« PreviousContinue »
where its existence is worse than none] almost as soon as it* is created. Are such abilities made for no purpose? A brute arrives at a point of perfection that he can never pass; in a few years he has all the acquirements, he is capable of, and were he to live ten thousand more, would be the same thing he is at present. Were a human soul, thus at a stand in its accomplishment-were its faculties to be full blown, and incapable of further enlargement-I could imagine it would fall away insensibly, and drop at once into a state of annihilation." "But can we believe, that a thinking being, that is in a perpetual progress of improvement, and travelling on from perfection to perfection; after having just looked abroad into the works of its Creator, and made a few discoveries of his infinite goodness, wisdom and power, must perish at its first setting out, and in the beginning of its inquiries?"
"Man, considered only in his present state, seems sent into the world merely to propagate his kind. He provides himself with a successor, and immediately quits his post to make room for him. He does not seem to enjoy life; but to deliver it down to others. This condition is not surprising to consider in animals which are made for man's use, and which can furnish their business in a short time. The silk-worm, after having spun her task, lays her eggs and dies-but a man cannot take in his full measure of knowledge-has not time to subdue his passions, establish his soul in virtue, and come up to the perfection of his nature, before he is hurried off the stage. Would an infinitely wise being make such glorious creatures for so mean a purpose? Can he delight in the production of such abortive intelligences-such short lived reasonable beings," [but some may believe he can delight to tor
*We have used the neuter gender of the pronoun, where the soul is alluded to or named. Mr. Addison used the feminine gender.
ment them in hell eternally.] "Would he give us talent that are not to be exerted? Capacities that are never to be gratified?"
"How can we find that wisdom that shines through all his works, in the formation of man, without looking on this world as only a nursery for the next and without believing that the several generations of rational creatures which rise up, and disappear in such quick succession, are only to receive their first rudiments of existence here, and afterwards to be transplanted into a more friendly clime, where they may spread and flourish to all eternity.
"There is not, in my opinion, a more pleasing consideration, (that can interest the heart of man, arising from the information of the scriptures) than this, of the perpetual progress which the soul makes towards the perfection of its nature, without a possibility of ever arriving at a period in it.
"To look upon the soul as going on from strength to strength to consider, that it is to shine forever with new accessions of glory, and brighten to all eternity-that it will still be adding knowledge to knowledge, and virtue to virtue, carries something in it very agreeable to that ambition which is natural to the mind of man. It must be a prospect pleasing to God himself, to see his creation forever beautifying and drawing nearer to him, by greater degrees of resemblance."
We know, according to the scriptures, that Christ and the holy angels, will rejoice in the happification of souls; yet believers in the doctrine of an angry God, and a hell of everlasting fire and brimstone, will have it, that the Almighty maker will take pleasure, in the endless misery of those beautiful and glorious souls, which he brought into existence, and endued with such noble faculties, capable of sustaining an eternal weight of glory, and of shining as the stars forever and ever.
Oh! my dear reader, you must not entertain so unworthy, so unjust an opinion of your heavenly father, who is infinitely good. The opinion is unworthy, because it argues, that God is more void of tender and parental feelings than mankind, or even the brute creation. What parents would not be distressed at the knowledge and sight of the great suffering of their offspring, and hold out their hand to help, even to. the most disobedient--or what parents would make their children eternally miserable? none, for any cause; and dare we to say that God will make any of his offspring eternally miserable?-we dare not; the scriptures, the only guide on this subject, give no such information. Again, such an opinion represents the divine Parent of all intelligent beings, much worse than any of the brute creation. These love their offspring-take great pains to provide for their wants-will themselves suffer for them-will labourwill fight, risk, and even lose their lives in the defence, and for the welfare of their young. No, in God, the scripture inform us, we live, move, and have our being," and yet dare we say that he hates us? If he does, or ever will, he is not so good as man or beast.-But some may say that he loves us all now, but will hate all those hereafter, who shall die impenitent. This, however, cannot be the case, as God "is of one mind, and changeth not." It will, therefore, follow, that if he ever shall hate any soul, he must have hated it before he created it, and that if he ever did love any soul he ever will love it, for in him there is no variableness nor shadow of turning.
The opinion is unjust, because it is false, and because it exhibits the divine" father of mercies" in an unfavourable character, to the student of divinity, as one who is not worthy to be loved, for nothing but a knowledge, or a belief that God loves man without partiality, can cause man to love him.
"That Cherub," says Mr. Addison, "which now appears as a God to a human soul, knows very well, that the period will come about, in eternity, when the human soul will be as perfect, as he himself now is. Nay, when it shall look down upon that degree of perfection, as much as it now falls short of it. It is true, the higher nature still advances, and by that means, still preserves his distance and superiority in the scale of being, but he knows, that, how bright soever the station is, on which he stands possessed at present, the inferior nature, will at length mount up to it, and shine forth in the same degree of glory."
"With what astonishment and veneration may we look upon our souls, where there are such hidden stores of knowledge and virtue-such inexhaustible sources of perfection! We know not yet what we shall be, nor will it ever enter into the heart of man, to conceive the glory that will be always in reserve for him. The soul, compared with its Maker, is like one of those mathematical lines, which may draw nearer to another through eternity without a possibility of touching; and can there be a thought so transporting, as to consider ourselves in these perpetual approaches to HIM, who is the standard, not only of perfection, but of happiness?"
All the good and wise among men, at least, hope, that the infinitely good Creator, will in due time, restore universal holiness and happiness among his offspring, throughout his empire; none but the ignorant, selfish, wicked, and hard hearted, object to the reasonableness of the hope, or wish the eternal misery of souls in their next state of existence.
After the death of the body, the spirit, being clear of its clay, like a bird clear of its cage of confinement, soars abroad in the unlimited creation of the Almighty, where it will find new objects to admire, of wonder, of love, and of everlasting contemplation-Where and
when, all its immortal faculties may unfold and improve eternally.
Under all these circumstances, of the case of the disimbodied spirit, does it not seem very reasonable to believe, that it will have ten thousand times better opportunity of purification than in this world, and associated with this body of "sin and death?"
After reading this much, some may wish to inquire or know our opinion, on the interesting subject, where those souls go, or reside, who are not fit for heaven, when they leave the body, as the book endeavours to prove that there is no hell, to hold them. In answer to this query, we will just remark, that no one ought to entertain a thought, that heaven is a local place, it is only happiness; or that hell is any thing else than misery-the grave; and the unavoidable state of spirits as we have already proved, from the proper signification of the term Sheol, in the Hebrew language, and which occurs in the Old Testament as the word rendered hell-and Hades. Gehenna is in the original Greek New Testament, translated hell also. All sensible readers understand, that the soul of man is thought. Thought requires no specific space to occupy--Time and space of any degree is perfectly equal to spiritual beings. If this then be the case, can the divine Creator be at a loss for room' to hold those souls, who are not, while in the body, made fit to stand in the full vision of the divine presence? We think not; his dominions are unlimited.
But it may be, that some will say, that Mr. Addison had in view, when he reasoned of the glorious destiny of the soul, those only who are prepared in this life, for that eternal weight of glory; but he says, "here man has not time to subdue his passions, establish his soul in virtue, and come up to the perfection of his nature, before he is hurried off the stage."