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beatific spirits. Even the gift of the Holy Ghost was withheld from earth till Christ himself was
pointed trials; for it be far from God to destroy the innocent with the wicked; the Judge of the whole earth is ever doing right; (Gen. xviii. 23—25;) or, to debar unsinning infancy, spirits who had acted merely under the impulse of instinct, without the application of choice, from undergoing the appointed tests, that can alone procure and fit them for supreme felicity. It is certain, in the case before us, that Christ went to preach to separated spirits, which supplies an incontrovertible argument, that if he did so in one instance, he might do so in another; and strongly supports our supposition as to the probability of the spirits of infants, on their removal from our world, being consigned to a suitable abode for the endurance of probationary tests. We shall only subjoin one more preliminary observation; namely, that as the spirits unto whom Christ went to preach, as recorded by St. Peter, were undoubtedly the spirits of some of those persons whose bodies perished in the general deluge; and as Christ appears described to have gone and preached unto them immediately subsequent to his death and sufferings, they must have sustained a probation far exceeding in its duration the period allotted to man, and, most probably, unto the innocent and unspotted spirits of children who, influenced by the sufferings they had sustained during their very short imprisonment in a carnal nature, would commence their appointed trials, we conceive, under very peculiarly auspicious circumstances; and, on a successful issue, it appears most likely were speedily removed to the paradisaic region. But very widely different was the case of those notorious sinners whose souls were respited, and in God's infinite mercy, though perfect equity, favoured with a prolonged time of trial after separation from those bodies that had been consigned to a watery grave in the overwhelming flood. These violent and corrupt spirits might require a long season to effect a sufficient purification to fit them for admission into the holy place above; though a fitness for admission can, we know, be speedily effected by the especial
But He who is the great searcher and discerner of the inmost thoughts and intents of the heart, alone can judge
grace of God.
(John vii. 39.)
But St. Paul has
and determine who are the proper objects onwhom to extend this mercy, or whose eternal interests may be aided by digging and by dunging. The renewed trials of these spirits must, therefore, have commenced immediately on their death, and continued until the death of Christma period, according to our admeasurement of time, of immense duration, though a nothing to the blest eternity for which they, in this single instance, were so mercifully still allowed to continue candidates; and Dr. More’s conjecture, (already stated,) may be correct, which supposes, that those very spirits unto whom Christ went to preach immediately subsequent to his death and sufferings, were, at that glorious juncture, delivered by him from out their probationary prison, and allowed, with the penitent thief, to grace his triumph, and enter with him into the paradisaic region, there to await, in common with all the other victorious probationary spirits from out our lower heaveus, the final consummation. But let not this single case of mercy we have been contemplating, and which so widely differed in the circumstances that occasioned it, from all other that ever did or ever will again occur so long as our globe endures, for “God has set his bow in the cloud for a token of a covenant between him and the earth,” (Gen. ix. 3,) make any one presume (should our suppositions on this subject be esteemed just) that such indulgence will ever again be extended to the spirits of any human beings, who have themselves wilfully neglected the appointed time of trial; for now is the day of salvation : as the tree falls, so it will ever lie. The spirits of the penitent, immediately after death, are conveyed safe to paradise, where they will in bliss be spiritualized and purified for acceptance with God.
