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sal natures, and nobler states of being; the prodigality with which it lavishes its great powers on unworthy objects, owing to the inadequacy of every thing earthly to engage them; the necessity of the hope of immortality to develope and give scope to its latent powers; and the principles and design of a moral government, in punishing sin and rewarding virtue; these considerations are so many steps by which men have emerged from the sepulchre, ascended the throne, and, in hope, seized the crown of immortality. Now throughout the kingdom of animated nature, wherever an organ or facuity is to exist characteristic of the species to which it belongs, a kind of pre-assurance is given, a practical anticipation that it will, by and by, be developed; nor is this prophecy ever falsified. The most perfect human being is, at best, in this world, nothing more than an unfinished sketch of humanity; a creature full of these pre-assurances and anticipations of future developement, and final perfection: unless, then, his instincts and essential principles are a splendid. falsehood; unless the divine signatures impressed on his nature be a forgery, a grave imposture; unless humanity itself be a lie, a deep-laid conspiracy against all right and happiness, we are warranted in the hope of immortality. Under the government of a righteous Being, we naturally look for an illustration of his character in his works; we ponder the volume of nature, and find it to contain one vast and compacted argument for the divine perfections; but deny to man a future existence, and the argument is flawed, and the character of God, which it professes to vindicate, stands impeached.
We, however, who enjoy the light of the gospel, are liable to over-rate the argument derived from nature, and to forget that, to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, nothing short of a divine revelation can give to the
hope of immortality stability and repose. For, in that consciousness of guilt which is common to all mankind, a suspicion arises in the mind that the natural course and order of things have been deranged, a shadow of uncertainty comes over our best reasoned speculations, and we feel at a loss to say what course the king of a boundless em: pire may see fit to pursue towards the rebellious subjects of an insignificant province. Here the opinions of a Socrates and a Plato, of a Cicero and a Seneca, though often quoted, are only, at best, the conflicting conjectures of minds alternating between hope and fear. They beheld, with dismay, the human race walking in gloomy procession to the grave: and, as they saw them disappear in the land of shadows, they sought, with strained and untiring gaze, to follow their steps and learn their fate; and had not revelation come to our aid, their opinions would have deserved respect, and would have often passed the lips of the dying in the stead of truths. But they themselves were conscious of distressing doubt : while, at one time, they spoke as from the skies; at another, they uttered the language of the sepulchre; according as hope or fear was the oracle of the moment.
Revelation authenticatesthe hope, and fulfills the obscure predictions, of this great instinct of humanity-an endless existence. It did so, partially, under the Jewish dispensation: at one time, darkly hinting the doctrine, to magnify the hopes or fears of men; and, at another, pourtraying it in definite forms, to engage their faith: now, dispatching a messenger from the unseen world; and, now, clothing a prophet with the terrors of an unearthly visitant, and planting him in their way to bring them to a stand, by warning them of a fearful something beyond. But the light which it held over the sepulchre flickered, did not burn so strong, but that it might have been extinguished by the deadly va
pors of the tomb; and hence, the views of its disciples wavered also; sometimes speaking in tones of depression, as if their whole horizon were the walls of a charnel-house; at other times by a kind of lofty divination peculiar to the wise and the good of every age, (for every good man is, in a sense, a prophet), making near approaches to the truth; anticipating revelations reserved for after times: and then, again, seizing their harp, and singing their triumphant song, as if their immortality had already begun.
But the full revelation and proof of the doctrine of a future state were reserved to grace the mission of him who, in his own person, is 'the way, the truth, and the life.' We do not, indeed, conceive these to have been the chief or specific design of his advent; though it is a part of the glory of that design that it includes them: he hath brought life and immortality to light by the gospel.' If he found them problems, he left them axioms; promoted them to the rank of postulates in his system of truth; made them the basis of the whole christian fabric. Hea then philosophy halted at the grave; ancient revelation accompanied its disciples a little beyond, conducting them into Sheol, Hades, the unknown state; christianity comes to our aid in the very moment of desertion, stands to receive us at the very place of parting with every other religion, graciously approaches and offers its guidance up to the throne of God. If, prior to the coming of Christ, the doctrine of immortality was undefined and unsubstantial; if, like the spectral phantom of Eliphaz, the believer could only say of it, It passed before my face; it stood still; but I could not discern the form thereof;' he may be said to have embodied the truth, to have fashioned and impersonated it in his own glorious body. Having rolled away the stone from the sepulchre of human hope, he invites us to look in; and instead of the dust, and darkness, and loathsomeness
proper to the grave, we behold the 'linen clothes lying by themselves '—the apparel of the prison-house vacated and left--and angels in white, sitting to re-assure our hope, and point us to the skies.
I. In naming the most original features of our Lord's teaching on this subject, the first, in order, is the doctrine of an intermediate state. Pre-supposing the immateriality and immortality of the soul, he frequently employed language which denotes the active existence of the soul between death and the resurrection. Fear not them,' said Christ to his disciples ; 'fear not them who kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul.' Then the soul and the body are distinct existences: the body may be slain, and yet the soul escape. But insensibility would be virtual destruction to the soul; for we cannot conceive how a thinking being can be more destroyed than by losing the power of thought; then the soul will not cease to think. But the only reason, why the soul is indestructible by man, must be its immateriality; the body he can destroy, for that is material; and if the soul resulted from any
subtilization, juxtaposition, or combinations of brute atoms, that could be apprehended, burnt, divided, exhausted, exploded, destroyed also. But, no, saith Christ, “it is not destructible by man.' The suicide has no weapon with which he can reach his soul. Persecution, though it has taxed its ingenuity to the utmost, and has called in the inventive aid of him who is a murderer from the beginning, has failed to devise any instrument with which it could seize and torment the soul ; has felt and inwardly cursed its impotence, that, in consuming the body of its victim, it was actually releasing the immortal soul. The soul has nothing to do with death; if persecution will have the body, the soul surrenders it, leaves it behind, drops it in the
grave, and passes on to immortality. Indeed, had the contrary sentiment prevailed, there is reason to conclude that christianity would have had a much smaller number of martyrs to boast; they would have shrunk from death, not to avoid the physical suffering, but the loss they were called to sustain, the dreary suspension of all the enjoyments the gospel had brought them; that would have given to death a new sting. But the fearful apprehension never seems to have visited their minds. A primary article in their martyr-creed was this: ‘Absent from the body, present with the Lord.' They felt that their noblest life had its root in heaven; that their spiritual existence was 'hid with Christ in God;' was seated high up, beyond reach, in the very fountain and summit of creation. At thought of this, the apparatus of death became consecrated in their eyes, as the means of their admission to his
the instruments of torture glowed with a glory reflected from his throne; the flames were chariots of fire to convey them in triumph to their appointed thrones.
The doctrine of an intermediate existence is recognised by Christ, in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus; where we learn that the former, dying, lifted up
his eyes, being in torment; while the latter was straightway conveyed, by angels, to Abraham's bosom. Spirits are evoked by Christ, from heaven and hell, to attest an intermediate state. He would have us to read the doctrine by the lurid glare of infernal flames, and by the radiance of a celestial vision. He taught it also in the light which he flashed on the divine declaration, 'I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob:' God,' said he, 'is not the God of the dead, but of the living.' The Almighty had uttered this three hundred years after the death of Abraham: now,
whatever relation he
sustain to the lifeless body, and to the inanimate creation at large,