« PreviousContinue »
ye will do." Such a league with the prince of darkness must be destructive of your happiness, if it be not broken off; "for, lo! they that are far off from God shall perish'."
Pray, then, that the Spirit of the Lord would convince you of the guilt of sin, and incline you to forsake it; that he would convert your souls, and dispose you to practise righteousness: then will you have joy and peace in believing; and, in common with all the saints, you will have communion with the Father and the Son, with the Church militant and triumphant; and, at length, be brought into the more immediate presence of God, "where is fulness of joy; and to his right-hand, where there are pleasures for evermore.”
■ John viii. 44. i Psalm lxxiii. 27.
* ib. xvi. 11.
ON THE IMMORTALITY OF THE SOUL.
2 Tim. i. 10. But now is made manifest by the appearing of
our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.
SOME distinct traces of a belief in the existence of the soul, after the dissolution of the body, seem to have been found in almost every country, where the inhabitants have been at all polished by civilization and science: nor are faint vestiges of the doctrine wanting even among the most savage nations, on whom the light of science and of Revelation has not yet dawned.
In some Pagan countries the immortality of the soul is made an article of religious. faith: in others,
its mere admission possesses considerable influence in directing the conduct of the people.
The fanciful notion of the transmigration of souls into different bodies, entertained by the Indians, Egyptians, and others, seems to argue their persuasion, that the mind does survive the dissolution of the body, and that it exists continually in a state of pleasure or pain.
Whether the sentiments held by unchristianized nations, respecting the immortality of the soul, were derived from the light of nature, or immediately borrowed from the Oracles of God, or from the dictates of both, it is not our business to decide. Suffice it to observe, that a great majority of wise and reflecting, men, in every age, have seriously believed the doctrine. And, though the craft and power of infidelity have been exerted to overthrow the faith of mankind in this particular, yet they have not been able to succeed; for it is still currently received and openly avowed, by all who submit to the word of God as their guide in the concerns of religion, and by many others who do not walk according to its light.
1. The immortality of the soul is certainly taught in the Scriptures, as an article of faith, which cannot be disbelieved, without calling in question the truth of God, and incurring his displeasure. It must, however, be confessed, that the important doctrine was not so fully revealed under the Law, as it is now, under the Gospel. It pleased God but partially to unfold this, as well as several other doctrines of the highest consequence to believers, in the first ages of the Church; reserving the more complete discovery of them for the coming and kingdom of Christ.
Still, we maintain that a careful examination of those passages in the Old Testament which bear
directly or indirectly upon the subject, will shew that there is no ground whatever for the cavils which infidels have raised against the inspiration of Moses and the Prophets, as if they did not mention the doctrine, or but obscurely hint at it in their writings.
2. We meet with early intimations of God's purpose to recompense the righteous with a glorious immortality. The translation of Enoch from earth to heaven was an event of great importance to the age in which he lived, and a standing admonition to future ages and generations. It taught them, and it reminds us and all mankind, that God is not an unconcerned spectator of men's conduct; but "that his penetrating eyes run to and fro throughout the earth, beholding the good and the evil;" and that they who honour him will be highly esteemed, but those who forsake him will be made to feel his indignation".
Could the antediluvian sinners fail to draw such inferences from the removal of Enoch? Could they help concluding, that his assumption was an intelligible proof of God's favour towards him; and that
being taken away from the evil to come," he was gone to inhabit the realms of blissful repose? Nor could so remarkable a lesson be lost upon the descendants of Noah, who would preserve the remembrance of that interesting fact amongst their posterity, by oral communications, or traditionary records, handed down from father to son. The translation of Enoch to glory will most probably account for those narrations of brave and favoured persons having been taken to heaven, which are found in Pagan mythologies.
3. In that sublime passage of Holy Writ in which he avows his belief of a resurrection, Job, no
a 1 Sam. ii. 30.
doubt, intended to convey an idea of man's immortality beyond the grave:-"I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though, after my skin, worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God; whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me"." Such decisive language argues, in whatever age Job lived, whether before or after Moses, that a belief of the Resurrection was by no means strange or uncommon in his day. And for what other conceivable purpose are men to rise from the dead, except to give an account of their conduct to God; in order that, as he assures us, "the wicked may go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal." The belief, then, of a general "resurrection of the just and the unjust" seems to involve in itself, as a necessary consequence, the immortality of man; unless it can be thought to be possible that God should raise us from the dead with a view to our annihilation;-a supposition as absurd, as it is contradictory to the current declarations of Scripture.
4. The royal prophet, David, when speaking of Christ's victory over death and the grave, and his exaltation to the right-hand of God, expressed his hope of the Resurrection, and of everlasting life, in terms too plain to be misunderstood: "Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth; my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt shew me the path of life in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy righthand there are pleasures for evermore"." Here he "Job xix. 25-28. c Mat. xxv. 46. d Ps. xvi. 9-11.
affirms not only his expectation of being raised from the dead, but of partaking also of immortal glory in the world to come.
5. To pass over many quotations which might be gleaned from the writings of Moses and the other parts of the Old Testament dd, we may briefly advert to the prediction of Daniel, which speaks explicitly concerning the difference which the future state will make between the condition of good and bad men :"And many of them which sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness, as the stars for ever and ever."
The Patriarchs, then, would communicate the doctrine to their children and contemporaries: they, in turn, would convey it to their descendants: and the Prophets, successively, would keep alive the remembrance of it, by their predictions: and thus the knowledge of it would be perpetuated from age to age in the Church, until the appearance of Christ," who, at his coming, abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel." We may then safely conclude, with the framers of the Articles, that, in reference to the doctrine in question, "the Old Testament is not contrary to the New: for both in the Old and New Testament, everlasting life is offered to mankind by Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and man, being both God and man. Wherefore, they are not to be heard, who feign that the old Fathers did look only for transitory promises ff."
dd Isa. xxvi. 19. Ezek. xxxvii. 1-15. 12 Tim. i. 10.
e Dan. xii. 2, 3.
" Article VII.