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In a denial that the intermediate state is one of sleep or unconsciousness, every passage of Holy Scripture which refers at all to the after-life of the soul, death being passed and over, might be called in evidence. Especially emphatic is the testimony of our Lord's own words, ‘God is not the God of the dead, but of the living ;' words which certainly embrace the intermediate life, and imply personal consciousness as existing there.* Except for that gentle and frequent expression, allusive rather than descriptive, of those who rest well in Christ - They sleep through Jesus ;'t
When Stephen had said this he fell asleep,'---(an expression which may be easily understood, for sleep is an image of death, while death has been called the sister of sleep, and, the death of the faithful wearing a beautiful semblance of rest and peace, the Christian soul is 'not dead, but only given to sleep,' in the words of Prudentius,)—there is not a single word to lead us to infer that the state of the departed is one of unconsciousness. It is quite true that in the Old Testament, where the hope of Immortality shone only as a star of low magnitude, faintly glimmering above a misty horizon, we meet with some expressions regarding death indicative of uncertainty and almost of terror. I
But now that the day-star of our hope, the hope of Immortality, has climbed high into the heavens, and has enlightened in its ascendant brightness the whole horizon of our faith, death appears in an entirely new aspect. The Resurrection of our Lord has illuminated the world with its glory of redemption, its beautiful light of conquest, and its sweet certainty of hope. It has embraced within its golden vista the state of the blessed dead, and spoiled the grave of all its terrors to the faithful.
* Cf. also Rev. xxii. 6, where the reading of all the chief MSS. and Versions is, 'The Lord God of the spirits of the prophets.' Cf. also Irenæus, “ Adv. Hær.,' iv. 5.
† St. Augustine gives another beautiful reason of the use of the expression, 'sleep': 'Propter evigilationem'—' because there shall be an awakening.'
I Cf. Pusey. “On Daniel' (pp. 491-513), for some excellent remarks upon the Old Testament belief in a future state.
•Graves are now rest for the weary ;
Death a nap, to wake more merry. Death is become to the saint a call 'to depart and to be with Christ, which is far better' (Phil. i. 23). It is to be absent from the body, present with the Lord,' in the full consciousness of the soul's presence with Him and of His presence with it. The last collapse of all natural force and strength in death, like the fall of a tent, (for this seems one similef employed,) when overthrown by the strong winds of the desert,—those unbridled horses of the bare, unsheltered sands,-cannot more than momentarily, and in the one instant of the death-swoon, entangle the living inhabitant. Smothered but for one small beat of time in the falling envelope of the body, under the homely covering of which it has so long lived and dwelt, the soul, living through that great catastrophe, comes forth uninjured and unharmed, except for, perhaps, some feebleness and breathlessness, as though it had been just bruised impalpably by the cold fingers of death, and by the weight of its own corporal ruin.
It is surely a little unadvised | and confusing, then, in the belief of that perfected consciousness, to illustrate by the various phenomena of dreams the sleep of the just; for the last sleep, wholly belonging to the body, is dreamless, unvexed, and untroubled by the unreal phantoms and images of the night, and the soul wakes in the peace of
* Henry Vaughan, Poems, p. 111, 'Easter Hymn.' † 2 Cor. v.
I Cf. the extant treatise of Athenagoras, 'Of the Resurrection of the Dead' (chap. xvi.). Athenegoras was one of the earliest Christian apologists (circa A.D. 150).
God and lives in Him. How distinctly the primitive Church believed in the conscious rest of the soul in Paradise the mortuary-tablets of the Catacombs bear unquestionable witness. * So far death is from being a paralysis of memory, that it rather opens the cells and recesses, where the past records of life have been long sealed up, so that the past may live again, painted in vivid colours upon the walls of the soul, like the monuments of a buried city disentombed and recovered from the accumulations of ages. This is the terribly vivid thought in the words of that realistic parable,—if it be not real history :-'Son, remember.' Many instances there are of the power of the last moments of life to accelerate and intensify the motions and intelligences of the brain, to recall and resuscitate faded and departed scenes of the bygone days, as if the failing of the bodily and external environment, though momentarily involving in the last faintness of death the intellectual faculties, would first give a sign of the quickened activities that must possess the loosened soul after the farewell to this dull mortal existence.
