Of the Old Testament.
THE old Testament is not contrary to the new; for both in the old and new Testament everlasting life is offered to mankind by Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and man, being both God and man. Wherefore they are not to be heard, which feign that the old fathers did look only for transitory promises. Although the Law given from God by Moses, as touching ceremonies and rites, do not bind Christian men, nor the Civil precepts thereof ought of necessity to be received in any commonwealth; yet not withstanding, no Christian man whatsoever is free from the obedience of the Commandments which are called moral.
De Veteri Testamento.
TESTAMENTUM vetus novo contrarium non est, quandoquidem tam in veteri quam in novo, per Christum, qui unicus est Mediator Dei et hominum, Deus et homo, æterna vita humano generi est proposita. Quare male sentiunt, qui veteres tantum in promissiones temporarias sperasse confingunt. Quanquam Lex a Deo data per Mosen (quoad ceremonias et ritus) Christianos non astringat, neque Civilia ejus præcepta in aliqua republica necessario recipi debeant, nihilominus tamen ab obedientia mandatorum (quæ Moralia vocantur) nullus quantumvis Christianus est solutus.
Section I. — History.
THE Article, as it now stands, is compounded of two of the Articles of 1552, namely, the sixth and the nineteenth. The sixth ran thus: —
“The old Testament is not to be put away, as though it were contrary to the new, but to be kept still; for both in the old and new Testaments everlasting life is offered to mankind only by Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and man. Wherefore they are not to be heard, which feign that the old fathers did look only for transitory promises.”
The nineteenth was as follows: —
“The Law, which was given of God by Moses, although it bind not Christian men, as concerning the ceremonies and rites of the same, neither is it required that the civil precepts and orders of it should be received in any commonweal: yet no man (be he never so perfect a Christian) is exempt and loose from the obedience of those commandments which are called moral; wherefore they are not to be hearkened unto, who affirm that Holy Scripture is given only to the weak, and do boast themselves continually of the Spirit, of whom (they say) they have learned such things as they teach, although the same be most evidently repugnant to the Holy Scripture.”
I. We may first consider, what persons have denied the doctrine contained in the original sixth Article, which forms the first part of our present Article; and then, who have been opposed to the statements of the original nineteenth Article, of which the substance is contained in the latter part of our present seventh Article.
First then, some early heretics held, that the old Testament was altogether contrary to the new.
The Gnostic sects, who believed in the malignity of matter, would not allow that the Creator of the world could be the Supreme God. Marcion especially appears to have distinctly taught, that the old Testament was contrary to the new, the former being the work of the Demiurge or Creator, the latter of the Supreme and invisible God. He is said to have composed a work called Antitheses, because in it he set, as it were, in opposition to each other, passages from the old and new Testaments, intending his readers to infer from the apparent disagreement between them, that the Law and the Gospel did not proceed from the same author. Tertullian wrote a work against Marcion, in the fourth book of which he exposes the inconsistency of this attempt. Similar opinions prevailed, more or less, among the Valentinians and other Gnostic sects; all of whom attributed the creation to inferior beings, and consequently rejected the old Testament.
The Manichees in like manner, who believed in two principles eternally opposed to each other, as they had views similar to the Gnostics concerning the evil of matter, so they resembled them in their disrespect to the old Testament Scriptures. And in this they were very probably followed by those mediæval sects of heretics, the Bulgarians, Cathari, and others, who appear to have been infected with Manichean heresy.
It is most probable, however, that the framers of this Article, both in the earlier and in the latter part of it, had in view some of the fanatical sects of the period of the Reformation, especially the Antinomians, who denied the necessity of obedience to the Law of God, and the Anabaptists, who referred all things to an internal illumination; and both of whom were likely to have denied the value and authority of the old Testament.
The opinion that the fathers looked only for transitory promises, has been held, not only by heretics and fanatics, but, more or less, by some, in the main, orthodox Christians. Bishop Warburton, in his famous work, The Divine Legation of Moses, has endeavoured to prove that Moses studiously concealed from the Hebrews all knowledge of a future state; and this forms one of the arguments by which he strives to prove the inspiration and Divine authority of the Books of Moses. Though he allows that the later Jews, during and after the Captivity, had a gradually increasing knowledge of the immortality of the soul, yet as regards the earlier times of the Jewish commonwealth, he appears to have denied any such knowledge, even to the patriarchs and prophets.
II. By looking at the wording of the original nineteenth Article, it will appear plainly that the latter part of our present Article is chiefly directed against fanatics, who affirm “that Holy Scripture is given only to the weak, and do boast themselves continually of the Spirit, of whom, they say, that they have learned such things as they teach.”
This claim to inward illumination, and consequent neglect of the teaching of Scripture, has constantly characterized fanatical sects in all ages. Those against whom the words of the Article were directed are generally supposed to be the Antinomians and the Anabaptists, who sprang up soon after the rise of the Reformation in Germany. The Antinomians were the followers of Agricola, who carried the doctrine of Justification by faith to the length of rejecting the necessity of moral obedience altogether. The Anabaptists were a constant source of annoyance to the Lutheran reformers. As their name implies, they rejected Infant Baptism, and rebaptized adults. But with this they combined a variety of noxious and fanatic doctrines, which rendered them dangerous both to Church and State. Claiming a high degree of internal illumination, they appear to have sanctioned and committed a number of excesses and crimes, under pretence of special direction and command of God.
It seems that this Article also incidentally alludes to some persons, who would have retained, not only the moral, but the ceremonial part of the Mosaic Law. This of course must have been true of all the early Judaizing Christian teachers. In the history given of the doctrine of the first Article, we have seen that some part of the Eastern Church was materially corrupted with these Judaizing tendencies. The observance of the Jewish Sabbath, or Saturday, the quartodeciman mode of calculating Easter, and similar observances, have been already mentioned as examples of this kind.
As regards the belief that Christian commonwealths ought to be regulated after the model of the Jewish polity and according to the civil precepts of the old Testament, it seems likely that the Anabaptists of Munster, who seized on that city and set up a religious commonwealth among themselves, endeavoured to conform their regulations in great measure to the laws of the Jewish economy.
In later times, in Great Britain, the Puritans, at the period of the Great Rebellion, were constantly using the language of the old Testament, as authority for their conduct in civil affairs, and as a guide for the administration of the Commonwealth.
