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avoid it by inventing circumstances which are as baseless as any dream, and the chief interest of the poem is made to depend on an incident which is purely fictitious.
We observe, in conclusion, that this discussion will not be wholly in vain, if it shall lead any of our readers to a renewed perusal and study of the Scriptures of the Old Testament; and especially will it be useful if it reminds them that the Bible was not given to teach us anything without study, and was not designed to supersede the exercise of our moral judgment, nor to be a clog on our faculties of understanding, nor to smother and crush out our instincts of reason, of right and of justice, but to aid us in our inquiries after truth and to instruct us in regard to our duties. The common version of the Scriptures is a human and therefore fallible work; and we are not called to sacrifice to the letter of Scripture any rational conclusion, well-founded conviction or honest sentiment of the heart. We are to believe what is true, just, consistent; and accept of nothing merely because great and good men have believed and taught it; but prove all things, and with an honest, candid spirit and an intelligent faith hold fast the good, while we cast the bad away. This course only can be worthy of the human mind or be acceptable to God, who made the human soul to be superior to creeds and traditions, however venerable with age, and who esteems sincerity and purity in the inward parts as better than all burnt-offerings.
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What shall we be ?
This question naturally divides itself into two parts, one relating to our intellectual capacities, the other to our moral character, in the future life. In the last volume of the Quarterly the first part received such attention as we could give it: the present paper will be devoted to the second part.
We cannot but be desirous, nay, anxious, to know what our future character will be ; and what influence our present culture will have on our future selves. When we think seriously of this subject, as we must quite often in life, we shall earnestly wish to know what we shall be. If we are now forming characters for eternity, or, rather, if our present moral character is to attend us in the future state, so that we shall be there precisely what we are here, it is desirable to know it ; or if we are to enter the future state in a superior moral condition, it will be pleasing to be assured of it. Much of our present happiness is derived from the contemplation of a future which appears better and more desirable than the present. A future state which is in the highest degree desirable and attractive, which fills the heart with joyful emotion as we contemplate upon it, must have a good influence upon us here. We cannot contemplate on a lovely scene in nature, or study a beautiful picture, without having pleasant emotions excited. Again, it may
be said, if our present attainments in moral culture are to constitute our moral possessions at the beginning of the future life, a knowledge of this fact will stimulate us to make the greatest improvement possible in the present time. We may rest assured, however, that the correct view will have the best effect on men; for the truth must always exert a better and happier influence than error. Before
appealing to the Scriptures to ascertain what they teach, we may reason upon the subject, to ascertain what is probably true. We may reason from analogy in searching for the truth; or we may assume that certain laws here established will continue in force beyond death. Indeed, it is reasonable to suppose that we shall be governed by moral laws as nearly the same in the two modes of being as our moral nature and outward circumstances are the same in the two states of being. If there is any essential difference in these, it is highly probable that our future character will be unlike our present character. For we have no reason to suppose that the same moral character will be developed, or will even exist, under circumstances widely different, or in conditions very dissimilar.
dissimilar. We do not expect a man who was born in a benighted land, and has spent his days in a state of heathen ignorance, will possess that culture and refinement, and will have that nice moral sense which he will who has dwelt among enlightened people, and whose character has been formed in the school of Christ.
We assume that so far as the circumstances and conditions of the two worlds are essentially the same, so far shall we be essentially the same in character, both here and hereafter. But so far as the condition and circumstances of the two states are essentially unlike, we shall possess a character essentially different in one form the character possessed in the other. To determine, then, what we shall be, we must ascertain what are the condition and circumstances of the future life as compared with those of the present life. Were it necessary to argue this point at any greater length, we would present the well-known and admitted fact that circumstances have a decided influence in moulding the character as well as in forming the manners. He who has lived in almost total ignorance of the Christian religion, who has not enjoyed the refining and elevating influence of Christian worship, but has devoted his Sabbaths to sensual pleasures and entertainments, will not possess that clear moral character, that elevated tone of feeling, that warm love of the chaste and the pure, and will not have that strong dislike of the low, vulgar and obscene, which he will, who has been educated in a truly Christian home, and whose character has been developed in harmony with the precepts of the Gospel. The society in which one lives, the companions of his busy and his leisure hours, will have a great influence on his character and manners. He who associates with the low and vile; who has been familiar from his earliest years with language of profanity and vulgarity ; whose teachers have been vice and impiety, will possess a different character from him who has lived in good and refined society, and whose teachers have been virtue and piety. We would also adduce the well-known and admitted fact that all are not constituted alike morally. Some are naturally selfish, others benevolent; some are merciful, others revengeful; some appear to have an innate love of goodness and truth, but others seem naturally inclined to vice and sin ; some are religiously inclined from their earliest years, but to others the whole subject of religion is distasteful; some are naturally meek and lowly of heart, but others are naturally haughty and overbearing. With the same care and training all cannot be made morally and socially alike.
