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yond their reach, This supposes immortality. Wherefore must the Christian deem hinself miserable, were he to atchieve the conquest of the whole world, at the expence of a good conscience ? Because it will profit a man nothing to gain the whole world, if he lose his own soul, Matt. xvi. 26. This supposes imınortality. Wherefore are we not the most miserable of all creatures ? Because we have hope in Christ not for this life only, 1 Cor. xv. 19. This supposes immortality. The doctrine of Jesus Christ, therefore, establishes the truth of the immortality of the soul.
2. But we said, in the second place, that the death of Jesus Christ is a proof of his doctrine. He referred the world to his death, as a sign by which it might be ascertained whether or not he came from God. By this he proposed to stop the mouth of incredulity. Neither the purity of his life, nor the sanctity of his deportment, nor the lustre of his miracles had as yet prevailed so far as to convince an unbelieving world of the truth of his mission. They must have sign upon sign, prodigy upon prodigy. Jesus Christ restricts himself to one: “ Destroy this temple, and within three days I will build it up again,” Mark xiv. 58. “ An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas,” Matt. xii. 39. This sign could not labour under any ambiguity. And this sign was accomplished. There is no longer room to doubt of a truth demonstrated in a manner so illustrious.
Our ancestors devised,* with greater simplicity, it must be allowed, than strength of reasoning, a very singular proof of the innocence of persons accused. They presented to them a bar of hot iron. If the person under trial bad the firmness to grasp it, and received no injury from the action of the burning metal, he was acquitted of the charge. This proof was, as we have said, devised with more simplicity, than strength of reasoning: no one having a right to suppose that God will perform a miracle, to evince his innocence to the conviction of his judges. I acknowledge at the same time, that had I been an eye witness of such an experiment; had I beheld that element which dissolves, which devours bodies the most obdurate, respecting the hand of a person accused of a crime, I should certainly have been very much struck at the sight of such a spectacle.
But what shall we say of the Saviour of the world, after the proof to which he was put ? He walked through the fire without being burnt, Isa. xliii. 2. He descended into the bosom of the grave: the grave respected him, and those other insatiables which never say it is enough, Prov. xxx. 16. opened a passage for his return to the light. You feel the force of this argument. Jesus Christ having died, in support of the truth of a doctrine, entirely founded on the supposition of the immortality of the soul, there is no longer room to doubt whether the soul be immortal.
Let us here pause for a few moments, and before we enter on the second branch of our subject, let us consider how far this position, so clearly proved, so
Pasquier Recher. de la France. Liv. iy. 2.
firmly established, has a tendency to fortify us against the fears of death.
Suppose for an instant, that we knew nothing respecting the state of souls, after this life is closed, and respecting the economy on which we must then enter; su
supposing God to have granted us no revelation whatever on this interesting article, but simply this, that our souls are immortal, a slight degree of meditation on the case, as thus stated, ought to operate as an inducement rather to wish for death, than to fear it. It appears probah le that the soul, when disengaged from the senses, in which it is now enveloped, will subsist in a manner infinitely more noble than it could do here below, during its union with matter. We are perfectly convinced that the body will, one day, contribute greatly to our felicity; it is an essential part of our being, without which our happiness must be incomplete. But this necessity, which fetters down the functions of the soul, on this earth, to the irregular movements of ill-assorted matter, is a real bondage. The soul is a prisoner in this body. A prisoner is a man susceptible of a thousand delights, but who can enjoy, however, only such pleasures as are compatible with the extent of the place in which he is shut up: his scope is limited to the capacity of his dungeon: he beholds the light only through the aperture of that dungeon: all his intercourse is confined to the persons who approach bis dungeon. But let his prison-doors be thrown open; from that moment, behold him in a state of much higher felicity. Thenceforward he can maintain social intercourse with all the men in the world; thenceforward he can contemplate an unbounded body of light; thenceforward he is able to expatiate over the spacious universe.
This exhibits a portrait of the soul. A prisoner to the senses, it can enjoy those delights only which have a reference to sense. It can see, only by means of the cuticles and the fibres of its eyes: it can hear, only by means of the action of the nerves and tympanum of its ears: it can think, only in conformity to certain modifications of its brain. The soul is susceptible of a thousand pleasures, of which it has not so much as the idea. A blind man has a soul capable of admitting the sensation of light; if he be deprived of it, the reason is his senses are defective, or improperly disposed. Our souls are susceptible of a thousand unknown sensations; but they receive them not, in this economy of imperfection and wretchedness, because it is the will of God that they should perceive only through the medium of those organs, and that those organs, from their limited nature, should be capable of admitting only limited sensations.
But permit the soul to expatiate at large, let it take its natural flight, let these prison-walls be broken down, O, then! the soul becomes capable of ten thousand inconceivable new delights. Wherefore do you point to that ghastly corpse? Wherefore deplore those eyes closed to the light, those spirits evaporated, that blood frozen in the veins, that motionless, lifeless mass of corruption? Why do you say to me, “My friend, my father, my spouse is no more; he sees, he hears, he acts no
longer ?” He sees no longer, do you say? He sees no longer I grant, by means of those visual rays which were formed in the retina of the eye; but he sees as do those pure intelligences which never were clothed with mortal flesh and blood. He hears no more through the medium of the action of the æthereal fluid, but he hears as a pure spirit. He thinks no longer through the intervention of the fibres of his brain; but he thinks from his own essence, because, being a pure spirit, the faculty of thought is essential to him, and inseparable from his nature.