It is highly probable that, at the period of the Reformation, the whole question concerning the agreement of the old with the new Testament was a good deal debated. The prominent manner in which the subject of Justification was then brought forward naturally suggested topics of this kind. When men were told, in the strongest terms, that there was not, and could not be, any hope of salvation to them but by faith in Christ; and that this was altogether independent of any merits of their own, and could not be obtained by works of the Law: it obviously and naturally occurred to them to inquire, How then were the fathers under the old Testament saved? They had never heard of Christ, and could not be saved by faith in Him. They had only a law of works for their guidance. Can then the old Testament be contrary to the new?
Section II. — Scriptural Proof.
IN endeavouring to show the correspondence of this Article of our Church with the truth of Scripture, it will be desirable to consider the subjects of it in the order already adopted in speaking of their history.
I. First, we may consider the statement, that eternal life is offered to mankind, in the old as well as in the new Testament, through Jesus Christ; and that the fathers looked for more than transitory promises.
II. Secondly, we may treat of the questions concerning the abrogation of the civil and ceremonial, and concerning the permanency of the moral Law.
I. Now we shall find it more convenient to treat the first division of our subject in the following order: —
1. To consider the nature of the Law of Moses, and the reason why eternal life is not more clearly set forth as one of its promises.
2. To speak of the promises, in the old Testament, of a Mediator and Redeemer.
3. To show, that under the old Covenant there was a hope among the pious of a future state and life eternal.
1. The character of the Law of Moses was peculiar to itself. God chose the people of Israel to be His own kingdom on earth. There were reasons, some known only to God, others revealed to us, why for two thousand years it pleased Him to preserve His truth amid surrounding idolatry, by committing it entirely to one chosen race. That people He constituted His own subjects, and ruled over them, as their Sovereign and Lawgiver. The Jewish commonwealth, therefore, was neither a Monarchy under the Kings, nor an Aristocracy under the Judges, but it was always a Theocracy. The people had properly no king but God. Moses was His vicegerent; so was Joshua; and after them the Judges exercised, from time to time, more or less of the same delegated authority. In the time of Samuel, the people, in a spirit of unbelief, asked for the presence of a visible king, and thereby greatly sinned against God, as dissatisfied with His invisible empire, and rebelling against the government which He had established over them. He however consented to grant them a temporal ruler, an earthly king. Yet the king so appointed did not rule in his own name, but as the viceroy and lieutenant of the LORD of Hosts, the God of the armies, the King of the kingdom of Israel.
All the laws then were ministered in His name. All the sanction of those laws had reference to Him, as Ruler and Lawgiver. The Tabernacle, and afterwards the Temple, were not simply places of worship; they were rather the Royal Palace, as Jerusalem was the city of the Great King. In the Temple His throne was the mercy-seat, and between the attendant Cherubim He was present in the cloud of glory, to be approached with the homage of incense and prayer, and to be consulted as to His pleasure by His chief minister, the High Priest, with the Urim and Thummim.
Accordingly, the Law given by Moses was the constitution and statute-book of the Theocratic commonwealth. It was indeed a guide for the life and manners of the people; but it was their guide, especially as they were subjects of the temporal government of the Lord. The Almighty is, in His own nature and His own will, unchangeable; and therefore the laws which regulate morality must ever be the same. Hence, when for a time He assumed the government of a temporal kingdom, murder, theft, adultery, and other crimes against justice, mercy, truth, and purity, were forbidden and punished, as a thing of course. But, over and above this, when God became the King of the nation, certain sins against Him became, not only moral, but civil offences. Idolatry was high treason, and direct rebellion. It was not, therefore, as in general, left to the judgment of the hereafter, but was proceeded against at once, as a state crime of the highest magnitude, and punished immediately with temporal death.
The like may be said concerning the destruction of God’s enemies, the Amorites, the Amalekites, the Philistines, and others. They were the foes of the King of Israel, and were to be exterminated accordingly.
So again, much of the ceremonial of the Law constituted the state ceremonial of the Invisible King. The earthly sovereign, the priests and the Levites, were His court and His ministers. Custom and tribute were paid to Him, as they would have been naturally paid to the rulers in all the kingdoms of the world.
Now such being the case, we may understand at once why all the sanctions of the Law are temporal, and not eternal. In many instances, indeed, the punishments denounced were to be executed by the civil magistrate. There were rules laid down as to the administration of justice by the inferior officers in the commonwealth of Israel. But in other cases the vengeance denounced is to be executed, not by the inferior magistrate, but by the supreme Head, the King of Israel Himself. Yet still the principle is the same. Whether the King Himself is to be the judge, or the priest, or the magistrate, the reason for the judgment is the same. And accordingly God, who was their King, interfered, not as in other nations by an ordinary Providence, but signally and manifestly, by direct, obvious, miraculous interposition. The obedient subject was rewarded by his bountiful Sovereign with long life and peace and prosperity; the disobedient was smitten with sickness, afflicted with poverty, or struck down by death.
If at any time the nation became generally disobedient, Prophets were sent to it, who were messengers from the King, to exhort His subjects to preserve their allegiance and return to their duty. Even they, like the Law itself, spoke to the people, for the most part, as subjects of the temporal kingdom of the LORD, and admonished them of the danger of not submitting themselves to their lawful Sovereign.
Whether then we look to the Law or to the Prophets, we can see good reason, why neither eternal life nor eternal death should be the sanction set forth, and the motives pressed upon the people. The Jewish dispensation was in every way extraordinary. We often mistake its nature, by viewing it as if it were the first full declaration of God’s will to man; whereas the patriarchal religion had already existed for full two thousand years before it, and the Law was “added” (προσετέθη, Gal. iii. 19) to serve only for a time, and for a peculiar purpose. Its object, at least its direct and apparent object, was, not to set forth the way of eternal life, but to be the statute-law of the Theocracy, and to subserve the purposes of a carnal and preparatory dispensation, wherein the knowledge of God, and the hopes of a Messiah, were preserved amid the darkness of surrounding heathenism, till the day dawned, and the day-star arose.
