« PreviousContinue »
ARGUMENT, FOR A FUTURE STATE, FROM ANALOGY.
As the consideration of the plants and flowers of the field will furnish us with a striking picture of man's mortality, so, on the other hand, it will suggest to him the comfortable assurance of his restoration to another life. When we see the annual returns of cold shut up the passages of life in plants, and deprive them of that supply of juices which caused them to grow up and flourish on the earth; when the grass faileth, and there is no green thing, but every herb shall sicken and die; and yet when we behold them all revive at the return of the genial spring; when we see the face of the earth renewed in the same beautiful manner it was, and a new creation, as it were, open upon us, why should there be any physical difficulties in the doctrine of a resurrection? Why should it be thought a thing incredible, that God should raise the dead? Is it at all more difficult for him, by an extraordinary act of his almighty power, to collect the scattered particles of dust, and re-unite them in that order, symmetry, and proportion, which is requisite to form the human frame; than it is by a general law, (which is only the constant, but no less wonderful, operations of the same power), to recall the distant and undivided particles of inactive matter into such a disposition, as shall give to the flower the same variegated complexion, and cause it to breathe the same essences it did before. The illustration which St. Paul uses in support of the doctrine of a resurrection, and likewise as an argument to put a stop to all vain and trifling disquisitions concerning the manner
how it shall be brought to pass, is taken from a grain, that is buried, dead, and corrupted in the earth, and yet shoots forth into new life, and has life more abundantly. But some man will say, How are the dead raised up, and with what body do they come?-Thou fool! that which thou sowest is not quickened except it die.' As if he had said, Explain to me, if thou art able, the most common appearance in nature. Tell me, how the seed which thou sowest in the ground, and there moulders and rots, should from an unknown and imperceptible principle, rise, as it were, again from the grave into new life, multiplied an hundred fold, without the least deviation from its own form and body? If thou canst not tell me this, why dost thou foolishly inquire concerning the incomprehensible ways of God in giving life to the dead; and why dost thou perplex thyself with impious doubts, in a matter which thy own experience and daily observation will teach thee is not to be conceived or explained? This illustration of the case had been made us by our blessed Saviour himself: Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it remaineth alone; but if it die it bringeth forth much fruit.' Which words, in their application to the resurrection from the dead, have, according to the observation of the religious philosopher, a very curious and remarkable propriety. 'Whereas,' says he, 'other seeds rise again out of the ground, and become seed leaves of the plant, that of wheat is almost the only one in nature which dies in the earth; and therefore was the most proper emblem to represent the dissolution of man and his revival.' Dr. Tottie.
ARGUMENT, FOR A FUTURE STATE, FROM TRA, DITION.
MEN of thought and discernment could not but observe, that the belief of a future state, under different conceptions of it, was universally diffused throughout all ages and countries; that this universal persuasion could never be obtained by any abstract method of reasoning, of which the generality of men are utterly incapable, but that the children received it in succession from the tradition of their forefathers: and those who were most curious in tracing it back to its source would find, in the accounts given of it by the earliest writers, that the higher they went in their inquiries, the clearer and stronger the tradition was. Hence it was reasonable to conclude, that it conveyed a doctrine coeval with the origin of mankind. As this argument has been adopted by the ablest writers of antiquity, so there is great weight and force in it. The design of God in creating man must be supposed to have been disclosed to him. Consider him as made only for this mortal life, and he is so very different from what he must be, if he is hereafter to have admission into an eternal state; his aims, his conduct, his duties, will so vary with his condition; that his Maker would never leave him in a state of uncertainty in a matter of infinite moment, without the knowledge of which he never could be able to take one step aright. And what was necessary for our first parents to know, was as necessary for their descendants. If they were taught, that man was formed for immortality, and that the hopes of his
nature would not be frustrated, notwithstanding the dissolution of his present frame, we cannot but suppose that they would carefully communicate this important discovery to their children, and that it would be delivered down from one generation to another, through a succession of ages, as the invaluable inheritance to which they were born, and the only blessing that could sweeten the miseries of life.
It is reasonable however to suppose, that this doctrine would be most carefully and most joyfully embraced by those families and nations, who adhered to the worship of the true God, and endeavoured to please him by a life of religion and virtue. It was indeed retained, though much weakened and corrupted, and but little regarded as a principle of action, by those who had revolted from the true religion. But among the righteous patriarchs it was preserved in its full force, through very few intervening generations from Adam to Moses. And what is still more, the doctrine of a future life not only received additional confirmations in this period from divine revelation, but the mode or manner of it, by the resurrection from the dead, was typically exhibited to Abraham; and under this notion it was apprehended by the Jews (as plainly appears by the Scriptures), down to the coming of our Saviour.
OUR IMPERFECT KNOWLEDGE OF A FUTURE STATE,
SUITED TO THE CONDITION OF MAN.
THE sceptic, who is dissatisfied with the obscurity which divine Providence has wisely thrown over the future state, conceives that more information would be reasonable and salutary. He desires to have his view enlarged beyond the limits of this corporeal scene. Instead of resting upon evidence which requires discussion, which must be supported by much reasoning, and which, after all, he alleges yields very imperfect information, he demands the everlasting mansions to be so displayed, as to place faith on a level with the evidence of sense. 'What noble and happy effects,' he exclaims, 'would instantly follow, if man thus beheld his present and his future existence at once before him! He would then become worthy of his rank in the creation. Instead of being the sport, as now, of degrading passions and childish attachments, he would act solely on the principles of immortality. His pursuit of virtue would be steady; his life would be undisturbed and happy. Superior to the attacks of distress, and to the solicitations of pleasure, he would advance, by a regular progress, towards those divine rewards and honours which were continually present to his view.' Thus fancy, with as much ease and confidence as if it were a perfect judge of creation, erects a new world to itself, and exults with admiration of its own work. But let us pause, and suspend this admiration, till we coolly examine the consequences that would follow from this supposed reformation of the universe.