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the inconsistencies of Plato, Aristotle, or Tully, is not available against the united voice of all mankind.
The common belief and persuasion of mankind shown to be the foundation of all inquiry into this natural evidence of immortality ; inquiry did not lead men originally to the train of evidence. The belief and persuasion of a future life would arise from the common sense that men have of good and evil, and their natural apprehension of accountableness attached to their actions, of which account is not taken in this world. Such an internal, heartfelt argument as this, has greater weight than all the reasonings of philosophy. Error of those explained who imagine that the notion of a future life originated in the descriptions of poets. We might as soon suppose that eating and drinking had the same origin, and that men would never have thought of it but for the fine entertainments described by such writers. The poets corrupted the genuine sentiments of nature by the wild conceits of folly and superstition; but still the root was natural, though the fruit was strange. Moreover an expectation of rewards and punishments prevailed where the fables of Greece
Belief of immortality, then, originated neither with poets nor philosophers, though both parties finding it common principle among mankind, built their theories on this foundation. How far any of these inquirers succeeded in their attempts, is another question : natural evidence is prior to their investigations. Infidelity in fact is coeval with and caused by philosophy: doubts did not arise till men began to search for physical reasons for the soul's immortality: the subject enlarged on : speculations of ancient philosophers : the opinions of Plato and Cicero opposed to the doctrine of the corporealists: this brought the controversy to turn on the nature of the soul; and the belief of immortality either prevailed or declined, according as men conceived of the soul's natural dignity and power : hence we may judge of the difficulties attending the cause of immortality on the footing of natural religion : these difficulties enlarged on: another also remains, that no notion of immorta
lity, as regards the soul unconnected with the body, can serve the end of religion, because it is one which the generality of mankind never can arrive at: abstract metaphysical notions are above the comprehension of the vulgar. Herein nature seems deficient and unable to support the hopes of inmortality which she gives to her children : the expectation of the vulgar that they shall live again and be just the same flesh and blood, is justified by no principles of reason or nature; whilst the philosophic idea that the intellectual soul shall be the whole man, is not the common sense of nature, and therefore no part of natural religion. Inquiry how nature comes to be defective on so material a point: sacred history alone clears up the fact : immortality was the original condition of the creation, and death came by surprise on nature : on the original plan of nature, the common notion of immortality was the true one; for take death out of the question, which is the only separation of body and soul we know of, and there is no pretence for distinguishing between the man and the intellectual mind. The vulgar retained the true original notion of nature ; but when the original state of nature was lost, the notion grew absurd ; and thus the coming in of death obscured the hopes of immortality.
If we consider how our Saviour has enlightened this doctrine, it will appear that he has removed the difficulty at which nature stumbled. As death was no part of the state of nature, so the difficulties arising from it were not provided for in the religion of nature : to remove these was the proper work of revelation, which Christ has done by his gospel; for this shows us that the body and spirit may, and shall be, re-united before his judgment seat: this is stated in the words preceding the text: now if the abolishing of death was the bringing to light life and immortality, the coming in of death must have been that which so darkened nature. Conclusion : two things, as we learn from our Saviour's answer to the Sadducees (Mat. xxii. 29.), necessary to confirm us in the belief of a resurrection ; viz., knowlege of the
power of God, and of the will of God.
II TIMOTHY, CHAP.-I. VERSE 10.
- And hath brought life and immortality to light through the
These words being spoken of our blessed Saviour, and affirming that he through the gospel brought life and immortality to light, are thought by some to be exclusive of all arguments for a future immortality, drawn either from the light of reason and nature, or from the writings of Moses : for if the hopes of immortality were so supported before the coming of Christ Jesus, it could not be truly asserted of him, 'that he brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.' And so far at least they must be allowed to argue justly, that, if the text is to be understood in this exclusive sense, it will affect the proofs and authorities of any former revelation
sually with those of sense and reason. But then, on the other side, it is certain that, if this argument does not impeach the authority of Moses with regard to this fundamental article of faith, neither will it shut out the proofs of natural religion ; since it must destroy the evidence of both or of neither. Now, that it does not set aside the authority of Moses, is evident from our Saviour's argument to the Sadducees : • Now that the dead are raised, even Moses showed at the bush, when he calleth the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob;' Luke xx. 37. From whence it appears that our Saviour thought the law of Moses afforded good proof of a future life; which is inconsistent with the supposition that there was no evidence for life and immortality till the publication of the gospel.
