Imatges de pàgina

At the first appointment of officers in christian churches, there was no settled provision for their maintenance, but money was collected every Lord's day, out of which a distribution was made to all who stood in need of it, officers and others, promiscuously. For, at the first promulgation of christianity, no person could have been educated for the ministry. All equally lived by their several professions, and therefore no person was entitled to more confideration in this respect than another. But afterwards, when christianity got a firm estab. lishment, many young persons devoted themselves wholly to the service of christian churches, and prepared themselves for that work by a diligent Itudy of the scriptures, and proper exercises; and thus, giving their whole time and labour to the society, they were, as was reasonable, wholly maintained out of the funds of it.






Of a future state in general.

DROM the light of nature we were able to I make out a tolerable system of natural relia gion, as far as it respects the duty of men in this life, though the particulars were such as can only be said to have been discoverable by nature, since they were not actually discovered by it. But nature was a much less sufficient guide with respect to the information, in which we are so much interested, concerning our expectations after death. It even left us under great uncertainty, whether we should survive the grave or not; though, upon the supe position of our surviving the grave, we were able, from the consideration of the equity of God's moral government, to infer, that the event would be very desirable to good men, and much to be dreada ed by the wicked; the former having sufficient reason, from present appearances, to conclude,

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that the divine being is a friend to virtue, and, therefore, disposed to reward them for their adherence to it; and the latter having equal reason to dread his displeasure.

Since, however, no reasons of justice or equity, could lead men to expect more than an adequate . punishment, proportioned to their crimes, there was far from being any reason to imagine that future punishments would be eternal, especially if they were exquisite; because no crimes of a finite nature, committed by frail and finite creatures, could deserve it. An alternative, therefore, remained, either to suppose an extinction of the wicked, with or without any other punishment; or that future sufferings would operate like the sufferings of this present life, tending to correct and amend those who are subject to them.

There was some hope, therefore, that, after an . adequate punishment, those who were not reclaimed in this world, might be effectually cured of their vicious propensities, by the more severe and durable punishments of another, so as to enter upon a new state of trial with more advantage, though they might still be far behind those who had made the most of their present advantages. In this case, the punishments of the wicked may properly enough be said to be eternal, because they would never arrive at that state of perfection and happi


ness which was attained to by those who entered: earlier on a course of virtue.

Such is the substance of what we were able to collect from nature concerning a future state, provided there were any such thing. From revelation we learn the actual certainty of a future state, and have an absolute assurance of its being a state of exact retribution, in which every man fhall receive according to his works. But this being all that is necessary to influence our present conduct, we are still at a loss, and left in a great measure to our conjectures, with respect to the precise nature, and final isue, of the future state.

This important revelation of a future life seems to have been made to mankind in a gradual manner. At least but little stress seems to have been laid upon it, in the early ages of the world, so that it was not fully brought to light, so as to become the great governing principle of men's conduct, till the dispensation of the gospel of Christ. »

Enoch being said to have been a preacher of righe teousness, and having been taken from the world without dying, perhaps in the view of multitudes, it is not very improbable, but that he might have been commissioned to announce this great doctrine to mankind. His miraculous assumption might be intended to intimate that God, being the friend of the virtuous, would provide for the continuance of their being; and they might conclude, that he

who could continue life without dying, could even raise men from the dead.

With the old patriarchs, and mankind in general, in the early ages of the world, the prospect of being the founders of nations, which every person had then the chance of being, was so great an idea, and struck them so forcibly, that it, in a manner, superseded all other motives to virtue. It is on this argument, therefore, and other temporal considerations, that peculiar laid in the exhortations to obedience addressed to them.

As the institutions of Moses respected the Jews as a nation, and the immediate object of it was temporal prosperity, there is the less reason to expect a particular mention of it in his laws; though it cannot but be owned to be a little surprising, that there should be no incidental mention of it in any of his writings.

We find some allusions, though not very plain ones, to the state of mankind after death, in fe.. veral parts of the Old Testament, especially in the book of Psalms, as, Pf. xvi. 8. &c. “ I have “ set the Lord always before me: because he is « at my right hand, I shall not be moved. « Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory re“ joiceth; my Aeth also shall rest in hope. For ~ thou wilt not leave my soul in hell: neither "s wilt thou suffer thine holy One to see cor« ruption. Thou wilt shew me the path of life:

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