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Christ quoted this passage, to confute the infidelity of the Sadducees, in relation to the doctrine of the resurrection, and to establish the immortality of the soul. The conclusion which He drew from it, is irresistible; namely, that those venerable Patriarchs were then in existence; for Jehovah "is not the God of the dead, but of the living."
But as the soul's immortality is more clearly revealed in the New-Testament, we will resort to it for further light on the subject.
It is stated in the Old-Testament, that Moses died on "the top of Pisgah ;" and that the Lord "buried him in a valley in the land of Moab ;" yet, we are told by the Evangelist, that he appeared with Elias, or Elijah, on the mount, where our Saviour was so gloriously transfigured. It was, undoubtedly, the soul of Moses that appeared; for his body was in the grave. His soul, therefore, existed separately, from his death, until that period. He appeared to possess intelligence, as really as the translated Elijah; and was equally capable of conversing with Christ, on the subject of the sufferings which were before Him, with all the glorious and eternal consequences of them. It must be allowed, therefore, that Moses exists now, in the most noble part of his nature. As he is evidently dead, and yet existing in a separate state, the immortality of the soul is fully established. Some collateral testimony, however, will be added to this argument.
When the pious Stephen was expiring under the hands of his enemies, he prayed thus, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Acts 7. 59. This is a manifestation, that he did not believe himself to consist of nothing but matter; nor that he was falling asleep, to wake no more, until the resurrection. His prayer was, undoubtedly, heard; and it is recorded by inspiration, to convince men of their immortality, as it respects the soul.
The case mentioned by our Lord, of the rich man and Lazarus, is decisive evidence of the soul's immortality. He says, that Lazarus" died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom:"-adding, "The rich man also died, and was buried: and in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments." Luke 16. 32, 33. On the hypothesis under consideration, this statement must be incorrect; for if neither the rich man nor Lazarus had souls, in distinction from their bodies, the one is not in happiness, nor the other in misery-they are both sleeping in the grave in equal peace. The question to be settled, is simply this, Which is the standard, Dr. Priestley's theory of matter and spirit, or the Holy Scriptures? According to Priestley, the rich man and Lazarus have no consciousness of any thing at present; but according to the Scriptures, the one is in heaven, and the other in hell! It is surely to be lamented, that this pre-eminent philosopher had not lived in the days of Jesus Christ, that he might have given Him the important information, that intelligence is only a property of matter duly organized, and that after death there can be no consciousness, until the resurrection!!! It certainly appears that Christ was a believer in the unphilosophical doctrine of the soul's immortality; for when the dying thief said to Him on the cross, "Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom," He replied, "Verily I say unto thee, To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise." Luke 23. 42, 43. There is no need of saying any thing on the weight of this testimony; for the subject is perfectly clear, unless Dr. Priestley knows more about man, than the God who created him!
In this view of things, I think, that if any of my hearers are still disposed to lean to that system, which is called Unitarianism, their credulity must be great! My
heart sickens at the thought of being laid under the necessity of making these remarks. But as Providence has placed me where such heretical doctrines are inculcated, your preservation from them, requires that plainness which is painful to my feelings. In pursuing the argument,
It may be further observed, that St. Paul, who was a man of great natural abilities-a consummate scholar, and inspired of God, believed fully in the immortality of the soul, and in its separate existence from the body. It was on this ground he said to the Philippians; "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.-I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: nevertheless, to abide in the flesh is more needful for you." Phil. 1. 21-24. In another epistle he says, "For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: if so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. For we who are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.-Therefore we are always confident, knowing that whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord-for we walk by faith, not by sight; we are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord." 2 Cor. 5. 1-6. In his epistle to the Hebrews, he speaks of "the spirits of just men made perfect." Heb. 12. 23. St. Paul, therefore, was not initiated into the Priestleyan philosophy, concerning the entire materiality of man, and his complete mortality between death and the resurrection. This depth in science was not fathomed in the age of inspiration! The sun of philosophy had not risen then
above the moral horizon, so as to dispel the mist of inspiration, and illuminate the human mind!
It seems that the apostle Peter, was in the same darkness, in which his brother Paul was involved; for he says to the churches, "I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by way of remembrance; knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath showed me." 2. Pet. 1. 13, 14. The harmony of these apostles, on the immortality of the soul, is great; and their expressions about it are so clear, that no comment is necessary.
The account which St. John gives of the glorified sculs of the ancient martyrs, is an additional testimony to the doctrine in question. I shall rest the argument on what has been said, being fully satisfied, that the candid enquirer must be convinced. This sublime and interesting subject will be improved in the next discourse. May God bless the word of eternal truth. AMEN.
ECLESIASTES XII. 7.
Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return to God who gave it.
In the former discourse, on these words, the object was to support and illustrate this proposition; namely, THAT MEN POSSESS AN IMMATERIAL AND IMMORTAL SOUL, DISTINCT FROM THE BODY.
It has been very clearly shown, that the soul of man is capable of existing separately from the body; and that it can exist in union with it, forming a complex person. On philosophical principles, we have seen, that there is as much, if not more, evidence in favor of this doctrine, than can be exhibited in defence of the opposite theory: and that in the word of God, the subject is completely settled. There is no room, therefore, to doubt, unless our minds are prepared to reject all revealed religion. Such a fatal stand is not yet, I sincerely hope, taken by any one of this respectable congregation.
In conformity to a previous promise, I must now close the subject with an
I. If it has been proved that we possess immaterial and immortal souls, we must have a more exalted idea of man,