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All persons will own, that the soul prepares itself for heaven, or that God prepares it, if it is prepared at all. Now if the soul prepares itself, it certainly has a much better opportunity, when not under the dying pains of the body-at which time very little advances can be made in the knowledge of the divine being; and yet it is absolutely necessary to know God and Christ correctly, to have life eternal. Read the words of the Saviour—“This is life eternal, that they should know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent." If God prepare the soul for heaven, surely he can as well do it before the hour of death. But we contend that God does not, cannot operate on the soul to qualify it for heaven, while under the alarming influence of wordly sorrow, and animal fear. To qualify the soul for heaven, requires the presentation of divine truth to the reflection of reason, and the cordial assent of all the feelings of the soul, so as to enlist the best affections to God to make the soul loye God with all the mind and strength-and a time is required for this other than the dismal hour of death.
Secondly.-From the above remarks, we see, that no scriptures disprove the supposition, which we intend supporting, viz. that there can, and will be an alteration in the soul, for the better, after death-and we also see, that to deny the belief, would involve consequences we know not how to reconcile with our ideas of holiness, being the very essence of heaven, or happiness ; we will, therefore, exhibit our favourite supposition, that an alteration does take place in the soul, for the better, after death. The reader will remark, that we do not pretend to argue, that there is any scripture direct to prove the point at issue, but we believe it to be a fact, and we think, we may with propriety, offer one supposition to another, and we think we can support ours with better reason, much
more pleasantly, with greater good to man, and comfort to the human family than they can theirs, who hold to the propriety of the existence of an eternal fire and brimstone, to torment the souls endlessly, in all who die without holiness, to which none can attain in the body.
First, then, in support of the doctrine, that the soul may be, and is altered for the better after the death of the body, we will reason from the nature of the soul itself. And here we must remark, that there are two opinions held by theologians, now, as was also, by philosophers of antiquity, relative to the origin of souls.
One of the opinions, thus held, is, the pre-existence of souls--that they did exist in a separate state in the exercise of all their faculties in perfection, long before they were connected with the mortal body, and from which state they fell by some deviation from the line of moral rectitude, 'and are now associated with flesh " whose foundation is in the dust,” by the order of divine goodness, for the purpose of purification, and introduction to an “ eternal weight of glory."
The other opinion is, that souls are produced by ordinary generation, of course come into their first existence at the formation of the body, but did not exist previously. Without approving, or disapproving either of the above noted opinions, we proceed to argue the point at issue, and will here remark, that if either of those opinions be true, we shall, under the circumstances, be supported in the belief, that the soul can, and will undergo, an alteration for the better, beyond the grave.
In the first place, we will take for granted that souls do come into their first state of existence, by means of ordinary generation. If this hypothesis be correct, we perceive that the Almighty is constantly producing intelligences whom he knows will in some
degree be miserable during their earthly existence, and the greater part of whom will be inexpressibly and endlessly wretched. For, as the orthodox assert that no mere man since the FALL has been able perfectly to keep the law of God, so our experience is the best rule of judging what will be in future. If the law of God must be perfectly kept, and no man in this state of existence is competent to keep it, then indeed, no man can in this life purify himself, fit for those mansions of perennial blessedness, which are without alloy, and without end.
Now, we will appeal to the good sense of the reader, whether he can believe that the Almighty, after having seen the continual failure of the soul to effect its own happiness during life, in its purification, so as to secure eternal happiness in the future state, and a salvation from endless misery, would still persist in affording man the power to propagate his kind, to be the instrument in the hand of God, of producing more and more intelligences, millions of whom he must know, will meet the same miserable fate of the vast numbers who have already left the body, and who are said now to be gnawing their tongues with pain. The reader we are sure, will say that he cannot believe, that an all-wise, all powerful, and all good being would do any such thing. It will not do to say, that the Almighty does not know whether the souls that are thus brought into existence, by his power, will fail of future happiness, or not; for he is all-wise, and as the divine scriptures state, “ known unto him are all his ways from the beginning." Should any, however, have so low an idea of the God of all wisdom, as to suppose that he is ignorant, when he creates the soul, what will be its destiny, or what use it will make of its privileges, yet they ought to think that the experience which he has had, for these six thousand years, or as some will have it, of a hun
dred thousand, ought to have instructed him, in this very important subject: but it is almost blasphemy to admit such a supposition, to accommodate the ignorance of
any. Now we will reason thus—The Almighty is contin. ually, (by the means of the ordinary generation of man) producing intelligences, the present, but particularly, the eternal future happiness of whom he desires, and to secure which he has done, and continues to do much, as illustrated in his works of creation, providence and redemption—but according to the supposition which we dispute, will be granted in favour of but few only, because of the inefficacy of the means which he has provided for that purpose, or, the shortness of the time allowed in which to effect it.
Now it is certain, that to one of the above named causes, we must attribute the failure of the salvation of any soul who may be lost, and to no other cause whatever, for the divine scripture uniformly declares that it is the will of God to have all men to be saved, and that “Christ gave himself a ransom for all." Now the reader may take his choice of the above noted courses to account for the damnation of any soul-If he says it is owing to the inefficacy of the means which God has appointed, he must then acknowledge that God could have appointed means sufficiently efficacious; and that if he seriously wished the salvation, or purification of all souls in this life, he would certainly have done it, as he possesses the power so to do—but as he has not, (as it appears to us) we must conclude_"to justify the ways of God to man"—that the means which he has provided, are sufficiently efficacious. If then, we allow that the means which God has provided to effect the final purification and salvation of all souls, one of two inferences is unavoidable, either, that all souls ultimately, will be purified and saved, by them, while in the
body, or that the means will extend in their application and operation beyond the grave, to the benefit of those souls, who are not purified while in the body. The reader may choose which alternative he pleases; but we shall believe that the means which God has thought fit to use for the purification and eternal happiness of the soul, will be applicable to its benefit beyond the grave to those who are not purified while in the body, and we think none are.
Reasonable arguments offered— The carnal mind the cause of
sin-The facilities of the disimbodied soul to attain holiness - No authority to believe God is limited in his designs with the soul to the time of this life- All believe the soul can exist after death with all its faculties,—why not then be improved by means.
First,then, as remarked above, it appears pretty clear, from common observation, and even, from Scripture account, that many souls leave the body in a very wicked and unholy state of feeling -with much enmity against God, entirely unreconciled to his will, of course without love to him, which is the very essence of heaven itself. Now although we will own, that the Almighty can eradiate any degrees of enmity from any soul, in any moment of time, and fill it with pure love to overflowing, yet we prefer believing, that he
acts relative to the purifiction of the soul, in a regular and progressive manner. We are constrained to adopt this opinion, from what we see of the ways of God in his works, but in particular of the soul of man.
When we first discover the existence of the soul in the body, it appears to be small and feeble-grows by slow and progressive degrees, till at length it becomes, as it were, large and strong-capable of sustaining