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SERMON IX.

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LIFE AND IMMORTALITY BROUGHT TO LIGHT BY

THE GOSPEL. SERMON I,

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2 TIMOTHY i. 10.

But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus

Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life, and immortality to light through the Gospel.

In this passage of Scripture, Christ, according to the common translation, is said to have abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light, through the Gospel. The word, which is rendered hath abolished is xatagyndauros; the proper meaning of which is to render vain or ineffectual, i. e. to deprive a thing of its eficacy. The word, rendered hath brought to light, is owTIDAUTOS, which signifies to illuminate ; to cast a strong light upon; to set, or exhibit, in a clear light. The words in the original for life and immortality are {wmv xas aplaposan ; life and incorruption. The life here mentioned is unquestionably the life beyond the grave. The incorruption is an attribute of that life; and may refer, without any impropriety, either to the body, or the mind, of him who will possess it; or, with equal propriety, to both. In Hebrew phraseology, life and incorruption are the same as incorruptible life. But incorruption, applied to this subject, is the same thing with immortality. The words may, of course, with the strictest propriety, be rendered immortal life. I would, therefore, translate the whole verse in the following manner: And is now made manifest through, or by means of, the appearing of our

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Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath rendered death ineffectual and exhibited immortal life in a clear, strong light through, or by means of, the Gospel. Death is rendered ineffectual by the prevention of its dreadful consequences; the sufferings, destined to follow it in the future world. These our Saviour has effectually prevented by the atonement, which he has made for sin, and the application of its blessings to all those who believe on his name. Every such believer will be admitted, notwithstanding the condemuing sen. tence of the divine law, to the enjoyment of that immortal life, mentioned in this passage; and the efficacy of death to make him miserable, hereafter, will be finally taken away.

Having thus endeavoured to settle the meaning of the text, I shall now proceed to a consideration of the principal doctrine which it contains ; viz. That Christ has, in the Gospel, clearly and strongly exhibited to mankind a future immortal life. This doctrine I propose to illustrate by a series of observations, under the three following heads :

1. Immortal life was unknown to mankind by the investigations of Reason.

II. It was imperfectly revealed in the Jewish Scriptures.

III. It is completely revealed, proved, and explained, by Christ in the Gospel.

1. Immortal life was unknown to mankind by the investigation of Reason.

To exhibit my own views concerning what is intended in this declaration, I observe,

1. That in most countries the common people have believed the soul to be immortal, and to be rewarded, or punished, beyond

the grave.

It is unnecessary, and indeed impossible, for me to recite, here, the various opinions of mankind concerning this subject. Few persons can be ignorant, that the assertion is generally true: few, I mean, who have read to any extent. We can hardly take up a history of any nation, without finding this doctrine a part of their creed. The Savages of America, Asia, and Africa, bave held it with as much confidence, and, I may add, with as much rationality, as the nations who were more enlightened.

In a few countries it seems to have faded out of the belief, as it

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has gradually been lost out of the knowledge, of the inhabitants :
I mean, that they ceased to believe a future state of existence,
because they ceased to know, that there was any such doctrine.
This is probably true of the Caffres, bordering on the country of
the Hottentots; of the people who inhabit New Holland ; and
perhaps of some other nations. In all these cases the Doctrine
seems to have been lost, through a general, and extreme, ignor-
ance and degradation. Wherever the doctrine has been known,
it seems regularly to have been admitted by the people at large.

2. It has also been admitted by some Philosophers.

Among these may be enumerated, not, however, without some uncertainty respecting several of them, and not without some qualifications of their opinions, Pherecydes, Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato, Cicero, and Plutarch; together with some others. Several, also, of the Oriental philosophers held the same doctrine; and it seems to have been admitted by some whole sects, or perhaps more properly, by a considerable number of individuals, who belonged to these sects.