The Jews, indeed, who were contemporary with Christ and His Apostles, vainly supposed that the Law of Moses had in it a life-giving power. They stumbled at that stumbling-stone, for they sought eternal salvation, “not by faith in Christ, but as it were by the works of the Law” (Rom. ix. 32). Whereas, the Law was not given for that purpose, but with an object remarkably different from that. “If, indeed, a law had been given, which was capable of giving life, then would righteousness (or justification) have been by the Law.” But law, though essential for the regulation of manners, is, of its own nature, incapable of giving eternal salvation; for he who obeys its ordinances can, at most, but deserve to escape from its penalties. And this is still more emphatically true of men polluted by sin and compassed by infirmity. For law provides no propitiation, and offers no spiritual aid. There must therefore have been something more than law to save men from eternal ruin; and the Jew, by imagining that the Law could do this, failed altogether of the righteousness of faith.
Even the sacrifices under the Law had but a temporal efficacy. They served “for a carnal purifying” (πρὸς τὴν τῆς σαρκὸς καθαρότητα, Heb. ix. 13). They satisfied for offences against the temporal Majesty of the Great King, and screened from the temporal punishment due to all transgressions of the Law, which He had enacted. But there was no profession, no promise whatever, that they should satisfy for the sin of the soul. Indeed, for the heavier offences there was no propitiation set forth at all; whether these offences were against the King, or against his subjects. For murder and adultery, for idolatry and blasphemy, there was nothing left “but a certain fearful looking for of judgment.” “The blood of bulls and of goats could never take away sin;” “could never make the worshipper perfect as pertaining to the conscience.”
2. But beyond all this, there was still another purpose for which the Mosaic economy was designed. “The Law was a school-master to bring us to Christ.” It was a dispensation professedly preparatory, and imperfect. It was, therefore, so constructed by Infinite Wisdom that there should be an inward spirit vastly dissimilar from the outward letter of the Law. Accordingly, the whole dispensation, as it was preparatory, so it was typical. The kingdom of Christ was the great antitype of the old Theocracy. The Church is a theocracy now, as much as Israel was then. And so all the ordinances of the temporal kingdom were types and images of the blessings of the spiritual kingdom. To this end, as well as to their immediate object, served the priests and the temple, the altar and the sacrifices, the tribute and the incense, and all the service of the sanctuary. The letter then of the Law could never offer salvation: but the spirit did. Nay, the letter of the Law was necessarily condemnatory, as it gave more light and brought more obligations; but neither satisfied for transgressions, nor gave inward sanctification. And so it is written, “The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life” (2 Cor. iii. 6). The letter brought no promise of immortality, but left men under condemnation; but the spiritual meaning of the Law led men to Christ, and so gave them life.
It will not be necessary to go through the promises of the old Testament and the types of the Law, to show that there was a promise of a mediator, and of redemption from the curse which Adam had brought upon us. The promise to Adam of the seed of the woman, — the promise to Abraham that in his seed all the nations of the earth should be blessed, — the promise to David concerning his son, who should sit upon his throne, — the types of the passover, the scape-goat, the sacrifices on the day of atonement, the consecration of the high priest, the prophecies of David, of Isaiah, of Daniel, of Zechariah, of Malachi, — all readily occur to us as containing predictions, or exhibiting figures, which set forth to the enlightened understanding the hope of future deliverance, and of a Redeemer, who should turn away iniquity.
It is said most truly, that all this was involved in much obscurity; and it can never be denied, that the Jew had a much less clear understanding, a much more partial revelation of “the truth as it is in Jesus,” than the least instructed member of the Christian Church. Nay, “the least in the kingdom of Heaven,” i. e. in the Gospel dispensation, “is greater” in knowledge “than he who was greatest” before the coming of Christ. But it should not be forgotten that during the patriarchal ages God had revealed Himself to Adam and Enoch, to Noah and Abraham, and perhaps to many besides. We are not to suppose that the light of such primeval revelation, which guided men for more than twenty centuries, was of a sudden quenched in utter darkness. The traditionary knowledge concerning a promised Mediator was no doubt carefully cherished, and served to enlighten much which in the Law, and even in the Prophets, might have been otherwise unintelligible. And hence, the Mediator, though but faintly shadowed out, was yet firmly believed in. We have our Lord’s assurance, that “Abraham rejoiced to see His day; he saw it and was glad” (John viii. 56). We have St. Paul’s assurance, that the same Abraham, having received the promise of the Redeemer, believed in it, and was justified by faith. And we may well suppose that the faith which guided Abraham guided others, both before and after him.
At first indeed, and whilst patriarchal tradition yet survived, the intimations of a Mediator in the ancient Scriptures are less distinct and less intelligible. But among the later prophets, when that early tradition may have had less weight, and when the day of Christ was more nearly approaching, the promises may be read more plainly, and the Gospel-history be almost deciphered in the sacred emblems of prophecy.
3. Are we then to suppose, notwithstanding this, that the fathers looked only for transitory promises?
It is a truth, which, I think, cannot be denied, that Moses does not bring prominently forward the doctrine of a future state. That was a subject which did not fall in with his purpose. His mission was to organize the Jewish Commonwealth, and embody in writing the statute-law of the Theocracy. That Theocracy, as has been said, was a temporal kingdom, though God was its King. Hence naturally he does not bring forward the doctrine of a future life. In addition to the writing of the laws of Israel, Moses gives also a brief, a very brief, sketch of the history of the nation, and of its more illustrious ancestors. It is probable enough that no very frequent allusion to a future existence might occur in this history; and it is only in the historical, not at all in the legislative writings, that we can expect to meet with it. It has been already explained, that even the prophets, who succeeded Moses, acted much as messengers from the Sovereign of Israel to His rebellious subjects, and hence naturally spoke much concerning obedience to His Law and the sanctions of that Law, which we know were temporal. Yet in many of the prophets, clear notices, not only of a Mediator and a hereafter, but perhaps also of a Resurrection, are to be met with. Even Bishop Warburton, though strongly maintaining that the earlier Jews had no knowledge of a life to come, yet admits that in later times they became fully acquainted with the truth of it.
The principal passages in the books of Moses which seem to prove that the patriarchs believed in an eternity, and that a knowledge of it was general in the days of Moses himself, are as follows: —
(1) The account of the translation of Enoch, Gen. v. 24. This account, indeed, is brief and obscure. We know, however, from other sources what it means, and its obscurity rather seems to argue that it was, as is most likely, a fact generally known and well understood, and so not needing to be longer dwelt upon. But its obscurity is a little magnified; for we clearly enough learn from the passage, that, whereas in general long life was a promised blessing, yet in the case of Enoch a still greater blessing was conferred. For, whereas all other persons in the same chapter are spoken of as living long and then dying; Enoch’s is said to have been comparatively a short life; and then it is said, that, because of his piety, “God took him.” “Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.” It is hard to know what other sense could be attached to the passage, except that given it by St. Paul: “Enoch was translated that he should not see death” (Heb. xi. 5). Now people who knew of the translation of Enoch, must have known something of that state of bliss to which he was removed.
