« ПретходнаНастави »
him, but that death is an evil which he hath the power to avert and ever does avert from his true disciples. "He that believeth in me, though he die, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in me, shall never die."
It is of great importance to inquire in what sense it is promised to true believers (for in some sense the promise is certainly made to them) that they shall never die. For the resolution of this important question, I would observe, that our Lord's words certainly contain an assertion of much more than was implied in Martha's previous declaration of her belief in the doctrine of a future resurrection. This is clearly implied in our Lord's emphatic question, which follows his assertion of his own power and promise to the faithful, -"Believest thou this?" If every Christian, when he reads or hears this promise of our Lord, "He that believeth in me shall never die," would put this same question to his own conscience, and pursue the meditations which the question so put to himself would suggest, we should soon be
delivered from many perplexing doubts and fears, for which a firm reliance on our Master's gracious promise is indeed the only cure. "Thou believest," said our Lord to Martha," that thy brother shall rise in the resurrection at the last day: Thou doest well to believe. But believest thou this which I now tell thee, -believest thou that the resurrection on which thy hopes are built will itself be the effect of my power And believest thou yet again that the effect of my power goes to much more than the future resurrection of the bodies of the dead,
that it goes to an exemption of them that believe in me from death the general calamity? Believest thou that the faithful live when they seem to be dead; and that they never die? If with these notions of my power over life and death, and with these just views of the privileges of my servants, thou comest to me to restore thy brother to a life which may be passed in thy society, the immediate act of my power may justify thy faith. But any other belief of my power-any other apprehension of thy brother's present state, which may prompt thee to solicit so singular a favour
erroneous; and I work no miracle to confirm thee in an error." All this is certainly implied in our Lord's declaration, and the question with which it was accompanied. It is evident, therefore, that under the notion of not dying, he describes some great privilege, which believers, and believers only, really enjoy. But farther, the privilege here promised to the faithful must be something quite distinct from any thing that may be the consequence of the general resurrection at the last day. It has been imagined, that the death from which the faithful are exempted by virtue of this promise is what is called in some parts of Scripture the second death, which the wicked shall die after the general resurrection, that is to say, the condemnation of the wicked to eternal punishment. But such cannot be its meaning; for the exemption of the faithful from the second death is a thing evidently included in Martha's declaration of her faith in the general resurrection. What may be the state of the departed saints in the interval between their death and the final judgment, is a question upon which all are curious, be
cause all are interested in it. It is strange that among Christians it should have been so variously decided by various sects, when an attention to our Lord's promises must have led all to one conclusion. Those who imagine that the intellectual faculties of man result from the organization of the brain and the nervous system, maintain that natural death is an utter extinction of the man's whole being, which somehow or other he is to reassume at the last day. It is surely a sufficient confutation of this strange opinion, if that may deserve the name of an opinion which hath less coherence than the drunkard's dream,- but it is a sufficient confutation of this strange opinion, that if this be really the case, our Lord's solemn promise hath no meaning: For how is it that a man shall never die who is really to be annihilated and dead in every part of him for many ages? or what privilege in death can be appointed for the faithful ̧
what difference between the believer and the atheist, if the death of either is an absolute extinction of his whole existence? Of those who acknowledge the immateriality and immortality of the rational prin
ciple, some have been apprehensive that the condition of the unembodied soul, with whatever perception may be ascribed to it of its own existence, must indeed be a melancholy state of dreary solitude. Hence that unintelligible and dismal doctrine of a sleep of the soul in the interval between death and judgment; which indeed is nothing more than a soft expression for what the materialists call by its true name— annihilation. Thanks be to God! our Lord's explicit promise holds out better prospects to the Christian's hope. Though the happiness of the righteous will not be complete nor their doom publicly declared till the reunion of soul and body at the last day, yet we have our Lord's assurance that the disembodied soul of the believer truly lives, -that it exists in a conscious state, and enjoys the perception at least of its own existence *. This is the plain import of our Lord's declaration to Martha, that whosoever liveth and believeth in him shall never die. The same doctrine is implied in many other passages of holy
* For a fuller illustration of this doctrine, see SERMON TWENTIETH.