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THE CHRISTIAN'S PROSPECT,
Ir is generally admitted, I believe, that the scriptures are the source from which is derived the surest and most satisfactory information concerning the reality of a future life, and the circumstances connected with it. This admission forms a reason suffi. ciently strong for confining our attention to the scriptures alone, especially in a treatise upon the subject, designed for the use of those who admit their truth. To inquire whether the knowledge of that life has been communicated to man through any other medium, would necessarily lead to speculations but remotely connected with the subject upon the consideration of which we are about to enter, and would be productive of comparatively little advantage to the generality of readers. Such an inquiry, however ably conducted or however far it might be pursued,
could not discover to us more than the scriptures have revealed, nor render more certain the intimations which they give.
It may not be unworthy of remark, however, that when those who possess the word of God investigate the subject, and profess to avail themselves of no assistance but what nature affords, they speak much more confidently than any heathen ever did; and they seem to imagine that the most satisfactory conclusions can be arrived at independent of the scriptures altogether. This, it will scarcely be believed, arises from their superiority of intellect or greater capability of investigation; for in some of the polished nations of antiquity there were men who studied the subject whose mental powers were of the highest order and who pushed their inquiries as far, perhaps, as it is possible for the human mind to push them, without extraneous assistance. During the long night of pagan darkness which overspread the world they had ample opportunity of examining the soul, and the whole system of nature, yet what they attained to amounted to nothing more than vague conjecture. And even that, there is reason to think, was derived from some primeval revelation, the knowledge of which had not been completely lost, or from some traditionary reports conveyed to different portions of
the human family by the descendants of Abraham. The opinions even of the wisest of them are conflicting, and when these opinions are minutely examined and compared, the conviction forces itself upon the mind, that those who formed them were sometimes in the most painful suspense in reference to the reality of another life. The future was shrouded in awful obscurity, and they could not contemplate the hour of dissolution without apprehension and dread.
It is scarcely possible for those who possess the scriptures and believe in the revelations which they make, to place themselves exactly in the circumstances in which the heathen were placed, or to reason upon the subject with feelings similar to those with which the heathen, in ancient times, prosecuted their inquiries. They, in many instances at least, seem to forget, that they are reasoning about a subject regarding which all their doubts have been previously dissipated by unquestionable evidence, derived from a source to which they make no reference, and which they seem anxious to keep entirely out of view. The settled conviction already produced in their minds by that evidence enables them-perhaps without their thinking of it-to give a point to their arguments and to use a style of language which could not have been suggested to the minds of those who had no know
ledge of the evidence by which that conviction was produced. They are like persons travelling to a distant country, of the existence of which they are fully assured on the testimony of individuals who have been there, and who have given them particular directions respecting the road which leads to it; whereas those who do not possess the scriptures are like persons who travel over the same track in a thick, unbroken night, without any intimation respecting the existence of such a country or any knowledge of the way. Whilst the latter proceed with hesitancy and experience a distressing dubiety about what is before them, the former, in consequence of their previous knowledge, proceed with confidence, and are encouraged by the contemplation of the country at which they expect, in due time, to arrive.
But though it were granted that the reality of a future life could be fully established by a process of reasoning founded upon the constitution of man, the state of society, or from particular facts which are observed in the economy of nature, such a process could determine nothing beyond that point, with any measure of certainty. It could not convey a concep❤ tion of the circumstances connected with that life, nor of the scenes which are exhibited in the regions which lie beyond the grave. The power of reason
cannot draw aside the veil which conceals those regions from human view, nor can the light of nature dissipate the gloom which hangs over them. The scriptures, however, whilst they place the fact beyond all question, go a great way farther. They have "brought life and immortality to light," and afford to the anxious inquirer all the information respecting the subject which he needs. They inform him that there is a place of inconceivable misery to which wicked men are consigned after death, and that there are abodes of light and love prepared for righteous men where they shall enjoy, though eternity, unmingled felicity; they shed a bright radiance over the darkness of the tomb, by directing his mind forward to a period when the bodies which have mingled with the dust shall be reanimated, and that they sha assume forms and be of a nature suited to the character and capacities of the soul; and they tell him of a day at which the destinies of the human race shall be publicly sealed, and the earth with its appendages involved in ruin. This is a species of information both interesting and important, and the source whence it is derived has the first claim on our attention when engaged in any inquiry respecting the future stage of our existence.