Imágenes de páginas

of unknown mystery, in which they are quickly bewildered and lost."- There is much truth in this remark. No doubt there are some pursuits, chemistry for instance, to the allowed investigation of which there appear to be no bounds ;-since in proportion to the unremitting boldness with which its depths are explored, will be the surprising improvements in useful knowledge which may be obtained. But it is not so, at least by no means in the same degree, with subjects connected with the nature and prospects of Man. On these points the brightness of Divine Revelation hath shed it's light; and advantage has long since been taken of this light, by minds equal to the task, to accumulate as much information as probably will ever be allowed to Human Beings. It must be difficult, therefore, for modern genius to succeed in acquiring additional knowledge. Neither is this of much consequence; the stores of ancient wisdom remain and are sufficient. Whilst then it may be useful and even necessary to remodel, as occasion may require, in a form intelligible to modern readers, those writings, which though invaluable in matter, may have become antiquated in form, the attempt to gain distinction by advancing something strictly new, has frequently led to unprofitable speculation, if not to dangerous error. For instance, in the question which it will be the object of the following pages to illustrate,-namely, the state of the soul between death and the resurrection, no writer of the present day can pretend to say much beyond what has already been said. And this may be affirmed with equal truth to whichever side of the question we refer. For whilst they who are strenuous in defence of the doctrine of an intermediate state, can but bring forward in it's support the arguments and reasonings of former writers ;they who appear on the opposite side, produce only a revival of erroneous opinions, which have often before been promulgated and refuted. And such in a great measure is the case with all modern polemical writers. Controversialists of the present day contend only with the weapons handed down to them by former disputants; and it is well if they can wield them with the admirable skill and force of their original possessors. Some few writers indeed may occasionally appear capable of still bringing forth fresh matter; but of the generality the above observation will hold good. Neither can this be considered as any impeachment of the abilities of such persons. When subjects have been discussed over and over again during so many ages, it is hardly possible but that every argument must have been repeatedly brought under consideration. Still, we may repeat, as the works of ancient writers, from change of language and loss

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


« AnteriorContinuar »