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-And he adds—but “we faint not ; for though our outward man perish, our inward man” (of course, meaning his soul) “is renewed (or supported more and more) “ day by day.” In other words-However oppressed our bodies be, yet our spirits are strengthened to meet our troubles. “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”* Such is not the language of despair, which would prefer the dissolution of the body, and the sleep of the soul, to remaining alive ; but if he thought that the hour he died would bring his soul into a blissful region where he would have the pleasure of again seeing and conversing with our Lord, he was very excusable for preferring it, and wishing for the time when he should enter it. His wishing himself dead, while the rest of his brethren remained alive, was very different from wishing the time to arrive when all good men should partake of bliss together. He is clearly solicitous to be there sooner than others, which, he must have been very sensible, could not have been, if he was not to enjoy it till the last day. He had hoped to join the innumerable company of angels, and the first-fruits of the Christian scheme in paradise, or, as they are called in Scripture," the general assembly and church of the first-born, whose names are written in heaven,” and “the spirits of just men made perfect;”+ these, in some way unknown to us, may enjoy the more visible presence or vision of God, who may render himself visible to them, as he often did of old to men on earth, even before his appearance on it as the Christ of God.” The first martyr Stephen, while yet alive here, saw our Lord sitting at the right hand of the Father; and the spirit of Christ, too, is frequently said in figurative language to dwell in his worshippers while in this world, when they seek him in spirit and in truth; so it does not follow, that the spirits of the departed saints are already in the scene of their eternal reward—the highest heavens.
If St. Paul had the same notions as the advocates for the
See 2 Cor. iv.
+ Heb. xii. 22.
sleep of the soul endeavour to explain, he must have known that such a fancy would, of course, be a complete delusion; and that a deception which would lead him to think some thousand years, or at least an indefinite time, to be a moment, would be very different from being conscious immediately after death. His feelings when he was alive in his body, and beforehand, of such a state of nothingness or torpidity, would be very different from what they would be if that state was past, and he had actually just risen from his grave at the last day. No living person could be supposed, consistently with common sense, to be anxious to enter on a long sleep of insensibility (unless in the most extreme despair,) whatever his feelings might be anticipated to be on awakening.
If there be meaning in words, we are taught in all the passages now appealed to, that the souls of men as soon as death sets them free from the body, pass into a state of a pleasing and conscious repose from their labours, or into one where their evil deeds are remembered with an agitated and fearful looking for of judgment. The meaning attributed to the sacred writers by the soul sleepers must be acknowledged to be exceedingly remote from the use of language, and far from what any man who has not a favourite dogma to support would naturally discover from the words. Can we believe, then, that the inspired authors meant, by the help of equivocal expressions, to flatter their disciples with the hope of entering, the instant they expire, on a state of bliss, when in reality they knew that their souls must sleep in the dust or somewhere else insensibly for ages? The metaphysical subtleties which are brought forward to support these strange opinions are completely overthrown alike by the investigations of the learned and by common sense.
Judging, now, therefore, from a careful consideration of Holy Writ, the similitude of sleep can only apply to the principle of animal life, which slumbers as it were for a while, and is metaphorically said to do so, merely because it ceases for a while to exert its powers, and will again revive.
As during sleep, the immortal principle is often felt or remembered to be active and vigilant, and may be always so, although without our recollection, so during the long night of death which the body experiences, the soul, freed from the body, is ever active in Hades, where all disembodied spirits reside, until summoned by the last trumpet to rejoin their former habitations, then mysteriously changed in their nature so as to last for ever.
Many writers seem to have thought, that the fact of the soul's continuing to live after the death of the body is so clearly established, and rests on such incontrovertible grounds, that they often take it for granted, rather than think it necessary to attempt to prove it. Thus Sherlock, in his “ Practical Discourse concerning Death,” where we might have looked for a separate disquisition on the subject, says only this, which, however, plainly enough declares his opinion, on which, in fact, he grounds his work :-“When we die, we do not fall into nothing, or into a profound sleep, into a state of silence and insensibility till the resurrection; but we only change our place and our dwelling; we remove out of this world, and leave our bodies to sleep in the earth till the resurrection, but our souls and spirits live still in an invisible state. I shall not go about to prove these things, but take it for granted, that you all believe them ; for, that we leave this world, and that our bodies rot and putrify in the grave, needs no proof; and that our souls cannot die, but are by nature immortal, has been the belief of all mankind.'
