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of their primary estate, that is to say, their twofold natures had never been dissevered, they
They are in an hopeful state, and in a seminary where their separated spirits will reap the benefit of every suffering they endured, both when they entered your globe in sorrow and in suffering, and when, by cruel massacre, they were removed from it; for no suffering is allowed by me but what will be availing. They are prisoners of hope, as you at present are. (Zech. ix. 12.) “There is hope in thine end, saith the Lord, that thy children shall come again to their own border.” If, on a successful combat with the trials I appoint them, and which their experimental knowledge of corporeal agony (for they never knew the sorrows of the mind) will powerfully stimulate them to vanquish and overcome, their ever watchful guardians will remove their gentle spirits from their momentary residence in a
rection of their bodies from out our earth at the last final day. This, however, is certain, that it cannot mean that the infants who were massacred by Herod would be ever restored to their own land—to their own border-on our terraqueous residence. The only consolation that could be offered was doubtless that which accompanied the prophecy; namely, that there is hope in thine end, that thy children shall come again unto their own border; and which we conceive unquestionably means the border of the heavenly Canaan, unto which there was joyful reason to hope they would ultimately come. If this comment should be considered just, it pretty clearly proves that the spirits of infants were not immediately on their separation from their mortal frame conveyed into paradise-conveyed into their own border, and which we think must mean the border of the heavenly Canaan, unto which there was joyful cause to hope they would ultimately come. And the preachers who lived at the time of the horrid massacre, as we have observed, would be fully informed how to apply the consolations offered with this prophecy to the distressed anothers. The greatest of all prophets that arose from out mankind appeared on our earth at this melancholy juncture, and not long after fell himself a victim to the cruel king.
still possess their pristine composition. There is no reason, however, from hence to suppose, that
probationary seminary safe into Paradise, unto their own border. They proceeded forth from me; it was I who breathed into those little human frames, you in sorrow have consigned to the tomb, the vital breath of life, and they forthwith became living souls. In the holy place above you will be re-united to them, there to await in bliss by your own border, the border from whence you came, the border of the glorious heavenly Canaan, of which your earthly Canaan is but a shadowy type, the resurrection of your own and infant's bodies, unto which your spirits will be joined in glory, and receive the blessed reward of every triumph you have severally gained during your short state of trial. Therefore refrain thine eyes from weeping; thy work shall be rewarded, saith the Lord; there is hope in thine end.
There is again another passage (though it is one much involved in ambiguity) that we think tends to confirm our conjecture, as to the spirits of children being tried ere they are received into Paradise. The passage to which we allude is in 1 Pet. iii. 19, which, after the assertion in the preceding verse, namely, “ That Christ was put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit,” declares, “ By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison ; which sometime were disobedient, when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein a few, that is, eight souls, were saved by water.” Dr. Doddridge's exposition is as follows :-“Quickened by the Spirit of God, even that Spirit by the inspiration of which, granted to his faithful servant Noah, going forth, as it were, in that progress in which he employed him, he preached to these notorious sinners who for their disobedience have since experienced the just severity of the Divine vengeance, and are now in the condition of separate spirits, reserved as it were in prison. (Here comes a pote.—The spirits in prison.) Hardly any text has been more differently interpreted than this. Some understand it of souls who were in some lower place in Paradise, (ev pularn,) or, a watch-tower where they were waiting the Redeemer's coming; others, of those in hell, whom He delivered to grace his triumph. no change has taken place in the nature of these exalted saints. Flesh and blood, we know, cannot
(See Dr. More's Theological Works, p. 18; Bishop Pearson, on the Creed, p. 228.) Lord Barrington understands it of Noah's preaching to his own family shut up with him in the ark; while Dr. Whitby and Burnet understand it of those who were in the darkness of heathen ignorance. (Burnet's Four Discourses, pp. 68, 69; Compare Limburch's Theol. 3, xiii. 27, 28.) Upon the whole, I think the sense given in the paraphrase is most easy : and, next to that, I know none more probable than that of Mr. Craddock, who explains it of Christ's preaching while He was on earth, to those who are now spirits in prison, which might engage them to a holy caution, lest they also should trifle with the means of salvation which they enjoyed, and perish, as the former did. (Compare Matt. v. 25; Rev. xx. 7.)"
