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R m.8.19 in the language of St. Paul, is all nature called
upon to be a participant in the glorious liberty of
* Aspice convexo nutantem pondere mundum, Terrasque tractusque maris cælumque profundum Aspice venturo lætentur ut omnia sæclo.
The Opinions of the Greek and Latin Fathers,
during the three first Centuries after Christ,
with respect to the intermediate State. THE fathers, although for the greater part, far from being men of critical or deep research, yet derived considerable advantage from their situation, as lying nearer to the apostolic age. They were not, indeed, endued with the gift of inspiration, but they could avail themselves of that light still continuing to shine in the apostles. They seem to have caught the genuine sense of many a sublime passage of the Hebrew scripture, which some commentators of modern date have, in their exposition of them, debased and sunk almost to nothing
It is of considerable importance to inspect the faith of primitive and christian antiquity, in order to mark the ordinary and habitual view which they took of the situation of souls, antecedent to the time of the resurruction. In these times, the state of the primitive teachers was such, as to constitute a post of danger, not a height of envied eminence. Then the object of every aim was to know and to embrace the truth. The sacred volume formed the subject of their daily research, because there they found their life. The gaining celebrity, by a deviation from the common orthodox track, forms no part of their character. By a celebrated historian of the present age, the streams of their eloquence are denominated troubled: but honesty and rectitude, holding the pen
of sacred truth, will stand the test of the remotest posterity; while eloquence, debased to convey deliberate misrepresentation and falsehood, will be reprobated through every generation. The fathers were men of unprecedented simplicity of manner, and noble vigour of soul. Utter strangers to wilful perversion of the sacred text, they are never found shutting their eyes on the abvious sense, or displaying a dexterity at going wrong. It is not to be denied, however, that in the monuments which they have left behind them, there are some things which are exceptionable ; but it would have been next to a miracle if there had been none, as some of them, such as Lactantius and Arnobius, had been philosophers of note among the heathen, and, as was to be expected, still retained some traces of their first education. « Not to mention," says Jerom,“ Some, who if, like myself, they apply to the study of the scriptures, after having been initiated into the learning of this world, and by an elegant discourse have charmed the audience, fancy that their ef
fusions are the law of God: neither do they take the trouble to know what the prophets and apostles have thought, but apply scripture proofs to support their sense, that actually refuse the office, and drag into their service the divine word, however reluctant and hanging back.”
From the tenets which some heretics endeavoured to propagate in the second century, we learn the opinions of the orthodox, by the opposition they gave to them. In the dialogue between Justin Martyr and Trypho the Jew, the former speaking of some heretics of his time, who denied the resurrection of the body, and who represented the soul as leaving it for ever in the grave, and departing immediately to heaven, thus expresses himself: “ And they who affirm there is no resurrection of the dead, but that at death their souls are immediately taken up into heaven, do not reckon them christians." He means that it is the general and orthodox opinion, that the abode succeeding to death is paradise, and that the possession of the supreme heavens is that reward which our Lord tells us is to take place, only at the resurrection of the just.
On this head Irenæus, a contemporary, and bishop of Lyons, delivers himself more fully, and tending to throw light on the preceding quotation.
“ But since some of them who possessed the character of orthodox, overstep the process
of the advancement of the righteous,” (i. e. they bring them to their crown and supreme felicity before the time which the scriptures prefix) “who are strangers to the method of directing their meditation to the period when corruption shall put on incorruption : entertaining inorthodox sentiments: heretics despising the workmanship of God, and not expecting the resurrection of their bodies; but even making light of the engagement of God, assert that as soon as they die, they ascend to heaven. They who then reject a general resurrection, what wonder if they are ignorant even of the order of the resurrection, unwilling to understand that if these things were so as they say, certainly our Lord, in whom they profess to believe, would not have risen on the third day, but expiring on the cross, would instantly have ascended, leaving his body to the earth.”
This same father, at the end of the chapter just now quoted, says, “ If therefore the Lord conformed to the law of the dead, that he might be the first begotten from the dead, continuing in that state even unto the third day in the lower parts of the earth ; then afterwards rising in the flesh, that he might shew to his disciples the prints of the nails, so ascended to the Father. How shall they not be confounded, who say that the invisible state in which we dwell is this world, and that their inward man (the soul) leaving the