The Ancient Faith
HADES OR THE UNSEEN
We have been requested to furnish the readers of the Quarterly an article on the curious subject of Hades, or the Unseen. If only a single individual were interested in it, or if the request were intended to procure gratification for mere curiosity, we should decline the task.
But such is not the case. No Christian can deny that he feels an interest in it. This makes the interest universal. Nor can it be concluded that mere curiosity seeks its solution. The subject is indisputably a Scriptural one. Hence the desire to know all that is knowable about it is legitimate and right. We feel, then, perfectly justified in submitting the thoughts and suggestions herein contained.
Not that we expect to present a satisfactory solution of the difficult topic, or to furnish a piece that shall be unexceptionable. We have no such vanity. For the present at least the full solution of the subject may be readily admitted to be unattainable. . . What we shall aim at is this: to present the subject as fully as we can by aid of the partial light which the Scriptures throw on it; to notice such other important items as stand seemingly or actually connected with it; to expand somewhat the conclusions which these Scriptures seem to imply or warrant; and to notice some dangerous inferences which have been deduced from the subject and from Scriptures related to or supposed to be related to it.
The word hades, as most of our readers know, is a Greek word, signifying unseen. It applies universally to all things which are not objects of sight, or which lie beyond the reach of human view. But the word is not here under consideration in this large sense. The unseen, meaning thereby a particular place, is what we have in hand. Still more fully , we mean by it the unseen abode of human spirits after death. It is a well-known fact that among the Hebrews, the Greeks, and the Romans, as well as among the other enlightened nations of the earth at that time, it was held that at death the human spirit leaves the body, and that it exists apart from it as a living conscious intelligence. It is no part of our present business to enter into an examination of this wide-spread faith, or to attempt a satisfactory account of it. That it assumed different forms in different nations, accordingly as it became blended with this, that, or the other national traditions, we know; but this is nothing to the point. It existed as a faith—this is the important fact to us; and that in its simple original form, no matter to whom or what that origin was owing, it embodied the truth is what gives it its value as a faith. Now hades is the term which denotes the unseen abode of these disembodied spirits—the place where as spirits they dwell. So much for the meaning of the term, of which more hereafter.
But is it a doctrine of the Bible that at death the human spirit leaves the body, and maintains, as the true rational man, a separate conscious state of being? This is the question first in order. For if human spirits do not so exist, then obviously is there no unseen abode of them. But, on the contrary, if they do so exist, then that there is such an abode becomes a necessary inference. An inquiry respecting it would in that event be both legitimate and natural.
The reader will observe that we have not put the question in general terms: Is it true that at death the human spirit leaves the body, etc.? We be strictly kept in mind. The question is: Is it a doctrine of the Bible that at death the human spirit leaves the body , etc.? If it be a doctrine of the Bible, of course it is true; but we desire to limit the discussion to the Bible in order to avoid resting a conclusion on speculative and metaphysical grounds. We shall now proceed to cite and comment on such Scriptures as in our judgment tend to shed light on and settle the question.
1. “There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination to the Lord.” (Deut. xviii., 10, 11.)
A necromancer is one who, aided by intercourse with the dead, foretells future events. In the passage in hand the Israelites are told that no such person shall be found among them. Certainly, then, there were such persons. God does not enact a law against a nonentity. The reality of such beings must be assumed to justify the inhibition. Should it be replied, that the object of the law was merely to prevent indulgence in superstitious practices, we answer, that this does not meet the case. Had the dead existed in an unconscious state, thereby rendering consultation of them impossible; or if not in an unconscious state, still in one precluding intercourse with the living, the proper remedy would have been a simple statement of the case as it really was. This would have corrected the evil at once.
