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THE STATE OF DEPARTED SPIRITS,
DESCENT OF CHRIST INTO HELL.
THE Author of the preceding Address having been naturally led, in the consideration of the inquiry concerning the condition of the soul after its departure from the body, to introduce the doctrine of a separate state between death and the resurrection, it seems proper more fully to explain and establish the sentiments advanced on this subject.
He has reason to believe that the doctrine is not generally understood; and that therefore it is regarded by many as a doctrine of little importance and of curious speculation only; and by others as a dangerous novelty, nearly allied to the tenets concerning purgatory held by the Church of Rome.
It shall therefore be its object to shew,
I. That it is a doctrine of the Church of England, and of the Protestant Episcopal Church.
II. That it may be traced to the Apostolic age. And III. That it is clearly revealed in the Sacred writings.
The doctrine is-That the souls of men do not go mediately to Heaven the place of final bliss, nor to Hell the
place of final torment, but remain in a state of enjoyment or misery in the place of the departed* until the resurrection at the last day; when, their bodies being united to their souls, they are advanced to complete felicity or woe in Heaven or Hell †.
I. This is a doctrine of the Church of England, and of the Protestant Episcopal Church.
In the rubric before the Apostles' Creed, in the American Liturgy, it is stated that the words "He went into the place of departed Spirits," are considered as words of the same meaning with "He descended into Hell."
In the prayer for Christ's Church militant in the communion service, we are taught to beseech God that "we with all those who have departed this life in his faith and fear may be partakers of his heavenly kingdom." The happiness of heaven is here considered as a future event in respect to those departed, as well as to ourselves.
In like manner, in the prayers of the burial service, we beseech Almighty God that "we with all those who are departed in the true faith of his holy name, may have our perfect consummation and bliss both in body and soul, in his eternal and everlasting glory." The faithful who are departed have not yet their perfect consummation and bliss both in body and soul.
II. This doctrine has been maintained by a series of Protestant Divines eminent for learning and piety, and may be traced to the Apostolic age.
Dr. CAMPBELL, of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, and formerly Principal of Marischal College, Aber
Styled in the New Testament ädnç, hades, or Hell; in the sense of an invisible place.
+ Styled yeɛvva, gehenna, also in the New Testament translated Hell, denoting a place of torment.
deen, in a very learned dissertation prefixed to his "translation of the four Gospels" on the words "ons and yéɛvva,” maintains and vindicates this doctrine of an intermediate state. His arguments on this point are full, clear, forcible and conclusive.
Dr. MACKNIGHT of the same Church, the Author of a Harmony of the Gospels, and of a New translation of the Epistles with a Commentary and Notes, in various parts of the latter work maintains, that the righteous do not enter on the bliss of Heaven until the final judgment, and of course that they must, in the interval, abide in a separate place. In a note on Hebrews xi. 40. he observes, "The apostle's doctrine, that believers are all to be rewarded together, and at the same time, is agreeable to Christ's declaration, who told his disciples that they “were not to come to the place he was going away to prepare for them, till he returned from heaven" to carry them to it. John xiv. 3." If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be also."-Farther, that the righteous are not to be rewarded till the end of the world, is evident from Christ's words, Matth. xiii. 40. 43.-In like manner, St. Peter hath told us, that the righteous are to be made glad with their reward, at the revelation of Christ, 1 Peter iv. 13. when they are to receive a crown of glory, that fadeth not away, 1 Peter v. 4.—John also tells us, That when he shall appear, we shall be made like him, for we shall see him as he is, 1 John iii. 2. See Whitby's note on 2 Tim. iv. 8.-This determination, not to reward the ancients without us, is highly proper: because the power and veracity of God will be more illustriously displayed in the view of angels and men, by raising the whole of Abraham's seed from the dead at once, and by introducing them into the heavenly country in a body,
after a public acquittal at the judgment, than if each were made perfect separately at their death.
If the righteous are not to be rewarded till the end of the world with the glories of heaven, their spirits must remain before that event in some separate place.
Dr. DODDRIDGE in several passages of his commentary, shews his belief in this doctrine*. He paraphrases the text (Acts ii. 27.) "Thou wilt not leave my soul in Hell" -thus-"Thou wilt not leave my soul while separated from the body, in the unseen world." And in a note observes, that "ädns, (hades) is generally put for the state of separate spirits," into which he considers that Christ descended.
In a note of Ridgeley's body of Divinity, the American Editor, the Rev. Dr. James P. WILSON, of the Presbyterian Church states, very correctly, that the Hebrew and Greek words translated. Hell in the passage, "thou wilt not leave my soul in Hell" (Ps. xvi. Acts ii.) "are each taken for the invisible world or separate state of the good as well as evil both in the Old and New Testaments; and this was thought by Jews and Gentiles to be under the surface." Christ's descent into Hell, he observes, therefore, means that "his soul when separated from his body, was immediately with the separate spirits who are happy, and so said to be in Paradise. But whether above or below the surface is unimportant+."
It is evident from his commentary on Matth. xi. 23, and on Acts ii. 27. that Dr. Adam Clarke considers that there is a separate place of departed spirits.
There is no doubt that the Rev. John Wesley, the founder
of the sect of which Dr. Clarke is so distinguished a
*Notes on Heb. xi. 40. 2 Tim. iv. 8.
Ridgeley's Body of Divinity, Am. Ed. Vol. ii. p. 440, 441. note.