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Egypt is said to have been the inventress of this important and valuable part of the common tradition ; and, undoubtedly, it is to be found in the earliest records of Egyptian history: but from the wonderful conformity of its outlines to the parallel doctrines of Scripture, it is probable that it has a still higher origin, and that it constituted a part of the patriarchal or Antediluvian creed, retained in a few channels, though forgotten or obliterated in others : and, consequently that it was a divine communication in a very early age.” Let us look at this statement.
1st. This common tradition under different modifications it seems developed_"a very important and correct doctrine." Well, let us see what it is? It is—" that hell, hades, or the invisible world is divided into two very distinct and opposite regions by a broad and impassable gulf; that the one is a seat of happiness, a paradise, or elysium, and the other a seat of misery, a gehenna, or tartarus.”
In one word, it developed the orthodox heaven and hell for disembodied spirits, for does not every orthodox man contend that this is his heaven and bell, and refer to the parable of the rich man and Lazarus in proof of his opinions ? Well, Dr. Good tells him, it was the ancient popular tradition which developed or brought to light this very important and correct doctrine.
2d. Who then invented this part of the conmon tradition ? Dr. Good answers=“ Egypt is generally said to have been the intentress of this important and valuable part of the common tradition ; and undoubtedly, it is to be found in the earliest records of Egyptian history."
But as it would alarm our orthodox brethren to be told, that Egypt was the inventress of their heaven and hell for disembodied spirits and there leave it, he smoothes this matter over by adding the following to calm their fears about it. 6 But from
the conformity of its outlines to the parallel doctrines of Scripture, it is probable that it has a still higher origin, and that it constituted a part of the patriarchal or Antediluvian creed, retained in a few channels, though forgotten or obliterated in others; and, consequently, that it was a divine communication in a very early age." But even with Dr. Good, all this is no more than a mere probability. The only ground on which he rests its probability, is—"the wonderful conformity of its outlines to the parallel doctrines of Scripture;" but what these parallel doctrines are he does not inform us.
The only passage we think the Dr. could have in his eye is the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. But, the chronology of the cases show, that the ancient hea. then could not derive this important part of the common tradition from our Lord's parable. Our Lord then must have adopted this common tradition of theirs, and made it an important part of Christianity, if the common views of his parable are correct. But we cannot accede to this for several reasons. 1st. If Egypt was the inventress of this very important and correct doctrine, and if Moses had deemed it so, he would have inserted it in his five books. But though he was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, he takes not the least notice of it. 2d. Dr. Good admits it is not taught in the book of Job, the oldest writing extant. And it is, almost univer: sally allowed, that it is not taught in any part of the Old Testament. 3d. In my answer to Mr. Sabine, it is shown that our Lord borrowed this parable from the “Gemara Babylonicum, whence it is cited by Mr. Sheringham in his preface to bís Joma.” Our Lord, never taught any thing like the common opinions drawn from this parable in any of his plain discourses, either to his disciples or the multitude. 41h. His disciples never taught any thing like this in any
shape, and they certainly would have done it, had they understood this parable as many now do. 5th. All the Scripture writers, allude to the popular iraditions which prevailed, but is it correct to infer, that by this they sanctioned them as doctrines of divine revelation ? 6th. If we are to believe in the orthodox heaven and hell for disembodied spirits, on such grounds as these, why not believe many other things taught in the ancient heathen traditions Egypt was the inventress of many more; they are found in the earliest records of Egyptian history; and it is easily asserted, that there is a conformity between them and what is taught in Scripture. Who could not prove them all correct, by saying, they originated in a divine communication in a very early age ?
Dr. Good thinks it probable this part of the common tradition was a divine communication in a very early age. But I ask every candid man-is it in the least degree probable, that God transmitted to posterity such an important and correct doctrine, through a few channels of uncertain tradition, where it was so liable to be corrupted and forgotten ? Admit this was the case until a written revelation was given, kow is it accounted for, that God did not insert it in bis written revelation when given? Dr. Good avers it is not found in Job, nor in Moses' writings, and most people concede it is not found in all the Old Testament. Was there no necessity for those writers mentioning this very important and correct doctrine because forsootb it is found in the earliest records of Egyptian history ? Were these records_to be God's revelation to the world on this subject? Dr. Good does not pretend he ever saw them, and few Christians ever heard of these records. Still fewer kave either the ability or the opportunity to consult them. But I ask, did God ever command the Jews
to regard these Egyptian records, or any other, be. cause they contained doctrines not found in their sacred books, which they ought to believe! No, they are cautioned against looking to Egypt for any thing; and it is well known, the Jews are commanded to have nothing to do with beathen traditions or superstitions, but to attend to God's written word. The doctrine of the resurrection of the body is a very important and correct doctrine; why was it not handed down to posterity in a similar way as that of the orthodox heaven and hell for disembodied spirits, if both are alike true ?
Dr. Good adds, p. 381, “In effect, the whole of the actual knowledge possessed at any time, appears to have been traditionary: for we may well doubt whether, without such a basis to have built upon, philosophy would ever have started any well grounded opinion in favor of a future state. And this traditionary knowledge seems to have been of two kinds, and both kinds to have been delivered at a very early age of the world the immortality of the soul, and the final resurrection of the body. From the preceding sketch it seems reasonable to suppose that both these doctrines (unquestionably beyond the reach of mere human discovery) were divinely communicated to the patriarchs; and amidst the growing wickedness of succeeding times, gradually forgotten and lost sight of: in some quarters one of them being slightly preserved, in some quarters the other, and in one or two regions, both. In this last division it is highly probable we are to class the Hebrews at the epoch of Moses: and hence, perhaps, the reason why neither of these doctrines is specially promulgated in any part of his institutes. But in subsequent times both appear to have lost much of their force even among this
peoa ple.” We agree with the Dr. that human wisdom
never could have started any well-grounded opinion of a future state,” either founded on the immortality of the soul, or the final resurrection of the body. But he certainly is mistaken, in asserting, that the resurrection of the body is not taught by Moses, for our Lord blamed the Sadducees for not learning it from God's words to Moses at the bush. How is it then accounted for, that this doctrine is taught in those early inspired writings, yet the immortality of the soul and the orthodox heaven and hell for disembodied spirits are not taught? The Dr. traces them to remote tradition, to Egyptian records, and at last risks the assertion, that ihey probably had their origin in a very early divine communication, which has not come down to us. He thinks, the immortality of the soul and the final resurrection of the body, were gradually forgotten and lost sight of amidst the growing wickedness of succeeding times. He says," they retained their place among the Jews in the days of Moses,” and assigns this as the reason why neither of these doctrines is specially promulgated in any part of his institutes.” But if the resurrection of the body, lost its force among the Jews, it was not because their sacred books did not teach it, by his own showing. No wonder it lost its force among them, when it came to be blended with the heathen doctrines of the immortality of the soul and their heaven and hell for disembodied spirits. In the very same way the doctrine of the resurrection has lost much of its force among Christians, nor will its force return, until these doctrines are laid aside.
Such is the account of the origin of the orthodox heaven and hell for disembodied spirits, and given, too, by one of its advocates. I leave our orthodox brethren to say, if I, or any other man ought to be. lieve it on such authority.