If the consultation did not actually take place, then the law against it was by that very fact not only a nullity, but a deception. It accepted as a reality that which in fact was none; and inhibited what never had any existence and could have none. This is wholly inconsistent with our conceptions of God as a lawgiver. We feel compelled, then, to admit that in the day s of Moses some of the living held actual sensible intercourse with some of the dead. No conclusion can rest on a surer basis than this. How numerous the class of persons disallowed was, or to what extent the intercourse was carried on, we know not. We have simply the fact that such a class did exist, and that they did consult the dead. From these premises three conclusions indisputably follow, namely, 1. That the spirits of the dead exist after death, out of the body, in a state of conscious intelligence; for no one will contend that the consultation was with the lifeless corpse. 2. That in this state the human spirit has a higher knowledge than it possessed before death; since it knows and is enabled to foretell the future. 3. That intelligent intercourse with the dead did in some cases actually take place. These are startling conclusions; but if founded well, it is an act of weakness to reject them. Whether the consultation was with wicked spirits, or with spirits of the just, we have not the means of knowing. The most natural conclusion would seem to be, that, as the consultation itself was wrong, none but evil spirits would engage in it. But a case now to be cited stands against it.
2. “And Samuel said to Saul, Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up? And Saul answered, I am sore distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me, and answereth me no more, neither by prophets nor by dreams; there” fore I have called thee, that thou mayest make known to me what I shall do.” (1 Sam. xxviii., 15:) This is a single verse taken from the marvelous case of the woman of Endor bringing up Samuel. The reader should turn to the narrative and carefully examine it again. It is full of wonder. The necromancer and the person possessed of a familiar spirit, though differing it may be in other respects, seem yet to have agreed in this —that each was a consulter of the dead, and both were alike proscribed in the law. The woman of Endor is not called a necromancer, but is said to have had “a familiar spirit.” That she possessed an extraordinary power over the dead, indeed a power which we cannot distinguish from the miraculous, is evident from the face of the narrative. That this power was satanic, and not divine, is indisputable; otherwise it would never have been forbidden by the Lord.
How the power was obtained we know not. We have simply the fact of its possession, and beyond this all is conjecture. But the most marvelous feature connected with it is this: that Satan could endow a living human being with power to evoke from its abode the spirit of a righteous man. Yet such was certainly the case. But we are proceeding a little too fast.
In what light are we to view the narrative in question—as literal, or as not? This, as a preliminary, merits a first word. We reply, without going at length into its vindication, that the narrative is, in our judgment, wholly and strictly literal. Saul was real; so was the woman. Her character was known, and place of residence, to the servants of Saul. These were both given. Saul disguises himself and visits her at night. The reason for this is given. The interview is natural—in brief, the whole scene, its persons, incidents, and drapery; its antecedents and results—all are told in the simplest narrative style; and many of them are corroborated by other parts of the sacred history. We hence feel compelled to regard the whole as a literal statement of what actually and truly took place. Indeed, if the narrative is not literal, or if it is to be taken in some my theological sense, then it seems to me that the whole framework of sacred history stands without a trustworthy basis. I do not see on what ground we can vindicate as true the story of Messiah’s resurrection, if the case of Saul and the Endor woman are to be set down as fabulous, or as parabolic, which frequently comes to the same thing.
But after this the points of importance to us are: 1. The notorious existence of a class of persons in that day who had power to consult the dead. 2. The actual reappearance of Samuel after death at the instance of one of these. That the intercourse in all these cases was with the spirits of the dead, and not with them in a bodily state, is a proposition of which few will require any proof. Samuel’s body slept in Ramah while he was talking with Saul in the Endor woman’s house. The necromancer held communion only with the disembodied spirit. Over the moldering dust of the body they seem to have had no power. They could summon to their presence the living rational intelligence, but over the silent bones and flesh they had no control.
For that they had no use; with it they could hold no intercourse eliciting intelligence. With the knowing part only had they dealings. That Samuel appeared as “an old man” “covered with a mantle” is nothing against this. He had so to appear to allay all doubt as to his identity. Hence, as soon as he was described, Saul recognized him as Samuel. Still he was in Saul’s presence, out of the body, without “flesh and bones,” a still existent spirit after the event of his death. This establishes for the human spirit a separate state of existence from the body, a state in which the past is not forgotten and the future is known—a state of consciousness and intelligence.
