« PreviousContinue »
tion, and has submitted it to the testimony of our senses, by his resurrection from the dead, and his ascension into heaven. Before Jesus, the future world was an undiscovered country, for those whom Jesus had raised up from the dead during his life, not acting in the prophetick character, had no authority to reveal what they had seen or heard while separated from the body. But Jesus returned from the land of the grave, and revealed to men the secrets and wonders of an unknown region. He sojourned upon earth, after having entered the mansions of death; and was translated into the invisible world before the very eyes of his disciples. Than this no evidence could be more certain, except, perhaps, that which St. Stephen received, who saw the heavens opened, and the Son of man sitting at the right hand of God.
Jesus Christ has farther improved and enlarged our knowledge of a future state, by discovering its true nature. If the heathens were uncertain about the reality of a future state, they were much more ignorant of the different situations of good and bad men in that state. Their
Their poets, indeed, had sung of the pains of Tartarus and the blessings of Elysium: but these were so absurd and extravagant that they were despised, even by the most foolish, and with the wise they brought the whole religion of which they were a part into discredit. But the rewards and punishments which Jesus hath revealed are highly rational, and excellently adapted to operate upon the hopes and fears of mankind. He has assured his followers, that, great is their reward in heaven. Into his Paradise, indeed, he admits not those sensual delights which have tended so much to recommend some other religions to the corrupt passions and desires of men. But, still he has set before them a prize well worth contending for; objects sufficiently great and interesting to animate their exertions, and keep up their courage amidst all the calamities, struggles, and dangers of this mortal life. He hath pointed out a state, which, under the continual influence of the divine presence, consists in the perfection of reason and virtue : he hath promised an inheritance which is undefiled, pure, innocent, and spiritual: he hath offered to his followers a crown of glory which fadeth not away: he hath assured them of being admitted into the heavenly society, which is an assembly of
peace and harmony, where charity never faileth, where all is love and happiness for ever: in short, he hath informed us that for those who love him is laid up glory, honour and immortality, pleasures such as eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive. On the dark side of the picture, the gospel dwells not so long. In general, it represents the torments of the wicked by the images of those things which are most dreadful in this life: by the worm which dieth not, and the fire which is not quenched. It warns us to flee from the wrath to come; from that judgment and fiery indignation which shall devour the adversaries; from that tribulation and anguish which shall come upon every son of man who doeth evil. How much, then, hath Jesus revealed to us concerning the existence and nature of the life after death. What advantages have we not in the practice of our duty! How much stronger motives to obedience have we than those who lived in the former times of ignorance !
But, there is still another truth regarding a future state, for the knowledge of which we are entirely indebted to Jesus Christ; viz. the resurrection of the body. In nature, nothing is perpetual. Every thing changes, decays, and advances by hasty steps to dissolution. But most things, which comeunder our observation, are again renewed, and, after a short period of dissolution, revive to a new life, under a new form. The herbs and flowers which wither at the approach of winter, again put forth their leaves and blossoms at the return of spring. By the side of the tree whose blasted trunk inspires melancholy reflections, we behold another plant springing from its roots and flourishing under its protection. To this the human race appear a striking exception.
One generation goeth, and another cometh: Man, after having slept for a few years with the clods of the valley, can no more be distinguished from the common mass of matter; and, before Jesus, the world knew of no spring which would revive his ashes. But He hath assured us, that not only our souls, but our bodies also shall exist for ever in another life. He hath told us that the grave, that gulf of the human race wherein, as was formerly believed, the bodies of men were swallowed up in succession and lost for ever, shall, at his command, yield up those who have been intrusted to its charge. He
hath assured us, that, this mortal shall put onz immortality, and this corruptible shall put on incorruption. He hath declared, that, when he shall appear in the glory of his Father and his holy angels, his voice shall be heard throughout the regions of death ; at the sound of the trumpet, the tyrant shall shrink from his throne and abdicate his dominion, the subjects of his power shall be released from their bondage, and those who are in their graves shall come forth.
These are some of the most important of those religious truths, of which the knowledge has been improved, enlarged, or communicated by Jesus Christ. From this rude and imperfect sketch of them, we cannot consider the conduct of Pilate, upon this occasion, without the greatest wonder and astonishment. Jesus Christ, in whom dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, stands before him, ready to explain unto him, the newest, the most wonderful, the most sublime and the most interesting truths which ever engaged the attention of the world; and he contents himself with asking a general question in a careless and insulting manner, and without waiting for an answer, goes out!-Let not us imi