« PreviousContinue »
tiate, and they tell us of the laws of the under this head let me endeavour to contrast animal and the vegetable kingdom. These the insufficiency of the light of nature with laws may prove an impassable barrier to the sufficiency and fulness of the light of the
but in the hand of the omnipotent gospel. Saviour they were nothing—he reversed First, Then, in regard to the physical or supported them at pleasure ; he blasted state of the mind. An argument for its the fig tree by a single word; and what immortality has been drawn from the conto us was the basis of high anticipation, sideration of what we should term the he made man the subject of his miracles. physics of the mind, i. e. from the consiHe restored sight to the blind, he restored deration of its properties when it is respeech to the dumb, he restored motion garded as having a separate or substanto the palsied, and to crown his triumph tive being of its own. For example it over nature and her processes, he restored has been said the spirit is not matter, and life to the dead,—he laid down his own therefore must be imperishable. We conlife, and took it up again. The disciples fess that we see not the force of this reagave up all for lost when they saw the soning. We are not sure of the premises, champion of their hopes made the victim and neither do we apprehend how the of the very mortality which he promised conclusion flows from them. We think to destroy. It was like the contest and ourselves familiar with the subtleties and victory of nature but it was only to make scholastics that have been uttered upon his triumph the more complete. He this subject they are to us far from satisentered
factory; nor are we persuaded of it by evi
dence on which we rest our belief in any “That undiscover'd country from whose bourn No traveller e'er returns"
coming event, or coming state, of the
futurity that lies before us. We cannot But he did. He broke asunder the have the force of practical evidence on mighty barriers of the grave; he entered those abstract and metaphysical generaliand he reanimated that body which ex- ties which are employed to demonstrate pired on the cross, and by that most strik- the endurance, or rather the indestructiing of all testimonies he has given us to bleness, of the thinking principle, so as know that he hath fought against the law to be persuaded that it shall indeed surof death, and hath carried it.
vive the dissolution of the body, and shall But man not only wants power to separately maintain its consciousness and achieve his own immortality, he also powers on the other side of the grave, wants light to discover it. That such, Now, in the recorded fact of our Sa. in spite of every appalling exhibition to viour's resurrection, we see what we the contrary, is really to be the ultimate might call a more popular, as well as a state of man, is not brought to light by more substantial and convincing argureason. The text indeed says as much, ment, for the soul's immortality, than any in saying that “ it is brought to light by thing furnished by the speculations we the gospel.” It represents the great truth have now referred to. To us the one apas groped by nature, and only made clear pears as much superior to the other as by revelation; it seems to cast discredit history is more solid than hypothesis, or on all the arguments of science, in behalf as experience is of a texture more firm of a future state; and just for want of a than imagination, or as the philosophy of sufficient basis in the evidence of philoso- our modern Bacon is of a surer and juster phy, on which to rear this noble antici- character than the philosophy of the old pation, it would rest and establish it schoolmen. Now, it is on the fact of his wholly on the evidence of faith.
own resurrection that Christ rests the In the further prosecution of this dis- hope and the promise of resurrection to course, let me
all of us.
“ If he be not risen from the I. Advert to what may be called the phy- dead," saith one of the apostles, " we are sical stale ; and
of all men the most miserable."
