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John v. 28. Therefore, be it known unto thee, O Death, thou king of terrors, that though we cannot now resist thy power nor escape thy arrest, yet we do not surrender ourselves to thee as helpless, irredeemable prisoners. We shall yet burst thy bonds, and obtain the victory over thee. And when we commit the dust of our friends or our own to thee, O grave, know, it is a trust deposited in thy custody, to be faithfully kept till called for by Him who was once a prisoner in thy territories, but regained his liber. ty, and triumphed over thee, and put that song of victory into the mouths of all his followers, O death, where is thy sting ? O grave, where is thy victory? I Cor. xv. 55.
As for the immortality of the soul, christian philosophers find it no difficulty to establish it upon the plain principles of reason. Their arguments are such as these ; and I think they are conclusive : That the soul is an immaterial substance, and therefore cannot perish by dissolution, like the body ; that the soul is a substance distinct from the body, and therefore the dissolution of the body has no more tendency to destroy the soul, than the breaking of a cage to destroy the bird enclosed in it ; that God has implanted in the soul the innate desire of immortality ; and that as the tendencies of nature in other instances and in other creatures are not in vain, this innate desire is an indication that he intended it for an immortal duration ; that, as God is the moral Governor of the rational world, there must be rewards and punishments, and therefore there must be a future state of retribution ; for we see mankind are now under a promiscuous providence, and generally are not dealt with according to their works ; and if there be a future state of retribution, the soul must live in a future state, otherwise it could not be the subject of rewards and punishments. These and the like topics of argument have been improved by the friends of immortality, to prove that important doctrine beyond all reasonable suspicion. And because these arguments from reason seem sufficient, some would conclude that we are not at all obliged to the christian revelation in this respect. But it should be considered, that those are not the arguments of the populace, the bulk of mankind, but of a few philosophic studious
But as immortality is the prerogative of all mankind, of the ignorant and illiterate, as well as of the wise and learned, all mankind, of all ranks of understanding, are equally concerned in the doctrine of immortality ; and therefore a common revelation was necessary, which would teach the ploughman and mechanic, as well as the philosopher, that he was formed for an immortal existence, and consequently that it is his grand concern to fit himself for a happiness beyond the grave, as lasting as his nature. Now, it is the gospel alone that makes this important discovery plain and obvious to all. It must also be considered, that men may be able to demonstrate a truth when the hint is but once given, which they would never have discovered, nor perhaps suspected, without that hint. So, when the gospel of Christ has brought immortality to light, our christian philosophers may support it with arguments from reason ; but had they been destitute of this additional light, they would have been lost in perplexity and uncertainty, or at best have een advanced to no farther than plausible or probable conjectures. Persons may be assisted in their searches by the light of revelation ; but, being accustomed to it, they may mistake it for the light of their own reason ; or they may not be so honest and humble as to acknowledge the as. sistance they have received. The surest way to know what mere unassisted reason can do, is to inquire what it has actually done in those sages of the heathen world, who had no other guide, and in whom it was carried to the highest degree of improvement. Now we find, in fact, that though some philosophers had plausibilities and presumptions, that their souls should exist after the dissolution of their bodies, yet that they rather supposed, or wished, or thought it probable, than firmly believed it upon good evidence. The Socrateses, the Platos, and the Ciceros, of Greece and Rome, after all their searches, were more perplexed on this point, than a plain common christian of the smallest intellectual improvements in our land of evangelical light. Whoever reads their writings upon this subject, will find, when they draw their conclusion of the soul's existence after death, it is often from extravagant and chimerical premises ; such as the pre-existence of human souls, their successive transmigrations from body to body, their being literally particles of the Deity, whom they supposed to be the Anima Mundi, the universal soul of the world, &c. All these premises want the support of proper evidence ; and some of them are directly subversive of the proper notion of a future state, as a state of rewards and punishments. Sometimes indeed they seem to reason from better principles ; but then they still besitate about the conclusion, and fluctuate between the presumptions for it, and the objections against it. Socrates was confessodly the brightest character in the heathen world, and seemed to have the fairest claim of any among them to the honour of a martyr for the cause of truth and virtue ; and yet, even he, when making his defence before his judges, speaks in the language of uncertainty and perplexity. “Death," says he," either reduces us to nothing, and entirely destroys all sense and consciousness ; or, as some say, it conveys us from this world into some other region.” Thus, standing on the brink of eternity, he was not assured whether he was not about to leap into the hideous gulf of annihilation, or to pass into some vital region replete with inhabitants. When he was condemned, his last words to the court were these ; " It is time for us to part ; I, that I may suffer death ; and you, that you may enjoy life ; but which of us has the happier lot, is known only to God” Poor honest Socrates ! how happy hạdst thou been hadst thou but enjoyed one glimmering of that heavenly light which multitudes among us despise! My brethren, let us be thankful for our superior advantages, and let us prize and improve that precious gospel, which gives us full information in this important point, and renders the meanest christian wiser, in this respect, than Socrates himself.
