Thursday, 3 March 2016

The Catholic Church Alone. The One True Church of Christ. Part 10.

REV. F. LEWIS, of Granada


Q. Which is the fifth article ?

A. He descended into hell, the third day he rose again from the dead.

Q. What signification has the word hell in the holy Scriptures ?

A. The word in the original Hebrew, is Sheol, that is, a place below. The Latin word is inferi.

Q. Does the Scripture use the word only for one particular place, or are there several places, or states, distinguished by that appellation?

A. There are several places, or states, distinguished by it. First, the place or state of the damned, sometimes called Gahenna the abyss, and properly hell, as being the lowest, and remotest place from heaven. Secondly, death, or the state of man's soul, after it is separated from the body. Thirdly, the state of those persons, who died in God's favor, in the law of nature, and law of Moses; before Christ appeared to release them and introduce them into heaven: this place is distinguished by the name of Abraham's Bosom, or Limbus Patrum. St. Luke xvi. 22. Fourthly, a state of purgation, where the souls of those are detained, who have died in the guilt of lesser or venial offenses, or not sufficiently satisfied for former mortal sins, for which they are punished in that state, which is therefore called purgatory.

Q. Now you are to tell me the meaning of the word hell, as it stands in the Creed: and which of the aforesaid places Christ descended into, whether into all or only some?

A. In the first place, by hell, cannot be understood the place of the damned, the souls there being out of the reach of redemption, which was the design of Christ's descending; much less did Christ suffer the pains of the damned, as Calvin impiously maintains. Again, hell cannot signify the grave or state of death ; because his soul did not remain in the grave; neither can it be understood of the state of death, which is expressed in the former article, where it is said he was dead and buried. The true meaning of the word hell, therefore is, that Christ descended into that place, where the souls of the just were preserved until he released them, called Limbus Patrum or Abraham's Bosom. And in this exposition all the fathers agree, and prove it from the Scriptures ; particularly from the prophecy of Zachary, where he says, "by the blood of the Testament, thou hast sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit." Chapter ix. 11. From the epistle of St. Paul to the Ephesians, chap. iv. 8, 9. Where he says Christ ascended on high, hath led captivity captive; he gave gifts to men; and that he ascended : what is it but because he descended first into the lower parts of the earth? See also, Col. ii. 15.

Q. Did Christ descend into purgatory, and release the souls there from their punishment ?

A. There is nothing clearly expressed, either in the Scriptures or fathers, as to this point, so as to make it an article of faith; but that he did descend thither and release either all
or some, is very probable from the first of St. Peter iii. 19, 20. Where we read, that Christ being dead, came in spirit, and preached to them also that were in prison, who had been incredulous in the days of Noah, when the ark was building. And, again, out of the Acts of the Apostles. Chap. ii. 24. where it is said, God raised him up loosing the sorrows of hell. Besides it is conformable to the goodness of God, and the great design of man's redemption ; and several strong conjectures favor this opinion.

Q. You say Christ descended; but how is this to be understood, did he descend as to his divinity, as to his body, or as to his soul ?

A. Christ as God, can neither be said properly to ascend, nor descend; because he is actually every where at all times: his body remained in the sepulchre till the third day, and by consequence, that did not descend with him : what descended therefore was, his soul in conjunction with the divine person, from which it was inseparable.

Q. Why did our Saviour rise again ? In what manner, and how upon the third day, and what proofs are there that his followers have not imposed upon the world by that article ?

A. Christ's resurrection was the re-uniting of his body and soul, and showing himself again. Now, there were several reasons why this should be. First, to fulfill the predictions, whereby both the ancient prophets, and he himself had declared that he would rise again, specifying" three days' time; which is not to be understood of three complete days, but only the parts of three days; for dying on Friday, he rose again on Sunday. Mar. xiv. 58. Secondly, had he not risen, and appeared again, the Jews might have taken an occasion from thence, to have questioned both his power and doctrine, and looked upon the whole business of his life as artifice and contrivance. Hence, St. Paul tells us, his resurrection confirmed all he had said and done, and ought to be regarded as the main and fundamental point of the Christian religion. Thirdly, he rose again, to confirm the doctrine of the general resurrection, which was a truth denied by the sect of Jews called Sadducees, who also denied the immortality of the soul. To these we may add, that raising himself from the dead, was a proof of his divinity; for though others have been raised from the dead, yet he alone raised himself.

Q. But now as to the truth of the fact, what proofs can you produce, that his disciples did not impose upon the world? The Jews suspected some such fraud, and therefore they placed guards at his sepulchre, lest they should steal his body, and so spread about a report that he was risen again.

A. No fact could be better attested. Ten apparitions are mentioned in the Scriptures, when sometimes more, sometimes less, were present, and at one apparition, about five hundred persons were present; and we may very well suppose, that during the forty days between his resurrection and ascension, he frequently conversed with his disciples; and the Scripture tells us positively he did.

Q. The Jews look upon these proofs as insufficient. They allege, that the guards might be asleep, or bribed, while his body was conveyed away. Besides (say our modern unbelievers), the witnesses of these apparitions were all party men. Why did he not appear to the chiefs of the synagogue, and show himself publicly in the temple?

A. The Jews, neither then, nor ever since, could produce any arguments, either that the guards were asleep, or corrupted by bribery to conceal the fact. They were reproached by the apostles, for forging this report, without any reply. Besides, it is not improbable but that several great persons, not of the party, might be present at some of these apparitions; as several thousands were immediately after converted, upon the truth of the fact being asserted : nor could the Jews have any grounds to suspect forgery, when they saw the apostles work so many miracles, expressly in proof of his resurrection. As to the queries, why did he not appear to the chief of the synagogue, and publicly in the temple? Such arguments would have prevailed very little with a people hardened in wickedness, and who would not be convinced by so many undeniable miracles, which he had wrought for three years together among them, and were so obstinate, that when I they could not deny the fact, they attributed the miracles he wrought, to his corresponding with the devil. What likelihood was there, that those who would not believe their own senses, upon so many other occasions, would be convinced by apparitions which might be subject to the same cavilling? And if we may judge of the true reason why the chiefs of the synagogue were not favored with such apparitions ; it was because they did not deserve the favor, and had it been granted, they were so exasperated, blind and obstinate, that it would have been of no use to them, only to have aggravated their crimes.