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It would be easy to reply to this answer by saying,Your apology is worth nothing; for it happens every day that very worthy and excellent persons lose their health and their property; and, if there was no family that did not experience calamity, and that calamity at the same time was a chastisement from God, all the families of your community must have been made up of scoundrels.
The Jewish priest might again answer and say, that there are some calamities inseparable from human nature, and others expressly inflicted by the hand of God. But, in return, we should point out to such a reasoner the absurdity of considering fever and hailstones in some cases as divine punishments; in others as mere natural effects.
In short, the Pharisees and the Essenians, among the Jews, did admit, according to certain notions of their own, the belief of a hell. This dogma had passed from the Greeks to the Romans, and was adopted by the christians.
Many of the fathers of the church rejected the doctrine of eternal punishments. It appeared to them absurd, to burn to all eternity an unfortunate man for stealing a goat. Virgil has finely said—
Sedit eternumque sedebit
Unhappy Theseus, doom'd for ever there,
Is fix'd by fate on his eternal chair.-DRYDEN.
But it is in vain for him to maintain or imply, that Theseus is for ever fixed to his chair, and that this position constitutes his punishment. Others have imagined Theseus to be a hero, who could never be seen on any seat in hell, and who was to be found in the Elysian fields.
A Calvinistical divine, of the name of Petit Pierre, not long since preached and published the doctrine, that the damned would at some future period be pardoned. The rest of the ministers of his association told him that they wished for no such thing. The dis
Eneid, book vi. 617.
pute grew warm. It was stated, that the king whose subjects they were wrote to them, that since they were desirous of being damned without redemption, he could have no reasonable objection, and freely gave his consent. The damned majority of the church of Neufchatel ejected poor Petit Pierre, who had thus converted hell into a mere purgatory. It is stated, that one of them said to him," My good friend, I no more believe in the eternity of hell than yourself; but recollect that it may be no bad thing, perhaps, for your servant, your tailor, and your lawyer, to believe in it."
I will add, as an illustration of this passage, a short address of exhortation to those philosophers who in their writings deny a hell; I will say to them: -Gentlemen, we do not pass our days with Cicero, Atticus, Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, the chancellor de l'Hôpital, la Mothe le Vayer, Des Ivetaux, René, Descartes, Newton, or Locke, nor with the respectable Bayle, who was so superior to the power and frown of fortune, nor with the too scrupulously virtuous infidel Spinosa, who, although labouring under poverty and destitution, gave back to the children of the grand pensionary De Witt an allowance of three hundred florins, which had been granted him by that great statesman, whose heart, it may be remembered, the Hollanders actually devoured, although there was nothing to be gained by it. Every man with whom we intermingle in life is not a Des Barreaux, who paid the pleaders their fees for a cause which he had forgotten to bring into court. Every woman is not a Ninon l'Enclos, who guarded deposits in trust with religious fidelity, while the gravest personages in the state were violating them. In a word, gentlemen, all the world are not philosophers.
We are obliged to hold intercourse and transact business, and mix up in life with knaves possessing little or no reflection, with vast numbers of persons addicted to brutality, intoxication, and rapine. You may, if you please, preach to them that there is no hell, and that the soul of man is mortal. As for myself, I will be sure to thunder in their ears, that if they rob
me they will inevitably be damned. I will imitate the country clergyman, who, having had a great number of sheep stolen from him, at length said to his hearers, in the course of one of his sermons-" I cannot conceive what Jesus Christ was thinking about when he died for such a set of scoundrels as you are."
There is an excellent book for fools, called The Christian Pedagogue, composed by the reverend father d'Outreman, of the society of Jesus, and enlarged by Coulon, curé of Ville-Juif-les-Paris. This book has passed, thank God, through fifty-one editions, although not a single page in it exhibits a gleam of common
Friar Outreman asserts (in the hundred and fiftyseventh page of the second edition in quarto) that one of queen Elizabeth's ministers, Baron Hunsdon, predicted to Cecil, secretary of state, and to six other members of the cabinet council, that they as well as he would all be damned; which, he says, was actually the case, and is the case with all heretics. It is most likely, that Cecil, and the other members of the council, gave no credit to the said baron Hunsdon; but if the fictitious baron had said the same to six common citizens, they would probably have believed him.
