« PreviousContinue »
THE SADDUCEES SAY THAT THERE IS NO RESURRECTION, NEITHER ANGEL NOR SPIRIT.
T has been often remarked that let an opinion be ever fo abfurd, there are always perfons credulous enough to efpouse and defend it.
What damned error, but some fober brow
Will bless it.
This is fo apparent a truth that it would be needless to produce arguments to prove it, fince the variety of nugatory notions that have found ample credit in the world will fufficiently justify the assertion. With how much warmth are the groffeft fictions; the wildest flights of a diftempered imagination maintained as realities; and how firmly are they credited by the bigotted Enthusiast? What strange and irregular principles are held as the facred mandates of heaven by the blind adorers of Mahomet? And what extravagant fancies in all ages have led the barbarous heathen aftray?
-Nay further, in this very nation, where the light of the Gospel shines fo clearly, in a church fo truly reformed as ours is, there have not been wanting even profeffors weak or wicked enough to teach for the doctrines of God the commandments of men. But of all the irrational opinions that mankind ever gave into no one is or can be of a more deftructive tendency than that of the Sadducees, who fay, that there is no refurrection, neither angel nor fpirit; or, in other words, that there is no life after this. Man has fuch an innate thirst after immortality that there can be no greater testimony of a fordid and groveling disposition, than to give way to fuch an abject, mean fpirited idea, and to take pride in producing a few weak and fallacious arguments against the voice of nature, and the general consent of universal mankind. The bare supposition of our falling into nought, is a fevere fatire upon human nature-could the Sadducee perfuade the world into his opinion, what would the event be, but the diffolution of harmony, friendship, and every focial virtue? What would restrain the murderer from his horrid purposes, the robber from his plunder, or the licentious from his brutal machinations? Would not every thing be right that conduced to our paffing this short life with as much festivity as possible? Would not human laws be evaded, and prefently fall to nothing? For every one would then pursue his own private interest, without regard or concern for his neighbour: and should this be the cafe, would not the condition of mankind be deplorable indeed? But suppose we should allow that the world might be reftrained and kept in order by wholefome laws, and that a way could be found out to make those laws ftrictly obferved; yet fuch a tenet as that of the Sadducees would be destructive of all private felicity. Those who were poffeffed of the largest share of Fortune's favours, might juftly murmur, repine, and be uneafy at the thought of their approaching loss; and what a poor confolation would it be to the unhappy and indigent to reflect, that from being miserable, they
are haftening to be nothing? In short, the Sadducee vilifies mankind, diffolves the strongest bands of fociety, gives a fevere check to private happiness; and should they be mistaken, as undoubtedly they are, will not their ill-judging followers be involved in misery eternal? A woeful and irreparable error !—But I am perfuaded no one would entertain a thought of perifhing like the brutes, but thofe only who delight to live as fuch: none therefore but the most profligate and inconfiderate will join with the Sadducee and say, there is no life after this.
We are very fenfible that what has been hitherto advanced conveys no argument against their affertion; but we were willing, by way of preface, to fhew how deftructive fuch a doctrine would be, even though it were true, in order to engage your attention to the arguments, we shall produce in order to demonstrate that it is falfe.
To reduce what we have to fay into fome method, we shall endeavour to fhew, that many ufeful and powerful arguments for a Future State may be deduced.
FIRST, from the nature of the foul.
SECONDLY, from the miseries of this life; and the unequal diftribution of the good things thereof. And,
LASTLY, from the univerfal confent of mankind.
FIRST we are to shew, that very folid and comfortable arguments for a future ftate may be collected from the nature of the foul. And here, if contrary to our inclination and design, we should advance any thing above the comprehenfion of the unlearned part of our hearers, we have this to offer in our favour, that we must have been filent on one of the most convincing and fatisfactory evidences of`a future ftate, had we left the nature of the foul entirely unexamined. We shall, however, be as plain in this particular as our subject will permit; and we hope the greater part of our hearers will feel the force of our arguments which we are fatisfied will be convincing,
should we prove but so happy as to fet them in a clear and advantageous light. But be that as it will, we have collected additional arguments of another fort, which are obvious to every capacity and fufficient to convince any unprejudiced and well-difpofed mind of this important truth; fo that thofe who cannot avail themselves of one part of our discourse, may reap fome fatisfaction and improvement from the other.
Reafon demonftrates to us, that God is a fpirit; and Senfe, that the world is matter. Man, that microcofm, or little world, as he is called, is an epitome of both; of the former, with refpect to his foul; and of the latter in regard to his body; the Creator.being pleased, in this his mafter-piece, to contract, if we may be allowed the expreffion, his own infinite majefty, and this vaft machine into a narrow compass. In the body of man we may clearly observe a furprifing compound of the four elements :—his veins, like rivers, run to the most extreme parts of every member. The organs of his sense are as various, as there are a variety of fenfible objects to entertain them.-Numberlefs are his nerves, arteries, and ligaments: his head, by special privilege, erected towards heaven, and his hands adapted for the most regular and useful motions. Now was any one to view such a structure as this, even without life, sense, or motion, would he not conclude it was framed for fome excellent purpose? Would he not even then readily agree with those who acknowledge man to be a miracle, infinitely transcending these lower elements, and no ways inferior to the heavens themfelves, with all the bright and splendid luminaries they can boast. But when he had fufficiently examined and admired this inanimate fabrick; fhould he fee it begin to live and move with the utmost vivacity and vigour, would not this latter miracle quite efface the aftonishment he before was filled with, upon the contemplation of the beauty and harmony fo confpicuous in that ftupendous machine. Thus, when we furvey a curious inftrument of mufic, we may very juftly admire the beauties
of each individual part of it; but that admiration prefently ceafes, when we lead an attentive ear to the harmonious found it utters, when touched by a skilful hand. If then the bare reflection on that power, which gives but motion to the body of man, be a matter of fuch amazement what fhall we fay, when we seriously confider the other properties of the foul; when we recollect with how much ease it makes the most diftant objects prefent to the eye of the mind, recals tranfactions long fince paft, brings to remembrance former converfations, and performs all her feveral motions even when the body is confined within the narrow limits of a clofet?-Shall we not be led to acknowledge, that there is something dwelling within us more excellent than any other, though the most finished part of the creation?
Plato obferves, that there is an inward, as well as outward man; the latter we may discern with our corporeal eyes, which retains its form after death, as an organ does after the musician ceases to touch it the former is the foul, which though united to the body, makes use of it only as a vehicle. The one is at reft, though the other moves; this ranges, when that stands ftill; this fees when that has its eyes closed, and is often blind, when that enjoys its perfect fight. This labours" when that is inactive ;-and is motionless, when that labours." It can operate without the affiftance of the outward man. This we may be convinced of, when we reflect on the activity of the foul, when the body lies in a profound fleep, that just and lively emblem of death. At such a time as this, how sprightly is the foul? How readily does it act over again the business, or pleafures of the day? How eafily are the transactions of a week performed in the short space of an hour?-How often do we attempt the most surprising feats, when our bodies are laid in the most profound infenfibility ?-When we recollect how foon difficulties are overcome, and what bold undertakings are prefently accomplished