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of the dead and the life everlasting, as they were pro" jnised under the law of Moses; to shew us which, against the blindness and perverseness of the Sadducees, was the design of our blessed Saviour in the text. '■ -'•
It may be proper now to clear up a difficulty or two, and make some reflections to render this subject of moral use to us.
It has been insisted upon, that temporal blessings in the land of Canaan were plainly promised to the people under the law of Moses; and thence it has been argued, that these were the only sanctions of the law, the only rewards of obedience. But this doth' by no means follow: because godliness, under the Gospel, hath the promise both of this life, and of that which is to come; and it is still the effect of righteousness to exalt every nation. The present blessings of this life do not exclude the blessings of the other, neither can a nation be blessed, as such, but in the present life. The promises of God are very nearly alike under both Testaments. We Christians have a promise, that, even here, our obedience shall be rewarded with houses and lands: but lest we should forget what is to come, the enjoyment of these things is tempered with persecutions:' Mark x. 30. even as God, for the correcting and spiritualizing the minds of those who were under the law, preserved wicked heathens, for thorns in their sides, and terrors upon their borders. The Holy Patriarchs never enjoyed the blessings promised in their literal sense: to them, therefore, as to us, they were no more than signs of better things: and under every age of the Mosaic dispensation, they who entered by faith into the ways of God, and the language of his law, voluntarily renounced, like the family of the Jiechabites, the enjoyments of this world, and made themselves pilgrims and sojourners upon earth, such as the best of their fathers had betn before, and as all good men were to be after.
It' has been objected farther against the doctrine of immortality in the Old Testament, that life and immortality were brought to light by the Gospel. But, if by bringing to light we understand therevealing of what was not known before, the expression is not true; because the resurrection of the dead was certainly known to the Jews before the Gospel; and the greater part of them in our Saviour's time never thought of disputing it. Therefore, when it is said that immortality (the word is incdrruption, and means the incorruption or' the body) was brought to light, the sense is, that not the doctrine, but the thing itself was brought to light, by the fact of our Saviour's resurrection, and the actual abolition of the power of death. It might indeed, be said, with respect to all mankind, that the thing was then brought to light: but, if it is understood of the doctrine, that can be applied only to the Gentiles, who had no knowledge of the resurrection; and the wisest of them mocked as soon as they heard of it. Therefore take it either way, and there will be no objection from this text against the doctrine of the resurrection in the Old Testament.
But it is objected farther, that if this doctrine is revealed in the law and the prophets, it is in a way so faint and obscure, as if it were intended that the Jews should not learn it. This merits consideration: however, if the Jews did learn it, and receive it, as they undoubtedly did, then there must be in us some misunderstanding of the case. Accordingly we shall find, and must allow, that there is an obscurity in the law, arising partly from design in God the lawgiver, and partly from ignorance in man. When we read the historical, prophetical, or ceremonial part of the law, we see the wisdom of God there delivering itself in parables; and for the same reasons as our Saviour did afterwards; covering up the precious doctrines of life under a veil : which method, while it rendered them still more precious to the wise, who could see and understand, secured them from profane heathens and carnal Jews. They could not despise them, for they could not see them *. The life and spirit of the signs and figures in the
Christian mysteries are now as effectually lost to our
Deists, Soeinians, and other like disputers of this world. They who do see through this method, which God hath constantly observed from the beginning of the world, from the tree in Paradise, to the lamb of the Passover, and from thence to the bread of the Christian sacrament, see the better for it; while those, who have not an heart to understand, are blinded, and confirmed in their unbelief. Not only the immortality of the soul, and the resurrection of the dead, are doctrines of the law lost to a carnal mind, but all other great doctrines are lost in like manner: the corruption of man's nature, the bondage of sin, purification of the heart by gracc, atonement by the shedding of blood, the true character of the Messiah, the calling of the Gentile world, were none of them to be
* The sense I have here fallen upon, coincides so exactly with the words of a Jewish writer, that I shall set them down for the Reader to reflect upon. “Servans reconditam, et relinquens doctis et sapientibus eruendam, ex variis legis locis, illam futuram beatitudinem. Atque haec eadem causa est, cur nulla mentio aperta fiat in Genesi; sub metaphora tantùm proponatur.” Menasseh. Ben Israel, de Resur. Mort. lib. 1. cap: 13.
found in the law, according to the sense of the carnal Jew; neither are they now seen by the disputing Christian. Therefore let us all endeavour to put off this Jewish spirit, and pray in the words of the Psalmist, who understood all these tilings, open thou mine eyes; that I may see the wondrous things of thy law! The letter of the law is the shadow of truth, and nothing more. Of this some have been ignorant, while the world allowed them the reputation of great learning; and this ignorance produced the monstrous proposition published amongst us of late years, that a revelation came to man from the living God, without life in it: which is so far from being an improvement in literature, or divinity, that it must be shocking to the ears of intelligent Christians; and, being false and heretical, stands condemned in the Articles of the Church of England.
But now, lastly, give me leave to tell you, that the moral doctrine to be drawn from the words of the text, is a matter of great consideration: and I desire you will lay it up in your minds. God calls himself the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: this is the title he has chosen; his favourite memorial to all genera* tions: but in this title he declares his relation to his friends and servants when they are dead. He is our support in life; and that is a blessing and an honour to us; but he delights rather to consider himself as our life in death; and as such we ought to consider him daily. We are all solicitous to raise ourselves in the eyes of our neighbours, and to be reckoned among the higher orders of the living: whereas it should be our chief care to consider, with whom we shall be numbered when we are dead. Let, then, the vain and the ambitious be striving to be in the class of the mighty, the wealthy, and the honourable of this world, while they live: but let us rather provide, that we may be numbered with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, •when we are dead. Then will God be with us when we are no longer with men; and we shall rest in the hope, that he will soon fulfil the promises made to the Holy Patriarchs, our spiritual forefathers, by raising us from the dead, and giving us a place in the heavenly city, which he hath prepared for them and for us, that they without us, should not be made perfect.