« ElőzőTovább »
habitation, it is plainly limited and confined in its operations. When it is let loose from that earthly house, it is brought forth into greater liberty. To illustrate this by an instance which may be conceived as analogous: let us suppose a person shut up in an apartment, where he saw light only through some small windows. If these windows were foul or dimmed, he would see less; if they were altogether darkened, he could see none at all. But were he let out from this confinement into the open air, he would be so far from being deprived of sight, that, though at first overpowered by a sudden glare, he would soon see around him much more completely than before. The senses are as so many windows, or apertures, through which the soul at present exercises its powers of perceptions. If the senses are disordered, the powers of the soul will be obstructed. But once separated from its earthly tenement, the soul will then exercise its powers without obstruction,-will act with greater liberty, and in a wider sphere.
In the next place, if the soul were to perish when the body dies, the state of man would be altogether unsuitable to the wisdom and perfection of the Author of his being. Man would be the only creature that would seem to have been made in vain. All the other works of God are contrived to answer exactly the purposes for which they were made. They are either incapable of knowledge at all; or, they know nothing higher than the state in which they are placed. Their powers are perfectly suited and adjusted to their condition. But it is not so with man. He has every appearance of being framed for something higher and greater than what he here attains. He sees the narrow bounds within which he is here confined; knows and laments all the imperfections of his present state. His thirst for knowledge, his desires of happiness, all stretch beyond his earthly station. He searches in vain for adequate objects to gratify him. His nature is perpetually tending and aspiring towards the enjoyment of some more complete felicity than this world can afford. In the midst of all his searches and aspirations, he is suddenly cut off. He is but of yester-. day, and to-morrow is gone. Often in the entrance-often in the bloom of life, when he had just begun to act his part, and to expand his powers, darkness is made to cover him. Can we believe, that, when this period is come, all is finally over with the best and the worthiest of mankind? Endowed with
so noble an apparatus of rational powers taught to form high views and enlarged desires, were they brought forth for no other purpose than to breathe this gross and impure air for a short space, and then to be cut off from all existence? All his other works, God hath made in weight, number, and measure;' the hand of the Almighty artificer every where appears. But on man, his chief work here below, he would, upon this supposition, appear to have bestowed no attention; and, after having erected a stately palace in this universe, framed with so much magnificence, and decorated with so much beauty, to have introduced man, in the guise of a neglected wanderer, to become its inhabitant.
Let us further consider the confused and promiscuous distribution of good and evil in this life. The enjoyments of the world, such as they are, are far from being always bestowed on the virtuous and the worthy. On the contrary, the bitterest portion is often their lot. In the midst of infirmities, diseases, and sorrows, they are left to drag their life, while ease and affluence are allowed to the ungodly. I must ask, if such an arrangement of things, owing to the ordination, or, at least, to the permission of providence, be consonant to any ideas we can form of the wisdom and goodness of a Supreme Ruler, on the supposition of there being no future state? But as soon as the immortality of the soul, and a state of future retribution are established, all difficulties vanish; the mystery is unravelled; supreme wisdom, justice, and goodness, are discovered to be only concealed for a little while behind the curtain. If that curtain were never to be withdrawn, and immortality never to appear, the ways of God would be utterly inexplicable to man. We should be obliged to conclude, that either a God did not exist; or, though he existed, that he was not possessed of such perfections as we now ascribe to him, if, when a worthy and pious man had spent his whole life in virtuous deeds, and perhaps had died a martyr to the cause of religion and truth, he should, after long and severe sufferings, perish finally, unrewarded and forgotten; no attention shown to him by the Almighty; no building of God' erected for him; no 'house eternal' prepared in the heavens !
These reasonings are much strengthened by the belief that has ever prevailed among mankind, of the soul's immortality. It is not an opinion that took its rise from the thin-spun spe
culations of some abstract philosophers. Never has any nation been discovered on the face of the earth, so rude and barbarous that, in midst of their wildest superstitions, there was not cherished among them some expectation of a state after death, in which the virtuous were to enjoy happiness. So universal a consent in this belief affords just ground to ascribe it to some innate principle, implanted by God in the human breast. Had it no foundation in truth, we must suppose that the Creator found it necessary, for the purposes of his government, to carry on a principle of universal deception among his rational subjects. Many of the strongest passions of our nature are made to have a clear reference to a future existence of the soul. The love of fame, the ardent concern which so often prevails about futurity, all allude to somewhat in which men suppose themselves to be personally concerned, after death. The consciences both of the good and the bad, bear witness to a world that is to come. Seldom do men leave this world without some fears or hopes respecting it; some secret anticipations and presages of what is hereafter to befal them.
