صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

prayer, the state of his awakened mind at that trying hour, and the unbounded liberality of Christ.

Before we come to consider the state of the departed soul, we are to take some notice of the character of Jesus Christ. Observe, then, his greatness and majesty.

Behold him in his greatness. The Jews' idea of paradise was, that it was a place of felicity, a garden of delight; they meant, therefore, a place of happiness. Our Lord took up this idea in speaking to the man on the cross, “ To-day shalt thou be with me in Paradise :" he therefore meant to say, “ To-day thou shalt have a place of happiness with me.” But what liberality and greatness is here shewn! When Esther went to King Ahasuerus, he said, “ Ask what you will and it shall be done, even unto the half of my kingdom." It was a large kingdom, there were one hundred and twenty-seven provinces in it; but what was this when compared to the paradise of the kingdom of heaven! The promise of the Lord extended to more than the suppliant had requested: he asks only for remembrance ; Christ gives him unbounded happiness in eternity. What he asks is apparently insignificant, compared with what was bestowed. As though the suffering Immanuel had said, “Remember thee? I will, I will remember thee, for thou art given to me of my Father to be redeemed by me; I am shedding my blood for thy atonement, and thy salvation, and on my hand and heart thy name is engraven: if my spirit be in thee, thou art the heir of my glory, the joint heir of my happiness to all eternity. I shall be happy, and thou shalt be happy too; thou hast suffered, and thou shalt reign with me; as thou hast confessed me before men, I will confess thee before my Father and the holy angels. I will carry thee into eternal glory as the proof of my atonement; as the pledge of my grace, I will carry thee into the paradise of my God.” What liberality, what magnanimity, to dispose of a place in paradise under such circumstances! When Pilate saw Jesus Christ standing before him as a culprit, and heard him call himself a King, he said unto him, “ Art thou a King? thou! with a tawdry robe thrown over thy shoulders, thy face besmeared with blood, and with that circlet of thorns upon thy brows, and that feeble reed in thy hand. Art thou a King ?" The Saviour replied, “ I am a King: my kingdom is not of this world.” And here he shewed the same spirit as he ever manifested. In the hour of darkness and trial, when the enemy is seeking to gain the advantage against them, he will appear to his saints, as he did in the days of his suffering to the thief, saying, “ Though nailed to the cross, and pouring out my soul unto death to redeem a world, yet I am the Lord of life and glory; I can give paradise, I can bestow eternal happiness: thou shalt enjoy with me the kingdom; this day shalt thou be with me in paradise." Here is consistency; every thing in keeping ; every act harmonizing in just propriety: the very nature of Christ's power and attributes are such as to enable him to give pardoning mercy to his people. He stands before the judgment-seat of man; he is tortured; he is put to the rack ; yet he retracts not a single word, he retains his firmness to the last! And if the truth of the religion of Christ had not been shewn in any other way, it was fully manifested by the circumstances attending the crucifixion, which caused the Centurion and those who were with him to fear greatly, and to acknowledge, that truly this was the Son of God.

Behold in this conduct of Jesus Christ his kindness, compassion, and ready

[ocr errors]

attention to prayer. He will not suffer his saints to be injured by the clamours of the powers of darkness. In the midst of trouble the voice of supplication is heard, the voice of prayer is heard; in the moment of dire affliction his gracious answer is obtained. “Lord, remember me when thou comest to thy kingdom.” The suffering Immanuel instantly turns to the man, cpens his ear to the request, allows kindness to enter his breast, and says, “ To-day thou shalt be with me in Paradise." And still my brethren, he is merciful to the sufferer's prayer, still his compassion and pity are manifest. To those who blaspheme his name he pays no particular attention: he allows them a space for repentance: he gives them opportunity to consider their state, if haply they will turn from their ways of sin : he invites them to a full investigation of the reality of the Gospel, and waits for a time that they may turn and come with the language of prayer before him. But to the suffering penitent he turns an attentive ear: he hears the groans of the contrite heart; he turns and hears the petitions of his people ; he says to all his disciples, “Let me hear your voices; I love to listen thereto; for they are full of prayer and praise."