Of the wretchedly unchristian and pagan idea, that there remains any possible contact between the soul in its separate state and the decaying body in the grave, it may be at once said that all such notions should be for ever banished and expelled from Christian hearts to the unlighted regions of heathenism, for they are only fit to be regarded as the wildest and most repulsive speculation. Tertullian has, again, well and eloquently replied to those whose philosophy would represent the soul as so entangled in the coil of the body as to be incapable without it of sensibility :
Must the soul always tarry for the body in order to experience sorrow or joy? Is it not sufficient, even of Witherow, p. 430.
itself, to suffer both one and the other of these sensations ? How often, without any pain to the body, is the soul alone tortured by ill-temper, and anger, and fatigue, and very often unconsciously even to itself! How often, too, on the other hand, amidst bodily suffering, does the soul seek out for itself some furtive joy, and withdraw for the moment from the body's importunate society! I am mistaken if the soul is not in the habit, indeed, solitary and alone, of rejoicing and glorying over the very tortures of the body. Look, for instance, at the soul of Mutius Scevola as he melts his right hand over the fire ; look, also, at Zeno's as the torments of Dionysius pass over it. The bites of wild beasts are a glory to young heroes, as to Cyrus were the scars of the bear.
Full well, then, does the soul, even in Hades, know how to joy and to sorrow without the body, since when in the flesh it feels pain when it likes, though the body is unhurt, and when it likes it feels joy, though the body is in pain. Now, if such sensations occur at its will during life, how much rather may they not happen after death by the judicial appointment of God! Moreover, the soul does not execute all its operations with the ministration of the flesh, for the judgment of God pursues even the merest volitions. Therefore even for this cause it is most fitting that the soul, without at all waiting for the flesh, should be punished for what it has done without the partnership of the flesh. So, on the same principle, in return for the pious and kindly thoughts in which it shared not the help of the flesh, shall it without the flesh receive its consolation.'*
The words of the whole of the earlier part of this fifth chapter of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians we have thus referred without any hesitation to the intermediate state of the Blessed Dead, and not to any hope of the Apostle's for an entrance upon the final resurrection-life without being called upon to pass through the bitterness of death.
* 'De Animâ,' ii. 541.
“The principal argument in favour of this interpretation is that the house spoken of is one on which the soul enters immediately after death. This is plain, because Paul says that if our earthly house be dissolved, we have' (i.e., we have at once) 'a house in heaven. The whole context requires this explanation to be given to fxquer, "we have.” The Apostle is speaking of the grounds of consolation in the immediate prospect of death. He says in effect that the dissolution of the body does not destroy the soul or deprive it of a home. His consolation was that if unclothed he would not be found naked. While at home in the body, he was absent from the Lord; but as soon as he was absent from the body, he would be present with the Lord. It is so obvious that the Apostle is here speaking of what takes place at death, that those who maintain that the building referred to is the resurrection-body propose various methods of getting over the difficulty. Some, as Usteri, assume that Paul, when he wrote the First Epistle to the Corinthians, believed that the resurrection was not to take place until the second advent of Christ, but changed his view, and here teaches that it takes place at death,—that is, that the soul, when it leaves the present body, is furnished with that spiritual body which in the former Epistle he taught was not to be received until Christ comes the second time. To those who proceed on the assumption of the inspiration of Scripture, this unnatural explanation needs no refutation. In his Epistle to the Philippians, written still later, he teaches the same doctrine that we find in First Corinthians. He must therefore have reverted to his former view. Paul was not thus driven about with every wind of doctrine. Even those who deny his inspiration must admit his con