(2) Accordingly, Jacob on his death-bed utters an ejaculation utterly unconnected with the immediate context: “I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord” (Gen. xlix. 18). What salvation Jacob could have waited for, who in this very chapter looks forward to far future fortunes for his children, before “the Shiloh should come, and to Him should be the gathering of the people,” except it were the salvation of his own soul, which he was just about to breathe forth, has never been clearly explained.
(3) Balaam was so well acquainted with the truth (though so little obedient to it) as “to wish to die the death of the righteous, and that his last end should be like his” (Num. xxiii. 10). Now, the promise of the Law was to the life of the righteous; the promises of temporal blessing must all affect life, rather than death. It is natural for a believer in a blessed immortality to wish for such a death, and such a last end as awaits the just. But from a person who believes all God’s promises to be made to this life, and looks forward to no life beyond, such an exclamation seems hardly intelligible.
(4) There is a saying of Moses himself which seems probably to imply the same thing. Just before his death he says of Israel, “Oh that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end.” It is undoubtedly not certain that אַחֲרִית, “latter end,” here, means death. Perhaps it should be said, it probably does not mean death: but it means either futurity, or final condition. And, though we may allow that the force of the passage is not unquestionable, its most natural interpretation would be, that it was a wish that the people of Israel were thoughtful of that time when worldly objects of interest should pass away, and their end draw nigh, when wisdom and piety only should profit them.
We come next to the famous passage in the Book of Job. As the words stand in our Authorized Version, they prove Job’s belief, not only in a future life, but in a resurrection of the body: “Oh that my words were now written! Oh that they were printed in a book! That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever! For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth; and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.” (Job xix. 23‒27.)
There are, without doubt, difficulties in this translation. The passage is in many points obscure, though not more so than the book of Job in general. The more literal rendering of the last three verses is, perhaps, as follows: —
“For I, even I, know that my Redeemer liveth, and hereafter shall stand above the dust. And though, after my skin, this (body) be destroyed, yet from my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and no stranger; my reins are consumed within me.”
On the whole, whatever rendering is given to it, it is hardly possible that the passage should not appear to prove a belief in a future existence. The words “from my flesh” indeed may be interpreted differently, according to the different senses attached to the preposition; and whereas our translators have rendered it “in my flesh,” some eminent scholars have maintained that we should render it “without my flesh.” Yet the only difference, which such a different interpretation might cause, would be, that, according to the first, Job hoped to see his Redeemer at the Resurrection; according to the latter, that he expected the same glorious vision as a disembodied spirit.
It is, however, argued that it is very remarkable that no indication save this of a belief in an immortality occurs in the book of Job. It would be natural, it is said, when Job’s friends charge him with wickedness, and attribute his sorrows to his sins, that he should at once answer, that, though miserable in this life, he yet had full hope of happiness in a better. As therefore no such reasoning is to be found, we must necessarily conclude that Job was ignorant of a future state; and that this particular passage, instead of being an anticipation of a future Resurrection, is a prophetic declaration of his belief in what actually afterwards took place; namely, that, though for a time the disease which afflicted him was permitted to destroy his body, yet, in the end, God should be manifested to defend his cause, and that he should be permitted to see Him with his own eyes.
I am inclined to attribute but little weight to the previous silence of Job concerning the life to come. Men at that time generally believed that a special Providence brought good upon the righteous, and evil on the wicked in this life; and in the earlier days of the Jewish commonwealth it doubtless was so. Job shares this belief with his friends; yet he is conscious of his integrity, and defends himself earnestly against their accusations. It is hardly likely that he should have tried to disprove the justice of a creed which he held himself. Therefore he does not say that they were wrong in believing in a retributive Providence, or urge them to look forward from this life to a better. This would have been in Job an improbable and unnatural course. But from the singular solemnity with which he ushers in the passage in question, the hope that he expresses that it may “be printed in a book,” nay, graven “in the rock for ever,” we may well believe that he is about to give utterance to something different from what he has hitherto been speaking of, and to something so important that he wishes it to be preserved, not only for his own time, as a solemn assertion of his innocence, but that it should be handed down to all future generations, as a vital and an eternal truth.
Now nothing could be more appropriate than such an introduction, if Job were about to speak of the general Resurrection, and his hope that he should be comforted and vindicated then. That was an argument unlike any he had urged before, and it was a truth of universal and constant interest, so that he might well wish to have the words which spake of it “printed in a book, yea, graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever.”
It is true, there are expressions in the Book of Job which may be interpreted into a denial of the doctrine of a future existence. For instance, “As the cloud is consumed and vanisheth away, so he that goeth down to the grave shall come up no more” (Job vii. 9). “So man lieth down, and riseth not: till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep” (Job xiv. 12). And again (ver. 14) “If a man die, shall he live again?” Bishop Warburton lays great stress on these passages, as proving that Job was ignorant of a Resurrection, and even of a future state. But, in all fairness, do they mean any more than this, that if a man die, he shall live no more in this life; if he goes down to the grave, he shall come up no more, while this world is remaining? This interpretation fully satisfies the force of all the expressions, even of that strongest of all, “man lieth down, and riseth not: till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake.” Nay, we may almost venture to say that this last expression has a more than commonly Christian sound; for the new Testament teaches us that the general Resurrection at the last day shall not be, till “the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat.” (2 Pet. iii. 10, comp. Rev. xx. 11.) It may be added, that the very verse which follows this passage in Job (a passage, which is thought so decisive against his belief in a hereafter) appears to carry with it a refutation of such a theory; for in that verse (Job xiv. 13) the patriarch prays that God “would hide him in the grave (בִּשְּׁאוֹל in Hades), and keep him secret till His wrath was past; that He would appoint him a set time, and then remember him.” What could be the meaning of God’s hiding him in Hades, or in the grave, till His wrath was past, and then after a set time remembering him, if such language was used by one who knew nothing of life and immortality? For the word Sheol, be it observed, whatever diversity of opinion there may be concerning it, has never been supposed by any one to mean anything which is unconnected with the state of the dead. It must be either the grave, or the state of departed souls. Choose which we will; Job wishes for a temporary concealment in the grave, or in the state of the departed, and then to be remembered, and, we can scarce fail to infer, to be raised up again.
