Billeder på siden

left in a state of intense self-consciousness and solitary thought. I know not what God may have provided for the immediate enjoyment or suffering of our spirits in the world of spirits. That is not revealed, because it would not be intelligible if it were ; seeing we have not an idea, and cannot have, of spiritual existence or employment by any other way than that which I am following out-our own interior thoughts and feelings. We have suffered, I say, such a loss of the body and the earth, and the beloved companions of our pilgrimage ; and what is there, to sustain and comfort our spirits under this bereavement, save the three great consolations mentioned above? If we have used our body for strengthening in the soul temperance and self-command, and building up active habits of well-doing; if we have used the world as a stage or theatre, on which to carry these into effect, couversing with visible things modestly, and using them for the wholesome ends of our own edification in godliness, and the advancement of God's glory; and if with the beloved kindred of our souls we have lived in peace and fraternity, joining with them all chaste and affectionate unions, sharpening them to good feeling as iron sharpeneth iron, and provoking them to good works ;-then the soul will be filled through all her regions with satisfaction, and muse with delight upon that which she hath left behind. Add to this the second consolation, of being in her Creator's merciful hands, to whom she is resigned, and to whose near neighbourhood she knoweth she is approaching. I I know not, I speculate not upon, the new unions which the soul will have when these carnal veils are taken off. But much, much are we taught to hope for. We are represented in this state as being all but drifted out of reach of the Divine favour, which was not rejoined but by the sternest adventure of mercy; and death being past, we get as it were out of the cold and frozen regions of our present condition, and, by means I know not, are transformed into a holy communion with the celestials. But, though all unconscious how it is to be with her, I know the soul of the righteous doth drop as it were asleep into the lap of God, and they have ravishments of delight between sleeping and waking-images of glory from the other side, signs and beckonings, and triumphant frames which cast the by-standers into silent wonder.

In short, (for we wander without bounds in this sea of discourse, from all these considerations which have been

mentioned, and many more, to mention which would make this digression disproportionate to the measure of the whole discourse, it seemeth to me that death hath no sooner planted his pale signet upon the cold brow of our body, than a first initiatory judgment hath us in its hold, a first paradise, or a first hell instantly ensueth. All the past comes floating down, and all the future comes bearing up; they near us, they possess us, and the soul is engirdled as it were in a ring of events touching her on every side, and communicating each one a stound of pain or a relish of joy. And there she lieth slaughtered by their many wounds or ravished by their many pleasures, and so remaineth in a kind of trance of misery or ecstacy, till the resurrection morn. She dwelleth evermore in the ethereal temperament of sweet recollections and sweet anticipations, brightened into the brilliancy of present enjoyments, without any touch of their instability and grossness--the spirit as it were of every past excellence, and the spirit of every future excellence drawing near, and holding communion with our spirits; or else the sorrow of every past sin, and the bitter twang of every past indulgence, the gall and wormwood of every dalliance with levity and folly and lust, the daughters of unrighteousness, the remorse of every crime, the sting of every untamed passion, and the thirst of every raging appetite, all these come down from the past; while from the cloudy future come bearing up the mist of every prejudice, and the gloom of departed honours, and the grief of happi. ness for ever foregone, and the terrors of hopelessness and the agonies of despair—the spirits of all the furies which people hell, with the legion which peoples this world, come together to revel it upon our disengaged soul those that dwell back with conscience, those that dwell forward with fear, come lanching down to make a prey of our poor unregenerate soul. It seemeth to me as if the spirit, when it left the body, and did no longer tabernacle or converse with matter, hath its conversation with the spirits of all past events in its experience, and all future events in its anticipation, and doth lie diffused over them all in a purest heaven of delight or a saddest hell of grief, according as they are good and hopeful, or bad and gloomy. Sensation, that clouds the memory of the past and dims the anticipation of the future, is

The present world is no more, the animal part of man is no more, the knowing part of man which held converse with the accidents and changes of this world, is no

no more.

more. Nothing is left but the moral and spiritual part of man, to make the best of that knowledge of eternity and the Eternal which it hath, of that love or hatred of eternity and the Eternal which it hath. It lancheth out of the world of sensual pleasures, out of the world of visible beauties, out of the world of proud ambitions, out of the world of avaricious accumulation, out of the world of manual and instrumental employments_And whither is it gone ? into the spiritual world, whither nothing of all this can follow; and what remaineth but disappointment, tedium, shame, confusion of face, and every spiritual agony ; unless while living in the midst of these same worlds of occupation she was not blinded and befooled and brutified by them, but kept a sacred reverence for her moral and spiritual part, reserving the best of every feeling, and the essence of every thought, and the first fruits of every enjoyment, to God her creator and her preserver, and soon to be her judge.

