« PreviousContinue »
cise mode in which the redemption of man was to be effected, might haply reach: this at least is certain, Bishop Warburton himself being judge, that the doctrine of a future state of happiness and the doctrine of a redemption from the power of sin and Satan, must, in the case of the early patriarchs, have been altogether inseparable.
From the eleventh chapter then to the Hebrews, which his lordship well denominates the very Palladium of the cause, we learn, not only that the ancient patriarchs had the doctrine of a future state, but that they had also the doctrine of a redemption built upon certain promises respecting a future Deliverer which were to receive their accomplishment at a very remote period. If however they had both these doctrines; the doctrines themselves must also, for the reasons already specified, have been well known to all the other subjects of the Patriarchal Dispensation. This is quite sufficient for our present purpose: what degree of truth there is in the bishop's assertion, that the ancient Israelites did not possess the doctrine of a future state and therefore that they couLD NOT have received it traditionally from their ancestors, must be considered in its proper place; such a consideration would here be plainly irrelevant.
2. But the difficulty of accounting for the mysterious silence of the old patriarchs, in regard to that knowledge of a future state which Bishop Warburton allows them to have possessed; á silence too nearly resembling the priestcraft of the pagan hierophants, to be readily admitted in the case of truly pious men; a silence likewise which contradicts one of the first laws of nature, that of parental anxiety for the welfare and happiness of children: the difficulty of accounting for this their mysterious silence and for this their total suppression of the most important dogma in the whole circle of theology, which silence and which suppression are clearly necessary to the system advocated by his lordship, is by no means the only difficulty, which the concessions of the learned prelate must inevitably conjure up.
The bishop repeatedly brings forward, as one of his palmary arguments to demonstrate that the doctrine of a future state COULD NOT have been taught and known either before the Law or under the Law, that famous text of St. Paul, which declares, that our Saviour Jesus Christ hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel'. This text his lordship understands to intimate, that the doctrine of life and immortality was first authoritatively taught by Christ: because, if it had ALREADY been taught by any antecedent prophet, St. Paul could not have said with truth, that CHRIST was the person who BROUGHT IT TO LIGHT. Hence he argues, that, since St. Paul ascribes its FIRST authoritative promulgation to Christ; it
1 2 Tim. i. 10.
must have been unknown, before this its FIRST authoritative promulgation, both to those who lived previous to the Law and to those who lived under the Law; the doctrine of a future state of rewards and punishments being specially and exclusively the grand Mystery of the Gospel'.
· Div. Leg. book v. sect. 6. § II. 3. p. 190, 191, 196. Bishop Warburton assumes, throughout the whole of his work, that the grand MYSTERY of the Gospel is the doctrine of a future retributory state : and, since this MYSTERY is more than once said to have been kept secret from the beginning of the world to the time when the Gospel was preached; he thence argues, that the doctrine of a future retributory state must have been unknown before the coming of Christ.
His lordship is perfectly right in his supposition, that this peculiar phraseology is employed allusively to the ancient
pagan MYSTERIES : but he has not the slightest warrant for his assumption, that, when St. Paul speaks of the long-hidden MYSTERY of the Gospel, he specially means the doctrine of a future state of rewards and punishments. So far from it, the MYSTERY in question is plainly the whole evangelical scheme of grace and mercy propounded to the Jew first and afterward to the Gentile. This was long obscurely and indistinctly understood in the Levitical Church, while the pagans knew nothing of it except through the medium of some vague and distorted and misapprehended patriarchal traditions: 'but, when the Sun of righteousness arose upon a benighted world, then (as the apostle speaks) the MYSTERY of the Gospel was made known to all nations for the obedience of faith by the scriptures of the prophets ; that is to say, by comparing the old prophecies respecting the Messiah with their exact accomplishment in the person and doctrines of Jesus Christ. See Rom. xvi. 25, 26. 1 Corinth. ii. 1-8. Ephes. i. 3—10. iii, 1-12. vi. 19, 20. Coloss. i. 14-29. ii. 2, 3. iv, 3, 4.
(1.) It is abundantly plain, that the whole weight of this celebrated argument of Bishop Warburton rests entirely upon the assumption, that St. Paul positively and irrestrictively asserts the doctrine of life and immortality to have been. FIRST taught as a revealed truth by our Saviour Jesus Christ. Now, admitting for a moment that such is the undoubted import of the text, let us see into what a strange difficulty the concessions of the bishop at once conduct him.
He argues, that the doctrine of a future state CANNOT have been taught or known either before the Law or under the Law ; because, in that case, our Lord would not have brought the doctrine to light, or have been the first person that taught it as a revealed truth: yet he allows, not only that this identical doctrine was occasionally revealed by God to his chosen servants, the fathers and leaders of the Jewish nation; but likewise that the dawning of it was gradually opened by the prophets even to the people at large'.
These two positions, so far as I am able to judge, stand directly opposed to each other, involving a manifest and palpable contradiction.
If the doctrine of a future state were revealed by God to the ancient patriarchs, and if the prophets gradually opened it to the people at large; I am utterly unable to comprehend, how Christ can be said to have brought life and immortality to light in the sense, wherein Bishop Warburton throughout contends that those words ought to be understood: for our Lord most certainly did not first teach the doctrine in question as a revealed truth, if it had already been revealed to the patriarchs and authoritatively communicated by the prophets to the Jewish people. In fact, even had every other prophet been totally silent on the subject, there is one remarkable text in the book of Daniel ; which, though left altogether unnoticed by the bishop, were itself most amply sufficient to demonstrate, that his lordship’s gloss upon his palmary text from St. Paul cannot but be radically erroneous. The revealing minister, who delivers to Daniel his last prediction, concludes it with the following words. Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And they, that be wise, shall shine as the brightness of the firmament ; and they, that turn many to righteousness, as the stars for ever and ever'. Such is the attestation of Daniel : let us next hear the declaration of St. Paul. Our Saviour Jesus Christ hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel'. Now,
1 Tim. iii. 16. Let the reader peruse these passages : and he will find, that Bishop Warburton's assumption rests upon no solid basis.
Div. Leg. book vi. sect. 5.