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RECOGNITION OF FRIENDS IN ANOTHER WORLD,
The Recognition of Friends in another World. By the Rev.
BENJAMIN DORR, D. D. Third edition. Philadelphia.
In a world like ours, the bereaved form a large class of the inhabitants. Every day “the mourners go about the streets." It is, therefore, a needful, and an honorable, and a truly pastoral work, to endeavor to assuage their griefs. Hence, the intrinsic interest of the subject furnishes an apology for the extended article, which we have based on the above little book. The treatise, it will be perceived, is a short one. The author, meditating nothing more than “a token for mourners,” and supposing that such readers do not demand profound reasoning, presents only the most obvious views of his subject. What he has written is easy to be comprehended by the most common understanding. We are of opinion, however, that the mind of the mourner passes through successive states. In the first, it finds no comfort, except at the throne of grace, and in a few divine promises; and he is preposterous, who attempts to urge any other consolation, than that which is to be found in silent communion with God. In a subsequent state, the spirit rises above its superincumbent weight of sorrow, and becomes willing to minister to the restoration of its own elasticity. It is prepared to appreciate and accept deeper and richer sources of comfort, than, under its pressure, it would have been able to estimate. The treatise before us will scarcely meet the wants of the former. A more thorough and complete discussion of the topic would perhaps commend the book more highly to the latter. Its tone might carry a part of it above the comprehension of a few. But its closer reasoning and higher views would attract, and divert, and elevate many more. The intellectual would be fed by it. The less cultivated mind, turned aside from its usual channels of thought, would be expanded and profited. During the mental effort thus awakened, the tide of sorrow would be checked. The wounded heart would find its bleeding staunched. The earthward spirit would be exalted. Anguish itself would gradually melt into a chastened joy. The spirits of the departed would be brought near. Communion with them would seem to be restored; resembling the earthly, and yet above it ; like, yet unlike to that which was enjoyed, while they were living among us; more sweet, more pure, more heavenly. Eternity would shed a new and hallowing interest over the objects of time, and set forth attractions that would mitigate the fears of death. And the soul would be sanctified, while, in the contemplation of this theme, its gaze should be directed into heaven.
The treatise before us is distributed into five chapters. The first, on the happiness of the blessed, is not necessary to the discussion of the subject. The second, third, and fourth, present the testimony to the doctrine of the recognition of friends in heaven, as it may be gleaned from the light of reason, and from the Old and New Testaments. The last exhibits the practical importance of the doctrine. The remainder of the volume, comprising about thirty pages, contains a selection of poetry, on themes appropriate to the general contents of the work. It will be an acceptable present to the bereaved. But it is hardly worthy of a place among the specimens of a literature, which is destined to immortality. Treatises, which are to live in other generations, and to mould the thoughts and sway the hearts of posterity, must be the offspring of minds which know not how to do any thing imperfect or partial ; of minds, capable of seizing the subjects which they discuss, with a strong grasp ; under whose efficient energy, light is made to burn on every point, as if every point were a focus; whose mighty march carries us with them; and by which our objections are answered, our understanding illuminated, our judgment convinced, our hearts elevated, our affections enlisted, and all our powers subdued and overwhelmed.
The proper order of the discussion of this subject is as follows: First, do spirits, in their disembodied state, and immediately after death, know one another? Or, secondly, will this recognition, if it occur at all, take place only after the reunion of the soul and body, at the resurrection ? And, thirdly, what are the proofs that render the doctrine of this mutual recognition probable? The author, as it seems to us, unfortunately, merges the discussion of the first point in the second. He blends the two questions into one. But if the first could be rendered evident, the other might be proved at once by an argument a fortiori. The question of the departing Christian, or of the bereaved friend is not, “Shall I embrace again the loved and lost, after the lapse of years or centuries ?"-but, “ As soon as I have vanquished the last enemy, death, shall I be welcomed by them, the known, and tried, and cherished, into heaven? Shall I directly join them, heart beating harmoniously with heart, and soul answering to soul, as during our earthly intercourse, in ascriptions of praise to the Redeemer?"
In what follows, we shall present the general outline of the argument on the whole question, and suggest the points which our author has omitted. On some parts of the subject, however, we cannot speak with entire certainty. We must affirm, that certain events are not improbable, rather than that they are susceptible of proof, as incontestable facts. They may not rest wholly upon the general desire, or the general impression of mankind; but, besides, upon many intimations both of Scripture and reason; and yet, it may be becoming in us, to speak with humility of our convictions of that unseen state, which we have never yet entered, and whose mysteries no spirit has ever revealed. These remarks relate, especially, to the first point to be presented ; on the others, the proofs, both from the Scriptures and from the nature of things, are more explicit.
