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(7.) “The reward” which awaits the pious “in Heaven,” is said to be “great." (Matt. v, 12.) Let this be granted. “ Therefore, [will some reasoner say,] they must instantly after death be translated into the supreme Heaven.” This does not necessarily follow: For it is well known, that the Scriptures have in these promises a reference to the period which immediately succeeds the last judgment, according to the following expression : “Behold I come quickly, and my reward is with me.” The spouse replies, “ Even so come, Lord Jesus!" (Rev. xxii, 12, 20.) In the same manner must be understood that passage in Luke, “ They may receive you into everlasting habitations ;” (Luke xvi, 9 ;) that is, after the last judgment, at least after [the ascension of ]Christ, whose office it was to prepare those mansions for his people. (John xiv, 2.)–(8.) “ The Fathers are said to have been justified by the same faith as we are.” (Acts xiii, 33.) I acknowledge this. “ Therefore they have always been in Heaven even before [the ascension of ] Christ, as we shall be after Him." This is not a necessary consequence: For there are degrees in glorification. Nor is it at all wonderful, if they be said to be rendered more blessed and glorious after the ascension of Christ into Heaven.—(9.) “ But Jesus said to the malefactor, T'o-day shalt thou be with me in Paradise.” (Luke xxiii, 43.) I reply, First, It is not necessary that by “Paradise” should here be understood the third Heaven, or the eternal abode of the blessed: For it denotes in general a place of felicity. SECONDLY, St. Chrysostom says, The crucified thief was the first person whose spirit entered into heaven. Yet he did not ascend there before Christ, nor before “the vail of the temple had been rent in twain."
But to these passages is opposed that admirable dispensation or economy of God, which is distinguished according to the times preceding Christ, and those which followed. Of this dispensation the temple at Jerusalem was an illustrious [exemplar] pattern : For its external part, by means of an interposing vail, was separated and divided from that in which the priests daily appeared, and which was called “ The Holy of Holies,” in contradistinction to that which is called “ The Sanctuary.” (Heb. ix, 2,3.) Heaven itself is designated by the “The Holy of Holies” in Heb. ix, 24: It was shut as long as the former tabernacle stood, and until Christ entered into it by his own blood. (Heb. ix, 8–12.) It was his province as “our Fore-runner” to precede us, that we also might be able to enter into those things which are within the sail. (Heb. vi, 19.) For this purpose it was necessary
that liberty should be granted to us of “ entering into the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by that new and living way which he hath consecrated for us through the vail, that is to say, his flesh.” (Heb. x, 19, 20.) On this account the ancient worthies, who, " through faith have" most evidently “ gained this testimony that they pleased God,” are said, “not to have received or obtained the promise ; God having provided some better thing for us," who follow Christ, “that they without us should not be made perfect.” (Heb. xi, 40.) These passages of scripture, and a view of the dispensation which they describe, are among the principal reasons why I cannot give my assent to the opinion which affirms, that the Fathers have been in Heaven properly so called.
But, that our brethren may not so highly blame me, I will oppose to them one or two of the approved divines of our church. Calvin, in his “ INSTITUTES," (lib. iv, c. 1, s. 12,) says: “For “ what churches would dissent from each other on this account “ alone-that one of them, without any of the licentiousness of “ contention or the obstinacy of assertion, holds the opinion that “ souls, when they leave their bodies, soar up to Heaven, while 6 another church does not venture to define any thing about the “ place, but only maintains with certainty that they still live in “ the Lord ?”—Peruse also the following passage in his “ Institutes," (lib. iii, c. 25, s. 6,) Many persons torment themselves
by disputing about the place which [departed] souls occupy, 6 and whether they be now in the enjoyment of heavenly glory or “ not. But it is foolish and rash to enquire about things “ unknown, more deeply than God permits us to know them.”Behold, Calvin here says, that it is frivolous to contend whether the souls of the dead already enjoy celestial glory or not; and, in his judgment, it ought not to be made a subject of contention ! Yet I am condemned, or at least am accused, because I dare not positively affirm “that the souls of the Fathers before Christ were in Heaven properly so called.”—Peter Martyr proceeds still further, and is bold enough to assert, in his observations on 2 Kings ii, 13, “that the souls of the Fathers before Christ were not in Heaven properly so called.” He says, “Now if I be “ asked, To what place were Enoch and Elijah translated ?, I “ will say simply that I do not know, because that circumstance 6 is not delivered in the Divine volume. Yet if we might follow “ a very probable analogy, I would say, They were conducted to “ the place of the Fathers, or into Abraham's bosom, that they “ might there pass their time with the blessed Patriarchs in "expectation of the resurrection of Christ, and that they might " afterwards be elevated above the Heavens with Him when he “ was raised up again.”—Where it is to be noted, that Martyr entertains doubts concerning Enoch and Elijah, but speaks decisively about those who are in Abraham's bosom, that is, about the Fathers, “that they were raised up above the heavens with Christ at his resurrection.” This likewise appears from what he mentions a little afterwards : “ With regard to that sublime “ ascension, we grant that no one enjoyed it before Christ. “ Enoch therefore and Elijah went to the Fathers, and there with “ them waited for Christ, upon whom, in company with the rest, “ they were attendants when he entered into heaven.” See also BULLINGER on Luke xvi, 23; Heb. ix, 8; 1 Pet. iii, 19.
