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some respects, were not good *, that is, were not to become of perpetual usage, because they were adapted to a race whose disposition was not yet sufficiently disciplined for the admission and adoption of more perfect ordinances.
The temporal sanctions by which this dispensation was enforced, referred to the same cause, and issued from it. A narrow-minded and obstinate people were rather to be influenced by the hopes and fears of immediate reward and punishment, than by any prospect, however striking, of a distant futurity. Their obedience was, therefore, required, under the promise of the immediate favour, or under the denunciation of the immediate wrath, of the Almighty. "They were to flourish and decline as a people, in proportion to the fidelity of their legal and ritual observances; and the frequent and direct interposition of Providence was to recompense their obedience, or to punish their rebellion. Accordingly, we find that, as they were sinful or righteous, their vines and their fig-trees were blighted over the land, and the people were thinned by famine, by pestilence, or by the sword; or their harvests were abundant, their enemies were subdued, and they grew up and prospered in safety and in peace. But we are no where told that they were illuminated by the explicit and formal annunciation of a future state. However, in common with the rest of mankind, they may have admitted the immortality and responsibility of the soul, the sanction of their law was deduced, principally, or solely, from the theocracy under which they lived, and by which, according to their deserts, their
* I gave them laws, says God, which were not good,
temporal recompence or retribution was to be meted out.
When Christ became the Legislator of man, the exclusive and limited code was to be succeeded by a universal law; the wall of partition between Jew and Gentile was to be thrown down ; observances, and forms, no longer necessary, were to be done away; and they who dwelt in the uttermost parts of the earth,, strangers to the covenant of promise, and to the elder law, were, at length, together with the Jews, to be embraced by the mercies of an unbounded salvation. Accordingly, the Gospel of Christ held forth to all mankind one salutary and consistent law, and one sanction of reward and punishment. A new tree of life was planted, not within a narrow and exclusive pale, but in the midst of the nations, to extend its immortalizing fruits to all times and to all people. A perfect system of edification and grace was promulgated, accomplishing the successive revelations by which the knowledge of God and of his will had been hitherto preserved among men, and communicating that Evangelical wisdom which is one day to “cover the earth as the waters cover the sea."
Of this dispensation, the object was to unite under one shepherd and in one fold, all the nations of the earth ; and the sanctions were to be of proportional clearness, efficacy, and universality. Nothing less could be adequate to such a purpose, or possess the cogency of such sanctions, than the explicit and unqualified annunciation, to all, of a future state; and this has been done in a manner so different from the mode in which the same tenet had been proclaimed by the Legislators of all other religions, that Christ has been emphatically said to have “ brought life
“ and immortality to light,” and to have especially revealed, in all the perfection of justice and mercy, that august and awful tribunal, before which the nations shall be finally gathered together, and shall finally hear the voice which is to dismiss “the wicked “ into everlasting punishment, but the righteous to “ life eternal.”
In the promulgation of this doctrine, we are not to look for the subtlety of a school, or the reasoning of a sophist. Christ came not as a leader of a sect, but as a teacher of men.
In this character he appeared through his whole ministry. No laboured and minute speculations, no unnecessary and rhetorical artifice, were to impair the simplicity and beauty of his doctrine. He spoke with the authority of a master; and he never maintained this character with more dignity and effect, thąñ when he proclaimed the sublime doctrine of the immortality of man-“At “ the end of the world, the angels shall come forth, “ and sever the wicked from the just. Then shall “ the wicked be cast into a furnace of fire, and the
righteous shall shine forth as a sun in the kingdom “ of the Father. Blessed are the merciful, for they “ shall see God. Blessed are they which are per“ secuted for my sake, for great shall be their reward “ in heaven. The Son of man shall come in the “ glory of the Father, and then shall he reward
every man according to his works. Verily I say “ unto you, that ye which have followed me in the
regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit on the “ throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve
thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Every
one that shall forsake houses and lands for my “ sake, shall receive eternal life. And when the “ Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the
holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his power; and before him shall be gathered all nations, and he shall say to the righteous, · Come, ye blessed children of my
Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from “ the beginning of the world, and to the wicked, “ Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting
From the clearness and simplicity with which Christ thus announces the great doctrine of a future state, he never departs. He blends with his doctrine no tales of extravagance, and no fallacies of fiction. Addressing man, not men, in the temper and spirit of a universal lawgiver, he has nothing to do with sects and parties, and is never deflected from his course by ambitious or selfish views. If he announce punishment, it is not to intimidate opponents, but to repress crime. If he proclaim reward, it is not to seduce a fanatic host round his standard, but to encourage the perseverance of piety and of virtue. He disdains to open his heaven to the headstrong zeal of the proselyte, or the devoted valour of the partizan; and the hell which he proclaims is set apart, not for the reception of his temporal enemies, but of the wrathful, the uncharitable, and the unjust. All is designed and calculated to supply higher and brighter motives to the fidelity of obedience; to console the afficted of one world with animating prospects of the felicity of another; and to subdue the obstinacy of guilty men by the assurance of a just and inevitable retribution; and the best, the noblest, and the most sublime of all precepts, those of the Gospel, are, in this manner,
* Matt. chaps. xiii. v. xyi. xix.
'enforced by sanctions which impress them more deeply and effectually in the heart, and recommend them more powerfully to the adoption and observance of mankind.
All other religious Lawgivers have disgraced their scheme of human acountability by the fables of superstition, by accommodating it, as far as possible, to their own temporal designs, or by rendering it subsidiary to private, partial, and local institutions. Christ alone, in proclaiming the “ high calling and election” of man, has sought to strengthen the undoubted laws of piety and of virtue, by the aid of high and adequate motives. All times and all nations are, therefore, included in his doctrine; that which was announced to the Jew, was intended also for the Gentile ; and the sun which rose to illuminate the land of the Israelite, was lighted up, also, without respect to place or period, to shed its wholesome and guiding beams over the universe.
Of the express nature of the heaven and the hell which have been thus announced, neither Christ nor any of his disciples has afforded a very minute detail. . It might have been improper or impossible to present any accurate description of the beatitude or misery of the world to come; and enough has been done, if life and immortality have been so brought to light by the Gospel, as to supply motives which, without being powerful enough to over-rule the free agency of reasonable beings, are admirably calculated to awaken men from the slumber of unthinking negligence, and to animate and confirm them in the diligence of duty.
Speaking of the punishment of those who die in impenitence and crime, the scriptures have employed metaphorical expressions, which announce, with great cogency, the penalties reserved for the sinner in a fu