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God." "Having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ." "We are confident, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord." We cannot but regard our Savior's resurrection as illustrating and confirming the view of death, which we should derive from the above cited passages. He returned to earth, not to teach us that we shall rise, but to show us that we shall never die, to exhibit, not the body as capable of reanimation, but the soul as incapable of dissolution. He did not return to life; but appeared again to show that he was still alive, that he had not died, that the soul could live on without the body. Death, then, is in no sense a termination, but simply a most momentous epoch in man's existence, a starting point upon a new portion of his career. To die is to live on. The moment of bodily dissolution is the moment of birth into another state of being.
But if the soul suspends not its existence when the body dies, our next inquiry is with regard to the mode of being on which it then enters. Mr. Taylor's idea of an attenuated and etherealized body, which shall supply to the emancipated soul the place of the present animal organization, till the general resurrection, if no longer, has always been, and is still prevalent among all classes of Christians. It has its origin, not in any process of metaphysical or critical reasoning, but mainly in the difficulty to many minds of conceiving of a purely spiritual existence. We are not ourselves conscious of this difficulty; but, on the other hand, find it much more easy to conceive of spirit than of matter; and, when we attempt to form an idea of matter, we are perplexed, embarrassed, and uniformly compelled to define it as a modification of spirit. But for the satisfaction of those, to whom the idea of a strictly spiritual state is difficult of attainment, we will suggest answers to the most obvious queries on this subject, and particularly to those which are, as we think, unphilosophically answered in the "Physical Theory."
And first, we are asked, how without a bodily organization, can the soul retain its connexion with space? How can disembodied spirits witness the works of creation and mark the course of Providence? How, for example, can sights reach the soul without the eye, or sounds without the ear? Or how can locomotion take place without material organs, wherewith to overcome material resistance? We reply, that, in point of fact, the ideas of things seen, heard, and felt, do reach the
soul, without any corresponding objects in the outward universe. This is the case in optical illusions, the subject of which receives distinctly into his mind the images of things devoid of real existence. In insanity too, sights, which the eye sees not, sounds, which the ear hears not, are imagined with perfect clearness. In dreams, also, we seem to see, and hear, and feel as distinctly as when the senses are all awake, and conversant with their appropriate objects. Now, if the soul can receive these several classes of impressions without using the organs of sense, why may it not without possessing them? Or, if it be capable of seeing, hearing, and feeling things that are not, how can it be incapable of perceiving things that are? Moreover, it is not the eye, that sees, or the ear, that hears. Dissect these organs entire from the human frame, and they are powerless. Leave them unimpaired, and darken the soul by insanity; they carry it false reports. It is the soul, that looks out through the eyes, that listens through the ears. And does not its power of seeing and hearing, by means of the eyes and ears, imply and include the capacity of seeing and hearing without them? Yes. Sight and hearing, and locomotion also for similar reasons, are functions inherent in the soul; and the bodily organization is less the means of their exercise, than a temporary clog and limit to their extent and power. While in the body, we are "spirits in prison," and the eye is the prison window, through which the soul enjoys a little portion of its native range of vision, the ear an aperture in the prison wall, through which we catch a few of the sounds, which, if set at large, we might take in through a vast extent of space, while the feet, so far from being the means of motion, but measure the length and direction of the spirit's chain. When the dungeon walls decay, when we quit our house of bondage, our disembodied souls will doubtless acquire at once a keenness of vision, of which we cannot now conceive, hear the full diapason of nature's harmony, and move unchecked and free, wherever love and duty call us.
It is again asked, how can society be cemented, and familiar converse exist among bodiless spirits? This question may best be answered by referring to the communion, that actually takes place between God and man in the exercises of prayer and devotion. In these we address with confidence an unseen Spirit; nor does the supplication return to us void. The response is shed into our souls, inaudibly, yet surely. We VOL. XXII.—3D s. vol. IV. NO. II.
realize God's presence, receive of his fulness, are conscious of an inward light, peace, and joy, which we can trace to no earthly fountain. In this communion there is on one side no outward sign of intercourse; and such signs are often wanting on the other side also, "the spirit making intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." Now, this silent prayer, and its unheard but recognised answer, may furnish us a specimen of the universal language of spirits, and indicate to us the mode in which, in the life to come, we may hold converse not only with the Father-Spirit, but with all our fellow-spirits. In our apprehension, the body, so far from being the essential medium of social intercourse, is the means of circumscribing our familiar intercourse to that portion of the Creator's family, that like ourselves tenant houses of clay. We are doubtless surrounded by a cloud of witnesses. Heaven is no remote or inaccessible region; but embraces the air we breathe, the ground we tread. Jesus is with us; but our eyes are holden that we cannot see him. The spirits of the unfallen and the ransomed no doubt compass our path and our lying down. The minstrelsy of the heavenly host, once heard by the Jewish shepherds, floats over all our hill-tops, and all our valleys; "And angels with their sparkling lyres, Make music in the air."