With such a hope and such an expectation will well correspond such expressions as, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job xiii. 15). But how shall we interpret them, if they be the language of one whose hopes were all bounded by this life?
In the book of Psalms, David, in a passage which we know to be prophetic of Messiah, speaks as follows: “I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth; yea my flesh also shall rest in confidence. For Thou wilt not leave my soul in Hades, neither wilt Thou suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt show me the path of life: in Thy presence is the fulness of joy: at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” (Ps. xvi. 8‒11.)
In the ears of a Christian such language is so plainly expressive of the hope of resurrection, that it is difficult to attach any other meaning to it. Nay, we know that St. Peter quotes it as a prophecy that Christ should be raised from the dead, His soul not resting in Hades, His body not turning to corruption (Acts ii. 25‒31). The passage then, according to the Apostle’s comment on it, actually did mean a resurrection. The only question is, Did the Psalmist, when he wrote it, so understand it; or did he write of common things, unconsciously to himself and through the guidance of the Spirit, speaking deep mysteries? It is possible that the latter may have been the case. And yet the words chosen seem to make it improbable. Why does he say, after speaking of the gladness of his heart, and the rejoicing of his spirit, that “even his flesh should rest in confidence”? This looks much like an assurance that not only the heart might rejoice in God, but even that the body had hope of immortality. And then, “Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell.” Had he meant that he should not be permitted to die, it would have been natural to say, “Thou wilt not bring me down to hell.” But he who hopes not to be left in Hades, must surely have expectation of first going thither. The words therefore of themselves so plainly imply a resurrection, and are so apparently chosen for the purpose of expressing the hope of a resurrection, that, though we may admit that profound ignorance on the subject may have kept the prophet from understanding them, and have blinded his eyes that he should not see their sense, yet nothing short of this would have hindered him, who uttered the language, from feeling inspired with a hope full of immortality.
Again, the view which David takes elsewhere of the difference between the end of the righteous and of the wicked is consonant with the hope of a future retribution, and otherwise is unintelligible. (Ps. xxxvii. 37, 38.) “Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace. But the transgressors shall be destroyed together: the end of the wicked shall be cut off.”
In like manner his confidence in trial and troubles, when the wicked prosper and the just are oppressed, has at least a striking resemblance to the language of one who looks for a time when the just shall be delivered, and the wicked consumed in judgment.
Thus, in Psalm xxiii. 4, David says, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.” To “walk through the valley of the shadow of death” is probably but a poetical phrase for “to die”; and to those who looked only for temporal blessings, death would be wellnigh the greatest “evil.” Hence he who could die and yet “fear no evil,” must have had a hope after death. So in Psalm lxxiii., if this were David’s, then David, but if not, then Asaph, who is not likely to have known more than David, having spoken of his having envied the wicked, when he saw them in prosperity, and when he found himself chastened and afflicted, concludes in this manner: “Thus my heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins. So foolish was I, and ignorant; I was as a beast before Thee. Nevertheless I am always with Thee; Thou hast holden me by my right hand. Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterwards receive me to glory” (Ps. lxxiii. 21‒24). The “glory” is not of necessity glory everlasting, but it is hardly necessary to observe that such a sense of the word suits the context better than any lower interpretation of it.
As David thus seems to have had hopes of something after death, so his son Solomon knew, that “when a wicked man dieth, his expectation shall perish” (Prov. xi. 7); that “The wicked is driven away in his wickedness, but the righteous hath hope in his death” (Prov. xiv. 32). But what hope has the righteous more than the wicked, or how does the expectation of the wicked, more than that of the just, perish when he dieth; unless there be a something after death, which gives hope to the one, but takes it away from the other? Again, Solomon tells us (Eccles. xii. 7), that at death “shall the dust return to the earth as it was, and the spirit shall return to God who gave it;” signifying, as it plainly seems, that, when the body returns to that from which it was taken, the spirit shall return into the hand of Him who gave it, not perishing with the body, but awaiting the judgment of its God.
When we come to the prophets, it is scarcely denied by any that we meet with a mention of immortality. Bishop Warburton, who is probably the ablest writer, at least in the English language, in favour of the opinion that the early Jews knew nothing of a future state, yet admits that in the prophetic writings we begin to see some clear intimations of that doctrine which was to be fully brought to light in the Gospel.
Two remarkable passages are the following: (Isai. xxvi. 19) “Thy dead men shall live; together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in the dust; for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead.” It is not necessary to determine whether there be here a distinct prophecy of the Resurrection. It is enough to show that Isaiah, and those he wrote for, believed in a Resurrection, if, to express even something else, he uses words to illustrate it, which in their most natural sense imply a Resurrection. When we use a figurative expression, we borrow the figures which we use from things familiar and understood among us.
In the book of Daniel a description is given, which so exactly corresponds with the Christian description of the last Judgment and the general Resurrection, that it must require the greatest ingenuity to give any other sense to it: “At that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. And 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 forever and ever” (Dan. xii. 1‒3).
We have already seen (under Art. III.) that the Jews, who lived at the time of our Saviour, with the exception of the sect of the Sadducees, not only believed in the immortality of the soul, but in a Resurrection, and in an intermediate state between death and Judgment. Thus St. Paul’s appeal, when he was brought before the Sanhedrim, was agreeable to all, except the sect of the Sadducees: “Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee; of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question.” And the reason of this was, that, though the small and heretical sect of the Sadducees “said there was no resurrection, neither angel nor spirit,” yet the more orthodox, and more extensive sect of the “Pharisees confessed both” (Acts xxiii. 6, 8).
There may have been sufficient obscurity in the old Testament Scriptures to admit of the possibility of the existence of two different sects, the one holding, the other denying, a future immortality; yet there is abundant evidence from the new Testament that the true interpretation was that adopted by the Pharisees, and that the Sadducees erred from ignorance and pride. Our Lord indeed, when the Sadducees came to Him and propounded to Him a difficulty concerning the Resurrection, tells them at once, that they “erred, not knowing the Scriptures” (Matt xxii. 29). And though the passage which our Lord adduces from the books of Moses (Exod. iii. 6), “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,” requires some explanation to show that it proved the doctrine in question, yet it is quite plain that our Lord reproves the Sadducees for dulness in not having learned from the old Testament that “all men live to God.”
