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an absolute annihilation of the whole Manor, the Destruction of the animal frame, with all its mundane connections and relations, in such a manner, that the operation of every vital power, respecting the present system, shall for ever be destroyed, and the vital powers be suspended respecting either activity or consciousness:-or, the Separation of the soul, as it is termed, from the body, in such a manner, that it shall retain its conscious powers, in some unknown state.
· Annihilation, in the absolute sense, implies total destruction of both soul and body, or the organised system. It supposes an Impossibility that they should be restored or re-vivified; or a Predetermination of the Omnipotent, that they shall exist no more.
The Loss of consciousness, and of the powers of action, with the dissolution of the animal frame, does not imply absolute irrecoverable annihilation. It allows us to suppose, that the vital principle, whatsoever that may be, is still in existence; although in a state of inactivity, while it shall remain destitute of the organization which we perceive to be necessary for sensation and action; and that its operations must be suspended until instrumentality be restored. In this sense, Destruction, Perdition,
Death, refer, not only to a complete disorganization of the corporeal frame, its solution into its constituent principles, but to the loss of sense, consciousness, and motion,-the total annihilation of every mundane connection,—a dissolution of the present system of existence, with all that is desirable and interesting in it, together with an uncertainty respecting everything future; leaving the minds of the living, in a perpetual fluctuation of hope and fear, concerning the destination that may await them.
The sentence of Death has also been considered as referring to the Separation of the more noble and spiritual part of rational beings, called the Soul, from the inferior terrestrial particles constituting the Body. In consequence of this separation, it is supposed, by some Divines, not only to retain its consciousness, but to possess increased vigour; being liberated from the incumbrance of the flesh in which it was confined, as in a prison.
According to this opinion, the Soul of every individual must be supposed to exist in a state of happiness or misery, as soon as it has quitted this tenement of clay; and death, destruction, &c. must in their signification, be applied to the dissolution of the corporeal frame, and of that connection or intercourse which the soul
possessed, through its medium, with the present state of things. When the terms death, destruction, perishing, are considered as the punishment of the Wicked, the punishment must be supposed to consist in their being summoned from a state of trial and probation, to appear before the judge of all men, in a depraved and impenitent state. As the day of grace is passed, and as the soul is in its own nature immortal, the aweful inference is, that the souls of the wicked will exist in eternal misery.
The reader will perceive that in the doctrines of absolute annihilation, and of the suspension of the vital powers, which is sometimes termed the sleeping of the soul, there is nothing inconsistent with the expressions, death, destruction, perishing, according to the literal acceptation; for they are strictly applicable to each system. The latter opinion is a singular deviation from the literal and accepted sense of these phrases, demanding very powerful arguments to support it. What these arguments are, which shall prove satisfactory to those who have not been nourished in a particular system, or mode of thinking, it is not easy to devise. The objections to such an interpretation are obvious, numerous, and momentous.
hypothesis is founded on a pre-conception, that the Soul of man is essentially conscious, spiritual, and immortal. But this pre-conception, to make it the solid basis of an hypothesis, must first be proved; and as we are now examining, not into human systems, or the tenets of philosophic minds, but into the acknowledged Revelation of God, which we must suppose to discover to us whatever it is most interesting to man to know, we expect to find it there. No other authority can, in this case, be admitted. But in the Old Testament we shall search in vain. There is not a single expression which authorised the sentiment. Death, perdition, perishing, destruction, &c. are the only terms employed to express the excess of punishment. Not one reference is made to the future state of the soul.
No one, surely, will urge the passage in the Book of Ecclesiastes, "Then shall the dust return to the dust as it was, and the Spirit shall return unto God who gave it." The word spirit is incessantly used in the sacred writings, and in a great variety of senses, to which it would be absurd to annex the idea of Immortality. Upon the destruction of the Antediluvian world, it is said, that all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of beasts, and of every creeping thing that creep
eth upon the earth, and every man. All in whose nostrils was the breath of the SPIRIT of life, died. Will it be said of them all, that their spiritual and immortal parts were separated from their material frames to go into a state of retribution? But if we examine minutely into the general tenour of this preacher's doctrine, we shall discover that he was too ignorant of futurity to admit of the above interpretation. He asserts that there is one event to the righteous and to the wicked; to the good and to the clean, and to the unclean; to him that sacrifices, and to him that sacrifices not; as is the good, so is the sinner; and he that sweareth, as he that frameth an oath, For the living know that they shall die, but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward, for the memory of them is forgotten."
Under every kind of government, even the most arbitrary and tyrannical, it is the universal custom to be explicit respecting those rewards and punishments, by which the mandates are sanctioned. There are no instances to the contrary, among subjects that are treated with a cruel severity. It is essential to a just government, and to a wise code of laws, that not only