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tion, that he “ descended into the lower parts of the “ earth.”
XXXII. Secondly, For CONSOLATION. 1st, The burial of Christ renders it clear and certain, that the expiation of our sins was finished, and the curse abolished by his death. As, according to the legal type, hanging on a tree denoted the curse still existing and remaining, so the burial of the suspended corpse was a figure of its being abolished.m Now the truth and substance of these shadows is in Christ. 2dly, He buried our sins along with him—both in regard to justification, that they might be covered and removed from God's sight, lest they should be “ set in the light “ of his countenance” to accuse usn—and in regard to sanctification, for we are “ buried with him by baptism “ into death,” that our old man may by degrees be utterly destroyed, and cease to reign and live in us. 3dly, Pursuing death, so to speak, to the remotest corner and asylum of his fortress, he expelled him thence, and sanctified our sepulchres, that they might become pleasant resting-places for our bodies,p until we awake “ to behold God's face in righteousness, and to “ be satisfied with his likeness.”!
XXXIII. Thirdly, for ADMONITION ;-that we may not be offended at any part of Christ's abasement, but, agreeably to the example of Joseph, Nicodemus, and the pious women, regard him, even when dead and buried, with the highest veneration ; apprehending him by faith as the sole author of life, seeking him
Ephes. iv. 9.
m Deut. xxi. 23.
early with holy aspirations, devoutly longing for him during his absence, and freely presenting to him ourselves with all that we possess. This, without doubt, will prove far more grateful to him than the most costly spices, or even the extremely magnificent temple erected by Constantine at his tomb, and described by Eusebius in very pompous terms. *
• De Vila Constant. lib. iii. cap. 24. et seq.
ON CHRIST'S DESCENT INTO HELL.
1. OUR LORD'S DESCENDING INTO HELL has attracted great attention, and given rise to much discussion. The Dissertations on this subject which have already been given to the world are extremely numerous ; and since it has been so copiously discussed by others, it may be proper for us to treat it the more briefly and concisely.
11. I would observe, first of all, that this expression, Christ descended into hell, nowhere occurs, in so many words, in holy writ. He is said to have descended; he is said to have been in hell: but we never find the expression, he descended into hell.
III. Paul affirms that he descended into the lower parts of the earth.” In these words the Apostle seems to include the whole state of Christ's humiliation, which began in his nativity, and ended in his death and burial. The whole universe is divided into two
which is heaven; and the lower, which
parts, the upper,
4 Εις τα κατώτερα μέρη της γης, Ephes. iv. 9. VOL. II.
is the earth. Christ, therefore, when he came forth from the Father out of heaven, clothed himself with human flesh and appeared on the earth,—descended into the lower parts of the world. It deserves to be considered also, whether the following expression in Isaiah may not have the same meaning: “ Sing, O ye “ heavens, for the LORD hath done it; shout,
shout, ye lower parts of the earth ;t break forth into singing, ye moun“ tains, O forest, and every tree therein,” &c. “ The “ lowest parts of the earth,” or the earth which is below, several parts of which, namely, the mountains and the woods, are afterwards mentioned, are here opposed to the heavens, which are above. The Psalmist, too, appears to have metaphorically styled the womb of his mother, “ the lowest parts of the earth.” “I was “ made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest “ parts of the earth." These words are explained not improperly by Jansenius thus: “My whole substance, “ which I had in my mother's womb, a place more se“cret than any cave of the earth, was not hid from thy “sight.”
This exposition, however, does not appear to me to exhaust the meaning of the Apostle. If we attend to the natural signification of the words, “ the lowest parts “ of the earth,” the expression denotes not only the earth itself, as opposed to the highest heaven, but also those parts of the earth which are lower than other parts of it—than “the land of the living."e It denotes, I mean, the place of death and burial. Accordingly, we read in Ezekiel : “ When I shall bring thee down “ with them that descend into the pit, with the people
b 778 nrnnn Is. xliv. 23.
Is. liii. s.
" of old time, and shall set thee in the low parts of " the earth.”? And, again : “ They are all deliver“ ed unto death, in the midst of the children of men, “ to the nether parts of the earth, with them that go “ down to the pit.”. These passages are sufficient to show the manner in which the phrase is employed in Scripture. Chrysostome expresses the same view of its import in the following words; “ He calls death, the “ lower parts of the earth."* Those that are buried, are even said to be under the earth. Ignatius, says; “ On Sabbath he remained under the earth in the " tomb.” † The Apostle's entire meaning, I think, is briefly expressed by Theophylact thus : “ It is mani- . “ fest that he who was above, not only descended into “the earth, when he became incarnate ; but also into “ hades, when he died.”+
iv. With respect to the time of Christ's continuance in hell, David prophesied, saying; “ Thou wilt not “ leave my soul in hell :”h the meaning of which prophecy, is explained by Peter thus: “Men and brethren, “ let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, " that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is “ with us unto this day. - - - He, seeing this before,
spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was “not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.”i We shall attend to the several words of this prediction immediately.
Ταδε κατω μερη της γης θανατον φησι. . + Το σαββατον υπό γήν μενει εν τω μνημειω.
+ Δήλον ότι άνω των κατεβη, και σαρκώμενος εις την γην, και θανων ως τον adry. ? Ezek. xxvi. 20.
& Ezek. xxxi. 14.