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taste and touch of the world to come; so to work within us that we may sincerely say, “Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and after that receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but Thee ? and there is none upon the earth that I desire in comparison with Thee. My flesh and my heart faileth, but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.'”
ART. VII.-AN INTERMEDIATE STATE.
UR title neither affirms nor denies, but like the doctrine to
which we invite attention, is something between two other things; partaking of either, and yet distinct from both. By adopting the indefinite form we do not mean to insinuate that there are more middle states than one, neither do we positively assert that such a state really exists. The question does not come within the circle of dogmatics. It is speculative rather than positive. It is an opinion that may be accepted or rejected without imperilling our faith, or weakening the vitality and force of our spiritual life. We employ the An rather than the The as indicating that which “may be ” rather than that which“ is.” The popular belelief is that at death the soul enters into a state of perfect happiness or misery indicated by the terms heaven and hell; and that at the general resurrection the souls of the departed will leave those regions to resume their bodies, and then re-enter the abodes of bliss or woe after the decisions of the judgment. “It is, indeed, very generally supposed, that the souls of good men, as soon as they are discharged from the body, go directly to heaven ; but this opinion has not the least foundation in the oracles of God.” * It may
be well to state in what we think the doctrine of an intermediate state consists : 1. Separation. Death is the great analyst. The body is committed to the dust, whilst the spirit passes onward to the invisible world. The departed are not permitted to return to present scenes, neither to advance to the ultimate conditions of existence. They are in prison or confinement (Phulake). Some with joyful and others with painful emotions, awaiting the great assize. Jesus is represented as the Custodian of sheol. Having obtained dominion over principalities
and powers he now holds the “ keys of hades and of death,” and preserves the spirits of the dead in safe keeping until the morning of the resurrection. Thus they are separated from the present and final states; they dwell midway between the two. Moreover the idea of separation enters into the very constitution of hades itself. The good and the evil are divided. Jesus speaks of Paradise and Gehenna. In those hidden and contiguous regions dwell the souls of Lazarus and Dives. Between the two a great gulph (chasma) is fixed, which renders an interchange of conditions impossible. With the heathen Elysium and Tartarus border and limit each other. Purgatorial fines cannot alter or supersede the laws of the divine government, or by a sort of spiritual chemistry transmute the principles and habitudes of our moral nature. In relation to this as well as to the final state it may be said, “ he which is filthy, let him be filthy still, and he which is righteous, let him be righteous still.” 2. Comparative happiness and misery. If the enquiry be started, wherein lies the blessedness of those who have died in the faith, we reply, termination of trialship, rest from the toils of life, exemption from those temptations and persecutions which godliness entails, association with the choicest spirits of the race, and a more intimate fellowship with God and other virtuous intelligences. To realize such good, to die will assuredly be gain. We have the impression that the absent good get nearer to God. They are overshadowed and filled with the Spirit. They are with Christ in a more ineffable and exalted sense than we who still groan in this tabernacle. Those who have fallen asleep in Jesus dwell in the porch of heaven, and enjoy glimmerings of that exceeding and eternal weight of glory which awaits them at the last day. We admit that such a view falls short of those glowing imaginings of paradisiacal felicity in which the majority indulge ; but what one view may lose in warmth, it may gain in sobriety. In speaking of the death of the righteous, the sacred penmen in many instances avoid anything like show and glitter. The very terms they employ are so plain and solid, that they are as pillars of granite to our faith. “He was gathered to his people; that they may rest from their labours; he shall enter into peace; but now he is comforted.” The query may suggest itself to the mind of some, will the disembodied spirit be in a state of unconsciousness? In avoiding the Scylla of the enthusiasm of hope, we must guard against falling into the Charybdis of unbelief. It may be that there is no such thing as an unclothed spirit, Deity excepted. In our present condition we cannot conceive how a spiritual being could exist divested of all material covering, but that it will sink into a state of sleep or inactivity is highly improbable. The expressions, rest, peace, comfort, indicate a blessedness more profound and perfect than we experience now. The spirits of the just who have gone from our
earth will enter upon new scenes and associations with wonder and delight. The misery of the wicked may be partly conceived from the certain termination of present honours and pleasures, the cessation of all social restraints, the withdrawment of all remedial influences, both human and divine, abandonment to vicious and malignant companionship, and the surrender of the soul to the outworking of its depraved and violent passions. Even for such a state the torments of Dives are not too highly coloured. 3. Terminableness. By some it is thought that when the Saviour rose from the dead this subterranean sphere was abolished, and that instead of tarrying in confinement, the soul at once departs to heaven or hell. We, however, would prolong this custody. In answer to the question, “If a man die, shall be live again?” the patriarch replies, “All the days of my appointed time will I wait till my change come; thou shalt call, and I will answer thee; thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine bands." Now the anticipated change undoubtedly points to the resurrection at the last day. The acts of waiting during the appointed time, and of answering to the Divine call, can only be predicated of the spirit, and correspond with that event when all that are in the graves “shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live.” The hope of the Psalmist was,
“But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave (hand of sheol); for he shall receive me.” If this passage be taken in connection with Psalm xvii. 15, it will appear that the hope of the Psalmist extended not merely to the resurrection of Christ, but to the times of restitution of all things. We are not aware that there is anything in the New Testament to warrant the opinion that hades has been abolished by Christ; on the contrary, intimations are not wanting to support the belief that an intermediate state still exists, and that its triumphant and final overthrow is to be a circumstance connected with the general judgment. In the apocalyptic description of the second advent this ghostly domain is declared to surrender its captives. At the fiat of the Judge, “the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and hades delivered up the dead which were in them.” At present death reigns, and its dominions exist, and not until the blast of the last trump shall the saying be fulfilled, “Death is swallowed up in victory.” Death will then no more imprison the body in
grave, nor confine the soul in the nether regions; but “death and hades" will be " cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death."