As almost, if not the whole, of this comment demonstrates itself erroneous by the diversity of opinions broached, we will examine whether the passage in question will not admit of a very different one-premising that the beings spoken of in the passage before us were unquestionably spiritual, not carnal. That Christ was preached on the fall of man—that He was preached unto Abraham, (Gal. iii. 8,that He was the spiritual rock which supported the Israelites—and that the spirit of Christ is the spirit of prophecy, are undoubted facts. But it is in no portion whatever of the Sacred Volume said that Christ went to preach to spirits, excepting that which we are now contemplating. It may therefore, we conceive, with certainty be assumed, that they were spiritual, not carnal, beings unto whom Christ went to preach. Secondly, that they were spirits who were within the reach of salvation—for preaching implies exhortation, instruction, and the holding out both warning and hope; all of which could be of no possible use unto apostate spirits, who have sinned past redemption. Thirdly, the spirits unto whom Christ went to preach, were spirits pent up in prison. Now the word “prison” exhibits more than one interpretation; we are ourselves denominated prisoners of hope,--but whether is meant that our immortal spirits are pent up and imprisoned within a carnal nature, or whether a probationary world may be styled
inherit the kingdom of God, (1 Cor. xv.,) and it is highly improbable that flesh and blood should
a prison, may admit of a doubt. In the case we are examining, the beings spoken of, and who are said to be in prison, were unquestionably spiritual ones; but that the prisons which they occupied were not included within the paradisaic region, we have, for reasons stated, attempted to show. It is, however, not altogether improbable that the first conjecture mentioned among those we have inserted from Dr. Doddridge's quotation, and which supposes the spirits, or souls, in question, to be stationed in some lower place in paradise, may be not very far from truth. The porch which intervenes between the outward sanctuary and the holy place cannot occupy a very inconsiderable portion of infinite space,
may contain seminaries more fitted for the trial of spiritual nature than the opaque bodies that are visible to us, and which are palpably adapted for the accommodation of gross and carnal natures like unto our own. And though this porch is not in paradise, which is barricaded by an impenetrable boundary, and further secured by that glorious barred gate whom One alone can open, yet it is close on the border of it; and every seminary ordained for the trial of virtue may, we think, be very fairly denominated a prison. But a prison, of any description, must be utterly incompatible with that happy region whose inhabitants are for ever placed in security and peace, and nought is left to do but to improve in virtue : nor could it with truth be said that Christ went to preach to any of the blissful inmates of this heavenly camp; for the blessed spirits who are absent from the body, and have obtained an entrance here, are ever with the Lord. But this admission, should our position be correct as to the necessity of trials, could not have been granted unto the spirits of infants, even unto those who bled and died on their blessed Lord's account, as an exercise of the will was wholly unconnected with their martyrdom; and giving our bodies to be burned, if we have not charity, we are expressly told profiteth nothing-that is, except we have ourselves cultivated and delighted in those amiable and heavenly affections which must fit us for participation of our blessed Redeemer's merits; and this the spirits of infants could
be admitted in the secondary heavens, the holy place above, and be destined to associate with
not have done. Fourthly, the spirits unto whom Christ went to preach, were certainly the spirits of those who perished in the general deluge: it is added, who sometime were disobedient when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah while the ark was a preparing. Now this information renders it highly probable, that although the earth was filled with violence, and all flesh had corrupted God's way upon the earth, (Gen. vi. 11, 12,) yet, that the spirits of those who were not so deeply contaminated with the prevailing wickedness which brought down God's judgment upon the antediluvian inbabitants of the world before the flood, as were the general mass who were swept away by the overwhelming waters, and who are described as having once been waited for by the longsuffering of God while the ark was a preparing, might not have had, immediately upon the separation of their souls and bodies, the former consigned to perdition without some further experiment whether they could still be saved. For though in our own case, and that of all other human beings who have attained maturity—as the tree falls so it will ever lie—this day shalt thou be with thy Lord in Paradise, or be for ever excluded from it,—the case of those who were thus prematurely cut off, on account of the wickedness of others, may have had some respite vouchsafed to their spirits ere the final die was cast, if the great Searcher of hearts discovered in them any symptom of repentance and desire of reformation; and to spirits thus circumstanced, it is highly in conformity with the dictates of human reason, the scriptural declaration we are now examining, and the mercy of God, to conceive that Christ would preach salvation on compliance with the stipulated terms, and that the spirits of these adults were, in this single instance, thus eminently favoured. It is also highly reasonable to conclude, should our supposition be correct respecting the spirits of those infants who were separated from their bodies by the cruelty of Herod,) that the spirits of those millions of infants whose bodies were consigned to a watery grave by the universal deluge, should have been safely conveyed unto a suitable seminary to sustain their ap