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THE following Discourse, delivered upwards of six months since, was not originally intended for publication. It is committed to the press with the sanction of a learned friend, whose opinion the author considers of great value. It was thought that a brief statement of an important question might not be without advantage to others engaged in the same inquiries. The controversies that arose when the Divine Legation of Warburton was first published have long since died away, nor is it necessary to awaken them again, except as far as the chief subject of dispute is connected with the acquisition of religious truth itself. An examination into the belief of Jew or Gentile in the soul's immortality before the coming of our Saviour, can never cease to be an interesting question to the Christian philosopher. Nor
will the investigation be without profit to him who pursues it candidly, as a source of moral improvement. He may learn to be thankful on the ground of revelation for the advantages which he enjoys over the most favoured Israelite in the superior blessings and prospects of the new, compared with the old dispensation; and on the ground of his natural faculties, he will be sensible of the benefits which reason itself has derived from the word of Scripture, as well in directing as in limiting its exercise. He has seen the day clearly which the inspired patriarchs of old, with the prophetic eye of faith, at a distance, rejoiced to see; and he has received that light of imparted knowledge from Heaven, which the wisest of the heathens felt necessary to clear up the doubts of the speculative mind, and would have hailed with gratitude and reverence.
2 TIMOTHY I. 10.
-who hath abolished death, and brought life · and immortality to light through the gospel. THESE words form part of an Epistle written by the great apostle of the Gentiles at a time when he stood in need of all the consolations to be derived from the doctrine which they convey; when he was suffering from imprisonment and persecution, and he perceived that the hour of his martyrdom was approaching. Rejoicing in the hopes which they inspired, he declared that he was afflicted, and yet was not ashamed; and looking forward to his reward, he exclaims in a subsequent part of the Epistle, I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith : henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me. Language so full of confidence in his reward and in the grounds of it, so full of trust in the righteous Judge who was to confer it, as plainly to prove that the power of death
was indeed abolished, and that life and immortality were brought to light.
Yet these expressions of my text, patioavτες ζωης και αφθαρσίαν, however strong they may appear, are not to be considered as implying that the expectation of a future life had never been heard of till the coming of the Messiah. In its literal acceptation the word pwriter signifies rather to make clear what is obscure, than to bring to light what is entirely unknown: thus pwri(elv armbeídy, to make the truth manifest, and not to shew forth a truth of which no glimmering had previously been perceived. The heathen looked forward to a future state, though he had no certain evidence for his belief, neither comprehending clearly the immortality of the soul, nor having any notion of the resurrection of the body a. And the Jew was instructed by revelation, that the life forfeited by the transgression of Adam was to be restored through the mediation of some future deliverer, though all the circumstances connected with the
a The word aplapolav, incorruption, probably conveys this meaning. Macknight and Benson.
mystery of redemption were not to be fully revealed, till our Saviour's appearance and ministry upon earth dispelled every doubt and difficulty in which the doctrine was involved, enlightening what was before obscure, and completing what was before imperfect.
It will be my object in the present discourse, to compare the knowledge both of the Gentiles and the Jewish people, respecting a future life, with the clearer revelations which Christians enjoy on this momentous subject.
That the idea of another state of existence after the termination of the present universally prevailed among mankind, the records of history unequivocally prove : there is no nation, whether savage or civilized, amongst whom some traces of it
may not be found. It made a part of the popular belief in the early stages of society, before mythology was formed into a system ; it was strongly impressed upon the mind before political codes gave a particular direction to it by ceremonies and modes of worship, and before philosophy exhibited