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shows a most extensive knowledge of the true doctrine of the Scriptures on this subject, the late Bishop Hobart, while adverting to the state of the departed, puts the questionWhen does the spirit enter into the state of complete felicity? And in answer, says—“There cannot be a moment's doubt, that departed saints do not enter on the full fruition of bliss immediately on their release from the body. In what does this future fulness of bliss consist? In the union of purified spirit with the glorified body. But until the voice of the Son of God calls to the corruptible to put on incorruption, and the mortal immortality, that body is confined to the tomb, embraced by corruption, mingled with the dust. Admission to heaven, the place of the vast universe of God, where the vision of his glory, more immediately displayed, shall constitute the eternal felicity of the redeemed, does not take place, according to the sacred writings, until the judgement of the great day; when the body, raised incorruptible and glorious, shall be united to the soul purified and happy. While the soul is separate from the body, and absent from that heaven which is to be her eternal abode, she cannot have attained the perfection of bliss.
“Will the privileges of believers be greater than those of their divine Head ? His glory in heaven consists in the exaltation of his human nature of his glorified body in union with his perfect spirit. But in the interval between his death and his resurrection, his body was embalmed * by his disciples, washed with their tears, and guarded in the sepulchre by his enemies. His spirit therefore was not in heaven until he ascended there after his resurrection. “Touch me not,' said he to Mary Magdalene, when he had risen from the dead, 'for I have not yet ascended to your Father and my Father, to your God and my God.'t Our blessed Lord
The embalming here spoken of, consisted only, according to St. John, of laying the body into linen clothes with spices about it. As the Sabbath was close at hand, no more could be done to it at that time, but a more complete embalming was intended when the fast was past; and the women were carrying “sweet spices” to the sepulchre for that purpose, when they were told of his resurrection.
+ John xx. 17.
was not in heaven, in his human nature, until after his resurrection. And will a privilege be conferred on the members which was not enjoyed by the Head ? “This day shalt thou be with me in paradise,' was his language to the penitent thief associated with him at his crucifixionin paradise, not in heaven ; for the happiness of heaven supposes the happiness of the whole man, of his soul united to his body. But on that day on which the Saviour assured the penitent subject of his mercy that he should be with him in paradise, the body of the one was consigned to corruption, and the body of the other to the tomb."
It were useless to carry evidence, argument, or authority farther, to show that souls do not enter on their eternal state immediately on death,—that they are not received into heaven or hell, as these places are now generally understood,—for with those who have attentively read the preceding pages of this chapter, without being convinced of the doctrine it is intended to establish, the endeavour, I fear, would be in vain to render it in their opinion more decisive of the question. Had any single author, or theological critic, urged even all the arguments, and referred to all the proofs from Holy Writ which has been here done, his interpretations could not have carried that weight and authority, so as to produce such a firm conviction, as if sanctioned by the opinions of many of the most learned and devout Christian writers, whose abilities and researches so well entitle them to deference. There are few who cannot decide whether or not those reasonings here adduced, which are founded on scriptural passages, are fair and natural. I have in general cited the very words of those writers referred to, although some may think a summary of such opinions would have answered the same purpose, and been preferable from its greater brevity ; but, as my anxious object was to convince others of the truth upon so important a part of this inquiry, it appeared to me that this could best be done by incorporating also the original discussions, generally abridged, it is true, but still retaining the convincing vigour and expression of their authors.
The Middle State of the Soul demonstrated.
* Since it is appointed unto all men once to die, the state of those who have experienced this change must be a subject of universal interest."
1. Every living man has a visible body, and a yet more noble part—an invisible soul. - 2. His soul is acknowledged to be immortal, and therefore not subject to an insensible sleep or state of unconsciousness after the death of the body.* · 3. That his body is subject to death, and dissolvible into dust, hourly experience must convince us.
4. If the soul dieth not, and consciousness be (as it undoubtedly must be) the life of the soul when divested of its mortal body, then, in whatever place the soul may be after death, it must continue conscious of its existence, for we have no idea of a living soul out of the body, and yet perfectly unconscious that it is alive.
5. Were the soul to become insensible, or torpid, after its separation from the body—then it must be said to die, and
- Even if the soul was ever really insensible during sleep or in a trance, this would not be a good reason for believing that after it is freed from the body, and not weighed down by matter, it must become unconscious; but it has been already proved that the memory on awakening is no sure test of the mind having been inactive during slumber.
be no more immortal than the body, inasmuch as-according to the doctrines of divine revelation, the body is to revive, although of an altered nature, and then to live for ever.
6. But as the body which now is, is subject to dissolution, and on its dissolution, is no longer a body, the soul cannot continue to inhabit it.
7. If the soul cannot continue in the body after dissolution, it must go somewhere else.
8. The Scriptures assure us that a body shall be raised at the last day,—shall spring from the remains of our present one as a plant does from a seed—and that then the soul shall be reunited to a material body.
9. Hence, until the day of the resurrection, the soul must live in a disembodied, and therefore separate state.
10. As this state of separation must be to the soul an imperfect one, we must infer that in such a state it cannot experience that degree of felicity or misery which in its reunion with the body, is prepared for it, else its glorified body would be of no benefit to it.
11. If then the separate state of the soul is to be changed upon its reunion with the body to a state of felicity or misery beyond what it feels while in the region of departed spirits, (termed Sheol in the Old Testament, and Hades in the New,) it cannot be said with truth, that on the death of the body, the soul enters into an unchangeable state.
12. If the state on which we* enter at death is thus to be changed, it is not an eternal one, as many call it—but must cease at the last day, as revelation informs us it shall do.
13. “The just,” (in the Scriptural sense of the term) are promised perfect happiness in heaven—and to be themselves made perfect on their reception into heaven, not merely as spirits, but as complete beings--wherefore this, and this only, can be their eternal state.
14. If the departed souls of men cannot yet be perfectly happy, nor perfect in themselves as Beings, nor in an eter
** Putting the principal part, or the sole part which thinks and directs, for the whole, as is very often done in Scripture, and in common language.
nal state, then there are none of them as yet in heaven, although they may be in that blissful but temporary state spoken of by our Lord under the names of Paradise and Abraham's bosom, waiting there for the reunion with bodies, according to the well known belief of the Jewish nation and scriptural doctrine.
15. If the righteous are not in the place of their eternal reward denominated in Holy Writ the highest heavens, or as we now generally call it, heaven, the wicked are not in the place of eternal punishment, which is termed Gehinnom or Tophet in the Old Testament, and Gehenna in the New, never Hades, although our translators render all these indiscriminately by the English word hell, which is improperly applied to the latter, at least in the modern and general sense of it; or a distinction ought to be made between the two meanings of hell, as is given in Dr. Johnson's dictionary.
16. The Bible nowhere affirms, that the good are or shall be in the highest heaven, or that the wicked are or shall be in hell (in the modern acceptation of it) until Christ pronounces their doom at the last day ; both places for their reception at that time, being spoken of as having been prepared for each class ; not as having been the habitation of either, or as having been previously seen by them.
17. If the final reward or punishment is not yet given to the souls of any deceased men who have died since death first entered into the world, then there has been no trial or sentence on them.
18. There are none such revealed as to take place until the last day, and only one judgment is mentioned, when all who ever lived shall be present, to be judged, and the great or eternal separation is to be made; or, in scriptural phraseology, the reapers of the Lord are then to gather in His harvest.
19. If no judgment has as yet taken place, then our eternal doom has not been pronounced, and if not pronounced, then in no instance has it already been carried into execution, as many believe—none having yet been received into heaven, or thrust into outer darkness.