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I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets. THAT the saints do 'not remain insensible, while their bodies are in the dust, but become angels, * see and serve God and bear his messages, and minister to the heirs of salvation, hath been argued from several considerations, in the preced. ing discourse ; but we chiefly depend on revelation. The text and several other scriptures, we conceive to be to our purpose, and sufficient to el. tablish our theory, and that the same is illustrated and confirmed by sacred history, both of the Old and New Testament. One instance of a departed saint, sent as a messenger from heaven to earth, hath been adduced from the Old Testament: We now advert to the New.
* The term angel, fignifies a messenger. If glorified saints are used to bear God's messages, or sent to do his business, they are made angels, in the proper sense of the word. Such appear to have been the angelic band, who united in praising God, when the Lamb prevailed to open the book of his decrees and reveal them to the apostlem" And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy-for thou wast sain, and haft redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation ; and haft made us unto our God, kings and priests : And we shall reign on the earth."* Surely these must have been of our race.
* REVELATION V. 9, 10.
Here our proof is explicit. We can conceive of no evasion. Two of our race who had long before been removed from earth to heaven, were certainly-fent to visit the Savior, just before his sufferings-Moses and Elias, who attended him on the mount, whither he retired with three of his disciples, and conversed with him in their presence, St. Luke hath described their appearance, and told the subject of their conversation—“Who appeared, in glory and spake of his decease, which he should accomplish at Jerusalem."*
Moses had then been dead more than fourteen centuries. Elias had not tafted death, but he had been changed. That change had passed upon him which will pass on the saints who shall be alive at Christ's coming. The chạnge must have been great, or he could not have ascended to heav. en in a chariot of fire, or lived above the region of air which surrounds this globe.
These two faints, feem, on this occasion, to have been assimilated to each other—" They both appeared in glory”—were company for each oth. er, and sent together to testify for Christ, before chosen witnesses. Our Savior's refurrection was also attended by witnesses who had been for some time in the world of spirits" And the graves were opened, and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.
* Luke ix. 29.
But it is only departed saints who are employed to bear God's messages. There is no intima. tion in scripture, that those who die in their fins, are afterwards sent, or suffered to go abroad. There is reason to believe, that as the saints are made perfect at death, so all that bears an affinity to goodness, ceases at that period, in the unrenew. ed, and that they put on the complete image of him who is termed their father. If this is the case, they would spread mischief and misery, were they permitted access to those who remain in the body, and liable to temptation. However this might be, we are assured that they are confin. ed in the infernal prison, and will continue prisoners till the
great day. This is intimated by our Savior, when he warns the finner to “ agree with his adversary quickly, while in the way with him-lest he should be cast into prison"-because should this happen there will be no release “ till he shall pay the utmost farthing." This speaks the state of impenitents, to be from the time of their death, that of prisoners, who can neither break their prison, or obtain, so much as a temporary release, till they shall have suffered all their demerits.
* Matthew xxvii. 52, 53,
The same is intimated in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. The rich finner is represented as passing, at death, into a place of torment, and confinement, and as despairing of even a moment. ary enlargement. Otherwise he would not have requested that Lazarus might be sent to warn his brethren who were then living on earth, but rath. er that he might have gone himself. Him they would have known; and he could have given them a feeling description of the miseries which living in pleasure, regardless of the one thing needful, will draw after it. Many advantages might have been expected from his personal appearance to his brethren, but he preferred no such petition.
His prayer that Lazarus might be sent, was probably intended to intimate that departed spirits remember their former state on earth, and the relatives and acquaintance whom they leave upon it ; that they retain a concern for them ; that they know that good spirits are used of God to transact matters relative to their spiritual concerns, and that those who die in their fins are kept in con. finement, and not permitted to go forth ; no, not to warn fellow finners, whom they have left behind them.
This agrees with what is faid by St. Peter, re. fpecting the antediluvians. He speaks of those as being “ fpirits in prison" in the apostolic age, “ who were disobedient, when the long fuffering of God waited with them in the days of Noah."
Ir farther appears that their imprisonment is a ftate of darkness. “ Caft ye the unprofitable ser
vant into outer darkness to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.” This darkness is probably a contrast to the light enjoyed by glorifi. ed saints. They are doubtless let into the purposes of heaven-to them the mystery of divine providence is opened. They fee and admire the wisdom and goodness of God, in those dispensations, which while here, filled them with wonder. But it seems that the wicked are not let into these things, but driven
away in darkness, and left enveloped in it“ None of the wicked shall understand, but the wife shall understand."
This may serve to explain a passage in Job, which might seem opposed to our construction of the text-" His fons come to honor and he knoweth it not ; and they are brought low, but he perceiveth it not of them.”* If we understand this of the wicked, it will harmonize with the other scriptures which have been adduced. Though some understand the words of Job, as descriptive of a man's state at the approach of death, at which period he is often lost and bewildered, and consequently unaffected with any thing which may happen to his dearest connexions, for whom, in health, and while possessed of reason, he felt greatly interested. This construction is favored by the words which follow, in which he is represented as still pained in body, as well as mind
." But his flesh upon him shall have pain, and his foul within him shall mourn.”+