The holy dead, who were translated from our homes, are with us; our every prayer is upborne by their pure intercessions; our every song of praise echoed from their golden harps. But though this spiritual world thus encompass and envelope us, the dungeon walls of sense exclude our converse with it, while disembodiment is all that we need to enable us to see as we are seen, and know as we are known.
We perceive, then, that in a purely spiritual life, the soul can enjoy not only the exercise, but the freer and fuller exercise of the functions, which it now discharges through the organs of sense. We may at least, then, suppose the intermediate state from death to the general resurrection to be a strictly spiritual state. But will there be a resurrection? Are these bodies to be raised from the grave, and to be reunited to the spirits, that now tenant them? We answer this question in the negative, first, because the soul has no need of the body, and will have shown its independence of it, by having lived without it from the moment of death to the supposed moment
of resurrection. Then again, our bodies are perfectly adapted to the vicissitudes, the laws, and the discipline of this world; and are, therefore, unfitted for any other state. We infer that the mind will live elsewhere from its spurning the bounds of earth, from its earnest aspirations after a larger sphere, and a higher good. Why should we not in like manner infer, from the clod-like acquiescence of the body in its present state, from the full supply which it here finds for all its cravings, that this is its final and its only home? Moreover, the resurrection of the body, of the same identical body, is physically impossible. It can be satisfactorily proved that the cannibal often dies with the flesh of his fellow-man incorporated into his own. Every particle in our bodies has most probably formed a portion of hundreds of bodies before us, and after our decease will be owned by thousands more. In the resurrection, whose shall these particles be? It is indeed within the scope of omnipotence to raise from the dust a fac simile of the body in which every man died; but this would be a new creation, not a resurrection.
The Scriptures concur with the plain dictates of common sense, in teaching us that the body will not rise. "Flesh and blood," says St. Paul, "cannot inherit the kingdom of God ; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption." "We shall all
be changed." "That which thou sowest, thou sowest not the body which shall be." "As we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly." The same apostle indeed speaks of a "spiritual body; but it is very certain that he cannot designate by this title our present similar bodies, and he most probably used the word body as synonymous with existence, otherwise the phrase in question would seem to be a contradiction in terms.
But how, we are again asked, how are we to explain the passages of Scripture, which are commonly understood as referring to a general resurrection and day of judgment? These passages, we reply, are figurative representations, founded on the analogy of human tribunals, where the judge, instead of remaining perpetually in session, appoints certain days of general assizes, when the criminals, committed to prison at various intervals, are arraigned together before him. Or if it be insisted that these passages must needs denote some definite and momentous epoch, we would then refer them to the consummation of the present state of the material universe, a period
when nature will be shaken with the most tremendous convulsions, when the recesses of the earth and the caverns of ocean will cast forth their long buried treasures, and, among other things, will "give up the dead that are in them," yet not give them up alive. Then, too, we may suppose that "the books will be opened," that the judgment passed upon every human spirit at the moment of death will be exhibited to every other, that there will be a rehearsal, before the congregated universe of mind, of the grand moral results of the drama of existence just closing.
If the future life of the blessed be a purely spiritual state, that of the reprobate must be so too. We are compelled, therefore, to give up the idea of a material hell; and to regard the language of Scripture, which depicts the corporeal torment of the subjects of the second death, as figurative. But there seems to be, on the part of many excellent Christians, a strong clinging to the theory of a literal lake of fire and brimstone, in the fear that by denying it they shall weaken the sanctions of the divine law, and hold forth the dread of but a slight penalty to the workers of iniquity. In our apprehension, however, we only render the penalty of sin the more dreadful by supposing it entirely spiritual in its nature. For what are flames to the
righteous soul? Ask the three holy children, whom Nebuchadnezzar's wrath cast into the furnace, and with whom a fourth like unto the Son of man walked in the midst of the fire Ask the martyr of old, literally burning in a lake of fire and brimstone, his countenance serene and happy, his eye beaming with rapture, his parched lips raising a song of thanksgiving. The ungodly rich man in the parable was tormented in the fire; but the holy Lazarus would with willing feet have crossed the burning lake, were this possible, and breathed the fiery air, and stood as an angel of mercy at the sufferer's side; and he would have been happy in a physical hell. No physical torture can equal that of ungratified desires, inflamed passions, unholy affections, malice, hatred, envy, remorse, despair. And how often have men, to obtain a momentary relief from this inward hell, rushed out of life through the most appalling and painful of the gates of death! Nay, there remains on record the dying testimony of a profligate, who, it seems, thought of hell only as a scene of physical burning and suffering, who, after in vain essaying to describe the intensity of his remorse and despair, exclaimed, "Hell itself would be a relief from my anguish."