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Now this passage expressly declares that Christ, before he ascended into heaven, descended into the lower parts of the earth. This cannot be interpreted of his burial; for no person will pretend, that Christ's grave, or sepulchre, extended to the lower parts of the earth. It is asserted as clearly in this passage that Christ descended into the lower parts of the earth, as it is that he ascended into heaven. So in the passage in Peter, it is as clearly asserted that Christ went to the spirits in prison, as it is in the same chapter, that he went into heaven; and there is no more propriety in explaining away one than the other.
That Christ does possess all, the dead as well as the living, is told us by St. Paul.* “For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord ; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living." This passage positively asserts that Christ is Lord of the dead as inuch as of the living. In fact, this is a leading doetrine with you. You strenuously contend, that all men are given to Christ; and they are given to him for a benevolent purpose. But where would be the benevolence in giving the dead to Christ, unless he could do them good? And how can he do them good, unless he makes their acquainted with that gospel which is the only sure means of salvation? There is no more absurdity in supposing that Christ preaches the gospel to men in another state, than there is that he will raise men from the dead in another state. The fact that Christ visited the abodes of misery in another world, is so clearly taught in the scriptures, that many Christians acknowledge it, though it is in direct opposition to their system. The Episcopal Church, both in Europe
* Rom. xiv. 7, 8, 9.
and America admit it. In their Creed, which is generally denominated the Apostles' Creed, they assert that Christ descended into hell, or the place of departed spirits.* Now as the Episcopalians do not generally admit a moral change after death, this article must be in direct opposition to their general sentiment. So that nothing but a full conviction, that it was taught in the scriptures, could have induced them to admit it as an article of faith.
We will now notice several objections which you urge against the exposition we have given. One objection on which you rely is this ;-This subject is not mentioned by any of the sacred writers except St. Peter, and by him only indirectly. In answer to this objection, we remark, 1. The objection is unfounded. It is not true that St. Peter is the only writer which alludes to this subject. We have already quoted two passages from the writings of St. Paul, and it is believed that several other texts can be produced both from the Old and New Testament. Besides, this sentiment is involved in the very nature of the gospel, especially on our understanding of it. You, Sir, believe that all men will be saved by Jesus Christ. But the sacred writers inform us that no man can be saved without repentance and faith. And we are also told on divine authority, that faith cometh by hearing. It is necessary therefore, that all men should hear the gospel, otherwise all cannot be saved. Now as many do not hear the gospel in this world, it follows as a necessary consequence, even on your own system, that the gospel will be made known to many in a future state. Thus the doctrine for which we contend is involved in the very nature of the gospel ; and without this sentiment, you cannot consistently maintain the “restitution of all things."
* See the Common Prayer Book. + Gos. Visitant, Vol. IIl. pp. 299, 300.
2. But if we should admit that St. Peter is the only writer who has mentioned this fact, it would not invalidate the passage. One divine asseveration is entitled to our confidence. And it would be a singular kind of reasoning, to contend that what is said by Peter must be false, because the same thing is not mentioned by Paul. Would such evidence as this be admitted in a court of justice ? No; it is an acknowledged principle that the testimony of one man is not weakened, by the other witnesses testifying that they did not see what he declares he did. Suppose A is arraigned before a civil tribunal, and B testifies that he saw A commit larceny, would any person attempt to procure his acquittal by producing witnesses who would testify that they did not see him commit the crime? No; any counsel would be ashamed to set up such a defence. But a defence like this would be quite as consistent as your argument in the case in question. For none of the sacred writers assert that they did not know that Christ preached to the spirits in prison.
We find many instances in the scriptures in which a remarkable circumstance is mentioned by one writer, and omitted by all the others. The resurrection of Lazarus is one of the most striking miracles performed by our Lord, and still it is recorded by John only ; Matthew, Mark, and Luke being perfectly silent upon this subject. But will you refuse your credence to this important miracle, because it is mentioned by one writer only? You will not. Christ's resignation of his kingdom to the Father, is an important doctrine, and still is mentioned by one writer only: and he has mentioned it but once. But notwithstanding this, you believe the declaration, and make great use of that passage. In this manner you acknowledge the weakness of your objection in the case before us.
.-But you inform us that St. Peter, when he speaks of Christ's preaching to the spi
rits in prison, only throws an allusion to it, while laboring on another subject."-So much the more to our purpose; for it shows that this opinion was nothing new to those to whom his epistle was addressed. Had this doctrine been something which was not generally believed, St. Peter would in all probability have labored it more at large. But as he brought this in to illustrate and enforce another point, it teaches us most conclusively, not only that Peter himself believed this doctrine, but that it was generally admitted among the brethren in his day. Thus does your objection strengthen our interpretation, rather than otherwise.
Again, you object to the exposition we have given, in the following language :-"If the opinion disproved, be allowed, how shall we account for this particularizing the people who lived in the days of Noah ?” To meet this objection, we remark,-1. If this consideration has any weight, it opposes your interpretation, as much as it does mine. For on your interpretation, you confess that the gospel was preached to a people similar to those in the days of Noah. And I can ask with as much propriety as you can, "how shall we account for this particularizing the people in the days of Noah po 2. There is not the least difficulty as I can see in the case. Though you suggest that the passage would imply that those who lived in the days of Noah were the only ones who enjoyed this preaching, on the interpretation here contended for, I should infer the very reverse. For as God is no respecter of persons, if Christ went and preached to the antediluvians, it would be natural to conclude that he preached to others also. You interpret the text to mean that the gospel was preached to the Gentiles, whose characters were similar to those who lived in Noah's day. But does this imply that the Gentiles in relation to moral character, would compare with no other corrupt people than those who lived in the old
world ? You will not pretend this. So in fact you ac. knowledge your objection to be frivolous. Peter in the passage in question, alluded to the old world only as an example, or specimen. As this is what you yourself must contend for, I trust you will not object to it. As the same apostle in another place,* mentions the old world, together with Sodom, as examples, in regard to punishment, there is the utmost propriety in mentioning the old world as an example with regard to blessings.
Before we dismiss this subject, we will notice one objection more. After quoting Wakefield's rendering of the passage, you say, “In this translation there is nothing hinted of Christ's preaching to the spirits of those who lived in Noah's time.”+ Since you lay so much stress upon this translation, I will transcribe it, and mark the italic words, as I find them in his Testament, that the reader may see what he has added to the original text. “Because even Christ once suffered for sin, a righteous man, for unrighteous men, that he might bring us unto God; being killed in body, but made alive by the spirit; in which indeed he went and preached to the minds of men in prison ; who were also hard to be convinced in former times; as when the patience of God continued waiting in the days of Noah, whilst the ark was a preparing.” The reader is informed that all the words in the above passage which are printed in italics, are not found in the original, but were added by Mr. Wakefield himself, and marked by him, as you here find them, to show that they were not of divine authority. By reading this rendering of the passage, and omitting the supplied words, we have the same sense, as is conveyed in the common rendering of the text. Thus, Sir, does this translation yield you no assistance. We will also notice Wakefield's rendering the parallel passage in the next chapter. Verse 6th--"For this indeed was the
2 Peter, ii. 5, 6. + U. Magazine, Vol. IV. p. 47.