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rived from the Scriptures, by this erroneous method of interpretation, must be abandoned. We are not surprised that a man who adopts the dogmas that sin is inherited, and that ability is not necessary as a basis of moral obligation, should fear philosophical investigation. For these dogmas could not stand the test of true philosophy, and yet they are appropriate subjects of philosophical scrutiny. But the true Christian philosopher, ever solicitous to know the truth, and ready to modify his views whenever truth requires it, will manifest a very different feeling. Instead of shrinking from the light, or trembling at every breeze that blows from the land of philosophy, he will feel himself standing on firmer ground. He will affirm the Bible to be true, because he has evidence of its truth, and finds no necessary conflict between it and the true deductions of philosophy. As its “ Author borrows not leave to be," so this book, on his principles of interpretation, asks no concessions from philosophy to support its truth. He will maintain that true philosophy is ever the handmaid of Revelation, and her aid is necessary to a full development of its teachings. This indeed requires a learned ministry, or at least some men qualified to traverse the whole field of philosophy, and develop its truths, as the opposite method does not. But there is no safety for Revelation-none for Christianity in any other course.
Here then is room for progress even in the development of the truths of Revelation ; progress in a clearer understanding of its distinct and individual doctrines; progress in the knowledge of the relations of one truth to another, both within and without the field of revealed truth; and progress in giving perfect symmetry to all the parts of this system. As the developments of philosophy have been and may yet be slow, so we believe the developments of moral and revealed truth, which in no small degree depend upon them, will also be slow. There is yet much to be learned respecting those doctrines of Revelation which involve a correct knowledge of the science of mind, of moral obligation, and of moral government; and not a few of its doctrines relate to these subjects. We do not therefore censure Mr. Finney for the manner of constructing his Theological System, namely, by attempting first to establish the philosophical principles on which it is based. We believe this to be the true and Christian method, and whatever of error there may be in the system, it can only be overthrown by carefully examining and understanding these fundamental principles.
THE DOCTRINE OF MAN'S IMMORTALITY, AND OF THE ETERNAL PUNISHMENT OF THE WICKED, AS SET FORTH IN THE ANCIENT SCRIPTURES.
By ASAHEL ABBOT, New York.
That the ancients were ignorant of a future state, or of the doctrine of eternal rewards and punishments, we should be slow to admit. The patriarchal saints are said to have “died in the faith ;" which faith is also made to include “the resurrection of the dead.” The oldest prophecy on record since the Fall, implies the same: “It shall bruise thy head.” How? Plainly by undoing the works of the Serpent; of which temporal evil and death just before threatened, are a part; where “ the seed of a woman" should break the bars of death and raise the bodies of his saints to glory and unfailing life. In the prophecy of Enoch it is said: “Behold the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints to execute judgment upon all the ungodly." How can this be unless they are immortal? In the Book of Job it is said: “Till the heavens be no more, they shall not be awakened out of their sleep.” Thus to those early patriarchs was known both the resurrection and the end of the world; and it is not wonderful that we hear the same Job exclaim : “My Redeemer shall stand at the latter day upon the earth, and in my flesh shall I see God.” To the same effect we find the Psalmist exulting even while he perceives the temporary greatness of ungodly men, as penetrated with a just sense of piety toward God, he exclaims: “I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness.
The vengeance which fell upon Cain for the murder of his brother had the same meaning. One brute might slay another at will and nothing said ; but the moment man falls upon man it is shown that “man is better than a beast,” by the terrible punishment inflicted upon the murderer. Abel had faith; and faith lays hold of God as the rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
And certainly they who knew of the translation of Enoch, could not have re. mained ignorant of immortality, and the change of this corruptible into incorruptible, whether to the dead or the living. And they who saw the Son of God face to face, and communed with his angels as familiar friends, whether in Eden or in Ararat, in Arabia, Egypt or Canaan, they could not but know something of a life to come, and of the beings inhabiting that world where there is no more death.
We are told that there is nothing beyond the present world in the Books of Moses; for though we may have glimpses of a life to come in Job, the Psalms and the Prophets, yet the emigrants from
Egypt knew nothing of these, and Moses never refers to the bliss of the heavenly world as a motive to obedience. "Let the potsherds strive with the potsherds of the earth.” Josephus affirms that the Hebrews never expected to find their rewards in earthly things, when obedient to their laws, but in things not appropriate to time and sense in the world of spirits. All other Jewish writers affirm the
Jacob when dying exclaimed: "I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord." Was this uttered in mockery, or in the assured hope of a happy life to come? The latter is Paul's opinion, who plainly affirms that “they looked for a better country, that is an heavenly.” So when Moses speaks of God to the captive Hebrews, he calls him, “The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob;" which words our blessed Lord interprets to mean that “the dead are raised up,” since “God is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living,” wherefore "all are alive before him.”
And one of the most ancient forms of expression concerning death itself, has the same import and renders necessary a separate life to such as are departed out of this world. Abraham died, and was gathered to his people.” Surely he was not buried with his fathers, whether in Haran or Chaldean Ur; but his spirit was released from the bonds of his body and left free to soar among the just souls of his fathers, as they sing, “ Holy, holy, holy,” before the great white throne..“ Isaac gave up the ghost, and was gathered unto his people, and his sons Esau and Jacob buried him." " Jacob gathered up his feet into the bed and yielded up the ghost, and was gathered unto his people.” On the other hand it is said of the wicked man in Job: “He shall lie down, but he shall not be gathered;" i. e. he shall not be found with the souls of his earliest progenitors who were in covenant with God, and to whom good men are "gathered” at death. There is scarce any difference between Job's description of the wicked man after death and the Dives of the New Testament. “He openeth his eyes and he is not. Terrors take hold on him as waters, a tempest stealeth him away in the night. The east wind carrieth him away, and he departeth, and as a storm, hurleth him out of his place. For God shall cast upon him and shall not spare; he would fain flee out of his hand. They shall clap their hands at him, and shall hiss him out of his place."