But there is another point in the case in hand which we must not omit to notice. It is found in the following from Samuel: “Tomorrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me.” This language cannot be construed as referring simply to death. Its meaning is not: Tomorrow shall you and your sons be dead. This is certainly implied in it; But Samuel’s words reach beyond this. Their natural and obvious import is: Tomorrow y ou shall be with me in the unseen abode of the spirits of the dead. That there is such an abode, necromancy, the case of Samuel, and the language now in hand take for granted. They assume it as a known reality, and proceed in regard to it as a matter of course. Many truths are thus assumed and treated by the Bible; and in deciding several important points, we are compelled to allow the circumstance great weight. So much for the case of Samuel. We now cite the following from the New Testament:
WHETHER IN THE BODY OR OUT OF THE BODY
3. “I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, whether in the body , I cannot tell, or whether out of the body , I cannot tell, God knoweth: such a one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell, God knoweth. How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter” (2 Cor. xii.2-4.)
Paul here represents himself as being caught up to the third heaven; but whether in the act he was in the body or out of it he is unable to say. But on what ground could he use the language, if the knowing part of man is incapable of existing out of the body? If the spirit never leaves the body, but is always confined to it; or if it cannot exist without and independent of it; if, in other words, the materialistic view of man is the true view, and when a man dies all that is within him dies, so that the whole man, body , soul, and spirit, goes into the grave and there lies in a mass together, then Paul’s language can never be vindicated. In that view he could not say, “whether in the body of out of the body, I cannot tell.” He knew perfectly that he was in the body and not out of it; since there is no such thing as a separate existence. Either Paul’s language implies what is not true, or the human spirit may and does exist out of the body . Now although this conclusion of itself is not enough to establish for the spirit a separate and continuous existence after death, yet a separate state of existence being once made out for it as an actuality , leaves its continuance after death to be settled as an independent fact. This, then, becomes comparatively easy. For whenever it is shown in one case that the spirit can exist out of the body, and in the same or another that it did exist out of it even one instant after death, we at once deduce the universal conclusion, the fact in question being of the nature to warrant one, that all human spirits can exist out of their bodies, and that they do exist after death. Further: whenever the fact of a spirit’s existence after death is once established, its continued existence may be inferred. Its ceasing to exist could legitimately be denied, and would then have to be proved.
ABSENT FROM THE BODY
4. “Therefore we are always confident, knowing that whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. Wherefore we labor, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.” (2 Cor. v., 5-9). The apostle here speaks of his body as a home or place of abode, and of himself as something distinct from it. That he speaks of his spirit hardly admits of a doubt. This, then, is the true and proper self of a man, the rational man and therefore the essential man. This self or inner man Paul represents as, at the time, at home in the body, and in consequence of that circumstance as absent from the Lord.
Again: he expresses a willingness rather to be absent from the body, and present with the Lord; that is, that the essential self or true rational man should go from home, leave the body, and be with the Lord. That this is his meaning, or the import of his language, we do not admit to be questionable. Paul, then, was constituted of two parts: the body or home, and the dweller therein. This might be in that or out of it, according to circumstances; thus implying that they were separable, and might exist or dwell apart, the one with the Lord, the other not, but still on the earth. Not only, then, is the spirit capable of existing out of the body and independent of it, but it is here shown to be capable of a continuous state of existence. Nay more, it is shown to be capable of existing out of the body in a continuous state of conscious happiness; for the expression, present with the Lord, can mean nothing else.
How in the light of these Scriptures any man can maintain that the spirit is incapable of existing out of the body, and that it never does so exist, no right-thinking man can see. Indeed, there is no way of accounting for the fact, except on the ground that some men are willfully perverse and determinedly blind. Such a conclusion, however unpleasant, we are compelled in certain cases to accept. We reluctantly impeach any man’s heart, but in order to avoid having our own head sometimes impeached we must do it.
