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DEATH AND A FUTURE STATE.
SHALL we exchange our fair dwellings for a coffin? our soft beds for the moistened and weeping turf? our pretty children for worms? And is there no allay to this large calamity? Yes, there is,—there is a yet in the text':-“For all this, yet doth God devise means that his banished be not expelled from him.”2
Throughout all ages, and amongst all nations, the persuasion of a future state has prevailed. It sprang not from the refinements of science, or the speculations of philosophy; but from a deeper and stronger root, -the natural sentiments of the human heart. Hence it is common to the philosopher and the savage, and is found in the most barbarous as well as in the most civilised regions. Even the belief of the being of a God is not more general on the earth, than the belief of immortality.
All the natural arguments, I say, which us, by reason, the spirituality and immortality of the soul, seem to prove, no less strongly, that the separate state is not a state of sleep or insensibility. For if it be a good argument to conclude with Cicero," when I consider,” says he?, “ with what
1 2 Samuel, xiv. 14. 3 De Senectute.
2 Jer. Taylor ; Funeral Sermon.
swiftness of thought the soul is endued, with what a wonderful memory of things past, and forecast of things to come; how many arts, how many sciences, how many wonderful inventions it has found out; I am persuaded, that that nature, which is possessor of such faculties, cannot be mortal.”ı
When we die, we do not fall into nothing or a profound sleep, into a state of insensibility till the resurrection, but we only change our place and our dwelling; we remove out of this world, and leave our bodies to sleep in the earth till the resurrection, but our souls and spirits still live in an invisible state.?
The soul can, and does, live without the body; and it is only our union to those bodies which intercepts the sight of the other world; which is not at such a distance from us as we may imagine.:
Many things prove it palpably absurd to conclude that we shall cease to be at death. Particular analogies do most sensibly show us, that there is nothing to be thought strange in our being to exist in another state of life. And that we are now living beings affords a strong probability that we shall continue so, unless there be some positive ground, and there is none, from reason or analogy, to think death will destroy us.
It is not possible to produce any evidence against a future state, so that the probability for it must, at
! Dr. Clarke, Sermon on the Death of Lady Cooke ; and he adds a beautiful quotation from Xenophon. 2 Sherlock on Death, 3.
:3 Ibid. 35. 38. 4 Butler, Analogy, 188.
least, be equal to that against it. We are apt to conclude, that, because what we see is so, what we see not, is not. We make our ignorance of the means by which our existence is preserved after death, and of the manner in which we are to exist, an argument against it; but this is utterly inconclusive, our ignorance is nothing.
The whole tenor of the doctrine in the Phædo (of Plato) refers to a renewal or continuation of the soul as a separate and individual existence, after the dissolution of the body, and with a complete consciousness of personal identity; in short, to a continuance of the same rational being's existence after death. The liberation from the body is treated as the beginning of a new and more perfect life.
It is as easy to conceive that we may exist out of bodies as in them; that we might have animated bodies of any other organs and senses, wholly different from those now given us, and that we may hereafter animate those same or new bodies variously modified and organised, as to conceive how we can animate such bodies as our present.
Our organised bodies are no more ourselves, or part of ourselves, than any other matter around us.
It is certain that the bodies of all animals are in a constant flux, from that never-ceasing attrition
Hartley, Observ. ii. 383. 2 See Lord Brougham's Essay on Natural Theology, note viii. 3 Butler, Anal. 25.
which there is in every part of them. Now things of this kind unavoidably teach us to distinguish between those living agents ourselves, and large quantities of matter in which we are nearly interested; since these may be alienated, and actually are, in a daily course of succession, and changing their owners, whilst we are assured that each living agent remains one and the same permanent being.'
We have already several times over lost a great part, or perhaps the whole, of our body, according to certain common established laws of nature, yet we remain the same living agents. When we shall lose as great a part, or the whole, by another common established law of nature, death, why may we not also remain the same ??
Glasses are evidently instances of matter, which is no part of our body, preparing objects for, and conveying them towards, the perceiving power in like manner as our bodily organs do."
So also with regard to our power of directing motion by will or choice: upon the destruction of a limb, this active power remains, as it evidently seems, unlessened, so as that the living being who has suffered this loss would be capable of moving as before, if it had another limb to move with.
By the experience of dreams, we find we are at present possessed of a latent, and, what would otherwise be, an unimagined, unknown power of
2 Ibid. 25.
I Butler, Anal. 27.
perceiving sensible objects in as strong and lively manner without our external organs of sense as with them.
Our finding that the dissolution of matter, in which living beings were most nearly interested, is not the dissolution of those living beings; and that the destruction of several of the organs and instruments of perception and motion is not their destruction, shows demonstratively that there is no ground to think that the dissolution of any other matter, or destruction of any other organs and instruments, will be the dissolution and destruction of living agents from the like kind of relation; and we have no reason to think we stand in any other kind of relation to any thing which we find dissolved by death.
Were we sure that death would suspend all our perceptive and active powers, yet the suspension of a power and the destruction of it are effects so totally different in kind, as we experience from sleep and a swoon, that we cannot in
argue from one to the other, or conclude, even to the lowest degree of probability, that the same kind of force which is sufficient to suspend our faculties, though it has increased ever so much, will be sufficient to destroy them.3
As to the supposed likeness between the decay of vegetables and of living creatures, the analogy is so far from holding, that there appears no ground
2 Ibid. 33.
| Butler, Anal. 31.