« AnteriorContinuar »
we venture to ask, "to clear and settle" so obscure a point to plain minds? Was the point itself one to say so much upon theoretically, when the Word of God, which was to be the sole guide, says so little upon it? These chapters are really unsettling. How many of those unlearned hearers knew before that there was such a theory as that the "intermediate state of the soul was one "of profound sleep, of utter unconsciousness" ? 1 There is no proof adduced that this theory has ever been a general one. It is simply said that it "has been held by able and pious men." 2 But historically, it has been held by individuals here and there, who, in the earlier ages of the church, mingled materialistic ideas of sin with the Christian faith. In the instance of Justin Martyr, his Platonic views seemed to have led him to a theory of the gradual elimination of sin in a future state. But in the short fragment he has left us on this point, it is difficult to draw the conclusion that he believed in an unconscious state after death. In the case of Irenseus and also of Tertullian, their desire to save the doctrine of the resurrection of the body from the assaults of philosophy, drove them to the creation of a place for the detention or sequestration of departed spirits. They took up a kind of pagan underworld of shades, because they would keep back the army of spirits until the great voice of the resurrection met them, and permitted them to come forth. But even they did not hold the view of an unconscious state. Tertullian calls the abode of the righteous in the interim, "locum divinae amcenitatis." s He characterizes the intermediate state by the phrase " pnclibatio sentential," 4 the enduring of a mitigated sentence. The idea with him, so often expressed, seemed to be that of a condition of vivid enjoyment or suffering, but not the consummate blessedness or misery of the completed state of bodily existence after the resurrection. Martyrs alone had the prerogative of entering at once into the full felicity of that heavenly state. The expression in the Burial Service of the English Episcopal Church, " those that are asleep," is
1 Page 80. * Page 49.
* Tertulliani op. Apologcticus, 47. 4 Tertulliani op. dc Anima, 48.
thought by Whately to favor the doctrine of an unconscious intermediate state.1
The Scriptural argument for an intervening state of sleep is chiefly founded, according to our author, upon this expression, " asleep," or "sleep," as applied to death. It is said that it is singular that the word " sleep" should be used for an active, conscious condition. It should rather denote a
1 "We have been asked once or twice, if the Protestant Episcopal Church believes in the doctrine of an intermediate state, between death and the general judgment. We take this method of answering, most unequivocally, ' Yes.' It is matter of great surprise that there should be the least shadow of a doubt on a matter which is so openly and plainly declared by all the standard writers of the church, such as Burnet. Tomline, Hobart, Whately, Burton, Sherwood, Waitc, and others, as well as the Thirty-nine Articles. The dead in Christ do not go to heaven, but to Hades, where they remain until after the resurrection." — Western Episcopalian.
This is the first time we were aware that this was the general doctrine of the Episcopal Church. Clearly this is not Archbishop Whately's reprcsentalion. He claims it to have been only the opinion of individuals. lie says: "The authors of our Church-services, at least of the Burial Service, seem to have ndopttd the former of these opinions (that of immediate introduction to conscious reward or punishment), though they have nowhere insisted upon it as an article of faith; nor is the point noticed at all in the Creed (or Symbol) of our Church, which the Reformers of it drew up, and which is usually called the Thirty-nine Articles." — p. 49.
Bishop Burnet, in his Exposition of the Thirty-nine Articles, uses the following language upon the Third Article — As Christ died for us, and was buried, so also is it to be believed, that he went down into hell: "Another conceit has had a great course among some of the latest Fathers and the Schoolmen. They have fancied that there was a place to which they have given a peculiar name, Limbus Patrum, a sort of partition in hell, where all the good men of the Old Dispensation, that had died before Christ, were detained; and they hold that our Saviour went thither and emptied that place, carrying all the souls that were in it with him into heaven. Of this the Scriptures say nothing; not a word of either of the patriarchs going thither, or of Christ's delivering them out of it. And, though there are not in the Old Testament express declarations and promises made concerning a future state, Christ having brought life and immortality to light through his Gospel, yet all the hints given of it, show that they looked for an immediate admission to blessedness after death. So David: "Thou wilt show me the path of life, in thy presence is fulness of joy, and at thy right hand arc pleasures for evermore. Thou shalt guide me here by thy counsel, and afterwards receive me to glorv." Isaiah says, that "tho righteous when they die enter into peace." The Bishop remarks further, that this Third Article could only mean that Christ really died, and was buried; that his soul truly departed from his body, and went into the place of blessed spirits, where all the righteous would be with him. Surely a Christian wishes nothing more than this, call the place what you will.
state of profound insensibility, when the disembodied soul, deprived of the means of manifestation, remains wrapped in slumber.
