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'Tis immortality, 'tis that alone,
Lifts us above life's pains, her joys above;
Eternity depending all achieves ;
Sets earth at distance; casts her into shades;
The simplicity and spirituality of its nature plainly shows us, that it is in its very nature designed for immortality; for such a being or substance as this hath none of the seeds of corruption and death in its nature, as all material and compounded beings have. It hath nothing within it tending to dissolution: no jarring elements, no contrary qualities, are found in spirits, as there are in other crea tures of a mixed nature. Physicians and philosophers have contended and disputed eagerly about the true causes of natural death; "and whilst they have been contending about the way, they have come to the end." The ingress of the soul is obscure, and its egress not clear. But this seems to be the thing in which they generally centre, that the expence and destruction of the natural moisture, or radical balsam, as others call it, which is the oil that maine tains natural heat, or the bridle that restrains that flame of life from departing, as others express it: this is the cause of natural death. Others assign the unequal reparation of the parts of the body as the cause of death. But, be it one or another, it is evident the soul, which consists neither of contrary qualities, nor of dis similar parts, must be above the reach and stroke of death. For if the soul die, it must be either from some seeds and principles of death and corruption within itself, or by some destructive power without itself. In itself you see there is no seed or principle of
death; and if it be destroyed by a power without itself, it must be either by the stroke of some creature, or from the hand of God, that first formed and created it. But the hand and power of no creature can destroy it: the creature's power reaches no farther than the body, Matt. x. 28. "They cannot kill the soul." And though the almighty power of God, that created it out of nothing, can as easily reduce it to nothing; yet he will never do so. For, besides the designation for eternity, which is discernible in its very nature, and which speaks the intention of God to perpetuate the threatenings of eternal wrath, and promises of everlasting life, respectively made to the souls of men, as they shall be found in Christ, or out of Christ, puts it beyond all doubt that they shall never die. Flavel.
The immortality of the soul signifies nothing more than that it does not die with the body, does not fall into nothing, or into a state of insensibility; but that life and immortality, which the Gospel promises, is the resurrection of the dead.
Now, what better confirmation can there be of all the natural arguments for the immortality of the soul, than the gospel promises of life and immortality? for there is reason to think that the soul is by nature immortal, when God has promised to clothe it with an immortal body. If the soul were by nature mortal, why should it ever rise again, when it once dies? for death is the natural end of a mortal creature; and when it dies, it has had all that being which it was made for; but if the soul be by nature immortal, and death signifies only its separation from the body, there may be very wise reasons why a good God should clothe the immortal souls of good men with immortal bodies again, and raise them into immortal life. And it will add some force to this argument, if we consider that bad men shall rise again unto endless punishments, which is a good argument that their souls are by nature immortal; for, whatever other difficulties there may be in eternal punishments, this will be an unanswerable one, that a mortal creature should be made immortal to be punished for ever; for eternal punishments can never be just, if person who is to suffer them be by nature mortal; for such punishments as exceed the proportion of nature, must exceed the natural measures of justice too. So that the resurrection of the
body, which is the Gospel immortality, does, by plain and necessary consequence, prove the immortality of the soul also; and then we shall more clearly see the natural symptoms and evidences of im mortality, and feel the force of those arguments which, when we begin with them, when they stand alone, how probable soever they may appear, do not carry an absolute certainty with them.
Sensible appearances affect most men much more than abstract reasonings; and we daily see bodies drop around us; but the soul is invisible. The power which inclination has over the judgment is greater than can be well conceived by those that have not had an experience of it; and of what numbers is it the interest that souls should not survive! The heathen world confessed that they rather hoped than firmly believed immortality! And how many heathens have we still amongst us! The sacred page assures us, that life and immortality are brought to light by the gospel; but by how many is the gospel rejected or overlooked! From these considerations, and from my being accidentally privy to the sentiments of some particular persons, I have been long persuaded that most, if not all, our infidels, (whatever name they take, and whatever scheme, for argument's sake, and to keep themeslves in countenance, they patronize) are supported in their deplorable error by some doubt of their immortality at the bottom; and I am satisfied that men, once thoroughly convinced of their immortality, are not far from being Christians; for it is hard to conceive, that a man fully conscious eternal pain or happiness will certainly be his lot, should not earnestly and impartially inquire after the surest means of escaping the one, and securing the other. And of such an earnest and impartial inquiry I well know the consequence. Dr. Young.
