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It has been said “ the proper study of mankind, is man.”—And certainly whilst it is rightly pursued no study can be more proper, none more interesting to an intellectual being than that, of which it is the object to render him as well acquainted as possible with his own nature and ultimate destination.—Accordingly we find, as might have been expected, that from very early times, men of the highest attainments have applied to the investigation of this subject all the powers of mind by which they were distinguished; those writers in particular who flourished in the best ages of the Christian Church, have examined it with a minuteness of research which has anticipated almost all that might otherwise have been advanced by the learned of the present day. For it is not with subjects of this nature as it is with the pursuits of science. In the latter, continual new discoveries prove the errors of earlier theories, and render necessary occasional
changes of system. In the former, nothing can be discovered by modern genius, which was not known to learned men of old times ;—for human nature still remains what it always has been ;-and most certainly we are not to expect, that the present times will produce any persons more able to examine closely and fully every question affecting the nature or interesting to the eternal welfare of the Human Race, than those great men whose works abundantly testify their able reasoning and laborious research. It is indeed one of the distinguishing features of the present day to set at nought the wisdom of past ages; yet surely in this there is more of arrogance than sound discretion; and it is justly to be feared, that they, whose overweening conceit of their own acuteness, leads them to disdain the assistance of tried and able guides, may at length discover that they have lamentably wandered out of their road; and have been turning their steps backward into the thick darkness of heathen ignorance, instead of steadily advancing into that glorious light which shall shine more and more unto the perfect day.
It has been quaintly observed,—“ that many of your modern wise men seem to be running a mad race in learning ;-they hurry themselves over the first part of their course till they arrive at the limits of legitimate knowledge; and then, too high-mettled to stop, they dash forward into the wild desert
of unknown mystery, in which they are quickly bewildered and lost.”—There is much truth in this remark. No doubt there are some pursuits, chemistry for instance, to the allowed investigation of which there appear to be no bounds ;-since in proportion to the unremitting boldness with which its depths are explored, will be the surprising improvements in useful knowledge which may be obtained. But it is not so, at least by no means in the same degree, with subjects connected with the nature and prospects of Man. On these points the brightness of Divine Revelation hath shed it's light; and advantage has long since been taken of this light, by minds equal to the task, to accumulate as much information as probably will ever be allowed to Human Beings. It must be difficult, therefore, for modern genius to succeed in acquiring additional knowledge. Neither is this of much consequence; the stores of ancient wisdom remain and are sufficient. Whilst then it may be useful and even necessary to remodel, as occasion may require, in a form intelligible to modern readers, those writings, which though invaluable in matter, may have become antiquated in form, the attempt to gain distinction by advancing something strictly new, has frequently led to unprofitable speculation, if not to dangerous error. For instance, in the question which it will be the object of the following pages to illustrate,-namely, the state of the soul between death and the resurrection, no writer of the present day can pretend to say much beyond what has already been said. And this may be affirmed with equal truth to whichever side of the question we refer. For whilst they who are strenuous in defence of the doctrine of an intermediate state, can but bring forward in it's support the arguments and reasonings of former writers;they who appear on the opposite side, produce only a revival of erroneous opinions, which have often before been promulgated and refuted. And such in a great measure is the case with all modern polemical writers. Controversialists of the present day contend only with the weapons handed down to them by former disputants; and it is well if they can wield them with the admirable skill and force of their original possessors. Some few writers indeed may occasionally appear capable of still bringing forth fresh matter; but of the generality the above observation will hold good. Neither can this be considered as any impeachment of the abilities of such persons. When subjects have been discussed over and over again during so many ages, it is hardly possible but that every argument must have been repeatedly brought under consideration. Still, we may repeat, as the works of ancient writers, from change of language and loss