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the beautiful, the wise and the good; but we find imme diate relief, we rise into joy, we tread among the stars when, aided by religion, we transport ourselves in though to those blessed regions where all the faithful live, an reign, and rejoice; where “they that be wise shine as the brightness of the firnament, and they that turn many t righteousness as the stars forever and ever.' Distance is then swallowed up and loft, and we mingle in the no ble employments and pure delights of the blessed immor tals who encircle the throne of God.
It is astonishing to think, that there should have been men disposed willingly to deprive themselves of this glo. rious source of comfort; men ready to resign the hizi prerogative of their birthright, and by a species of hunii ity strange and unnatural, spontaneoully degrading them felves to the level of the brutes that perish. And yet there have been in truth fuch men in every age.
But it is no wonder to find those who satisfy themselves with the pur suits and enjoyments of a mere beasily nature while they live, contented to lie down with the beasts in death, to arise no more. They first make it their interest that there fhould be no hereafter, and then they fondly perfuado themselves that there shall be none.
Error of every kind, both in faith and morals, prevailed in the extreme, at the period when and in the country where the Saviour of the world appeared for our redemption. The nation of the Jews was divided, in respect of moral and religious sentiment, into two great fects or parties, who both pretended to found their opinions upon the authority of the inspired books, which were held in universal estimation among them; and particularly the writings of Mofes. But they drew conclusions directly opposite from the same facts and doctrines; and both deviated, in the grossest manner, from the spirit and design of that precious record which they both affected to hold in the highest veneration.
The Pharisees, earnestly contending for the strict obferv. ance of the law, confined their attention to its minuter and less important objects, and paid “the tithe of mint and anise and cummin, but omitted “the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy and faith :" and, raising oral tradition to the rank and dignity of scripture, found a pretence for dispensing with the plainest and most effential
* Dan, sii. 3.
obligations of morality, when these contradicted their interests and opinions. Heinoufly offended at the neglect of washing of hands previous to eating, they were wicked enough to establish, by a law of their own, neglect of, unkindness and disobedience to parents ; thus, according to the just censure which our Lord pafsed upon them, “ straining out a gnat, and swallowing a camel.”
The Sadducees, on the other hand, the strong fpirits of the age, disdaining the restraints imposed on mankind by a written law, thought fit to become a law unto themfelves. They left the austerities of a strict religion and morality to vulgar minds; and, that they might procure peace to themfelves in the enjoyment of those finful pleasures to which they were addicted, they denied the existence of fpirit, the immortality of the foul, and a future state of retribution. They alleged that the law was silent on those points, and that this filence was a sufficient reason for rejecting the belief of them. They went farther, and contended, that were fuch doctrines contained in the law, they ought not to be admitted, because they implied a contradiction, or at least involved such a number of difficulties as it was impossible satisfactorily to solve. The chief of those difficulties they propose to our blefled Saviour in the passage which I have read; and they do this, not in the spirit of docility and diffidence, to have it removed, but in the pride of their hearts, vainly taking for granted that it was insurmountable.
My principal intention in leading your thoughts to this fubject at this time, is the occasion which it afforded to the great Teacher who came from God, of discoursing on a theine nearly connected with the design of these Lectures; and of disclosing to us sundry important particulars, refpecting the venerable men whose lives we have been studying, and those which we are still to examine; and respecting that world in which we, together with them, have a concern so deeply, because eternally, interesting. To thefe we dhall be led by making a few cursory remarks on the preceding conversation which took place between Christ and the Sadducees. And this shall serve as an Introduction to the farther continuation of a course of Lectures on the history of the memorable persons and events presented to us in the holy scriptures of both the Old and New Testaments.