But though the reasonings which have been adduced to prove the immortality of the soul and a future state, are certainly of great weight, yet reasonings still they are, and no more; and in every human reasoning, suspicions may arise of some fallacy or error. In a point so momentous to us, as our existence after death, we never could, with absolute certainty, and full satisfaction,' have rested on any evidence except what was confirmed by the declaration of God himself. For many and high blessings we are indebted to the Christian revelation ; for none more, than for its having brought life and immortality to light.' The revelations, made by God to the world in early ages, gave the first openings to this great article of faith and hope. In future periods the light dawned more and more; but it was not until the Sun of righteousness arose, by the appearance of Christ on earth, that the great discovery was completed. Then, indeed, were made known the city of the living God, the New Jerusalem' above, the mansions' prepared for the spirits of just men made perfect.' Nor was a state of future felicity only proclaimed by Christ and his apostles to good men, but was represented as purchased for them by the death of their Redeemer. I give,' he was authorised to say, unto my sheep eternal life. In my Father's
house are many mansions. I go to prepare a place for you.' [John x. 28. xiv. 2.] Accordingly, he lay down in the grave, rose as the first-fruits of them that slept;' and, ascending into heaven, entered there within the veil, as the forerunner' of his followers, to assure them of all being friendly and welldisposed towards them in those upper regions. All, therefore, who live and die in the faith and obedience of Jesus, are entitled to say, with the Apostle, we know ;' not only we hope and we reason, but we know, that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.'
The first and most natural improvement of all that has been said, is, to produce in our hearts the most lasting gratitude, love, and reverence, towards that great Benefactor of mankind, who not only hath made known and published the blessings of a future state to the righteous, but, by his great undertaking for their redemption, hath erected in their behalf the house eternal in the heavens.' The next improvement we should make, is, to conduct our own life and behaviour as becomes those, who have an interest in this happiness and this hope. From such persons, assuredly, is to be expected a pure, correct, and dignified behaviour in every situation; not a contempt of the employments, nor a renunciation of all the comforts, of their present life. Opinions that produce such effects, are connected only with the spirit of superstition and false religion. But to them it belongs, in the midst of the affairs, enticements, and temptations of the world, to regulate their conduct as becomes the heirs of a divine inheritance; never debasing themselves among what is mean, nor defiling themselves with what is corrupt in the present state; but serving God with that fidelity, and behaving to men with that steady magnanimity of virtue, that generous beneficence and humanity, which suit immortal beings, who are aspiring to rise in a future state to the perfection of their nature, in the presence of God.
[DR. HUGH BLAIR.]
1 COR. XV. 32.
A BODILY RESURRECTION.
-But some men will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?
[Text taken from the Second Evening Lesson for the Day.] 'How are the dead raised up, and with what bodies do they come? are questions that almost every one is ready to make; especially those, who love to cavil at religion. I shall, there fore, from these words, show, that the resurrection even of the very same body which died and was buried, implies nothing impossible or incredible: And then observe what difference the scripture makes between a glorified body, and this mortal flesh.
I.1. The most common received opinion amongst Christians is, that, at the last day, we shall rise again with the flesh, in which we died. Most of the ancient fathers believed and taught, that, at the general resurrection, men would be restored to the very same bodies, which were laid in the grave; and that as our Saviour Christ arose with his former flesh, bones, and limbs, so likewise shall we, at the resurrection. That the primitive Christians did generally believe and expect, that they should, at the resurrection, rise again with the very same bodies, in which they lived on earth, evidently appears from the heathens' malice and envy towards their dead bodies; which they would reduce to ashes, and then scatter and throw them into the air and rivers, thinking thereby to defeat their hopes of a resurrection. Such of the ancient Christians, as defended or explained this article of the resurrection of the dead, had generally recourse to such principles and arguments, as suppose the very same body, flesh, and members to be raised again, that the soul animated in this life. And, in truth, this is the most plain and easy notion of a resurrection :-for nothing dies and is corrupted, but the body: the soul goes upward and returns to God; and therefore nothing can be properly said to be raised again, but only that very body, which died and was corrupted. If, at the last day, God gives a new