« EdellinenJatka »
HIS MORTALITY. 179
creature; and like them also, when God takes away his breath, he dies, and returns to the dnst.
Although we may conclude, from some of the doctrinal parts of Scripture, that if Adam and Eve had not sinned, they would not have died, (see Rom. v, 12;) it is plain from their history, that they were created liable to mortality; and after their sin had been committed, their mortalitv was determined and ascertained. "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread," said Jehovah to his fallen child, "till thou return unto the ground, for out of it wast thou taken; for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return:" Gen. iii, 19. There is, indeed, no volume in the world, which abounds with so many vivid descriptions of the shortness of human life, and of the certainty of that death to which we are all hastening, as the volume of Scripture. "Behold thou hast made my days as an handbreadth," said David, "and mine age is as nothing before thee: verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity:" Ps. xxxix, 5 ; conip. xc, 9,10. "All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: the grass withereth, the flower fadeth; because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass:" Is. xl, 6, 7. "Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble. He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down: he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not:" Job xiv, 1, 2. And as the life of a man is but as " a vapour that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away," (Jas. iv, 14 ;) so also those outward objects which here occasion him pleasure and pain, which occupy so much of his attention, and excite so much of his sensibility, are all invariably marked with the same character of brevity and change. "But this I 180 HIS ETERNITY.
say, brethren, the time is short: it remaineth that both they that have wives be as though they had none; and they that weep as though they wept not; and they that buy as though they possessed not; and they that use this world as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away:" I Cor. vii, 29— 31. "Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher, vanity of vanities—all is vanity:" Eccl. i, 2.
Section II. On the Immortality of the Soul.—In the history of the creation, the distinction between man and the inferior animals is marked, not by his receiving from the Lord the breath of life, not by his becoming (to adopt the words of our translators) a living soul—but by his being formed in the image, and after the likeness, of the Most High God. That he was so formed in a moral point of view—that he was "created after God in righteousness and true holiness"—we shall presently find occasion to observe. But these comprehensive expressions probably include the notion of all those characteristics of humanity which elevate us far above all the lower animals, and from which we derive a faint resemblance to the Author of our being. Among these characteristics are obviously to be reckoned our faculties of thought, reflection and reason, by which we are enabled to enjoy communion with our Creator, and, in pursuance of his own edict, to exercise dominion over all inferior living creatures: see Gen. i, 26; comp. Ps. viii, 6. Yet the declaration, that man was formed in the image of God, has, in all probability, a yet more especial reference to an eternity of existence—to the doctrine that we are endowed with a spiritual substance, which survives the dissolution of its earthly tenement, and lives for ever. "For God created man
HIS SOUL OR SPIRIT 181
to be immortal," says the ancient, though probably uninspired, author of the Book of Wisdom, " and made him to be an image of his own eternity:" eh. ii, 23.T
This higher part of man, which perishes not with his outward frame, and of which his intellectual faculties (though exercised through the instrumentality of bodily organs) may be regarded as an essential property, appears to be very distinctly alluded to in several passages of Scripture, and is by the sacred writers denominated sometimes the spirit, and sometimes the soul.
It is generally supposed, that Solomon was speaking of the never-dying soul, as it is distinguished from the mere instinctive spirit of beasts, when, in his preaching, he cried, saying, "Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?" Eccl. iii, 21. So again, in describing the death of man, he says, "Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was? and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it:" xii, 7. When Isaiah wrote, "Hear, and your soul shall live:"—Ezekiel, "The soul that sinneth it shall die:"—Micah, "Shall I give the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?" (Isa. lv, 3; Ezek. xviii, 20; Mic. vi, 7;) it is by no means improbable that these prophets severally attached to the word "soul" the meaning in which we are ourselves accustomed to employ it—that of the essential and responsible part of man. In the New Testament there are various passages to the same effect. Thus it must surely be allowed, that Stephen was speaking,
1 Such is the explanation given, of the Image of God in man, by Tertullian. "Habent illas ubique lineas Dei, qui immortalis anima, qui libera et sui arbitrii, qui prascia plerumque, qui rationalis, capax intellectus et scientist." Contra Marcion. lib. ii, cap. 9.
182 EXISTS AFTER DEATH,
not of his material breath, but of his immortal soul, when, in the view of immediate death, he lifted up the voice of supplication, saying, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit:" Acts vii, 59. When the apostles wrote of the salvation of the soul, the purification of the soul, and the confidence of the soul in its Redeemer, (see James i, 21. v, 20; I Pet.i, 9. 22; Heb. vi, 19;) we may reasonably conclude that, by the soul, they intended to express the never-dying spirit within us. Again, in the book of Revelation, we read that the apostle John, in his vision, beheld under the altar "the souls of them that were slain for the word of God," (vi, 9)—" the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God:" xx, 4. Lastly, our Lord himself appears to have employed the word "soul" in this peculiar sense, when he said to his disciples, "Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell:" Matt. x, 28.
When Jesus thus exhorted his followers, he plainly promulgated the doctrine, that, although men are able to destroy the bodies one of another, they have no power to annihilate the soul—that, in other words, the annihilation of the soul is not effected by the death or destruction of the body—that when the body dies, therefore, the soul continues to exist. The body, which is justly described by two inspired apostles as the "tabernacle"—the tent in which the soul resides for a season—is laid aside in death, and is presently resolved into its original dust; (see II Cor. v, 1; II Pet. i, 13;) but the higher and more essential part of man, although invisible to mortal eye, preserves its identity, and is introduced to a new sphere IN MISERY 183
of existence and action—a new scene either of pain or of pleasure. That, during the interval which takes place between the death of the body and the resurrection of the dead, man is not in a state of absolute insensibility or annihilation, as some persons have vainly imagined, but in a condition either of suffering or of rejoicing, the New Testament contains a variety of evidence, which, although in some degree indirect, is nevertheless clear and satisfactory.
First, with respect to the impenitent wicked, their lot, during the separate state of existence, is described as one of pain and punishment, or, in language more or less metaphorical (and in what degree it is metaphorical no man can pretend to decide), as one oijlre and imprisonment. Although our Lord's parable of the rich man and Lazarus probably presents to our view a fictitious history, yet we have every reason to allow that the doctrines which it so clearly conveys to our understanding, are the doctrines of absolute truth. The rich man, who refused to exercise the offices of Christian charity towards his afflicted neighbour, dies; and, while his body is mouldering in the grave—while his relations are continuing to live on the earth—he is himself described as being in hell, a victim to the devouring flames: Luke xvi, 23. Again, we read, in a passage of the First Epistle of Peter, that Jesus Christ was " put to death in the flesh, but cmickened by the spirit; by which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison, which sometimes were disobedient when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah" I Pet. iii, 18—20. Although this passage is in some respects of doubtful interpretation, it will, I believe, be found to be explicit as far as relates to the point now before us. For, whether