But the passage in the new Testament, which most fully assures us that the ancient fathers looked for heavenly promises, is the eleventh chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews. In the first twelve verses the Apostle had been speaking of the faith of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, and perhaps of Isaac and Jacob; and he then adds (vv. 13‒16), “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims upon earth. For they that say such things, declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He hath prepared for them a city.” In like manner (vv. 25, 26) he tells us, that Moses chose “rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt, for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward.” And other saints of the old Testament, he says, “were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection.” Now those “who seek a better country, that is, a heavenly,” those who despise the pleasures of sin and choose to suffer through life persecution with the people of God, “having respect to the recompense of reward,” those who endure torture, “not accepting deliverance,” that “they may obtain a better resurrection,” must certainly have looked for more than transitory promises, even for those very promises of life and immortality which they indeed saw but afar off, but which at length the Lord Jesus by the Gospel fully brought to light.
It may seem unnecessary to add anything further to show that the old Testament is not contrary to the new. Yet it is worth while to remark that the constant quotation of the old Testament by the writers of the new, and their mode of quoting it to confirm and ratify their own teaching, is abundant proof that the one closely corresponds with the other. Our Lord expressly asserts that the old Testament Scriptures are “they which testify of Him” (John v. 39). The people of Berea are spoken of with high commendation, because they searched the old Testament to see whether the preaching of the Apostles was the truth; and we read that they were so convinced by this daily searching of the Scriptures, that many of them were led to believe (Acts xvii. 11, 12). Nay, St. Paul tells Timothy, that those Scriptures of the old Testament, which he had known from a child, “were able to make him wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” 2 Tim. iii. 15, 16.
It is certain, therefore, that they who wrote, and He in whose name they wrote the Scriptures of the new Testament, so far from holding that the old Testament was different from the new, ever held and taught their entire agreement, and appealed to the old Testament as the strongest confirmation of their doctrine, and as bearing abundant testimony to their sacred mission and their heavenly inspiration.
II. But though the old Testament is not contrary to the new, yet, 1. the ceremonial of the Jewish Law is abolished; but, 2. the commandments called moral still continue in force.
1. The very end and object of the Jewish ceremonial were such that of necessity it must have passed away. It has already been seen that the Law of Moses was, first, the code of statute-law for the Theocratic commonwealth; and, secondly, a system of types and emblems preparatory to the coming of the Messiah, who was to fulfil them all. These two purposes it served so long as these purposes existed. But now the Jewish Theocracy has given place to the Christian Church; and the great Antitype has come, to whom all the typical ceremonies looked forward. There is now therefore no longer any reason for the continuance of the Mosaic Law. Moses and Elias, the Law and the Prophets, have passed away, and we see no one but Jesus only, to whom we are to listen, as God’s beloved Son.
There cannot be at present any kingdom circumstanced as the kingdom of Israel was. God is no longer an earthly Sovereign, reigning exclusively over the Jewish nation as their temporal King. He is indeed the great King in all the earth, but not the particular Ruler of a single commonwealth. The Lord Jesus sits on His Mediatorial Throne. But His is a spiritual dominion. It is indeed that great fifth empire, which Daniel saw imaged by a stone hewn without hands, which in course of time filled the earth. But it is nevertheless a kingdom not of this world; and therefore His servants are not to fight, nor to call down fire from Heaven on their enemies, nor to take the sword, lest they perish by the sword. The weapons of their warfare are not carnal; their citizenship is in Heaven; their fellow-citizens are the saints; their fellow-subjects the household of God.
It is therefore unfit that any kingdom should be governed by the laws, or regulated by the ceremonial of the Jewish polity. The court of an earthly sovereign must be differently ordered from the court of the King of Heaven; the laws, which relate to all the governments of this world, different from those which had reference to the supremacy of the LORD. We have seen that blasphemy, idolatry, and similar offences were under the Jewish economy not merely crimes against religion, they were also distinctly crimes, and that of the highest character, against the State. They tended to nothing less than the dethroning of the King, and putting an usurper in His room. It is therefore clear, that, on principles of civil justice, they were crimes which deserved to be punished with death. But in modern nations they are religious, not civil offences; and though the magistrate may justly restrain such acts or words as tend to the offence of society, or the endangering of morality, yet he would not be justified in proceeding against the blasphemer or the idolater on the principle on which the magistrate was bound to proceed against them in Israel, where their crimes were both civil and religious, derogatory to the honour of God, and at the same time rebellion against the authority of the State. Religious wars and religious persecutions are both utterly alien from the spirit of Christianity. James and John, who would have called down fire, Peter who smote off the ear of Malchus, both thought and acted in the spirit of the Jewish, not of the Christian economy; and were herein types of the Dominicans, who would convert or destroy by the rack and the flame, and of the zealots of later times, who in fighting for religious liberty, shouted as their war-cry, “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!”
We know well how strongly St. Paul condemns those who adhered to the Jewish ceremonial. Our Lord, indeed, had declared that “one jot or tittle should not pass away till all was fulfilled.” But all was fulfilled when the sceptre departed from Judah, and so the Jewish commonwealth was dissolved; and when the types of the Law had their full accomplishment in their great Antitype, our Prophet, Priest, and King. The argument of the whole Epistle to the Galatians is directed against the observance of Jewish ceremonies. The Epistle to the Hebrews equally shows that the Law had “waxed old, and was ready to vanish away,” and that, its accomplishment being perfected in Christ, there was no longer benefit to be gained by adhering to it. Indeed, in the Epistle to the Galatians the Apostle declares, that if a man is circumcised, and strives to keep the Law (i. e. the ceremonial Law of Moses), Christ has become of no effect to him, he has fallen from grace.
But, thus clear though it be, that the ceremonial Law is no longer binding on a Christian or on a commonwealth, we ought yet to bear in mind that the organization of the Jewish State proceeded from above. It was, in some degree, a model republic. It was, no doubt, in a particular age of the world, under peculiar circumstances, and with a special object, that the Jewish nation was set apart to be God’s peculiar people, His own kingdom upon earth. But taking all these into account, we ought still to be able to derive lessons of political wisdom from the ordinances appointed by the Allwise for the government of His own chosen race. We can never again see a constitution and a statute-law devised by infinite Wisdom. We know from our Lord’s own words, that in some respects the enactments of the Mosaic economy, though coming from God, were yet not perfect, because of the hardness of heart of those for whom they were designed; and therefore, of course, we must take into account, not only the particular circumstances, but also the particular character of the people; but when we have made such allowances, we may rest assured that the commonwealth of Israel would be the fittest pattern and type which legislators could adopt for the government of empires.
