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and more practical in confequence) I fhould be willing al- SERM. together to wave this obfcure and perplexed fubject; yet XXVIII. however fomewhat to comply with expectation, I shall touch briefly upon fome things feeming conducible to the clearing, or to the ending of the controverfies about it.
Now whereas there may be a threefold inquiry; one, concerning the meaning of thefe words (he defcended into hell) intended by those who inferted them; another, concerning the most proper fignification of the words themfelves; a third, concerning the meaning they are in confiftency with truth capable of;
1. The first I refolve, or rather remove, by faying, it seems needless to dispute, what meaning they, who placed the words here, did intend; fince, 1. It is poffible, and by many like instances might be declared so, and perhaps not unlikely, that they might both themselves upon probable grounds believe, and for plaufible ends propound to the belief of others, this propofition, without apprehending any distinct fense thereof; as we believe all the Scriptures, and commend them to the faith of others, without underftanding the sense of many paffages therein: and fince, 2. Perhaps they might by them intend fome notion not certain, or not true, following some conceits then paffable among divers, but not built upon any fure foundation, (like that of the millennium; and the neceffity of infants communicating, &c. which were anciently in great vogue, but are now difcarded:) and fince, 3. To speak roundly, their bare authority, whoever they were, (for that doth not appear,) could not be fuch, as to oblige us to be of their minds, whatever they did mean or intend; they perhaps were fuch, 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, fuppofing they had any diftin&t meaning, they did intend to affirm, that our Saviour's foul did, by a true and proper kind of motion, descend into the regions infernal, or beneath the earth; where they conceived the fouls 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, whencefoever fetched, however grounded. 2. As to the fecond inquiry, concerning the fignification of the words, what may be meant by he defcended; whether our Saviour himself, according to his humanity, or his foul, or his body, called he by fynecdoche: what by defcended, whether (to omit that fenfe, which makes the whole sentence an allegory, denoting the sufferance of infernal or hellish pains and forrows, as too wide from the purpose; whether, I fay) by defcending may be fignified a proper local motion toward fuch a term, or an action fo called in respect to fome fuch motion accompanying it; or a virtual motion by power and efficacy in places below: what by hell, whether a ftate of being, or a place; if a place, whether that where bodies are repofed, or that to which fouls do go; and if a place of fouls, whether the place of good and happy fouls, or that of bad and miferable ones; or indifferently, and in common of both those; for fuch a manifold ambiguity thefe words have, or are made to have; and each of these senses are embraced and contended for: I fhall not examine any of them, nor farther meddle in the matter, than by saying,
terræ et in
et in ip
1. That the Hebrew word fheol (upon the true notion ri-in foffo of which the fenfe of the word hell (or hades) in this alto vafti place is conceived to depend) doth seem originally, moft fis vifceri- properly, and moft frequently (perhaps conftantly, except bus ejus ab- when it is tranflated, as all words fometimes are, to a fifunditas. gurative use) to design the whole region protended downTertul. de ward from the furface of the earth to a depth (accordAr. ing to the vulgar opinion, as it seems anciently over the world) indefinite and unconceivable; vaftly capacious in Ag. extenfion, very darksome, defolate, and dungeon-like in quality, (whence it is also frequently ftyled the pit, a the ■ Ifa. lowest pit, b the abyss, the depths of the earth, the darkPf. lxxxviii. nefs, the depths of hell.) I need not labour much to confirm the truth of this notion, fince it is obvious, that this fheol (when most absolutely and properly taken, the b Pf. lxxi. circumftances of difcourfe about it implying fo much) is John ii. 6. Rom. x. 7. • Pfal. lxxi. 20. d Job xvii. 13. Pfal. cxliii. 3. Ecclef. vi. 4. 1 Sam. ii. 9. e Prov. ix. 18.
Ecclus. xxi. 10.
commonly opposed to heaven, not only in fituation, but in SERM. dimenfion and diftance; as when Job, fpeaking of the unsearchableness of the divine perfections, faith, It is as Job xi. 8. high as heaven; what canft thou do? deeper than hell; what canft thou know? and the prophet Amos; Though Amos ix. 2. (Pf.cxxxix. they dig into hell, thence shall mine hand take them; s.) though they climb into heaven, thence will I bring down.
xxxii. 22. Ifa. lvii. 9.)
xxxvii. 35. xliv. 29, 31.
