« VorigeDoorgaan »
6. When we examine the light thrown upon this subject by the New Testament, it is evident that the immortality of the soul, and the belief of its un-ending existence in happiness or misery, had a considerable influence upon the conduct and hopes of the saints in the first ages of the Christian Church. We find both Christ and his Apostles constantly directing their hearers to the writings of the Old Testament, in order to demonstrate that the doctrines of the immortality. of the soul, and of future retribution, were so clearly made known to them, that even a messenger from the invisible world could not have given them a stronger conviction of their reality, than they were able to derive from those sources of knowledge of which they were already in possession. The reply made by Abraham to the rich man in hell, who entreated that Lazarus might be sent to warn his brethren of the danger of persisting in sin, proves the truth of our affirmation respecting the ancient Church: "If they hear not Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead."
Christ reproved the Disciples as they were going to Emmaus, because they did not give full credit to the predictions of the Old Testament, respecting his death, resurrection, and subsequent glory, and all those points which involved the certainty of the eternal world. "O fools," said he," and slow of heart to believe all the Prophets have spoken! Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into glory? And, beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, he expounded to them, in all the Scriptures, the things concerning himself."
When our Lord argued with the Pharisees in vindication of the resurrection, he declared, that the hib. xxiv. 25, 28.
"Luke xvi. 31.
righteous will not be confined for ever in the grave, but shall rise again to inherit iminortal bliss:" As touching the dead, that they rise; have ye not read in the book of Moses, how, in the bush, God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living'.
Moreover, it is clear the Patriarchs and Prophets cordially believed what they delivered to others concerning this matter; because they acted agreeably to the testimony which they bare. It is recorded, that, "by faith, Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the 'world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith. By faith, Abraham sojourned in the Land of Promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he looked for a city which hath foundations; whose builder and maker is God. By faith, Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward. By faith, he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is invisible. These all: died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off; and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.' There are several positive declarations of our Mark xii. 25-27. ii Heb. xi. 7-28.
Saviour in the New Testament, which enforce the same doctrine. We can but lay a few of them before the reader.--" This is the will of Him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day." "Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that heareth my word, and believeth on Him that sent me, hath everlasting life; and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life'."
St. Paul, in his address to the Corinthian Church, confirms the sentiment, in the most sublime language:“Behold, I shew you a mystery: we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So, when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory". The following passages of Sacred Writ, which may be referred to, shew that the doctrine of the soul's immortality is laid open with great clearness by the inspired penmen of the New Testament, who speak of it as the joy and consolation of Christians mm
7. Nor does the light of reason, in its legitimate exercise, refuse its testimony to the truth; which though not requisite to establish the point, nevertheless leads us to expect the immortality of the soul. If reason be used in subservience to faith, not as a * John vi. 40. 1ib. v. 24. m 1 Cor. xv. 51-55. um John v. 29. xi. 23-27.
perfect guide, but as an auxiliary in the present inquiry, its friendly aid should neither be undervalued, nor kept out of sight.
8. Reason, then, would infer the immortality of the soul, from its nature and immense value. The soul is that part of us which alone deserves to be considered as especially entering into our ideas of man. The body is entirely governed and animated by its agency. Let but the mind desert its habitation, and the body immediately becomes a lifeless corpse, devoid of all power, thought, or motion.
But the soul survives; and its faculties are vigorous when it is separated from its former companion. The mind, when enlightened by the Spirit of Truth, enables us to contemplate the works of God, to make some discoveries relative to his Divine nature, and the mode of acceptance with Him through Christ our Mediator, and to render him acceptable service. Can it be supposed that such faculties were given with no other design than just to raise in us desires after heaven; and then to disappoint our expectations, by their being buried in the grave of oblivion? Such an opinion is quite contrary to all our notions of God, who proposes, by all his works, some object which is worthy of himself. Can the mind, then, be endowed with the noblest powers in vain? No: if duly improved by grace here, they will find full exercise and gratification hereafter, in contemplating the infinite glory and wisdom of God, who gave them.
9. The fitness of good men for so exalted a condition is no mean argument for indulging the expectation, that immortality will crown their pious labours. Heaven is the recompence with which God is pleased, in mercy, to reward the faith and obedience of his
devoted servants. But the present life is obviously nothing but a school of trial and probation, and preparation for eternity; in which, through a right discipline, men may acquire those holy dispositions, which will qualify them to love and to serve God more perfectly, in another state of existence, beyond the grave.
Now, is it likely that Jehovah would assist his rational creatures in making such great advances towards a state of perfection, if he intended they should never attain it-never arrive at the object of all their exertions? Would he present the cup of eternal bliss, and then instantly tantalize his servants, by dashing it away, untasted, from their lips? No: it is much more agreeable to every dictate of reason, to conclude, that they, who have been favoured in this life with manifestations of His love, will experience higher demonstrations of it in that world of glory, where God unveils his face, and smiles with complacency on his beloved children.
10. The great design of man's creation warrants a hope of his immortality. He was formed to worship and honour God here, and enjoy him eternally hereafter. Surely, then, God, who does nothing in vain, did not impress on man his own image and likeness on purpose to destroy his remembrance almost as soon as he is born: which must be the case with a large portion of the human race who die in infancy, if they do not rise from the grave, and exist in a future state. Reason conducts the mind to a far different conclusion; and points out man as the only being in the world who is the rightful heir of immortality. But if the memorial of those who die prematurely is to perish with them in the grave, then are they more short-lived and frail than most other ani