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than we apprehend, yet to them who sleep, and are unconscious of what passes, it will appear less than a moment, and the very fame inftant, which separates them from this mortal life, muit to their thought and apprehension be that, which unites them for ever to their Saviour and their God. I do not mention it with any considerable stress, that there seems a sort of equality, which is not unpleasing to the human mind in such a constitúe tion as we are speaking of; where no person is distinguished from another, either to his advantage or loss, on account of the difference in the time of his birth, which is wholly arbitrary, and constitutes no part of his character and desert; but each man appearing in his own order, and receiving at the band of providence the materials of his future character and hope, having filled up the station assigned him either to his honour or disgrace, retires at the appointed time, and waits till a general day of retribution, to receive in common with all, who have borne any part in the concerns of human life, that sentence, which his conduct has deserved from the universal Judge and Parent. And one person has no more reason to complain, that an examination has not been made into his character and conduct before this time ; than another, that he was not brought into the scene sooner.'
• We need not scruple to confess that this is a constitution which would not recommend itself by its agreeableness to our inclinations. The case of the first Christians, and those of the present day, differs in this ; that whereas the former had but very imperfect notions of the Divinity, and faint expectations of his' favour and future happiness, they would accept with joy, even a distant hope of immortality: but we, having been accustomed to consider immortality as our birthright, and an inheritance entailed upon our nature; not as the immediate gift of God by Jesus Christ, to such as he approves, and is determined to honour in this way, are ready to look with displeasure upon a scheme, which deprives us of these flattering notions, or promises any thing less than uninterrupted consciousness and enjoyment. Yet it would certainly be better, if, ceafing to argue from our prejudices and wilhes to the real nature of things, and that which is, or ought to have been the constitution of providence, we confine ourselves to a sober impartial examination of the scriptures; forming our judgment and hope by the light they afford us. What weight thele reasonings may have on thole, who have embraced the opposite opinion, we cannot tell ; nor is it our province to enter into a controveľsy which hath already long engaged the attention of fome of our ablest, critics : but this we will venture to say, that the passages we have extracted are very sensible and pertinent, delivered with great modefty and propriety, and deserve to be considered, -Our Readers, in this
preliminary dissertation will meet with a very candid and ingenious criticism upon the famous text in the Philippians, Ch. i. 23. and some very just remarks upon our Saviour's memorable words to the thief upon the cross, To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise, Luke xxiii. 43: but, agreeable as it would be to ourselves to transcribe them, the limits we are confined to in this article forbid it; especially as we intend to give a specimen of our Author's critical learning and genius, from his notes on the 15th of ist Cor.--and the passage we shall select for this purpose is that very difficult one in the 29th verse, Else what musl they do who are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? a text which hath exercised the genius of commentators, and given rise to a greater variety of unsuccessful conjectures, than almost any other in the New Testament. After mentioning the interpretations that have been given by Voffius, Le Clerc, the late Dr. Ward, and other learned critics, Mr. Alexander proceeds to propose his own sentiments of the passage in the following
I think that the apostle does not suppose Christians in general, or any particular persons among them, to have been in reality baptized for the dead, whatever sense we chuse to put upon the phrase ; but is only drawing a consequence from his adversary's principles, and afferts here that Christians are baptized for the dead, just as he had afierted, ver. 15, that Chrift is not raised, that is upon supposition there is no resurre&ion. And I understand the question in this manner :- not, What ihall they do, if the dead rise not, who are baptized for the dead ? but, What shall they do, who, if the dead rise not, are baptized for the dead? We are then to inquire what is meant by being baptized for the diad. To do any thing for the dead, with a view to benefit ourselves or others while under that state, is a mark of extreme madness and stupidity, and can agree to none but such as have lost their senses, and are entirely governed by superstition or phrenzy. It is for this reason, that ungere mortuos, mederi mortuis, and such kind of phrases, were made use of to express labour loft. Something of this kind was perhaps intended by being baptized for the dead. That so many learned and judicious critics have been able to fix no rational sense upon the words, as alluding to Chriftian baptism, is a sufficient prefumption that the apostle intended to express an absurdity. For what could be more happily thought of, to describe the desperate and hopeless situation of converts to Christianity, upon the scheme he is confuting, than to consider them as having all their views centered in the grave, and by their very baptismal engagements entering into alliance with, and recognizing their relation to all who have gone down to the habitation of the dead.
Some have thought the expression elliptical, and that we may fupply αναστασεως between υπερ & νεκρων ; as if the I apostle had said, What shall they do who are baptized for a re
surrection of the dead, if the dead rise not? But this is not I probable: and if we may fill up sentences in this arbitrary man2 ner, without regard to the genius of a language, and the re
ceived rules of interpretation, the province of criticism would be reduced to mere supposition and guess-work. Besides, what Author, who had any regard to perspicuity, would say that men performed any action for, or for the sake of the dead, when he only meant that they did it for the sake of a resurrection from the dead?
« We need not perhaps be very studious to fix the precise and determinate idea which the apostle had to the phrase, being baptized for the dead; since, whether we consider Christians as being baptized for the dead in general, or their departed friends in particular, or only with a view to their own condition and settlement in the grave, their conduct must appear in the fame absurd and ridiculous light. Yet as this comes after the assertion above, that Christians were of all men most worthy of compassion without the hope of another state, it may be considered as a proof or illustration of such an affertion. It is connected by the conjunction énel, a particle, which, in the argumentative stile, is used when any one designs to confute an adversary's principles by fixing upon them some absurd consequence, or establish his own by Thewing a necessary inconvenience that will attend the denial of them : and it may be rendered, for in such a case, or otherwise, according to the connection. Our tranllators, by rendering it elfe, according to the last signification, seem to have thought it connected with the clauses immediately preceeding. But it is more probable that the apostle is confirming his former reasoning, and here resumes the chain, which he had dropt at the end of the nineteenth verse; because he continues it from this place, and proceeds to shew other absurd consequences that follow from the denial of a resurrection.
