But as the proclamation [of the Gospel] has come now at the fit time, so also at the fit time were the Law and the Prophets given to the Barbarians, and Philosophy to the Greeks, to fit their ears for the Gospel. “Therefore,” says the Lord who delivered Israel, “in an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee. And I have given thee for a Covenant to the nations; that thou mightest inhabit the earth, and receive the inheritance of the wilderness; saying to those that are in bonds, Come forth; and to those that are in darkness, Show yourselves.” For if the “prisoners” are the Jews, of whom the Lord said, “Come forth, ye that will, from your bonds,”—meaning the voluntary bound, and who have taken on them “the burdens grievous to be borne” 3262 by human injunction—it is plain that “those in darkness” are they who have the ruling faculty of the soul buried in idolatry.
For to those who were righteous according to the law, faith was wanting. Wherefore also the Lord, in healing them, said, “Thy faith hath saved thee.” 3263 But to those that were righteous according to philosophy, not only faith in the Lord, but also the abandonment of idolatry, were necessary. Straightway, on the revelation of the truth, they also repented of their previous conduct.
Wherefore the Lord preached the Gospel to those in Hades. Accordingly the Scripture says, “Hades says to Destruction, We have not seen His form, but we have heard His voice.” 3264 It is not plainly the place, which, the words above say, heard the voice, but those who have been put in Hades, and have abandoned themselves to destruction, as persons who have thrown themselves voluntarily from a ship into the sea. They, then, are those that hear the divine power and voice. For who in his senses can suppose the souls of the righteous and those of sinners in the same condemnation, charging Providence with injustice?
But how? Do not [the Scriptures] show that the Lord preached 3265 the Gospel to those that perished in the flood, or rather had been chained, and to those kept “in ward and guard”? 3266 And it has been shown also, 3267 in the second book of the Stromata, that the apostles, following the Lord, preached the Gospel to those in Hades. For it was requisite, in my opinion, that as here, so also there, the best of the disciples should be imitators of the Master; so that He should bring to repentance those belonging to the Hebrews, and they the Gentiles; that is, those who had lived in righteousness according to the Law and Philosophy, who had ended life not perfectly, but sinfully. For it was suitable to the divine administration, that those possessed of greater worth in righteousness, and whose life had been pre-eminent, on repenting of their transgressions, though found in another place, yet being confessedly of the number of the people of God Almighty, should be saved, each one according to his individual knowledge.
And, as I think, the Saviour also exerts His might because it is His work to save; which accordingly He also did by drawing to salvation those who became willing, by the preaching [of the Gospel], to believe on Him, wherever they were. If, then, the Lord descended to Hades for no other end but to preach the Gospel, as He did descend; it was either to preach the Gospel to all or to the Hebrews only. If, accordingly, to all, then all who believe shall be saved, although they may be of the Gentiles, on making their profession there; since Gods punishments p. 491 are saving and disciplinary, leading to conversion, and choosing rather the repentance them the death of a sinner; 3268 and especially since souls, although darkened by passions, when released from their bodies, are able to perceive more clearly, because of their being no longer obstructed by the paltry flesh.
If, then, He preached only to the Jews, who wanted the knowledge and faith of the Saviour, it is plain that, since God is no respecter of persons, the apostles also, as here, so there preached the Gospel to those of the heathen who were ready for conversion. And it is well said by the Shepherd, “They went down with them therefore into the water, and again ascended. But these descended alive, and again ascended alive. But those who had fallen asleep, descended dead, but ascended alive.” 3269 Further the Gospel 3270 says, “that many bodies of those that slept arose,”—plainly as having been translated to a better state. 3271 There took place, then, a universal movement and translation through the economy of the Saviour. 3272
One righteous man, then, differs not, as righteous, from another righteous man, whether he be of the Law or a Greek. For God is not only Lord of the Jews, but of all men, and more nearly the Father of those who know Him. For if to live well and according to the law is to live, also to live rationally according to the law is to live; and those who lived rightly before the Law were classed under faith, 3273 and judged to be righteous,—it is evident that those, too, who were outside of the Law, having lived rightly, in consequence of the peculiar nature of the voice, 3274 though they are in Hades and in ward, 3275 on hearing the voice of the Lord, whether that of His own person or that acting through His apostles, with all speed turned and believed. For we remember that the Lord is “the power of God,” 3276 and power can never be weak.
So I think it is demonstrated that the God being good, and the Lord powerful, they save with a righteousness and equality which extend to all that turn to Him, whether here or elsewhere. For it is not here alone that the active power of God is beforehand, but it is everywhere and is always at work. Accordingly, in the Preaching of Peter, the Lord says to the disciples after the resurrection, “I have chosen you twelve disciples, judging you worthy of me,” whom the Lord wished to be apostles, having judged them faithful, sending them into the world to the men on the earth, that they may know that there is one God, showing clearly what would take place by the faith of Christ; that they who heard and believed should be saved; and that those who believed not, after having heard, should bear witness, not having the excuse to allege, We have not heard.
