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A SEPARATE STATE.
II. That the soul does not die with the body, but exists in a separate state till the general resurrection of all the bodies of men which have died, has been supposed in what has been said on the death of the body, and is asserted, or implied, in several passages of Scripture which have been mentioned under the foregoing head. But this requires a distinct and more particular consideration. And that the soul or spirit of man does not die, or go into a state of insensibility, when the body is turned to dust, is made evident and certain by many other passages of Scripture, which have not been yet mentioned. The promise of Christ to the penitent, believing thief on the cross proves that the death of his body did not put an end to his existence, or sensibility. “And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” (Luke xxiji. 43.) The word “paradise” was used by the Jews, at that day, for heaven, or a state of happiness. The soul of this man was not injured by the death of his body, but he existed in a state of greater sensibility and enjoyment than when united with the body, and went directly to heaven; nor is there the least evidence that this is not equally true of every believer when his body dies. Stephen, the first martyr, expected and prayed for this when his body was dying. “ And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” (Acts vii. 59.) And none can doubt that the Redeemer was as ready to grant his petition as that of the thief.
The apostle Paul expected the same, and speaks of it as certain, that, when his body died and he should be no longer in this world, he should be in heaven with Christ. “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ, which is far better.” (Phil. i. 21, 23.) He did not consider himself as dying with the body; but when that died, and he left this world, he expected to depart, and be with Christ in heaven. And he could not mean his being with Christ after the resurrection, for he puts his continuing in the body, and abiding longer in this world, in opposition to his being with Christ; which could not be true on that supposition, for he would be with Christ as soon, though he should live a hundred years longer in the body, as if he died immediately. And he would gain nothing, in this respect, by dying, and, therefore, it could not be far better than to live longer in the body. And he expresses the same sentiment, with regard to others as well as himself, in the following words: “ We know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. Therefore, we are always confident (or courageous) knowing that while we are at home (or sojourn) in the body, we are absent from the Lord. We are confident, (courageous,) I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” (2 Cor. v. 1, 6, 8.) Here he considers being present with the Lord, or being with Christ, as taking place in consequence of death, or being absent from the body; so that when separated from the body, they shall be with Christ, in a sense and degree which cannot take place while in the body; and these two states are opposed to each other. And he says they knew that when they should die, or their bodies be dissolved, they should be in heaven.
This same apostle supposes he could exist, perceive, think, and enjoy to a high degree, when out of his body, or absent from it, when he speaks of the visions and revelations which he had when carried to heaven, and says he could not tell whether he was in the body or out of it, and separate from it. For if the soul could not exist, perceive, and enjoy, when separate from the body, he could have known that he was not out of the body, but in it, when he had those revelations, perceptions, and exercises. (2 Cor. xii. 1-3.) And he speaks of the spirits of just men made perfect,” as being then in heaven with the holy angels, and with Jesus Christ; by which he expressly asserts a separate state, and that the spirits of the just, when the body dies, are made perfect in holiness, and go to heaven, to be with Christ and the happy inhabitants of the invisible world. (Heb. xii. 22-24.) The souls of the martyrs are represented as existing in a state of sensibility, happiness, and honor, in a separate state, after their bodies had been slain. (Rev. vi. 9-11.) And the dead, who die in Christ, are declared to be blessed, and to be received to a state of happiness and rewards. (Chap. xiv. 13.) The apostle Peter speaks of the spirits of those who perished by the flood, as existing when he wrote, and being in prison. (2 Pet. iii. 19, 20.) And Christ proves to the Sadducees, that the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, had an existence, and were not dead, long after they had left this world and their bodies were turned to dust. (Matt. xxii. 31, 32.)
These passages of Scripture, it is presumed, are sufficient to convince every honest, unprejudiced mind that the soul exists separate from the body in the invisible world, from the death of the body till the general resurrection, notwithstanding the attempts which have been made by those who deny a separate state, to put a meaning on them so as to make them consistent with such denial.
And the account which the Scripture gives of this matter is very agreeable to reason, and all the appearances relating to it. It is very unreasonable to suppose that the Redeemer, who by his power and grace has made them meet for the inheritance of the saints in light, or the holy inhabitants in heaven, should so order it, that death should put an end to their existence till their bodies are raised to life, so as to have no perception, exercise, or enjoyment, during that interval of time, and deprive them of all that holiness and happiness which they might enjoy during that time with him in his kingdom; especially since, by becoming his friends in this world, they are formed to the greatest aversion to falling into such a state, and have strong and unconquerable desires to live and be with Christ, and in the company of his friends and servants in the invisible world. For all true Christians have the same desires which Stephen expressed when dying, “ Lord Jesus, receive my spirit;” and which the apostle Paul said he had : “ For I have a desire to depart, and to be with Christ, which is far better.” And this would not be agreeable to the tender love which he expressed to his disciples and friends when on earth. He said to them, “In my Father's house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself, that where I am, there ye may be also.” (John xiv. 2, 3.) “ If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be." (Chap. xii. 26.) When he says, “ Let him follow me," he has reference to the death of the body, which appears from the context; q. d., Let him follow me through death, as I am to die, and then he shall be with me in heaven: agreeable to his prayer for his friends, “ Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me be with me, where I am, that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me.” How inconsistent is this with his excluding them from heaven thousands of years from the death of their bodies to the general resurrection, when he is able to introduce them there to be with him as soon as the body dies !