It may be necessary, as preliminary, to state the argument which establishes the consciousness of the human soul immediately after death, and before the resurrection. When we die, the body only dies. The soul is directly introduced to a new and more perfect state of being. There is no slumber of the spirit. The body goes to its repose in the grave; but the soul knows no suspension of its consciousness. It knows not how to die. As soon as it is disencumbered of its companion, which held it to a sort of material life, its energetic activity is vastly augmented. It immediately enters upon a life, worthy of immaterial, immortal spirit. For the soul is not material. It is not any part of the body. It is not the result of any arrangement of the particles which compose the body. It is independent of the body. Any
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accident may occur to the body, as Butler has remarked, without affecting the soul. The vivid consciousness of the indwelling spirit, often lasts till the moment of death, and doubtless, survives it. For the soul is not dependent on the body for its activity. It can think, and judge, and compare ; it can love and hate, without the presence of the body, as truly as with it. We are conscious of memory, imagination, hope, not because we are possessed of material frames ; but by virtue of the living soul. The presence of the body is not a necessary condition of consciousness. God is superlatively conscious; yet he is a spirit. The angels are not clothed in material forms; yet they are not destitute of consciousness. They are conscious of distinct existence; they bear God's messages ; they minister to his people; they enjoy his presence; they are partakers of every holy emotion; they desire to look into the mysteries of redemption; they rejoice in the conversion of sinners; they perform the acts of living, conscious, thinking beings, as truly as we who dwell in flesh. The assertion of Christ, that, at the time when he was upon earth, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were among “the living," implies, that they were then in a state of conscious activity. The representation in Luke 16th, of the rich man, asking that Lazarus might be sent to warn his five brethren, who were still in the body, “lest they also should come to this place of torment,” is another testimony to the same truth. For it does not admit of a moment's doubt, that this account refers to a period immediately after the rich man's death, and, from the necessity of the case, before the resurrection; because his brethren were still in a state of probation. It was promised to the thief, who was crucified with Christ,
To-day, shalt thou be with me in paradise.” The history of the transfiguration of Jesus is an incidental confirmation of the same truth. Moses, we know, was divested of the body. For it is said in Deut. 34: 5, 6, “So Moses, the servant of the Lord, died there in the land Moab, according to the word of the Lord ; and he buried him," etc. But on Mount Tabor, he appeared with Elijah, and they conversed with Christ “concerning his decease, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem.” And the whole scene suggests the belief, that he was not recalled to a temporary life, for the purpose of being present at that interview, and afterwards to return to a state of insensibility till the resurrection; but
that he was there, in the calm exercise of uninterrupted life and thought; which had been, and was yet to be. St. Paul evidently expected, immediately after his death, and before the resurrection, to be in a state of the lively enjoyment of Christ. “ Having a desire,” he says, “to depart, and to be with Christ, which is far better." - To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain," Phil. 1: 21, 23. Now, he who rejoiced so much in evangelical labors, could not deem it far better to lie unconscious in the grave. If any other man could desire such a state of inaction, Paul could not. But we have his creed in his own words. In his view, the departure of the soul from the body, would insure its introduction into the presence of the Lord. In 2 Cor. 5:6-8, he explains his opinion in terms that cannot be misunderstood : “ Whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord. .... We are confident, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and present with the Lord.” But to be present with the Lord, in the sense here implied, necessarily involves a state of life and consciousness; the state which the inspired apostle fully expected to enjoy, as soon as the spirit should be dislodged from the body. The following passage from the Apocalypse also claims our attention here, as, perhaps, not irrelevant to the point in hand : “And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge, and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow-servants also, and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.” Rev. 6: 9—11. Though we cannot speak with confidence of the interpretation of this passage, yet we clearly discover from it, that the souls of many martyrs appeared to the revelator in a state of conscious life and activity, earnestly anticipating a certain consummation—during a period intervening between their own death and the resurrection of the body. And, if they were in the enjoyment of consciousness, at any time after death, thinking, reasoning, anticipating, and receiving tokens of divine regard, while the soul was in a separate state, there is nothing to prevent our supposing them