2. As regards that portion of the Law of Moses which is called moral, we must plainly perceive that it is founded in the eternal principles of justice and truth. It is not a code of enactments, given for the temporary guidance of a temporary government; it is rather a system of moral precepts, for the direction and instruction of rational and accountable beings. Indeed, as God was the King of Israel, moral obedience was in itself a portion of civil obedience. Yet the principle, from which its obligation resulted, was not the relation of a subject to his king, but the relation of a creature to his God. The former was a temporary relation, existing only whilst the Jewish commonwealth should last; the other is an eternal relation, which must endure forever and ever. The moral Law, then, which is God’s will, was holy and perfect, even as He is perfect. And St. Paul, when he speaks of it as incapable of justifying, yet carefully guards against any misapprehension of his words, as though he should be supposed to speak disparagingly of the Law itself. He declares that “the Law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good” (Rom. vii. 12). He says that “the Law is spiritual,” and the reason why it could not sanctify man was not its own deficiency, for in itself, and for its own end, it was perfect, but because of the weakness and sinfulness of man; because the natural man is “carnal, sold under sin,” and so unable to fulfil the law; and the more perfect the Law, the more unable man is to live up to it (Rom. vii. 14). But that it is still binding upon Christians, appears sufficiently from the same Apostle’s reasoning, who, when he has shown that by nature man cannot obey the Law, goes on just after to assert that what could not be done by man’s natural weakness, could be, and was done, by the power of God; even “that the righteousness of the Law should be fulfilled in them, who walked not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Rom. viii. 4).
Our Lord, in the Sermon on the Mount, not only shows that the moral law is binding on Christians, but shows, moreover, that it is binding in a much stricter and more spiritual sense than was generally understood by the Jews. It had been taught in the Law that we should not commit adultery. But Christ enjoined that we should not suffer an impure look, or an unholy thought (Matt. v. 27, 28). It had been taught in the Law, that we should do no murder. But Christ taught that the angry feeling and the angry word, which are the first steps to violence, and might in some cases lead to murder, were breaches of that commandment, and therefore unfit to be permitted in Christian men (Matt. v. 21, 22). The ordinances of the Law were expressed in terms of simple command and prohibition, and were looked on in a light suited to the carnal nature of the dispensation, in which they were given. The Pharisees, who were jealous for the Law, yet mostly looked no farther than the letter, satisfied if they abstained from absolute violation of its negative, and fulfilled the literal injunctions of its positive precepts. But our Lord told His disciples, that, except their righteousness exceeded such righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, they should in no case enter into the kingdom of Heaven (Matt. v. 20). His was a spiritual kingdom, and He required spiritual obedience. Mere formal compliance with the ordinances of the Law was insufficient for a Christian, whose heart must be brought into captivity to the will of God. Yet because the obedience must be spiritual, it did not follow that it should not be real. On the contrary, it was to be more real, yea, more strict. For subjection to the spirit of the Law necessarily involves subjection to the letter, though obedience to the letter does not of necessity produce obedience to the spirit. A man may cherish lust and anger without their breaking forth into murder and adultery; but if he checks every rising of evil, he cannot be guilty of the more deliberate wickedness. The first step cannot be arrested, and yet the last plunge be taken.
But if there could be any question as to our Saviour’s teaching, one sentence alone should set it at rest: “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of Heaven; but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of Heaven” (Matt. v. 19).
It is most true that some of the moral commandments are accompanied by sanctions which have respect to the state of things under the Jewish Theocracy. For example, the fifth commandment enjoins obedience to parents, with the promise, “that thy days may be long in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” But this by no means proves that the injunction is not binding upon all. All we can learn from it is, that, beyond the sanctions by which the eternal will of God is upheld in all religion, natural or revealed, the Jew, as a subject of the Theocracy, had also temporal promises to be expected as the reward of obedience; which, from the peculiar nature of the Mosaic economy, were constantly put prominently forward. And, in the case of this particular commandment, St. Paul expressly enjoins all Christian children to observe it, on the very ground that it was a commandment of the Law of God. And he adds, as a special motive for attending to this commandment, that it must plainly have been an important commandment, inasmuch as in the Law it was the first to which a promise was specially attached. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honour thy father and mother, which is the first commandment with promise; that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest live long on the earth” (Eph. vi. 1, 2, 3). The Apostle first enjoins the duty, quotes in confirmation of his injunction the words of the commandment, and then shows the peculiar importance of that commandment, by pointing out that, under the Mosaic economy, a special promise of blessing was annexed to it. This by no means shows that we are to fulfil this commandment in hope of that peculiar promise; but it shows that the commandment is binding on Christians as well as upon Jews; and that it is binding, because it is a part of the moral Law given by God to man, which is in itself unchangeable — as unchangeable as He who gave it.
