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CANON LUCKOCK, CANON LIDDON, AND DR. DELITZSCH ON THE
PREACHING OF THE GOSPEL TO THE DEAD. DR. LUCKOCK's new book is an impressive testimony to a certain inevitableness in the tendency of modern orthodox theology to widen its apprehension of the scope and method of Christ's redeeming work. From so intelligent and reverent a student of Patristic theology we should expect a clear recognition of elements of Christian doctrine which have been overlooked in the Puritan tradition. But we were not prepared by our previous knowledge of his type of thought and his ecclesiastical affiliations for so pronounced a judgment as he has now given on the question of a universal Christian probation.
Writing of spiritual ministry after death, he says : “ It is no mere idle speculation of private judgment, at least if the archetype of humanity, the ideal and pattern Man, may be regarded as a model for us to follow in death as well as in life. S. Peter tells us that with quickened powers Christ went and preached to certain spirits in Hades ; again, he adds that He preached the gospel to dead men in general, for the absence of the definite article in the original involves this conclusion. It points to a continuity after death of the work which had been carried on in life. As in the flesh Christ gave Himself up to proclaim the glad tidings of salvation, so in his spirit, when it passed to the land of disembodied souls, He carried on the work which God had given Him to do. And if, as no one doubts, in his life upon earth He has left us an example that we should follow in his steps, it is very difficult to believe that He is not also the type of our life in the spirit in the unseen world. It deepens immeasurably the importance of our earthly training and pursuits to feel that nothing in this life that we do is temporal only, but all has its bearing on the eternity that is to follow.
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“ Pascal felt the need of work to be so absolutely necessary for perfect happiness, that he did not hesitate to assert that the want of occupation for our moral energies in the future world would turn heaven into hell.
“Now there is one great reason why we should foster the idea of work in the Intermediate State ; it helps to redeem the future life from the character of selfishness which is usually attached to it in the pictures which men draw. Indeed, so general has the aspect of it come to be that it has been said that however diverse the roads which men may take in their investigations into the possibilities of the future state, they come invariably in the end to the same point : it is a state of gratified and glorified selfishness.' ... The more we shall be united with Christ, the more we shall catch of his spirit, and by sharing his unselfish thought and care for others, grow in conformity to the likeness of Him who expressed the character of his divine life in the words : My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.'"
1 The Intermediate State between Death and Judgment, Being a Sequel to After Death. By Herbert Mortimer Luckock, D. D., Canon of Ely, sometime Principal of Ely Theological College, and Fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge. New York: Thomas Whitaker, 2 and 3 Bible House. 1890.
Again, in two chapters, one on “Possibilities of Salvation for the Heathen in the Intermediate State," another on “ Possibilities for Others who have had no Probation in this Life,” Dr. Luckock presents with characteristic candor and precision the leading arguments pro and contra, and accepts the conclusion reached by Julius Müller and Dr. Dorner, and foreshadowed by Bishop Butler, all of whom he names, and which he characterizes as “the more hopeful view, which has been growing up since the Reformation,” and as “more consonant both with the spirit of the age and with the teachings of Scripture.” It is the one which has been repeatedly presented in these pages. For ourselves we should qualify an occasional statement in these chapters, but we would commend them, and the entire work, to our readers, together with the beautiful little treatise of Dr. Cremer, which the late Dr. A. A. Hodge introduced to American readers. We should add that Dr. Luckock, precisely as we have done, argues for but one Christian probation, and in a distinct chapter presents reasons for the opinion that “a second probation ” is “inconsistent with Scripture."
We have characterized Dr. Luckock's advocacy of this extension of grace as a remarkable indication of the modern movement of orthodox thought. His book contains evidence to the same effect, which is even more significant. No leading preacher and theologian of our time has been regarded as more firmly and consistently conservative than the late Canon Liddon. Dr. Luckock's book, containing the views we have indicated, is inscribed “ In Memoriam Viri Desideratissimi Henrici Parry Liddon ;” and in the Preface its author states that he thus dedicates it " with the fullest confidence of his [Canon Liddon’s] indorsement.” He also gives this interesting information : “In reference to some of the most important chapters in this present book, especially those touching the probation of the heathen and ignorant after death, and the absence of authority for a like probation for those who had been taught in this life, he (Canon Liddon) wrote, “ We are clearly of one mind about the Intermediate State ; as I cannot deprecate very natural speculations, so long as they profess themselves speculations resting on whatever basis of Theological probability ; and you are opposed to making anything de fide which is not clearly revealed as being so.'” This is the exact position we have maintained on this subject.