DEPART FROM THE FLESH
5. “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labor: yet what I shall choose I wot not. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless, to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.” (Phil. 1:21-24.)
This passage is, as a proof, of the same import and to the same effect as the preceding. We need not, therefore, dwell on it long. It clearly recognizes the deep laid and ineffaceable distinction between the flesh and the spirit. To remain in the flesh Paul knew to be better for the cause of Christ, and for them among whom he labored; but to be absent from the flesh and present with the Lord he knew would be better for himself, hence he desired it. He expressed no desire to be present with Christ in the flesh, for this he knew he could not be. To be present with the Lord was to leave the flesh, and to live for the time being out of it. Yet this he desired; and this implies the separability of the flesh and the spirit, and the distinct and conscious existence of the latter. For how could Paul speak of being present with the Lord, if there is nothing in man which, at death, leaves the body and goes to the Lord? If all remains in the body after death which dwelt in it before, then after death a man is no more with the Lord than before death. Hence to express a desire to die and be with the Lord, is to express what can never be realized; and implies a false view, both of what man is and what his destiny will be—a thing with which we can hardly charge the apostle. Again: we conclude that man has a spirit which at death leaves the body, and lives in conscious absence from it, until the day in which the moldering part is revived from the tomb. Then into that new airy thing called a “spiritual body ” will the spirit enter, and there dwell through boundless eternity This will be man’s perfection.
LORD, RECEIVE MY SPIRIT
6. “And they stoned Stephen, calling on the Lord and saying, Lord, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this he fell asleep.” (Acts vii., 59, 60.)
Now let us bear in mind that Stephen was an inspired man, full of the Holy Spirit; and that he most likely said all this under its immediate influence. He can not, then, be admitted even to imply an error, much less to express one. He does not, then, ask the Lord to receive his body. This he knew would not be done. He asks him to receive his spirit, and this only . This request implies that he had a spirit as distinguished from his body ; that these two were separable, and might exist apart, the one with the Lord, the other here on earth.
Certainly, it is not impossible for even an inspired man to make a request which the Lord will not answer. Few persons, however, will be bold enough to set Stephen’s down as belonging to this class. If not, then it was answered; and while devout men were carrying his body to its burial, his spirit was borne by angels into Abraham’s bosom, where it remains to the present instant. Let us for a moment suppose all this to be denied. Stephen, then, had nothing within him which he could truly call his spirit; nothing consequently which could be separated from his body, and hence nothing which the Savior could receive. His whole petition was hence a vulgar error, having no foundation in truth or fact. This conclusion the Bible student, at least, will hardly be willing to accept. If not, then the literal answer of Stephen’s prayer is the only one that remains.
7. “And he said to Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said to him, Verily, I say to thee, today shalt thou be with me in paradise.” (Luke xxiii.)
It is hardly necessary to remind the reader that the language here last used is that of the Savior to his companion in death, the penitent thief. That it is literal or unfigurative needs no proof. Its face carries the evidence of this. What inference, then, does it fairly warrant? That Christ and the penitent went that day into a place called paradise.
This much certainly it warrants. Now paradise and the grave are not names for the same place, but names for different places. Into the grave Christ’s body went that day . Let us also suppose that the penitents went there too. The grave, then, was not the place where Christ meant they should meet together. Hence, he must, of necessity, have referred to something else besides their bodies; he must have referred to their spirits. These were denoted by the “thou” and the “me.” Hence, the “thou” and the “me,” which denoted their spirits, went together into paradise, which is not the grave. Now this proves, in the case of the penitent, that his spirit that day, at death, left his body, and went into a place called paradise. What was true of him in this respect, is true of all at least whom Christ receives. At death, then, their spirits go into paradise. Further: when the penitent met the Savior in paradise, he must have recognized him as the Savior, and have felt in himself that his promise had been to the letter kept. This proves that after death his spirit was not only absent from the body , but in the unseen abode of spirits, and there as a remembering conscious being. This much seems absolutely certain.
