« PreviousContinue »
guage we build no positive system. But they avail more than abstruse and esoteric philosophies, to exhibit the aspect which the doctrine presents to the great common sense or common feeling of humanity, and to show that the doctrine is by no means so repugnant to natural reason and conscience as its impugners claim. This suffices for our present purpose, which is to show that nature at least presents no valid presumption against the doctrine of the perpetuated existence of the wicked, but leaves the field open and clear for revelation.
Thus we have seen nature attesting most clearly and unequivocally to a future life for all, and an immortal life for the good; and if not as unmistakably and irresistibly demonstrating the endless existence of the wicked, at least she presents no insuperable difficulties and objections. The difficulties attaching peculiarly to this part of the doctrine of immortality, are not so much the product of natural reason or of observation, as of the natural revolt of our feelings at all suffering, and especially at the aspect of immortal sin and woe. We find the doctrine so far from being repugnant to the natural reason and conscience, that it is embodied extensively in the creed of natural religion itself, the world over. Nor do we find it compassed round with logical difficulties different from what attach to facts and doctrines which we know to be true in the present world. We will not therefore pronounce it proven, as in case of the immortality of the good, but not repugnant to nature; indeed, as countenanced by her, though waiting still the confirmation of revelation. The doctrine of immortality generally, for the good as well as the evil, awaited such a confirmation ; first, because, as our whole argument is based on God's being and character, and as these became clouded over by superstition and guile of men, a revelation became needful not only for asserting clearly this doctrine, but for bringing ont that idea of God from which the future life and its destinies must spring:
There was need of revelation also to counteract the impressions of sense, which for all practical effects at least, mastered a world sunk in sensualism. Though men might by reflection arrive at the assurance of a spiritual and endless life, it requires a degree of reflection in order to do it, which is by no means a universal characteristic of mankind, and to whic the vast multitude of men, especially in ruder stages of culture, are indisposed or incompetent. Men to a great extent, therefore, need to be taught this truth positively, expressly, and by living and striking examples, in order to give it requisite power over them. To arrive at it analytically and reflect
ively, so far exceeds the ability or industry of most men, and would be achieved with such feeble assurance, that this great conservative and purifying doctrine could have but slight influence on the masses of mankind.
There was also need of revelation to counteract the terrible and overmastering impressions of the circumstances of death. The form of physical death is most appalling. “All we know or dream or fear of agony,” are, to our seeming, gathered in it. It seems like a mortal crisis in being; and the process of dissolution, its loathsomeness and horror, its seeming utter destruction of at least the house and organism of life, and then the utter disappearance of the being from all the ways and interests of this world—all these must have tended powerfully to produce, at least on the unthinking mass, the idea of annihilation—the reduction of the being to utter nothing.
Nothing is more sad and affecting than the utterances which human nature in its fear, sympathy or despondence has given forth under the impression of these outward terrors of death. From the rudest and most cultivated ages alike—in the old Saga and Runic rhyme, in the Orphic lyrics and in Indian and Egyptian myth, and in the elegiac and didactic song of the ancient Arab and the Hebrew, in the poems of Homer and Hesiod, as also of Solomon and Moses, this feeling breaks out on us, often in strains of exquisite sweetness and of ineffable melancholy, the vesper dirge of humanity rising as on the borders of eternal night. Art and fancy, love, fear and sorrow wove thus their cypress wreath over the endless sleep of the tomb; painting, sculpture and music expressed and perpetuated the deep plaint of nature consciously under fate. How sad and despondent the strain that comes down to us from the elder world, even from the muse of Inspiration :
"I go whence I shall not return, even to the land of darkness and the shad. ow of death:
“A land of darkness, as darkness itself: and of the shadow of death, without any order, and where the light is as darkness."*
To this responds, more sadly and despairingly still, the dirge of Heathen Poesy.
“The meanest herb we trample in the field,
Or in the garden nurture, when its leaf
And from brief slumber wakes to life again :
And again :
“ Down through that yawning gulf, the grave,
When life's brief dit is o'er,
Down to the sunless shore,
They sleep forevermore."* Now there was required some direct declaration from beyond that dark “bourne whence no traveler returns;" light from the realm of darkness and shadow of death where the light was as darkness ;” voices coming from the land of the silent; to infuse confidence and animating assurance into the human mind; or to throw over human passion and crime a practical curb in the terror of the judgment to come. To these ends there was needed a revelation; and for these the Spirit spake through the Divine Word, and the great Life and Light appeared among the children of men.
Here, for the present, we leave the argument. If it has accomplished its aim, it has dispelled imagined presumptions and prejudgments of nature coming between the human mind and the inspired oracle of celestial doom. It leaves humanity before a revealed throne of judgment, ready in humble candor and reverence, to hear and interpret the award of Him that sitteth thereon.
The foregoing article has been prepared by an eminent writer at the request of the Conductors of the New Englander, on the proposal of a gentleman in New York, who offered a generous compensation for it, and who intends to republish it with a reply to be written in defense of the notion that the wicked will be annihilated.
In another article, which will probably appear in our next number, the Scriptural argument will be presented.
* Poetry of the Ancients. p. 288.
