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of novelty, that necessary charm to ordinary minds, become antiquated and obsolete, they deserve praise rather than censure, who from time to time, rescue authors intrinsically excellent, from the oblivion to which they have undeservedly been consigned; and clothing their sentiments in more modern garb, present them to the world in a form which may succeed in attracting and fixing attention. And thus it is in great measure with men of deep and extensive reading: being so long conversant with the best writers of antiquity, they lay up a rich store of valuable material, which in its passage through their minds, being completely new modelled, comes forth at length with such appearance of novelty, that few can discover it not to be entirely original.
In questions, however, of deep and general importance, we are to attend not so much to the novelty as to the truth of the arguments by which they are supported. Indeed in any disputed point of this description, unless a man is really possessed of more than ordinary power, he will be much more safe in depending on what has been proved to be good, than in hazarding at all risks something
The sole object, therefore, of the following pages being practical utility, little more will be done than to bring forward passages from authors of high and acknowledged merit, bearing on the
question. Materials scattered through the works of various writers will be brought under one view; and will be found to give unanimous support, and the clearest illustration to a subject which all must acknowledge to be most interesting, and few will deny to be most important.
As long as there shall exist ingenious men, demanding for every question mathematical demonstration, and carrying to excess their love of subtle reasoning, so long will every truth (even the most awful truths of religion) meet with opposition. We must not wonder then that the generally received notion of the uninterrupted self-consciousness of the soul, has by some been doubted, and by others denied. Many must deny it, if they have any regard to their own consistency, or any hope that their present conduct should escape punishment. To the infidel and to the hardened reprobate, the prospect of a conscious existence after death can afford no comfort! Such, therefore, naturally enough take refuge, a gloomy and cheerless refuge, in the absurdities of downright materialism; encountering, from their horror of futurity, (though even to themselves they would scarcely confess such a motive) difficulties more perplexing and impracticable than any which a rational belief could present. But it is much to be lamented that there should be some few persons, who, whilst on other points they most ably defend opinions commendable and just, yet favour, to a greater extent than they seem to be aware, the worst tenets of scepticism; by countenancing the strange conceit that though body and soul shall both be alive again at the general resurrection, yet that during the interval between death and that event, the soul shall be torpid and unconscious of her own existence! That this notion is equally unfounded and mischievous, the authors about to be adduced will abundantly prove. And certainly their authority in all such questions stands so very high, that we cannot be expected to pay greater deference to the opinions or insinuations of any living author, however distinguished for learning and intellectual acu:
It will easily be seen to what living author allusion is here made. It is, however, due to the high character of this author to observe, that his object in writing is excellent; being to establish the absolute necessity of the promulgation of that Gospel, through which alone life and immortality were brought to light. In this general position, all sincere Christians will most unreservedly agree; and it may be allowed that there may be Peculiarities in the Christian religion which may require elucidation.
But whilst in his work there is so much to be commended, we must lament that this author should
have written with too little caution some few sentences of doubtful tendency; and which in fact were not at all necessary to his argument. We will cite a few instances.
He says,—" that with respect to an intermediate state, nothing is revealed to us."-And again, “ In fact no such doctrine (namely, as that of the immortality of the soul as a disembodied spirit) is revealed.” — Now surely this should not have been written. Against his single opinion, (and he quotes 'no other) the opinions of many authors, at least equal to him in learning and judgment, maintain that this point is in the Bible plainly revealed. But let us ask-What is revelation ?-Are we to consider no doctrine revealed, but what is laid down in Scripture in plain and express terms ?-Are we not, on the contrary, left to deduce many truths, which yet are undeniable, by inference ?-by comparing different passages together, and interpreting, one Scripture by another?
Again we are told,-“ As for the state of the soul in the interval between death and the general resurrection, the discussion is unnecessary and perhaps unprofitable. Had knowledge on this point been expedient for us, it would doubtless have been clearly revealed; as it is, we are lost in conjecture.”—Coming from authority considered by
many so high,-- by many too of an age to embrace eagerly any assertion boldly advanced and speciously maintained, this sentence is surely one of dangerous tendency.—It is likely to lead many minds to adopt the certainty of what is here only insinuated, namely, that there is no self-consciousness in the soul between death and the resurrection; and the transition is by no means difficult or improbable from believing the soul may be insensible for many thousands of years, to the belief that it never may wake again.
In the course, however, of the present work, it will appear that this discussion has by competent judges been considered to be neither unnecessary nor unprofitable ;—that knowledge on this point is expedient for us, and, therefore, has been given; and that it must be entirely our own fault if we are lost in conjecture.
Neither can we allow the truth of the following assertion :- that the heathens had not the faintest conjecture of a future existence, as involving the idea of enjoyment or suffering, corresponding with men's conduct in this life.”—This is a sweeping assertion: and if true, it proves, that the greater part of the readers of classical antiquity have hitherto been most sadly mistaken. But is it true? The assertion is indeed limited to the esoteric works of the ancient philosophers; it is admitted