." It is to II. To the moral stale of the mind; and this fact that he appeals for the foundation
and the hope of immortality. To every | living population above them; but though cavil and to every difficulty he opposes remote from the hearing of every earthly this as a sufficient argument—that Christ sound, yet shall the sound of the last has risen. This was Paul's argument, and trumpet enter the loneliness of their dwellit has descended by inheritance to us. ing, and be heard through death's remotest We have received the testimony-we caverns. When we open the sepulhave access to the documents—we can chres of the men of other times, the fragtake a view of the unexampled evidence ments, the skeletons, and the mouldering which has been carried down to us in the of bones, form indeed a humiliating specvehicles of history; and in opposition to tacle; but the working of the same power all which fancy or speculation can muster which raised Jesus from the dead shall against us, we can appeal to the fact. It raise corruption to a glorious form, and is not a doctrine excogitated by the inge- invest it in all the blush and vigour of nuities of human reasoning—it is a doc-immortality. “ So is the resurrection of trine submitted to the observation of the the dead; it is sown in corruption, it is human senses. It is not an untried experi- raised in incorruption; it is sown in disment; while Jesus Christ lived on our honour, it is raised in glory; it is sown in earth he made it repeatedly, and with weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown uniform success, upon others; and in giv- a natural body, it is raised a spiritual ing up his body to the cross he made it body. For this corruptible must put on upon himself. One who could carry an incorruption, and this mortal must put on experiment such as this to a successful ter- immortality. So when this corruptible mination, has a claim to be listened to; shall have put on incorruption, and this and he tells us, by the mouth of an apos- mortal shall have put on immortality, tle, that the fact of himself having risen then shall be brought to pass the saying bears most decidedly upon the doctrine that is written, death is swallowed up in that we shall rise also; " for if we believe victory." that Jesus died and rose again, even so There is much need that we be habituthey who sleep in Jesus shall God bring ally reminded of these things, for in truth with him."
we live in almost constant forgetfulness Let it be remembered, before we con- of them. The region of sense and the clude this head of discourse, that the word region of spirituality are so unlike the one which is rendered - abolished," signifies to the other, that there is positively also “ made of none effect.” “ He hath nothing in our experience of the former abolished death, or made death of none which can at all familiarize our minds to effect.” The latter interpretation of the the conception of the latter. And then, word is certainly more applicable to our as if to obstruct the flight of our imaginafirst or temporal death. He has not abo- tions onward to eternity, there is such a lished temporal death ; it still reigns with dark and cloudy interceptment that hangs unmitigated violence, and sweeps off each upon the very entrance of it; ere we can successive generation with as great sure- realize that distant world of souls, we ness and rapidity as ever. This part of must press our way beyond the curtain of the sentence is not abolished, but it is the grave-we must scale the awful barrendered ineffectual. Death still lays us ricado which separates the visiblefrom the in the grave, but it cannot chain us there invisible-we must make our escape from to everlasting forgetfulness; it puts its all the close, and warm, and besetting cold hand on every one of us, but a power urgencies, which in the land of human higher than death will lift it off, and these beings are ever plying us with constant forms be again reanimated with all the and powerful solicitations, and force our warmth of life and of sentiment. The spirits across the boundaries of sense to churchyard has been called the land of that mysterious scene where cold, and silence-and sileni it is indeed to them meagre, and evanescent spirits dwell towho occupy it-the Sabbath-bell is no gether in some unknown and incomprelonger heard, nor yet the tread of the hensible mode of existence.
We know not if there be any other tribe and any portion of their futurity, however of beings in the universe who have such distant; and it appears only of man,
that a task to perform. Angels have no death it is for him to drive a breach across that to undergo—there is no such affair of un-barrier which looks so impregnable; and natural violence between them and their so to surmount the power of vision as to final destiny—it is for man, and for aught carry his aspirings over the summit of all that appears, it is for man alone to fetch, that vision has made known to him. from the other side of a material panorama Before I proceed to our next argument that hems and encloses him, the great and for the immortality of the soul, let me abiding realities with which he has ever- only remark, as a strong practical proof lastingly to do—it is for him, so locked of the necessity of something higher and in an imprisonment of clay, and with no more influential than the mere power of other available medium than the eye and reasoning upon the subject, how strong!!! the ear, it is for him to light up in his bo- wedded we are to the things of sense and of som a lively and realizing sense of the time, in spite of every demonstration, howthings which "eye hath not seen, nor ear ever affecting, that is given of their vanity. heard”-it is for man, and perhaps for It is wonderful, it is passing wonderful, man alone, to travel in thought over the that we should abide in such an abstract ruins of a mighty desolation, and looking state of insensibility, and that in the face to the wreck of the present world by of all experience, and, I may add, of all which he is encompassed, to conceive arithmetic. For the average of human that future world in which he is to expa- life is numerically known; and should tiate for ever. But harder achievement there be an overweening confidence to perhaps than any, it is for man in the ex- carry our hopes beyond this average, the ercise of faith, to bear that most appalling maximum of human life is numerically of all contemplations, the decay and the known; and to balance the uncertainty dissolution of himself—to think of the whether our days on earth may not greattime when his now animated framework, ly exceed the average, there is an equal every part of which is so sensitive and so uncertainty whether they may not greatly dear to him, shall fall to pieces-when fall short of it. There is no point from the vital warmth by which at present it its origin downwards at which death may is so thoroughly pervaded, shall take its not lay his arrest on the current of human final departure, and leave to coldness and existence; and, as if the whole domain of abandonment all that is visible and lovely society were his own, does he go forth at of the present structure—when these large from one extreme to the other of it; limbs with which he now steps so firmly, nor is there a single portion of the terriand that countenance out of which he tory on which, with free and unfaltering now looks so gracefully, and that tongue footstep, he may not enter. In the churchwith which he now speaks so eloquently, yard we see graves of
dimension. and that whole body, for the interests and This land of silence is far more densely preservation of which he now labours so peopled by young than by old-proving assiduously, as if it were indeed immor- that through all departments of life, whetal-when all these shall be reduced to ther of age, or of youth, or of infancy, the one mass of putrefaction, and shall crum- arrows of this mighty destroyer flee at ble, like the coffin which encloses him, random. Parents have oftener to weep into dust.