But, supposing Moses or the law of nature to afford evidence for a future life and immortality, it remains to be considered in what sense the words of the text are to be understood, which do
affirm that life and immortality were brought to light through the gospel.' To bring any thing to light may signify, according to the idiom of the English tongue, to discover or reveal a thing which was perfectly unknown before : but the word in the original is so far from countenancing, that it will hardly admit of this sense.
The Greek runs thus : φωτίσαντος δε ζωήν και αφHapoiar. Now qurízely signifies (not to bring to light, but) to enlighten, illustrate, or clear up any thing. judge by the use of the word in other places: it is used in John i. 9. • That was the true light, which lighteth (or enlighteneth) every man that cometh into the world :' ở pwτίζει πάντα άνθρωπον. Jesus Christ did not by coming into the world bring men to light; but he did by the gospel enlighten men, and make those who were dark and ignorant before, wise even to salvation. In like manner our Lord did enlighten the doctrine of life and immortality, not by giving the first or only notice of it, but by clearing up the doubts and difficulties under which it labored, and giving a better evidence for the truth and certainty of it, than nature or any revelation before had done. There is one place more, where our translators render the original word as they have done in the text: 1 Cor. iv. 5.
Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts; and then shall every man have praise of God. But in this place it had been more properly rendered, who will cast light on’the bidden things of darkness; and so rendered, it better suits what follows, and will make manifest’ the counsels of the heart. The hidden things of darkness, which shall be brought to light at the coming of the Lord, are the actions and practices of wicked men; which, though they are of a certain and determinate nature, are yet hard to judge of, because we cannot discern the springs and motives from whence they arise : perfectly unknown to us they are not; if they were, there was no occasion for the Apostle to forbid us judging of them; for men do not, cannot judge at all of things which do not at all fall under their notice : but they are so dark and obscure, that it is hard to judge rightly of them; and therefore it is but prudent to suspend our sentence till the day comes which will make all things
clear, which will hold such a light to these hidden things of darkness, that we shall manifestly discern them, and be able to view them on every side. So that, in this case, the bidden things of darkness are not supposed to be perfectly unknown, but only to be so dark and involved, that we cannot safely pass our judgment on them; and to bring them to light' imports no more than to set them in a clear light, and to make them plain and manifest to the eyes of all the world. According to the use then of the original word, 'to bring life and immortality to light' signifies to illustrate and make plain this great doctrine of religion, to dispel the doubts and uncertainties in which it was involved, and to give evident proof and demonstration to the world of the certainty of a future life and immortality.
а The text, thus explained, leaves us at liberty to make the best both of the evidence of nature and of Moses for a future life and immortality, and asserts nothing to the gospel but this prerogative, that it has given a surer and fuller proof of this fundamental article than ever the world before was acquainted
The true point then now before us, and which takes in the whole view of the text, is, to consider the evidence which mankind had for the doctrine of immortality before the coming of Christ, and the evidence which the gospel now affords; and to show where the former evidence failed, and how it is supplied by the latter.
It would take up too much time to examine minutely the several arguments for the immortality of the soul, which are to be found in the writings of heathen authors; nor would it perhaps answer the purpose of our present inquiry: for the natural evidence in this case is not so much to be estimated by the acuteness of this or that writer, as by the common sense and apprehension of mankind : and this, and all other opinions which have any pretension to derive themselves from nature, owe their authority, not to the abstracted reasonings of any school, but to some general sense and notion which is found in all men, or to some common and uncontroverted maxim of rea
The unbelievers of this age have abused their time and pains in their endeavors to expose the natural evidence of immortality, by confronting the different sentiments of the ancient philosophers, and by showing their uncertainty and in