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glance to the spying out of difficulties in every thing proposed to its faith, and rejecting with self-complacent decisiveness all that comes not within the narrow compass of its apprehension.
After what I have said of the indeterminate posture in which the subject before us is left by the sacred writers, it must not be expected of me to be wiser than they in regard to it, for I frankly confess it to be a topic on which I can affirm nothing, except conjecturally.
"The vast, the unbounded prospect lies before me,
until I extend my inquiries to the era of the resurrection; then all is clearness and sunshine; for of it the scriptures most clearly speak as an era of triumph-of complete and glorious triumphover every foe, and for eternity.
In our bodily state, we are the subjects of two classes of sensations; the one class we term morul, the other animal; the former come from the exercise of our souls, or moral powers-from reflection, or the contemplation of abstract things. Our animal sensations come to us directly by the media of the senses, and are strictly confined to material or sensible objects; these it cannot rationally be expected, will continue to be experienced when the spirit is dislodged from its earthly tabernacle. But why may not the spirit continue a subject of moral sensation? Why may it not experience regret at what it may have lost by past nonimprovement? and remorse for the guilt it may have contracted by past crimes? I know of no reason in the world why it may not: and therefore, although I find no express warrant in the scriptures for affirming positively that punishment does extend beyond the dissolution of the body, yet, as I also find no express warrant for positively affirming the contrary, I may at least assert, that the former is neither absolutely impossible nor unreasonable.
I think it would be no detriment to us universalists to be more modest in taking ground relative to the separate state; or if we must assume positively in regard to it, let it at least be on some express authority, either scriptural or philosophical. It cannot be doubted that some texts look somewhat strongly toward the idea, that our doings in time have some sort of bearing upon our condition beyond it. Do not suspect me, reader, of being about to involve the bible in self-contradiction, by assuming that
it teaches salvation by works, or by faith, or any thing else, independently of the grace of God. I purpose no such thing: but, as I have said, some texts do look toward the idea, that our doings here will somehow affect our condition hereafter. Christ himself endured the cross and despised the shame, for the joy that was set before him. (Heb. xii. 2.) Paul conceived a crown to be laid up for him as a consequence of his having fought the good fight and kept the faith. (2 Tim. iv. 7, 8.) And Paul and his brethren labored, that whether present with the Lord out of the body, or absent from him in it, they might be accepted of him. (2 Cor. v. 9.) In the Revelation we are told, those who die in the Lord are blessed-" for they rest from their labors, and their works do follow them." (xiv. 13.) I affirm not positively that these, and like texts, are unequivocally relevant to the point in hand; but they so look toward it, that except a different meaning can be found for them, which shall be as obviously in agreement with their phraseology, we should at least be less positive in assuming that there is no punishment for sin of any kind after death.
In the resurrection we are to have spiritual bodies, by which is no doubt to be understood that the physical nature with which our spirits will be clothed in that state, will be refined and sublimated beyond any thing within the range of our present conceptions, and will be a medium to us of a very high degree of enjoyment, of a physical or sensible kind. "There are bodies celestial," says Paul," and bodies terrestrial;" the former undoubtedly transcending the latter in glory, by as much as the heavens transcend the earth. At this era, it would seem, we are again to become the subjects of the two classes of sensations (moral and sensible) afore-mentioned; and in this probably consists a main difference betwixt the intermediate and the resurrection state; the former being a condition of the spirit in which it is unembodied, and therefore, unfurnished with sensorial media-consequently its enjoyment or suffering must be strictly abstract or moral in its
As to our condition in the risen state, we have reason to believe that it will be one of unspeakable glory; "we shall bear the image of the heavenly"-" we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." It may be, as the ingenious Paley suggests, that the bodies we shall then possess shall be furnished with new and
additional senses, of which we cannot now conceive the use, but which shall prove the media of new and hitherto unconceived sensations of delight; and to all the enjoyment derivable from this source will be added all that shall arise from a renovation of our moral faculties-resplendent in the light of the divine approvalclothed with the reflected glory of his perfections-and rejoicing in an entire and for ever emancipation from sin and sorrow, and a prospective perpetuity of bliss upon bliss to eternity.
Nevertheless, as "one star differeth from another star in glory, so also is the resurrection of the dead." It seems anything but reasonable to suppose that there will be no difference at that era betwixt Paul (for example) and the individual who passed from time without having taken the first step in moral advancement. I mean not by this, that the former merits a higher order of blissfor the bliss of heaven is not to be conferred on such ground-but I mean that it would be an utter departure from the uniform course of things under God's moral government. We here experience that effort is the price of all attainment, both moral and intellectual that all advancement, as well as retrogression, is progressiveand that our souls (like gardens in nature) cannot be got into a condition of yielding the fruits of the spirit in any great degree of excellency or abundance, without sedulous and persevering cultivation. These things we know to be the case at present, and we have no reason for supposing they will be different with us when we enter upon a new stage of existence.
The above, reader, is all that I can propose for your faith on this dim subject; if you wish for more particular and authoritative information about it, why, doubtless, it is to be had very cheaply of certain persons, who dogmatize with most positiveness in matters of which they are least informed. The wise man is content with saying, that when the body shall return to the dust as it was, the spirit shall return to the God who gave it—further concerning it he pretendeth to know nothing: but a modern poet (more enlightened) informs us, that
"To heaven it flies, not there to dwell,
But hear its doom, and sink to hell."
A piece of poetry, this, which I have oft heard sung in the churches, but have never been able to find in the writings of Peter or Paul.
It quite sufficeth me to be wise concerning these matters within scripture warrant; and especially as I have no particular anxieties about it, from a consideration that "whether we live, therefore, or die, we are the Lord's ;" and being his, his wisdom and goodness will see to our being properly taken care of. I therefore close this essay as I begun it, by remarking, that to human wisdom, relative to the state immediately subsequent to death, very narrow limits are assigned.
THE BETTER WORLD.
There's a region above
There our toils shall be done,
There shall friends no more part,
And from God ne'er to sever;
We his glory shall see,
And enjoy him forever.