over their children's tomb, than children Why, my friends, to beings constituted have to carry their parents to that place as we are, there is something so foreign where lies the mouldering heap of the and unnatural in death, that we are not to generations that have already gone by. wonder if it scare away the mind from So that we have the clearest light both of those scenes of existence to which it is arithmetic and experience on the subject; the stepping-stone. Angels are not so and one would think it superfluous to circumstanced—there is no screen of dark- hold any parley with the understanding ness like this interposed between them on a topic on which the proof is so over
powering. Why, it may be thought, neighbour in the dust, he remains buried, should we be so anxious for urging a as it were, in the concerns of the world, truth which may safely be left to its own and will betake himself again with an evidence, or take occasion strenuously eagerness as intense and unbroken to its and repeatedly to affirm what none is able concerns and companies as before. We to deny? And this is just the marvellous affirm that, of the spell which binds him anomaly of our nature which it is so to earth, no power within the compass of difficult to explain. In the face of all this nature is able to disenchant him; that arevidence, and in utter opposition to the gument will not; that instances of morjudgment extracted thereby, there is an tality in his own dwelling will not; that obstinate practical delusion that resides sermons will not; and the evident apmost constantly within the heart, and proach of the last messenger to his own rules most imperiously over the judg- person will not: and it is indeed a most ments of the vast majority of our species. affecting spectacle to behold, with the It is not that we are incapable of all in- warnings and the symbols of a dissolution fluence from futurity-for it is the future which so speedily awaits him, that he gain of the present adventure, or the fu- just hugs more closely to his heart when ture issue of the present arrangement, or on the eve of being taken away from his the future result of the present contrivance, treasures for ever. Give me then a man that sets almost the whole of human ac- who is actually alive to the realities of tivity a going. But it is the future death, faith ; and the inference from all is, that and the future condition on the other side another power than that of the influence of it, to which we are so strangely insen- of nature over the feelings of nature sible. We are all in the glow, and the must have been put forth to awaken him. bustle, and eagerness of most intense ex- There is not, within the compass of all pectation, about the events that lie in the that is visible, any cause conpetent to the intermediate distance between us and production of such an effect on the human death, and as blind to the certainty of the spirit. The power which awakens him death itself, as if this distance stretched to a sense of spiritual things cometh from indefinitely onward in the region of anti- a spiritual Creator. There is naught in cipation before us, or as if it were indeed the world that is present, which can bring an eternity. There is a deep sleep into a human soul under the dominion of the which our world has been lulled, as if by world that is to come. And although one all the powers of fascination, from which would have thought that the follies and it should seem impossible to awaken us. fluctuations of time would have been suffi
Nor do we now expect of any utterance cient to wean men from a portion so evanof the brevity of time that it will awaken escent and unsatisfying, and to point them you. For this purpose there must be the to the things of eternity, yet it would apputting forth of a force that is supernatu- pear not; the loss and desolation which ral; and the most experimental demonstra- attach to the life of sense, and the certion that we know of this necessity, is tainty of all it can command being speedily the torpor of the human soul about death, and totally swept away, these will not of and the temerity wherewith it stands its themselves germinate within the inan the ground amidst pathetic and plain exhibi- life of faith. This wondrous phenometions of it. We are never more assured non of our nature convinces me of the of man, that he is wholly sold over to the doctrine of regeneration—that there is no captivity of this world, than in witness- power short of this which can spiritualize ing the strong adherence of his heart to us--that ere our affections can be set on it under the most touching experience of things that are above, an influence from its vanity—than in perceiving how un- above must descend upon us—and that emptied he is of all his earthliness, whe- before we become alive to the delights ther he goes from business to burials, or and glories of the upper sanctnary, there back again from burials to business—than must come down from that sanctuary the in observing how, after having buried his light and the power of a special revelation.
