Page images

THE IMMORTALITY OF THE SOUL SUPPORTED, &c. 283 than we can have on the theory of his entire materiality. According to that, we are nothing but earth; and of course we must be altogether sensual in our affections. Nor can we be consistently blamed for not soaring in our thoughts above the level of our own nature and origin. The system of materialism, lays man very low; much lower, perhaps, than the brutal creation. It can hardly be thought that mere matter would be capable of their operation and sagacity. It cannot be easily doubted, but that they possess an immaterial spirit, as well as man. It is thought by some, that it is immortal; and that the beasts will have a place assigned to them in another world, suited to their na

ures and capacities. But, perhaps, this is vibrating to the opposite extreme of materialism; and it may be equally incorrect. Neither of these theories appear to have the countenance of the Scriptures, which are our only guide on the subjects in question. He who formed the spirits of beasts, may annihilate them, whenever the purpose for which they were formed is answered. This seems to be the meaning of these inspired words, “Who knoweththe spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth.” Eccl. 3. 21. The human soul possesses rationality, and, therefore, it is an accountable spirit. Hence JEHOVAH saith, " The soul that sinneth, it shall die." Ezek. 18. 4. Neither the threatenings of future punishment, nor the promises of glory to come, have any relation to the brutal creation—they have nothing to hope or fear after death. The case is very different with man. No scheme of doctrine which he may adopt, can wholly deliver his mind from the alarming anticipation of future misery for a sinful life. This is a strong evidence of his immortality and responsibility to God. The Scriptures invariably inculcate the doctrine of the soul's separate ex istence-of its being the most noble part of our nature.

When God formed the body of Adam, there was neither animal motion, nor the higher operations of intelligence, until He “breathed into him the breath of life;" and then it is expressly announced, that “man became a living soul.” The separate existence of the soul is a momentous consideration; and, therefore, the ancients in affirming any thing, qid it with that solemn saying, “ As thy soul liveth.” David, in apprizing Jonathan of the murderous intentions of Saul, his father, sanctions his declaration with these solemn words, “ As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, there is but a step between me and death." When the king of Judah swore unto Jeremiah, that he would not deliver him into the hands of the princes who sought his life, the oath is worded in this impressive manner—"As the Lord liveth, that made us this soul, I will not put thee to death, neither will I give thee into the hands of these men who seek thy life.” When Darius came to the lion's den, into which Daniel had been cast, enquiring whether he was alive, that holy man replied, “O king, live forever!This must have been an impertinent desire, if men cease to have any consciousness after death, until the resurrection. The import of Daniel's saying, is this, undoubtedly;“ O king, let thine happiness never cease;" but that must have been a fruitless wish, unless his soul was immortal.

The distinction between the soul and the body--the immortality and superior dignity of the spirit to the tabernacle of clay, are very clearly mentioned by our Lord, in Matth. 10. 28. In that passage, He saith, “Fear not them who kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” There is no need of saying any thing on the impertinence of this saying, on the scheme of materialism. Alas! for those who advocate it; they are al

ways under the necessity of contending with the Oracles of God. But the principle under consideration, is further confirmed by the Great Teacher of men, in these solemn questions, namely: “What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul ?” Matth. 16. 26. Possessing an immortal spirit, is the glory of man; it is that which gives him pre-eminence over all the other creatures on this globe. On this calculation, he may claim a kindred with the skies, as well as with the earth on which he treads; he may be considered as an incarnate angel. This glorious truth may truly excite man to respect himself, by acting at all times in conformity to the dignity of his nature. This magnanimity is perfectly compatible with exercising that humility required in the word of God.

2. If it has been proved that man has an immaterial and immortal soul, we may conclude that it is a doctrine whose practical tendency must be excellent. The whole divine system is “according to godliness ;" but every capital error in theology, has a demoralizing tendency. But some, whose sentiments are heretical to a high degree, may be so much under the influence of other motives, as to pass through life with great external regularity; while some, who advocate sound doctrine, may “hold the truth in unrighteousness.” These peculiar cases do not settle the practical effects of any scheme of theology. The question to be settled, is, What effect a system has on those who embrace it, in a general view ? The doctrine of mere materiality, must have a destructive effect on the great mass of mankind, if it were universally believed. On that plan, men would have nothing to hope for, nor to fear, between death and the resurrection. All must lie in the grave, in an equally unconscious peace !

But when all the sacred passages are so construed as to mean nothing which relate to the immortality of the soul -happiness and misery in a separate state-to entertain some doubt of those which speak of a resurrection, will be both easy and natural. The adoption of one error paves the way

for further advances ; and the end of the race is generally complete infidelity. The doctrine in question must give man such a low idea of his own nature and origin-such faint conceptions of a future responsibility, as greatly to check his ambition in the cultivation of his mind, and the correction of his manners.

We acknowledge, that some may be greatly refined in their intellectual powers, and very circumspect in their lives, with a full belief in the entire materiality of man ; but the scheme itself is by no means calculated to produce such an effect. Its advocates universally discard the doctrine of eternal punishment; and, in general, they do not admit of any misery after death.

misery after death. Of course, all that is to be feared beyond the present life, for sin, is annihilation. This cannot be a very appalling consideration to those who are wholly opposed to holiness and heaven. As “ the carnal mind is enmity against God," to dwell forever in his presence, and to partake in the employment of holy beings, could not be a very pleasant anticipation. When sinners wish for heaven, it is because they think it is a place of happiness. They do not seem to consider their want of relish for that felicity, and, in fact, great aversion to it. They are greatly deceived in respect to themselves; for if they were in heaven, with an unrenewed heart, they would wish for an immediate dismission. As they cannot understandingly desire heaven-as they cannot always continue here-as hell is undesirable in a high degreeannihilation must be a consolation instead of a terror. It has been uniformly observed, that the doctrine of materialism has, in general, cut off all anxiety about religion, and induced its votaries to pursue, without fear, the course of this world. Their own writers have always been compelled to acknowledge the great indifference of that denomination to practical religion. This has been clearly shown in the Sermons on Gal. 4. 17; and those who wish for further information on the subject, are referred to Dr. Fuller's letters on “the Calvinistic and Socinian systems compared.” That system which is commonly called Orthodoxy, has always had the most powerful effect on the hearts and lives of men. In that, the immortality of the soul is admitted, and its entrance into happiness or misery immediately after death. It was with these things in view, that “ Felix trembled ;” and they have a similar effect on many sinners now. In every congregation where the Trinitarian system is faithfully preached, some good effects of it clearly appear. “It is the power of God unto salvation," to thousands of mankind; while the opposite scheme is obviously leaving its adherents “in the region and shadow of death,” and has actually done so through all time. These conclusions are drawn from the divine testimony, and the experience of ages. I appeal to your conscience and observation, my hearers, for the truth of these remarks. In hearing of the soul's immortality, and the responsibility of men to God, you find it very

difficult to sit as unconcerned spectators. You have found it, undoubtedly, at many times, to be a powerful check on your depraved inclination-preventing you from unlawful indulgences. So far the effect has been excellent. The preaching of this system has been the means of bringing some of you to the knowledge of God; and we hope that it will, instrumentally, effect the salvation of many more in this congregation. “ The word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword,” when it is accompanied by the gracious operations of the Spirit.

« PreviousContinue »