What then? Did not the same dispensation obtain in Hades, so that even there, all the souls, on hearing the proclamation, might either exhibit repentance, or confess that their punishment was just, because they believed not? And it were the exercise of no ordinary arbitrariness, for those who had departed before the advent of the Lord (not having the Gospel preached to them, and having afforded no ground from themselves, in consequence of believing or not) to obtain either salvation or punishment. For it is not right that these should be condemned without trial, and that those alone who lived after the advent should have the advantage of the divine righteousness. But to all rational souls it was said from above, “Whatever one of you has done in ignorance, without clearly knowing God, if, on becoming conscious, he repent, all his sins will be forgiven him.” 3277 “For, behold,” it is said, “I have set before your face death and life, that ye may choose life.” 3278 God says that He set, not that He made both, in order to the comparison of choice. And in another Scripture He says, “If ye hear Me, and be willing, ye shall eat the good of the land. But if ye hear Me not, and are not willing, the sword shall devour you: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken these things.” 3279
Again, David expressly (or rather the Lord in the person of the saint, and the same from the foundation of the world is each one who at different periods is saved, and shall be saved by faith) says, “My heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced, and my flesh shall still rest in hope. For Thou shalt not leave my soul in hell, nor wilt Thou give Thine holy one to see corruption. Thou hast made known to me the paths of life, Thou wilt make me full of joy in Thy presence.” 3280 As, then, the people was precious to the Lord, so also is the entire holy people; he also who is converted from the Gentiles, who was prophesied under the name of proselyte, along with the Jew. For rightly the Scripture says, that “the ox and the bear shall come together.” 3281 For the Jew is designated by the ox, from the animal under the yoke being reckoned clean, according p. 492 to the law; for the ox both parts the hoof and chews the cud. And the Gentile is designated by the bear, which is an unclean and wild beast. And this animal brings forth a shapeless lump of flesh, which it shapes into the likeness of a beast solely by its tongue. For he who is convened from among the Gentiles is formed from a beastlike life to gentleness by the word; and, when once tamed, is made clean, just as the ox. For example, the prophet says, “The sirens, and the daughters of the sparrows, and all the beasts of the field, shall bless me.” 3282 Of the number of unclean animals, the wild beasts of the field are known to be, that is, of the world; since those who are wild in respect of faith, and polluted in life, and not purified by the righteousness which is according to the law, are called wild beasts. But changed from wild beasts by the faith of the Lord, they become men of God, advancing from the wish to change to the fact. For some the Lord exhorts, and to those who have already made the attempt he stretches forth His hand, and draws them up. “For the Lord dreads not the face of any one, nor will He regard greatness; for He hath made small and great, and cares alike for all.” 3283 And David says, “For the heathen are fixed in the destruction they have caused; their foot is taken in the snare which they hid.” 3284 “But the Lord was a refuge to the poor, a help in season also in affliction.” 3285 Those, then, that were in affliction had the Gospel seasonably proclaimed. And therefore it said, “Declare among the heathen his pursuits,” 3286 that they may not be judged unjustly.
If, then, He preached the Gospel to those in the flesh that they might not be condemned unjustly, how is it conceivable that He did not for the same cause preach the Gospel to those who had departed this life before His advent? “For the righteous Lord loveth righteousness: His countenance beholdeth uprightness.” 3287 “But he that loveth wickedness hateth his own soul.” 3288
If, then, in the deluge all sinful flesh perished, punishment having been inflicted on them for correction, we must first believe that the will of God, which is disciplinary and beneficent, 3289 saves those who turn to Him. Then, too, the more subtle substance, the soul, could never receive any injury from the grosser element of water, its subtle and simple nature rendering it impalpable, called as it is incorporeal. But whatever is gross, made so in consequence of sin, this is cast away along with the carnal spirit which lusts against the soul. 3290
Now also Valentinus, the Coryphæus of those who herald community, in his book on The Intercourse of Friends, writes in these words: “Many of the things that are written, though in common books, are found written in the church of God. For those sayings which proceed from the heart are vain. For the law written in the heart is the People 3291 of the Beloved—loved and loving Him.” For whether it be the Jewish writings or those of the philosophers that he calls “the Common Books,” he makes the truth common. And Isidore, 3292 at once son and disciple to Basilides, in the first book of the Expositions of the Prophet Parchor, writes also in these words: “The Attics say that certain things were intimated to Socrates, in consequence of a dæmon attending on him. And Aristotle says that all men are provided with dæmons, that attend on them during the time they are in the body,—having taken this piece of prophetic instruction and transferred it to his own books, without acknowledging whence he had abstracted this statement.” And again, in the second book of his work, he thus writes: “And let no one think that what we say is peculiar to the elect, was said before by any philosophers. For it is not a discovery of theirs. For having appropriated it from our prophets, they attributed it to him who is wise according to them.” Again, in the same: “For to me it appears that those who profess to philosophize, do so that they may learn what is the winged oak, 3293 and the variegated robe on it, all of which Pherecydes has employed as theological allegories, having taken them from the prophecy of Cham.”
Matt. ix. 22, etc.490:3264
The passage which seems to be alluded to here is Job xxviii. 22, “Destruction and Death say, We have heard the fame thereof with our ears.”490:3265 490:3266 490:3267 491:3268 491:3269 491:3270 491:3271 491:3272
[In connection with John v. 25, we may suppose that the opening of the graves, at the passion and resurrection, is an intimation of some sublime mystery, perhaps such as here intimated.]491:3273
Rom. iii. 29, x. 12, etc.491:3274 491:3275 491:3276 491:3277 491:3278 491:3279 491:3280 491:3281 492:3282 492:3283 492:3284 492:3285 492:3286 492:3287 492:3288
Ps. xi. 6, Septuagint version.492:3289 492:3290 492:3291 492:3292 492:3293
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