From the preceding explanation and extracts, I have, I think, rendered it evident, that not only had I just causes for being doubtful concerning this matter, but that I likewise ought not therefore to be blamed even though I had uttered what they here charge upon me as an error; nay, what is still more, that I ought to be tolerated had I simply asserted, “ that the souls of the Fathers were not in Heaven prior to the ascension of Christ to that blissful abode."
ARTICLE XI. It is a matter of doubt, whether believers under the Old Testa
ment understood that the legal ceremonies were types of Christ and of his benefits.
ANSWER. I do not remember to have said this at any time: Nay, I am conscious that I have never said it, because I never yet durst utter any such expression. But I have said, that an enquiry not altogether unprofitable might be instituted, “how far the Ancient Jews understood the legal ceremonies to be types of Christ.” At least I feel myself well assured, that they did not understand those ceremonies, as we do to whom the mystery of the Gospel is revealed : Nor do I suppose that any one will venture to deny this. But I wish our brethren would take upon themselves the task of proving, that believers under the Old Testament understood the legal ceremonies to be types of Christ and his benefits. For they not only know that this opinion of theirs is called in question by some persons, but that it is likewise confidently denied. Let them make the experiment, and they will perceive how difficult an enterprise they have undertaken. For the passages which seem to prove their proposition, are taken away from
them in such a specious manner by their adversaries, that a man who is accustomed to yield assent to those things alone which are well supported by proofs, may be easily induced to doubt whether the believers under the Old Testament had any knowledge of this matter; especially if he consider, that, according to Gal. iv, 3, the whole of the ancient (Jewish] Church was in a state of infancy or childhood, and therefore possessed only the understanding of a child. Whether an infant be competent to perceive in these corporal things the spiritual things which are signified by them, let those decide who are acquainted with that passage, “When I was a child, I understood as a child.” (1 Cor. xiii, 11.) Let those passages also be inspected which, we will venture to say, have a typical signification, because we have been taught so to view them by Christ and his Apostles; and it will be seen whether they be made so plain and obvious, as, without the previous interpretation of the Messiah, to have enabled us to understand them according to their spiritual meaning. It is said, (John viii, 56,) “ Abraham saw the day of Christ, and was glad:” Those who are of a contrary sentiment interpret this passage as if it was to be understood by a metonymy, because Abraham saw the day of Isaac who was a type of Christ, and therefore his day was “the day of Christ :" It is an undoubted fact, that no mention is made in the Scriptures of any other rejoicing than of this.—The faith of Abraham and its object occupy nearly the whole of the fourth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans: Let what is there said be compared together; and let it be demonstrated from this comparison, that Abraham saw Christ in those promises which he apprehended by faith. -Who would understand the sign of Jonah" to have been instituted to typify the three days in which Christ remained in the bowels of the earth, unless Christ had himself given that explanation ? What injury does this opinion produce, since those who hold it do not deny, that the Fathers were saved by the infantile faith which they possessed? For an infant is as much the heir of his father's property, as an adult son.
Should any one say, It follows as a necessary consequence, that “the Fathers were saved without faith in Christ:" I reply, the faith which has respect to [salutare, the saving mercy,] the salvation of God that has been promised by him, and " waits for The redemption of Israel" understood under a general notion, is “faith in Christ” according to the dispensation of that age. This is easily perceived from the following passages: “I have waited for thy salvation, or thy saving mercy, O Lord !"
(Gen. xlix, 18.) “ And the same man (Simeon) was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel.” (Luke ii, 25.) In the same chapter it is said, “ Anna, a prophetess, spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.”
But if we consider the “ faith in Christ” which is that of the New Testament, and which has regard to Him as a Spiritual and Heavenly King, who bestows upon his followers those celestial benefits which he has procured for them by his passion and death ; then a greater difficulty will hence arise. What man ever received more promises concerning the Messiah than David, or who has prophesied more largely about Him ? Yet any one may with some show of reason entertain doubts, whether David really understood that the Messiah would be a Spiritual and Heavenly Monarch ; for when he seemed to be pouring out his whole soul before the Lord, (2 Sam. vii,) he did not suffer a single word to escape that might indicate the bent of his understanding to this point, which nevertheless would have been of great potency in magnifying Jehovah and in confirming his own confidence.
The knowledge which all Israel had of the Messiah and of his kingdom, in the days when Christ was liimself on earth, appears not only from the Pharisees and the whole of the populace, but also from his own disciples after they had for more than three years and a half enjoyed constant opportunities of communication with him, and had heard from his own lips frequent and open mention of the kingdom of Heaven. Nay, what is still more wonderful, immediately after the resurrection of Christ from the dead, they did not even then comprehend his meaning. (Luke xxiv, 21-25.) From this, it seems, we must say, either that the knowledge which they formerly possessed had gradually died away,” or “ that the Pharisees, through their hatred against Jesus, had corrupted that knowledge." But neither of these assertions appears to be at all probable, (1.) The former is not; because the nearer those times were to the Messiah, the clearer were the prophecies concerning him, and the more manifest the apprehension of them: And this for a good reason, because it then began to be still more necessary for men to believe that person to be the Messiah, or at least the time was fast approaching in which such a faith would become necessary.—(2.) The latter is not probable; because the Pharisees conceived that hatred against him on account of his preaching and miracles: But it was at the very commencement of his office that he called into his service those twelve disciples. There are persons, I am aware, who produce many things from the Rabbinical writers of that