If any should still happen to be of opinion, that the parts are too distant to be considered in this close connection, I do not know any other fignification that can be given to teh, except that very rare one we meet with now and then in Plutarch; who, as the grammarians observe, uses it sometimes for árne, but. Upon the whole, I imagine the writer to have this thought; “ It is evident we embrace Christianity with no worldly views; for our religion gives us no prospect of what men call honour, power, riches, or pleasures ; on the contrary, we become fubject to endless troubles and indignities, are reviled and perse
cuted by all the world, and are under obligations to part with • every thing, and life itself, rather than give up the truth and
deny the name of Jesus.You say further, there is no rescisection, nor future recompence. It remains then, that the men, who look for nothing in this life, nor in a life to come, must have their whole attention turned to the grave, and expect some honours and advantages in that filent abode; fo: which they are so willing to resign the momentary bleffings of life, that they may secure an interest with death, and enjoy undisturbed repose and tranquillity there.” I think it can hardly be doubted, but his design was to contrast the sublime expectation of Christians, with that deplorable state, in which this new doctrine represents them.
« The phrafe τι ποιης εσιν is formetimes equivalent to τι οφελος, and may be rendered, what will they be bettered or advantaged, Παρασίας λιθον λοιδορει τι ποιησεις και ανοον τις ως λιθG- ακεη, το οφελος τω λοιδορεύει και “ If you stand by a stone and rail at it plentifully, what would you get by such an action? if therefore you accustom yourself to hear ili language, with as little emotion as a stone, what advantage can another man have over you by an abusive tongue?” Epictet. ab Arriano, p. 131. Ed. Úpton. But it is the sentiment of Alberti, that these words denote distress and danger, a state of deep affliction and misery. Thus, he says that OiMob To $225W; Alas! what mall I do? is an exa clamation very common in antient tragedy, and expresses the grief and anxiety of mind to which persons are reduced by unexpected calamities, or such as they see no way to be delivered from. And though he does not quote any authorities from tragic or other writers, to shew that tb troinsw is used by the Greeks, as quid faciam ? perii by the Latins, yet perhaps the following uses of the phrase will be sufficient to confirm his opinion.
δει ποιησει and αμηχανων οτι ποιησει fignify quite at a lofs what to do, in the utmost distress how to act, Xenophontis Ephes. p. 75 & 78. Ou To OverHE TOTESEIV X. 7., 8. To what a dijmal situation do you think he will be reduced, &c. Plutarch in Phocion, v. 4. p. 184. 1. ult. So Job xxxi. 14. To gop Tr Con5W X. T. , What mall I do, or what will become of me, when God rijeth up? We may therefore translate the whole passage in its connexion, thus : “ If we have hope in Christ only in this life, we really deserve pity beyond any men in the world. For what can be more wretched than their situation, who have only been baptized for the dead, if the dead never rise?”
We hope our readers will excuse us in giving this long note, not only as it is upon a difficult text, which hath much divided our a' lést critics and commentators ; but as it serves to thew, what learning and fagacity our Author discovers in the use he makes of his classical reading, towards explaining particular phrales in the sacred writings.
Ο Ουκ εχων
We shall conclude this article, with just mentioning the fermon, which is printed at the close of the work; the title of
it is this; A diligent application to the proper business of life recom:: mended from the immortality of man : it is founded upon those : 2 words of Solomon Ecclef. ix. 10. Whatsoever thine hand findeth
to do, do it with thy might ; for there is no work, nor device, nor
knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave, whither thou goeft. The disEers, Ni
course is a sensible, grave, and truly moral one, and upon a 11 subject ever seasonable and important : but what determined his mis friends to give it a place in this publication was this remarkable
and highly affecting circumstance; it was Mr. Alexander's last sermon, and composed by him the day preceding his death: he went to bed on the Saturday evening apparently in perfect health, and
was found dead early the next morning, and this discourse lay * *$ i go upon his desk, just finished. A circumstance, which without
any mixture of superstition, might well be supposed to affect every serious mind, and we cannot help adding, that if some
of his surviving brethren had delivered this discourse, as his, care
at the time of his interment; it could not but have made a deep impression upon the minds of an audience: with how much force and energy must they, under such circumstances, have received the following sentiments, which we meet with towards the conclusion of the sermon? The longest life of man is short and fleeting, and soon comes to its period. But how much of this short duration may be reckoned upon, even by the young and vigorous, is the most uncertain thing in nature. A thousand unforeseen causes may operate to break the thread of pur days in the midst, and abridge even this narrow period, The narrow limits of human life leave no room for idleness and delay. Every moment, as it passes before as in quick succession, calls upon us to improve it to the utmost; and make that our own, by wisdom and virtue, which when once past can never be recalled. Year after year admonishes us that life speeds away, and that we have business of importance to be finished. The present moment is now before us, as the former pne; but when it is gone, it will never return; no prayers or entreaties can bring it back; it must be set down to our account, either to our praise or confusion. --To-day then, while it is called to-day, let us lay hold upon life, and improve the blessings that are put into our hands, that we may die the death of the righteous, and that our latter end may be like theirs.'
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