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have supposed, that he preached to the prison of hell, and person
to them himself in person. The Apostle, however, does not say, that Christ personally preached to the spirits in prison, but that he preached to them instrumentally, by the spirit. The reader will perceive this, by simply turning his eye to the preceding verse, and observing the manner in which it is connected with the passage now the subject of remark. "Being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit, by which he went and preached to the spirits in prison." Here it is plainly asserted, that Christ was quickened by the Spirit, by which, that is, by which Spirit, the same Spirit, by which he was quickened, he preached to the spirits in prison. The relative pronoun which, at the beginning of the passage, that is the subject of exposition, refers îmmediately back to the term Spirit, the last word in the preceding verse, and thus renders it certain, that Christ did not personally preach to the spirits in prison, as many, through inattention, have supposed, but instrumentally by the Spirit, as the medium of communication.
3. When did he preach to them instrumentally, by the Spirit?It is the opinion of those, who suppose that Christ personally preached to the spirits in prison, that the time, when this occurred, was immediately after bis crucifixion, during the period, when his body lay in the sepulchre. It is supposed, that he then descended in
ally preached to the spirits of the antediluvians, which were then and there confined. This opinion however, is gratuitously assumed, as is evident from the fact, that to the spirits in prison, Christ did not himself personally preach. And there are circumstances, which render it altogether improbable, that the time, when he preached to them instrumentally by the Spirit, was the time, that intervened between his death and resurrec tion. Why should be have enployed the Spirit to preach to them, at that particular time? — Should it be admitted, that the Spirit preached to the spirits in prison, at that particular time, it is certain, that no mention is made in the Bible of his having preached to them at any other time, since they have been there confined. And surely no satisfactory reason can be given, why Christ should have employed the Spirit to preach to them, during the three days, that intervened between his death and resurrection, and at no other time, since their imprisonment.
On the supposition, that the Spirit of Christ preached to the spirits in prison, at the time supposed, it may be further asked, why he preached only to the spirits of the antediluvians? Were those, who perished in the waters of the deluge, the only persons, who, at the time of the crucifixion of Christ, had gone down to people the prison of despair? This cannot be admitted. The
Bible warrants the belief, that multitudes went down to the prison of hell, during the time, which elapsed, between the flood and the death of Christ. The question, then, returns, why did the Spirit of Christ preach to the spirits of the antediluvians only? Why did he not also preach to their companions in guilt and suffering? That he should have done this, seems no less desirable and important, than that he should have preached to the spirits of the antediluvians. Their fellow-prisoners were no less guilty, than themselves, no less stood in need of forgiveness.
But when, it may be asked, did Christ, by the Spirit, preach to the spirits in prison, if not during the time, that intervened between his death and resurrection? I answer-when they lived on the earth before the deluge. That the Spirit actually strove with men, at that time, is a scriptural truth. In immediate reference to them, it is written in Genesis."The Lord said; My spirit shall not always strive with man.' This may be regarded as the language of ine second Person in the Trinity; and thus regarded, it naturally leads us to conclude, that the time, when Christ employed the spirit to preach to the antediluvians, was, when they resided on the earth. As to the particular method, by which he, at that time, preached to them by the Spirit, he appears to have sent the Spirit to incline Noah to fore warn
them of the approaching deluge and exhort them to repentance.In his second epistle, Peter denominates Noah, "A preacher of righteousness." And in the pas sage,which is the subject of exposition, he says--"the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah while the ark was preparing."-There is, therefore, good reason to conclude, that, during the bundred and twenty years which were employed by Noah in building the ark, he ceased not to preach righteousness, to the people of the day in which he earnestly entreated them to repent without delay. Thus to preach to them, during that period, he must have been inclined by the Spirit. If, then, we carefully consider, what has now been stated; if we consider, that it was the antediluvians, to whom Christ went and preached, that he did not preach to them himself, personally, but instrumentally by the Spirit-that it is altogether improbable,' the Spirit preached to them during the time, which intervened between the death and the resurrection of Christ--that the Spirit actually strove with them, and inclined Noah to preach righteousness to them, while they abode on the earth before the deluge, we can hardly fail to conclude, that it was indeed, before the universal deluge, that Christ went and preached to them by his Spirit.
I am not insensible, it may be objected, that the apostle says, Christ went and preached to
the spirits in prison," thus plainly was filled with violence. conveying the idea, that they the character of the
were in prison at the time, when he preached to them. To this objection I reply, that Peter does not say, the spirits were actually in prison, at the time, when Christ preached to them by the Spirit. He necessarily says no more, than that they were in prison, at the time, when he wrote his first epistle. He knew, they were in prison, at that particular time. Hence, with strict propriety, be spake of them as being then in prison; while his language specifies no particular time, when Christ preached to them by the Spirit. That time must consequently, be ascertained by other circumstances. And all other circumstances concur in proving, that the time, when Christ, by the Spirit preached to the spirits of the antediluvians, in prison in the time of the apostle Peter, was the time of their residence on the earth, before the deluge.
