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to have entered upon this condition of consciousness, as soon 、 as the spirit left its dwelling-place in the body. Such, therefore, is our view of the condition of departed spirits. We believe that, swift as the light, as it shoots from the eastern horizon in the rising of the morning, so the soul of the dying believer, as soon as it is liberated from the clay, escapes to the bosom of its God. We associate the idea of life with living bodies. We are accustomed to see them in connection. We associate the idea of insensibility and unconsciousness, with the death of the body; because, by means of death, the body becomes unconscious and insensible. But we err. Our error springs from our living so much under the influence of sense. We forget, that thought, and consciousness, and spiritual life are not cognizable by the senses. We forget, that there may be the most intense activity and consciousness, the most perfect and exalted kind of life, which our eye cannot see, nor our ear hear, nor our senses detect. Spirits may have a life adapted to them, as truly as bodies a life adapted to them; a life, far more perfect; a consciousness, far more acute; a capacity of action, when separated from that which is uncongenial with their nature, far more exalted, and extensive, and surprising. We have only to consider that God, and angels, are spirits,-living minds without fleshly accompaniments,-yet possessed of every characteristic of man's superior nature, and in a vastly higher degree, to satisfy us that human souls can live in a separate state, and be most keenly conscious and active in it. May we not add, we have only to consider the evidence which has been adduced, with much more of a kindred character which has been suggested, to satisfy us that the souls of the departed do live in a separate state; more conscious, more active, than we ourselves; having clearer illumination, stronger conceptions, higher revelations, more ecstatic experiences, than the body will permit us to enjoy ?
"The friends alone who seem to die
Are those who truly live.
"They dwell around us like the light,
Sent with the angels to fulfil
Their ministries of love." *
The following beautiful extract from the writings of the Rev. Legh Richmond, presents a lively illustration of confident belief of the continued consciousness and activity
It is not improbable, that these spirits, in their disembodied state, and immediately after death, know one another. We see not why spirits may not have some method of mutual recognition and communication, as well as bodies. That which God has conferred upon one class of beings among his creatures, by a method suited to their peculiar nature, he can doubtless confer upon another class, by a method suited to a different nature. We see nothing of this sort among men; but we are not in a condition to see it. That which is the prerogative and privilege of separate spirits would be of no use to us, if it were granted; probably, it would be unintelligible, by whatever words it should be explained. Human language is not adapted to such a theme. It is the appendage of a different state. But as bodies are distinguishable by marks of such a nature as their materiality renders intelligible, so may spirits have distinguishing marks, of a nature adapted to their immateriality; but as clear to the discrimination of a spirit, as the marks which distinguish different bodies are to the bodily organs. The following views will make this clear. God is a spirit; without organs or senses like our own. In whatever manner he is described in the Scriptures, in condescension to the weakness of human understandings, and from necessity, owing to the imperfection of human language, we know that, because he is a spirit, infinite, eternal, omnipresent, omniscient, almighty, he has, strictly speaking, neither eye, nor ear, nor any of the senses, by which man distinguishes his fellow-man. Yet he perfect
of the departed. It is contained in letters to his children concerning the life of his own mother:
But whilst I am enumerating the olive branches which surround my table,' and 'the children whom God hath given me,' I suddenly feel as if I had erred in my calculations. Is there no link of connection between the visible and invisible worlds? No right of appropriation by which an earthly parent may say, 'I have a child in heaven?" Yes: a sweet little cherub in the mansions above seems to my imagination to be the very link which faith and love would employ to animate all the energies of my best affections, when I look at my still living children, and contemplate their immortal condition."
"One of you, my eleren children, is in glory,-a lamb, safely and eternally folded in the arms of his Redeemer. He is the first of my household that has gone to his rest. May he prove a pledge for many to follow him there, in God's own time. In the meantime, cherish it in your frequent remembrance, as an argument for heavenly mindedness, that one of you is already in heaven. I may not indeed now address myself to him; but I may speak of him to you. I may remind you of his epitaph, and of the paradise to which he belongs. I may also thus preserve the sense of kindred alliance between the dead and the living of my family; and ardently pray for the perfect and eternal reunion of them all, through grace, in the house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.' Such, likewise, were the supplications of her, who, through faith and patience, is gone to inherit the promises, and to join our own little infant in singing hallelujahs to him that sitteth upon the throne and unto the Lamb."-Life of Legh Richmond, p. 225.
