« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
Professor at Basil, (1551,) says he does not understand it, and contents himself with giving a literal translation. Aretius, Greek Professor at Bern, an enthusiastic Calvinist, and a distinguished divine, (1560–1584,) says “I acknowledge the passage is difficult; but the difficulty lies not so much in the text, as in the difference of interpreters, who have aimed to accommodate the apostle's words to their own preconceptions. The apostle's words
in which (that is, in which spirit,) he went and preached to the spirits confined in prison. I accept this in its direct sense, of Christ's descent to the dead, (ad Inferos ;) for so the words themselves read, and I see that all the Fathers so understand them. The prison, here mentioned, is the prison of hell. Hither Christ went, as we acknowledge in the Creed. Some are curious to know where it is; but I am glad to be ignorant of this, since none who go thither ever return, except Christ. Moreover, what Christ did there, is plainly stated : he preached to the spirits,—that is, by some remarkable revelation, he declared to them his advent on earth; and to the impious he announced the dire and woeful truth that the merit of his death did not reach them. His presence only confirmed the punishments of which Noah and other prophets had admonished them. Observe, it is to the spirits of the “disobedient,” that the preaching is addressed. St. Peter mentions those only who had lived in Noah's time, because they were the greatest examples of sin in the history of the world.” On 1 Pet. iv. 6, he says, “ The dead, here, I understand to be the deceased. To them the gospel was preached, I suppose by Christ, after their death. Not that there is any repentance after death ; it is the souls of the pious, who are here spoken of. To them Christ showed, by some illustrious manifestation, that he had suffered and made satisfaction for their sins. Still, they were to be judged according to men in the flesh,'—that is, they were to stand before the tribunal of Christ, with the rest of mankind, though they would be absolved. Meanwhile, they were to live according to God in the spirit, -that is, they would not sleep, as some hold, but continue in conscious existence, and in enjoyment of God." 26 That the aim of Christ in 26 Aretii Comment. in Nov. Test, in 1 Pet. iii. 19, 20, iv. 6. Ed. 1607.
going and preaching to the departed souls, was to aggravate their torment; that “the dead,” in chap. iv. 6, were a different class from those in chap. iii. 19, 20; that to be
judged according to men in the flesh,” was an empty formality; and that to "live according to God” meant to be conscious,—these far-fetched suppositions were obviously brought, not from the text, but from the necessity of squaring it with Calvinism. Let us pass from the Reformed Churches to the
Lutheran Church. With few exceptions, if any, the Luthern divines, of this age, appear to have understood, by the text, that, after his death, Christ went, either in his human soul, or in his divine nature, or in both, and preached to the souls of the Antediluvians. Such were the views of the chief leaders, after Melanchthon, as Flacius, Osiander, Salom. Gessner, Hutter, &c. But, in following the text through, they resorted to various methods to turn away its adverse bearings on their general system of doctrine. Some pleaded that, though the “spirits” referred to, had indeed been “disobedient in the days of Noah,” yet they must have repented just before death, -when they saw the Flood begin to rise. Others inferred that, since they were the spirits of the “ disobedient,” it must have been the law of condemnation, and not the gospel, that was preached to them. The Lutherans, of that age, could not allow that mercy was shown to such as had died impenitent; but still they could not deny that St. Peter spoke of Christ's preaching, after his death, to* the souls of those who had perished in the Deluge.
The English Church. An important ecclesiastical document shows us, at once, what view of the text prevailed among the first Reformers in England. In one of the forty-two “ Articles of Religion,” under Edward VI., (published 1552, the “ Descent of Christ to Hell” is defined by the explanatory remark, that “his soul went unto the spirits who were in prison, or in hell, and preached to them.”27 Such, then, was the common interpretation, at this time. But amid the great changes through which the English Church passed, in the following years, this interpretation was changed, with so many other things. The Genevan doctrines and writings were already exerting a powerful influence on the Reformers in England, under Edward VI., (1547–1553;) and in the reign of Mary, (1553-1558,) many of the Protestant divines and scholars fed from the stake to Geneva, and sat under the teachings of Calvin and Beza. Here they prepared and published (1560,) an English edition of the Scriptures commonly called “the Geneva Bible,” which became the current standard in England till the appearance of our present Authorized Version. In the Geneva Bible, both the rendering, and the explanation, of the text in Peter, follow the interpretation of Beza so closely, as to show a common origin. Christ " went and preached to the spirits which are in prison," (not were, at the time of the preaching ;) and it is added in the margin, that “ Christ being, from the beginning, head and governor of the Church, .... preached by the mouth of Noah .... unto the disobedient, which would not repent, and are therefore now in prison, reserved to the last judgement. The gospel “hath been preached to them of time past, which now are dead, to the intent that they might have been condemned, or dead to sin, in the flesh, and also might have lived to God in the spirit." 28 In this version, and with this gloss, the English Protestants read the passage, 1552, for avoiding diversity of opinion, and establishing consent, touching religion; published by the king's authority.” It does indeed appear that they were never submitted to Parliament, nor to the Convocation;
27 King's Hist. of the Apostles' Creed, pp. 184, 185. London, 1702. These forty-two Articles were drawn up by Cranmer and Ridley, and copies of them sent to several bishops and other divines, for examination. Being returned, they were approved in Council, and sanctioned by the king, under the title, “ Articles agreed upon, by the bishops and other learned men, in the Convocation held at London in the year the unsettled state of things, and the change of the government, the next year, probably prevented. Still, as they were accepted by the church, at the time, they show what were its views. (Butler's Confessions of Faith, p. 72.).
