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we not much rather be in subjection to the Father of spirits, and live ?" Here we learn the distinction between our earthly fathers and the heavenly Parent. Those are fathers of our flesh, and this, the Father of ́ our spirits. The fathers of our flesh are mortal, and so are their offspring. The Fatherof our spirits is immortal, and, what then are his offspring? Does immortality beget mortality, or can God be the Father of perishable nature?
There is one passage that says of God,. "Who only hath immortality." But if this be considered proof against the immortality. of the soul, it is equal proof against man's ever becoming immortal, and likewise of the immortality of all celestial beings.
God is independently immortal, possessing an underived existence, which cannot be true of any created being, in its highest state of perfection. When we read the whole text, we find it does not exclude immortality from others, but excludes the idea of that perfection in the most happy condition of creatures, that belongs to the Creator. "Who only hath immortality dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto." No man can reach the " perfection of God or his independent immortality.
When it is said, "the soul that sinneth shall die ;" "destroy soul and body;" "save a soul from death," &c. we are not to understand this death or destruction to be a cessation of
existence; but a deprivation of spiritual life, which we, undoubtedly, are ever to look for as the wages of sin. Hence the soul or spirit of man may be perishable as it respects virtue and felicity, but not in relation to exist
We will next turn our attention to the account St. Peter gives of Christ's preaching to the spirits in prison.
If it be proper to understand this account according to the plain import of words, these ideas are evident:
1. That Christ who is just, suffered for the sins of the unjust, to bring them to God; and being put to death in the flesh, showed the power of the resurrection in the body that died, by the spirit.
2. By this quickening spirit, the power of the resurrection, he went and preached unto the spirits in prison, being then able to prove the doctrine of the resurrection, in his own person.
3. This preaching was after he was quickened by the spirit, or arose from the dead.
4. Those spirits to which he preached, were the spirits of the antediluvians, who were disobedient in the days of Noah.
5. The design of this preaching was to give them the privilege, when judged according to men in the flesh, or as if they were present in the flesh, of living according to God in the spirit. Without this privilege, they must unavoidably be condemned.
These ideas appear as clearly expressed in this account of St. Peter's, as any thing we can gather from any scripture whatever. But some will not assent to them, because it proves an alteration after death, and the possibility of receiving divine mercy. Others do not allow them, because they find in them a bar to the immediate felicity of all men when they enter another state of existence. One, strongly attached to the sentiment of an unal. terable state, fixed on all at death, will say, it is a dark saying. Another, who can find his sentiment in almost any language, will profess to see a beauty in it. according to his system, which few are able to discern. But if St. Peter did not mean as he said, we have no reason to believe he intended to be understood, for no language is less ambiguous, than his in this particular account.
The common opinion is, that Noah, who in a certain place is called a preacher of righteousness, performed this preaching, in his day, to the antediluvians, whose spirits are now in the prison of hell. The quickening spirit of Christ in Noah, dictated the preaching. But when we turn to the account, we find nothing said of Noah's preaching. All that is said of Noah, is, that the spirits were disobedient, when once the long suffer. ing of God waited in his days.
It is said ofHerod, he sent forth and slew all the children in Bethlehem, from two years old and under." We therefore conclude he
did not go himself. Christ, speaking of his disciples, says to his Father, "As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world." But in this account of Christ's preaching, it does not say, he sent and preached to the spirits in prison, but it says he went; and yet, strange to tell, it remains a disputable point among us, whether he sent or went!
It does not appear that Christ himself preached to the antediluvians in the days of Noah, nor do any attempt to support the idea. It is then evident from this consideration as well as the connexion of St. Peter's account, that he preached to them after they had departed this life. And if he preached by the spirit that raised him from the dead, he undoubtedly preached after his crucifixion and resurrection. He preached to them that they might be judged according to men in the flesh. This seems to imply, they were not in the flesh. If they were, this object would be useless; for any one may be judged according to the state in which he is, without hearing the preaching of the gospel. Indeed a man can be judged in no other than the state in which judgment finds him. The term flesh, applied to Christ, when it was said he was put to death in the flesh, is undersood of his natural body. Ought not the same phrase, applied to the spirits in prison, in the same account, to have the same meaning? Various scriptures have been brought, which have no con
nexion with this subject, to show that it means something else. And in all this, it yet remains to point out a proper applica tion.
"The gospel," says St.Peter, "was preached to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh." The query is, whether these dead were in the flesh or not. The natural construction of the words carry an idea that they were not in the flesh. If they were not in the flesh, it is easy to understand what is meant by the dead; not those who were dead in sin only, but they who have departed this natural life. This plainly agrees with every circumstance of the whole relation. If by "the dead" we are to understand the dead in sin, naturally alive, why did the apostle particularize a certain class, namely, the disobedient in Noah's time, and say, "For, for this cause was the gospel preached to them that are dead," when the gospel had never been preached to any, but those who were dead? The proposition is too universal to be embraced in so particular an account.
We find the dead are mentioned in con'nexion with the quick, which does not favor the common mode of interpretation. The phrase quick and dead is found in Acts x. 42, and 2 Tim. iv. 1, besides in St. Peter; in all of which places, Christ is called the Judge of both. If we understand the quick and dead to be those who are living and