Page images
PDF
EPUB

body. Nor is there any contradiction in the idea of an immortal body, any more than of an immortal spirit; nor is any being immortal, but by dependence on the Divine Supporting Power. Nor does the notion of the posibility of a faculty of thinking superadded to matter, at all affect the point in question. Though it is certain, that a pretended system of matter with a thinking faculty, muft either be nothing more than matter animated by spirit, or a substance of a quite opposite nature to all that we call matter, about which we cannot rea. fon, having no ideas of it. Farther, we have reason to conclude, that the body depends on the mind for life and motion; not the mind on the body. We find, that the mind is not impaired by the loss of whole limbs of the body; that the mind is often very active, when the body is at rest; that the mind corrects the errors, presented to it through the senses; that even in the decay, disorder, or total suspension, of the senses; the mind is affected just as he might be expected to be, when obliged to use untoward instruments, and to have wrong representations, and false impressions, forced upon her, or when deprived of all traces, and quite pue out of her element. For, the case of persons intoxicated with liquor, or in a dream, or raving in a fever, or distracted, all which have a resemblance to one another, may be conceived of in the following manner,

The mind, or thinking being, which at present receives impressions only by means of the material organ of the brain, and the senses through which intelligence is communicated into the brain ; the mind, I say, being at present confined to act only within the dark cell of the brain, and to receive very lively impressions from it, which is the consequence of a law of nature, to us inexplicable; may be exactly in the fame manner affected by the impressions made on the brain by a disease, or other accidental cause, as if they were made by some real external object. For example, if in a violent fever, or a frenzy, the same impressions be, by a preternatural flow of the animal spi. rits, made on the retina of the eye, as would be made if the person was to be in a field of battle, where two armies were engaged ; and if at the same time it hap

pened,

pened, that by the same means the same impressions Thould be made on the auditory nerve, as would be made if the person were within hearing of the noise of drums, the clangour of trumpets, and the shouts of men; how should the spiritual being, immured as she is in her dark cell, and unused to such a deception as this, how should the know it was a deception, any more, than an Indian, who had never seen a picture, could find at the first view, that the canvas was really flat, though it appeared to exhibit a landscape of several miles in extent ? It is therefore conceivable that the mind may be strongly and forcibly affected by a material system, without being itself material. And that the mind is not material, appears further, in that she abstracts herself from the body, when she would apply most closely to thought ; that the soul is capable of purely abstract ideas, as of rectitude, order, virtue, vice, and the like; to which matter furnishes no archetype, nor has any connection with them; that it is affected by what is confessedly not matter, as the sense of words heard, or read in books, which if it were material it could not be: which shews our minds to be quite different beings from the body, and naturally independent on it; that we can conceive of matter in a way, which we cannot of spirit, and contrariwise; matter being still to be, without any contradiction, conceived of as divisible and inactive; whereas it is impoffible to apply those ideas to spirit, without a direct absurdity, which thews, that the mind is the same, confcious, indivisible, identical being, though the body is subject to continual change, addition, and diminution; that the mind continues to improve in the most noble and valuable accomplishments; when the body is going faft to decay; that, even the moment before the diffolution of the body, the vigour of the mind seems often wholly unimpaired ; that the interests of the mind and body are always different, and often oppofite, as in the cafe of being obliged to give up life for truth. These confiderations, attended to duly, shew, that we have no reason io question the possibility of the living principle's fubafting after the diffolution of the material vehicle.

As

As to the difficulty arising from the confideration of the close connection between the body and soul, and the impreslions made by the one upon the other, which has led some to question whether they are in reality at all distinct beings, it is to be remembered, that this connection, which is absolutely necessary in the present itate, is wholly owing to the divine disposal, and not to any likeness, much less sam.eness, of the thinking, intel. ligent agent with the gross corporeal vehicle. If it had fo pleased the Author of our being, he could have fixed fuch a natural connection between our minds and the moon, or planets, that their various revolutions and aspects might have affected us, in the same manner as now the health or disorder of our bodies does. But this would not have made the moon and planets a part of us. No more do the mutual impreflions made reciprocally by the mind and body, prove them to be the same, or that the human nature is all body, especially considering that, as already observed, in many cases we evidently perceive an independency and difference between them.

