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§ 2. The Sleep of the Soul.

The doctrine that the soul exists, during the interval between death and the resurrection, in a state of unconscious repose, properly supposes the soul to be a distinct substance from the body. It is therefore to be distinguished from the materialistic theory, which assumes that as matter in certain states and combinations exhibits the phenomena of magnetism or light, so in other combinations it exhibits the phenomena of life, and in others the phenomena of mind, and hence that vital and mental activity are as much the result or effect of the molecular arrangements of matter, as any physical operations in the external world. As in this view it would be absurd to speak of the sleep or quietude of magnetism or light when the conditions of their existence are absent, so it would be equally absurd, on this theory, to speak of the sleep of the soul after the dissolution of the body.

The doctrine of the sleep of the soul, moreover, is not identical with that which assumes that, although matter is in none of its combinations the cause of mental activity, yet that it is the necessary condition (so far as man is concerned) of its manifestation. 731The best of scientific men teach with regard to life, or vital force, that it is not the result of material combinations, but that such combination is necessary to its manifestation. “We recognize that these [vital] phenomena,” says Professor Nicholson, “are never manifested except by certain forms of matter, or, it may be, by but a single form of matter. We conclude, therefore, that there must be an intimate connection between vital phenomena and the ‘matter of life;’ but we can go no further than this, and the premises do not in any way warrant the assertion that life is the result of living matter, or one of its properties.” “The more philosophical view as to the nature of the connection between life and its material basis, is the one which regards vitality as something superadded and foreign to the matter by which vital phenomena are manifested. Protoplasm is essential as the physical medium through which vital action may be manifested; just as a conductor is essential to the manifestation of electric phenomena, or just as a paint-brush and colours are essential to the artist. Because metal conducts the electric current, and renders it perceptible to our senses, no one thinks of therefore asserting that electricity is one of the inherent properties of a metal, any more than one would feel inclined to assert that the power of painting was inherent in the camel’s hair or in the dead pigments. Behind the material substratum, in all cases, is the active and living force; and we have no right to assume that the force ceases to exist when its physical basis is removed, though it is no longer perceptible to our senses. It is, on the contrary, quite conceivable theoretically that the vital forces of an organism should suffer no change by the destruction of the physical basis, just as electricity would continue to subsist in a world composed universally of non-conductors. In neither case could the force manifest its presence, or be brought into any perceptible relation with the outer world; but in neither case should we have the smallest ground for assuming that the power was necessarily non-extant.”757757Introduction to the Study of Biology, by H. Alleyne Nicholson, M. D., D. Sc., Ph. D., F. R. S. E., F. G. S., etc. Professor of Natural History and Botany in University College, Toronto, etc., etc. Edinburgh and London, 1872, pp. 8 and 11.

This view when transferred to the soul, or mental phenomena, may be applied in three different forms to the doctrine of the state of man after death. First, God may be regarded as the universal mind-force which manifests itself through the human brain as electricity does through a conductor. When the brain is 732disintegrated, the mind-force remains, but not the individual man. Secondly, we may assume the realistic doctrine of generic humanity, manifesting itself in connection with proper corporeal organizations. Here again, it would seem to follow that when any individual human body is dissolved, the generic human life remains, but not the man. This is nearly the doctrine of Olshausen, before referred to. He held that the individuality of man depends on the body; so that without a body there can be no soul; that the only existence of the soul of man possible between death and the resurrection must be the scattered dust of its human frame. Thirdly, we may take the doctrine of Swedenborg, who taught that man has two bodies, an exterior and interior, a material and spiritual, and that it is the former only that dies; the latter remains as the organ of the soul. Or, as others believe, the new, or spiritual, or resurrection body is provided at the moment of death, so that the soul passes from ifs earthly to its heavenly tabernacle in a moment. In none of these forms, however, is this theory of the absolute dependence of the soul for its power of self-manifestation properly applicable to the doctrine of the sleep of the soul after death. It is nevertheless probable that those who advocated this doctrine, in different periods in the history of the Church, had some such theory underlying their views.

Eusebius758758Ecclesiastica Historia, VI. xxxvii.; edit. Cambridge, 1720, p. 299. mentions a small sect of Christians in Arabia who held that the soul remained unconscious from death to the resurrection. At the time of the Reformation there was such a revival of that doctrine that Calvin deemed it expedient to write an essay devoted to its refutation. Socinus also taught that the soul after death perceived and received nothing out of itself, although it remained self-conscious and self-contemplative. Archbishop Whately759759A View of the Scripture Revelations concerning a Future State, by Richard Whately, D. D., Archbishop of Dublin. Philadelphia, 1856. says that, so far as the Scriptures are concerned, it is an open question whether the soul remains in a conscious state after death or not. In the third lecture he gives reasons which favour the view of continued consciousness; and in the fourth, those which seem to teach the opposite doctrine. To the understanding, he says, there is no difference between the two views; although to the imagination, the difference is great. In the consciousness of the soul of the believer, in either case, entrance into heaven would instantaneously succeed death. An interval 733of which the soul was unconscious, would, for it, have no existence. The archbishop for himself thinks that the arguments on the one side are as strong as those on the other. The two considerations which seem to him to favour the doctrine of the sleep of the soul between death and the resurrection, are, first the fact that death is so often called a sleep. The dead are those who are asleep. (1 Thess. xiv. 4.) This expression cannot properly be understood of the body. A dead body can no more be said to sleep than a stone. The fair intimation, therefore, is, as the Archbishop thinks, that the soul sleeps when the body dies. The second consideration is that the New Testament clearly teaches that there is a solemn final judgment at the last day, when the destiny of each soul will be decided for eternity. But this appears inconsistent with the doctrine that the fate of the soul is decided immediately after it leaves the body. He admits that, according to the Scriptures, probation ends with this life, and therefore if the righteous at death pass into a state of happiness and the wicked into a state of misery, they are thereby judged; and there is no apparent necessity for a future judgment. It is obvious that these arguments have little force against the clear teachings of the Bible, and the faith of the Church universal, and indeed of all mankind. As to the first of the above mentioned arguments, it is enough to say, that as a dead body and a body asleep are so much alike in appearance, it is the most natural thing in the world to speak of death as an unending sleep. This is done continually by those who are firm believers in the continued conscious activity of the soul after death. The other argument has, if possible, still less weight. Although the fate of every man should be decided for himself and to his knowledge at the moment of death, there may be important and numerous reasons why there should be a public, solemn adjudication at the last day, when the secrets of all hearts shall be made known, and the justice of God revealed in the presence of men and angels.

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