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the brain, although it receives outward impressions by means of this organ, (which communicates with all the other bodily organs of sense by the nerves) and on which the soul more immediately acts to direct the movements of the body while life maintains a very intimate union between them.
2d, That the soul is not at least of a nature which must necessarily perish like the body, or become torpid without sense when the brain dies, but has been constituted immortal,—that is, capable of continued consciousness, by the will of its Creator.
3d, That the soul is not mere empty space, but is a substance of its own kind; differing entirely from our common ideas of matter, in the same way as lightning, magnetism, &c. are of a distinct nature from all other matter, and cannot be called material in the common sense in which we use this word ;—the soul being able to pervade the brain as the magnetic power does iron, or as the electrical influence does the whole of animal bodies, and many other substances; being able to come out of our mortal frames at the divine command ; still continuing a conscious individual soul.
The alleged sleep, or unconscious torpor of the soul between death and the
resurrection on the last day.
" And shall the soul, the fount of reason die,
*Insensibility is no more part of spiritual, than annihilation is of
corporeal death.” *
This has long been a celebrated controversy, and is still an unsettled point in the opinion of many; but the advocates of the soul's torpidity seem to me to be more anxious to prove their own theory, than to take an impartial view of the question, or fairly to consider whatever seems against their doctrine. As our belief of the present state of departed souls, and of that, of course, which our own shall soon experience, rests on how this inquiry is decided, I am induced to enter upon it at more length than in a former chapter, for it well merits a separate and more particular investigation, while every argument of importance on both sides ought to be noticed.
The indifference which most people show as to the man
* The Scripture doctrine of the state of the departed both before and after the resurrection, by J. Peers, A. M. 1831.
ner in which their souls shall pass that space of time between their deaths and the last day, has often struck me as exceedingly remarkable. The point to be ascertained is—whether we are to have a continued conscious existence, or to experience a blank in it for an unknown length of time, during which our souls shall be insensible of life, or thought, or feeling of any kind. The slumber which is supposed to come over the body and mental faculties at death, is often thought to exercise equal power over both :
“ The sleep of death-that awful sleep,
Summons the dead to God's high bar." * Surely it is strange that any should not care which way the disembodied state shall be passed by the soul. Those persons to whom I allude, admit that this period may be some thousand years, but still they affirm it to be all one whether they are asleep or awake—unconscious and torpid, happy or miserable ! By a state of sleep, they understand one of total insensibility,—one in which the soul shall know nothing, or feel not its own existence,—which is an addition to that state when it is in the body, and for which they have no authority that will bear candid examination. It seems always a matter of little moment to their present feelings, whether or not their departed relatives, or their late dearest friends are now sensible or senseless in spirit—thinking on them-expecting their arrival into a state where they will be capable of thought and feeling :-whether they are in a middle state, or in an eternal one; whether their final doom is pronounced and carried into execution, or is not as yet communicated to them :-whether we take pains to understand many passages in Scripture ;—whether we explain them so as to contradict each other, or confuse and confound all those I allude to, or be able to render them all consistent :-and,
lastly, whether the avowed belief of all Christian Churches (and Heathen ones also) in the continued consciousness of the soul after death, is true; or whether some learned divines, and many philosophic laymen have proved them all wrong; or if others have established that we cannot be sure whether they are right or not !
Is all this agreeable to reason and common sense ? Is it a subject on which we ourselves are not individually interested ? If a man were asked whether he considered it of consequence to know if he was for the next year or ten years of his life on earth, to spend the time in a state of perfect consciousness, or in sleep uncheered even by a single fancy of the soul, or in the most vivid and delightful dreams, and ideal intercourse with others, (even admitting that the time passed unconsciously should appear the same as if it had been employed in dreams, and both seem but a short while on awakening)—would he be careless which of these states he entered into ? or think it the same thing to him when he lay down at night in his bed, whether his sleep was to last a few hours, or for years ? But the question now proposed is of infinitely more importance :-it is—shall the disembodied soul give up its faculties of thought, perception, memory, affection, hope, fear, and all its other powers, or retain them for a certain, but to us indefinite duration, say at the shortest probable time, for several hundred years. It is not whether the soul is to dream or to fancy in its sleep, but whether it shall actually behold real and awful scenes, hear, see, and understand what is passing around it, -retain its reason, and be as truly sensible of its existence as ever. Let those who are resolved to maintain this carelessness as to a considerable portion of their own future existence and fate; or who care not, or think not of those departed who were beloved by them while on earth,--here close the book, since it interests them not: but they who feel and think differently, should give this chapter their most serious attention, and I do not fear their considering the time so occupied as unprofitably spent. The man who thinks he shall live many years, may imagine every thing relative to a future state premature to be thought on; but few will be able to persuade him who finds that he has reason to expect death ere long, that it will be all one whether he shall soon enter on a long unconscious sleep, or immediately after this life meet his deceased friends, awake to mental happiness or woe.
“The question, whether the disembodied soul exists in a state of consciousness, or insensibility, cannot be considered as a subject of useless speculation. It may indeed be but remotely connected with any great moral or practical results; but it bears directly upon points which touch the best feelings of our nature, which involve the satisfaction and repose of our own personal anticipations, and which limit or increase the sources from which the Christian mourner may derive an immediate consolation. I do not mean to say that, should our spirits be destined to pass an indefinite number of years in lone forgetfulness, the mind of every believer must be overwhelmed or dismayed at the knowledge of the fact. For a man who is habitually familiar with abstract contemplations, may reflect with indifference upon the dreariness of an interval, which he knows will be annihilated to his perceptions. Such a man may train his imagination to discard all notion of the lapse of that time, which by him will be passed in unconsciousness. And he may bring himself to identify the moment of his death with that of his resurrection. But it will not be denied that to arrive at such a view as this, implies an effort beyond the ordinary operations of our minds. With the mass of mankind the imagination and the feelings will naturally teach the spirit, which is longing after life and immortality, to shrink from the prospect of such a period of absolute insensibility as almost assumes the character of annihilation. And the commonest experience will convince us, that, to the wounded feelings of those who mourn the dead, no thought
m genial, none comes with more of healing on its
han that which whispers that the departed spirit even scious and thinking, rejoices in its freedom from