« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
3d. The only thing which remains to be shown is-how these heathen traditions came to be incorporated with the Christian religion. It is evident ihey prevailed many ages before Christ appeared,
prevailed both among Jews and Gentiles at the commencement of the gospel dispensation. See a quotation in my First Inquiry, from Dr. Campbell, where he shows the Jews had imbibed many of the heathen opinions, ch. i. sect. 3. When the gospel began to be preached among all nations, the converts made to it had imbibed such heathen traditions, and in fact had been brought up in them. It was impossible it could be otherwise. It is also a fact, susceptible of the most satisfactory proof, that the first fathers of the church were all attached to the Platonic philosophy, which then generally prevailed. Some of those fathers spoke in the highest terms of Plato and his doctrines, and it is said Plato perfected the doctrine of the immortality of the soul. Augustine confessed, that the books of the philosophers were very useful to him in facilitating his understanding of some orthodox truths. Eusebius avers, that Plato even penetrated into the doctrine of the trinity. The early fathers, such as Clemens Alexandrinus, Tertullian, Origen, are all allowed to have been Platonists. That Christianity soon became corrupted from the philosophy of the times is universally allowed by all sects of Christians in the present day. I have only room for one brief extract from Enfield's History of Philosophy, p. 13, 14. “ Among the first Christians, who were industriously employed in disseminating the divine doctrine, of their master, the subtilties of Gentile philosophy obtained little credit. But very soon after the rise of Christianity, many persons who had been educated in the schools of the philosophers becoming converts to the Christian faith, the doctrine of the Grecian
sects, and especially of Platonism, were interwoven with the simple truths of pure religion. As the Eclectic philosophy spread, heathen and Christian dactrines were still more intimately blended, till, at last, both were almost entirely lost in the thick clouds of ignorance and barbarism which covered the earih; except that the Aristotelian philosophy had a few followers among the Greeks, and Platonic Christianity was cherished in the cloisters of monks. About the beginning of the eleventh century, a new kind of philosophy sprung up, called the scholastic, which, while it professed to follow the doctrine of Aristotle, corrupted every principle of sound reasoning, and hindered, instead of assisting, men in their inquiries after truth."
Such being the fact, that Christianity became corrupted from the philosophy of the times, let us now notice, that from this very source the apostles forewarned Christians, errors should arise among them. Paul said to the Collosians, ch. 2: 8, “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ." See also 1 Tim. 6: 20, 21. 1: 4, 6. and 4: 7. 2 Tim. 2: 16–18. These errors were not introduced without opposition, for it required ecclesiastical authority to establish in some places the immortality of the soul. Accordingly Eusebius testifies, that a. D. 249, the doctrine that “the souls of men perish with their bodies," was condemned in an Arabian council. No wonder the Arabian Christians opposed the doctrine of the immortality of the soul even in the third century, for by Dr. Good's own showing, it was not found in the writings of Job, their ancestor, nor taught them by Christ their master. This doctrine however being once established, laid a foundation for a superstructure of priestcraft and superstition in the Catholic
church, which for many ages was the admiration of the nations, but the curse of the world. Its very ruins excite our astonishment. At the Reformation, many things were reformed, but all will admit, many things were left unreformed. For example, saving immortal souls after death was laid aside, but the reformers still went on to save them before death. Whether men had immortal souls to save from endless misery was never made a question with them; and from their day to this few Protestants have suspected the unscriptural nature of this doctrine.
Facts stated, showing that the common opinions respect
ing man's soul, and its condition after death, cannot be true.
In the course of the preceding examination a number of facts have occurred to us which confirm the views advanced. For brevity's sake we shall introduce them chiefly in the way of question and answer.
1st. When God created man, did he inform him that he had given him an immortal soul? No; we might just as well assert this of the beasts which God created. To say an immortal being became mortal by sin, is a contradiction in terms; nor is it intimated that the entrance of sin produced such a change among mankind.
2d. Has God imparted to Adam's posterity immortal souls either hy gift, or propagation, to suffer or enjoy in a disembodied state ? No; no man disputes that the same kind of soul Adam had, all his posterity have; and to speak of a mortal creature
propagating an immortal one, is very like an absurdity. We may as well say a brute can propagate a rational being. That man was to produce his own likeness, the same as the beasts theirs, seems indisputable, for God blessed both for this purpose. When it is said God created man in his own image, it will not be contended, that this referred either to his immateriality or immortality. Some have held to the pre-existence of souls, and a repository for them, out of which a soul is taken and infused into every child born. And is this not as rational as to say heaven and hell are repositories for souls after death? The notion of an immortal soul, and its existence in a disembodied state, has given rise to many wild speculations; as to its nature, how it is united to, and acts upon, the body; in what part of the body it resides, with many others. But if man produces his own likeness, and soul means life, it puts an end to these speculations. Man comes into the world and dies similar to the brute creation. See Job 11: 12. Eccles. 3: 18-20. Job 34: 14. 22: 24. comes to maturity much slower than most of them. His mental powers grow with the body and decay with it. God made man wiser than the beasts of the field or fowls of the air; and he has given him the promise of a resurrection from the dead, but to say he has given him an immortal soul, to be happy or miserable in a disembodied state, is travelling beyond the record.
3d. Has God during the past history of man ever informed him, that he has given him an immortal soul, which shall either suffer or enjoy in a future state? I answer no; for none of the Scripture writers say so, but many facts and circumstances prove that they believed no such doctrine. For example, they never proposed to save men from punishment in a disembodied state, nor do we read of a single
person anxious that their souls might be saved with such a salvation. But to save men's souls from an endless hell after death, is a foundation-principle in all orthodox preaching, and a common topic in most sermons. Preachers now make their hearers understand, that the object and end of their labors is to accomplish this. Again; the Scripture writers made no such exertions to get up religious excitements as is done in our day, the professed object of which is, to save from hell a greater number of immortal souls. Where do you find them holding days of fasting and prayer; church meetings; unionprayer meetings; inquiry meetings; and meetings without name or number; both by night and day, and all to awaken men to concern about the salvation of their immortal souls? When did they creep into houses, alarming women and children about the everlasting danger of their souls? I solemnly put it to every orthodox man's conscience, to name the prophet or apostle that ever came to any nation, city, or individual, telling the people they had immortal souls, or that they were in danger of such misery. They knew nothing about immortal souls, or the engine of an eternal hell, by which religious excitements are produced in our age of the world. Modérn preachers could not get up one of these excitements if they died, without this engine. They tell people, in whining, doleful tones, they have immortal 'souls, under the wrath of an angry God, every moment ready to drop into a burning hell. Who would not be excited, yea, almost frightened to death that believes them? And who would not support men like gentlemen, so unwearied in their exertions to save souls from such a punishment ? Again ; the Scripture writers neither adopted, nor prescribed such a money-begging system, as is done in our day, to save men's souls. In what part of the Bible do