Such are our views of the state of the soul after death, drawn for the satisfaction of the greater number, from observations made upon the soul in her present condition, and which we may now confirm for the special edification of the Believer by revelation, so far as it enters into this mysterious subject. Here must stand, in the first place, the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, revealing their several fates after dissolution, which are to be conceived as emblems of the repose and fiery torture their spirits did endure ; the promise to the penitent thief upon the cross, of being that very night in paradise ; the entrancing of St. Paul, when he beheld and felt things unutterable ; the visions of John, in which he beheld the blessedness of the saints; and the constant allusion through the books of the New Testament to the judgment and coming of Christ as immediately at hand; of which more hereafter.

All these passages give one reason to suppose that, besides the sort of passive consequence of death described above, there may be some consequences of an active kind which we are not able to comprehend ; that there may be faculties by which our spirits may taste the communion of other incorporate spirits, that they may be introduced to the angels and cherubims and seraphims of glory, and by them conducted to their balmy seats of bliss-borne along with them through airy space on errands and behests of God, taken into their pleasant associations, and trained like a younger sister in all the happy avocations of their being; or that the righteous may be separated to a settlement of their own, to have spiritual enjoyment with each other, of which we cannot have the shadow of a thought--while, on the other hand, the souls of the wicked may be delivered up to the mastery of spirits reprobate, and left in their disembodied state to their mercy, to be by them used and abused in ten thousand ways, to which the material earth is altogether strange. But into these regions, which belong, as hath been said, to the poet and the

orator, the conductor of an argument hath not any right to enter.

During the long interval, therefore, from the stroke of death till the trump of God shall ring in death's astonished ear, the soul is, as it were, by the necessity of her existence, forced to engage herself with the work of self-examination and self-trial, according to the best standard which during life she knew. If she was enlightened upon the divine constitution, then, according to the rules thereof, she will examine herself, and soon ascertain whether she held it in reverence and took the appointed measures to obey it, or whether she cast it behind her back and trod it under foot. If, again, she had no revelation of God, but had to depend on the light of Nature alone, then she will try herself according to that light, and discover whether she made virtue or vice her delight, good or evil her god. If she groaned under the bondage of false religion, and was deluded by su. perstition out of reason's hands, even then, whatever she believed in her conscience to be right, to that rule she will bring herself during this season of abstracted meditation. For in every country and state of mankind there is a line of division between the good and the bad, between the worthy and the worthless, which represents outwardly the inward sense which that people hath of a right and a wrong side of human character. By this, whatever it is, however imperfect, however weak, however erroneous, we judge that each soul of every kindred and nation and tongue upon the earth will be employed during the long intermediate state in examining itself, and suffering or enjoying according to the nature of its reflections.

Now, forasmuch as that man hath never been heard of, who could, in his cool, dispassionate moments, look back and reflect upon his life without a feeling of its unprofitableness, compared with what it might and should have been foras

[ocr errors]

much as that man hath never lived, whose trials and besetting ills did form to his reflective mind an apology for his shortcomings and misdemeanours; but all men, since Adam, have condemned themselves before even their embodied soul, when they took themselves to strict inquisition—how much more will they blame, how much less apologize before their disembodied soul, when every temptation of vanity, when every blind of passion and every avocation of thought which the body and the visible world cast in, is removed, and they are left solitary as in a wilderness, serious and sober as in the presence of God, stricken by death out of a thousand misleading visions, and overwhelmed with a sense of forlorn abjectness! Each soul thus immersed in its ruminations, plunged and absorbed in its own conscious being, must accumulate a vast sense of its sinfulness, and a fearful apprehension of the issue. Happy, happy those, who have strongholds of faith into which to turn, and know of a Saviour from that conscious guilt, under which every one, Jew and Gentile, Scythian, bond, and free, must feel himself oppressed. They can deal with their overwhelming feelings, and they alone. I do not say that they alone shall pass the judgment that is another question from which we studiously refrain. But surely they alone know in this life how that sinfulness is to be wiped away, and therefore, unless after death some perceptions of a Saviour should be revealed to the virtuous of other communions, of which we speculate not, they must lie absorbed in their heavy consciousness of guilt, with a fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation.

Now then, in these beds, all dissolved in fear, and some conscious of hope, the spirits of the departed lie; and shrouded in mortality, or absorbed back again into matter's various forms, remain the bodies of the departed, until the archangel and the trump of God shall sound the dread summons through the chambers of nature and the abodes of the separated soul ; whence they shall come and meet, and being once more by the power of God conjoined, these two ancient comrades shall form again one conscious frame of being, and take their joyful or heavy way, every living mortal, to the bar and judgment-seat of God.

This digression into the separate state of the soul, may seem to many out of place and out of proportion; but, besides being the only way of showing how the spirit comes up to the bar clothed in consciousness of the past, and able to


« ForrigeFortsæt »