« EdellinenJatka »
never should have dared to undertake this work. But for his sustaining grace I could not have brought it thus far. Almost exhausted by efforts to sustain the college over which I preside, in a time of unparalleled pecuniary embarrassment, without an adequate library at the college, compelled to visit distant libraries, soine more than a thousand miles distant, and to inake researches at long intervals, loaded with pecuniary cares and anxieties, compelled often to write on journeys, in steam-boats, and canal-boats, and taverns, no one can be more deeply sensible than I am of the necessary imperfections of my performance. Yet, I have looked to my God to save me froin hurtful error, and to guide me into the truth, and it is my huinble persuasion that he has heard my prayer. To him, in conclusion, I commend all that I have written, imploring him to pardon all its imperfections, to correct all its errors, and to use all its truth to the glory of his own great and holy name.
Christ PREACHING TO THE SPirits IN PRISON. “Οτι και Χριστός άπαξ περί αμαρτιών έπαθε, δίκαιος υπέρ αδίκων, ένα ημάς προςαγάγη τω θεώ, θανατωθείς μεν σαρκί, ζωοποιηθείς δε πνεύματι, εν ω και τους εν φυλακή πνεύμασε πορευθείς εκήρυξεν, ' άπειθήσασί ποτε, ότε άπεξεδέχετο ή του θεου μακροθυμία εν ημέραις Νώε, κατασκευαζομένης κιβωτού, εις ήν ολίγαι τούτ' έστιν οκτώ ψυχιαι διεσώθησαν δί ύδατος και και ημάς αντίτυπον νυν σώζει βάπτισμα, ού σαρκός απόθεσις ρύπου, αλλά συνειδήσεως αγαθής επερώτημα εις θεόν, δι' αναστάσεως Ιησού Χριστού.–1 Ρet. 3: 18-21.
By Rev. Thomas H. Skinner, D. D., Pastor of Mercer Street Church, N. Y.
The course of Christianity from the beginning has been one of great conflict. That a religion from God should encounter such opposition was a mystery, and the apostles were not without the apprehension that it might shake the faith of some of their inexperienced disciples, as appears from the care which they show in their writings lo guard them against defection on that account.
This obviously is the design of Peter in the preceding context. He is there endeavoring to fortify Christians against discouragement from the sufferings to which they were exposed for the sake of the gospel. To this end, he tells them that it is better, if the will of God be so, that they suffer for welldoing than for evil-doing; assuming that all suffering for adhering to the gospel is suffering for well-doing. He cites, in confirmation of this, the example of Christ, who suffered as a well-doer, the Just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God;—the highest instance that ever was or will be, both of well-doing and of suffering on account of it. What the apostle would have them particularly remember was, that the sufferer in this instance found ultiinately no disadvantage from the unparalleled injuries which he endured. Though he suffered to the greatest extremity, even to his being put to death in the flesh, the ignominious death of the cross, yet he was quickened by the Spirit, by which he went and preached to the spirits in prison, etc.
“ This place is somewhat obscure in itself, but as it usually happens, made more so by the various fancies and contests of interpreters, seeming or pretending to clear it.” The fact, however, that efforts to explain it have been unsuccessful, will not and should not preclude continued attempts. It is relied upon to support unsound and dangerous doctrines, and it should, if possible, be shown by just exposition, that it lends them no countenance. Its affirmation concerning Christ's preaching 10 the spirits in prison, is interpreted to mean that he went after his death to the abode of departed sinners, “ the proper hell,” and “ that as he revealed here on earth the will of God unto the sons of men, and propounded himself as the object of their faith, to the end that whosoever believed in him should never die; so after his death he showed himself unto the souls departed, that whosoever of them would yet accept of him should pass from death to life.” This and other dogmas contrary to the catholic faith, appeal to this scripture as their warrant, and so long as they do so, the friends of truth, certainly, should not cease looking for the key to its true interpretation. Whether there be any conclusive force in the following remarks, is with deference subunitted to the decision of the reader.
We would first ascertain the meaning of the phrase rendered in our version, "quickened by the Spirit.” So far as we know, what we take to be the sense of the original words, has never
been given. If this can be established, we think a new ray of light will be thrown on the passage.
Our translation, it is adınitted, is not the only one the original will bear. Nay, much as we desire to honor the received English version, we are constrained to say that it has in this instance given a reading which the original will not bear. The true reading is not, quickened by the Spirit, but quickened in the Spirit. So it is given by Wickliffe, by Tyndale, by Cranmer, and in the versions of Geneva and Rheims, and so, but for certain theological antipathies, it would probably have been given by our translators. Both the prepositions, in the clause, put to death in the flesh but quickened by the Spirit,” have been supplied. The words flesh and spirit stand in the original without any preposition whatever, and it is obvious from their antithesis, that if the word “spirit” denote the active cause by which Christ was restored to life, the word “flesh” must equally denote the active cause by which he was put to death; which, therefore, must have been the flesh of his own body, an interpretation too manifestly absurd to be admitted.*
The important phrase before us must have one of the five following significations. 1. That Christ, after his death, was invigorated as to his human soul as distinguished from his body; that, though as to his body he was dead, he was more vital than before as to his soul. We cannot adopt this as the true sense, though the thing affirmed inay have been true, for a reason, which will hereafter be given. It may seem to be required, at the first view, by the law of antithesis, but besides that it is a feeble
sense, it does not, as we shall see, fall in with the scope of the context.