The application of the term 'sleep' to death in the New Testament, is evidently taken from the Old. Job says, "for now shall I sleep in the dust." David says, "lighten my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death." It is not only a natural poetic analogon of death, but corresponds with the more dim ideas of the Old Testament writers, respecting a future state. The present life was the life of action with them, the time of Buffering, enjoyment, toil. Sheol or Hades, signifying 'the whole future world', and not necessarily the grave, was not yet filled with the holy activity of Christ's presence and kingdom, or with the entirely clear light of an everlasting day. The light in it was rather that of night, starlight and shadows, the time of sleep. To be hid from all trouble in the pavilion of God was one of the highest conceptions of the ancient Hebrews, of another state. The use of the word " sleep" for " death" was very common among the Greek poets. Homer, narrating the sudden death of a warrior in battle, calls it "the iron sleep of death." Sophocles, in Elec. 509, uses the term " slept" for death. Among harassed, warlike nations a peaceful sleep was a state of blessedness. Dr. Livingstone, the African traveller, gives a curious illustration of this on pages 241, 597. Am. ed. of his work. And in the early days of the Christian Church, when to be a disciple of Christ was to be exposed to every earthly grief and pain, and to violent death, death itself was like a blissful." sleep in Jesus."
But the idea of total insensibility would not quite apply to some of those passages of the New Testament where the dead are said to be "asleep." John xi. 11-14: "These things said he; and after that he saith unto them, our friend Lazarus sleepeth, but I go that I may awake him out of sleep. Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. Howbeit, Jesus spake of his death ; but they thought that he had spoken of taking rest in sleep. Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead." That is, he is not asleep in the mere sense of rest or unconsciousness, but the soul has left the body. Lazarus is dead. I will recall that soul to its body. I will awaken that bodily Lazarus. I will bring him again to earthly life. 1 Thess. v. 9,10: "For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him." This language obviously refers simply to life and death. Whether the Christian be living or dead, he shall, at the sudden and unknown coming of the day of the Lord, be together with Christ; and it is presumed that after death he will have a more vivid consciousness of this union with Christ, than when in this lower bodily state. The use of the verb K(&ev8a> in Matt. ix. 24, "She is not dead, but sleepeth," is, according to De Wette,1 a singular and unique use of the figure, which it is difficult to explain, since according to v. 18 the maid was dead.
The seeming difficulty of harmonizing the idea of a conscious intermediate state with the truth of the judgment, is noticed by Whately.9 What necessity is there of a judgment, he reasons, if men are to go into a state of conscious happiness or misery immediately after death? They are in fact then judged. But is there any discrepancy between the consciousness of one's doom and the actual sentence being pronounced afterward?
A Christian in this life may feel assured of his pardon by God, and may have the foretastes of heaven, but the sentence of justification will not be passed upon him until the great day of the Lord Jesus. And so, " some men's sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment;" and there is an anticipation of judgment which is as sure as the fact itself.' Besides, the judgment day is for a broad and public manifestation of the character of God; it is, that the world may see that God is just. It is the official winding up of God's moral government of this race, and the completion of the work of redemption, when all the consequences of all
actions shall have been consummated, and the whole case of every soul shall have been finished, and the entire influences of the atonement shall have wrought themselves out.
But the passages which speak of the immediate entrance of the soul after death into a conscious state of happiness or misery, present an objection to this theory. 2 Cor. v. 8: "We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord." Literally, "we are of good courage and well pleased rather, to have travelled away from the body, and to be at home with the Lord." There is a strong expression of hope and desire here. How could this ardent wish of Paul to be at home with Christ, when on a journey away from the body, be at all satisfied, if after death he should remain insensible for uncomputed ages, and only be consciously with Christ when again joined to the body? Is it said that his desire leaped over the chasm of the intermediate state of unconsciousness? But his desire evidently only leaped over the remaining period of his earthly existence and his death, and over nothing else. Tertullian explains it by calling this desire the apostle's noble contempt for the body, and "prcestantiam martyorum," 1 or the superior strength of the martyr's spirit, that yearned for and was allowed the immediate felicity of heaven. He does not doubt the instantaneous introduction of Paul's spirit into the presence of Christ, but treats it aa exceptional. Luke xxiii. 43: "To-day thou shalt be with me in Paradise." Our author regards this account of the robber on the cross as "a peculiar case,"2 which we cannot reason upon. But is it not just one of those cases that we can and ought to reason upon, because it throws light on a point where there is not so much light as upon other truths? Was it the manner of our Lord to make exceptional cases in the kingdom of faith? Did he not reprove that spirit? One such instance covering over this obscure ground, in the words and acts of Christ, himself, ought to be sufficient. "And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou
1 Tcrtulliani op. de Rcsnrrectione.
a Page 61.