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DEATH THE EHTRANCfi INTO AN UNTRIED STATE.
Job xiv.- 10.—M&n dieth, and loafitth aivay; yta, man givethup the gho/}, and -where is he?
INow proceed to the third view of death which the text gives us; namely, that the foul, on its separation from the body, enters into a new and unknown state.
The foul is neither reduced to nothing by death, nor is it condemned to a state of insensibility, till the resurrection. This last opinion, indeed, is what fome have foolishly maintained; but, both reafon and scripture, demonstrate the contrary. The very nature, and essential qualities of the human foul, require us to believe, that a being, whose powers are exerted in thinking, can never cease to think, Without ceasing to be. To deprive it of thought, is to deprive it of existence; and to pretend that the foul cannot act without the body, and therefore, when in a state of separation, that it is reduced to insensibility, is false in fact; for we sind, that, in a state of union, there are several of the foul's operations, such as, reflecting cn its own nature and powers, and on spiritual and
diiine divine things, which have no dependence on its connection with the body. How much-more, then, will it be capable of high exertion, in a state of separate existence? This is so much a sact, that it is more difficult to conceive how a spirit act* in conjunction with matter, than how it can act of itself.
But the vanity and salsehood of this opinion, of the soul's insensibility till the general resurrection, will appear beyond all contradiction, if we consider, that it is directly contrary to several passages of scripture. "Blessed are the dead," said the voice from heaven, "that die in the Lord, from henceforth that is, from the time of their death. Our Saviour said to the penitent thief on the cross, "This "day thou shalt be with me in paradise." The apostle Paul declares his sull assurance, that, when absent from the body, he would be present with the Lord: And, in another place, he expresses hia belief in the same opinion, "I am in a strait between two, hav"ing a desire to depart, and to be with Christ, which "is sar better («)." Hence, also, we .read of the spirits of just men made persect, which are already with Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant, and of multitudes of saints surrounding the throne of God and the Lamb, together with the holy angels, uniting in their songs of praise j while time i$ running on, aud. the dispensations of Providence towards our world, are working their way to the consummation of all things.
Thus, it evidently appears, both from scripture and reason, thatihe soul, on its separation from the body, is not reduced to a state of fleet) or insensibility; but that it enters into a new and unknown world. It becomes not only an unepibodied and separate spirit, disentangled from the incumbrance of an earthly tabernacle, but it enters on a new scene of lise, where its spiritual powers are awakened to greater vigour and activity. But j more particularly,
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(*) Phil. i. ajr
1. The foul, on its separation from the body, removes to a new place. It pastes from the narrow current of time, and launches into the untried and boundless ocean of eternity. It leaves this unsubstantial tabernacle of clay, together with this narrow spot of earth, and takes its flight into those vastly extended dominions, over which He presides, who has the keys of hell and of death. It removes from this earth, and enters into the upper or lower regions of the vast invisible world; for, no sooner is the dividing stroke given by death, and the parting struggle over, than, on the one hand, the fouls of the righteous ascend into the mansions of ineffable light and glory; while, on the other hand, the fouls of the wicked, are driven away by evil angels, as executioners of the divine wrath, to that place of endless torment and misery prepared for them, and there to be reserved. to the judgment os the great day.
2. The soul, on its separation from the body, enters into new society and conversation. It has no longer the body, and sensible objects, to converse with; its connection with these-, being djflo'ved by death. It removes to the world of spirits; with the manner of whose intercourse, it is wholly unacquainted. It is easy to believe, at the same time, that it is within the limits of almighty power, to establish a medium of communication between one intelligent being and another, in every possible mode of their existence. Our conjectures on this subject, must, from the darkness which covers suturity, be vague and uncertain; but our present manner of communication, the flow of reason through a material channel, is a proof of the sact \ an.d, to unembodied spirits, unacquainted with man, it would appear a still more doubtsul point, and they would be more at a loss to conjecture, in what manner the gross substance of our bodies could be employed for the purposes of reasonable communication. The soul, then, when it takes its flight from the body, must associate either with good angels, and the spirits of just men
made made persect; or with devils, and the spirits of the damned. If it be redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, and prepared for glory, it joins the church of the First-born on high, and shares-with rhem in their blisssul communion; but if it leaves the body, unpardoned, and unfanctisied, it is thrust down to the miserable-fociety of wicked and insernal spirits, where there is nothing but weeping and wailing, and torment and destruttion, from the presence of the Lord, for ever.
3. The foul, at death, enters on new employment of its active powers. In the present state, our inquiries are chiefly directed to material objects. We contemplate the persections of God in the work* of his hand, in the effects of insinite wisdom, and in the amazing productions of almighty power. But we see in .part, and we know only in part. We are, as it were, consined in a dungeon, where, from a small opening, we behold the beauties of nature. Our situation in this world, sixes us down to local and selsish considerations. Our point of reafoning is fo narrow, that we can come to very sew generalconclusions. The operations of nature and providence are partly exposed to our view; but the amazing fources of love and confolation, the general plansof wisdom and gradual persection, lie beyond our observation. However keen we are to pry into a suture state, in whatever anxious manner we endeavour tolook forward, there is a vail of impenetrable obscurity which interrupts the prospect. This vail- is removed by death. Those who are holy and prepared, no fooner leave the body, than they are delightsully employed in the incessant praises of God and of the Lamb, and in whatever unknown exercises may be assigned them, agreeable to their nature, and of the most noble and exalted kind. But, how disserent the employment of the unfanctisied foul, when dislodged from the body! For, then, it reflects, with unavailing grief, and incessant self-condemnaiion, on its own folly and madness, while it was in the world; it N 2. mourns. mourns under the dreadsul seeling of its misery j and looks-forward, with horror and despair, to those endless torments which it is doomed to susfer.
Lastly, The state, on which the soul enters at death, is unchangeable and everlasting. There is no alteration in its condition after its separation from the body; as the tree salls, so it shall lie: no repentance for the wicked aster cseath; no retrieving of their folly; no access to the mercy of God, who then becomes their unrelenting and inexorable foe. And, with respect to the righteous, there is no salling from the possession of that happiness to which they are admitted by death. The promise of God can never sail; and the inheritance which they receive, is incorruptible, and sadeth not away. Death, in short, introduces the foul into an eternity of hapjSncse or misery, which, when millions of ages have elapsed, will be still to begin.
These are the reflections which should occur to the mind, in considering death as the passage of the foul to an unknown and eternal state.
And now, my brethren, is it not an awsul and solemn thing, to die? The obvious suggestions of reason and experience concerning it, do indeed show death to be a great and important change. If we only consider it-as_a dissolution of this mortal frame; if we only regard it as cutting us off from the world, and all its enjoyments; as putting an end to all ojir seasons of grace, and opportunities of service; even this view of death makes it a matter of insinite importance, and deserving of serious reflection. But when we look forward, and observe the vast consequences of death, in that invisible world to which it is the passage and the entrance^ this gives it a far more terrible aspect, and should effectually convince •us how solemn a thing it is to die. With what serious concern then should we think of our last moments, When our fouls must leathe habitation os dust, and take up their•everlasiing abode, either in