Is it not highly probable that the circumstances and the society of the future state will be far more favorable to purity and holiness than they are here? Will not goodness and purity have an advantage there which they do not have here? These questions may, indeed, be answered differently, answered according to the ideas entertained of the future state; yet it is believed that nearly all look upon that state as far more favorable to purity and holiness than this. In the degree that it is so, we shall be purer and holier there than we are here.
Again, these earthly bodies, these material forms, are not to accompany us across the dark valley.. We leave them at death ; we go out from them when the time of our departure comes; hence they constitute no part of our future selves. The body returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit to God who gave it. The spirit will undoubtedly have a body, or vehicle, suited to its new circumstances and its superior state. But all that is peculiar to the body will perish with it; it is all of the earth, earthy. The spiritual body will be composed of spiritual elements, and it will be adapted to the heavenly world in which the spirit dwells. Our moral character is, to a great extent, in harmony with the nature of the body which we inherit. It is so here. We now have appetites, passions and desires which often lead us astray, making us depraved and sinful.
How great is the power of appetite, causing one to be a glutton, a wine-bibber, a drunkard ! The appetite for intoxicating drinks is, in some instances, too strong to be resisted. Men of culture, of education, of superior intellect, have been ruled and ruined by it, and hastened to a drunkard's grave; and those of weaker intellect and less culture have been reduced to the most abject and grovelling condition, becoming objects from which we turn away in pity and disgust. There are few, probably, who always subject the appetites to the restraints of reason and judgment.
The passions are “an imperious crowd,” and they often cause us to do work for repentance. In many instances they are not governed, but do themselves have the mastery, and lead us a terrible way. What shameful language, what contention and cruel deeds proceed from anger! Temper is the parent of much evil and sin. And who can describe the wickedness, the beastial, loathesome sins which proceed from lust? We think of the enormities of which men are guilty through lust with shame, nay, with horror. What other sins are more awful and revolting ?
If we now assume that the appetites, passions and lusts have their seat in the flesh, the moment we leave the body we shall be delivered from their power. They can no longer hold dominion over us, and our warfare will be at an end.
All these appetites and passions have an appropriate place and use here; and when properly governed and duly exercised, they promote our welfare. We could not do without them. But in the future state we cannot perceive how they can subserve our interests or promote our happiness. It is believed that spiritual bodies possess no appetites which will endanger our morality. It is believed that spiritual beings are not subject to anger and similar passions, but that they are happily exempt from them all. It would do violence to our ideas of spiritual beings to represent them as subject to lust, like men in the flesh. There is no marrying nor giving in marriage in heaven; the relation of parent and child does not exist there, because spirits are immortal, and no loss caused by the ravages of death has to be supplied. Indeed, there is no reason to believe that the distinction of sex exists among spiritual beings. Wherefore that loathesome sin which abounds in this world is not witnessed there. The earthly body is earthly and sensual ; the spiritual ministers to purity of desire and holiness of life. Hence the moment we leave this body of flesh and blood, which has numerous appetites, passions and lusts, and assume a spiritual body, which ministers to purity of thought and feeling, we shall be changed; our character will no longer be the same. We shall be subject to different influences; we shall possess different emotions ; different desires will be in exercise; different aspirations will be cherished; different motives will influence our acts, and we shall not, consequently, be the same in character. If such a difference exists, as has now been supposed, between the earthly and the spiritual body, -- and probably no one doubts it -- men will possess a moral character in the future life greatly superior to that which they now possess, because they will be in a condition far more favorable to purity and holiness. Take the most depraved and abandoned, those that have lead the most grovelling lives; place them in circumstances favorable to virtue ; make the associations and companionships of their lives pure and holy; divest them of a body which is the seat of various lusts, appetites and passions ; clothe them