Mark the circumstances under which the petition under consideration is answered. He is now dying in agony; he is making expiation for the sins of che people ; he is pouring out his soul unto death; all the promises of his suffering are now being fulfilled; he is bearing human malice and hellish wrath as our surety; and so he has every thing to absorb his attention. Yet, in the midst of these overwhelming circumstances, he breaks through all of them to attend to the voice of prayer! When we are in certain circumstances we are apt to think our attention should be engrossed wholly by them, and confined to ourselves. We are willing to allow this concentration of attention to every deeply wounded and distressed mind; but at the very time when the sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ were most acute, he sympathizes with this poor man in his sufferings and gives him relief. And as his intense and inconceivable suffering did not make him forget the humble, contrite penitent, so do not his honours; for he has the same sympathy for us, now that he is ascended into heaven: he is a merciful and faithful High Priest, and has the same love and compassion for all his people. Yes, his sympathy is the same as in the days of his flesh; Christ in heaven is the same benign character as Christ on earth. His love was shewn to be the same when after his ascension he appeared to Saul of Tarsus. When this young man was going forth commissioned by the enemies of the church to persecute them, he kept his people from persecution by stopping the progress and changing the heart of the persecutor. “ Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?" This will serve to shew the certain bearings of his mercy towards man. Christ came to shew mercy to men; he came to turn man from sin—to attest his Gospel-to test the faith of his people, to try the validity of their repentance, and to bring them with all humility to the cross, and there to confer upon them a title to everlasting happiness.

Notice the treatment he adopted to obtain this. His treatment to the thiet on the cross was marked with an amplitude of compassion. He might have said, “ Remember thee, who hast been all thy life living in open transgression, with a soul deeply stained with pollution, thy conscience also seared and hardened, and obdurate! Now, that you are come to the last extremity am I to take you to my remembrance-am I to suffer you to dwell with me for “ Verily

ever !" Why the man could hardly hope to succeed at first; he could only expect a rebuke at first. But does he get a repulse ? No! Jesus Christ knew there was no time to lose—he makes no unnecessary delay; no sooner does the suppliant say, “Lord, remember me,” than the dying Saviour responds “ This day shalt thou be with me in Paradise.” O it was a gracious declaration to the expiring supplicant-it was impossible not to feel grateful for these animating words! Who can doubt Christ's willingness to save? Who can doubt his attention to prayer? In all your difficulties, in the time of your sufferings and the period of your anguish, then come to Christ, and say, “Lord, remember me.”

We now come to the discussion of the state of the departed soul. I say unto thee, To-day shalt thou be with me in Paradise.” Some learned men say, these words should be drawn to a point of time, that they refer to the time of making the promise, “Verily I say unto thee to-day.Now, this very day, thou shalt henceforth be in paradise with me. Those who make this objection have an hypothesis of their own, which is necessary to be repeated : it is, that the soul of man is dead, and will be so from the death of the body until the time of the resurrection: they have also a previous hypothesis, which is, that the soul of Christ from the time of his death upon the cross until his resurrection was in a slumbering state ; and of course this is intended to lead to the conclusion, that every other soul is in the same condition.

These men (and among them is Dr. Priestley) have gone on denying the existence of angels as conscious beings; and have affirmed all that is said about them in the Scriptures to be merely strong personifications. To support the hypothesis of the slumber of the soul, these arguments are used :—The soul's dependence on the body is owing to organization ; therefore the extent of the bodily powers involves the extent of the powers of the soul. They say the morning of the resurrection is the period of the soul's awakening. They assert that in all the period that elapses there is an unconsciousness of the soul; as men in long trances are not sensible of life, or the lapse of time that intervened while they were asleep, so the soul will not in the hour of the resurrection be sensible of the lapse of time that has passed between. Hence they say, the Apostle might well be accounted consistent when he said, “ absent from the body, but present with the Lord:” for though there was a suspension of thousands of years, yet the soul being unconscious of the existence of itself during this long lapse of time, upon its awaking in the morning of the resurrection it would appear just to have passed from the earth, and got to glory; and that the soul at the time of its thus passing is sensible of its passing, and enjoys the full contemplation of its own ideas : upon this assertion the theory is founded.

Now can it be supposed that the apostles used equivocations when they spoke of the happiness of the soul, and when they speak of the sensibility of the soul at the time of its separation from the body; when they directly assert that the soul immediately goes into the presence of its Giver ? It is not likely, if this theory had been true, that they would have withheld this reservation when speaking directly of the departure of the soul from the body. With regard to the notion itself, it is incompatible with all the positive declarations of Scripture, and all the reasonings of analogy. It is essential to the mind that it actually exists and thinks. A soul cannot exist without thought; a

living soul without thought and consciousness is impossible. As for the soul being left in the full operation of its powers or in enlarged vision when separated from this mortality, we believe this to be so, although we know not the extent of these powers. We know, however, that the soul must be vivid, and that when the body slumbers in the grave the soul is vivid. And this is confirmed by the appearances of the powers of the mind, which are concentrated as it were just at the period of its separation from the body. We often find that after long sickness the operations of the soul are more vivid, clear, and powerful, than they have ever been before ; and this appears frequently just at the moment the body is dropping into the tomb. Why then should the soul sleep with the body, when, instead of declining, it is thus gaining strength ? As far as philosophy can go it does in favour of the Scriptural doctrine. We find that in every period of time, the heathen philosophers have held the notion of disembodied spirits : so that the notion of the slumbering of the soul is against all the notions of philosophy.

