« FöregåendeFortsätt »
he went: That though God had promised to give Canaan for an Inheritance to him and his Posterity, yet he sojourned in it, as in a strange Land, where neither he, nor Isaac, nor Jacob. had any Inheritance as long as they lived. And left we should think, that in all this Abraham and the Patriarchs had no farther Regard than to the temporal Promise, he tells us expressly, That he look'd for a City which hath Foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God, ver. 10. And that they all died in Faith, not having receiv'd the Promises, but having jeen them afar off ; and they were persuaded of them, and embraced them; and confess'd that they were but Pilgrims and Strangers upon Earth. For they that say such Things, declare plainly that they seek a Country; and truly had they been mindful of that Country from whence they came out, (that is, Ur of the. Chaldees) they might have had Opportunity to bave returned; but now they desire a better Country, that is, a heavenly; wherefore God is not asham'd to be called their God, for be bath prepared for them a City, ver. 13, 14, 15, 16. So that all these peculiar Acts of Faith resolve themselves into the Belief of unseen Rewards. And for this Reason the Apostle alledges several particular Acts of Faith, which do not immediately relate to the Belief of another World, and yet makes them Examples of that Faith, cobich is the Substance of Things hoped for, and the Evidence of Things not seen. Excepting what the Apostle says of Abraham and the Patriarchs looking for a better Country, that is, a beavenly; and Moses chusing rather to suffer Afflictions with the Children of God, than to enjoy the Pleasures of Sin for a Season ; esteeming the Reproach of Christ greater Riches than the Treasures of Egypt, and that because he had respect to the Recompence of the Reward; and the Example of those who were tortur’d, not accepting Deliverance, that they might obtain a better Resurrection ; all which plainly and expressly refer to the Belief of future Rewards : I fay, excepting these, all the other Acts of Faith here mention’d are of a more particular Consideration ; as Abraham and Sarah’s believing that Promise God made them of a Son in their old Age ; Abraham's offering up Isaac at God's Command; Ifaac's blessing Jacob and Efau; and Jacob's blefsing the Sons of Joseph ; and Joseph's mentioning at his Death the departing of the Children of ilrael, and giving Commandment concerning his Bones; and Moses's Parents when he was born, concealing him three Months ; and Moses keeping the Passover ; passing the Red Sea ; and the Walls of Jericho falling down; and Rahab's concealing the Spies; and all the Victories of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the Prophets ; who through Faith fubdued Kingdoms, wrought Righteousness, obtained Promises, stopped the Mouths of Lions, quench'd the Violence of Fire, escaped the Edge of the Sword, out of Weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, and turned to flight the Armies of the Aliens : I say, such Acts of Faith as these do not immediately respect the Belief of another World, and future Rewards ; but yet they are great Instances of Faith in God; which it is impossible any Man should have, in any great Degree, without the Belief of future Rewards.
Take away the Belief of another Life, and all wife and considering Men must have a very mean Opinion of Providence. For why should any
Man think that God is much concern'd for Mankind, who are only to take a short turn or two in this World, and so leave the Stage? Did Death put an end to us, a Life of Faith would be a very unaccountable and absurd way of spending our Time; to waste our few and short Days in Hope and Expectation, when we know that Death will quickly
come, and put an end to us and all our Hopes. Would any wise Man upon these Terms have done as Abraham did ; who left his native Country, and his Father's House, to spend his whole Life in a strange Land, where he had no Inheritance, only in Expectation of God's Promise, That after some hundred Years his Seed should inherit that Land ? What was all this to him, if in the mean time he must fall into nothing ? If there were no Life but this, it would be most reasonable to make the best we can of it, and to spend it in present Enjoyments, not in Faith and Hope. And thus most Men take care to do, as near as they can, who believe no other Life after this. And therefore all great and eminent Acts of Faith in God, whatever the particular Inftances of it be, are a certain Proof that such Men do believe unseen Things, and live by Faith in God's Promises in this World, in Hopes and Expectations of the unseen and unknown Rewards of the next. Let us then reflect upon all this, and consider what new Evidence this gave the Jews of a future State, beyond what the Heathens had.
Now in the first place: This furnished them with many eminent Examples of the Belief of a future State, with the Examples of the wiseft and best Men of the World in all Ages; with the Examples of their own Progenitors from the Beginning of the World; which is apt to endear any Opinion and Custom to us, and to make it a Family-Faith. And this they had the most certain Evidence of, in the visible Effects of this Faith both in Life and Action. They shewed their Faith by their Works ; they firmly believed another Life, and they most passionately desired it; not with some lazy and fruitless Wishes, but they took care to serve and please God, and that in the most difficult Instances, and with the most unre
served Obedience, without disputing, without repining, without the least Distrust and Diffidence, with an heroical Resolution, invincible Courage, and unwearied Constancy. And if Examples can signify any thing, there cannot be greater and more convincing Examples than these. It is certain that those Men are in very good earneft, that they do heartily believe another Life, and heartily desire the Happiness of it, who are ready to forego any present Enjoyments, and to submit to the greatert Hardships and most difficult Trials to obtain it. This is another Kind of Argument, than merely to hear Men profess their Belief of another Life, and their Desire of it, when the whole Course of their Lives contradicts such a Faith and Hope. The Wickedness of Men can't confute the natural Belief and Desires of Immortality ; but the Examples of such good Men give a mighty Confirmation to it ; especially when God himself gave such a glorious Testimony to them, as he did to Abel, Enoch, and Noab; and in an eminent Degree to Abraham, with whom he enter'd into Covenant, and chose his Posterity for his peculiar People, and took upon himself the Name of the God of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob. So that tho’ we do not find any express Promise of another Life under the Law, this falls very little short of it. And this Evidence the Jews had from the History of Moses, and the Examples of their Forefathers recorded there.
SECT. SE CT. III.
The. Mosaical Evidence of a Future State, from
the Divine Providence.' 4. T
HE next natural and moral Argument
of a future State, is the Wisdom and Juftice of Providence. And we have sufficient Evidence of this from the mere Light of Nature, to make it a very sensible and convincing Argument: But the History of Moses gives new Strength and Clearness to it, as giving us an ocular Denionftration of those Principles from whence this Conclufion is drawn, and a new Evidence of the neceffary Connexion betwen these Principles and the Conclusion. The Strength and Certainty of the Conclusion must bear Proportion to the Certainty of the Premises, and to the Evidence of the Connexion. And therefore, when we prove the Immortality of the Soul and a future State from the Divine Providence, our Evidence for a future State can't exceed that Evidence we have, 'that God governs the World, that he is a wise and a juft Govenor, and therefore will certainly, at one time or other, reward good Men, and punish the Wicked. Now though we have very good natural Proofs of all this, yet we must grant, that they fall short of that Evidence, which the History of Mofes gives us. There is the same Difference between them, that there is between the mere Conclusions of Reason, how plain foever they may seem to be, and the certain Evidence of Sense. : If we believe the History of Mofes, which the Jews most firmly did, and which was therefore a Divine Evidence and Authority to them, we there see the Providence of God, and the Wisdom and