It cannot be pretended that there is any absurdity in conceiving of the animating principle as existing even before conception in the womb, nor of a new union commencing at a certain period, by a fixed law of nature, between it and a corporeal vehicle, which union may be supposed to continue, according to certain eftablished laws of nature for a long course of years; and may be broke, or diffolved, in the same regular manner; so that the system of matter, to which the animating principle was united, may be no more to it than any. other system of matter.

It is remarkable, that all living creatures, especially our species, on their first appearance in life, feem at a loss, as if the mind was not, in the infant state, quite engaged and united to its new vehicle, and therefore, could not command and wield it properly. Sleep, infirm old age, severe fickness, and fainting, seem, according to certain established laws of nature, partly to loofen or relax the union between the living principle, the mind, and the material vehicle; and, as it were, to

fct

set them at a greater distance from one another, or make them more indifferent to one another, as if (so to speak) almost beyond the sphere of one another's attraction. Deach is nothing more than the total diffolution of this tie, occasioned in a natural way, by some alteration in the material frame, not in the mind; whereby that which formed the nexus, or union, whatever that may be, is removed or ditengaged. It is probable, that the anxiety and distress, under which the mind commonly feels itself at death, is owing rather to the manner and process of the diffolution, than to the dissolution itself. For we observę, that very aged persons, and infants, often die without a struggle. The union between soul and body, being already weak, is easily diffolved. And if sleep be, as it seems, a partial dissolution of this union, or a setting the mind and body.at a greater distance from one another, the reason why it gives no disturbance is, that it comes on in such a manner as not forcibly to tear in pieces, but gently to relax the ligatures, whatever they are, between the material and spiritual natures. That there is an analogy between sleep and death is evident from observing, that feep sometimes goes on to death, as in lethargic cases, and in the effects of strong opiates. And it is remarkable, that the life of a person, who has taken too large a dose of opium, cannot be saved but by forcibly wakeing him; as if the mutual action of the mind and body upon one another was the medium of the union; and that, if their mutual action upon one another comes to be leffened to a certain degree, they become indifferent to one another, and the union between them ceases of course, as two companions walking together in the dark may come to lose one another, by dropping their conyersation, and keeping a profound filence.

It is probable, that the condition in which the mind, just disengaged from the body, feels itlelf, is very much like to that of dreaming ; all confusion, uncertainty, and incoherence of ideas; and that, in some measure, like the infant-mind newly entered upon a state wholly unknown, it finds itself greatly at a loss, and exerts itself with much difficulty and difadvantage; till a little time and habit qualifies it for a new and untried scene of action*

If the true account of the human nature be, that the spiritual, active, thinking principle is united to a subtile etherial vehicle, whose refidence is in the brain, and that death is the departure of the soul and spirit from the body; which was the notion of the Platonic Philosophers, and Jewish rabbii, and seems to be countenanced by the apostle Paul; if this be the true account of the human make, there is no difficulty in conceiving the possibility of the mind's thinking and acting in a state of total feparation from the gross terreftrial body, notwithstanding the seeming difficulty of a suspension of thought in profound fleep, or in a fainting fit. For the embodied and separate states are so very different, there is no reasoning from one to the other on every point. It may be impossible for the mind, while imprifoned in the body, in a great disorder of the animal frame, to join ideas together, for want of its traces in the brain, and other impliments of reafoning, to which it has all along been accustomed, and which it cannot do without; and yet, it may be possible for the same mind, when freed from its dark prison, to go to work in a quite different manner, to receive impressions immediately from the objects themselves, which it received before by the intervention of the senses, and to contrive for itself memorial traces, and the other necessary apparatus for improvement, in a much more perfect manner. It may then be able to penetrate into the internal substance, and examine the minute arrangement of the smallest corpuscles of all kinds of material fyftems. By applying its ductile and delicate vehicle, which may be considered as all sensation, all eye, all ear, and touch, it

The author is not ashamed to confess, that he now thinks his former opinion concerning the Itate of the dead, as represented in these paragraphs, erroneous; though he chooses not to alter the text on that account; think: ing it hardly fair to lessen the value of former editions, by adding to succeeding ones what is better laid before readers in separate publications. The author is now inclinable to think Doctor Law's opinion, in his Theory of Religion, more rational, as well as niore scriptural, than the generally received notion of the soul's being in a full state of consciousness and activity between death and resurrection. It is a point of mere speculation, no way materially affecting either faith or manners,

may

« PreviousContinue »