Should these premised considerations meet with an approval, the attempt we are going to make for the purpose of showing that the passage contained in 1 Peter iii. 19, will bear a very different comment to those which have been hitherto usually annexed to it, will also be approved. That Jesus Christ, in all He did and said, acted in co-operation with the Holy Spirit of God, scriptural declaration distinctly ascertains; God gives not the spirit by measure unto him. By, and in conjunction with, this
showed us a mystery;* we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the
blessed agent, we are informed by St. Peter, Christ, after having by his spotless righteousness, which was rendered perfect, and elicited through suffering propitiated for sin, 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--that is, (should our supposition be correct,) He preached to those spirits, who, though they had resisted the grace of God while the ark was a preparing, yet (having not been so deeply contaminated by the universal corruption of the times as was the mass of the human race at the awful juncture when they for their stubborn wickedness were swept away by the general calamity of overwhelming waters,) had, through the infinite mercy of God, been respited from immediate destruction, and granted a prolongation of a time for trial in some probationary seminary, wherein they might still work out their salvation, and at the final consummation be reunited to those bodies which, through their unbelief, while the ark was a preparing, and the hardness of their hearts when the long suffering of God once waited for them in the days of Noah, had been consigned to an untimely exit in the universal deluge. Now, should these suppositions be estimated just, it powerfully supports our conjecture respecting the spirits of young children; for if God did, in the simple instance we have been contemplating, remove the spirits of adults into a probationary seminary, and the endurance of trials is essential to the production of felicity, it is highly probable that the spirits of departed infants are ordained to sustain them.
* The mystery just cited, (namely, that we shall not all sleep, but that we shall all be changed, and which information is still more particularly explained by St. Paul, in his First Epistle to the Thessalonians iv. 15–17:—" For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first :
twinkling of an eye; and He who will effect this blessed change in us, we may reasonably con
Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord,”) may be considered in some degree as opposing the doctrine which we have just found reason and Scripture coinciding to establish: namely, the necessity of purification in the holy place above ; for if a temporary residence in the secondary heavens, and participation of its sacred ordinances are requisite for us, a similar preparatory would be equally essential for those which are alive, and remain unto the coming of the Lord. To this observation (should it have been made) we do first reply, that as the whole economy of the Mosaic ritual, and many other portions of Scripture, do positively pre-show and point out this necessity for us, the circumstance just stated cannot overturn it. All things, we know, are possible to God: He can as easily fill up all that is wanting in the spiritual estate of those whom his omniscience enables him to foreknow would endeavour to do so for themselves, if blessed with time to effect this holy purpose, and who are, as St. Peter styles them, elect according to the foreknowledge of God, for it is his foreknowledge which heads the following recapitulation : It was them He did foreknow, that He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son—and the peculiar office of the Son of God, we know, in part consists in re-stamping the defaced image of God upon our pristine dust, that as we have borne the image of the earthy Adam, we may bear the image of the heavenly one, though this will not be effected till the resurrection of the just, for it does not indeed as yet appear what we shall be, but when He appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as He is, 1 John iii. 2.) More. over, “whom he did predestinate, them he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” The tribulation immediately preceding the awful and instantaneous change which is to be wrought on the tremendous day, on those that are alive and remain, (it is worthy of remark,) may have powerfully contributed to prepare them for their glorious transformation. Nation
clude, has wrought the same on Enoch and Elijah, delivered them from out the bondage of
shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, famines, pestilences, and earthquakes, shall be in divers places, but these are only the beginning of their sorrows, says our heavenly Teacher, for then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you, and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name sake; and then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another, and many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many, and because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold; but he that shall endure unto the end, sustain without the forfeiture of virtue the unparalleled afflictions of these days shall be saved; for then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be; and except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved; but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened. Therefore, if our light afflictions are working out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, it is no unreasonable supposition, that in this peculiar instance the endurance of distress, which never was, nor ever will be equalled, may have so operated on those distinguished saints who stood those unknown trials, as through the assistance of that divine grace, which all on earth require, and also all in heaven, and which is dispensed to all through the great upholder of all things, (Col. i. 17,) to fit them for immediate admittance into God's glorious kingdom. But supposing this not to be the case, and that the spotless purity of heaven's eternal King cannot be approached by any intellectual from out our little world, until refined in the incense cloud, there is no assertion advanced which impedes the accomplishment of this requisition ; it is only said respecting those that remain until the coming of the Lord, that they shall, when caught up into the air, be ever with the Lord ; and this is also said of our departed spirits, for when we are absent from the body we shall be ever with the Lord—that is, with the Lord Christ, which is far better. And the case of Elijah also fully ascertains that beings who have been spiritualized and glorified, both in soul and body, may be stationed in paradise