ART. VII.—NOTICES OF BOOKS.
Select Works of Rev. Thomas Boston, Minister of Ettrick. With a Memoir of
his Life and Writings. Royal 8vo. pp. 784.' New York: Robert Carter & Brothers. 1855. Price $2.00.
The writings of Thomas Boston have had a good degree of popularity for more than a century, especially among the Presbyterians of Scotland. Whatever differences of opinion may prevail respecting some of his theological statements, his thoughts for the most part are eminently scriptural, and express the substantial and saving truths of the gospel. Among his first publications was “Human Nature in its Fourfold State,” in which the following propositions are discussed : I. What man was in his state of innocence, as God made him. II. What he is in the state of corrupt nature, as he hath unmade himself. JII. What he must be in a state of grace, as created in Christ Jesus unto good works, &c. IV. What he shall be in his eternal state, as made by the Judge of all either perfectly happy, or completely miserable, and that forever. In less than fifty years after the death of Boston, the “ Fourfold State" had passed through more than twenty editions ; which fact is evidence of its great popularity and usefulness. It has probably been one of the most useful religious books ever published. It has been a source of instruction, and admonition, and counsel, and consolation to multitudes of many generations. When Boston received the first bound copy of this book, in 1720, he says: “I did, on the morrow after, spread it before the Lord in
prayer, for his blessing to go out with it, and to be entailed on it, while I live, and when I am gone." Thousands can testify to the gracious return of that prayer.
In addition to the “Fourfold State," this volume contains “The Crook in the Lot,” illustrating the Divine Sovereignty and Wisdom in the trials of life; "A View of this and the other World;" “ Discourses on Prayer,” and other occasional sermons. The Christian public are greatly indebted to the Carters for the re-publication of works of this class. Boston's Select Works will prove to be a profitable addition to that portion of every minister's library which he is accustomed to read. Bible Light from Bible Lands. By Rev. JOSEPH ANDERSON, Helensburgh, Scot.
land. New York: Robert Carter & Brothers. 1856. Price 75 cts.
This is an interesting and instructive book; it verifies, and illustrates, and explains a multitude of predictions, descriptions and allusions, in both the Old and New Testament. The author in his travels throughout the Holy land, made the Bible his guide-book; he sought in the varieties of natural scenery, and in the manners and customs of orien-: tal life, a clearer understanding of those portions of scripture, which refer to national peculiarities, interesting localities, and the conduct and relations of men generally. The book is a useful and entertaining commentary on some of the most significant parts of the Bible, and has therefore to all readers a more permanent value than ordinary books of travel.
The End: or The Proximate Signs of the Close of this Dispensation. By the
Rev. John CUMMING, D. D., London. Boston: John P. Jewett & Co. 1855. New Haven: Thomas H. Pease.
Without subscribing to the peculiar opinions of Dr. Cumming respecting the speedy Advent of our Lord, we can commend this book for its practical instruction on some most solemn and interesting subjects. The author shows an excellent spirit, and illustrates the great truths of the gospel earnestly and eloquently. Most readers will wonder, if they do not smile, at his extraordinary facility in connecting the prophetic utterances of Scripture with historical events, and the remarkable occurrences of the present time. " The Time of the End.” By a Congregationalist. Boston: John P. Jewett
& Co. 1856. New Haven: Thomas H. Pease.
The doctrine of this book, or of the Author, is that the advent of our Lord, his personal reign on earth, will precede the Millenium; and that the present time is the period immediately anterior to the ushering in of the new dispensation. It contains essays, lectures, and opinions by eminent divines, who in different ages have endeavored to find the fulfillment of prophecies respecting "The End," either in their own times, or during the present century. We find that more than three hundred years ago, Luther believed that all the signs which were to precede the last day had already happened. Among other signs of the end named by him was this, that “ the Kingdom of Rome is declining to its fall." Dr. Cumming now finds an awful, a terrible characteristic of the last days in the increase and spread of Popery. It is not impossible that the Minister of Crown Court may have misapprehended "the signs of the times” as widely as did the Monk of Erfurt. A Body of Divinity : wherein the Doctrines of the Christian Religion are
Explained and defended. By Thomas RIDGELEY, D. 1. A new edition, revised, corrected, and illustrated with notes by the Rev. John M. Wilson. In two Volumes. Royal 8vo. pp. 647, 666. Robert Carter & Brothers. New York: 1855. Price $4.00.
These large volumes embrace the theological lectures of Dr. Ridgeley, delivered to the students of the oldest Independent college in Britain. They were published first in 1731, after he had filled the chair of Theology twenty years ; and are probably the substance of his yearly lectures carefully revised and corrected from time to time, during the period of his professorship. The work is evidently the fruit of earnest and matured thought. On its first publication, it was received with such general approbation in England and Scotland, that a second edition was soon demanded. Since then it has been several times republished in England, and twice in this country.
Dr. Ridgeley adopted the Assembly's Larger Catechism as a sort of directory to the order of his thoughts on the various heads of divinity; though he was not satisfied merely to expand the particular ideas of that summary of truth. He was an independent thinker, and not disposed to receive any digest of doctrines, of his own times, as entirely faultless. In reference to his views of some theological questions, he