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the beautiful, the wife and the good; but we find immediate relief, we rife into joy, we tread among the stars, when, aided by religion, we transport ourselves in thought to those bleffed regions where all the faithful live, and reign, and rejoice; where "they that be wife fhine as the brightnefs of the firmament, and they that turn many to righteoufnefs as the ftars forever and ever."* Distance is then swallowed up and loft, and we mingle in the noble employments and pure delights of the blessed immortals who encircle the throne of God.
It is aftonishing to think, that there fhould have been men disposed willingly to deprive themselves of this glorious fource of comfort; men ready to refign the high prerogative of their birthright, and by a fpecics of humility ftrange and unnatural, fpontaneously degrading themfelves to the level of the brutes that perish. And yet there have been in truth fuch men in every age. But it is no wonder to find those who fatisfy themselves with the purfuits and enjoyments of a mere beafly nature while they live, contented to lie down with the beafts in death, to arife no more. They firft make it their intereft that there fhould be no hereafter, and then they fondly perfuade themfelves that there fhall be none.
Error of every kind, both in faith and morals, prevailed in the extreme, at the period when and in the country where the Saviour of the world appeared for our redemption. The nation of the Jews was divided, in respect of moral and religious fentiment, into two great fects or parties, who both pretended to found their opinions upon the authority of the infpired books, which were held in univerfal eftimation among them; and particularly the writings of Mofes. But they drew conclufions directly oppofite from the fame facts and doctrines; and both deviated, in the groffeft manner, from the spirit and defign of that precious record which they both affected to hold in the highest veneration.
The Pharifees, earneftly contending for the strict obferv. ance of the law, confined their attention to its minuter and lefs important objects, and paid "the tithe of mint and anife and cummin," but omitted " the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy and faith :" and, raising oral tradition to the rank and dignity of feripture, found a pretence for difpenfing with the plaineft and moft effential obligations
* Dan. xii. 3.
obligations of morality, when thefe contradicted their interefts and opinions. Heinoufly offended at the neglect of washing of hands previous to eating, they were wicked enough to establish, by a law of their own, neglect of, unkindness and difobedience to parents; thus, according to the juft cenfure which our Lord paffed upon them, "ftraining out a gnat, and fwallowing a camel."
The Sadducees, on the other hand, the strong fpirits of the age, difdaining the reftraints impofed on mankind by a written law, thought fit to become a law unto themselves. They left the aufterities of a strict religion and morality to vulgar minds; and, that they might procure peace to themfelves in the enjoyment of those finful pleasures to which they were addicted, they denied the existence of fpirit, the immortality of the foul, and a future ftate of retribution. They alleged that the law was filent on thofe points, and that this filence was a fufficient reafon for rejecting the behef of them. They went farther, and contended, that were fuch doctrines contained in the law, they ought not to be admitted, because they implied a contradiction, or at least involved fuch a number of difficulties as it was impoffible fatisfactorily to folve. The chief of thofe difficulties they propofe to our blefied Saviour in the paffage which I have read; and they do this, not in the spirit of docility and diffidence, to have it removed, but in the pride of their hearts, vainly taking for granted that it was infurmountable.
My principal intention in leading your thoughts to this fubject at this time, is the occafion which it afforded to the great Teacher who came from God, of difcourfing on a theme nearly connected with the defign of these Lectures; and of difclofing to us fundry important particulars, refpecting the venerable men whofe lives we have been ftudying, and those which we are still to examine; and refpecting that world in which we, together with them, have a concern fo deeply, becaufe eternally, interefting. To thefe we shall be led by making a few curfory remarks on the preceding converfation which took place between Christ and the Sadducees. And this fhall ferve as an Introduction to the farther continuation of a Courfe of Lectures on the hiftory of the memorable perfons and events prefented to us in the holy fcriptures of both the Old and New Teftaments.