The Sadducees insidiously begin their attack by profeíling the highest respect for the authority of Moses and of
his writings: “Master, Moses wrote unto us." The most pernicious designs, the most malevolent purposes, are frequently found to clothe themselves in smiles; often while mischief lies brooding in men's hearts, “their words are fmoother than oil.” The father of lies himself can have recourse to truth if it be likely to serve his turn; and the enemy of all goodness will condescend to quote that scripture which he hates, if it can help him to an argument for the occasion. With this affected deference for Mofes, the Sadducees are aiming at the total subversion of every moral and religious principle, by weakening one of the itrongest motives to virtue, and undermining the surelt foundation of hope and joy to man. They allege, that obedience to the law might eventually lead to much confusion and disorder; and they suppose a situation, for none fuch ever existed, in which compliance with the revealed will of God in this world would infallibly lead to discord and distrefs in that which is to come. In this we have an example of a very common case; that of men straining their eyes to contemplate objects at a great distance, or totally out of sight, and wilfully neglecting or overlooking those which are immediately before them : troubling themselves about effects and consequences of which they are ignorant, and over which they have no power, while they are regardless of obvious truth and commanded duty, though these are their immediate business and con
The Sadducees in order to cloak their licentiousness and infidelity, affect solicitude about the regularity and peace of a future state, which in words they denied, if ihey did not from the heart disbelieve.
I make but one remark more before I proceed to our Lord's reply. Eagerness and anxiety to bring forward and to establish an opinion, betray an inward doubt or disbclief of it. Truth is not ever proclaiming itself from the house-tops, is not forward to obtrude itself upon every occasion, but is fatisfied with maintaining and defending itself when assaulted; but falsehood is eternally striving to conceal or strengthen its conscious weakness by a parade of words, and a fhew of reason. The zeal of the Sadducees to explode and run down the doctrine of the refurrection, plainly betrays a secret dread and belief of it.
Our Lord, in his answer, points out directly the fource of all error and infidelity, “ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, and the power of God.” Not knowing the scriptures, ye suppose a doctrine is not in them, because ye have not found it there : because ye have wilfully shut your own eyes, ye vainly imagine there is no light in the sun; and take upon you to affirm there is none. Not knowing the
Not knowing the power of God, you call that impossible which you cannot do, deem that absurd which you do not comprehend, and pronounce that false which you wish to be so. The whole force of the objection to the truth of the resurrection, goes upon the supposition, that the future world is to be exactly constituted as the present; that the relations and distinctions which subfist among men upon earth, are to fubfist in the kingdom of heaven. But the supposition is founded in ignorance and falsehood; and, the moment it is denied, the mighty argument built upon it falls to the ground. “ In the resurrection, " says Christ, “ they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.”
In these words, the condition of men in the world to come, is described, first, negatively, “they neither marry, nor are given in marriage.” The power which created the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, might undoubtedly, had it pleased him, have created the whole human race at once, as easily as he formed the first of men, Adam, and as easily as he rears up one generation of men after another, in the course of his providence. But, thinking it meet to people the earth by multiplying mankind gradually upon it, difference of fex and the institution of marriage were the means which he was pleased to employ. In the resurrection, the number of the redeemed being complete at once, that difference, and that institution, being unnecessary, shall be done away. Our Saviour adds “ neither can they die any more. Death, too, enters into the plan of Providence for the government of this world. Men must be removVOL. II. B
ed, to make room for men. But because this sphere is narrow and contracted, and unable to contain and support the increasing multitudes of many generations, is the Lord's hand shortened, that he cannot expand a more spacious firmament, and compact a more spacious globe, to contain, at once, the countless nations of them that are saved ? O how greatly do men err; not knowing the power of God! Death is no part of the plan of Providence for the government of that world of bliss. In our Father's house above there are many mansions; there is bread enough, and to spare ; there is room for all, provision for all: the father need not to die, to give space to the son, nor the mother to spare, that the child may have enough. For they are “as the angels of God,” says our Lord, according to Matthew, “ equal to the angels,” says our evangelist, “ and are the children of God.”
This describes their happiness positively. Men on earth “ see in a glass darkly; know in part, prophecy in part,” are encompassed with infirmity; but the "angels in heaven" excel in strength, stand before the throne of God, ferve him day and night in his temple, without wearying, see face to face, know as they are known.” Their number is completed, their intercourse is pure and perfect, without the means of increase and union which exist here below.
Having thus reproved their ignorance and presumption, respecting the “ power of God,” our Lord proceeds to expose their ignorance respecting “ the scriptures,” and produces a passage from Mofes, in whom they trusted, which they had hitherto overlooked or misunderstood, wherein the doctrine in dispute was clearly laid down; and which we had principally in view in leading your attention to this passage on the present occasion.
The passage quoted, is that noted declaration of God to Moses, from the midst of the burning bush, “ I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham,