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gence, in order to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness; and it ought to be deemed sufficient that we are told that we do not wholly die, and that from God happiness is authoratively offered, and the way which leads to it, clealy pointed out.
The doctrine of an invisible state runs through the whole of Scripture; and, on a proper attention to this, depends the sense of many a passage which alludes to, or pre-supposes it. In a variety of places, where this state is imagined to signify no more than a grave, it is evident that the meaning must be sunk, and a sense suggested quite foreign to the mind of the writor. Thus the Psalmist says, “ they that seek my soul to destroy it, shall
into the lower parts of the earth; they shall fall by the sword; they shall be a portion for
If the lower parts of the earth denote no more than a grave, how could they be a portion for foxes? Understanding it in this light, the sense of the passage is lost; whereas, he meant to tell us, that they who seek for his life, shall themselves go to the invisible state; by a vulgar error, understood here to be at the bottom of the earth, and that their bodies would lie unburied, and
exposed to be devoured by wild beasts! When MaH.16.18. Christ declares,
upon this rock will I build my
* Psal. lxiii. 10. fee Grayx P.
church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it! Some have explained this to signify the craft and subtlety of Satan and his angels, against the people of God; whereas, nothing more is meant by the words, than that the church is not to be lost in death ; which is here termed periphrastically, the gates of Hades. The reason of death being termed gates, seems to lie in this, that death is always the cause of the spirit's entering into Hades.
Understanding the term Hell, in the Christian acceptation, for the place of turment, the propriety of certain expressions and comparisons is lost. Who, for instance, can discover the propriety of Jonah's saying, out of the belly of Hell cried I? Son 2.12 Surely there was no resemblance between the burning lake and the belly of a fish. But this, when understood in the Hebrew sense, is apposite
When he found himself confined within the belly of the fish, dark, shut up, and no way appearing of ever escaping from that situation, this exactly suited his pre-conceived notions of Sheol, as lying at the bottoms of the mountains, and the “ earth, with her bars, closing upon him 0,6 for ever.” In this last expression we have a full description of what was the popular belief of that age, with respect to Sheol, or the place of souls. When Christ said, “ as Jonah was three days and flatt 12.40 three nights in the whale's belly, so should the
son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth ;" he spoke in conformity to the popular belief, with respect to Sheol, as being situate in the lowest parts of the earth, or about its center; reckoning the mistake of situation, supposing there were a mistake, a matter of indifference, while, by his suffrage, he established the truth of the thing itself.*
Again, a numerous class of mankind, when in these books they read of nations being brought down to Hell, may be led to think that Scripture, while it asserts this, has already decided on their eternal state, and thrown them into the place of torment; than which nothing can be more unjust and remote from the truth. Whatever is to become of them after the resurrection, is a secret which we are not admitted to know. The amount of the information given, being only this, that they were brought down to the invisible state ; for in this state the people of God, under the figure of trees of Eden, are represented as existing at the same time; “ and all the trees of Eden, the choice and best of Lebanon, shall be comforted in the nether parts of the earth.'|' Comforted, is the very term that is used with respect to the
* Vocant Hebræi Sheol infimam partem mundi sew quæ est sub pedibus nostris, cirea telluris centrum eamque cælo opponere solent. Clericus. + Ezek. xxxi. 16.
situation of Lazarus, in opposition to that of the rich man, who is said to be in torment,
They also, if understanding the word hell in the vulgar acceptation, must labour under perpetual mistake. Reading of Christ, “ thou wilt not bo.16.10
dets 2.27 leave my soul in hell, nor suffer thine holy One to see corruption :” what strange fancies have come into the heads of men? Some have imagined he went to triumph over the spirits of darkness there; others, that he went to release out of that place, the souls of all the patriarchs and fathers of old; others, that he went to suffes, himself, the pains of hell. Into these mistakes they could never have fallen, had they attended to the usual sense affixed to Sheol, by the nation of the Hebrews. Nothing more being intended, than that, after death, the soul of Christ went to Sheol, the place of other departed souls; in which it was not, like these, to continue till the general resurrection, but to be raised before the body should begin to see corruption.
In the following work these misconceptions are attempted to be remedied, and such views of the invisible state given as are apprehended to coincide with those intended to be conveyed by the original. Understanding things in this manner, will tend to throw a new light on many passages of Scripture, which otherwise are dark or obscure. Betwixt hasty and ill judged applications of expressions,
sometimes to the glorified state, and sometimes to the church upon earth, the intermediate state is lost from the view ; whereas these, when applied to this last, get into their true places, and appear with singular beauty and propriety. Here I adduce as an exemplification of this, a passage, which being understood otherwise, the sense given of it seems forced and unnatural. Heb. viii. 11.
They shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, know
the Lord ; for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.” There is a difference, says Esthius, as to the meaning of the promise: the fanatics hence conclude, that there is no necessity for an ecclesiastical ministry, and that internal impulses ought to be waited for ; but, replies he, this interpretation militates with other passages of Scripture, , which prove that there must be an external ministry. The comment of Grotius is most extraordinary: "I will cause them to have my law by heart, by the multitude of synagogues which shall then be in the land, where the law will be taught thrice a week.” Indeed! as if any precept preserved on the memory could confer the knowledge here intended, and as if this attending at the synagogues was not being taught by others. This promise, says Augustine, and some others of the Fathers, with whom also joins Maimonides, pertains to the future age; and by so understanding