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The Limbus Patrum (182)—Patristic Opinion : Justin M., the Shepherd
The subject of the following book is one which must possess the deepest interest for all, inasmuch as the state of the departed dead cannot be regarded with coldness or insensibility by those who have mourned—and who has not ?over the loss of friends, and who themselves are hastening to 'the undiscovered country, from whose bourn no traveller returns.' Death, which breaks up the fondest ties, and severs the dearest attachments, has no power to take from the heart the tender regard we feel for the loved ones over whose graves have been uttered the solemn words, “Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Although they have passed away for ever from the world, they live in our affections, are still enshrined within our memories ; and while there is a melancholy satisfaction in peopling the past with their images, there is a sacred pleasure in dwelling upon their present state and condition. The heart is thrilled with joy as we picture them to our minds living in the light of God's countenance, and rejoicing in the radiance which issues from the everlasting Throne. We know that so sure as having lived, we shall live again ; that so sure as having loved, we shall love again; and that the separation is but as one beat in the great pendulum of eternity!'
In the following pages the subject of the intermediate state is treated with great freshness and originality, and a considerable amount of learning. The author shows an acquaintance with the Ante-Nicene and certain of the later Fathers and the Scholastic writers. The words in which he clothes his thoughts are forcible and often full of a tender beauty.
The author, while allowing that room for the imagination which the subject admits and demands, yet indulges in no fanciful speculation; the appeal is ever to that Inspired Word from which alone we gather our knowledge of the future; every argument is brought to the law and to the testimony'; and the conclusions arrived at are in accordance with those of Scripture and of the Reformed Church of England. When controversy is entered on, and the opinions of another are contravened, he never forgets the Apostolic command, 'Be courteous'; and victory is sought, not for the sake of justifying the peculiar views of the writer, but of vindicating the truth of God, and commending it to the heart and conscience of the reader.
There may be a difference of opinion on some of the author's views, such as the clothing of the spirit at once on its exodus from the body with its house which is from heaven,' and the rapid and extraordinary change, only second to what takes place at conversion, which passes over the soul at death, and which is needed to fit it on the instant for the holiness of the heaven it is about to enter. A great deal of sin must be left behind with the body. But these are subjects on which we may agree to differ, and they do not touch the undoubted truth of the immediate happiness of the believer when he puts off the earthly tabernacle.
The treatise cannot be read without both pleasure and profit; for I believe it will be found to be marked by sound doctrine, practical piety, and Christian instruction, and that it will lift the soul above the things of time and sense, and carry it straight within the veil. I know it to be the writer's great desire that God will use this book for the glory of His name, the maintenance of His truth, and the edification of His people. It is a real pleasure to me to write these few words of introduction at the request of my friend, the author, whose father's memory is still fragrant in Cheltenham, and of whom it may be said, 'He being dead, yet speaketh.'