My present design is not to propose arguments for the conviction of your judgments, which I hope you do not so much need ; but I shall give you some idea of immortality, in both the senses I have mentioned, and then improve it.
Let us first look through the wastes and glooms of death and the grave to the glorious dreadful morning of the resurrection. At the all-alarming clangour of the last trumpet, Adam, and the sleeping millions of his posterity, start into sudden life. The hour is coming, in which all that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of Man, and shall come forth; they that have done good to the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil to the resurrection of damnation. John v. 28.
Then, my brethren, your dust and mine shall be organized, and re-animated ; and though after our skin worms destroy these bodies, yet in our flesh shall we see God. Job xix. 26. Then this corruptible shall put on incorruption, and this mortal shall put on immortality. I Cor. xv. 53.
And may not the prospect alarm us, and set us upon earnest preparation for these important scenes ? Shall we take so much care of our bodies in this mortal state, where, after all our care, they must soon fall to dust, and become the prey of worms, and
shall we take no care that they may have a happy and glorious resurrection! What does it signify how they are fed or dressed, while they are only fattening for worms, and the ornaments of dress may be our winding-sheet? What does this signify, in comparison with their doom at the great rising day, and their state through eternity ? My brethren, you must not let sin reign in your mortal bodies now, that you should obey it in the lusts thereof, if you would have them raised holy and happy in that awful morning; but you must consecrate your bodies, and keep them holy as the temples of the Holy Ghost ; and yield your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. Can you flatter yourselves that bodies polluted with filthy lusts and sensual gratifications shall ever be admitted into the regions of perfect purity ? It would be an unnatural element to such depraved constitutions. Shall those feet ever walk the crystal pavement of the New Jeru. salem, which have been accustomed to run into the foul paths of sin ? Shall those tongues ever join the songs of heaven, which have been oftener employed in swearing and imprecation, the language of hell, than in prayer and praise ? Shall those ears ev. er be charmed with celestial music, which have not listened with pleasure and eagerness to the joyful sound of the gospel, but were entertained with the song of drunkards, the loud unthinking laugh, and the impure jest ? Are those knees likely to bow in delightful homage before the throne of God and the Lamb on high, which have not been used to the posture of petitioners at the throne of grace on earth ? Are those members likely to be the instruments of an heavenly spirit, in the exercises of that blessed state, which have not been “instruments of righteousness unto holiness” in this state of trial and discipline ? No, my brethren, this is not at all probable, even to a superficial in quirer ; and to one that thinks deeply, and consults right reason and the sacred scriptures, this appears utterly impossible. Therefore take warning in time. Methinks this consideration might have some weight, even with epicures and sensualists, who consider themselves as mere animals, and make it their only concern to provide for and gratify the flesh. Unless you be religious now, unless you now deny yourselves of your guilty pleasures, not only your soul, that neglected, disregarded trifle, must perish; but your body, your dear body, your only care, must be wretched too ; your body must be hungry, thirsty, pained, tortured, hideously deformed, a mere system of pain and loathsomeness. But if you now keep
your bodies pure, and serve God with them, and with your spirits too, they will bloom forever in the charms of celestial beauty ; they will flourish in immortal youth and vigour! they will forever be the receptacles of the most exquisite sensations of pleasure. And will you not deny yourselves the sordid pleasures of a
years, for the sake of those of a blessed immortality ?
But let me give you a view of immortality of a more noble kind, the proper immortality of the soul. And here, what an extensive and illustrious prospect opens before us! look a little way backward, and your sight is lost in the darkness of non-existence. A few years ago you were nothing. But at the creative fiat of the Almighty, that little spark of being, the soul, was struck out of nothing; and now it warms your breast, and animates the machine of flesh. But shall this glimmering spark, this divine particula aure, ever be extinguished ? No ; it will survive the ruins of the universe, and blaze out into immortality : it will be coeval with the angels, the natives of heaven, and the Indigenæ, the original inhabitants of the world of spirits; nay with the great Father of spirits himself. The duration of your souls will run on from it3 first commencement, in parallel lines with the existence of the Deity. What an inheritance is this entailed upon the child of dust, the creature of yesterday! Here let us pause, make a stand,--and take a survey of this majestic prospect! This body must soon moulder into dust, but the soul will live unhurt, untouched, amid all the dissolving struggles and convulsions of animal nature. These heavens shall pass away with a great noise ; these elements shall melt with fervent heat ; the earth, and the things that are therein, shall be burnt up ; 2 Pet. iii. 10. but this soul shall live secure of existence in the universal desolation ;
" Unhurt amidst the war of elements,
The wrecks of matter, and the crush of worlds."
And now, when the present system of things is dissolved, and time shall be no more, eternity, boundless eternity, succeeds ; and on this the soul enters as on its proper hereditary duration. Now look forward as far as you will, your eyes meet with no obstruction, with nothing but the immensity of the prospect : in that, indeed, it is lost, as extending infinitely beyond its ken. Come, attempt this arithmetic of infinits, and exhaust the power of numbers : let millions of millions of ages begin the vast com