I said to myself, "As for the sons of men, God tests them so that they may see for themselves that they are but beasts."
I. THE COMMUNITY OF MEN WITH BEASTS IN THE ANIMAL NATURE AND LIFE. If we look upon one side of our humanity, it appears that we are to be reckoned among the brutes that perish. The similarity is obvious in:
1. The corporeal, fleshly constitution with which man and brute are alike endowed.
2. The brevity of the earthly life appointed for both without distinction.
3. The resolution of the body into dust.
II. THE SUPERIORITY OF MEN OVER BEASTS IN THE POSSESSION OF A SPIRITUAL AND IMPERISHABLE NATURE AND LIFE. It is difficult for us to treat this subject without; bringing to bear upon it the knowledge which we have derived from the fuller and more glorious revelation of the new covenant. "Christ has abolished death, and has brought life and immortality to light by the gospel." We cannot possibly think of such themes without taking to their consideration the convictions and the hopes which we have derived from the incarnate Son of God. Nor can we forget the sublime speculations of philosophers of both ancient and modern times.
1. In his spiritual nature man is akin to God. Physical life the Creator imparted to the animal Organisms with which the world was peopled. But a life of quite another order was conferred upon man, who participates in the ... Divine reason, who is able? think the thoughts of God himself, and who has intuitions of moral goodness of which the brute creation is for ever incapable. Instead of man's mind being a function of organized matter, as a base sensationalism and empiricism is wont to affirm, the truth is that it is only as an expression and vehicle of thought, of reason, that matter has a dependent existence.
2. In his consequent immortality man is distinguished from the inferior animals. The life possessed by these latter is a life of sensation and of movement; the organism is resolved into its constituents, and there is no reason to believe that the sensation and movement are perpetuated. But "the spirit of man goeth upward;" it has used its instrument, the body, and the time comes - appointed by God's inscrutable providence - when the connection, local and temporary, which the spirit has maintained with earth, is sundered. In what other scenes and pursuits the conscious being is continued, we cannot tell. But there is not the slightest reason for conceiving the spiritual life to be dependent upon the organism which it uses as its instrument. The spiritual life is the life of God; and the life of God is perishable.
"The sun is but a spark of fire,
God shall judge the righteous and the wicked.I. IT IS REASONABLE AND EQUAL THAT THERE SHOULD BE A FUTURE JUDGMENT.
1. Seeing all men come hither without any knowledge or choice, having their life, as it were, obtruded on them; and seeing ordinarily (according to the general complaints of men) the pains of this life do overbalance its pleasures; so that it seemeth, in regard to what men find here, a punishment to be born; it seemeth also thence equal that men should he put into a capacity, on their good behaviour in this troublesome state, of a better state hereafter, in compensation for what they endure here; otherwise God might seem not to have dealt fairly with His creatures.
2. Seeing man is endued with a free choice and power over his actions, and thence by a good or bad use thereof is capable of deserving well or ill, it is just that a respective difference be made, according to due estimation; and that men answerably should be proceeded with either here or hereafter, reaping the fruits of what they voluntarily did sow.
3. Seeing there is a natural subordination of man to God, as of a creature to his Maker, as of a subject or servant to his lord, as of a client or dependant to his patron, protector, and benefactor, whence correspondent obligations do result; it is just that men should be accountable for the performance, and for the violation or neglect of them.
4. Seeing also there are natural relations of men to one another, and frequent transactions between them, founding several duties of humanity and justice; the which may be observed or transgressed; so that some men shall do, and others suffer much injury, without any possible redress from otherwhere, it is fit that a reference of such cases should be made to the common Patron of right, and that by Him they should be so decided, that due amends should he made to one party, and fit correction inflicted on the other.
5. Whereas also there are many secret good actions, many inward good dispositions, good wishes, and good purposes, unto which here no honour, no profit, no pleasure, no sort of benefit is annexed, or indeed well can be (they being indiscernible to men), there are likewise many bad practices and designs concealed or disguised, so as necessarily to pass away without any check, any disgrace, any damage or chastisement here, it is most equal that hereafter both these kinds should be disclosed, and obtain answerable recompense.
6. There are also persons whom, although committing grievous wrong, oppression, and other heinous misdemeanours, offensive to God and man, yet, by reason of the inviolable sacredness of their authority, or because of their uncontrollable power, no justice hero can reach, nor punishment can touch; who therefore should be reserved to the impartial and irresistible judgment of God.
7. On these and the like accounts, equity requireth that a judgment should pass on the deeds of men; and thereto the common opinions of men and the private dictates of each man's conscience do attest.
8. Every man also having committed any notable misdemeanour (repugnant to piety, justice, or sobriety), doth naturally accuse himself for it, doth in his heart sentence himself to deserve punishment, and doth stand possessed with a dread thereof; so, even unwillingly, avouching the equity of a judgment, and by a forcible instinct presaging it to come.
II. IT IS FURTHER, ON DIVERS ACCOUNTS, REQUISITE AND NEEDFUL THAT MEN SHOULD HAVE AN APPREHENSION CONCERNING SUCH A JUDGMENT APPOINTED BY GOD, AND CONSEQUENTLY THAT SUCH AN ONE SHOULD REALLY BE.
1. It is needful to engage men on the practice of any virtue, and to restrain them from any vice; for that indeed without it, no consideration of reason, no provision of law here, can he much available to those purposes.
2. The same supposition is also needful for the welfare of human society; the which, without the practice of justice, fidelity, and other virtues, can hardly subsist; without which practice indeed a body of men would be worse than a company of wolves or foxes; and vain it were to think that it can anywhere stand without conscience; and conscience, without fear checking, or hope spurring it on, can be no more than a name: all societies, therefore, we may see, have been fain to call in the notion of a future judgment to the aid of justice and support of fidelity; obliging men to bind their testimonies by oaths, and plight their truth by sacraments; implying a dread of that Divine judgment to which they solemnly do then appeal and make themselves accountable.
3. But, further, the persuasion concerning a future judgment is, on peculiar accounts, most requisite to the support of religion and defence of piety. It is certain that no authority, on whatever reason or equity grounded, if it do not present competent encouragements to obedient subjects, if it do not hold forth an armed hand, menacing chastisement to the refractory, will signify anything, or be able to sustain the respect due to it; so it is generally; and so it is even in regard to God, the sovereign King and Governor of the world, as piety doth suppose Him: His authority will never be maintained, His laws will never be obeyed, the duties towards Him will never be minded, without influence on the hopes and fears of men; they will not yield to Him any reverence, they will nowise regard His commands, if they may not from their respect and obedience expect good benefit, if they dread not a sore vengeance for their rebellion or neglect; nothing to them will seem more fond than to serve Him who doth not well requite for the performance, than to revere Him, who doth not soundly punish for the neglect of His service. Forasmuch also as piety doth require duties somewhat high and hard, as much crossing the natural inclinations and desires of men, it peculiarly, for the overruling such aversion, doth need answerably great encouragements to the practice, and determents from the transgression of what it requireth; on which score it may also further appear that temporal judgments and recompenses here are not sufficient to procure a due obedience to the laws of piety; for how indeed can he, that for the sake of piety doth undergo disgrace, loss, or pain, expect to be satisfied here? What other benefits can he presume on beside those which he doth presently forfeit?
(Isaac Barrow, D. D.)
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