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together until now: and not only it, but ourselves also, who have the first fruits of the spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body." Redemption of it from what? Redemption of it from death and the grave, as seen, Hosea 13: 14. The earnest expectation of the whole creation, "waiteth for this manifestation of the sons of God," Rom. 8: 19. But does the church of God obtain redemption from death and the grave at any man's death? Or is the whole creation delivered from the bondage of corruption, unto the glorious liberty of the sons of God, when every individual man dies?
But it will be said, "does not Paul seem to intimate, that being absent from the body, was to be present with the Lord? How could he speak as he does, if he believed he was to remain in a state of unconscious existence until the general resurrection, a much longer time than he had lived on earth?" Answer: some meet this objection by saying, man falls asleep at death, and is awaked out of it at the resurrection at the last day. As all will be alike unconscious, to the time and events which have intervened, the transition will appear instantaneous, and in this way does Paul here speak of it. But I would account for his language here from a fact, which few will dispute. In scripture style, the writers often speak of things as present, yea, as even past, the more strongly to express their certainty. Isai. ch. 53, speaks of the Messiah as having suffered, died and been buried. Now, it is evident that Paul in this passage speaks with great certainty on this subject. At verse 1, he says, we know we have a building of God, an house not made with hands eternal in the heavens. At verse 6, he says, we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord.”
And again, at verse 8, he says, "we are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord." In confirmation of this view, Macknight says in his fourth Preliminary Essay, "the preterite tenses, especially in the prophetic writings, are used for the future, to show the absolute certainty of the things spoken of."_He cites the following texts in proof; Rom. 8: 30. Eph. 2: 6. Heb. 2: 7. 3: 14. 12: 22. But what is more to our purpose he adds-"the present tense is often put for the future, to show that the thing spoken of shall as certainly happen, as if it were already present." In proof of this he cites Matt. 3: 10. Mark 9: 31. 1 Cor. 15: 2, 12. James 5: 3. 2 Peter 3: 11, 12. Whether this does not account for Paul's manner of speaking in this passage, we leave to the judgment of the reader.
To conclude. In Essay i. we have seen that the spirit or life of every man returns unto God who gave it. It is laid up with Christ in God, to be restored to man in the resurrection at the last day. Hence Stephen, at his death, commended his spirit into the hands of Jesus. In view of the resurrection, all live unto God, and he is called their God, on this account, though dead. With truth then might Paul speak of being absent from the body and present with the Lord, not only from the certainty that this should take place at the resurrection, 1 Thess. 4: 17, but as in safe keeping with him until it arrived. But, though he here contrasts his present condition with his future prospects, and expresses his feelings and desires respecting both, he gives no intimation that he expected to enjoy future happiness until "mortality was swallowed up of life."
Concluding remarks, addressed to Christians, Jews, and Deists.
1st, To Christians. Supposing a Jew, deist, or pagan inclined to attend to Christianity, his first question ought to be, what is Christianity? He might say, "you have got Trinitarian Christianity, Unitarian Christianity, Socinian Christianity, and various other kinds of it. Pray which of all these kinds do you wish me to believe? Ram Mohun Roy, has renounced heathenism and embraced Christianity, yet many of you denounce him as no Christian, because he has not believed your kind of it. Before you urge us any more to embrace Christianity, first determine among yourselves what Christianity is!” You will no doubt say-let such a person sit down and examine the Scriptures for himself. This is the only course, I allow, a candid, judicious man ought to pursue; but I ask, could he ever learn from them alone, some of the dogmas, in which you maintain that the very essentials of Christianity consist? If he did not, he would be denounced by some of you as no Christian. For what I have written, it is likely you will denounce me as no Christian. Well, allowing I am not, permit me affectionately to address you as such. I speak as to wise men, judge ye what I say. Seeing ye are wise, as a fool receive me, and bear with me in my folly whilst I expostulate with you.
The great mistake with me for many years was, and with you still is, proposing to save immortal souls from an endless hell in a future state of existence. The grounds of my change of sentiment I have laid before the world, have appealed to the
Scriptures in proof of my opinions, and if I have erred I should be glad to see my error pointed out. I am now convinced that God never threatened men with such a punishment, and therefore your attempts to save men from hell is a waste of time, labor and money. It never can be known, that such a salvation is accomplished, allowing the doctrine of hell torments to be true, until the experiment is made by entering on a future state of existence. But, if the salvation of the Gospel is a salvation from ignorance, idolatry and wickedness, this can be known here, both by the person saved, and all around him. That vast numbers were saved in the apostolic age, you will readily admit. But it deserves your serious consideration, that the apostles never proposed to save any one from endless hell torments, nor mentioned such a punishment to their hearers. If you doubt my word, read the book of the Acts, and you must be satisfied I speak the truth. Nor is a word said to any Christian, in all the Epistles, intimating that he had been saved from the torments of hell, which is very unaccountable if this was a truth. But you can see in every page of those writings, that persons were saved from their sins, from the course of this world, with other things I need not particularize. Now, brethren, what was the doctrine which saved men in those days? I am confident you will say it was, that Jesus died and rose from the dead, and through him was preached the resurrection from the dead. Such was the simple doctrine which saved the world in the days of the apostles. The experiment then has once been tried, and it succeeded in saving the world from ignorance and crime, by preaching the simple facts that Jesus died and rose from the dead. Has this salt lost its savour? If it has, in vain do we attempt to cure the world now, by preaching the various sectarian dogmas, which have
divided and subdivided Christians, until Christianity is outraged and disgraced, and multitudes reject it on this account. I appeal to yourselves; where do you find the apostles teaching the grand points which now agitate, and have for ages agitated, the Christian church, and alienated Christians from one another? Had the apostles become heads of sects, denounced each other, and strove for the mastery as has often been done since, would they have saved the world as they did? No. I beseech you, consider the Saviour's prayer, that unity and love among Christians, and the salvation of the world must go together, "that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us that the world may believe that thou hast sent me," John 17: 21. 13: 33-35. I respectfully ask, would it not be well for all sects to return to apostolic topics in their preaching; and, laying aside sectarian names, and party shibboleths, unite as one man in saving the world from vice and crime? A salvation which all admit the world very much needs.
It cannot be denied, that in our day the grand theme of preaching is, the immortal soul, the never-dying soul, the imperishable spirit; its salvation from hell, and its going to heaven at death, is the all and in all in religion. But in what part of your Bibles do you find such language or sentiments? Besides, do you not perceive, that such sentiments throw the doctrine of Christ's resurrection into the shade, and are calculated to lead all, whether Jew, deist, or pagan, to hope for future life founded on the immortality of the soul? On this very ground the heathen did hope for future life. On this ground deists now hope for it, for this part of your creed and theirs is the same. If men have immortal souls, they must exist forever, if the alleged fact of Christ's resurrection was proved a falsehood. But I appeal to you if the apostles