2. I fay farther, because the bodies (or vifible remainders) of perfons dying do naturally fall down, or are put into the bofom of this pit, which is therefore an univerfal grave and receptacle of them, therefore to die is frequently termed καταβαίνειν εἰς ᾅδου, or κατάγεσθαι εἰς ᾅδου, to defcend, or to be brought down into this hell; which happening to all men without exception, (for, as the Psalmist fays, there is no man that shall deliver his foul (or his life, or himself) from the hand of this all-grasping hell,) there- Pf. lxxxix. fore it is attributed promifcuously to all men, good and bad alike; I will go down, faith good Jacob, unto the Gen. grave, unto my fon mourning, (xatabýσoμas eis äde, I will go down to fheol, this common grave of mankind,) and fo frequently of others. Whence this hell is apt figuratively to be put for, and to fignify equivalently with, death itself; and it is once by the LXX. fo translated, (and St. Peter feems to use the phrase f after them;) for death, I fay, or for the law, condition, and ftate of death: as in that of Hezekiah in the prophet Ifaiahs; Sheol cannot praife thee; death cannot celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit hell comcannot hope for thy truth : where οἱ ἐν ἅδε, and οἱ ἀποθανόνpaffed me TES, (as the Greek renders fheol and death,) are the fame, about. and opposed to the living, of whom it is faid, The living, xxxviii. 18. the living he shall praife thee.
Acts ii. 24.
Death and hades are
3. I fay farther, that this word, according to ancient frequently use, seems not to fignify the place, whither men's fouls do joined as fynonygo, or where they abide; for that,
1. It can hardly be made appear, that the ancient He- (Ecclus. xlviii. 5.) brews either had any name appropriated to the place of fouls, or did conceive diftinctly which way they did go; otherwise than that, as the Preacher speaks, they returned Ecclef. xii.
SERM. unto God who gave them; and that they did abide in God's
(Deut. xxxiii. 3.)
2. It seems, they did rather conceive the fouls 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 foul of beasts; the foul of beafts defcending with its body to the earth; the Spirit of man afcending unto God, to be difpofed by him according to Gen. v. 24. his pleasure and juftice. And by Enoch's being taken to God, (whofe fpecial refidence is expreffed 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 fuppofe the fouls of the righteous to afcend, than to be conveyed downward into fubterraneous caverns, those μελα
Wifd. xvii. xol adou, closets of hell, as the book of Wisdom calls them;
Heb. ix. 8.
3. I add, that if thofe ancients had by Sheol meant the Heb. xi. 16. receptacle or manfion of fouls, it is not likely they would
Ifa. xxxviii. have used fuch expreffions as thofe : 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 fheol who shall give thee thanks? fo David faid: and, Ecclef. ix. There is no works, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in fheol, whither thou goeft; fo the Preacher; who hardly it seems could fay fo, if by fheol he meant the place of fouls; except he fhould alfo mean, that fouls after death became deprived of all life and fenfe. The fon of Sirach likewife fpeaks in the fame manner: ὑψίσῳ τις αἰνέσει ἐν ads; Who shall praise the Moft 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
I must confefs, that afterwards (even before our Sa- SERM. viour's time) the word ons was affumed by the Jews, to XXVIII. defign (as it did among the Greeks) either the place of fouls in common, or more strictly the place of fouls condemned to punishment and pain, for their bad lives here: Jofephus doth often use the word in the first of these fenses; and in the New Testament it seems peculiarly applied to the latter; as in the parable of the rich man, who being iv tp äon, 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 fame concerning the ancient meaning of the word fheol; especially confidering how the Jews, after the prophetical days, in their difperfions becoming acquainted with the world, did borrow some notions and expreffions from elsewhere; which expreffions our Saviour and his Apoftles might well retain, when they were fuitable and accommodable unto truth.
3. But however it be determined concerning the proper fense in general of this principal word in the propofition, and of the reft depending thereon, as to their fignification here; I do thus, as to the prefent case, and the last main queftion propounded about the meaning, whereof the words are capable with truth, answer briefly.
1. If we do interpret the defcent into hell here affirmed of our Saviour's interment, or being laid in the bofom of that univerfal grave we before fpake 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 otherwife than when it was spoken of Jacob and others, that our Saviour did really pass into the state of death; we are fure therein not to err; the propofition fo understood being most certainly true: we shall alfo hereby be able fairly to fatisfy the firft and best (if not the only) reason of this propofition being commended to our belief. For that place in the Acts which feems to have been the occafion and the main ground of this propofition 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,