We apprehend that in maintaining this view no violence is done to the dictates of reason. Were such a theory to shock our judgment, to outrage our spiritual instincts, to violate the order and constitution of external nature, we might yield to honest doubt. If reason is not for us it is certainly not against us. Progression
is an all-pervading law. From and to constitute the poles, whether of physical or spiritual development. But not only must we possess these philosophic extremes, there is demanded the middle term, THROUGH. The invariable order of both matter and mind embraces three factors, namely, from something, through something, to something. Not only do we require progression, but consecutive progression; progression in which cause and effect, antecedent and consequent, possess their spheres of operation, and in which exists a regular and harmonious concatenation of time, place, or thing. The popular view seems to contravene this rule. If the soul of the good enter heaven, then return to earth to resume its raised body, and then re-enter heaven, this chain of conditions is broken. In ordinary conversation and throughout the Scriptures heaven is represented as the goal of virtuous and glorified beings. To arrive at that city is to enter into inconceivable and unutterable felicity. However numerous and varied may be the mansions in our Father's heavenly home, that is the highest, the most elegantly furnished, the most perfect and delightful abode. To that far-off land the pilgrim turns many a wistful look, and sings,
“ Jerusalem, my happy home!
Name ever dear to me!
In joy, and peace, in thee ?" To experience an exodus from heaven would be to suffer loss; according to our present notion it would be regression instead of progression. It may be objected that the incarnation and second coming of the Son of God are at variance with this order. We reply, that when the humanity of Christ is conditioned by the natural, a legitimate ground of analogy is afforded; but the functional relations of the divine to the human are altogether unique, and are therefore excluded from the province of natural laws. Take a corn of wheat. At first the matter of which it is composed was unorganised. By the operation of certain forces the various particles constituted an organism. It is then deposited in the earth, and by subjection to natural influences germinates, sending forth the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.
One condition is preparatory to another; the second is an advance on the first, and is an outgrowth thereof. Again, a butterfly lays an egg, which becomes a worm, then a chrysalis, and then a winged insect. There are four stages of growth, each antecedent being the basis of the consequent, and each consequent being a fuller manifestation of the antecedent. Now, if the chrysalis were transformed into the maggot, that is, assumed a lower state of animal life in order to realise a higher one, the principle for which we contend would be contravened. The order
of nature is from the high, through the higher, to the highest. If this analogy is worth anything, it may intimate that spiritual no less than material existence advances from the positive, through the comparative, thence onward to the superlative. We would not affirm, once in grace never out of it; but would say, once in heaven never out of it. For the redeemed to be banished from that fulness of joy which exists in the presence of God, in order to participate in the arbitraments of the general judgment, seems to us inconsistent. Heavenly bliss is superlative bliss; and having once entered into that house we shall go no more out for ever. In order to modify this incongruity, it is suggested that the place where Jesus now dwells is not the final heaven. To this we cannot assent. Said the Saviour to his disciples, “ But now I go my way to Him that sent me.” Paul gives us a magnificent description of the Saviour's exaltation : “When he (God) raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come." Amongst other notions contained in the expression “right hand of God," is that of proximity. If there be a finality above and beyond that which is contained in the foregoing passage, we confess our inability to discern it. For the soul to enter into such honour and felicity immediately at death appears too great a leap. We want a something to span the chasm, to link the present with the ultimate, to afford the condition which shall be the outcome of that which now is, and also the basis of that which shall be. An intermediate state, we think, supplies the missing link.
The experience of Jesus confirms this view. On the day of Pentecost Peter applied the passage in the “Golden Psalm” to the death and resurrection of the Saviour: “For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption." We may place the several members of this passage thus: 1. Soul,
2. Hell or sheol. 3. Holy One or flesh.
4. Corruption or grave. Here is a twofold antithesis, and a twofold correspondence. Nos. 1 and 3 and 2 and 4 answer to the former; whereas Nos. 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 agree to the latter. The word soul must be construed with hell, or sheol ;* and Holy One, or flesh, must be construed with corruption or the grave. Whatever or wherever bell might be, it is clear that the soul of Jesus entered therein ; for it is only by this assumption that we can understand the expression, “Thou
* Consult a Bible Dictionary on the words sheol and hades.