But not only so, we observe again, this notion is unscriptural. Methinks, I hear some one inquire, “ Sir, how can it be inconsistent with Scripture ?" The Scripture saith, the body goeth down, and the spirit goeth up. The word of divine inspiration declares, that “the body shall return to the dust, and the spirit shall return to God who gave it." Hear what the Scripture says: “God is not the God of the dead but of the living.” God calleth himself “ the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,” long after their death naturally; therefore their spirits are in conscious existence; they therefore at that time, when these Scriptures were penned, must have been with God, which is precisely the time of the unconsciousness of the soul, or of that state in which there is a slumbering of the intellectual principle, as you say of the spirit. And as this is the case, we have given us another reply to serve instead of argument, namely, that it is altogether a question of mythology; and they endeavour to shew that there may be also much weight in the objection they raise as to the correctness of our Greek translations. But Dr. Campbell has satisfactorily shewn that the full compass of the idioms of the Greek language are more destructive of the principle attempted to be laid down than our translation is , therefore the basis upon which this notion of the slumbering of the soul is founded, gives a greater strength (if it was necessary) to this blessed and important hope. Look at the state of the departed soul of man between the day of the body's dissolution, and resurrection; for this is a problem to which the death of our Lord Jesus Christ and his resurrection has given rise. The state of the soul during this interval is called an “intermediate state.” If by this expression it is intended to signify, that the soul has a conscious existence between the period of the death of the body and its resurrection; then it would be true, since there is such an intermediate state : but if referring to the condition of the spirit in that period as being in a quiescent, slumbering, state, or as being neither in heaven or in hell, but in a condition that is between both these states, then I think it is easy to shew there is no such intermediate state at all,

Three opinions have been held relative to the abode of the soul between the day of death and that of judgment. The first is, that the souls of all men that have died go to some place not appointed for rewards or punishments, tut merely for a residence, where they are to wait till the morning of the resurrec

tion. The second is, that the souls of good men at death, do not immediately go into a state of happiness and of glory; but still that they go into a different place from the souls of the wicked; and the souls of the latter do not go immediately into a state of misery, but await the day of final retribution for their doom. The other is that the souls of good men as soon as they leave this world, stand before the bar of God; and immediately pass to a state of happiness , while the souls of the wicked are instantly consigned to a state of misery.

With respect to the first of these opinions, that the souls of all men, both righteous and wicked go at the time of death to some one appointed place, there to remain until the morning of the resurrection, we might argue, how can righteous and unrighteous spirits subsist in harmony together? or how is this opinion to be reconciled with some Scriptural expressions, as “ Gather not my life with sinners, nor my soul with bloody men. “ But thou, O Lord, shalt bring them down into the pit of destruction: bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their days, but I will trust in thee." This opinion has arisen from one Scripture in the Old Testament, and one in the New. In the sixteenth Psalm, “ Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth; my flesh also shall rest in hope ; for thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine holy one to see corruption." This passage is commented upon by the Apostle Peter in his sublime discourse contained in the second chapter of Acts, wherein he shews the Psalmist spoke concerning Jesus in this passage, which is again quoted and enlarged upon by him, “ Therefore being a prophet and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his loins according to the flesh he would raise up Christ to sit upon his throne; he seeing this before, spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither did his flesh see corruption." The term here translatedhell" is in the original language, Hades," which signifies “ the unknown place." And thus, by virtue of these texts, the souls of all are said (by those who hold this opinion) to go to “ Hades' “ the unknown world." But many men have thought that though this is the primary sense of the expression, “ the unknown world,” yet that it also signifies different meanings, being synonymous with many other words in scripture. Thus we read in the book of Job, “ hell,” or hades, “ is before him, and destruction hath no covering." Thus our Lord Jesus Christ says, “ Lazarus died, and was carried by angels into Abraham's bosom; the rich man also died, and in hell (hades) he lifted up his eyes being in torment.” We find these texts corresponding with others, and if any man say there is no such thing as a correspondence between these synonymous expressions, we invite him to a critical examination of the various passages bearing upon the point under consideration.

The next opinion is that the souls of good men at death do not immediately go into a state of happiness, although they go into a different place from the souls of the wicked; that the souls of the good go into a state of probation, but that they did not do so until after the resurrection of Christ. This seems to have been the opinion of many men: and the only reason for entertaining it, is found in Heb. xi. “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off." And again, “And these all having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise ; God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.” But if the sense they contend for is contained in these passages

or

« السابقةمتابعة »