« PreviousContinue »
6 mons, with which all nature is peopled. • They conceived them, however, to be li“ mited in their duration, returning at length “ to their original, and losing their separate “ existence.”
The Principles of the Heathen Philosophy
compared with those of Revelation.
The world by wisdom knew not God.
i Cor. i. 21.
Having given you a comparative view of the religion of the Hebrews, and that of the ancient idolatrous nations, I began, in my last discourse, to give you a similar view of the principles of the heathen philofophy, that it might not be said that I took an unfair advantage, in relating nothing more than the opinions and practices of the vulgar among the heathens, instead of the real sentiments of the wisest among them. These, however, I Thewed you were, in several respects, far less rational than those of the scriptures. I mentioned their universal opinion of the impossibility of creation out of nothing, of the
eternity and indestructibility of matter; its necessary evil tendency; the doctrines of many of them, of the production of all inferior beings by emanation, or protrusion, from the substance of the deity, and their absorption into it again; the absolute denial of the being of a God by many, and those some of the most eminent, of the Greek philosophers; their various and unsatisfactory opinions concerning the origin of evil; their denial of a divine Providence; their belief of the existence of intelligent beings, inferior to the supreme, who at their pleasure, and contrary to the will of the Supreme Being, interfered in the direction of human affairs. I now proceed to observe,
7. If the heathen philosophers became fo vain in their imaginations when they speculated concerning the nature of God, and the origin and government of the universe, and were not able to retain the great truths which mankind had received by tradition relating to them, much more did they wander in uncertainty and error with respect to the doctrine of a future state, concerning which, as I have observed, the light of nature gives us no information at all. On this subject, so im
portant that without it the doctrine concerning God and providence is merely a curious speculation, of no practical use, the principles of those philosophers who admitted a future state are totally discordant with those of the scriptures, which alone are agreeable to reafon, though not discoverable by it. On this subject, I must be excused if I advance fome things which will not be approved by the generality of Christians, who, in my opinion, have not entirely got rid of doctrines introduced into Christianity from a heathen source, from which have been derived almost all its corruptions.
According to the scriptures, the future state of man depends entirely upon a resurrection, to take place at a distant period, called the last day, and nothing is said concerning the rewards of the righteous, or the punishment of the wicked, antecedent to that time, Our Saviour, recommending acts of charity, says (Luke xiv. 14), Thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just; and on no occasion did he refer his hearers to any state of things prior to this. When he speaks of being cast into hell, it is with hands and eyes, which are members of the body; and the rich man in N 2
the parable is reprefented as with a tongue tormented with burning thirst, though for the fake of some circumstances in the parable, the future state is represented as taking place before the proper time.
The apostle Paul, comforting the ThessaIonians on the death of some of their friends, refers them only to the resurrection, and gives no hint of their enjoying any degree of happiness at the time that he was writing, which would have been unavoidable if, in his opinion, they had been happy then. Thef. iv. 13, I would not have you be ignorant, brethren, concerning them that are asleep, that ye forrow not as those who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so also them that seep in Jesus will God bring with him, and the dead in Christ shall rise first, that is, before any change take place on those who will be then alive. Why, indeed, did he use the term fleep, if, in his idea, the dead were not in a state of insensibility, and not to be awaked to life and action, but at the resurrection?
Again, when the fame apostle exhorts Christians to live sober, righteous, and godly lives, Tit. ii. 13, he directs them to look for