- Tertull. Adv. Marcion, Lib. iv. Bp. Kaye’s Tertullian, p. 499, &c. ↑
- Deum, qui Legem per Moysen dedit, et in Hebræis prophetis locutus est, non esse verum Deum, sed unum ex principibus tenebrarum. — August. De Hæres. 46, Tom. VIII. p. 16. See also Socrat. H. E. c. 22; Epiphan. Hæres. 66, c. 43; Lardner, Hist. of Manichees, III. ch. LXIII. ↑
- See Mosheim, Ecc. Hist. Cent. XI. pt. II. ch. v. §§ 2, 3; Cent. XII. pt. II ch. v. § 4. ↑
- See Warburton’s Divine Legation, Book v. §§5, 6. ↑
- Mosheim, Cent. XVI. Sect. III. pt. II, ch. I. § 25. ↑
- See a history of them, Mosheim, Cent. XVI. Sect. III. pt. II. ch. III. Mosheim also, in the preceding chapter, gives an account of a sect of Libertines calling themselves Spiritual Brothers and Sisters, who sprang up among the Calvinists in Flanders, and against whom Calvin wrote. They held, that religion consisted in the union of the soul with God, and that such as had attained to such a union were free from the restraints of morality. All ages have been more or less infected by such fanatics. They naturally flourished in a time of such religious excitement as the Reformation. ↑
- See Mosheim, as above. ↑
- Gal. iii. 21. Εἰ γὰρ ἐδόθη νόμος ὁ δυνάμενος ζωοποιῆσαι, ὄντως ἂν ἐκ νόμου ἦν ἡ δικαιοσύνη. ↑
- Rom. iv. 1‒20. Gal. iii. 6‒9, 14‒19. ↑
- Bp. Warburton asserts that he studiously conceals it. This requires more proof than the Bishop has given. Eternal life was not a sanction of the Law and therefore does not appear in it. It does not follow that it was purposely concealed. ↑
- The date and authorship of the Book of Job is a question in some degree affecting the question in the text. Most scholars consider the book as one of the earliest in the Bible; and many have believed that it was written by Moses. Bp. Warburton argues, that it was not written till the captivity, or the return from captivity; and that it is a dramatic composition rather than a real history (Divine Legation, Bk. VI. Sect. II.) The question is not to be settled with a few words. I can only say that it appears to me to bear the marks of great antiquity. It is true that it is not such pure Hebrew as some parts of the old Testament; or rather that it contains a great many Hebrew words and phrases which are not common in the other books of the Bible, and for the explanation of which we must look to the Syriac and Arabic languages. But the style is very little like the style of the later books, which contain a certain number of Chaldaisms and even some Chaldee; such as Daniel, Ezra, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, and some of the Psalms. The Aramaisms of Job are very unlike these; and so is the whole style and character of the Hebrew. It is indeed exactly what might be expected from a very ancient writer, who wrote in Hebrew an account of dialogues originally held in an ancient dialect of Arabic. Whether or not Moses was that writer is another question. It seems very doubtful, if not highly improbable. ↑
- So Rosenmüller. Præfixum מִ ante בְּשָּׂרִי significat defectum, ut Isai. xlix. 15, An obliviscetur mulier filioli sui מֵרַחֵם resecta miseratione, i. e. ut non misereatur ejus. 1 Sam. xv. 26, Rejecit te Deus מִהְיוֹת מֶלֶךְ ut non sis rex. Ita מִבִּשָּׂרִי accurate respondet priori hemistichio, ut utroque corpus suum dissolvi significet (Schol. in Job xix. 26). Whether the use of מִ in the passages thus adduced from Isaiah and Samuel is at all similar to the use of the same preposition in this passage of Job, others must decide. To me it appears that there is little or no analogy. To reject a person, “from being king,” — to “forget a child so as not to love it,” — are vastly different notions of the preposition מִ from that sought to be attached to it here, namely, “without my flesh.” Rosenmüller, having given this sense to the preposition, is obliged to say, that it is only by a strong poetical figure that Job is said to see his Redeemer, “without his flesh,” signifying merely that though much wasted with disease, he yet hoped to live to see his cause defended, and his uprightness vindicated. Should we venture to apply such criticism to any profane author? ↑
- כְּבוֹדִי “My glory,” probably a poetical expression for the heart or the soul. See Gesenius, s. v. ↑
- לָבֶטִח in confidence, securely. ↑
- It must be remembered that those persons who think Job and David and others ignorant of a future state, yet admit, nay contend, that all their neighbours round about were fully cognizant of such a doctrine. (See Warburton, Bk. v. § v.) How then came it to pass that Job, who was an Arab, and David, who was a conqueror, and had dwelt among the Philistines, and become acquainted with many peoples, should use language concerning a tenet which they almost must have heard from neighbouring nations, and yet not understand it themselves? ↑
- There are, no doubt, some expressions in the Psalms, which seem to imply an ignorance of a future life, e. g.: — “In death there is no remembrance of Thee; in the grave who shall give Thee thanks? (Ps. vi. ) “Shall the dust praise Thee? shall it declare Thy truth?” (Ps. xxx. 9) “Wilt Thou show wonders to the dead? shall the dead arise and praise Thee? shall thy loving-kindness be declared in the grave, or thy faithfulness in destruction? Shall thy wonders be known in the dark, and thy righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?” (Ps. lxxxviii. 10‒12.) These are certainly remarkable expressions, but they do not appear unaccountable in a person who had been taught by the dispensation under which he lived to look for temporal blessings as a reward for obedience, even though he was a believer in a future state. It is doubtful whether such language might not be used even by a Christian. Death is certainly a part of the curse; and hence there is no wonder if the pious Jew dreaded it. And speaking concerning the silence of death does not necessarily imply a total disbelief in a resurrection. The silence and forgetfulness may mean only forgetfulness as regards this world. ↑
- On this passage see Bishop Bull, Works, Oxf. 1827, I. p. 29. Bishop Warburton’s strongest passage is from Ecclesiastes: — “The living know that they shall die; but the dead know not anything, neither have they any more a reward: for the memory of them is forgotten.” Eccles. ix. 5. The book of Ecclesiastes is one the language of which is singularly obscure. The passage in question, if taken in its context, may, however, be interpreted with no great difficulty. The royal Preacher observes, that there is one event to all men, from which no one shall escape; and whatever good things he may enjoy in this life, yet death will surely soon deprive him of them all. This may naturally embitter earthly enjoyments, for the living know that they shall die, and they may be assured that in death they will lose their consciousness of all things that have given them pleasure here, and receive no more reward or emolument (שָׂכָר) from them. “Their love and hatred and envy perish; and they have no longer a portion in anything that is done under the sun.” Now this seems the obvious meaning of the passage beginning ver. 2 and ending ver. 6. Does this prove that Solomon did not believe in a future life? It is plain that he is speaking only of men’s losing by death their good things and consciousness of enjoyment in this life. ↑
- Matt. v. 18. ↑
- Gal. v. 4. ↑
- Matt. xix. 8. ↑
- The spiritual nature of Christ’s kingdom does indeed preclude the notion of its being a religion of ceremony. We must not, however, run into the extreme of supposing that, because the temporal or carnal ceremonies of the Mosaic Law were done away in Christ, therefore all outward ordinances are inconsistent with Christian worship. We must remember that man is a creature compounded of soul and body, and therefore needing outward as well as inward agency. Accordingly, our Lord ordained Sacraments, and a ministry; and the Apostles enjoined ordinances of public worship, and exercised ecclesiastical discipline; all which are essential to the existence of a Church in this world, though they may be unnecessary in that city “where there shall be no temple; for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb shall be the temple of it.” ↑