to construct a complete theory of the Atonement. subject is best left where Scripture leaves it. While, on the one hand, we refuse to explain it away, or to do violence to the passages quoted above which attribute an atoning value to the suffering of Christ, and regard it as a sacrifice" and "propitiation," on the other hand we may well decline to speculate too closely on the precise manner in which it was efficacious. The fact that it was efficacious is clearly taught in Scripture, and that is enough for us. The conclusion which forced itself on the mind of Bishop Butler in the eighteenth century is one which we shall do well to make our own.

"How and in what particular way it had this efficacy, there are not wanting persons who have endeavoured to explain, but I do not find that the Scripture has explained it. . . . And if the Scripture has, as surely it has, left this matter of the satisfaction of Christ mysterious, left somewhat in it unrevealed, all conjectures about it must be, if not evidently absurd, yet at least uncertain. Nor has anyone reason to complain for want of farther information, unless he can show his claim to it.

"Some have endeavoured to explain the efficacy of what Christ has done and suffered for us, beyond what the Scripture has authorised; others, probably because they could not explain it, have been for taking it away, and confining His office as Redeemer of the world to His instruction, example, and government of the Church. Whereas the doctrine of the gospel appears to be, not only that He taught the efficacy of repentance, but rendered it of the efficacy which it is by what He did and suffered for us; that He obtained for us the benefit of having our repentance accepted unto eternal life; not only that He revealed to sinners that they were in a capacity of salvation, and how they might obtain it, but,

moreover, that He put them into this capacity of salvation by what He did and suffered for them, put us into a capacity of escaping future punishment and obtaining future happiness. And it is our wisdom thankfully to accept the benefit, by performing the conditions upon which it is offered on our part, without disputing how it was procured on His."1

1 Analogy, pt. ii. ch. v.


De descensu Christi ad inferos. Quemadmodum Christus pro nobis mortuus est et sepultus, ita est etiam credendus ad Inferos descendisse.

Of the going down of Christ into hell.

As Christ died for us, and was buried so also it is to be believed that He went down into hell.

IN the Confession of Augsburg there was merely a single clause on the descent into hell in the article, De Filio Dei, "Item, descendit ad inferos." Our own Article, as it now stands, is considerably shorter than the corresponding one in the series of 1553. As originally drawn up by Cranmer it went more fully into the explanation of what was meant by the descent into hell, and contained these words: "Nam corpus usque ad resurrectionem in sepulchro jacuit, spiritus ab illo emissus, cum spiritibus qui in carcere sive in inferno detinebantur, fuit, illisque prædicavit, quemadmodem testatur Petri locus. At suo ad inferos descensu nullos a carceribus aut tormentis liberavit Christus Dominus." In this form the Article was signed by the six royal chaplains, but prior to publication the last clause (At suo Dominus) was omitted, and the Article, as published in 1553, stands in the English copy as follows:

.. •

"As Christ died, and was buried for us: so also it is to be believed that He went down into hell. For the body lay in the sepulchre until the resurrection: but His ghost departing from Him was with the ghosts that were in prison or in hell, and did preach to the same, as the place of St. Peter doth testify."

At the revision in Elizabeth's reign the bishops in Convocation struck out the last clause which refers to St. Peter's language,1 and the Article was thus brought into its present form, in which it simply states the fact of the descent, but attempts no explanation of it, and brings forward no scriptural proof of it. The reason for the alteration is probably to be sought for in the controversies which were agitating the country at the time. The subject is one which has always had a special attraction for many minds, and in the sixteenth century there were many and various theories held concerning it; and the violent controversies which had been raised in some parts of the country are quite sufficient to account for the excision of the allusion to S. Peter's language. The following extract from a paper of Bishop Alley of Exeter, drawn up in preparation for the Convocation of 1553, admirably illustrates the wisdom of the Elizabethan divines in their treatment of this Article:

First, for matters of Scripture, namely, for this place which is written in the Epistle of S. Peter, that Christ in Spirit went down to Hell, and preached to the souls that were in Prison. There have been in my diocese great invectives between the preachers, one against the other, and also partakers with them; some holding that the going down of Christ, His soul to Hell, was nothing else but the virtue and strength of Christ, His death, to be made manifest and known to them that were dead before.. Others say that Descendit ad inferna is nothing else but that Christ did sustain upon the

1 The clause was untouched by Parker in his preliminary revision, and is therefore found in the MS. which the archbishop submitted to the bishops (now in the library of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge). It is, however, marked in this for excision, a line being drawn through it with the archbishop's red pencil.

cross the infernal pains of hell, when He called Pater, quare me dereliquisti, i.e. Father, why hast Thou forsaken me? Finally, others preach that this article is not contained in other symbols, neither in the symbol of Cyprian, or rather Rufine. And all these sayings they ground upon Erasmus and the Germans, and especially upon the authority of Mr. Calvin and Mr. Bullinger. The contrary side bring for them the universal consent, and all the Fathers of both churches, both of the Greeks and the Latines. For of the Latine Fathers, they bring in S. Austin, S. Ambrose, S. Jerom, Gregory the Great, Cassiodore, Sedulius, Virgilius, Primasius, Leo, with others, as it may appear in the places by them alledged. Of the Greek Fathers, they alledge Chrysostom, Eusebius, Emissenus, Damascen, Basil the Great, Gregory Nyssen, Epiphanius, Athanasius, with others. Which all, both Latines and Grecians, do plainly affirm, Quod anima Christi fuit vere per se in inferno, i.e. that the soul of Christ was truly of itself in hell; which they all with one universal consent have assertively written from time to time, by the space of 1100 years, not one of them varying from another.

"Thus, my Right Honourable good Lords, your wisdoms may perceive what tragedies and dissensions may arise for consenting to, or dissenting from this article. Wherefore, your grave, wise, and godly learning might do well and charitably, to set some certainty concerning this doctrine; and chiefly because all dissensions, contentions, and strifes may be removed from the godly affected preachers."


1 Strype's Annals, vol. i. p. 348. At an earlier date the subject was causing trouble, for in May 1550 Micronius writes to Bullinger, and tells him that "they are disputing about the descent of Christ into hell" (Original Letters, vol. ii. p. 561). It is also worth noticing that among Parker's books there exists a volume with the following title, A Treatise concerning the immediate Going to Heaven of the souls of the faithful

« VorigeDoorgaan »