Obrazy na stronie

sioned to teach it, if it were true: which the argument of Dr. Sherlock, to which I have adverted, and with which those who have written upon this subject, in general seem to agree) assumes to be the fact: why was he permitted in any degree to conceal the most material doctrine which he could have communicated ? My answer to this question has also been explicitly given. It was not at that time true.

The descendants of Adam were then under a sentence of death, without any assurance from heaven of another life. But as this opinion is, so far as I know, the reverse of that usually entertained, I will endeavour to give it some additional support.

Mankind having now been accustomed for so many ages, to regard death as merely a temporary separation of the soul from the body: and Christians having been taught to believe, that all who have ever lived, shall rise again to be rewarded or punished, according to their deserts : seem to consider the penalty of death, which Adam incurred, and entailed

upon them, to have borne originally the same sense which it does now. But could Adam have so understood it? What was there in the terms, thou shalt surely die : or in

these—for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return: which could have suggested to his mind the idea, that he was to exist again, and that eternally in a state of bliss or misery? The very reverse of this seems to be declared in the same chapter. And now lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever. Whatever may be the meaning of these words, at least, they give no countenance to the opinion, that Adam had


intimation of a future state of existence. It may be said, that the record of this period is so brief, that the Almighty may have instructed our first parent in many thing's which have not been expressly transmitted to

This is true. But is it likely, that this most important of all things, both to him and his posterity to know, should have been of the number? And supposing it were, should we not expect to meet with some clear traces of it, in the history of the first ages both before and after the flood ? But are there any such, in the book of Genesis, or in any part of the Pentateuch ? I am not aware of any. In the forty-ninth chapter of Genesis, we have a very particular account of the instructions of Jacob to his children, upon bis death-bed, in which


even a prediction of the future coming of the Messiah is included. But even here, there does not appear the slightest expectation, that they should meet again in another life. The conclusion is, merely, that he yielded up the ghost, and was gathered unto his people.

But if, from examining the history of the Fall, and of the Patriarchal ages, we are satisfied that no promise of a future life was then made to mankind; how much more must we be convinced of it, when we turn to the language of our Saviour, upon the same point ! If the original sentence of death included a promise of a resurrection ; in what sense could he declare, that he was the resurrection and the life : or the Apostle affirm, that he had abolished death? If it did not exclude it, how are we to understand the declaration of St. Paul, that the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord! in which, as in the text, the two things seem to be directly contrasted with each other.

My object being merely to account for the silence of Moses respecting a future state : if I have succeeded in that respect, I have answered the two infidel arguments, which I noticed in my former discourse : the one of which, assuming the doctrine to be true, charges him with ignorance of it; and the other, supposing him to have known it, imputes deceit to him in suppressing it. To neither of which accusations is he (according to my view of the subject) liable. But there have been, and still are, many persons who think, that although it is not expressly mentioned in the Pentateuch, its author and his countrymen must have been acquainted with it. I have already argued, that if he knew it upon Divine authority, he must have taught it openly and prominently ; and made it, as our Saviour did, the very foundation of his system. His knowledge of it from any other source, could not, to him, have been authentic: and his teaching it upon such grounds would have been at variance with his character of an inspired writer; who was bound to declare nothing, but what was expressly revealed to him. Thus, it has been said, he might have learned the doctrine from the Egyptians. And indeed, we are told in the Acts of the Apostles, that he was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians. It is true, that the Pagan notions of a future state are to be traced in Egypt up to a very high antiquity. But that they existed there in the time of Moses can certainly not be proved. But supposing they did, it would only serve to confirm my argument'. If Moses could have permitted himself to borrow any religious doctrine from the Egyptians, surely that of a future state, which is so reasonable in itself, so worthy of the Deity, and seemingly so necessary, for the purpose of controlling the people, whom he was divinely appointed to instruct and


would have been that which he would doubtless have selected. Yet he has not done so. And it would be difficult to discover


other sufficient reason for his conduct in this respect, than that which I have suggested.

And this will serve also to throw some light upon a matter of which infidels, we have seen, have not neglected to avail themselves, and which even believers may be apt sometimes to regard with astonishment. I allude to the obstinacy and wickedness, which the Hebrews so frequently exhibited, even under the administration of a Theocracy. Although (as I


Divine Legation, vol. vi. 108, 123, 133.

« PoprzedniaDalej »