'Arúdua. ing to the vulgar opinion, as it seems anciently over the Prov. xv.
world) indefinite and unconceivable ; vastly capacious in Araplogá. extension, very darksome, desolate, and dungeon-like in Prov. xxvii.
quality, (whence it is also frequently styled the pit, a the
lowest pit, b the abyss, the depths of the earth, d the darkXxxviii. 19. Pr. lxxxviii
. nefs, e the depths of hell.) I need not labour much to
confirm the truth of this notion, since it is obvious, that Ecclus. xxi.
this Theol (when most absolutely and properly taken, the b Pr. lxxi. circumstances of discourse about it implying so much) is John ii. 6. Rom. x. 7. e Pfal. lxxi. 20. d Job xvii. 13. Psal. cxliii. 3. Ecclef. vi. 4.
e Prov. ix. 18.
1 Sam. ii. 9.
commonly opposed to heaven, not only in situation, but in SERM.
XXVIII. dimension and distance; as when Job, speaking of the unsearchableness of the divine perfections, faith, It is as Job xi. 8. high as heaven ; what canst thou do? deeper than hell; what canst thou know ? and the prophet Amos; Though Amos ix. 2.
(Pf.cxxxix. they dig into hell, thence shall mine hand take them ; 8.) though they climb into heaven, thence will I bring them (Deut. down.
Isa. Ivii. 9.) 2. I say farther, because the bodies (or visible remainders) of persons dying do naturally fall down, or are put into the bosom of this pit, which is therefore an universal grave and receptacle of them, therefore to die is frequently termed καταβαίνειν εις άδου, or κατάγεται εις άδου, το descend, or to be brought down into this hell; which happening to all men without exception, (for, as the Pfalmist says, there is no man that shall deliver his foul (or his life, or himself) from the hand of this all-grasping hell,) there- Pl. laxxix. fore it is attributed promiscuously to all men, good and 48. bad alike; I will go down, faith good Jacob, unto the Gen. grave, unto my son mourning, (xatabsoquan eis coe, I will
xliv. 29, 31. go down to sheol, this common grave of mankind,) and so frequently of others. Whence this hell is apt figuratively to be put for, and to signify equivalently with, death itself; and it is once by the LXX. so translated, (and St. Peter seems to use the phrase f after them ;) for death, I say, or 2 Sam. for the law, condition, and state of death : as in that of Acts ii. 24. Hezekiah in the prophet Isaiahs; Sheol cannot praise thee; 'ndins sadeath cannot celebrate thee : they that go down into the pit forrows of cannot hope for thy truth : where oi év äôe, and oi áno Javóv-hell.com. TES, (as the Greek renders fheol and death,) are the same, about. and opposed to the living, of whom it is said, The living, xxxviii. 18. the living he shall praise thee.
Death and 3. I say farther, that this word, according to ancient frequently use, seems not to signify the place, whither men's souls do joined as
synonygo, or where they abide ; for that, 1. It can hardly be made appear, that the ancient He- (Ecclus.
alviii. 3.) brews either had any name appropriated to the place of souls, or did conceive distinctly which way they did go; otherwise than that, as the Preacher speaks, they returned Ecclef. xii.
Wild. iii, 1.
SERM. unto God who gave them; and that they did abide in God's XXVIII. hand; especially the souls of the just, according to that in
the book of Wisdom; The souls of the righteous are in (Deut. the hand of God, and there shall no torment touch them. xxxiii. 3.)
And for that,
2. It seems, they did rather conceive the souls of men, when they died, to go upward than downward; as the
Preacher again intimates, when he differenceth the spirit Ecclef. iii. of man dying from the soul of beasts; the foul of beasts
descending with its body to the earth; the Spirit of man
afcending unto God, to be disposed by him according to Gen. v. 24. his pleasure and justice. And by Enoch’s being taken to
God, (whose special refidence is expressed to be in heaven 2 Kings ii. above,) and by Elias's translation up into heaven, (as it is
in the text of the history,) it is probable, they did rather suppose the souls of the righteous to ascend, than to be
conveyed downward into fubterraneous caverns, those wuWisd. xvii. xol ádou, closets of hell, as the book of Wisdom calls them; 24. Ecclus. xxi. that Bóspos adou, deep pit of hell, as it is in Ben-Sirach; to 10, 11,
ascend, I say, whether into the supreme heaven, or no, is Ουρανός έτι Elutos hy. not material; but somewhither above, nearer unto God's . Chrys, ad
most special refidence, into a happy place. Eph. iii. 15. 3. I add, that if those ancients had by Mheol meant the
receptacle or mansion of souls, it is not likely they would Ifa. xxxviii
, have used such expressions as those : The grave (fheol) cannot praise thee; death cannot celebrate thee; they that
go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth; fo HezePfal. vi. 5. kiah spake: In death there is no remembrance of thee; in
sheol who shall give thee thanks ? so David said: and, Eccles. ix. There is no works, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in
sheol, whither thou goeft ; so the Preacher; who hardly it seems could say so, if by fheol he meant the place of souls; except he should also mean, that fouls after death became deprived of all life and senfe. The son of Sirach
likewife fpeaks in the fame manner: υψίσω τις αινέσει εν Ecclus. ; Who shall praise the Most High in hell, instead of xvii. 27, 28. them which live and give thanks? Thanksgiving perisheth
from the dead, as from one that is not : the living and found in heart shall praise the Lord.
Heb. ix. 8.
Heb. xi. 16. xii. 22.
I must confefs, that afterwards (even before our Sa- SERM. viour's time) the word coins was assumed by the Jews, to XXVIII. design (as it did among the Greeks) either the place of souls in common, or more ftri&ly the place of fouls condemned to punishment and pain, for their bad lives here: Josephus doth often use the word in the first of these senses ; and in the New Testament it seems peculiarly applied to the latter; as in the parable of the rich man, who being én Tó áen, in hell and torments, did thence lift up his Luke xvi. eyes, and behold afar off Lazarus in Abraham's bofom : but we cannot hence infer the same concerning the ancient meaning of the word fheol; especially considering how the Jews, after the prophetical days, in their dispersions becoming acquainted with the world, did borrow fome notions and expressions from elsewhere ; which expresfions our Saviour and his Apostles might well retain, when they were suitable and accommodable unto truth.
3. But however it be determined concerning the proper fense in general of this principal word in the proposition, and of the rest depending thereon, as to their signification . here; I do thus, as to the prefent case, and the last main question propounded about the meaning, whereof the words are capable with truth, answer briefly.
1. If we do interpret the descent into hell here affirmed of our Saviour's interment, or being laid in the bosom of that universal grave we before spake of; or if in a notion little differing from that) we take these words for a phrafe (taking its ground thence in the manner fore-mentioned) importing no otherwise than when it was spoken of Jacob and others, that our Saviour did really pass into the state of death; we are sure therein not to err; the proposition so understood being most certainly true : we shall also hereby be able fairly to satisfy the first and best (if not the only) reason of this propofition being commended to our belief. For that place in the Acts which seems to have been the occasion and the main ground of this proposition being afferted in these terms, doth not refuse, but commodiously admits this interpretation : for our Saviour's foul not being left in hell, and not seeing corruption,