« PreviousContinue »
LAW AND THE GOSPEL
WITH REGARD TO THE
DOCTRINE OF A FUTURE STATE.
BY THOMAS WILLIAM LANCASTER, M. A.,
VICAR OF BANBURY, AND FORMERLY FELLOW OF QUEEN'S COLLEGE,
THAT future rewards and punishments do not form the subject of direct and explicit revelation in the books of Moses, is a position which, in the following treatise, I have regarded as incapable of reasonable dispute. To provide and vindicate, on scriptural grounds, the only just explanation of the fact thus stated, was the primary design of the writer. In the prosecution of this object, I have used my endeavours to prove, agreeably to my own conviction, that a deviation, as to this particular, from the present structure of the Mosaic writings, would have involved, an inconsistency with the purposes which were severally contemplated in the promulgation both of the Law and of the Gospel; a contradiction of the principles on which the Divine Author of revelation has framed his provisions for the restoration of his fallen creatures, and a tendency to counteract, by its natural influence on the human mind, the operation of that plan by which our redemption has been accomplished. The fate of controverted subjects has commonly been similar to that of a disputed territory: which, when it becomes the seat of war, sustains considerable mischief from both the belligerent powers who contend for its occupation, though perhaps each of those powers professes at the same time an anxious concern for its welfare. Of the evils accruing from polemical discussion, the theme of our present inquiry has.experienced its full share, in that complicated embarrassment which has accrued to it, both from misrepresentation of fact and fallacy of reasoning. With a view to disentangle my subject from these causes of delusion and perplexity, I have endeavoured to ascertain, and to establish by proof, the true state of the case which it presents to our consideration. The result of this endeavour has been alike contrary to the opinions, both of those who maintain that the doctrine of eternal life was declared in the Law; and of those who maintain that the people, to whom the Law was given, were for a long tract of ages wholly unacquainted with it. If a just exposition of reality and fact has thus been made out, there has been provided, at the same time, a confutation of those erroneous consequences which have been deduced from a misconception of the truth. . But as errors, in relation to this subject, have not only been erected on a false supposition of fact, but also constructed in the way of deduction from principles which are in themselves unobjectionable; I have felt that my attention was due to the examination of these also. Thus I have taken occasion to expose the vanity and inconsideration of the following reasonings. First, of those who allege the omission of the Law as a circumstance unworthy of the Divine perfections. Secondly, of those who urge the difference between the Law and the Gospel as an evidence of inconstancy and change. Thirdly, of those who insist on the late discovery of evangelical truths as evincing, in a manner unworthy of supreme wisdom and benevolence, a want of promptitude in framing those provisions which were requisite for the welfare of mankind.
I did not however conceive that the claims of my subject would be fully satisfied by a regard to those objects only which have now been stated. For it appeared to me, that a just view of this much contested question was not only adequate to supply the means of detecting errors and repelling objections; but that it was also in itself fruitful of such considerations as are adapted to display, in a conspicuous light, some of those discriminating lineaments of Divine beauty and truth which belong to the scheme of revelation. I have therefore been particularly anxious to bring