Thus, it hath pleased His Sacred Majesty to assure me, that “if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." (2 Cor. v. 1.) So clearly hath the great God "brought life and immortality to light through the gospel." (2 Tim. i. 10.) The light of nature shows the soul can never perish or be dissolved, without
the immediate interposition of God's omnipotence; and we have his own divine word for it, that he will never use that power in the dissolution of it; and therefore I may with the greatest assurance affirm and believe, that as really as I now live so really shall I never die; but that my soul, at the very moment of its departure from the flesh, shall immediately mount up to the tribunal of the Most High God, there to be judged, first privately, by itself, (or perhaps with some other souls, that shall be summoned to appear before God the same moment) and then, from these private sessions, I believe that every soul that ever was or shall be separated from the body, must either be received into the mansions of heaven, or else sent down to the dungeon of hell. And though it is very difficult, or rather, impossible for me to conceive or determine the particular circumstances of this grand assize, or the manner and method how it shall be managed; yet, from the light and intimations that God has vouchsafed to give us of it, I have grounds to believe it will be ordered and carried on after this or the like manner.
Bishop Beveridge's Thoughts on Religion. Another presumption, in favour of a future state, is the perpetual progress of the soul towards perfection, and its endless capacity of further improvements and larger acquisitions. This argument has been set in so strong and beautiful a light, by one of our finest writers, (Creech) that it is hardly possible to do it justice in other words than his own. "A brute, says he, arrives at a point of perfection, which he can never pass. In a few years he has all the endowments he is capable of, and were he to live ten thousand more, he would be be the same thing he is at present. Were a human soul thus at a stand in her accomplishments; were her faculties full blown, and incapable of further enlargement; I could imagine she might fall away insensibly, and then drop at once into a state of annihilation. But who can believe that a thinking being, which is in a perpetual progress of improvements, and travelling on from perfection to perfection, must perish at her first setting out, and be stopped short in the beginning of her inquiries? Death overtakes her, while there yet is an unbounded prospect of knowledge open to her view; whilst the conquest over her passions is still incom
plete; and much is still wanted of that perfect standard of virtue, which she is always aiming at, but can never reach. Would an infinitely wise Being create such glorious creatures for so mean a purpose? or can he delight in the production of such abortive intelligences? Would he give talents which are never fully to be exerted, and capacities which are never to be filled? Is it not far more rea sonable to suppose, that man is not sent into the world merely to propagate his kind; to provide himself with a successor, and then to quit his post; but that those short-lived generations of rational creatures, which rise up and disappear in such quick succession, are only to receive their first rudiments of existence here, and then be transplanted to some more friendly climate, where they may spread and flourish; where they may go on from strength to strength; where they may shine for ever with new accessions of glory, and brighten to all eternity. Bishop Porteus's Sermons,
Tully compares this argument with that for the existence of God, fetched from the same antiquity and universal consent of nations, who have nothing common between them but the same nature, which shows what is truly nature. If it be said, this belief flows from tradition, it may be asked, how this tradition began? If from a treaty between the several clans of mankind, who managed it? and how it was carried on and perfected? If it was from one par ticular source, there must have been one first man created, who can not be supposed to have set such a notion on foot without the direction of his Maker: or suppose the tradition began how you please, if there was nothing in human nature to countenance it, but left to support itself by its own power, it must have been very shortlived. We give much, says Seneca, to the presumption of all men. Many testimonies may be produced from the Chaldeans, Grecians, Pythagoreans, Stoics, Platonists, &c. of their belief of the immor tality of the soul; and the savage Indians are also persuaded of it. Now, that which gains the universal assent of all tempers, capaci ties, and nations, (some few particular atheists excepted)
from nature, or the strongest natural arguments.
Dr. Ryland on the Beauties of Creation.