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Christ's being made perfect through sufferings." But whether his view of that verse be correct or incorrect, it is evident from Psalm lxxiii. 24. and many other passages, that in the ages preceding, as well as in those which have followed the death of Christ, the souls of believers were not shut up in any Limbus, but immediately after death admitted into the presence of God in heaven.
The supporters of Christ's descent into the Limbus, have considered 1 Pet. iii. 19, 20. as very favourable to their opinion. But on this contested passage, let us hear the devout Leighton:* “They that dream of the descent of Christ's soul into hell, think this place sounds somewhat that way; but being examined, it proves no way suitable, nor can it by the strongest wresting be made to fit their purpose: For, 1st, That it was to preach he went thither, they are not willing to avow; though the act they assign is as groundless and imaginary as this is. 2dly, They would have his business to be with the spirits of the faithful deceased before his coming; but here we see, it is with the disobedient. 3dly, His Spirit here is the same with the sense of the foregoing words, which mean not his soul, but his eternal Deity. 4thly, Nor is it the spirits that were in prison, as they read it, but the spirits in prison; which, by the opposition of their former condition sometimes or formerly disobedient, doth clearly speak their present condition as the just consequence and fruit of their disobedience."-For some further notice of this passage, see NOTE XXX. See also Pearson,† and Whitby, Doddridge and Macknight on the place.
NOTE XXVI. Page 148.
The venerable Author is not unwilling to allow that the article respecting Christ's descent into hell may be understood, not merely of his BODY, but also of his SOUL. Let it be observed, however, that he decidedly rejects the supposition of his soul being subjected to any species of pain subsequently to his death, or descending into infernal or subterranean regions for any purpose whatever. He merely considers the phrase in a metaphorical light, and regards it, by way of accommodation, as capable of expressing with energy those agonies of soul which our Lord endured on the earth before he expired on the cross.
In this instance, Witsius agrees with the compilers of the Confession of Faith, which was embraced by the English Congregation at
Exposition of the First Epistle of Peter, on the place. +On the Creed, Art. v. p. 228.
Geneva, and received and approved by the Church of Scotland at the commencement of the Reformation. That Confession consists of a paraphrase on the Creed; and upon the article-dead and buried; he descended into hell, it is said," suffered his humanity to be punished with a most cruel death, feeling in himself the anger and severe judgment of God, even as if he had been in the extreme torments of hell, and therefore cried with a loud voice, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?'"
The observations of Calvin on this article are to the same effect.* Bishop Horsley, indeed, in his Sermon on 1 Pet. iii. 18-20. imputes to this illustrious Reformer "the extravagant assertion, that our blessed Lord actually went down to the place of torment, and there sustained the pains of a reprobate soul." Calvin, it is allowed, uses the expression, that "not only was Christ's body delivered up as the price of our redemption, but that he gave a greater and more valuable price by suffering in his soul the dreadful torments of a condemned and reprobate man."+ But, so far as we can perceive, this venerable Divine doth not affirm that our Lord actually went down to the place of torment. He appears merely to represent him as enduring in his soul on earth torments similar in some respects to those of the wicked in hell. And notwithstanding the strong expressions he employs, Calvin particularly shows that the sufferings of Christ differed materially from those of the reprobate in that place of misery, inasmuch as when sustaining the tremendous pressure of divine wrath, he remained altogether without sin, and far from resigning himself to despair, exercised a firm confidence and hope in God.-Pearson disapproves of Calvin's interpretation; but he does not seem to have understood him to hold that Christ actually descended into the place of torment.‡
Another interpretation suggested by Whitby may be barely mentioned here. "These words," says that Author, referring to the expression, descended into hell," may be admitted as a distinct article of faith contained in the holy scriptures, in a very good sense, very agreeable to the word descend and to the import of the word hades. For the scripture doth assure us that the soul of the holy Jesus, being separated from his body, went to paradise, Luke xxiii.
• Instit. lib. ii. cap. 16. sect. 8—12.
+. "Ut sciamus non modò corpus Christi in pretium redemptionis fuisse traditum : sed aliud majus et excellentius pretium fuisse, quòd diros in anima cruciatus damnati ac perditi hominis pertulerit." Ibid. sect. 10.
Exposition of the Creed, p. 230.
to the latter than the former idea. But in either case, the deep veneration which these worthy counsellors entertained for the crucified Jesus, as a person of extraordinary dignity, was testified by the magnificent abundance of the spices.
NOTE XXI. Page 127.
Our Author justly numbers Psalm xvi. 9, 10. among the predictions of the Messiah's burial; for whilst these important verses refer directly to his resurrection, they clearly presuppose his death and sepulture. Though in a subordinate sense they are in part applicable to David the son of Jesse and to every genuine saint, yet, as the Apostle Peter shows, in the passage quoted by Witsius, it is in the Messiah alone that they receive their proper and complete fulfilment. Nor does our Author propose a rash or ill-supported version, when he remarks that the first clause of the 10th verse, which our translators have rendered, "Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell," should be translated, "Thou wilt not leave my corpse in the grave.”