Readers of the late Professor Franz Delitzsch's “System der Biblischen Psychologie,” translated in the Messrs. Clarks' “ Foreign Theological Library,” are aware that his view of the Intermediate State and its possibilities agrees substantially with that of Müller, Martensen, and Dorner.
1 Beyond the Grave. By Dr. Hermann Cremer, Professor of Theology in the University of Greifswald. Translated from the German by the Rev. Samuel T. Lowrie, D. D., Pastor of the Ewing Presbyterian Church, near Trenton, N. J., with an Introduction by the Rev. A. A. Hodge, D. D., Professor of Didactic and Polemic Theology, Princeton Theological Seminary. New York : Harper & Brothers, Franklin Square. 1886.
The correspondence recently published between him and his distinguished colleague at Erlangen, Professor J. C. K. von Hofmann, contains a valuable and suggestive discussion of Biblical texts concerning the descensus, and incidentally shows how strong a hold on the thought of one of the foremost Biblical scholars of our time the fact had gained that Christ preached the gospel to the dead. We are impressed, also, as in other instances, with certain incidental causes which hinder a wider recognition of this fact. Dr. von Hofmann, with whom Professor Delitzsch contends, was, if we understand him aright, a man, as indeed his opponent in part frankly points out to him, of a sequacious, logical turn of mind, which did not yield itself readily to the thoughts of others even in apprehending them. It was comparatively little alive to the hints and suggestions of Scripture, restricted revelation to what is clearly and definitely affirmed, constructed a dogmatic analogy of faith, balanced arguments and drew conclusions from a preponderance of evidence, interpreted by rule and plummet rather than by a fine literary sense. Dr. Delitzsch was a born exegete, and his studies were distinctively and for a lifetime in the linguistic fields where the Biblical writings mostly originated. His mind lends itself naturally and easily to the movement of the work he is interpreting. Every new turn or suggestion of thought attracts and receives his attention. There grow up in the two classes of minds thus typified — insensibly but surely — two widely different standards of the values of thoughts. We see the same thing in the first great division in the church between the Greek and the Latin Patristics, in the early schools of Alexandria and Antioch, in Luther and Calvin. Our Puritan theology has had a keen sense for the dogmatic values of Biblical teachings, less for its literary values, as Matthew Arnold has done service in emphasizing. It has, also, elevated to a disproportionate importance — indeed, to an exclusive ascendancy — the purely logical method of interpretation; sometimes it becomes, as it were, mathematical. So many texts teach so and so; so many, otherwise ; strike the balance and you have an authoritative result. The method of science is teaching a lesson here in its doctrine of unexplained remainders.
In the study of the Scriptures, unconciliated statements and facts should be regarded as suggestions for a qualification or expansion of otherwise established dogmas, and as indications where more truth is to be found. A Scriptural statement, moreover, respecting divine truth is not yet necessarily a dogma ; it may be merely an element of dogma, or a pointer to the path which must be followed in order to reach a dogmatic result. When, some years since, a young man said that he thought there were Scriptural reasons for hoping in a future opportunity of salvation for the heathen, he was charged with holding de fide, or doctrinally, that the heathen will have such a probation. The implied reasoning was : what Scripture says is true; a Scriptural truth is a doctrine. The suggestiveness of a passage as a possible relief from a difficulty, or as a probable index where truth is to be found ; its literary value as a turn or outreach of thought, or special insight into truth ; its scientific value as showing that theories are incomplete, and that other facts are to be considered before a dogmatic conclusion can be reached, — all these various values of Scripture are left undistinguished and unappreciated in the keen zest for an immediate and systematized interpretation of Scripture and Christianity, and in a consequent unwillingness to learn by other methods, and inability to gain fresh inspirations of truth from partial and imperfectly understood disclosures of it.
i Theologische Briefe der Professoren Delitzsch und v. Hofmann. Herausgegeben, bevorwortet und mit Registern versehen, von D. Wilhelm Volck, ordentlichem Professor der 'Theologie an der Universität in Dorpat. Leipzig, 1891. J. C. Hinrichs'sche Buchhandlung.
Fourteen letters passed between Drs. Delitzsch and von Hofmann on the doctrine of the descensus, or Christ's descent into Hades — ten discussing the subject directly, four dealing with principles of interpretation. They were written in 1860 and 1861, and were a part of a correspondence proposed to his colleague by Dr. Delitzsch as a more profitable method than oral discussion in respect to scientific themes. Nearly three years ago he communicated the fact of such a correspondence to a theological professor who was visiting him, but it was to remain a secret until after his death. Last June, Dr. Delitzsch having meanwhile died, this correspondence was put into the hands of the friend just referred to, and was found by him already prepared for publication. It gives, therefore, so far as Dr. Delitzsch's letters are concerned, his maturest and final opinions.