Were the time ever to arrive in which no citizen of London shall believe in a hell, what course of conduct should be adopted? What restraint upon wickedness will exist? There will exist the feeling of honour, the restraint of the laws, that of the Deity himself, whose will it is that mankind shall be just, whether there be a hell or not.
HELL (DESCENT INTO).
OUR Colleague who wrote the article "Hell," has made no mention of the descent of Jesus Christ into hell. This is an article of faith of high importance; it is expressly particularised in the creed of which we have already spoken. It is asked, whence this article of faith is derived; for it is not to be found in either of
our four gospels, and the creed called the Apostles' Creed, is not older than the age of those learned priests, Jerome, Augustin, and Rufinus.
It is thought, that this descent of our Lord into hell is taken originally from the gospel of Nicodemus, one of the oldest.
In that gospel, the prince of Tartarus and Satan, after a long conversation with Adam, Enoch, Elias the Tishbite, and David, hear a voice like the thunder, and a voice like a tempest. David says to the prince of Tartarus" Now, thou foul and miscreant prince of hell, open thy gates, and let the king of glory enter," &c. While he was thus addressing the prince, the Lord of Majesty appeared suddenly in the form of man, and he lighted up the eternal darkness, and broke asunder the indissoluble bars, and by an invincible virtue he visited those who lay in the depth of the darkness of guilt, in the shadow of the depth of sin.
Jesus Christ appeared with St. Michael: he overcame Death; he took Adam by the hand; and the good thief followed him, bearing the cross. All this took place in hell, in the presence of Carinus and Lenthius, who resuscitated, for the express purpose of giving evidence of the fact to the priest Ananias and Caiphas, and to doctor Gamaliel, at that time St. Paul's master.
This gospel of Nicodemus has long been considered as of no authority. But a confirmation of this descent into hell is found in the first epistle of St. Peter, at the close of the third chapter: "Because Christ died once for our sins, the just for the unjust, that he might offer us to God; dead indeed in the flesh, but resuscitated in spirit, by which he went to preach to the spirits that were in prison."
Many of the fathers interpreted this passage very differently, but all were agreed as to the fact of the descent of Jesus into hell after his death. A frivolous difficulty was started upon the subject. He had, while upon the cross, said to the good thief" This day shalt thou be with me in paradise." By going to hell, therefore, he failed to perform his promise. This objec
tion is easily answered, by saying, that he took him first to hell, and afterwards to paradise; but, then, what becomes of the stay of three days?
Eusebius of Cesarea says, that Jesus left his body, without waiting for Death to come and seize it; and that, on the contrary, he seized on Death, who, in terror and agony embraced his feet, and afterwards attempted to escape by flight, but was prevented by Jesus, who broke down the gates of the dungeons which inclosed the souls of the saints, drew them forth from their confinement, resuscitated them, then resuscitated himself, and conducted them in triumph to that heavenly Jerusalem which descended from heaven every night, and was actually seen by the astonished eyes of St. Justin.
It was a question much disputed, whether all those who were resuscitated died again before they ascended into heaven. St. Thomas, in his "Summary," asserts that they died again. This also is the opinion of the discriminating and judicious Calmet. "We maintain," says he, in his dissertation on this great question, "that the saints who were resuscitated, after the death of the Saviour died again, in order to revive hereafter."
God had permitted, ages before, that the profane gentiles should imitate in anticipation these sacred truths. The ancients imagined, that the gods resuscitated Pelops; that Orpheus extricated Eurydice from hell, at least for a moment; that Hercules delivered Alcestes from it; that Esculapius resuscitated Hippolytus, &c. &c. Let us ever discriminate between fable and truth, and keep our minds in the same subjection with respect to whatever surprises and astonishes us, as with respect to whatever appears perfectly conformable to their circumscribed and narrow views.
A GREEK word, signifying "belief, or elected opinion." It is not greatly to the honour of human rea
*Gospel, chap. ii.