Notwithstanding the elaborate reasonings of Campbell,* Bennet,† and others, to the contrary, it is certain that Sheol sometimes signifies the grave. In proof of this, Witsius himself in another passage‡ produces Ps. cxli. 7. xlix. 14. Gen. xxxvii. 35. See also "Strictures on Dr Campbell's Dissertation on 'Adus,"§ where the respectable writer considers particularly Ps. cxli. 7. Jer. viii. 1, 2. Ezek. xxxii. 27. and Is. xiv. 15. as well as Ps. xvi. 10. and appears irrefragably to establish his assertion, that Sheol doth sometimes mean the grave. The same opinion, too, is maintained by Pearson. || With regard to Nephesh, the word which the common version renders soul, Campbell admits that "it is sometimes used for a dead body." But the truth is, that it is often used in this sense, and that it is difficult, if at all possible, to specify any passage where it decidedly means a departed spirit. See the remarks of Witsius in his 16th Dissertation, sect. 13th; Parkhurst on WE VI. and the "Strictures" just referred to." Thou wilt not leave my dead body in the grave," appears, therefore, to be a just interpretation of the clause in question.-To this rendering it is vain to object, that
Preliminary Dissertations, Diss. vi. Part 2.
+ Olam Haneshamoth, or a View of the Intermediate State, by the Rev. George Bennet, chap. xvi. pp. 275-313.
Diss. xvi. Sect. 10, 11.
§ By T. T. Christian Repository, Vol iv. pp, 389–399, 648—658. Expos. of the Creed, Art. v. p. 232.
Yuxa is the word employed for we in Acts ii. 27, 31. Yʊxu, as Parkhurst observes, sometimes signifies "the human body though dead," and is the term employed by the Seventy not only in Ps. xvi. 10. but also Lev. xxi. 1, 11. Num. v. 2. vi. 6. Besides, the authenticity of the words un avre, his soul, which occur in Peter's comment on the Psalm, verse 31st, is at least exceedingly doubtful. They are wanting in the Alexandrian Manuscript, and no expression corresponding to them occurs in the Syriac or Vulgate. Griesbach therefore rejects them, and reads the 31st verse thus;—ότι και κατελείφθη εις άδε, δε ἡ σαρξ αυτε ̓ειδε διαφθοραν.-Nor is there any force in the objection, that if nephesh does not mean the soul, both clauses of the verse express the same idea. On the supposition that the verse runs thus, "For thou wilt not leave my corpse in the grave, nor wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption;" there is still a manifest and important difference betwixt the two parts of the verse. Both indeed relate to the resurrection of the body; but the first is a general prediction of the event, and the second an intimation of the time when it should happen, namely, before the process of putrefaction should commence.
The interpretation now contended for, or one very similar, is embraced by many respectable writers. Bishop Horne explains the verse thus ;-" that after the death of the Messiah, his animal frame (nephesh) should not continue like those of other men in the grave (sheol,) nor should corruption be permitted to seize on the body by which all others were to be raised to incorruption and immortality."+ See also Hammond's Paraphrase, and Whitby's Note on Acts ii. 26, 27. Beza's Note on the same passage is highly worthy of attention. -Compare Notes xxiv. and xxv.
NOTE XXII. Page 129.
Interpreters have differed considerably with regard to the precise meaning of the words in Isaiah liii. 9. rendered in the common version; "And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death." Calvin is of opinion that the expressions refer to the Father's delivering Christ into the hands of the ungodly,-that both the wicked and the rich are to be understood of those cruel and violent men who took an active part in his last sufferings,—and that the Messiah is represented as having his grave from the wicked and
• Greek Lex. Yoxa iv.
+ Commentary on the Psalms, in loc.
outrageous of various classes, because he was in a manner overwhelmed and buried by bloody hands.
The interpretation of Witsius, however, seems more eligible; and, amongst other arguments in its favour, it is worthy of notice that, while the term rendered wicked is in the plural number, the word translated rich is unquestionably in the singular. Bishop Lowth renders the clause thus ;" and his grave was appointed with the wicked, but with the rich man was his tomb;" and he vindicates this translation in a learned Note.
NOTE XXIII. Page 134.
The remark quoted by our Author from Isidorus, respecting the possibility of a precise correspondence in point of duration between Jonah's confinement in the belly of the fish and our Saviour's abode in the tomb, discovers at least considerable acuteness. Witsius, however, justly prefers the common interpretation of "the three days and three nights" to the ingenious refinements of Ambrose, Cloppenburgh, and Cocceius. It is much better to rest satisfied with a natural interpretation justified by the established use of speech among the Jews, than to resort to glosses, which, to say the least, have some appearance of being far-fetched, and are calculated to expose the truth to the ridicule of enemies.
This subject is placed in a clear and striking light by Mr West in his excellent "Observations on the Resurrection of Christ." It may suffice here, to cite the following short illustration from Doddridge." It is of great importance to observe, as many good writers have done, that the Easterns reckoned any part of a day of twenty-four hours for a whole day, and say a thing was done after three or seven days, &c. if it was done on the third or seventh day from that last mentioned, (compare 1 Kings xx. 29. 2 Chron. x. 5, 12. and Luke ii. 21.) And as the Hebrews had no word, exactly answering to the Greek vuxnusov, to signify a natural day of twentyfour hours, they use night and day, or day and night for it. So that to say a thing happened after three days and three nights, was the same as to say it happened after three days, or on the third day. (Compare Esther iv. 16. with verse 1. Gen. vii. 4, 12. Exod. xxiv. 18. xxxiv. 28.) See the Miracles of Jesus vindicated, p. 6—8.”+
Comm. in Esaiam in loc. Calvin renders the expressions, "Et exposuit impiis sepulchrum ejus, et diviti mortem ejus."
The Family Expositor, Vol. ii. sect. 63. Note f.