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too long for your reading; and I know not whether it might not be true, as sir W- B- -d said in another case, that he believed all would come up that was under ground, and his grandfather would come with the rest and call for his estate again.
The doctrine of disquiet souls returning hither, to do or obtain justice, to make or demand restitution, and that they could not be at rest till such and such things were settled, wills performed, dispossessed heirs righted, concealed treasons discovered, concealed treasures found out, and the like, were it true, would make the world uninhabitable: ghosts and apparitions would walk the streets at noon-day; and the living might go on one side of the street, and the dead on the other; the latter would be infinitely more numerous.
Nothing can be more preposterous than such a notion. It is true, that the examples given or pretended to be given of it, are but few, and that very part is against them; for if the thing is real, why are they but few? It must be acknowledged, as the times go, the cases of the injured and oppressed are not few: on the contrary, as God said of the old world, the whole earth is filled with violence. Whence is it then, if injured souls, or the souls of injured, oppressed, ruined people could return, that there are not millions haunting the doors, nay, the closets and bed-chambers, of those that enjoy the wealth which was so unjustly obtained ?
If it could be at all, the number would be infinitely more; for why should one guilty soul be uneasy, and not another ?
All the guilty would come back to make restitution as far as they were able, and all the sufferers would come back to obtain it.
Again, the condition of those that enjoy the illgotten wealth of their ancestors would be deplorable: the souls of guilty parents would harass their sons for the estate, to make restitution; and the souls of the oppressed sufferers would haunt them, to get their own restored : so that they only would be
easy in the world, who had nothing to restore, or who enjoyed nothing but what was of their own getting; they only would sleep at night who had balanced with the day, who had earned what they eat, and had eaten no more than they earned.
But this we see is not the case: that the souls of the most guilty remain where they are, and the souls of the most oppressed do not come hither to complain, strongly implies, and is to me a sufficient proof, that their state is determined; that the gulf is fixed; that they can only look back with self-reproach, but cannot come back to give themselves the satisfaction of doing justice to those they have injured; that the murdered person cannot come back, no, not to detect the murderer; or the plundered traveller to discover the highwayman. It is plain to me, and will pass for evidence, that they cannot, because they do not; and it is plain to me that some do not, because all do not ; for if any, why not all ?
It does not consist with the enlightened justice of that state which we believe is beyond life, to let one injured soul come hither to obtain justice against the
oppressor of his family, and not let another have the same liberty; or to let one injurious soul return to make restitution, and make his peace, that he may be at rest, as they call it, and lock
another from it, who would be equally willing to do it, and is equally miserable in the want of it.
That it is not so, is a sufficient testimony to me that it cannot be so, and the miserable condition the world would be in here, if it were so, makes it clear to me that the wisdom of Providence has otherwise determined it. Nor would the advantage be anything considerable,
at least not in proportion to the disorder it would bring along with it; and were we to allow the
possibility, it would bring in so many absurdities with it in points of religion, that it would destroy the established doctrines of all religion : for example,
First, We believe that the final estate of the soul is determined with life, and as the tree falls so it must lie; that this is the state of trial, that the state of retribution : if so then, to what purpose should the souls of the dead desire to come back, unless they were to have a further probation, or that there was a possibility of retrieving their state, and recovering from the sentence they were under? and if the divine wisdom had left room for that, it would have as well spared them in life till it had been done.
Secondly, To what purpose should the soul come back to do justice, if doing that justice could make no alteration of its future state ? If it could make any alteration, then, there must be room after death to recover the soul from eternal death; and if there was, the eyes may be supposed to be so opened there, that none would omit or neglect it.
Thirdly, If coming hither or doing justice here, can be no help to the souls departed, and yet they desire it, you must then suppose a strong desire of doing disinterested good may possess the souls of those who are in a state of condemnation ; which is inconsistent with the other circumstances of hell, which we have just reason to believe shuts out all good desires, and all good principles, from the souls that are there.
Fourthly, The supposition of souls being in a condition after death to return hither, destroys all the descriptions which the Scripture gives us of the future condition, either of the good or bad souls : but that I hinted before.
Upon the whole, 'tis a notion, however it may have been received here, perfectly inconsistent with either reason or revealed religion; and I may venture to say it cannot be, 'tis impossible, and that all the pretences of a ghost or apparition saying it is such a person, and that it cannot be at rest till so and so be done, and that now it shall go to God, must be a delusion, and must be added by the persons relating the story; for that no ghost or spirit really happy could say so, or would impose so much
The reality of apparition further asserted; and
what spirits they are that do really appear. THE affirming, as in the foregoing chapters, that the unembodied souls of men do not appear again, or concern themselves in the affairs of life; that the good would not if they could, and the bad could not if they would ; does not at all destroy the reality of the thing called apparition, or do I pretend to argue from thence that there is no such thing as any apparition at all: on the contrary, I insist it is reasonable to believe (notwithstanding all that has been said) that there are such things as the apparition of spirits ; and this I think I have already proved past the power of any scruple or cavil, as also that there have been such things in all ages of the world.
The doctrine of the existence of spirits is established in nature; where those spirits reside, is matter of difficulty, and our speculations are various about them; but to argue that therefore there are none, that they exist not, that there are no such beings, is absurd, and contrary to the nature of the thing; we may as well argue against the existence of the sun when it is clouded and eclipsed, though we see its light, only because we cannot see its beams, or the globe of its body; but let us back to the principle.
Spirit, as it is to be considered here, is to be reduced to four general heads.
First, The author of all spirit, the fountain of all being, the original cause of life, and the creator both of spirit and of all the subsequents of it. This we