We shall only refer to it as respects the topic immediately before us, and in this regard upon but a few points.
Dr. Delitzsch emphasizes the descensus as an integral link in the chain of redemptive facts. It is not a mere transition of the soul of Jesus to a more intimate divine communion, but a visit of his quickened and lifegiving spirit to the realm of the dead, a conquest of the powers of darkness, and the beginning of his triumph over Satan, sin, and death.1
i Dr. Delitzsch treats the descensus as purely a part of Christ's triumph over death, and over " him that had the power of death," overlooking, as it seems to us, the truth in the theology of the Reformed churches, that it is a part of Christ's tasting of death, and of his humiliation. Dr. Dorner, on this question, agrees with Dr. Delitzsch, but in opposition to an interpretation of the significance of this humiliation which we should equally with him reject. This opposition leads Dr. Dorner to exclude Eph. iv. 8–10 from having any relevancy to the descensus. He further confines the meaning of the Descent into Hades to its application of the redemption achieved on the cross, and so refers it solely to Christ's prophetic office. The reasons he gives are insufficient. They belong to a theory which he himself has broken away from. They imply that the atonement consists of the penal sufferings of Christ, and do not give importance enough to the spirit of obedience in which those sufferings were endured, to the elements of moral influence in his death, and especially to the inclusiveness of death. That death completed itself in his shar
the lower-sch interprets both of the other in the first har passages, one
The letters give an extended discussion of two familiar passages, one in the Epistle to the Ephesians, the other in the first Epistle of Peter. Dr. Delitzsch interprets both of the descensus. The expression “into the lower parts of the earth ” (Eph. iv. 9), he contends, must refer to Hades. This is required by the antithesis in which it stands, and by its connection with corresponding Old Testament phrases. The Hebrew usage, Dr. Delitzsch affirms, signifies without exception the interior of the earth and the lower world. Dr. Cheyne has recently expressed the same opinion. There is “always,” he says, “an at least implied reference to Sheol.”1 He agrees, also, with Dr. Delitzsch in respect to St. Paul's use of the phrase in Ephesians as do, with other modern commentators, Bishop Ellicott, Meyer, and Professor Riddie, now of the Allegheny Theological Seminary. It is Irenaeus's repeated interpretation," and is said to be that of the Fathers generally. With this descent to Hades the context associates the words : —
“When He ascended on high
He led captivity captive,
And gave gifts unto men.” Directly, this citation, as appropriated by the Apostle, refers to Christ's conquest of the powers of darkness, and the blessings which in consequence of this victory he is able to dispense to mankind. Dr. Delitzsch associates it with Colossians ii. 15. Indirectly, it suggests an extension of Christ's redeeming activity for mankind to the extremity of their need, and as far as the condescension of his power and love.
ing the condition of the dead even to their state after the separation of soul and body — so far as this was possible to a sinless soul, incapable of penal personal suffering and death. The words : it is finished, which Delitzsch pleads, were followed by actual death, as respects the separation of soul and body ; why not also by the further element of death, the descent to the place of the dead? But the spirit of Christ could not be holden of death. The depth of his humiliation was the beginning of his triumph. “Quickened in spirit,” he began his conquest, and entered on the path to his resurrection, ascension, and highest exaltation. Dorner, with characteristic ethical insight, says of Christ's vanquishing the devil and hell, that “this conquest takes place, not through physical power and force, but through his (Christ's entire redeeming work.” It does not follow, however, that this work has not in it an element supplied by the descensus; but, we think, just the contrary. In the discussion with von Hofmann, Delitzsch seems to us to be at a disadvantage from too limited a conception of the meaning of Christ's death. The Reformed Theology suffers from its too penal interpretation of that death ; but it holds, if we mistake not, an element of truth which belongs to a doctrinal interpretation of the descensus.
1 The Prophecies of Isaiah, i. 289 ; ii. 163.
2 Adv. Haer. iv. 22,1 ; v. 31, 1. Irenaeus says that our Lord “ descended into the lower parts of the earth to behold with his eyes id quod erat inoperatum conditionis." Translators render variously these words. Keble's version is, “the unfinished part of Creation.” Do they not describe a state or condition of souls not yet brought to normal or ideal spiritual life and activity ? Irenaeus applies them to the “ prophets and righteous men” referred to in Matt. xiii. 17. They offer a fruitful and larger suggestion. Cf. Jobn x. 10 (Teplogóv).