Imatges de pÓgina
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Creation, and Origine of the human race; the history of a private Family, of a chosen People, and of exemplary men and women. They consist of hymns and petitions to the Deity, precepts of civil life, and religious Prophecies and Predictions. Hence I infer that as, amidst all this variety of writing, the Doctrine of a future state never once appears to have had any share in this People's thoughts; it never did indeed make part of their Religious opinions*. And when, to all this, we find their occasional reasoning only conclusive on the supposition that a future state was not amongst the Religious doctrines of the People, the above considerations, if they needed any, would receive the strongest support and confirmation. To give one example out of many. The Psalmist says, For the rod of the Wicked shall not rest upon the lot of the Righteous: lest the Righteous put forth their hands unto iniquity." That is, "God will vigorously administer that extraordinary Providence which the nature of the Dispensation required to be administered, lest the Righteous, not seeing themselves exempt from the evils due to wickedness, should conclude that there was no moral Governor of the world; and so, by making their own private interest the rule of their actions, fall into the practice of all kind of iniquity." But this could never be the consequence where an unequal dispensation of Providence was attended with the knowledge and belief of a future state. And here I will appeal to those who are most prejudiced against this reasoning. Let them speak, and tell me, if they were now first shewn some history of an old Greek Republic, delivered in the form and manner of the Jewish, and no more notice in it of a future state, Whether they could possibly believe that See note [NN] at the end of this Book. + Ps. cxxv. 3.

*

that Doctrine was National, or generally known in it. If they have the least ingenuity, they will answer, They could not. On what then do they support their opinion here, but on religious Prejudices? Prejudices of no higher an original than some Dutch or German System: for, as to the BIBLE, one half of it is silent concerning life and immortality; and the other half declares that the doctrine was brought to light through the Gospel.

But to set this argument in its fullest light. Let us consider the History of the rest of mankind, whether recorded by Bards, or Statesmen; by Philosophers, or Priests in which we shall find the doctrine of a future state still bearing, throughout all the various circumstances of human life, a constant and principal share in the determinations of the Will. And no wonder. We see how strong the Grecian world thought the sanction of it to be, by a passage in Pindar, quoted by Plutarch in his tract of Superstition, where he makes it one circumstance of the superior happiness of the Gods, over men, that they stood not in fear of Acheron.

But not to be distracted by too large a view, let us select from the rest of the Nations, one or two most resembling the Jewish. Those which came nearest to them (and, if the Jews were only under human guidance, indeed extremely near), were the SUEVI of the north, and the ARABS of the south. Both these People were led out in search of new Possessions, which they were to win by the sword. And both, it is confessed, had the doctrine of a Future state inculcated unto them by their leaders, ODIN and MAHOMET. Of the Arabs we have a large and circumstantial history: Of the Suevi we have only some few fragments of the songs and ballads of their Bards; VOL, V. N yet

yet they equally serve to support our Conclusion. In the large history of the Saracen Empire we can scarce find a page, and in the Runic rhymes of the Suevi scarce a line, where the doctrine of a future state was not pushing on its influence. It was their constant Viaticum through life; it stimulated them to war and slaughter, and spirited their songs of triumph; it made them insensible of pain, immoveable in danger, and superior to the approach of death*. For, what Cicero says of Poetry in Rome, may be more truly applied to the Doctrine of a Future state amongst these Barbarians; "Ceteræ neque temporum sunt, neque ætatum omnium, neque locorum. Hæc "studia adolescentiam alunt, senectutem oblectant, "secundas res ornant, ADVERSIS PERFUGIUM AC

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SOLATIUM PRÆBENT†."

But this is not all. For we find, that when a future state became a popular doctrine amongst the Jewish People (the time and occasion of which will be explained hereafter) that then it made as considerable a figure in their Annals, by influencing their determinations, as it did in the history of any other people.

Nor is it only on the silence of the sacred Writers, or of the speakers they introduce, that I support this conclusion; but from their positive declarations; in which they plainly discover that there was no popular expectation of a future state, or Resurrection. Thus the woman of Tekoah to David: For we must needs die, and are as water spilt on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. Thus Job: As the cloud is consumed, and vanisheth away: so he that goeth down to the grave shall come up no more. And

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• See note [00] at the end of this Book.

+ Pro Archia Poeta, § 7. § 2 Sam. xiv. 14.

See the 2d book of Maccabees. See note [PP] at the end of this Book.

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again: "There is, hope of a tree, if it be cut down, "that it will sprout again-though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in "the ground, yet through the scent of water, it will "bud and bring forth boughs like a plant. But man "dieth and wasteth away: yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he? As the waters fall from the sea, and the flood decayeth and drieth up: so man "lieth down and riseth not till the Heavens be no

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more, they shall not awake nor be raised out of "their sleep*." Here the Jewish Writer, for such he was, as shall be shewn hereafter (and might, indeed, be understood to be such from this declaration alone) opposes the revival of a vegetable to the irrecoverable death of a rational animal. Had he known as much as St. Paul, he had doubtless used that circumstance in the vegetable world (as St. Paul did) to prove analogically, the revival of the rational animal.

The Psalmist says, In death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks? And again: What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit? Shall the dust praise thee, shall it declare thy truth ‡? And again : "Wilt thou shew wonders to the dead? Shall the "dead ARISE and praise thee? Shall thy loving kind

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ness be declared in the grave, or thy faithfulness in "destruction? Shall thy wonders be known in the "dark? and thy righteousness in the land of forget"fulness §?"

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The writer of the book of Ecclesiastes is still more express: For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any

* Chap. xiv. ver. 7—12. Psalm xxx. 10.

N 2

+ Psalm vi. 6.

§ Psalm lxxxviii. 11—13.

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more a REWARD, for the memory of them is forgotten *.

Hezekiah, in his song of Thanksgiving for his miraculous recovery, speaks in the same strain: "For "the grave cannot praise thee, death cannot celebrate "thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope "for thy truth. The living, the living, he shall praise "thee, as I do this day: The father to the children "shall make known thy truth t."

Lastly Jeremiah, in his Lamentations and complaints of the people, says, OUR FATHERS HAVE SINNED

AND ARE NOT, AND WE HAVE BORN THEIR INI

QUITIES. Which implies, that the fathers being dead bore no part of the punishment of their sins, but that all was thrown upon the children. But could this have been supposed, had the People been instructed in the doctrine of future rewards and punishments?

Yet a learned Answerer, in contradiction to all this, thinks it sufficient to say, That "these passages may

imply no more than that the dead cannot set forth "God's glory before men, or make his praise to be "known upon earth §." Now I think it must needs imply something more, since the dead are said to be unable to do this under the earth as well as upon it. For it is the Grace which is called the land of forgetfulness, or that where all things are forgotten. And in another place it is said, The dead praise not the Lord, neither any that go down into silence. Surely, a plain intimation that all intercourse of praise between man and his Maker ceased on death, as well below ground as above; otherwise why did the sacred writer

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* See note [QQ] at the end of this Book.

↑ Isaiah xxxviii. 18, 19.

Dr. Stebbing's Exam. &c. p. 64.

↑ Chap. v. ver. 7. H-Ps. cxv. 17.

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