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But it ought to be remembered, that the revelations which are made respecting these and other collateral subjects are not communicated in a systematic form they are communicated in brief intimations found here and there in the volume of inspiration. They are to be found in mere hints incidentally given and in allusions occasionally made by the sacred writers; and sometimes they are communicated through the medium of circumstances, without any accompanying remarks to indicate the ulterior design of their having taken place. But although that be the manner in which the Divine Being has seen meet to communicate to men a knowledge of the unseen world, there does not appear to be that measured reserve in the communications he has made respecting it which some seem to think there is. The brief intimations, the scattered hints, and allusions, and circumstances, which are recorded in the scriptures, when carefully examined and compared, shed a flood of light upon it; and they give us impressive views of the awful sufferings which wicked men endure, and convey to our minds the most elevated conceptions of the blessedness which righteous men enjoy. Though I am far from thinking that the revelations which are made respecting the future condition of the former class
are of inferior importance, it is, for reasons which it is unnecessary to mention, to those respecting the state of the latter class to which I propose to confine my attention. And they, I doubt not, will be found to form the more interesting and pleasing part of the subject.
ON THE STATE OF THE SOUL AFTER DEATH.
UPON a subject of this kind it is not surprising that different, and even conflicting opinions should have been formed. This may be accounted for, in some measure at least, by our limited knowledge of the nature of the soul, our absolute ignorance of the mode of its existence when separate from the body, and the language which, in some instances, is employed by the sacred writers respecting its state in the unseen world. Notwithstanding the difficulties with which some consider the subject to be invested, it is not a little remarkable that many of those who, from various causes, are unable to examine it minutely, have, from the simple perusal of the holy scriptures, formed notions respecting it least liable to objection and most strictly in accordance with the desires of our nature. And it is questionable, perhaps, if any one whose opinions are formed exclusively upon the dictates of the word of God and whose mind is unbiassed by the sentiments and authority of others, would ever have imagined, that the souls of men at death sink into a state of torpidity and unconsciousness; and that they shall remain incapable of thought
or of action till their bodies be raised from the grave. This opinion, cheerless and gloomy though it be, is held by many whose belief in the doctrines of scripture, and whose veneration for its authority cannot be questioned. But it cannot well be entertained, one should think, except upon the supposition that the soul is material; that it is but a modification of the substance of which the body is composed; and that its consciousness as well as its capability of thought, and action, and of enjoyment, necessarily depend upon its connexion with a material organization.
Without entering fully into the philosophical argument in support of the immateriality of the soul, I may remark, that our knowledge both of mind and matter is too limited to enable us to speak with certainty about the essence of either. It is limited by the perceptible qualities of the one and those of which we are conscious in the other. We perceive in our bodies qualities similar to those of other matter, and from this circumstance we infer, that they are essentially the same as any other material substance. They have extension and solidity, and are composed of parts, but they are inert and have not the power of originating motion. And we can conceive of no possible modification of the substance of which they are composed which could produce thought or volition, or be rendered susceptible of pleasure or pain. But the other part of the man, the vital, thinking principle, does not possess qualities which bear the