We cannot forbear alluding, in this connection, to Wordsworth's inimitable little poem, entitled, "We are seven;" and to another, of similar character, in a recent collection of the productions of Mr. Charles Sprague.
ly knows all beings, whatever be their nature; whether they be merely animal, or animal and intellectual combined, like man, or merely spiritual. He perfectly knows the angels and the spirits of the just. Though they are without bodies, yet he knows where each is to be found; if a term of locality may thus be used, respecting that, whose chief attributes are consciousness and immaterial thought. He knows the thoughts of each spirit, in the world of spiritual beings; and sways the sceptre of his government over each, and pours upon each a distinct measure of the divine benediction, according to his sovereign will, and the several desert of each; distinguishing each from each, among the spirits in his vast universe, as easily and as effectually as he distinguishes us one from another, who are enshrouded by bodies of different appearance. He discerns between angel and angel. He mistakes not Gabriel for Michael, nor Michael for Gabriel. Each one of that mighty host, though without form, without name, without descent, without any of those marks by which material beings are distinguished, he knows, and summons, and sends to do his bidding. His control over each is separate and perfect. He makes each accountable to himself, the God and Judge of all. He clearly distinguishes the spirits of the just, who are clothed in spiritual bodies; as Enoch and Elijah. He never mistakes one of them for another. He knows them apart, as truly as we know natural bodies apart. He recognizes human beings who are now living, distinguishing us one from another, as clearly as we distinguish one man from another. With him there is no possibility of mistake. And yet he distinguishes us neither by our form, nor our complexion, nor our voice, nor our bearing, nor by any attribute belonging to the body. For, seeing he is a spirit, without material eye, or ear, or any sense pertaining to material beings, how should the matter composing our bodies be to him any medium of distinction? Bodies recognize bodies through the particular conformation of matter and the arrangement of its particles. Material elements appeal to senses, which are dependent on matter. But spirits must recognize spirits, whether free or shrouded in bodies, in some other way. God knows me, not because my hair is dark or light; not because my form is erect or inclined; not because my voice is deep or shrill; but, as he will, after the body shall have been laid in the grave, and returned to corruption,-by
some characteristic of the indwelling spirit, which will remain unchanged by the various catastrophes which may befal the body; unaltered by the alterations of moral character or desert; uneffaced and uneffaceable by the lapse of ages. Now, as God, who is a spirit, recognizes every spirit of the thousands and millions of the creatures whom he has made, human and superhuman, in heaven, earth and hell, the living and the departed, there is no conceivable reason why any other spirit, human or angelic, should not, when in the state of a separate spirit, recognize other separate spirits, as truly as God does. Indeed, why is it any more unlikely, that one spirit should recognize another, in the spiritual world, than that one animal should recognize another, in the material world?
But if an objection be raised to this view, on the ground that the perfect character and attributes of God render a comparison unsuitable, still another view remains. There is a link of being between the infinite and ours. The angels are but a little higher than man.* Now no one can doubt that the angels are conscious of the presence of one another. We believe that, in their pure, exalted natures, never defiled by sin, never obstructed by a material body, they distinguish one another, and enjoy one another's society. They share together in the same pleasures. For "there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth." They are associated together in the same services. Three angels came to announce to Abraham the birth of Isaac. Two angels warned Lot of the destruction of Sodom. An angel was sent to tell the shepherds of the incarnation of the Saviour. "And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host." When the women at the sepulchre were distressed, because they found not the body of the Lord Jesus, "two men stood by them in shining garments," to instruct and console them; or, as another evangelist writes, Mary "stooped down and looked into the sepulchre, and seeth two angels in white, sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain."† When Christ had ascended into heaven, two men stood by the disciples in white apparel, who announced to them the second coming of their Lord. Hence, it is almost superfluous to say,
*Psalm 8: 5.
† Comp. Luke 24: 3-5, with John 20: 11, 12.
that angels would not be subjected to the chilling gloom of living alone in the world; hearing none, seeing none, communing with none; having no intercourse with any spiritual being but God, and no clear knowledge of the existence of any other-nor even of his; as would necessarily be the case, if spirits do not recognize, and hold communion with spirits. We trust we do not undervalue the privilege of enjoying, with the glorious powers of an angel, the presence of God. We are sure that such enjoyment would be a compensation for any loss, by the absence of any society of our equals. But we apprehend, that we shall not be misunderstood, when we say, that the participation of our joy with others of the same rank with ourselves enhances it; and that, hence, even a seraph would find additional pleasure, were he permitted to make known his ecstatic emotions to a kindred seraph, and to join with "many angels round about the throne" in the harmonious ascription of praise to the Lamb. The solitary anthem of a single voice cannot fail to accumulate sweetness, and to awaken a new thrill of inward gratification, when it is swelled by "ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands."* But the Scripture affirms, that they who are accounted worthy of eternal life shall be "equal unto the angels ;" doubtless implying, that they shall be equal to them in the sources of their joy. But, if the angels recognize God, their Creator and Sovereign, if they distinguish that glorious spirit from their fellow-angels, or from ascended saints, which we cannot doubt,-if they distinguish one another, and commune together, and redeemed men are to be equal to the angels, why may not the spirits of the departed recognize one another in heaven?
We have an additional view on this subject. We cannot doubt, that the spirits of believers in heaven distinguish the presence of Christ from the presence of any other being. Before his incarnation, when the souls of patriarchs, prophets and good men were admitted to the state of the blessed, they doubtless perceived, in like manner, the presence of God. It diffused itself, perhaps with unutterable sweetness, through every power of which their spirits were conscious, producing enrapturing love, and peace, and joy. But we need not inquire into the manner in which the presence of
*Rev. 5: 11.