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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 that in their exoteric works they did maintain such doctrine ; accommodating themselves herein to the opinions of the vulgar. But this is an important admission. For it concedes, that the general opinion of mankind was in favour of such a future state ; and that the Philosophers alone doubted it. And the inference is obvious, that so strong was public opinion against them, that these enlightened few dared not openly to contradict the doctrine in question. No doubt, with respect to the soul, wild and extraordinary were many of the opinions maintained by various schools; yet it is not correct to say, that they all taught, that the soul after death is absorbed into one general pervading spirit.
Any one not personally acquainted with an author advancing in these times opinions like those above mentioned, would be tempted to suppose, that he must stand alone in the world; in other words, that as far as such a thing is possible, he can have no worldly connection whatever; at all events, that he never can have lost by death a child, a brother, a sister, or any dear friend. For what is one great hope and comfort which supports us under such painful trials ?—What but this ?—that those we loved, though dead in the body, are alive in the spirit. Indeed so little can we feel disposed to admit them to be in a state of insensibility, that we are even tempted to go farther; and to hope,
not only that they are alive, but that they are perhaps allowed still to observe us in our arduous journey through life!—that in the places where we have been accustomed to enjoy their loved society, their spirits may still be permitted to hover round us! to be ministering angels, invisibly acting for our comfort and preservation !- In this there may be too much imagination ; but as it is, if erroneous, an error arising from warmth of natural affection still yearning with tender regret after the dear objects in which it formerly found great part of it's terrestrial happiness; and stimulating to the earnest endeavour so to walk as to be hereafter again admitted, and for ever, to the blessed society of those for a time only gone before us; it is an error much more easily to be pardoned, than the cold, the cheerless, and it may fairly be said unfounded, and in its probable consequences dangerous idea, that our Dead, are for a time, for thousands of ages perhaps, in effect dead indeed, both body and soul.
It is not fortunate for the credit of any writer, that he should have given publicity to such sentiments. Luckily for him the high and established character of the author in question precludes the possibility of any misconception of his principles where he is known. But his work may be read where he is not known. And supposing this to be
the case, he will certainly be liable to the suspicion of secretly inclining to materialism. Not that this will be suspected where he is known; or that any thing he says could be dangerous to minds like his
But all minds are not equally gifted; nor equally well-trained and disciplined. And if in any mind there should exist the least previous leaning to such anti-christian doctrines, the expressed sentiments of this Christian writer would undoubtedly confirm such a mind in it's error.-It would surely have been better to have passed over in silence this particular branch of his subject, than to have mentioned it in a way which even by remote possibility might lead any person to dangerous misconception.
But we are farther told by the same author, " that no one can prove the immortality of the soul without Divine Revelation." Let this be granted. There is no occasion why we should dispute the position; for it appears from numerous passages in the Bible, that the immortality of the soul was, from the first, a point Divinitùs revelatum. And the chief ground of complaint against this author is, his having mentioned this doctrine in such a way, as to lead young minds to suspect that after all it never has been revealed with sufficient precision, and that, therefore, it may fairly be called in question.