Hence, from the foregoing Scriptures, facts, and reasonings, we feel the inference to be not only just, but necessary, that at death the human spirit separates from the body, and dwells apart from it in a state of conscious intelligence. Not only do we profoundly believe this to be the positive teaching of Holy Writ; but we believe it to underlie the whole framework of revelation, and to run through it from beginning to end as a thing perfectly known to its authors, and never to be questioned by any one. To deny it is, in our sober judgment, to put in question the truth of the Bible; because it is putting in question all the laws and rules of interpretation, which render it a consistent book, and one which human reason can accept. We would no more hesitate to deny the resurrection of the dead than we would the conclusion just drawn. We hold both in the same firm grasp.
Since, therefore, human spirits leave their bodies at death, and still continue to exist as intelligent beings, it follows of necessity that they must have some place in which to dwell. This place is called in the word of God hades, a word which means, as already stated in this paper, the unseen. It is so named, however, not because it is absolutely unseen, but simply because it is unseen to us. The expression, unseen, as applied to it, can have no reference to our heavenly Father, none to Christ. The unseen all lies open and bare to them. The term has sole reference to men, and to men in the flesh. It is intended, moreover, to express simply a fact, not an impossibility. The place is unseen, not it cannot be and will not be.
But where is the unseen located? On this, question’ we propose to be as mute as the body whose spirit has entered the place. The speculations of Greeks and Romans on it would, no doubt, appear both curious and interesting to many a reader; but they possess no solid advantage which can entitle them to insertion here. Nor can more be said with certainty of the traditions of the Hebrews. We would naturally expect these, from their intercourse with prophets and inspired men, to have juster views in the case than any other people.
Yet we know not that this was so. It may well be questioned whether even the prophets knew more on the question than the common people; and if they did, it is hardly probable that they were allowed to communicate it. It seems to form no part of the plan of our heavenly Father to impart information merely to gratify our desire for knowledge, much less to gratify curiosity. Unless it is in some sense necessary to our faith, or is useful in shaping practice, or has to be imparted accidentally, in order to communicate something else, information is withheld. It could serve no useful or necessary end that we can see to tell us where the unseen is. Hence it has not been done.
TWO APARTMENTS OF HADES
To know that such a place is, we feel to be necessary; but where it is, we do not. The abode, be it where it may, appears to be divided into two apartments, or to embrace within it two vast separate regions. These regions are respectively the abodes of the righteous spirits and the wicked spirits of the dead. And although they may stand wide apart, and even be to each other wholly unseen, a fact which the New Testament would rather seem to forbid, yet they are both embraced in the meaning of the unseen. With respect to these two apartments the term is general, including them both. A single fact will serve to establish the truth of this. That Abraham and Lazarus were in the apartment of the unseen allotted to pious spirits, no One will question. Now in this same unseen was the rich man also, but in a different department. All three were in the unseen—the two in bliss, the One in torment. But where Abraham was, the spirits of all the righteous dead are; and where the rich man was, the spirits of all the wicked lead are. Hence the expression, the unseen, embraces the abodes of both these.
Into the one or the other of these abodes enters the spirit of every human being that dies. Neither is the one the ultimate heaven of the righteous, nor the other the ultimate hell of the wicked. They ate clearly intermediate states, but not states of probation. The future destiny of no man is changed after entering here. The deeds of the present life determine that.
