« PreviousContinue »
not seem an improbable inference, from this intimation among the rest, that our souls have been in a prior state of conscious existence before they were placed in human bodies.* Dives also readily recognized Lazarus in Hades, and with all the knowledge which his own individual experience gave him of the world of spirits after he was in it, he seemed to see nothing impossible in Lazarus being sent to the earth in order to speak to his brethren. Neither does Abraham say that it was impossible in itself, but merely that it would do them no good, and this he assigned as the cause of his refusal. We may infer, therefore, that the patriarch had there the power to have sent the ghost of Lazarus to the earth, and from the request of Dives, it would seem probable that he knew it would not have been an unexampled mission ; not perhaps to the extent of visible appearance to the waking senses of men in every instance, or to make direct communications to the human race, but on some errand or other. The relief he asked from Abraham with regard to himself, was said to be impossible, not so was the reply as to the other.t We are even informed that human spirits
* To this it may be answered, that if such had been the case, we must have been sensible of it from recollecting something of our former state; but nothing is more easy and even natural than to believe from facts connected with the mental phenomena of man, that if it had been so, God has taken away all recollection of it. Many cases have been recorded of persons subject to periodical states of soundness of mind and derangement, who, on entering upon either of these, have forgotten entirely all that happened in the preceding state, but recollect every thing which had happened to them while formerly in the state which they then were under. In dreams, too, (during which, it may be said, we are in a different state or mode of existence than when awake,) the impression on our senses, although very strong and vivid at the time, even leading to bodily action, is often totally forgotten on our awaking, or then brought to remembrance by some casual occurrence. It is even a common thing to remember we had been dreaming, yet unable to re
any part of it, as when Nebuchadnezzer was troubled to know his dream, the thing was gone from him.
It may be said that these inferences are founded too literally on a paraand taking what it relates as facts which had actually bappened ; where11 parables are in some degree metaphorical. But it is merely assuming the general information it conveys is correct and true—and that the story
were actually sent from Hades to this world in several instances; as when the ghost of Samuel came to prophesy to Saul; the ghost or spirit of Moses on a mission relative to our Saviour's death ; and the souls of those whom the prophets and Christ restored to life. These last had most probably gone to the region of spirits on the death of their bodies, (one of which was corrupted before it was revived,) and it is not probable that they had remained on the earth, still less that they had never left their dead bodies.* The souls likewise of those who arose out of their graves at the resurrection of our Lord and went into Jerusalem, must have been sent to the earth again by some power in Hades, if they were not brought by our Lord's spirit when it returned ; unless it can be supposed more likely that they were in the mean time roaming in this world, and near at hand, previous to their re-admission into bodies.
The Rev. Dr. Whitby tells us that it was a familiar phrase of the Jews to say on a just man's dying—“To-day shall he sit in the bosom of Abraham.” If this had been an erroneous opinion, doubtless our Saviour would never have given the least countenance to it, much less would have plainly confirmed it by teaching the same thing as he did distinctly in this parable. It was a custom in those days, to recline on couches at meals, and one intimate friend sometimes leant on another after the repast, which familiarity was regarded as an evidence of particular friendship, favour, and protection; and, in certain cases, of distinguished honour, A simile was taken from this custom merely implying that the one person referred to was in favour with the other, and, as the time when they so reposed was one in general free from care, and devoted to ease and quiet enjoyment, so Abraham's bosom is merely expressive of being in the patriarch's company, and in evident favour with him, with a blissful repose from toil and pain; but not of sleep, for Abraham heard and spoke.
The nature of the Happiness and Misery to be expected in the
“What may be the state of the departed saints in the interval between their
death and the final judgment, is a question upon which all are curious, because all are interested in it.”
“There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.”—Heb. iv. 9.
WHEN we think on those who are gone from us, and believe that their spirits are still conscious,—the warm feelings of love and friendship often prompt us to conjecture their present state, and to inquire what is revealed regarding separate spirits. Is it the same, whether, instead of the condition in which they are now, we only think of what they may be hereafter, when we shall have joined them? Is it all one, whether we have the most rational and scriptural ideas on the subject, or only wild and random notions of our own, formed without any particular investigation? Thoughts on the condition of the departed have frequently occupied the minds of the best men in all ages, but seldom are they properly founded on what the sacred writers have been allowed to reveal to us. I shall first give some conjectures on this subject, from Mr. Tickell's poem on the death of the celebrated Addison :
“ In what new region to the just assign'd,
This author had evidently no idea of Hades, or its states of rest and mental misery. He is quite at a loss whether to believe the soul flies uncontrolled through space, visiting the starry worlds, or enjoys the blessedness of heaven; in active pleasure, or in a happy rest ;-in full possession of its reward, or only in expectation of it. In one respect, he speaks with correctness on the state of the dead-in not even imagining that their souls are sleeping insensibly, and he very properly considers the soul as the man, without adverting to the condition of the body, as many do—as if it were the man, or all that remained of him.
Sir Humphry Davy cherished similar ideas of disembodied spirits being allowed to roam among the stars and planets, and to investigate the secrets of nature. From being impressed with this notion, he had a dream on the subject, which he relates in his Consolations in Travel, as illustrative of his belief. His physician, Dr. Tobin, concludes an account of his death in these words :-“It became too evident that all that remained before me of this great philosopher was merely the cold and senseless frame with which he had worked. Its animating spirit had fled to its oft self-imagined planetary world, there to rejoin the rejoicing souls of the great and good of past ages, soaring from system to system, and with them still to do good in a higher and less bounded sphere, and I knew that it was freed from many a wearisome and painful toil."*-Although
* Journal of a Tour, &c. whilst accompanying Sir H. Davy. By J. J. Tobin, M. D. 1832. Sir Humphry died at Geneva in May, 1829.