3. These Philosophers held very defective, and very erroneous, opinions concerning this doctrine.

Pythagoras, it is universally known, held the doctrine of transmigration : i. e. he supposed, that the soul, when it left one body, passed into another; and, indifferently, into the body of a man, or of a brute. This opinion, according to Diodorus Siculus, he derived from the Egyptians; who held, that the soul, after leaving the body, passed successively through the body of one animal after another, in a circuit, occupying three thousand years ; and then entered again into a human body. When this transmigration was ended. Pythagoras taught, that the soul became reunited to the Deity, or Universal Soul ; of whom he supposed it to be originally a part; having been only separated, or lopped off; retaining, through all its various modes of existence, its primeval nature; and being, therefore, necessarily immortal. At the same time he held, and, to be consistent with himself, must have held, that all animals have a near kindred to man, and are of a similar kind.

Socrates says, a little before his death," I hope I am now going

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to good men; though this I would not take upon me peremptorily to assert. But I would certainly affirm, if I could affirm any thing of this nature, That I shall go to the gods. I am in good hope, that there is something remaining for those, that are dead; and, as it has been said in ancient times, That good men will then fare better than bad ones." Such men, as had diligently studied wisdom and philosophy, Socrates believed, would go to the gods, and live with them through their remaining existence. Of other men, who were not philosophers, but who were just, temperate, and useful, he taught, " That their souls would go, either into other human bodies, or into the bodies of such animals, as were mild, and social; ants, for example, and bees; who maintain a species of order and government.” The rest of mankind, he supposed, would re-animate the bodies of grosser animals, whose nature was suited to their own.

Plato held, in substance, the doctrines of his master. He seems, however, to have adopted the opinion, that rewards would, hereafter, probably be distributed to the good and punishments to the evil. He also held, with Pythagoras, that the soul was a part of the Divinity, and would be re-united with it hereafter.

Cicero held the doctrine of a future existence; and frequently Jaboured to defend it. At times, however, he expresses himself doubtfully on the subject; and at others, directly asserts the contrary doctrine.

The same inconsistency is predicable of Epictetus.

4. The Philosophers supported their doctrines on this subject with arguments, which were unsatisfactory eden to themselves.

This Socrates and Cicero directly declare.

Cicero says; and it will be admitted that he was acquainted with all the arguments, which others had advanced concerning this doctrine ; That, while he is contemplating the subject, and examining the arguments, he feels satisfied, that the doctrine is true ; but, that, when he turns his thoughts away, the whole appears to be a dream.

Socrates expressly styles his view of it A hope ; and says er. pressly, that he will not take upon him peremptorily to assert it. It is also evident, that both he, and Plato, very plainly rested for

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much of the belief, which they had, on the declarations of the Ancients, which had come down to them by tradition.

It is hardly necessary to observe, that no arguments can be produced, except such as are ridiculous, in favour of the scheme of transmigration, which was an essential part of the future existence taught by Pythagoras, and borrowed by him, most probably, from the Brahminic philosophy.

These imperfect arguments were also greatly weakened by the doubts, which the authors of them frequently expressed ; by the very various opinions concerning the subject which they entertained ; and by the contradictory opinions and arguments of other philosophers. From these and other causes, their arguments had so little influence with their countrymen, that they scarcely made any converts to their own peculiar doctrines.

5. Many sects of Philosophers denied a future existence allogether.

Aristotle says expressly, That" death is the most dreadful of all things, because it is the end of our being; and that the dead experience neither good, nor evil." Many of his followers held the same doctrine; and one of them, Dicæarchus, wrote a book to prove that the soul is mortal.

The Stoics seem generally to have held, that the soul survived the body, but only for a limited period; those of ignorant men, for a little time; and those of the wise, to the general conflagration.

Democritus and Epicurus wholly denied a future existence; as did also their followers.

The Pyrrhonists and New Academics, acknowledged nothing as certain ; not even self-evident propositions.

Confucius the celebrated Chinese philosopher, did not admit a future state ; nor does such a state appear to have been believed by any of his followers.

This extensive denial of a future existence among so many of their learned men; the clashiug opinions of those, who admitted such an existence; and the clashing arguments, by which they severally supported their own doctrines; produced, as we should naturally expect, very unfavourable effects upon the minds of the people at large. In this manner the Athenians, Romans, and Chinese,

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