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Ir cannot be proved from Scripture, that believers under the Old Testament, before the ascension of Christ, were in Heaven.


I NEVER taught such a doctrine as this in public, and I never asserted it affirmatively in private. I recollect, however, that I said, on one occasion, to a minister of God's word, in reference to a sermon which he had then delivered, "There are many passages of Scripture which seem to prove, that believers under the Old Testament, before the ascension of Christ, were not in Heaven." I produced some of those passages, against which he had little to object: But I added, that I thought it could not now be propounded with much usefulness to any church [sic habenti] that held a contrary opinion; but that, after it has been diligently examined and found to be true, it may be taught with profit to the church and to the glory of Christ, when the minds of men have been duly prepared. I am still of the same opinion. But, about the matter itself, I affirm nothing on either side. I perceive that each of these views of the subject has arguments in its favour, not only in passages of scripture and in conclusions deduced from them, but likewise in the sentiments of divines. Having investigated all of them to the best of my ability, I confess that I hesitate, and declare that neither view seems to me to be very evident [or to have the preponderance.] In this opinion I have the assent of a vast majority of divines, especially those of our own age. Most of the Christian Fathers place the souls of VOL. II.


the Patriarchs under the Old Testament beyond or out of Heaven, either in the lower regions, in Purgatory, or in some other place, which yet is situated out of the verge of what is properly called Heaven.* With St. Augustine, therefore, "I prefer doubting about secret things, to litigation about those which are uncertain." Nor is there the least necessity: For why should I, in these our days, when Christ, by his ascension into Heaven having become our Forerunner, hath opened for us a way and entrance into that holy place,—why should I now contend about the place in which the souls of the Fathers rested in the times of the Old Testament ?

But lest, as is usual in my case, a calumnious report should be raised on the consequences to be deduced from this opinion, as though I was favourable to the Popish dogma of a Purgatory, or as though I approach nearly to those who think that the souls of the dead sleep or have slept, or, which is the worst of all, as though I seem to identify myself with those who say, "The Fathers were like swine that were fed and fattened without any hope of a better life,"-lest such reports as these should be fabricated, I will openly declare what my opinion is about the state of the Fathers prior to Christ's ascension into Heaven.

(1.) I believe that human souls are immortal, that is, they will never die.-(2.) From this I deduce, that souls do not sleep.(3.) That, after this life, a state of felicity or of misery is opened for all men, into the one or the other of which they enter immediately on their departure out of this world.-(4.) That the souls of the Fathers, who passed their days of sojourning on earth in faith and in [expectatione] waiting for the Redeemer, departed into a place of quiet, joy, and blessedness, and began to enjoy the blissful presence of God, as soon as they escaped out of the body.(5.) I dare not venture to determine where that place of quiet is situated,-whether in Heaven, properly so called, into which Christ ascended,-or somewhere out of it: If any other person be more adventurous on this subject, I think he ought to be required to produce reasons for his opinion, or be enjoined to keep silence.-(6.) I add, that, in my opinion, the felicity of those souls was much increased by the ascension of Christ into Heaven, and that it will be fully consummated after the resurrection of the body, and when all the members of the Church universal are introduced into Heaven.

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* See Hilary on Psalms ii & cii; and Tertullian in his 4th book Against Marcion, also in his book Concerning the Sou!.

I know certain passages of Scripture which are produced, as proofs that the souls of the Old Testament Saints have been in Heaven. (1.) "The spirit shall return unto God who gave it." (Eccles. xii, 7.) But this expression must either be understood in reference to all the spirits of men of every description, and thus will afford no assistance to this argument; or, if it be understood as relating to the souls of good men alone, it does not even then follow, that, because "the spirit returns unto God," it ascends into Heaven properly so called. I prefer, however, the former mode of interpretation,―a return to God the Creator and the Preserver of spirits, and the Judge of the deeds done in the body. -(2.) Enoch is said to have been taken to God, (Gen. v, 24,) and Elijah to have ascended by a whirlwind into Heaven. (2 Kings ii, 11.) But, beside the fact of these examples being out of the common order, it does not follow of course that because Enoch was taken to God, he was translated into the highest Heaven. For the word "Heaven" is very wide in its signification. The same observation applies to Elijah. See Peter Martyr and Vatablus on 2 Kings ii, 13.-(3.) "Christ is now become the first-fruits of them that slept." (1 Cor. xv, 20.) This would not appear to be correct, if Enoch and Elijah ascended into the highest Heaven, clothed in bodies endued with immortality.— (4.) "Lazarus was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom," where he enjoyed consolation. (Luke xvi, 22.) But it is not proved, that Heaven itself is described by the term, "Abraham's bosom :" It is intimated, that Lazarus was gathered into the bosom of his father Abraham, in which he might rest in hope of a full beatification in Heaven itself, which was to be procured by Christ. For this reason the Apostle, after the ascension of Christ into Heaven, "had a desire to be with Christ." (Phil. i, 23.)— (5.) "Many shall come from the East and the West, and shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of Heaven." (Matt. viii, 11.) But it does not thence follow, that the Fathers have been in Heaven, properly so called, before they, who are to be called from among the Gentiles, sit down with them.— (6.) It appears from Matt. xxv, that there are only two places, one destined for the pious, the other for the wicked. But it does not hence necessarily follow, that the place destined for the pious has always been Heaven supreme. There have never been more places, because there have never been more states: But it is not necessary, that they should always be the same places without any change. The authority of this declaration is preserved invio-. late, provided a third place be never added to the former two.—

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