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that in their exoteric works they did maintain such doctrine ; accommodating themselves herein to the opinions of the vulgar. But this is an important admission. For it concedes, that the general opinion of mankind was in favour of such a future state ; and that the Philosophers alone doubted it. And the inference is obvious, that so strong was public opinion against them, that these enlightened few dared not openly to contradict the doctrine in question. No doubt, with respect to the soul, wild and extraordinary were many of the opinions maintained by various schools, yet it is not correct to say, that they all taught, that the soul after death is absorbed into one general pervading spirit.
Any one not personally acquainted with an author advancing in these times opinions like those above mentioned, would be tempted to suppose, that he must stand alone in the world; in other words, that as far as such a thing is possible, he can have no worldly connection whatever; at all events, that he never can have lost by death a child, a brother, a sister, or any dear friend. For what is one great hope and comfort which supports us under such painful trials ?-What but this ?—that those we loved, though dead in the body, are alive in the spirit. Indeed so little can we feel disposed to admit them to be in a state of insensibility, that we are even tempted to go farther; and to hope,
not only that they are alive, but that they are perhaps allowed still to observe us in our arduous journey through life!—that in the places where we have been accustomed to enjoy their loved society, their spirits may still be permitted to hover round us! to be ministering angels, invisibly acting for our comfort and preservation !- In this there may be too much imagination; but as it is, if erroneous, an error arising from warmth of natural affection still yearning with tender regret after the dear objects in which it formerly found great part of it's terrestrial happiness; and stimulating to the earnest endeavour so to walk as to be hereafter again admitted, and for ever, to the blessed society of those for a time only gone before us; it is an error much more easily to be pardoned, than the cold, the cheerless, and it may fairly be said unfounded, and in its probable consequences dangerous idea, that our Dead, are for a time, for thousands of ages perhaps, in effect dead indeed, both body and soul.
It is not fortunate for the credit of any writer, that he should have given publicity to such sentiments. Luckily for him the high and established character of the author in question precludes the possibility of any misconception of his principles where he is known. But his work may be read where he is not known. And supposing this to be
the case, he will certainly be liable to the suspicion of secretly inclining to materialism. Not that this will be suspected where he is known; or that any thing he says could be dangerous to minds like his
But all minds are not equally gifted; nor equally well-trained and disciplined. And if in any mind there should exist the least previous leaning to such anti-christian doctrines, the expressed sentiments of this Christian writer would undoubtedly confirm such a mind in it's error.-It would surely have been better to have passed over in silence this particular branch of his subject, than to have mentioned it in a way which even by remote possibility might lead any person to dangerous misconception.
But we are farther told by the same author, " that no one can prove the immortality of the soul without Divine Revelation." Let this be granted. There is no occasion why we should dispute the position ; for it appears from numerous passages in the Bible, that the immortality of the soul was, from the first, a point Divinitùs revelatum. And the chief ground of complaint against this author is, his having mentioned this doctrine in such a way, as to lead young minds to suspect that after all it never has been revealed with sufficient precision, and that, therefore, it may fairly be called in question.
Too much also is said about such a truth“ not being attainable by argument.” There is no necessity for asking whether it ever was generally attained by argument.
We may very properly consider the belief of a future state to have been an indelible aboriginal impression of a fact communicated in the first instance immediately from God. Thus no one would think of arguing about it, till by lapse of time the light of truth had become so dim as to be no longer distinctly visible. Then it was that clouds of ignorance began to overcast the minds of men ; leaving mortal intellect to grope
1 its way to knowledge as best it might. Then it was that having lost the certainty of truth, men began to argue about what their former knowledge had been, rendering indispensably necessary the clear and glorious light of the Gospel, to chase away the mists of doubt, and to restore a full conviction of a future life and immortality.
Again, no sincere Christian will be disposed to affirm, that “ unassisted reason" would have been equal to the discovery of a future life. The fact is, reason was not unassisted, neither was the idea of a future life, properly speaking, a discovery; it was simply the continuance, becoming no doubt gradually more and more indistinct, of what had been originally fully known. For it must not be forgotten, that gross as might have been the dark
ness which covered the earth, the heathens were the descendants of those who once had possessed the true light. That light had no doubt lamentably dwindled away. Yet when we recollect the high privileges which the first inhabitants of the world enjoyed, of immediate and direct intercourse with the Almighty, we cannot but suppose that GOD would communicate to them something concerning the nature of their souls and their future destination, which communication would infallibly be handed down from father to son, through succeeding ages, the tradition naturally becoming less distinct in proportion as it receded from the fountain head.
But whatever may be said of the heathen world, surely it cannot be admitted that " the Jews had no revelation whatever of a future state of retribution.” They certainly were in possession of the true religion. The true religion must necessarily either have said something of the future state of man, or have left men at liberty to suppose that there was no future state. The Jews must either have believed in a future state, or they must have disbelieved it. Now, is it probable that the Almighty, when he taught men the true religion, would have suffered them to remain in the belief of annihilation after death? yet they must necessarily have believed, either that their souls should