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will not come to me, that ye might have life. The most natural meaning of his words upon this occasion is this Search the Scriptures for a testimony of me, through faith in whom, ye may inherit eternal life.Indeed
upon the supposition, that the Jews had previously a Revelation, by which they could in any manner attain it, the mission of Christ becomes perfectly unintelligible. For if so, they were already in possession of that, which the whole Christian scheme teaches us to be unattainable, but by the atonement of Jesus, and obedience to his commandments. After this, it is hardly necessary to say, that the eleventh chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews, which has been sometimes relied upon, as a decisive proof, that a future state was taught under the law, cannot receive that interpretation, without contradicting the rest of that Epistle ; and the express declarations of its author, upon this point, in several others. In addition to those, to which I have already referred, I will mention but one more from the Epistle to the Galatians, which seems to place the doctrine of the great Apostle upon this head, beyond dispute. For if, (says he) there had been a law given, which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. So far from the end, which is eternal life, being promised by the Mosaic dispensation ; the means are not so much as indicated by it, by which it can be obtained.
And this leads me to notice the last objection, which may be urged, against the view which I have been taking of this subject.-Some persons may think, that it is at variance with the former part of the seventh article of our Church: which affirms that the Old Testament is not contrary to the New : for both in the Old and New Testament, everlasting life is offered to mankind by Christ. If I rightly understand this proposition, it is the very same for which I contend. Wherever the Old Testament promises the Messiah, it promises everlasting life. But only through our Saviour, until whose coming, or rather until whose death and resurrection, the promise was not in operation. Though when it commenced, it had a retrospective influence upon the salvation of all men, whose faith and virtue had been commensurate with the light which they had received, or the opportunities which they had enjoyed. The article affirms also that “the old Fathers (or in the Latin
version simply veteres) did not look only for transitory promises.” Who are intended here does not appear. Probably those who are enumerated in the eleventh chapter to the Hebrews, who are said to have died in faith not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off. That it was given to them individually, to have a prophetic view of a heavenly tountry, must be admitted. Yet (as Bishop Burnet observes) “it cannot be denied, but that it was as a light that shined in a dark place, till the day-star did arise !.” And what was so imperfectly visible to them, we may readily believe was not seen by the people at all. That is, that the doctrine of a future state had not been taught to them, as an express Revelation from heaven : the only ground upon which even at this day, it can be
with absolute confidence. In my former discourse, I intimated an opinion, that the reward of obedience to Adam and his posterity, had he entitled himself to it, could not have been immortality upon earth-and I have found no reason to change
it. But the determination of this point, is not material for my purpose. The case supposed never existed. The Bible is wholly silent upon it. The Almighty foresaw and provided for another contingency-namely, the disobedience of Adam, and denounced against it the penalty of death : which, as I contend, of itself excludes the idea of a resurrection : or the declaration of the Apostle, that Jesus Christ hath abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel ; becomes quite unintelligible.Under this unrepealed, and unmodified sentence, mankind lay, when Moses made public, by the command of God, the Jewish law : and nothing short of this will, in my judgment, satisfactorily account for his omitting to make a future state the sanction of that code. Nor does it appear, that until it was proclaimed by our Saviour, the doctrine could ever be said to rest upon Divine authority.
Enough I trust has been said to establish the consistency of the Old and the New Testaments, upon
very important questionan object, surely, of the deepest interest, to all who hold religion in due estimation. To prove the consistency of writings in general, is not, I know, to prove their truth : for works of fiction may be, and commonly are, consistent with themselves. But this must be understood of single and independent compositions. If this were the character of the sacred volume, its mere consistency would be hardly any argument at all of its truth. But when we consider of what it consists, namely, of writings by various authors, and of very different kinds, commencing with the remotest antiquity, and extending over a period of more than four thousand years—having for their principal object, to record two distinct but connected, yet in some respects, opposite Revelations of the Almighty to man; conveyed through the medium of types, prophecies, and miracles if under such circumstances, the consistency of the whole should be clearly established, it would not fall far short of a proof of their veracity. And if even in a single point, of great moment, it has been shewn, that apparent discrepancy is free from real contradiction, something I hope has been done for the confirmation of our faith. For although consistency cannot strictly be alleged, as a proof of the Scriptures ; inconsistency (if fairly