There is little need, however, in our inquiry to consult authorities. Man is everywhere a religious being ; and, as he alone of all animals knows that he must die, so he everywhere knows that he must live again. The Rabbins tell us that the book of Genesis begins with Beth (ə) whose number is 2, because God created two worlds at once, viz: this world and the world to come. This “world to come,” is sometimes put for the times of Christ, and at others for that world into which men depart at death. But who ever heard of a religion that had not immortality for its reason ? Men (savs Josephus to the Gentiles) are exhorted to virtue and dissauded from vice by the persuasion that souls are immortal, and though they should not meet their reward in this lise yet they look for eternal rewards and punishments in the life to come.
Since this is so—and it is and has always been the firm belief of man that God rewards the deeds of men in an immortal state, if at all-we must recognize the belief in a future immortal state as existing wherever we find an altar and a service of God. Infidelity, or neglect of this, is invariably followed by a total disregard of all religion. Prove then that Adam, Abel, or Cain offered sacrifice; that in the days of Enos men began to be distinguished as wor. shippers of Jehovah, while others, (according to an old Jewish tradition) with Enos himself, paid service to the stars and spheres: prove that Noah, Shem, Abraham, and Moses offered prayers and sacrifices, and we have proved that where these were done there men believed themselves to be immortal and accountable.
It may be one mark of the divinity of the Scriptures that the sacred writers never show the least concern how their testimony is received by men. It is certainly a mark of the same that they never deal in curious questions, nor take pains to lay down fundamental principles in a technical form, since they wrote at a period comparatively late, and nearer to our own times than to the begining of the world, and the doctrines that are fundamental to their teachings were all held in the ancient church from the first as they have been ever since and will be forever. Then, as now, the church was “the pillar and ground of faith ;" and the words of the seers in the Scripiures only show what were the elements of all ancient theology and the leading forms of their development from age to age, from the Exodus of Israel until the exile of John in Patmos. Hence the Scriptures may well be allowed to treat of truth in a practical rather than in a speculative form; or if there be speculative passages they are ever joined to practical uses. In the poetical paris indeed we shall find glimpses of abstract spiritual truih: but these are never without an object, and they are ever made the basis of some important practical conclusion for the direction and right use of human life. The fundamental principles of theology then are taught mostly by implication in the Scriptures; and the question whether the most ancient church, or the people of the Exodus, knew of a life to come, so far as the Scriptures are concerned, must be mainly determined by the practical uses they make of that doctrine, and the figures with which they overlay it when they speak of human hopes and destinies; for the sacred writers will not stop to speculate concerning it: they leave this to the uninspired; to the heathen philosophers and presumptuous divines of every sort.
The moment we leave the inspired pages we find the whole
matter of immortality and its consequences under discussion in every tongue of man. Apochryphal books, philosophers, priests, Christian fathers and divines without end, all are filled with anxious inquiries concerning the nature and destiny of man. But God never admits in his teaching that the fundamental truths of his revealing are such as it can be reasonable to question, and he never becomes controversialist unless to ask, “Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge ?” As the Grecians are said to have armed themselves with whips and not with warlike implements when they would quell a sedition among slaves, so God replies to refractory creatures, “ Be still and know that I am God.”
But what fundamental condition may we assume, and what principle shall we find everywhere taken for granted in those parts of the Scriptures that speak of man's immortality, since they never treat it as a mere question of truth dissevered from its practical bearings? We answer: That fundamental condition is man's responsibility for a being that shall never end ; and that principle is, that human actions are certain to be followed by eternal consequences. We assume these as the only conclusions possible in regard to immortal beings. For God can never forget any of our works; but by necessity of nature must remember them, judge of them according to truth, and forever treat us according to his judgment of them.
On this principle and this fundamental condition are based all the known teachings of the ancient church. No religious Jew, from Moses to the present, has ever thought of calling them in question, or in the least abating from the faith of the fathers concerning things hoped or feared beyond the grave. Concerning the good laid up for just souls, let the wicked Aramite be witness of the views entertained even among the heathen, when he asks that he
may “die the death of the just,” because the final state of good men is peace. And concerning the same we hear Moses exclaim : “ Lord, thou hast been our dwelling-place in all generations." What? Has God proved himself a refuge and defence to the patriarchal exiles, or their enslaved progeny, through four hundred and fifty years, by leaving them to suffer innumerable hardships through their whole lives, only that they might perish in the grave like beasts? Again concerning punishment, he says : “Who knoweth the power of thine anger, or thy wrath as thou art terrible ?"
That is, Who can form an idea of wrath and punishment so terrible as to correspond with what God threatens against the violators of his laws ? Nor are those memorable words of Christ himself stronger when he affirms that God is more to be feared than all the most doleful creatures that can be named both in earth and in hell; since they can act only by his permission, and at the utmost only afflict and dissolve the body, while he can plunge both soul and body entire into the perdition of hell.