Times and Seasons, 15 April 1842

  • Source Note
Page 760
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spirits in prison, which sometimes were disobedient, when once the long suffering of God waited in the days of Noah.” 1 Pet. iii, 19, 20. Here then we have an account of our Saviour preaching in prison; to spirits that had been imprisoned from the days of Noah; and what did he preach to them? that they were to stay there? certainly not; let his own declaration testify; “he hath sent me to heal the broken hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised”—Luke iv, 18, Isaiah has it;—“To bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness from the prison house.” Is. xlii, 7 It is very evident from this that he not only went to preach to them, but to deliver, or bring them out of the prison house. Isaiah in testifying concerning the calamities that will overtake the inhabitants of the earth says, “The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage; and the transgressions thereof shall be heavy upon it; and it shall fall and not rise again. And it shall come to pass in that day; that the Lord shall punish the hosts of the high ones that are on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth. And they shall be gathered together as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and shall be shut up in prison, and after many days shall they be visited.” Thus we find that God will deal with all the human family equally; and that as the antediluvians had their day of visitation; so will those characters referred to by Isaiah, have their time of visitation, and deliverance, after having been many days in prison.
The great Jehovah contemplated the whole of the events connected with the earth, pertaining to the plan of salvation, before it rolled into existence, or ever the “morning stars sung together for joy,” the past, the present and the future, were, and are with him one eternal now; he knew of the fall of Adam, the iniquities of the antedeluvians, of the depth of iniquity that would be connected with the human family; their weakness and strength, their power and glory, apostasies, their crimes, their righteousness, and iniquity; he comqrehended the fall of man, and their redemption; he knew the plan of salvation, and pointed it out; he was acquainted with the situation of all nations; and with their destiny; he ordered all things according to the council of his own will, he knows the situation of both the living, and the dead, and has made ample provision for their redempton, according to their several circumstances, and the laws of the kingdom of God, whether in this world, or in the world to come. The idea that some men form of the justice, judgment, and mercy of God, is too foolish for an intelligent man to think of; for instance it is common for many of our orthodox preachers to suppose, that if a man is not what they call converted, if he dies in that state, he must remain eternally in hell without any hope:—
“Infinite years in torment must he spend;”
“And never, never, never, have an end.”
And yet this eternal misery is made frequently to rest upon the merest casuality;—The breaking of a shoe string: the tearing of a coat, of those officiating; or the peculiar location in which a person lives, may be the means indirectly of his damnation: or the cause of his not being saved. I will suppose a case which is not extraordinary:—Two men who have been equally wicked, who have neglected religion, are both of them taken sick at the same time; one of them has the good fortune to be visited by a praying man, and he gets converted a few minutes before he dies; the other sends for three different praying men, a tailor, a shoemaker, and a tinman. The tinman has a handle to solder on to a can; the tailor has a button-hole to work on some coat that is needed in a hurry; and the shoemaker has a patch to put onto somebody’s boot; they none of them can go in time, the man dies and goes to hell: one of these is exalted to Abraham’s bosom; he sits down in the presence of God, and enjoys eternal, uninterrupted happiness; while the other who was equally as good as him, sinks to eternal damnation; irretrievable misery, and hopeless despair; because a man had a boot to mend, the button hole of a coat to work, or a handle to solder on to a saucepan. The plans of Jehovah are not so unjust; the statements of holy writ so visionary; nor the plan of salvation for the human family so incompatable with common sense; at such proceedings God would frown with indignance, angels would hide their heads in shame; and every virtuous, intelligent man would recoil. If human laws award to each man his deserts, and punish all delinquents, according to their several crimes; surely the Lord will not be more cruel than man, for he is a wise legislator, and his laws are more equitable, his enactments more just, and his decisions more perfect than those of man: and as man judges his fellow man by law, and punishes him according to the penalty of that law; so does the God of heaven judge “according to the deeds done in the body.” To say that the heathen would be damned because they did not believe the gospel would be preposterous; and to say that the Jews would all be damned that do not believe in Jesus, would be equally absurd; for, “how can they believe on him of whom they have not heard; and how can they hear without a preacher; and how can he preach except he be sent;” consequently neither Jew, nor heathen, can be culpable for rejecting the conflicting opinions of sectarianism, nor for rejecting any testimony but that which is sent of God, for as the preacher cannot preach except he be sent, so the hearer canot believe without he hear a sent preacher; and cannot be condemned for what he has not heard; and being without law will have to be judged without law.
