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entirely different from it in all its essential qualities, it naturally follows that the death of the body has no tendency to destroy its existence, or to prevent its living and acting in a future state. Death can do no more than dissolve its present connection with the body. The body, therefore, may be destroyed without killing or hurting the soul. So our Saviour assured his disciples for their comfort, when he sent them forth to preach the gospel in the face of a frowning and malignant world. “ Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” This Christ afterwards found to be true in respect to himself and those who were crucified with him. The wicked hands which put him to death, and separated his soul from his body for a while, could not destroy his soul; and the same wicked hands which put the malefactors to death could not destroy their souls, or throw thern into a state of insensibility. Though death appears to destroy all sensibility and activity, yet this affords no argument against the sensibility and activity of the soul after it leaves the body; for the appearance would be entirely the same, whether the soul did or did not exist after its separation from the body. The soul, we have before observed, is in its very nature invisible. We do not see it before death, and it is not to be expected that we should see it after death, whether it exists or not. Whatever effects death may have upon both the soul and the body, it is not to be supposed that we should see any but those upon the body.
These we We do see that death deprives the body of all sensibility, motion and activity, and gradually reduces it to the dust. But this gives us no ground to argue that it produces the same or similar effects upon the soul. We know that while the body and soul are united, they mutually affect each other. Debility of body will produce debility of mind, and anxiety of mind will debilitate the body. Some disorders of the body will change the mind, and prevent the proper exercise of the rational powers; but we cannot argue from this, that the death of the body can bring on the death of the soul. For we find that some mortal disorders leave the soul in the full and vigorous exercise of all its rational faculties, until the very moment before it leaves the body and the person dies.
. This is a very strong, presumptive evidence that it does not, in any case, tend to destroy the soul. Neither reason nor scripture affords the least evidence that death has the least tendency to destroy the soul. And if it does not destroy the soul, there is no ground to imagine, as many do, that it throws it into a state of sleep or insensibility till the resurrection of the body. We have a good right to believe, notwithstanding all mere appearances to
the contrary, that the souls of saints and of all other men survive the body after death. It may be proper to observe still farther, to fortify what has been said under this head,
3. That death has no more tendency to obstruct the free, voluntary, rational exercise of the soul, than to destroy it. It has just been observed, that death has no tendency to put a period to the existence of the soul, by dissolving its connection with the body; and if this be true, it is easy to see that death cannot unfit the soul for the exercise of perception, reason, conscience, or volition, after it leaves the body; because the very essence of the soul consists in perception, sensibility, activity and volition. I know it is generally supposed that the soul itself is distinct from all its perceptions, sensibility and exercises. But it seems impossible to form an idea of the soul without perception, sensibility and activity. A soul devoid of all such exercises, cannot be distinguished from a mere senseless and lifeless body. Or, in other words, we can no more conceive of a soul without thought, than of a body without shape or form. If the soul exists at all after death, it must necessarily exist with all its essential properties of thought, perception, sensibility, volition and activity. I know it has been a question whether the soul ever sleeps in this life; but there seems to be no ground for the question. The only argument in favor of its sleeping is, that we do not always remember our thoughts while the body sleeps; but it is equally true that we do sometimes remember the thoughts and even reasonings of the soul while the body is asleep; and this is a much stronger evidence that the soul is always awake and thinks, than our not remembering, sometimes, that it is awake and thinks, is an evidence that it sometimes sleeps. The truth is, the soul is always awake and thinks, as long as it exists in this or in any other world. Its thinking powers and faculties cannot be destroyed, without destroying its existence. If then the soul is distinct from the body, as has been shown, and if death cannot destroy its existence, as has been shown, we may confidently believe that death does not, and cannot destroy its essential powers of perceiving, thinking, reasoning and acting, after it is dislodged from the body. I now proceed to show,
II. That the souls of saints after death go immediately to heaven. For
1. They are essentially prepared to go there. They were renewed and sanctified before they left their bodies, and they still retain all their natural and moral powers, and all their holy and virtuous affections. They have been made meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. Their hearts have been formed after God's own heart, and they have become holy as God is holy, and pure as God is pure, and perfect as God is perfect. They have loved God supremely, they have repented of sin sincerely, and they have been united to Christ by a living faith. Though heaven is holy, and its inhabitants are holy, and all its employments and enjoyments are holy, yet the souls of saints as soon as they leave the body are prepared to go to that holy place, and join with its holy inhabitants in all their holy employments and enjoyments. The soul of Christ, as soon as it left the body, was certainly fit to go to heaven; and the soul of the penitent malefactor was also prepared to go to heaven with him. Though he had just been renewed, and was very imperfectly sanctified before his death, yet, like all other imperfect christians, he was essentially prepared to go directly to heaven. Paul acknowledged that he had not attained, and did not expect to attain sinless perfection in this life. The best of christians are imperfectly holy as long as they live. But God can and does remove all their moral imperfection as soon as they leave this world, and before they enter into heaven, where no moral imperfection is allowed to exist. As God instantaneously changed their hearts from sin to holiness, so he can instantaneously change their hearts from sin to sinless perfection. That is, he can produce holy, and none but holy affections in their hearts, which will instantaneously prepare them for the holiness and happiness of heaven. God made the penitent malefactor holy just before he died, and we have reason to believe that he has made many others holy a few weeks, or a few days, or a few hours, or perhaps a few moments, before they died. Such persons had no time to grow in knowledge and grace, like long lived christians. But God could prepare them instantaneously to go to heaven as free from all sin as the most eminent saints, who had not attained to sinless perfection before death. I wish to be clearly understood on this point, because ignorance of it has led, and is still leading thousands into gross errors and delusions. The truth is, every renewed soul after it leaves the body, is fit to go directly to heaven; for from the moment it leaves the body, it ceases from sinning, and never after has any other than holy exercises. We have reason to believe that the soul of every saint as soon as it leaves the body, is as fit to go directly to heaven, as the soul of the penitent malefactor was, or as the soul of Enoch or Elijah.
