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exactly, the general sentiments entertained on these subjects, at the time, and the style used concerning them ; we are not to imagine that the expressions are to be rigorously interpreted, in order to come at the true doctrine, upon these articles, but solely, in order to discover the popular opinions of the age. In regard to these, the opinions of the age, there ought to be a close attention to the letter of what is spoken ; but, in regard to the other, the doctrine of holy writ, our attention ought to be mostly to the spirit. Thus it appears to me the plain doctrine of Scripture, that there are such states as I have mentioned, and that the use and nature of them is such as has been said. That it was, for ages, the doctrine of all the ancient ecclesiastical writers, is not less evident. But in respect of situation, expressions implying that hades is under the earth, and that the seat of the blessed is above the stars, ought to be regarded merely, as attempts to accommodate what is spoken to vulgar apprehension and language. Of the like kind is the practice, so frequent in holy writ, of ascribing human passions, nay, and human organs and members, to the Deity. The same may be said of what we hear of plants and trees, in paradise, of eating and drinking in heaven, or of fire and brimstone, in either hades or gehenna. We have no more reason to understand these literally, then we have to believe that the soul, when separated from the body, can feel torment in its tongue, or that a little cold water can relieve it.
ỳ 23. I am not ignorant that the doctrine of an intermediate state between death and the resurrection, has been of late strenuously combated, by some learned and ingenious men; amongst whom we must reckon that excellent divine and firm friend to freedom of inquiry, Dr. Law, the present bishop of Carlisle 12. I honour his disposition, and have the greatest respect for his talents; but at the same time that I acknowledge he has, with much ability, supported the side he has espoused, I have never felt myself, on this head, convinced, though sometimes perplexed, by his reasoning. It is foreign to my purpose to enter into a minute discussion of controverted points in theology ; and therefore I shall only, in passing, make a few remarks on this controversy, as it is closely connected with my subject.
First, I remark that the arguments on which the denyers of that state chiefly build, arise, in my opi-, nion, from a misapprehension of the import of some scriptural expressions. Kaseudelv, xoluav, to sleep, are words often applied to the dead; but this application is no more than a metaphorical euphemism derived from the resemblance which a dead body bears to the body of a person asleep. Traces of this idiom my be found in all languages, whatever be the popular belief about the state of the dead. They often occur in the Old Testament; yet it has been shown that the common doctrine of the Ori. entals favoured the separate existence of the souls of the deceased. But, if it did not, and if, as some suppose, the ancient Jews were, on all articles relating to another life, no better than Sadducees; this shows the more strongly, that such metaphors, so frequent in their writings, could be derived solely from bodily likeness, and having no reference to a resurrection, could be employed solely for the sake of avoiding a disagreeable or ominous word. I own, at the same time, that Christians have been the more ready to adopt such expressions, as their doctrine of the resurrection of the body, presented to their minds an additional analogy between the bodies of the deceased, and the bodies of those asleep, that of being one day awaked. But I see no reason to imagine that, in this use, they carried their thoughts further than to the corporeal and visible resemblance now mentioned. Another mistake about the import of scriptural terms, is in the sense which has been given to the word avaçaois. They confine it by a use derived merely from modern European tongues, to that renovation which we call the reunion of the soul and the body, and which is to take place at the last day. I have shown, in another place 103, that this is not always the sense of the term in the New Testament.
102 Dr. Law was living when the first edition of these Dis. sertations was in the hands of the printer.
I remark, secondly, that many expressions of scripture, in the natural and obvious sense, imply that an intermediate and separate state of the soul is actually to succeed death. Such are the words of our Lord to the penitent thief upon the cross 104, Stephen's dying petition 105, the comparisons which the Apostle Paul makes in different places 100, between the enjoyment which true Christians can attain by their continuance in this world, and that which they enter on at their departure out of it, and several other passages. Let the words referred to be read by any judicious person, either in the original, or in the common translation, which is sufficiently exact for this purpose; and let him, setting aside all theory or system, say candidly, whether they would not be understood, by the gross of mankind, as presupposing that the soul may, and will, exist separately from the body, and be susceptible of happiness or misery in that state. If any thing could add to the native evidence of the expressions, it would be the unnatural meanings that are put upon them, in order to disguise that evidence. What shall we say of the metaphysical distinction introduced, for this purpose, between absolute, and relative, time? The Apostle Paul, they are sensible, speaks of the saints as admitted to enjoyment, in the presence of God, immediately after death. Now, to palliate the direct contradiction there is in this to their doctrine, that the vital principle, which is all they mean by the soul, remains extinguished between death and the resurrection, they remind us of the difference there is between absolute or real, and relative or apparent, time. They admit that, if the Apostle be understood as speaking of real time, what is said flatly contradicts their system ; but, say they, his words must be interpreted as spoken, only of apparent time. He talks indeed of entering on a state of enjoyment, immediately after death, though there may be many thousands of years between the one and the other; for, he means only, that when that state shall commence, however distant in reality the time may be, the person entering on it will not be sensible of that distance, and consequently there will be to him an apparent coincidence with the moment of his death. But, does the Apostle any where hint that this is his meaning ? or, is it what any man would naturally discover from his words? That it is exceedingly remote from the common use of language, I believe hardly any of those who favour this scheme, will be partial enough to deny. Did the sacred penmen then mean to put a cheat upon the world, and, by the help of an equivocal expression, to flatter men with the hope of entering, the instant they expire, on a state of felicity; when, in fact, they knew that it would be many ages before it would take place ? But, were the hypothesis about the extinction of the mind between death and the resurrection well founded, the apparent coincidence they speak of, is not so clear as they seem to think it. For my part, I cannot regard it as an axiom, and I never heard of any who attempted to demonstrate it. To me it appears merely a corollary from
103 Notes on Matth. xxii. 23. and 32.