« PreviousContinue »
trine that they taught to others : barely noticing this text, I proceed to the last passage adduced by his lordship, as finally and decisively establishing his position, that the body of the early Jews had no expectations of a future state of rewards and punishments.
As the other passages, according to his lordship, teach us that the dead forget God; so this last makes all sure, by declaring that God forgets them.
I am counted with them that go down into the pit : I am as a man that hath no strength. Free among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, whom thou rememberest no more: and they are cut off from thy hand
By the phrase, cut off from thy hand, the bishop understands, that the dead are no longer the object of God's providence or moral government, being manumised or set free from it as a slave was manumised or set free from the service of his master.
I see no particular reason, why we should object to this interpretation : but I am unable to discover, how his lordship can legitimately deduce from it his favourite conclusion. The dead are certainly withdrawn from God's providence or moral government in this world, and are therefore manumised or set free from his service: but how is this to prove the belief of the old Israelites, that the soul is annihilated upon its separation from the body?
1 Psalm 1xxxviii, 4, 5.
We have the reply at hand : the dead are characterized as being no more remembered of God.
Undoubtedly they are, and very truly too: but the question is, under what particular aspect they are so characterized; whether absolutely, or relatively? Now the context determines at once in favour of the latter. They are remembered of God no more, BECAUSE they are cut off from his hand. But they are cut off from his hand, because they have ceased to be the objects of his moral government in a state of probation : they are shut up in Hades, like prisoners after their trial, to be brought out for acquittal or condemnation at the great day of judgment; their destiny being now irrevocably fixed beyond the power of change. Therefore they cease to be remembered of God, not absolutely, but relatively : he remembers them no more, as objects of his moral government in a state of probation.
Thus it appears, that, of the several texts produced by the bishop, one decidedly establishes the very opposite doctrine from what they were cited to establish ; six, being fully capable of a different interpretation, cannot be allowed to afford any strength to his lordship’s cause;
· Div. Leg. book v. sect. 5. p.
and three, having been penned by writers who flourished when the doctrine of a future state was confessedly known, cannot be expounded as the bishop would expound them without a glaring and manifest inconsistency. Hence, to say nothing of other reasons which have been urged in the course of the argument, Bishop Warburton has apparently failed in that part of his POSITIVE demonstration which rests upon the canonical books of the Old Testament'.
" The reader will.observe, that in prosecuting the subject before us I have throughout understood the Hebrew Sheol and the Greek Hades to denote the receptacle of departed souls during the intermediate state : I am bound therefore not to pass over in silence Bishop Warburton's summary assertion, that in the New Testament indeed the word signifies the receptacle of living souls, but that in the Old Testament it means only the receptacle of dead bodies. Div. Leg. book v. sect. 5. note NN. p. 280, 281.
An assertion of this kind is plainly necessary to the system of the learned prelate: yet it might not have been amiss, had the assertion been corroborated by argument. Nothing of the sort however appears. The assertion stands therefore as a naked assertion : it is the mere avtog spa of the great master. Let us see then what can be said on the other side of the question.
To avoid prolixity, I shall only adduce two passages, in which Sheol or Hades is mentioned by the inspired writers.
I. The first of these shall be from the book of Job.
The holy man speaks of God's hiding him in Sheol or Hades, of his keeping him in a secret place, of his appointing him a set time and remembering him, of his own waiting patiently in Hades till his renovation should come, and of his answer
2. Let us next see, whether he has been more successful in that second part of his POSITIVE
ing God, (evidently from the prison of Hades) when at length God should call upon him. Job xiv. 13—15.
Now what did Job mean by Hades, as thus described by him ? Did he consider it a mere receptacle of dead bodies, or did he esteem it a receptacle of living departed souls? So far as I can judge, his account of the place is altogether incongruous with the former of these suppositions.
II. The second of them shall be from the book of Isaiah,
This volume of prophecies contains a magnificent ode, in which Sheol is amply described, and in which the doctrine of the Hebrew Church respecting it is distinctly and unreservedly set forth.
The tyrannical king of Babylon, who had long oppressed the nations, is cut off by the hand of death. But what becomes of his soul? Is it lost and annihilated ? Nothing of the sort: it descends into the receptacle of living separated spirits; and its reception by them is described in one of the finest strains of sacred oriental poetry.
Sheol from beneath (by the Greek translators accurately rendered Hades) is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming : it stirreth up the dead for thee, even all the chief ones of the earth; it hath raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations. All they shall speak and say unto thee : Art thou also become weak as we? Art thou become like unto us? How art thou fallen from heaven, O lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations ! For thou hast said in thine heart: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to Sheol, to the sides of the pit. All the kings of the nations, even all of them, lie in glory, every one in his own house. But thou art cast out of thy grave like an abominable branch :'thou shalt not be joined with them in burial. Isaiah xiv. 9—20.
demonstration which claims the New Testament as its basis.
What is it, which in this divine poem descends into Hades, and which is received with scornful mockery by the mighty dead? Is it the body of the deceased king? That, we are told, is cast out of its grave, and is not joined to the defunct sovereigns of the earth in honourable burial : but this, we find, is joined to the sovereigns of the earth; otherwise it could not encounter their insults. Who again are those, that mock the descending essence? Do dead bodies rise from their thrones, and recollect, and converse ? Doubtless all these inhabitants of Sheol are not dead bodies but living souls. Accordingly, nothing can be more scrupulously accurate than the distinction which the prophet makes between the true receptacle of the soul and the true receptacle of the body. The former he terms Sheol, which the Greeks express by Hades: and here we find living souls addressing their new companion, another living soul. But the latter he terms Keber or the grave: and from this the carcase of the Babylonic prince is ignominiously thrown out, while an honourable burial with the kings of the nations is coutemptuously refused to it. Compare ver. 9, 10. with ver. 18, 19, 20. It may
be said, that I am building an argument upon the mere imagery of a poem. Undoubtedly I am, and with good reason,
Would Homer have described the souls of the suitors, as descending into Hades, after their bodies had fallen by the hand of Ulysses and his companions; if he and his countrymen had universally held the annihilation of the soul? How then can we imagine, that Isaiah would have similarly described the soul of the Babylonic prince, as descending into Sheol, while his body was ignominiously cast out of its grave or narrow house (see ver. 18.); if he and his countrymen neither knew nor believed the doctrine of a future