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DISCOURSE UPON DEATH.
What brought Death at first into the World, and what is meant by it.
THE way whereby Death came first into the world, was our first parent Adam's transgression of the law of God, by eating of the forbidden fruit; concerning which God commanded the man, saying, " Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die." Gen. ii. 16, 17.
But notwithstanding this solemn prohibition, the woman, being beguiled by the serpent, did eat thereof; and she tempted her husband to do so likewise, Genesis iii. 12, 13. whereby they drew upon themselves and all their posterity the punishment which God had threatened to the eating of it, viz. Death. In consequence whereof they, and all mankind who descended from them, became mortal; liable to a separation of their soul from their body. For as of these two parts united doth every living man consist; the body being the outward tabernacle, and the soul the inward inhabitant of it; so when the body, by sickness, old age, or any outward violence, is become unfit to be any longer the habitation of the soul, the soul immediately departs, Bp. Greene's Discourses.
and separates itself from it; from which separation ensues what we call Death. For by this means the body being parted from the soul, becomes a lump of lifeless clay and dirt, fit only to return to the earth from whence it was first taken. So says Solomon, Eccles. xii. 7. Then, that is, at Death," the dust shall return to the earth as it was, and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it."
The plain and evident sense of which words is this; that whereas man consists of two parts, a body and a soul; the condition of these two, when a man dies, will be very different. For the body having been at first taken out of the dust of the earth, is of a corruptible constitution, and shall therefore go back into the earth again, and moulder into dust; but the soul, as it is of another and more excellent original, (created indeed in the image and after the likeness of God himself; and by him inspired immediately into the body), shall not perish with the body, but return unto that God from whence it came; in whose hands it shall continue alive, safe, and inviolable, according to the author of the book of Wisdom, chap. iii. 1. "The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and there shall no torment touch them."
Concerning the State of the Soul after its Separation from the Body.
How it fares with the soul upon its separation from the body no man alive can tell particularly, nor after what manner it then acts: since God has not been pleased any where to reveal it to us. This only we know, that the soul continues still a living soul, after its separation, and will so continue for ever; God having made it and designed it to be immortal, able to understand, and think, and reason,
and remember, and converse with other spirits like itself; and with them to enjoy happiness, or endure misery to all eternity, according as it shall have behaved itself well or ill in this world.
Now when the soul is thus separated from the body, and leaves this world of corporeal things; in that moment all our concerns in this world are perfectly at an end. Should we, while we continued here, have been the happiest persons that ever the sun shone on, having immense riches in possession, and being furnished with the greatest plenty of delights on every side; so that we were the envy of all that beheld us; yet all this must be parted with and left behind us; when God removes us out of this world by death; "for we can carry nothing away with us to our grave, neither shall our pomp follow us," Psalm xlix. 17. We must then bid an eternal farewell to them all. Thenceforth our eyes shall never more behold the glories of this world; nor shall we have any further knowledge of the pleasures of it.
If we have suffered ourselves to be tempted to sin by any of them; in that case indeed the remembrance of them will be bitter to the soul, as long as it subsists, unless we have truly repented of it while we lived; for we shall never return into this world again, to have any further enjoyment or satisfaction in the things of it: nor will there be any room for repentance in the next world; " for as the tree falls, so it shall lie," Eccles. xi. 3. Being once separated from the things of this world by Death, we must remain so, till the general resurrection of our bodies at the end of the world.
Now Death implying, as we see, a separation of the soul from the body, after which it is impossible for us to have any further perception of any thing in this world, (since it is the soul only that thinks and perceives, and not the body), and yet this separation must be undergone, sooner or later, by every
man living, when it shall please God to remove us out of this world; (he having made a general rule for all mankind, of whatsoever degree or condition they be, as the Apostle assures us, Heb. ix. 27. " It is appointed unto men once to die :") This, I say, suggests to us many things of great moment, which it highly concerns every man frequently to think of, and meditate upon, while he has time and opportunity for it; that is, while it pleases God to continue him in this world, with his soul and body united together. As,
That the Soul does not sleep during its Separation.
FIRST, We ought to consider, that when this separation happens of the soul from the body, it is the body only that, properly speaking, dies, and becomes a lifeless lump of clay, and not the soul; for that does not cease to live, when it is separated from the body: but being of a spiritual and immortal nature, (quite different from the body), that probably becomes more lively, active, and sensible than ever it was before, while it was clogged with the body; and more susceptible of happiness or misery, and will continue to be so for ever.
It cannot indeed be denied, but that some who have granted the soul of man to be a distinct substance from his body, and to subsist after the Death thereof, have yet asserted that the soul, in a state of separation, is as it were in a sleep or lethargy, in a state of insensibility; having no perception at all, either of joy or sorrow, happiness or misery; an opinion that seems not only unreasonable, but altogether inconsistent with itself. For how can the soul subsist and remain a soul without sense and perception; since perception must be an essential property of the soul, and therefore to say an insen