28 I quote from the London Ed. of 1578. Translation of 1 Pet. iii. 18–20.6–Was put to death concerning the flesh, but was quickened in the spirit; by the which he also went and preached unto the spirits which are in prison, which were in time passed disobedient, when once the long-suffering of God abode in the days of Noah, while the ark was preparing,” &c. The following note is placed in the margin: “Christ being from the beginning Head and Governor of the Church, came in the days of Noah, not in body, which then he had not, but in spirit, and preached by the mouth of Noah, by the space of 120 years, to the disobedient, which would not repent, and are therefore now in prison, reserved to last judgement.” Translation of iv. 6. “For unto this purpose was the gospel preached also unto the dead, that they
for the next half century,-a formation-period, long enough to fix an impression that has not yet worn away. After the death of Mary, and the return of the exiles under Elizabeth, the present " thirty-nine Articles” of the English Church were adopted, in 1562. Here, among a few other changes, the “ Descent of Christ to Hell” is stripped of the former reference to Peter's language, and simply recognized without any explanation whatsoever. So far as we have read, the English interpretation of the text, for the rest of the century, follows Beza's, even in its most bungling and hard-strained conceits.
[To be continued.]
H. B. 2d.
Character and its Predicates.
What is that something which we call moral character? Does it inhere in the very substance of our powers, so to speak; or does it pertain rather to their attitude, direction, and style of action? What can be affirmed of it in regard to its permanence or momentum ? What is its susceptibility to emendation, and what are its correctives? What is its relation to capacity and degrees of happiness? Can we predicate eternal deficiency in enjoyment, and therefore eternal retribution, on present moral debasement? What is the value of motives drawn from such a source? might be condemned, according to men, in the flesh, but might live according to God in the spirit." Marginal Note: "it hath been preached to them in time past, which now are dead, to the intent that they might have been condemned, or dead to sin, in the flesh, and also might have lived to God in the spirit - which two are the effect of the gospel."
The agreement with Beza's translation and interpretation is obvious ; but which was original, I know not. Since the above was written, it has occurred to me, that this point might be determined by comparing the still earlier English versions, such as the Great Bible, Matthews', Coverdale's, Tindal's, &c. The bungling conceits hardly look, to me, like the invention of Beza, an elegant scholar and a man of some taste. There is a great difference between inventing an absurdity, and accepting it after it has gained currency.
It may be presumption in us to attempt to throw any additional light upon the subject indicated by these questions. The bearing of our present character upon our present and future welfare, has been so ably discussed in this work, and from so many different stand-points, that there appears to be little occasion to canvass anew the whole ground. In some respects, however, the articles referred to contained admissions, the value of which, in the connexion in which they are found, does not fully appear, and which may qualify somewhat the drift of the articles themselves.
It is quite natural, perhaps, that a people, with whom the first tide of joyous emotion begotten by high faith is passed, should turn to a more careful and elaborate examination of the philosophical connexions and dependence of the separate items of their faith. We confess it seems to us far from being undesirable that such examinations should arise; since if they are conducted with proper ence for the divine Word, they may help us more fully to apprehend the deepest meanings of that word. At the risk, then, of some unnecessary repetitions, and without any further attempt at completeness or systematic treatment than may be necessary to reach the points at which we aim, we proceed to the work before us.
Let it be observed, then, that one of the first requisites to an understanding of the results of character, is a proper understanding of character itself. We must be able to look abstractly, as it were, upon what essentially constitutes character; to discern where in fact character lies. In attempting this, it is obvious to remark that we must distinguish between character and reputation. In a wise and Christian community, these will bear a certain correspondence to each other, but they are by no means identical. Reputation is character by report, and not absolutely. It is the current public judgement of character. Of course, character and reputation will agree with, or differ from, each other, according to the rectitude or perverseness of the public judgement. One may have a very good reputation with a very bad character, when his failings are such as the public approve; and he may have a very bad reputation with a very good character, when his virtues are uncurrent in the community in which he lives.