« VorigeDoorgaan »
ries which never could be made by the senses, so Revelation unfolds to the believing mind, truths of infinite importance, which must have remained for ever hid from mere human reason. Without this source of intelligence, we are shut up in darkness. The philosopher may be as ignorant as the barbarian. With the refinements of civilized life, with the discoveries of science open to his view, he may be even more destitute of knowledge in Divine things, than the Indian, the Hottentot, or the Hindoo. In all nations, and in all ages, "there is” and has been "a Spirit in man and the Inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding." Job. xxxii. 8. As thus the capacity and the intelligence are received, we cannot contemplate the stupendous works of nature, or consider the order and harmony displayed in the visible creation, without feeling the concurrent testimony of nature and of reason, to the being of a God-his wisdom, goodness, power, and providence. Thus the apostle, speaking with reference to the Gentiles, says; "For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his Eternal Power and Godhead ; so that they are without excuse." Rom. i. 20.
Finding ourselves placed in the vast repository of His works, made subservient to our wants, and promotive of our comfort; conscious too of a mind, rising above the material world, to its invisible and incomprehensible Author, we see much to impress the obligations of gratitude, love, and adoration, which are his due from us. Feeling these obligations, and, on looking around in the world, being able to find, not Him, but only the evidences that He is, we see the necessity of that com
munion with Him, by which we can become acquainted with his will, be enabled to perform it, and receive the consolation of his immediate approbation. Nor can we question the possibility of such a communion, between God, who is a Spirit, and the soul of man, that is a spirit also.
Beings, capable of such communion with the Deity, brought up into converse with Him, and leavened into his Divine nature, must be designed for more than momentary existence. It cannot be supposed, that the soul which has been raised to this participation of the Divine nature, and which still, in humble hope and animating love, clings to its Father and its God, will, after a few fleeting moments, be cast out into utter annihilation. No principle of reason would lead to such a conclusion. And here, in the reflection on the weight of obligation we are under, the blessings we have received, and the high privileges conferred upon us, we must acknowledge "the exceeding sinfulness of sin." And while the mind looks, with a joyful assent, to an eternity of happiness, it cannot deny, however awful the idea, the possibility of an eternity, in a state of separation from the Divine presence.
Henry Tuke, in his "Principles of Religion,” p. 17, says; "But notwithstanding these and other arguments which might be adduced, in support of those two first principles of religion, (the belief in God, and a future state,) the soul seems most fully to rest upon and enjoy them, when they are felt as objects of faith, rather than of reason. They then become like self-evident truths, for which our own feelings are the best support, and which act in concert with that declaration; Without
faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.' Heb. xi. 6. And we ought ever to remember, after all our reasonings on these subjects, that life and immortality are brought to light by the Gospel.'"
The Immortality of the Soul, and the Resurrection both of the just and the unjust, are the standing doctrines of the New Testament; and these doctrines, as set forth in the Scriptures, we firmly believe. In these Sacred Writings we are informed, that "the dust" shall return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it." Eccles. xii. 7: for "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption." 1 Cor. xv. 50. The apostle Paul, in speaking on this subject, in the same chap. ver. 35, says; "But...some will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?" To this he replies: "Thou fool!"-a merited reproof to those who are curiously endeavouring to be wise beyond what is revealed. Without answering the question in direct terms, the apostle brings into view the germinating process of grain, that is sown in the earth: "Thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain." ver. 37. And this same bare grain, we know, never rises. But the vegetative principle which it contains, becomes evolved the new plant springs up the body of the original grain undergoes a decomposition, and again passes into its first elements. Thus also the apostle tells us, that "God giveth it a body as it hath pleased Him.” ver. 38. "So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: it is
sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body." ver. 42-44. (Or, as William Penn, on the authority of Beza, tells us it should be translated, "a natural body is sown; a spiritual body is raised.") "There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body." 1 Cor. xv. 44. Thus, with the apostle, we believe in the Resurrection of a spiritual body. What that body is, or is to be, we leave to Him who will give it, as it shall please Him.
And as, in a future state of existence, we shall be spiritual beings, so we believe our habitations will be adapted to our condition.
That there should be habitations for spiritual beings, is not more mysterious than that spirits should be connected with matter. And yet we know such a connexion does exist between the soul and body.
We are aware that there are many wild, speculative opinions, as well as gross ideas, respecting the habitation of the soul after death. Some may be so weak and low in their conceptions, as to imagine that the metaphors, by which invisible things are illustrated by visible, are to, be taken literally, and thus fancy to themselves material beings and places: while others, more philo. sophically, as they suppose, refine away every thing, till realities are called in question. The Society of Friends are not chargeable with either of these extremes. As, on the one hand, they never went into the low and gross ideas that have been suggested; so, on the other, when they have been charged with denying any heaven or hell but what was within them, they have positively denied the charge, declaring it "a downright falsehood,
and gross calumny." (Vide Barclay's Works, fol. ed. p.
The Divine Master, in order to comfort his immediate followers, told them; "In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. go to prepare a place for you." John xiv. 2. What or where this place may be, is not our business to enquire with curious and vain philosophical speculation. To those who indulge in such speculations, the reproof of the apostle, "Thou fool!" will as properly apply, as in the case of the query, "How are the dead raised up, and with what body do they come ?" For, if it belongs to God to give it a body as it hath pleased Him, so it belongs to Him only to prepare a place for us, according to his own inscrutable wisdom.
Before I close this subject, it seems proper to remark, that the Society have always considered it improper, to indulge in speculation on subjects connected with religion, which Divine Goodness has not seen fit to reveal: for "The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed, belong unto us and to our children." Deut. xxix. 29. A fondness to become wise in things not necessary to be known, very early obtained admission into the human mind, and still forms a prominent trait in the character of the natural man. But the humble Christian, instead of dwelling on the enquiry of the how, the what, and the where, can repose in confidence, that when he shall have passed the time of his probation here, he may commit his spirit into the hands of a faithful Creator.
We are placed, in this life, in a state of probation; and, though that probation will soon pass over, yet the