When speaking about the blessings pertaining to the gospel, and the consequences connected with disobedience to its requirements, we are frequently asked the question, what has become of our Fathers? will they all be damned for not obeying the gospel, when they never heard it? certainly not. But they will possess the same privilege that we here enjoy, through the medium of the everlasting priesthood, which not only administers on earth but in heaven, and the wise dispensations of the great Jehovah; hence those characters referred to by Isaiah will be visited by this priesthood, and come out of their prison, upon the same principle as those who were disobedient in the days of Noah, were visited by our Saviour, -[who possessed the everlasting, Melchizedec priesthood,]- and had the gospel preached to them, by him in [p. 760]
spirits in prison, which sometimes were disobedient, when once the long suffering of God waited in the days of Noah.” 1 Pet. iii, 19, 20. Here then we have an account of our Saviour preaching in prison; to spirits that had been imprisoned from the days of Noah; and what did he preach to them? that they were to stay there? certainly not; let his own declaration testify; “he hath sent me to heal the broken hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised”—Luke iv, 18, Isaiah has it;—“To bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness from the prison house.” Is. xlii, 7 It is very evident from this that he not only went to preach to them, but to deliver, or bring them out of the prison house. Isaiah in testifying concerning the calamities that will overtake the inhabitants of the earth says, “The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage; and the transgressions thereof shall be heavy upon it; and it shall fall and not rise again. And it shall come to pass in that day; that the Lord shall punish the hosts of the high ones that are on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth. And they shall be gathered together as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and shall be shut up in prison, and after many days shall they be visited.” Thus we find that God will deal with all the human family equally; and that as the antediluvians had their day of visitation; so will those characters referred to by Isaiah, have their time of visitation, and deliverance, after having been many days in prison.
The great Jehovah contemplated the whole of the events connected with the earth, pertaining to the plan of salvation, before it rolled into existence, or ever the “morning stars sung together for joy,” the past, the present and the future, were, and are with him one eternal now; he knew of the fall of Adam, the iniquities of the antedeluvians, of the depth of iniquity that would be connected with the human family; their weakness and strength, their power and glory, apostasies, their crimes, their righteousness, and iniquity; he comqrehended the fall of man, and their redemption; he knew the plan of salvation, and pointed it out; he was acquainted with the situation of all nations; and with their destiny; he ordered all things according to the council of his own will, he knows the situation of both the living, and the dead, and has made ample provision for their redempton, according to their several circumstances, and the laws of the kingdom of God, whether in this world, or in the world to come. The idea that some men form of the justice, judgment, and mercy of God, is too foolish for an intelligent man to think of; for instance it is common for many of our orthodox preachers to suppose, that if a man is not what they call converted, if he dies in that state, he must remain eternally in hell without any hope:—
“Infinite years in torment must he spend;”
“And never, never, never, have an end.”
And yet this eternal misery is made frequently to rest upon the merest casuality;—The breaking of a shoe string: the tearing of a coat, of those officiating; or the peculiar location in which a person lives, may be the means indirectly of his damnation: or the cause of his not being saved. I will suppose a case which is not extraordinary:—Two men who have been equally wicked, who have neglected religion, are both of them taken sick at the same time; one of them has the good fortune to be visited by a praying man, and he gets converted a few minutes before he dies; the other sends for three different praying men, a tailor, a shoemaker, and a tinman. The tinman has a handle to solder on to a can; the tailor has a button-hole to work on some coat that is needed in a hurry; and the shoemaker has a patch to put onto somebody’s boot; they none of them can go in time, the man dies and goes to hell: one of these is exalted to Abraham’s bosom; he sits down in the presence of God, and enjoys eternal, uninterrupted happiness; while the other who was equally as good as him, sinks to eternal damnation; irretrievable misery, and hopeless despair; because a man had a boot to mend, the button hole of a coat to work, or a handle to solder on to a saucepan. The plans of Jehovah are not so unjust; the statements of holy writ so visionary; nor the plan of salvation for the human family so incompatable with common sense; at such proceedings God would frown with indignance, angels would hide their heads in shame; and every virtuous, intelligent man would recoil. If human laws award to each man his deserts, and punish all delinquents, according to their several crimes; surely the Lord will not be more cruel than man, for he is a wise legislator, and his laws are more equitable, his enactments more just, and his decisions more perfect than those of man: and as man judges his fellow man by law, and punishes him according to the penalty of that law; so does the God of heaven judge “according to the deeds done in the body.” To say that the heathen would be damned because they did not believe the gospel would be preposterous; and to say that the Jews would all be damned that do not believe in Jesus, would be equally absurd; for, “how can they believe on him of whom they have not heard; and how can they hear without a preacher; and how can he preach except he be sent;” consequently neither Jew, nor heathen, can be culpable for rejecting the conflicting opinions of sectarianism, nor for rejecting any testimony but that which is sent of God, for as the preacher cannot preach except he be sent, so the hearer canot believe without he hear a sent preacher; and cannot be condemned for what he has not heard; and being without law will have to be judged without law.
When speaking about the blessings pertaining to the gospel, and the consequences connected with disobedience to its requirements, we are frequently asked the question, what has become of our Fathers? will they all be damned for not obeying the gospel, when they never heard it? certainly not. But they will possess the same privilege that we here enjoy, through the medium of the everlasting priesthood, which not only administers on earth but in heaven, and the wise dispensations of the great Jehovah; hence those characters referred to by Isaiah will be visited by this priesthood, and come out of their prison, upon the same principle as those who were disobedient in the days of Noah, were visited by our Saviour, -[who possessed the everlasting, Melchizedec priesthood,]- and had the gospel preached to them, by him in [p. 760]
Page 760