Can then the generally received belief of all nations from the remotest antiquity be considered founded on entire error ? and can it be said to be more probable that the soul does sleep insensibly after death, because a few, who aim at being thought more learned and wise than the bulk of their fellow-men, seek out and endeavour to teach improbable theories or reasons for inducing us to adopt such a belief, founding on far fetched interpretations of particular texts of Scripture, or not attending to the obvious meaning of the
writers, as appearing from other passages, and their common use of metaphor ? Can those who believe it to be impossible that the soul survives its earthly house, explain in a direct and rational manner, our Saviour's assertion that God could not be called the God of the dead or of the insensible, but of the living Abraham, whom he yet affirmed to be in a conscious state at the time when he was speaking ? Was the appearance of Moses at the transfiguration mere delusion, from its not being possible that his soul, in the common course of nature, could be active and conscious, or able to hold converse ? Was the parable of Dives and Lazarus mere fable from the impossibility of its being founded on reality, and though given as a moral lesson by One whose greatest attribute is Truth? Was the reality of some similar case (if this parable itself was not intended to allude to two certain individuals) not meant to be believed by those to whom it was addressed, and who actually had such an idea current among them, and when without such a belief in what was said, no moral effect could have been produced as was evidently intended? Was our Lord's promise to the robber delusive, or not meant in the only sense in which it has been shown that he must have taken it? Is the soul of the accepted Abel still unconscious of the arm mighty to save and to reward, as in the moment when he was struck to the ground, and consequently, has the love of the Almighty not done him so much good for even five thousand years, as his brother's envy did him harm? Is the soul, in short, no more immortal than the body, and does it sleep in the grave or in some other place ?
Let those who believe in the soul's slumber, answer these questions, and explain them in a convincing manner in conformity with their theory, before they continue any longer to uphold it as borne out by Scripture. Let them prove from physiological facts that soul and body are indissolubly connected, both dying together, or sleeping insensibly till the resurrection, and show undeniably by some other evidence than that uncertain one the memory, that the soul, while in a living body, ever becomes unconscious of life and thought, Belief of Churches as to the Sleep of the Soul.
before they argue from thence that the spirit of a man can even in a mortal body sink into a state of temporary oblivion. If they do all this, we may believe them, but they must at the same time overthrow all contrary evidence, and then only they can hope to convince the man who chooses to investigate and impartially to decide from the evidence he has collected, and from the words of inspiration in their most obvious meanings.
Founding on the passages of Scripture now quoted, and from understanding them to clearly indicate that consciousness in the soul is not interrupted by death, the Roman Church maintains it in her services, and founds some of her most important doctrines upon it. At the Reformation it was considered by Protestants so fully established by the gospel of our Lord and his Apostles, that the Church of England adopted it in its fullest extent, rejecting entirely the fanciful doctrine of the insensible sleep of the soul when in its separate state. In her funeral service, the distinction between the soul and body is plainly intimated, and that the one is taken away from its mortal tenement of clay, while the latter is laid in the earth, returning to dust. The thanksgiving in this beautiful service begins thus :-“Almighty God, with whom do live the spirits of them that depart hence in the Lord, and with whom the souls of the faithful, after they are delivered from the burden of the flesh, are in joy and felicity.”
The Church of Scotland also agrees explicitly with this plain doctrine of Holy Writ. In the thirty-second chapter of her Confession of Faith, which treats" of the state of man after death, and of the resurrection of the dead,” we find it thus stated :“The bodies of men, after death, return to dust and see corruption, but their souls (which neither die nor sleep) having an immortal subsistence, immediately return to God who
them.' It is then said where Pres
• A late very learned and worthy teacher of divinity of this church, thus expresses his opinion on the above point :-“Though there is a rest for the