NOT OUR FINAL OR ETERNAL HOME
The general opinion, even among Bible readers, seems to be, that as soon as a good man dies he goes immediately into the presence of God, or into his eternal home; and that as soon as the wicked dies, he goes at once to his final hell. This opinion is certainly erroneous; yet it cannot be denied that passages of Scripture can be found which seem to favor it. As for instance, the language of Stephen already quoted, “Lord, receive my spirit;” and that of Paul, “having a desire to depart and to be with Christ;” and again, “willing rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.” Full force should be allowed to these passages in settling the question, nor the least inclination shown to ignore their meaning. But by doing this we encounter a difficulty. We have two sets of passages to reconcile, the one of which seems to represent the spirits of all as dwelling in the unseen, while the other seems to represent the spirits of some as in the immediate presence of Christ, and not as in the unseen. The only way we have of reconciling these may be a very imperfect one. It is to assume that when the spirit of a righteous man is in the unseen, the veil which now hides the face of the Savior from us is drawn aside, and that intercourse is free, and to such a degree perfect as to justify the saying that he is with the Lord. When the character of the parties, and the unknown whereabouts of the unseen, with its unknown nature, are all taken into the account, there is but little that is difficult, certainly nothing that is unreasonable in this. The only other way of reconciling the passages is to assume that one set is literal, the other figurative—a dangerous assumption when things are spoken of, of which our information is confessedly very imperfect.
That we are correct in the most important of the preceding statements will appear from this: The soul or spiritual part of the Savior entered the unseen at his death, and there remained during the time his body lay in the grave. At the end of this time, however, he left the unseen and re-entered his body. Yet after this, he said to Mary: “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father; but go to my brethren and say to them: I ascend to my Father and to your Father, and to my God and to your God.” At the time of thus speaking, then, he had not ascended to God; yet he had been in the unseen. Hence, to be in the unseen is not to be with God, except possibly in the sense previously explained. But when the Savior entered the unseen, the penitent thief also entered it; and as the former remained there during all the time of his absence from the body; so we conclude will the latter. In other words, he will remain in the unseen till the morning of the first resurrection; then he will enter his spiritual body, and ever afterward be with the Savior. We shall only add, that what we say of the penitent, we hold to be true of all the pious dead. They are not yet in their final and eternal home; for that will be this earth in its renewed form. They are in the unseen, there to remain till the moment when they shall re-enter their new, glorious bodies.
But are the spirits in the unseen in a state of conscious intelligence and activity? To enter upon a thorough discussion of this question is foreign to the design of this piece. Too much space would thereby be occupied; besides many parts of the discussion would be difficult, and ill-suited to the common reader. We profoundly believe the affirmative of the question to be true. We believe the spirits of the dead to be in a state of high mental activity. No more does the spirit of a ransomed man sleep in the unseen or anywhere else from death till the resurrection, or even for one moment, than does the Almighty sleep on his throne. We have no sympathy with that infernal delusion called soul-sleeping. Neither have we respect enough for it to attempt its refutation. We speak for the comfort of good men, not the refutation of bad ones. Still in passing we may jot down a thought or two.
1. The human spirit is continuously active up to death. This is a fact of universal experience. The spirit, moreover, is separable from the body; and nothing is known of death which will enable us to say that it suspends the active powers of the spirit, or in any other way in the least affects it. Therefore, we are compelled to infer the continued activity of those powers. For a state that continues up to a certain point at which, though we may lose sight of it, nothing happens which is known in the least to affect it, is presumed to be continuous still beyond that point . . .
2. Abraham and the rich man, though in the unseen, were represented by the Savior as in a state of high mental activity. Nor is this a picture of what shall be after the judgment, but a statement of what existed at the moment of speaking. Now if the soul of man is wholly inactive after death, then this important part of the Savior’s statement has no counterpart in fact. But this cannot be admitted. Hence, the spirit must remain active after death.
3. The condition of Samuel after death was not different from that of other spirits in the unseen. Yet while there he knew what the fate of Saul would be. This implies mental activity. This, then, must be the state or condition of all spirits in that abode. Samuel did not learn the fate of Saul after he came up; he knew it before. This is curious, and might lead to interesting inquiries as to how far the affairs of the living are known to the dead.