4. What was the character of those, to whom, in the passage before us, Christ is said to have preached by the Spirit? They were "sometime disobedient, when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls, were saved by water." Their disobedience they manifested by the notorious wickedness of their lives. It is written of them, that they corrupted their way on the earth, and that through them it
and of what he required of them, they were not necessarily ignc
There is reason to believe, that, from time to time, God made known his character and will to them by means of special revelations from heaven. Yet, closing their eyes against the light that shone around them, and bidding defiance to the authority of God, they set at naught his counsels and despised his reproofs.-Their disobedience they further manifested by their unbelief. What God declared to Noah, and through him to them, they would not believe. With the fact, that Noah was preparing the ark, they must have been well acquainted. Indeed, in the manual labour of building the ark many of them must have been engaged. And there can be no doubt, but that Noah distinctly informed them for what purpose he was preparing the ark, and expressed to them his entire confidence, that the event of the universal deluge would occur at the appointed time. Hir, however, they did not, nor would, believe. Though they doubtless, supposed him to be sincere in his expectation of an approaching deluge, yet, they, probably, regarded him as a weak enthusiast, and made him the general object of ridicule and contempt.
They again manifested their spirit of disobedience by not being persuaded to repent. Sin
Noah was a preacher of righteousness" to them, he doubtless, used with them the most cogent and persuasive arguments to induce them to repent, and prepare for the awful event that awaited them. They would not however, be persuaded. They continued to rebel against God, and to ripen themselves for destruction, till, at length, they had filled up the full measure of their iniquities. They continued to buy and sell, to marry and give in marriage, till the day on which Noah entered into the ark. Then the windows of heaven were opened, the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the rain, in torrents, began and continued to descend, till the tops of the highest mountains were covered. As the consequence, those, to whom Christ by his Spirit, had preached, were drowned in the depths of the flood, and their immortal spirits immediately entered the prison of despair.
In view of the preceding exposition we may learn the error of those, who deny, that there will be any punishment in the future world. It was not till within comparatively a few years, that any, who professed to admit the plenary inspiration of the Bible, presumed to deny, that there will be any future punishment. That the wicked will receive no degree of punishment beyond the present life, is how ever, a favourite opinion with many at the present day, who do still
pretend to receive the Bible as the word of God. They suppose that mankind receive in the present world, all the punishment for their sins, which they deserve, and, therefore, that whenever any person is removed from this world by death, he is immediately received into a state of happiness in heaven. That this opinion is erroneous, is rendered evident by what is asserted in the passage at the head of this article, concerning the inhabitants of the old world, which perished in the waters of the deluge. They are denominated, "the spirits in prison," and are represented to have been in prison, at the time, when Peter composed his first epistle. Inasmuch, therefore, as at that time, the souls of those, who perished in the waters of the deluge, were confined in prison, they were to say the least, in a state of suffering. And the fact, that they were then in such a state, strikingly manifests the error of those, who suppose, that the wicked will receive no degree of punishment in the future world.
Nothing can be inferred from the passage, of which an exposi tion has now been given in favor of the doctrine of a final restoration.
It is the opinion of not a few at the present day, that there will be a final restoration. It is supposed that when the wicked shall have suffered in the prison of hell, some for a larger, and some for a shorter period, according to their deeds done in the body, they will
all be restored to the favour of Though God is long-suffering God, and be made happy in heav- toward sinners, yet, his vengeance en. They found this opinion on will not sleep forever. He is, invarious passages of the Bible, deed, long-suffering toward them, of which that at the head of this not willing, that they should perarticle is one in their view of no ish, but should come to repeninconsiderable importance. They tance and a saving knowledge of infer from it, that immediately on the truth. But from the fact of his giving up the ghost on the cross, his long-suffering toward them, Christ descended into the prison they are sometimes ready to in of hell, and between that event, fer that his vengeance will never and the event of his resurrection, overtake them, though they con personally preached to the unhap- tinue to walk in the sight of their py spirits of the antediluvians own eyes, and after the imaginathere confined. And for what pur- tion of their own hearts. "Where pose, it is asked, did Chirst preach inquire they, is the promise of his to the spirits in prison, if not, that coming? For since the fathers they might be persuaded to re- fell asleep, all things continue as pent and believe in him to the sal- they were from the beginning of vation of their souls? If it were the creation." We learn, howera fact, that Christ really descend- er, that, though God, in long-sufed, at the time supposed, into the fering, waits on sinners, that they prison of hell, and preached to the may repent, yet, if they refuse to spirits in prison, the fact would repent, his vengeance will surely afford some countenance to the overtake them. It overtook the system of universal restoration.-- inhabitants of the antediluvian But the real fact is far different. world. For a hundred and twenty Christ did not personally preach to years, while the ark was preparthe spirits in prison, but instrumen- ing, the long-suffering of God tally by the Spirit. The time, waited for them to repent and be when he preached to them by the saved. But his patience at length Spirit, was not between his death ceased to be exercised. His venand resurrection-but when they geance overtook them, and, in a lived on the earth. Then he most awful manner, hurried them caused his Spirit to strive with to a miserable eternity. Let them, and to incline Noah sinners, then, cease to abuse to inform them of the approach- the patience of God. ing deluge, and warn them to prepare to meet their God in peace. Nothing, therefore can be inferred from the passage before us in favour of the doctrine of universal restoration.
Let them never infer from the fact of his long-suffering toward them, that though they continue impenitent, his vengeance will never overtake them. Think, sinner, of the spirits of the antediluvians in the