« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
“When they shall arise from the dead,” saith our Saviour, “they shall be as the angels, which are in heaven.” Lazarus, we are told, “was carried by angels, into Abraham's bosom.” The author of the epistle to the Hebrews uses the following very animating language, “Ye are come unto mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first born, which are written in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant.” Between bad men and evil spirits the connexion will be no less intimate. There is, at present, a similarity of character. Both violate the divine law, and contemn the divine government: though the latter do it with more constancy and daring, than the former. To the Jews our Saviour said, “Ye are of your father, the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do.” Of the place, prepared for the reception and punishment of rebellious spirits,they will not be the sole occupants. Thither, has our Saviour informed us, all impenitent human beings will be commanded to depart. We are now preparing to associate with one of these great divisions. Every vicious habit, every vicious action or thought, tends to assimilate us to the great community of reprobate spirits: Every habit and every action, implying real virtue, tends to prepare us for the most honorable communion and intercourse with angels. If then you have ambition, christianity proposes to you an object most worthy of it. If you desire glory, it offers you glory, honor, and immortality. If you aspire, let it be to nothing less, than to celestial thrones:– to a participation among them, for whom a kingdom was prepared before the foundation of the world.
IMMORTALITY OF THE SOUL.
2 TIMOTHY, i. 10. Who hath-brought life and immortality to light through the
The person, to whom the aspired writer ascribes this aechievement, is Jesus Christ.
No person, acting agreeably to his rational nature, can habitually fix his attention exclusively on the present time. As the present is connected with the past; and as various portions of the past were connected with each other; it is scarcely possible to believe, that future events should have no connexion with those which are now passing. Hence there is no question, in the solution of which mortals can be more deeply interested, than this, “If a man die, shall he live again."
On this subject no doubts can remain to those who are initiated in the school of Christ. Among the numerous sects, into which the professed friends of christianity are divided, I recollect none, which denies the soul's immortal. ity :-none, which doubts, that eternal life is offered to men, and will by all the truly penitent be obtained and enjoyed, All unc ertainty on this point is precluded, not only by the general constitution of the gospel, but by express declara.
tions conceived in language, strong and unequivocal., " The hour cometh when they, who are in their graves, shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and come forth: they who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and they, who have done evil, to the resurrection of damnation."
Thus hath our Saviour, in his gospel, illuminated, or, to use the translation of Dr. MacKnight, rendered clear the doctrine of immortality. By the doctrine of immortality, I do not mean merely the existence of the soul after the death of the body; but a state, in which happiness or misery will correspond with previous character.
That we may duly appreciate the christian religion, considered in this point of view, it will be necessary to show, by a plain statement of facts, how much this doctrine of immortality needed illumination. To this subject I respectfully solicit your attention,
For the sake of perspicuity it may be convenient to inquire,
1. What might, without revelation, be rationally concluded as to the doctrine of a moral retribution, and
Il. What was actually believed on this subject.
1. What might without revelation, be rationally considered as to the doctrine of a moral retribution.
Bishop Butler has shown, that a strong presumption in favour of a future state, arises from the present existence of
Whether it is an original principle of our nature, or not, we can scarcely avoid expecting a repetition of those events, which have been uniformly witnessed, and the permanence of those objects, which are known to exist. Having ob served, that there is always rapid vegetation, when the air is warm and the ground moist, we confidently believe, that these facts will be connected in future. If a particular kind of air has been known to destroy animal life in a thousand instances, it is inferred, that the next animal, that inhales it, will die.
This kind of reasoning is thought to be equally strong, perhaps even more so, when applied to the permanence of
objects. If there has been, for a long time, a river, or cav ern, or mountain, in such a place, we have no more to doubt of its present existence there, than if our eyes were now fixed upon it. There is always a very strong presumption, that objects and effects will remain as they have been, unless there is evidence to prove the contrary. On this principle is transacted almost all the business of life. The husband; man puts his seed into the ground, not because he knows it will germinate; but because he presumes it from the uniformity, with which the latter event has succeeded the former. The merchant sends his property to the West Indies, not because he knows, that those islands now exist, but because he knows, that they have existed, and he has no evidence of their submersion. On similar ground, our present existence as intelligent agents affords a presumption, that we shall exist hereafter; and this presumption will be strong until we have some evidence to the contrary. Death does not afford this evidence; for though we have witnessed the destruction of human bodies, no one has witnessed the dissolution of the soul. Nor can such dissolution be inferred from the ruins, to which the body is reduced. For the limbs may be amputated, and the flesh wasted by sickness, while the living agent, the ra..sional being remains in full vigor. Immediately before a death, produced by sickness, persons have sometimes as quick a perception, as clear discernment, and as strong a memory, as in the season of perfect health. Yet is it very probable, that the alteration to be effected by the remaining efforts of death, is not greater, perhaps not nearly as great, as that which has already been effected. And, if all, which the body has already endured, has not injured the soul, or the rational being, it can neither be concluded, nor fairly "presumed, that this same rational being will be annihilated by the short sufferings, which still remain. There arises, therefore, from our present existence, no inconsiderable presumption, that we shall exist hereafter.
And further, as there is in the nature of virtue a superior