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knew not how to support the principle of the soul not returning, under the experience of souls actually returning, in apparition, visiting and conversing with their friends, which was incontestable, daily experience making it known to all parties.
To reconcile this they fled to invention; and first, to that of the interval between the death and the funeral of the departed souls ; of which before.
But this is liable to so many just exceptions, so many absurdities, that it could not satisfy men of sense : for, first, they were obliged to say and prove (which would be very difficult) that none of the souls of the dead ever appeared after the funeral rites were solemnized; which, if one example had contradicted, all the arguments in the world could not then have supported the fiction ; and this, I cannot doubt, was contradicted on many occasions.
And this, no doubt, made the ancient system of the Egyptians be revived, and pass better among them afterwards; though whether the Romans received it or no, we do not find ascertained in any part of their history.
Besides, there was an absurdity in the very doctrine itself; for if the apparition of a departed soul was limited by this circumstance of burning the body, or performing the funeral rites, it put the state of the dead, in that particular respect, into the power of the living : for example, if the living, who had possession of the dead bodies of persons slain, suppose them friends, had possession of the body, the soul of that body, though unembodied and dismissed, could not be admitted to rest, or, as they expressed it, could not pass into the shades or realms below ; so, if the enemy had possession of the body, it was in the power of the enemy to keep the soul out of heaven : an absurdity so gross, one would think the wiser heathens could never entertain such a thought; yet that such it was, the words of Patroclus's ghost, quoted from Homer, makes evident:
Let my pale corse the rites of burial know,
And give me entrance in the shades below. Unhappy Patroclus ! How gross would this sound, how harsh and unmusical, in our times, when Christianity hath given us more just ideas of things! Patroclus could not get leave to go to the shades below till his funeral rites were performed ; that is, in our sense, could not be admitted, no, not into hell itself, till his body was burnt on the funeral pile, or pyre, and his ashes deposited in an urn, that is, buried like a gentleman.
By which rule, the souls of those poor creatures who were killed in the wars, and were left unburied in heaps in the field, or only a pile of stones thrown upon them, as was often the case, are wandering still, and neither admitted into heaven or hell.
Again, it was in the power of the enemy, if he had a body in possession, to preserve his. hatred against that enemy even beyond death, and by keeping him unburied, keep his soul or spirit suspended, wandering, and forgotten, in the air, and neither admitted to one or other place, whether above or below.
Thus Achilles had the body of Hector in his power twelve days, and Homer brings him in triumphing over his enemy in that case, and in a manner unworthy of man of honour. When he speaks to the ghost of his friend Patroclus, and vows to sacrifice twelve Trojan prisoners at his funeral pile, he adds :
Achilles' promise is complete,
Gloomy, he said, and horrible in view,
Iliad, lib. xxiii. line 35. So again, Achilles, mourning over the body of Patroclus as it lay upon the funeral pile, and the fire not yet kindled, I say, there again he threatens to deny Hector a soldier's burial :
But heavier fates on Hector's corse attend,
Kept from the flames for hungry dogs to rend. This was a terrible curse, and very cruel to poor Hector after he was dead, not to suffer his soul to enter into the shades below, which would be (to speak it in our language) not to give him leave to go to hell; that the gods it seems thwarted Achilles, and would not let his cruelty take place, but he was obliged to grant Priam a truce, and let the Trojans bury him:
So spake he, threat'ning : but the gods made vain
And drove the blood-hounds from their destin'd prey. So that the burying of Hector was made the care of the gods, defeating the cruel vengeance of Achilles.
To what length did this foolish notion of the ancients carry this point! putting it into the power of a man's enemy to keep his soul out of heaven too, as long as his enemy thought fit to keep the body out of the grave.
Happy it is for us in these malicious days that it is otherwise here; when not enemies only, but even cruel creditors, might arrest the dead body of their debtor, and even send the soul of him to the Devil, or keep it hovering and wandering in the air till
their debts were paid : as times go now, and as charity stands now rated among us, no poor debtor could be at rest any more after he was dead, than he could before, till his debts were all paid.
Nay, though it had pleased a merciful Father to forgive bim his sins, and as we allow it is possible, in spite of the cruel T. S- that a bankrupt may die in the state of a pardoned penitent; yet, I say, till the debt was paid, the more inexorable creditor should refuse to let him be admitted into heaven till he was paid the utmost farthing.
I must confess, if this were the case among us, I believe it would be the hardest thing in the world to get a poor bankrupt's composition accepted, or his certificate signed; for if it was in the power of the creditors to send their debtors to the Devil, I should be apt to say with the disciples of our Lord, Who then shall be saved ?
How often do we find a creditor give it for an answer, when a soliciting friend comes begging him to compound, and to accept the utmost shilling that the debtor has to offer : how often, I say, do we find the cruel creditor reply, No, not I, I'll sign none of it, the Devil shall have him before I'll sign it?
Nay, if his soul was to hover in the air, as the ancients fancied, till the body was buried, I question whether they would let the debtor go either to heaven or hell till they had their money; especially if the hovering or wandering in the air was a worse condition, as I don't know but, while the devils are said to be there, it may.
But to return to the ancients and their notion of futurity, and of souls departed, the difficulty, as I have observed, was very perplexing: they granted that after the souls of men were once determined, and transported in Charon's ferry-boat to the other side of the river Styx, or the Stygian gulf, they could return no more; and all their other fables
upon that subject would have been overthrown and come to nothing, if it had been otherwise; such as Cerberus barking continually at the gate, Charon the ferry-man carrying all over but bringing none back, and the like.
But notwithstanding this, as I have said, they found several of these souls visiting the world in apparition, and this quite destroyed all the scheme of their being in a determined state; so that they knew not what to think of next.
How would it have unravelled all those hard knots, and made everything easy to their understanding, had they been let into this just way of reasoning ! had they discovered that there is an angelic world, an invisible world of spirits, some of whom being placed by their merciful Maker as an advanced body at or near the outer circumference of the earth's atmosphere, have a power given them at least to take cognizance of human affairs; and to converse with this world, either by apparition, voices, noises, good or bad omens, or other sensible conveyances to the mind, by which they can give notices of good or evil, and can intimate to man many things useful to him in the conduct of his life.
That the spirits inhabiting this invisible world are at hand, (how near is not necessary to us to know,) can assume bodies, shape, voice, and even can personate this or that man or woman, so as to appear in the very figure, countenance, and clothes or dress of our departed friends, speak with their proper and distinct voices, and in the first person of this or that particular man or woman, and in their names ; and can thus suit themselves in their several appearances, to the occasion they appear
Had they known these things, I say, they would have rejoiced in the discovery, and it would have made everything easy to them. Patroclus would never have troubled Achilles with a visit from