2. That Christ, after death, was made more vital as to his deity, as distinguished from his human nature. This sense must be rejected, as being inconsistent with the essential immutability of the Godhead.
3. That Christ suffered death indeed as to his body, but was resuscitated or quickened again into bodily life, by the Holy Ghost. This, however true, is not what the words were intended to express: (1.) Because, as we have shown, the original cannot be justly rendered so as to give this sense ; it must be translated quickened, not by, but in the Spirit. (2.) Because
the resurrection of Christ was not more the act of the Holy Ghost, than that of the Father; nay, than Christ's own act. It is ascribed to the Father in Eph. 1: 20. It is ascribed to Christ himself in John 2: 19, and John 10: 18. If it is anywhere ascribed to the Holy Ghost, it is not as his act exclusively or peculiarly; and no reason appears from either the text or context for introducing the Holy Ghost here as the agent in raising the body of Christ: nay, (3.) the raising of his body cannot have been referred to in this quickening, for the very reason that the context on that supposition cannot be explained. Indeed all context, i. e. connection, between the parts of the passage is destroyed by it. For where is any connection beiween Christ's being raised from the dead, and his preaching to the antediluvians ?
4. That Christ, after being put to death as to his body, quickened himself into bodily life by his own eternal Deity. This cannot be what is intended, because, to inention no other reasons, the original cannot be so translated as to admit the preposition by.
5. The only remaining sense of the phrase is, that Christ, after his death, was quickened in reference to bis great work, the salvation of mankind;-quickened as to that efficacious agency, by which this work was to be carried forward :—an agency by which Christ made bimself to be felt among men in his power to save; an agency which diffused new and mighty life through bis body the church, and, by means of his church, thus vitalized, throughout the world. This agency was specifically that of the Holy Spirit. The propriety of speaking of Christ as quickened, because of the increased influence and exertion of this agency, appears from this, that the Holy Spirit, according to the representations of Scripture, is the Spirit of Christ. So he is called in Rom. 8: 10, and elsewhere, (1,) because, the Holy Spirit, in reference to the accomplishment of our redemption, is possessed by Christ above measure; John 3: 34, Acts 4:38, Is. 42:1; and, (2) because, for the same purpose, the Holy Spirit is given or sent by Christ; John 1:33, 15: 26, Luke 24: 49. The distinguishing mark of our Lord, as the Messiah, was, that he baptized with the Holy Spirit. So he baptized his disciples on the day of Pentecost; and so, by their instrumentality, he baptized great multitules throughout the worlıl, or in the language of the prophet,“ sprinkled many nations," Is. 52: 15.
Thus, though Christ suffered unto death in the flesh, in accomplishing the redemption of man, yet relatively to that work, he was quickened in the Spirit, became efficaciously vital and life-giving, in the influences of the Holy Ghost, which were thenceforward so abundantly bestowed. In the Spirit, thus understood, he was “straitened” before his death, according to his own complaint, Luke 12: 50; after his death he was “quickened ;" life fowed from him, filling his church with vitality, and the world too became conscious of his life-giving energy; agreeably to his own forcible illustration, John 12: 24, “ Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die it bringeth forth much fruit;" and agreeably also to his prediction, John 12: 32, “ And if I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men unto me."
We propound this, then, as the true sense of the expression, as being, 1, the worthiest and greatest sense, and on that account preferable, other things being equal; 2, accordant with a manifest and wonderful fact, which was then filling the world with excitement, namely, the outpouring of the Spirit in his divinely vivifying influences; and, 3, coincident with the scope of the place, in connection with which it stands, as follows: No damage comes from well-doing: Christ suffered: extremely on that account, and the result is known. To redeem man, he was put to death in the flesh; but his death was the means of life to his cause. Before he died, to use his own simile, he was like an unplanted grain which abideth alone; after his death, he was like a corn of wheat, which having yielded it's life in the midst of a fruitful soil, is now producing an hundred-fold increase. To vary the form of speaking, he was straitened before he suffered; he was quickened afterwards. Filled hiinself with the Spirit above measure, he poured it out from on high, baptized his church with it, and diffused, through his church, a heavenly life among the nations.
Such is our understanding of this very important phrase “quickened in the Spirit.” Irrespective of the light which the remaining part of the text receives from this interpretation, it commends itself, we think, as the only one the place will bear. It will appear, however, as having new claims to our adoption, when it is seen how it elucidates the following context. We proceed with our exposition.
The apostle having mentioned Christ's becoming thus quickened in consequence of his death, as to the life-giving power of the Spirit, goes on to speak of his having exerted himself, in