2. The scripture gives no account of any other place than heaven or hell, to which the souls of men go after death. We know that the souls of the wicked are prepared, both before and after death, to go to hell. Their hearts are full of evil, and fully set in them to do evil. They have the spirit of the first and greatest enemy of God before they die, and they have the same spirit after death; so that they are prepared to go directly to the spirits in prison. God threatens to turn the wicked into hell, and we know that he has turned some of the wicked into that place of torment. Judas went to his own place when he died. The rich man as soon as he died, lifted up
in hell. The inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah were sent directly to hell, where they are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. But if the wicked go directly to their own place after death, it is reasonable to suppose that the righteous go to their own place when they die; and their place is not hell, and therefore it must be heaven; for there are but two places to which departed spirits go after they leave the world. Real saints desire and expect to go to heaven as soon as they die. David prayed that his soul might not be gathered with sinners, and he was confident that he should go directly to heaven when he died. He said, “ As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness.” Solomon says, “ The wicked is driven away in his wickedness; but the righteous hath hope in his death.” Paul assures christians, that death is theirs; that is, it will immediately convey them to heaven. And he declares that he and other christians expected, that as soon as they left the body, they should go directly into the presence of Christ. “ For 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, knowing that while we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord. We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” And with respect to himself, in particular, he says, “ I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better.” This desire which Paul had of leaving the world, plainly implies that he expected his soul would exist after death, and go directly to heaven. If the souls of saints do really exist after death, they must go somewhere, and there is no other place proper for them to go to but heaven, for which they are prepared.
I may add,
3. That the scripture assures us that many saints have actually gone to heaven immediately after they left this world. Enoch and Elijah were translated alive to heaven. Though Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob died, yet Christ said they were yet alive in heaven. Lazarus when he died was carried by angels into Abraham's bosom in heaven. Stephen in his dying moments called upon God and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
Christ undoubtedly heard his prayer, and as soon as his soul was absent from the body, it was present with the Lord. John says, he saw in a vision those who had come out of great tribulation, and had washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb, and they were before the throne of God, and served him day and night in his temple. These persons un. doubtedly went directly to heaven, as soon as their souls were dislodged from their bodies. Again, we read of those who have "come unto Mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first born which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect." There is abundant evidence from scripture, that the souls of all the saints, who have ever lived and died in this world, are now in heaven, and actually inheriting the promises. I know that some suppose that only the souls
I of martyrs are there ; but there is no ground for this distinction among the souls of departed saints. If any of them have gone to heaven, we may justly conclude that they have all gone to the spirits of just men made perfect. And since the souls of all good men survive the death of the body, and are really fit for heaven, and for no other place, we must believe what the whole current of scripture teaches on this subject, that they all will hereafter, as they have done heretofore, go directly to heaven as soon as they leave this world. As God only knows the state of de. parted spirits, we ought to believe what he has told us concern. ing them, notwithstanding any reasonings or visible appearances to the contrary.
IMPROVEMENT. 1. This subject teaches the error of those, who hold that the souls of all men are annihilated at death. This is the opinion of some deists, who deny that the scriptures were divinely inspired, and that there is any future state of existence beyond
These are called mortal deists, in distinction from those who only deny the divine inspiration and authority of the scriptures, but profess to believe natural religion and a future state of rewards and punishments. The deists in France have been, and are probably now, mortal deists, and maintain that death is an eternal sleep, or puts a final period to the existence of the soul. Some universalists maintain that all good men will be saved and go to heaven; but all the finally wicked and impenitent will at death, be for ever annihilated, or struck out of existence. Mr. Elias Smith, not long ago, wrote a whole volume, to prove the eternal annihilation of all the finally impenitent. And some learned divines before had published