« FöregåendeFortsätt »
it is now enveloped, will subsist in a manner infinitely more noble than it could do here below, duing its union with matter. We are perfectly convinced that the body will, one day, contribute greatly to our felicity; it is an essential part of our being, without which our happiness must be incomplete. But this necessity, which fetters down the functions of the soul, on this earth, to the irregular moveinents of ill-assorted matter, is a real bondage. The soul is a prisoner in this body. A prisoner is a man susceptible of a thousand delights, but who can enjoy, however, only such pleasures as are compatible with the extent of the place in which he is shut up: his scope is limited to the capacity of his dungeon: he beholds the light only through the aperture of that dungeon : all his intercourse is confined to the persons who approach his dungeon. But let his prison doors be thrown open; from that moment, behold him in a state of much higher felicity. Thenceforward he can maintain social intercourse with all the men in the world : thenceforward he is able to expatiate over the spacious universe.
This exhibits a portrait of the soul. A prisoner to the senses, it can enjoy those delights only which have a reference to sense. It can see, only by means of the cuticles and the fibres of its eyes : it can hear, only by means of the action of the nerves and sympanum of its ears: it can think, only in conformity to certain modifications of its brain. The soul is susceptible of a thousand pleasures, of which it has not so much as the idea. A blind man has a soul capable of admitting the sensation of light; if he be deprived of it, the reason is, his senses are defective, or improperly disposed. Our souls are susceptible of a thousand unknown sensations ; but they receive them not, in this economy of imperfection and wretchedness, because it is the will of God that they should perceive only through the medium of those organs, and that those organs, from their limited nature, should be capable of admitting only limited sensations.
But perinit the soul to expatiate at large, let it take its natural flight, let these prison-walls be broken down, O then ! the soul becomes capable of ten thousand inconceivable new delights. Wherefore do you point to that ghastly corpse ? Wherefore deplore those eyes closed to the light, those spirits evaporated, that blood frozen in the veins, that motionless, lifeless mass of corruption? Why do you say to me,“
My friend, my father, my spouse is no more; he sees, he hears, he acts no longer." He sees no longer, do you say? He sees no longer, I grant, by means of those visual rays which were formed in the retina of the eye; but he sees as do those pure intelligences which never were clothed with mortal flesh and bluod. He hears no more through the medium of the action of the æthereal fluid, but he hears as a pure spirit. He thinks no longer through the intervention of the fibres of his brain ; but he thinks from his own essence; because, being a pure spirit, the faculty of thought is essential to him, and inseparable from his nature.
ON THE FEAR OF DEATH,
Heb. ii. 14, 15.
Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, be
also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy bim that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who, through the fear of death, were all their life time subject to bondage.
N discoursing from these words, we observed,
that death is rendered formidable to man, by a threefold consideration, and that three considerations of an opposite nature strip him of all his terrors, in the eye of the believer in Christ Jesus. Death is formidable, 1. Because of the veil which conceals, from the eyes of the dying person, that state on which he is about to enter: 2. From remorse of conscience, which the recollection of past guilt excites: 3. From the loss of titles, honors, and all other earthly possessions.
In opposition to these, the death of Christ, 1. removes the veil which conceals futurity, and constitutes an authentic proof of the immortality of the soul : 2. It is a sacrifice presented to divine justice for the remission of sin: 3. It gives us.complete assurance of a blessed eternity. These are the considerations which disarm death of his terror, to the dying believer.
We have finished what was proposed on the first particular, and have shewn, ļ. That the doctrine of Jesus Christ fully establishes the soul's immortality: and 2. That the death of Jesus Christ is an irresistible proof of the truth of his doctrine.
But to no purpose would it be to fortify the mind against the apprehension of ceasing to exist, unless we are delivered from the terror of being for ever miserable. In vain is it to have demonstrated that our souls are immortal, if we are baunted with the well-grounded apprehension of their falling into the hands of that God, who is a consuming fire. In this case, what constitutes a man's greatness, would constitute his misery. Let us endeavor,
II. In the second place, to dissipate the dreadful apprehension which a guilty conscience awakens, in the prospect of judgment to come. Having considered Jesus Christ as a martyr, who sealed with his own blood the doctrine which he preached, and his death as an argument in support of the immortality of the soul, taught in that doctrine: let us contemplate our divine Saviour as a victim, which God has substituted in our place, and his death as a sacrifice offered up to divine justice, for the expiation of our offences.
One of the principal dangers to be avoided in controversies, and particularly in that which we are going to handle, is to imagine that all arguments are of equal force. Extreme care must be taken to assign to each its true limits, and to say, this argument proves thus far, that goes so much farther,