The Sadducees infidioufly begin their attack by profeffing the highest respect for the authority of Mofes and of
his writings: "Mafter, Mofes wrote unto us." The most pernicious defigns, the most malevolent purposes, are frequently found to clothe themselves in fmiles; often while mifchief lies brooding in men's hearts, "their words are fmoother than oil." The father of lies himself can have recourse to truth if it be likely to serve his turn; and the enemy of all goodness will condefcend to quote that fcripture which he hates, if it can help him to an argument for the occafion. With this affected deference for Mofes, the Sadducees are aiming at the total fubverfion of every moral and religious principle, by weakening one of the ftrongest motives to virtue, and undermining the surest foundation of hope and joy to man. They allege, that obedience to the law might eventually lead to much confufion and diforder; and they suppose a fituation, for none fuch ever existed, in which compliance with the revealed will of God in this world would infallibly lead to discord and diftrefs in that which is to come. In this we have an example of a very common cafe; that of men straining their eyes to contemplate objects at a great distance, or totally out of fight, and wilfully neglecting or overlooking thofe which are immediately before them: troubling themselves about effects and confequences of which they are ignorant, and over which they have no power, while they are regardless of obvious truth and commanded duty, though thefe are their immediate business and concern. The Sadducees in order to cloak their licentioufnefs and infidelity, affect folicitude about the regularity and peace of a future ftate, which in words they denied, if they did not from the heart disbelieve.
I make but one remark more before I proceed to our Lord's reply. Eagernefs and anxiety to bring forward and to establish an opinion, betray an inward doubt or difbelief of it. Truth is not ever proclaiming itself from the houfe-tops, is not forward to obtrude itfelf upon every occafion, but is fatisfied with maintaining and defending itfelf when affaulted; but falfehood is eternally striving to conceal or ftrengthen its confcious weakness by a parade of words, and a fhew of reafon. The zeal of the Sadducees to explode and run down the doctrine of the refurrection, plainly betrays a fecret dread and belief of it.
Our Lord, in his anfwer, points out directly the fource of all error and infidelity, "ye do err, not knowing the fcriptures, and the power of God." Not knowing the fcriptures, ye fuppofe a doctrine is not in them, because ye have not found it there: because ye have wilfully fhut your own eyes, ye vainly imagine there is no light in the fun; and take upon you to affirm there is none. Not knowing the power of God, you call that impoffible which you cannot do, deem that abfurd which you do not comprehend, and pronounce that falfe which you wish to be fo. The whole force of the objection to the truth of the refurrection, goes upon the fuppofition, that the future world is to be exactly constituted as the prefent; that the relations and diftinctions which fubfift among men upon earth, are to fubfift in the kingdom of heaven. But the fuppofition is founded in ignorance and falfehood; and, the moment it is denied, the mighty argument built upon it falls to the ground. "In the refurrection," fays Chrift, "they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven."
In these words, the condition of men in the world to come, is described, firft, negatively, "they neither marry, nor are given in marriage." The power which created the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, might undoubtedly, had it pleased him, have created the whole human race at once, as easily as he formed the first of men, Adam, and as easily as he rears up one generation of men after another, in the courfe of his providence. But, thinking it meet to people the earth by multiplying mankind gradually upon it, difference of sex and the inftitution of marriage were the means which he was pleafed to employ. In the refurrection, the number of the redeemed being complete at once, that difference, and that inftitution, being unneceffary, fhall be done away. Our Saviour adds "neither can they die any more. Death, too, enters into the plan of Providence for the government of this world. Men must be removVOL. III.
But because this sphere
ed, to make room for men. is narrow and contracted, and unable to contain and fupport the increasing multitudes of many generations, is the Lord's hand fhortened, that he cannot expand a more fpacious firmament, and compact a more spacious globe, to contain, at once, the countless nations of them that are faved? O how greatly do men err; not knowing the power of God! Death is no part of the plan of Providence for the government of that world of blifs. In our Father's houfe above there are many manfions; there is bread enough, and to fpare; there is room for all, provifion for all: the father need not to die, to give space to the fon, nor the mother to fpare, that the child may have enough. For they are the angels of God," fays our Lord, according to Matthew," equal to the angels," fays our evangelift, "and are the children of God."
This describes their happiness pofitively. Men on earth" fee in a glafs darkly; know in part, prophecy in part," are encompaffed with infirmity; but the "angels in heaven" excel in ftrength, stand before the throne of God, ferve him day and night in his temple, without wearying, fee face to face, know as they are known." Their number is completed, their intercourse is pure and perfect, without the means of increafe and union which exift here below.
Having thus reproved their ignorance and prefumption, refpecting the "power of God," our Lord proceeds to expofe their ignorance refpecting "the fcriptures," and produces a paffage from Mofes, in whom they trufted, which they had hitherto overlooked or mifunderstood, wherein the doctrine in difpute was clearly laid down; and which we had principally in view in leading your attention to this paffage on the prefent occafion.
The paffage quoted, is that noted declaration of God to Mofes, from the midft of the burning bush, "I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham,