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THE SUGGESTED RESULTS.
THE CHANGE AT DEATH.
“Natura non fecit saltum.”—LINNÆUS. It suffices not that a theory be supported by a strong array of proofs. To merit grave notice or challenge rational belief, it must not involve results in themselves absurd.
But how stands the case in regard to the theory for which, in the preceding pages, I have been adducing evidence ?—the hypothesis, namely, that when the spirit of man, disengaged from the body, passes to another state of existence, its thoughts and affections may still revert to earth; and that, in point of fact, it does occasionally make itself perceptible to the living, whether in dream or in the light of day,—sometimes to the sense of sight, sometimes to that of hearing or of touch, sometimes by an impression which we detect in its effect but cannot trace to its origin; these various spiritual agencies wearing in this instance a frivolous, in that a solemn, aspect, now assuming the form of petty annoyance, now of grave retribution, but more frequently brightening into indications of gentle ministry and loving guardianship.
If these things cannot be admitted without giving entrance in their train to inferences clearly absurd, it
REMARKS ON THE FOREGOING.
an absolute certainty, that the girl to whom she had spoken on the matter had not mentioned to any one her wish to have a dog, and, indeed, that the casual remark had passed from the girl's mind and she had never thought of it again. A few hours only, it will be observed, intervened between the expression of the wish and the offer of the animal.
Those who are as well acquainted with Mrs. W. as I am know that uprightness and conscientiousness are marked traits in her character, and that the above incidents may be confidently relied on as the exact truth. I had them direct from Mrs. W. herself, a few days after they occurred; and that lady kindly ceded to me the original manuscript of the two communications
The circumstances, taken in connection, are, of their kind, among the most extraordinary with which I am acquainted. And to the candid reader it will not be matter of surprise to learn that Mrs. W., until then a skeptic in the reality of any direct agencies from another world, should have confessed to me that her doubts were removed, that she felt comforted and tranquilized, and that she accepted the indications thus vouchsafed to her, unsought, unlooked for, as sufficient assurance that she was, in a measure, under spiritual protection,—thought of, cared for, even from beyond the tomb.
Before we decide that a faith so consolatory is unfounded, we shall do well to review the facts of this case.
Whence the sudden impulse in the garden? People are not in the habit of imagining that they desire to write, unless they have something to say. Mrs. W. was not a Spiritualist, nor residing among Spiritualists: so that no epidemic agency can be urged in explanation, even if such a suggestion have weight. The phenomenon which presented itself was strictly spontaneous.
TWO POSTULATES INVOLVED.
its general habits of thought and motives of action, but even its petty peculiarities and favorite predilections. There must be no sudden change of individuality at the moment of death, either for the better or for the worse. Men will awake in another life, the body indeed left behind, and, with it, its corporeal instincts, its physical infirmities; yet each will awake the same individual, morally, socially, intellectually, as when on his earthly death-bed he lay down to rest.
In all this there is nothing tending to affect, either affirmatively or negatively, the doctrine of a final Day of Judgment. My argument but regards the state of the soul at the time of its emancipation by death, and for a certain period thereafter.
But so far it evidently does go. It is idle to deny it. The theory that departed friends may revisit us, and watch over us here, clearly involves two postulates :
First, that, when death prostrates the body, the spirit remains not, slumbering in the grave, beside moldering flesh and bone, but enters at once upon a new and active phase of life; not a state of ineffable bliss, nor yet of hopeless misery, but a condition in which cares may affect, and duties may engage, and sympathies may enlist, its feelings and its thoughts.
Secondly, that the death-change reaches the body only, not the heart or the mind; discarding the one, not transforming the others.
In other words, Death destroys not, in any sense, either the life or the identity of man. Nor does it permit the spirit, an angel suddenly become immaculate, to aspire at once to heaven. Far less does it condemn that spirit, a demon instantly debased, to sink incon tinently to hell.
All this may sound heterodox. The more important inquiry is, whether it be irrational. Nor was it heterodox, but most strictly canonical, until many centuries
HADES SWEPT OUT.
had intervened between the teachings of Christ and the creeds of his followers. If we adopt it now, we may
be running counter to the preponderating sentiment of modern Protestantism, but we are returning to the faith, universally confessed, of primitive Christianity.* I do not state this as an argument for its truth, but only as a reminder of its lineage.
Luther was a man to be praised and admired, courageous, free-thoughted, iron-willed,-a man for his time and his task. But Luther, like other men, had his sins and his errors to answer for. Every thing about him was strong, his prejudices included. When his will reacted against deep-rooted opposition, the power of its stubborn spring sometimes carried him beyond truth and reason. He always plied his reforming besom with gigantic effect, not always with deliberate consideration. He found Purgatory an abuse; and, to make radical work, he swept out Hades along with it.
*“Thus the matter stands historically. In the last quarter of the second century, when the Christian churches emerge clearly into the light, we find them universally in possession of the idea of a mediate place of souls,-one which was neither heaven nor hell, but preliminary to either. It was not an idea broached by heretics here and there. It was the belief of the Church universal, which nobody called in question."-"Foregleams of Immortality," by Edward H. Sears, 4th edition, Boston, published by the American Unitarian Association, 1858, p. 268.
Unable, for lack of space, to enter on the historical evidences for the above, I refer the reader to Mr. Sears's work, where he will find these succinctly set forth. Also to “ The Belief of the First Three Centuries concerning Christ's Mission to the Under-World,” by Frederick Huidekoper, where he may read the following passage, with numerous quotations from the Fathers in attestation :—“It can scarcely be that, at the opening of the second century, or the close of the first, the doctrine of Christ's under-world mission, so far, at least, as regards the preaching to, and liberation of, the departed, was not a widely-spread and deeply-seated opinion among Christians.” - On the essential features of this doctrine the Catholics and heretics were of one mind. It was a point too settled to admit dispute.”—p. 138, quoted by Sears, p. 262. † A more scrupulous man would have been arrested by the consideration