4. Moses had undergone no change between death and the scene of the transfiguration. He hence differed in no known respect from any other spirit of the unseen. He had neither left that abode nor reentered his body . Yet in that scene his mental powers showed a singular activity. Nay more, he showed that in the unseen it was known that Christ was about to be crucified; for he “spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem.” This conclusively proves that in the unseen the spirit remains conscious, intelligent, and active.
5. But the following language of the Savior places the question beyond dispute: “He [the Father] is not a God of the dead, but of the living; for all live to him.” To us Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are dead, but not so to the Father. To him all are alive. Hence all will be raised from the dead. The Savior does not mean that because God is the God of the living, therefore the dead will be made alive; but because he is the God of the living, therefore the dead are alive, that is, alive to him, alive in fact, though dead to us. And this he speaks not of men in the body, but of men out of the body, and hence of men as pure spirits; and further, he speaks it not of one, but of all. It consequently follows that the spirits of all the dead are now alive; and if alive, conscious and active. This point, then, we shall hold as settled.
WHERE IS THE UNSEEN?
But here a curious question presents itself, upon which, in passing, a speculating thought may be bestowed. The question forces itself on our attention, otherwise it might pass in silence. It is this: Are the spirits of the unseen strictly confined therein all the time, or do they not sometimes leave it and return to their former haunts? If they never leave it, how shall we account for such cases as those of
Samuel and Moses? That these returned cannot be denied; and if these, why not others. Or if it be insisted that Samuel and Moses never left the unseen, then comes the question, Where is the unseen?
Is it here among us, on earth, in our very midst? Samuel appeared in a room in a house in Endor, and Moses on a mountain top in Judea. Are these places within the limits of the unseen? To thinking men these questions will occur. Again: those demons so abundant in the day s of the Saviour, and we fear equally so now, what of them? They spoke the language of the people among whom they invisibly prowled about and evinced a strange fondness for human bodies. They had once sinned, their doom was at the time fixed and known to them, and they were looking forward to a time of torment.
Could these have been the spirits of wicked men? Why not? To these questions we pretend to furnish no replies; because touching them we have no light. But we shall not deny that some of them awake within us no small fear. We have a persuasion that Satan’s time runs not very far hence; and that the infernal powers are singularly active now. Sin at present, like the spray of the sea, riots high over reason and sense; and good men are sensible that a strange, anxious pulse beats quickly within them. They are girding themselves half unconsciously for some great onset mystically defined, but still felt to be approaching. What it is they do not pretend to say, still they are watchful and expectant.
But with a single item more we close this piece, already too far drawn out. It is admitted that at death Christ entered the unseen, and that he there dwelt during his absence from his body. Now it is asked: Do not the Scriptures teach that while there he preached to the spirits in prison; and does not this afford reasonable ground for the belief that he may have held out to the wicked that on repentance and faith in him they would be ultimately saved? When we commenced this paper we intended a more minute reply than we now have room for. Still we snail be explicit.
In the first place, the Scriptures nowhere, when fairly construed, warrant us in believing that Christ, while in the unseen, preached to any one—ransomed or not. That he may have been in constant intercourse with the righteous we shall not question. But it does not consist with our notions of the unseen and of the enlightenment of the spirits there, that they needed any special instructions in the gospel. Our opinion would be that the whole scheme was there pretty well understood. We can hardly think that unclean spirits of earth would know the Savior and understand much of his reign, while the favored of paradise would be ignorant of these matters. In the second place, the deeds of this life determine the character of the next. If a man dies unransomed or unwashed in the blood of
Christ, our faith is that he remains so through eternity. No proposition has ever been made to the wicked of the unseen looking to their salvation. Such, at least, is our view. As the spirit stands to God at death, so it stands to him forever. Let DO one persuade himself that if he dies unsaved a chance awaits him in hell. He who leaves earth with Heaven’s frowns upon him will never emerge from perdition amid smiles of redemption. Let all, then, hasten to get ready here.
[This article was published in Lard’s Quarterly April 1865. Subtitles were added for reading ease]