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“Can we forget that soon our race is run ?
That then we nought may see beneath the sun ?
To contemplate in idea the realities of that futurity which lies beyond this quickly passing scene, by considering the revelations which God has communicated to us of life in other regions beyond the earth, and combining what Scripture discloses with the knowledge of the universe which its Author has led us to acquire in these latter times, is to exercise most beneficially to ourselves, one of the noblest intellectual faculties of Man. The discovery of our own insignificance in the scale of creation tends to humble our pride the conceptions we may be enabled to form of eternal life will stimulate us to prepare for it, and to bear up under the miseries of the present,—while a study of the material works of that Almighty Being who presides over all, will raise our adoration of his power, wisdom, and beneficence: their connexion, also, with our eternal pleasures being undoubtedly more than is generally imagined.
The buoyant spirits of youth may in some little degree excuse a thoughtlessness of that awful change which our nature must undergo, and the deeming it a distant prospect, more particularly when we feel delighted with this earth; but Death lurks beneath even the gayest spring flowers of life, as well as under the blighted boughs of other years,often concealing his pitfals where they are least suspected, while the wariest and most careless—the youngest and the oldest fall indiscriminately into them, although not equally unprepared. Mature age has not even the shadow of excuse for delaying to think on the nature of our beings—or the transient tenure by which we keep our place amidst earthly doings. When all, then, must, sooner or later, bid this world adieu for ever, to plunge into an unexperienced state—it is amazing that so few, while here, make the attempt to discern, with the mind's eye, what lies behind the clouds which rest between this world and the next, when this may be done by the aid of those rays of light which shine on our souls (unnoticed by the crowd) to lure to brighter scenes all those who bear in mind that this world is only the place where, like ephemera, we flutter but for a day.
-“Here was the scene of their transient gaiety and loveliness ; here were the very traces of their elegance and enjoyment, but what and where were they? Dust and ashes ! tenants of the tomb ! phantoms of the memory !”* So thought an esteemed modern author, as he looked around him among the ruins of the Alhambra palace.--And ought we then to think thus of the dead? The warmest feelings of our nature answer, “No! no !” Although, as the former inhabitants of the earth were during their mortal lives—they now are not, yet, as beings, may they not still live in consciousness and social intercourse, although in some other region ? or is the soul incapable of existing without the body? This is one great truth to be ascertained in the doctrine of Immortality, and it is not beyond our power of solving, if we will rely on the plainest sense of the words of inspiration.
* The Alhambra, by Washington Irving. 1832.
Before entering, however, on the principal object of this work-our future state of existence, it will be proper to consider the nature of man from the period of his formation in Eden, until death removes him from the sight of those living upon earth. This will lead us to a preliminary knowledge of what that change really consists in: we shall then endeavour to trace the flight of the soul beyond its life in an earthly body, both into its temporary separate state, and next, after it shall again have become the tenant of an immortal frame in an everlasting world.
Almost all men believe in a future life of happiness or misery which their souls shall experience after death. Those nations who do not credit the resurrection of changed bodies, or the judgment of the last day, think these states will commence immediately upon death, but the Christian world do not agree on this last point of the subject.
The various conflicting ideas which are entertained on that much-disputed question, the true state into which the soul enters upon death, and the seeming variances, too, between many passages in Holy Writ, (to one text or another of which, the believers in each supposition appeal,) first induced me to investigate the question, by comparing all the information I could find which contributed to throw light upon this mysterious subject; satisfied that in as far as the Scriptures are concerned, they must, if properly understood, be consistent throughout; and that it is only our own want of the requisite knowledge that could allow us in any instance to suppose otherwise. We ought not, however, to judge of its true meaning on any difficult point from insu