A far more satisfactory argument than ments. These have been drawn by phithat which is founded upon the reasonings losophers from the moral state of the of philosophy, for this doctrine is to be mind, and more especially from the profound in the fact of the resurrection of gressive expansion which they affirm to Christ. To satisfy yourselves upon ra- belong to it. Still we fear that, in retional grounds as to the immortality of spect of this argument, there is no expethe soul, we would say, study the historience to support it. There is a beauty rical evidence for the truth of this fact. we do confess in many of their represenThe physical argument of nature for the tations. But beauty is only for them that doctrine is grounded on certain obscure sit at ease. It is a cruel mockery for the reasonings about the properties and inde- man who is stretched on the bed of death, structibleness of the mind; the physical and has in his view the dark ocean of argument of Christianity again is grounded annihilation and despair. Yes, we have on the truth, the historically established heard them talk, and talk eloquently too, truth, that Christ has actually risen; on of the high and triumphant progression the credit of this specimen, and with all of the good man-of his virtues and of his the authority that is given by a miracle prospects—and of his death being a genso stupendous, rests the doctrine of the tle transition to a better world—of its begeneral resurrection. The moral argu-ing the goal where he reaps the honourament again of nature for the soul's im- ble reward that is due to his character mortality is furnished by the sense which as being little more than a step that leads is in all spirits of God's justice, and of him to a blessed immortality. Ay, this his yet unsettled controversy with sin. is all very fine, but it is the fineness of In the moral argument of Christianity poetry. Where is the evidence that it is again the doctrine is revealed in connex- real? We see it rot. Why so cruel an ion with the doctrine of the atonement; interruption to the progress ?-why cross it rises every day in strength and in as- this awful and mysterious death ?—why surance in the experience of the believer, is the good man not suffered to carry on in who feels in himself what nature never his triumphant progress?—and why comes feels—a growing meetness of spirit and this dark and unintelligible event to be character, which forms at once the prepa-| interposed between him and the full acration and the earnest of the inheritance complishment of his destiny ? You may which awaits him. In order to get at the choose to call it a step, but there is no physical argument of Christianity, you virtue in a name to quell our suspicions have to study the historical evidence for —it bears in every circumstance all the the truth of Christianity, considered as a marks of a termination. We see their religion of facts. In point of fact, how- fortitude giving way to the power of disever, this rational conviction will do very ease—we see them withering into feeblelittle in the way of bringing you underness, and, instead of what has been called the power of things unseen and things the dignity of man, we see the weakness eternal. I believe we are never effectu- and the fretfulness of age-we see the ally brought under this power but by the body bending to the dust-we see it exstudy of the moral argument; and this tended in all the agony of helplessness moral argument can only be drawn from and pain, and yet we must call this a trithe internal evidence of Christianity in umphant procession to eternity! We obopposition to the external evidence. The serve the emission of the last breath, but moral argument never can be appreciated whether the spirit is extinct, or has filed adequately, but by those on whom the in- to another region, nature tells us not. ternal evidence of Christianity has pro- We call upon the philosopher to reveal duced its right impressions. But before the mystery of death-we ask why the we proceed to consider strictly this argu- good man has such an ordeal to undergo? ment, let us attend to how it really stands —why, like the angels, does he not flouin the theology of nature—for natural rish in perpetual vigour ?—and how shall theology also lays claim to moral argu- we explain that universal allotment, with