Chapter 97

  1. Future Life

There are two questions, one of which is the most important, the other the most interesting that can be proposed in language: Are we to live after death? and if we are, in what state? These are questions confined to no climate, creed, or community. The savage is as deeply interested in them as the sage, and they are of equal import under every meridian where there are men.

Among the most effectual and most beautiful modes of reasoning that the universe affords for the hope that is within us of a life beyond the tomb there is none more beautiful or exquisite than that derived from the change of the seasons, from the second life that bursts forth in Spring in objects apparently dead, and from the shadowing forth in the renovation of every thing around us of that destiny which divine revelation calls upon our faith to believe shall be ours. The trees that have faded and remained dark and gray through the long, dreary life of Winter clothe themselves again with green in the Spring sunshine, and every hue speaks of life. The buds that were trampled down and faded burst forth once more in freshness and beauty, the streams break from the icy chains that held them, and the glorious sun himself comes wandering from his far-off journey, giving warmth to the atmosphere and renewed beauty and grace to every thing around, and every thing we see rekindles into life.

At all times and in all places men have contemplated the questions of death and immortality. The one is a stern reality from which they know there is no escaping. Every day they see friends and acquaintances drooping and dying. Their pleasure drives are interrupted by the funeral cortege of strangers. There is not a soul but what in reflective moments has pondered the question of immortality. If they see clearly under the guiding light of Christianity the future is full of hope to them. It matters but little their present surroundings. If poverty and pain be their lot, they know that rest will come to them later. Those who do not possess this pleasing hope of immortality feel at times a painful longing, a vague unrest. Philosophize as they will, the future is dark and uncertain, and there are times when they would willingly give all could they but see a beacon light or feel the strong assurance of faith that they would live again.

Surely, there is tenable ground for this hope! It can not be that earth is man’s only abiding place. It can not be that our life is a bubble cast up by the ocean of eternity to float for a moment upon its surface, and then sink into nothingness and darkness forever. Else why is it that the high and glorious aspirations, which leap like angels from the temples of our hearts, are forever wandering abroad satisfied? Why is it that the rainbow and the cloud come over us with a beauty that is not of earth, and then pass off and leave us to muse on their faded loveliness? Why is it that the stars which hold their festival around the midnight throne are set above the grasp of our limited faculties, and are forever mocking us with their unapproachable glory? Finally, why is it that bright forms of human beauty are presented to the view, and then taken from us, leaving the thousand streams of affection to flow back upon our hearts? We are from a higher destiny than that of earth. There is a realm where the rainbow never fades, where the stars will be spread out before us like the islands on the bosom of the ocean, and where the beautiful beings that here pass before us like visions will remain with us forever.

As death approaches and earth recedes do we not more clearly see that spiritual world in which we have all along been living, though we knew it not? The dying man tells us of attendant angels hovering around him. Perchance it is no vision. They might have been with him through life. They may attend us all through life, only our inward eyes are dim and we see them not. What is that mysterious expression, so holy and so strange, so, beautiful yet so fearful, on the countenance of one whose soul has just departed? May it not be the glorious light of attendant seraphs, the luminous shadow of which rests awhile on the countenance of the dead?

, In, pager

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