Imagens da página
PDF
ePub

it has done; and through faith alone are our minds capable of entertaining what has been so compassionately revealed to us. But, whilst we acknowledge the magnitude of our obligation to the gospel, for having brought “ life and immortality to light,” I

materialist, when we attempt to consider man otherwise than as a compound being. We have no cognizance of incorporeal spirit; and that great and good man, Bishop Butler, laid his argument open to fair objection, in presuming, what is contrary to correct observation, that the human mind has been known to exhibit its powers amidst every injury to which the body is liable, short of the total destruction of this our earthly tabernacle. No sound physiologist or pathologist will admit this, it being his well-founded conviction, that when the mind is clear under any partial destruction of the body, or as often happens, at the hour of death, its organ, the brain, or that portion of it subservient to the intellectual faculties, has sustained no injury. And since the Scriptures ha declared man to be a compound of body and soul, I do not see why we should be so anxious to inquire to what extent either may be independent of the other. We read of the spirits of just men made perfect, and we have some intimations of an intermediate state between the grave and the resurrection, but no precise information whatever has been afforded us upon this mysterious subject. Even the favoured apostle, St. Paul, tells us, respecting one of his visions, that he knew not whether he was in the body or out of the body; and our blessed Saviour himself, during his re-appearance on earth, thought it fit, and therefore we must presume necessary, to resume his robe of flesh. Have not the inspired apostles, one and all, whilst they assert the soul's immortality, spoken of death as sleep, and of the resurrection of the body from the grave as no other than its awakening from the sleep of death? I am aware that this view of the subject, strictly scriptural as it is, has appeared to some revolting and gloomy, from their connecting the sleep of death with absolute annihilation. But surely, when we contemplate the nothingness of time in comparison with eternity, and as a necessary inference, the inappreciable difference between the oblivion of a single night's rest, and that of this world's duration, we shall see no reason for despondency; knowing, as we do from revelation, the only certain source of such knowledge, that the period must arrive when our souls and bodies shall be re-united, when “this mortal shall put on immortality,” and when the righteous, who shall awake up after their Redeemer's likeness, shall be satisfied with it.

agree most entirely with Coleridge, that the characteristic feature of the Christian dispensation is the doctrine of the atonement. This it is that gives to the whole Bible its inestimable value and perfect consistency, pervading, as this stupendous mystery does, its every page, and becoming brighter and brighter, till we arrive at the completion of all the types and prophecies of the Old Testament, in the all-sufficient sacrifice of our blessed Redeemer on the cross at Calvary.

“Most readily do I admit,” Coleridge exclaims, “most fervently do I contend, that the miracles worked by Christ, both as miracles and as fulfilments of prophecy, both as signs and as wonders, made plain discovery, and gave unquestionable proof, of his divine character and authority ; that they were to the whole Jewish nation true and appropriate evidences, that He was indeed come, who had promised and declared to their forefathers, Behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence! he will come and save you !' (Isaiah, xxxv. 4. compared with Matthew, x. 34, and Luke, xii. 49.) I receive them as proofs, therefore, of the truth of every word which he taught, who was himself The Word; and as sure evidences of the final victory over death, and of the life to come, in that they were manifestations of Him who said, "I am the resurrection and the life !!” But he is severely opposed to writers, who make the doctrine of the soul's immortality, and of the resurrection of the dead, the main objects of the Christian revelation.

“Such a belief,” he says, “may be perfectly in character for those who, while Socinianism and ultraSocinianism are spreading like the roots of an elm, on and just below the surface, through the whole land, and here and there at least have even dipped under the garden-fence of the church, and blunt the edge of the labourer's spade in the gayest parterres of our Baal-hamon (Sol. Song, viii. 11.), who, while heresies, to which the framers and compilers of our liturgy, homilies, and articles, would have refused the very name of Christianity, meet their eyes on the list of religious denominations for every city and large town throughout the kingdom-can yet congratulate themselves with Dr. Paley (in his · Evidences,') that 'the rent has not reached the foundation, i, e. that the corruption of man's will, that the responsibility of man in any sense in which it is not equally predicable of dogs and horses that the divinity of our Lord, and even his pre-existence—that sin and redemption through the merits of Christ, and grace, and the especial aids of the Spirit, and the efficacy of prayer, and the subsistency of the Holy Ghost, may all be extruded without breach or rent in the essentials of Christian faith! that a man may deny and renounce them all, and remain a fundamental Christian notwithstanding !

And, taking refuge,' as he terms it, under the ample shield of Bishop Jeremy Taylor,' he contends for the universality of the persuasion in a life to come. *

" But, besides that our Saviour himself appeals to Scripture for the truth of the doctrine, when, in confutation of the Sadducees, he asks them as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living' (Matt. xxii. 32.); it is certain, that even the most enlightened heathens, not excepting Socrates himself, wanted further light on this subject. . “Cicero may have had good reason for concluding,

* The public have lately been favoured with a prodigious deal of discussion relative to the point in question—the universality, namely, of the persuasion in a life to come-and, as inseparably connected therewith, the obligations of natural religion. But, as far as I am able to judge, they only tend furtherto show that, however busy conjecture may have been, the future and higher destinies of mankind were involved in considerable doubt until the “ Day-spring from on high” arose upon the world ; and that however grateful we ought to be for every light reflected from the book of nature on the revealed word (and the more accurate our acquaintance is with the former, the more ready shall we be to bow with humility to the latter), yet that, in matters connected with our eternal interests, the moment we quit the guidance of revelation, we plunge into a sea of difficulties.

Experience moreover shows, that conscience is a faculty of the soul, and not an instinct, and that its decisions are under the direction of reason, which itself is but another faculty of each individual soul of man, having no other test of the security of its decisions than that which is derived from feelings and conduct corresponding with the written commandments of God.

Whatever therefore may have been, or now may be, the law of the heathen world, we, as Christians, have reason to exclaim with fervour “ Thanks be to God who hath given us the victory, through Jesus Christ our Lord !"

that there is a time and place after this life, wherein the wicked shall be punished, and the virtuous rewarded ; when he considered that Orpheus and Socrates, and how many others, just men and benefactors of mankind, were either slain or oppressed to death by evil men (compare Heb. xi. 36-39.); · And all these received not the promise. •But, when virtue, Jeremy Taylor proceeds to say, 'made men poor ; and free-speaking of brave truths made the wise to lose their liberty ; when an excellent life hastened an opprobrious death, and the obeying reason and our conscience lost us our lives, or at least all the means and conditions of enjoying them ; it was but time to look about for another state of things, where justice should rule, and virtue find her own portion. And, therefore, men cast out every line, and turned every stone, and tried every argument, and sometimes proved it well, and when they did not, yet they believed strongly;' and then he adds, what to me appears to be pure hyperbole, They were sure of the thing, even when they were not sure of the argument.'”—(Sermon at the funeral of Sir George Dalston, 28th September, 1657). But admitting, as we must, that “ Christ was the first fruits of them that slept,” and that through Him alone were “ life and immortality brought to light,” satisfactorily to the inquiring mind; yet the knowledge of an hereafter can only be considered as an essential article of the

« AnteriorContinuar »