While the soul is in the body, by virtue of a union which God has constituted, it is dependent on that, in a measure, for its perceptions and sensible exercises, and is affected with the disorders of it, in such a manner as to be an argument with some, that the soul is not capable of perception and reason except it be in union with a proper organized body, and, therefore, must die with the body, and cannot exist in a sepa
rate state. But this fact and appearance is not a sufficient ground for such a consequence. It is proper and wise that the body should have such an influence and effect on the mind, while in this state, and one is so closely united with the other. And God, who has ordered this, when the ends of this constitution are answered, can as easily cause the soul to exist, perceive, reason, and act separate from the body, as now he does in union with the body, and make it to act in a more perfect manner, and have more clear and extensive views and higher enjoyments. There is nothing contrary to reason and experience in this.
When the souls of the redeemed leave the body, they are delivered from all sinful imperfection and made perfectly holy, and find themselves with Jesus Christ, and in the company of the holy inhabitants of heaven. This is a very great change indeed, but not too great to be effected by him who has all power in heaven and earth, and is therefore omnipotent, and is infinitely wise. We are ignorant of the particular manner in which the spirits of the just perceive and act in a separate state, or how and by what means they have intercourse with other spirits, by receiving and mutually communicating ideas and sentiments; but this does not afford the least argument that there can be no such thing, and that it does not take place in much higher perfection and to greater advantage than any thing we know of the kind in this state. The illiterate barbarian has no conception of the manner and convenience, or even the possibility of persons exchanging ideas and conversing by letters. He may as reasonably infer from this, that there can be no such thing, as we can that separate spirits do not perceive, converse, act, and enjoy, in a much more perfect manner than we do, because we cannot tell how and in what way this can be done.
When the spirits of the just are separated from the body, the world, which to us is invisible, opens to their view. They find themselves unconfined, surrounded with the most pleasing objects and the best company, enjoying the serene, bright light of heavenly day, where there is no darkness, no sin, or sorrow. They are set at liberty, to range without restraint in the regions of bliss, while their views, exercises, and enjoyments are high, and increased to a degree far beyond our conception. They are, in this respect, like a bird liberated from a cage, in which it has been long confined, and now flies and sports unconfined in the open light and air; or like one who has been long shut up in a dark, uncomfortable prison, and is now set at liberty, enjoys the pleasing light of day, is surrounded by his friends, and has all the enjoyments and comforts of life.
And by going to heaven, they do not get out of the sight and knowledge of this world, and the important affairs which Jesus Christ is carrying on here. We are told in divine revelation, that the angels of heaven are all attention to the things which concern the work of redemption; and that they are all actively engaged in promoting this design among men, and ministering to them who shall be heirs of salvation. And that there is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth. There must, therefore, be in heaven, where the spirits of the just are, with the angels, a very particular knowledge of the events which take place in this world, and a much more clear and certain knowledge of the state of the church of Christ, and the conversion of sinners, than any have while in the body. The spirits of departed saints have the interest of Christ and his church in this world as much at heart as they had when in the body, and much more; and, therefore, must be greatly attentive to it, and know all the events which are in favor of it. They do not go into some dark corner of the universe, out of sight of heaven, of Christ, his church, and this world; but when they leave the body, they rise into light, and take a station in which they are under advantages to see all these things and all worlds, being all attention to them, and having a perfect discerning without the least cloud or darkness; seeing and enjoying the glory of the Redeemer, and the prosperity and success of the work of redemption among men. And their happiness must increase as the cause of Christ advances on earth and the power and kingdom of Satan sinks and is destroyed, and as the powers of their minds and their knowl. edge are enlarged.
They are delivered from all sin and pain upon passing into the invisible world, and are, therefore, perfectly happy; but at the day of judgment, when they shall be reunited to their bodies, fitted for a heavenly state, their happiness will be increased, which, therefore, they are expecting with desire
The spirits of those who die in their sins pass into a state of darkness, despair, and tormenting wickedness; and all hope, comfort, and enjoyment being taken from them, they must be totally lost and overwhelmed in misery; yet looking forward to a resurrection and judgment to come with aversion and dread, as involving a great increase of their sufferings, which can have no end. These are the spirits in prison, of which the apostle Peter speaks, who are reserved to the general judgment, when each one shall receive according to what he has done in the body.