« AnteriorContinuar »
CONTENTS OF VOL. XVIII.
An Inquiry into the Nature of Death .
Concerning Matthew xxv. 46. .
Divine Side of the Question
Ephraim the Syrian
Immutability of Divine Designs
Job's Faith in a Fature Life
Man of Sin and Mystic Number
Notes from the Dominion
Revelation and Its Evidences
Reasons for Regarding the Peshito as Apostolic
When will the Age Close ?
THE RAINBOW: J Magazine of Christian Literature, with Special Reference to the
Bebealed future of tặe Church and tige World.
THE CLOUD OF WITNESSES. WE E are not surprised at the questions put to us. We invited
them from honest querists years ago. By honest querists of course we meant persons who did not wish to cavil, but to examine and weigh evidence, as those who are really in earnest always do. At the beginning of another year, whilst wishing grace and blessing to our friends, we repeat the invitation, and shall be glad to answer, or say we cannot, as the case may be, under the modest head of “Notices." We understand that these notices are valued, and that the answers we have been enabled to give have been helpful to our readers, or to those of them who needed only & hint to indicate the line of thought required by the subject. Sometimes those answers have been too brief from the necessity of condensation ; but then, those who read the RAINBOW will understand the compliment paid to their intelligence by such condensation. The adage, “A word to the wise,” has not lost its pith, old as it is.
Sometimes, however, we are asked questions which cannot be answered by the summary process, because they cover a wide field of thought and touch doctrines of vast importance. Here, for example, is one, often put to us, which must have a brief paper instead of a paragraph : “ Are not the great cloud of witnesses
" spoken of in Hebrews xii. 1, the disembodied souls of the saints, named in the previous chapter, looking down upon us from heaven as the witnesses of our conduct in the Christian race ?”
Of course our answer would be, “No, decidedly and emphatically, no !" But this, though a true answer, is too short to give satisfaction. It is a bald negative, and affords no helpful reason to the honest inquirer why he should give up the notion that the souls of the Hebrew heroes are looking down from heaven upon the conduct of Christians striving to be faithful in the midst of trials. We shall, therefore, as concisely as is compatible with clearness, state our reasons for the negative answer that we have assumed to be correct.
1. We have no authority from Scripture for the use of the term “ disembodied souls.” We should not, however, ask for the ipsissima verba, the identical words, if the idea they convey were found in the Bible in any other words; but it is not. The conception of conscious souls, that once animated men, thinking, acting, speaking, watching, is common to paganism, to fiction, to poetry and theology; but holy men of God, speaking as they were moved by the Holy Spirit, never allude to it in word or thought. But surely if the idea is in harmony with truth, if it represents an existing reality, the inspired writers were the men to tell us so. They are our guides in all matters respecting the unseen, and if they have told us nothing about disembodied souls, it is a proof of loyalty on our part to the voice of Scripture to believe that they had nothing to tell. It is true that some writers have lately speculated upon “ the silence of Scripture," and have imagined it a rich mine for doctrines of which the Scripture says nothing. Of course if you make silence an oracle, forgetting the absurdity in your eagerness to establish a theory, you may teach anything; but where is the authority that makes the theory binding? Make silence a revelation, and the demand upon credulity will be enormous. But this eccentric whim must be taken for what it is worth, and that is-nothing.
The word soul, or souls, occurs in the Bible five hundred times, and in this vast number of instances there are only two that can possibly suggest the idea of intelligent existence apart from the body, and on examination the suggestion is seen to be merely superficial, the passages being highly symbolical, whilst the actual doctrine at the heart of the symbol strengthens the position that we have no authority in Scripture for the use of the term " disembodied souls."
2. The eleventh of Hebrews opens by telling us that "faith is the confidence of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,' and closes by saying, “ These all having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise; God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect." These two sentences make it quite certain that the next
” sentence (xii. 1) cannot possibly bear the interpretation of human souls in heaven witnessing the conduct of men upon the earth. Besides, resurrection runs through the chapter as the hope of these Hebrew saints, and not the rapture of their souls to heaven with all their faculties of thought and observation complete. No doubt you will find this doctrine in ecclesiastical creeds and catechisms, poisoned by the leaven of an unsuspected paganism, but the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews and his illustrious countrymen whom he places in his picture gallery, knew nothing of it. These brave men witnessed for God; but who witnessed their fidelity to conviction, their loyalty to revealed truth, their consecration to God ?
3. The answer is, Their enemies, persecutors, murderers.