Of the separate state of the soul until the resurrection, and its employment IN that state


John Gill


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That the soul exists in a future state, after the death of the body, has been abundantly proved in the preceding chapter; and the business of this is to show, that the soul, immediately after death, enters into a state of happiness or woe; in which it continues until the resurrection of the body: and that during that interval, it is not in a state of insensibility and inactivity; but that it is employed in various exercises; and what its employment is, will be pointed at.


1. First, that as soon as the body is dead, the soul immediately enters into a separate state of happiness or misery. The wise man, after a description of death, and the symptoms of it, in a most beautiful and striking manner; adds, "Then shall the dust return to the earth"; the body, composed of dust and earth, at death, returns to its original dust and earth, and is interred in it, where it sleeps until the resurrection; and "the spirit", or soul, which is a spiritual, immaterial, and immortal substance, "shall return", even immediately, as soon as the body is become a lifeless lump of clay, "unto God that gave it"; the former of the spirit of man within him, the giver of it to the sons of men, to whom it returns as soon as it leaves the body, as to the original proprietor of it; and to whom it is accountable for all actions done in the body; being summoned and gathered by him, or carried by angels to him; when a particular, personal judgment passes upon it; for "after this", that is, death, comes "judgment"; that at once takes place; though the general judgment will not be until the resurrection of the dead; and according to the sentence passed on the soul, at its particular judgment, is it disposed of. The souls of the wicked are sent down to hell, and cast into it; to this prison they are committed, there to remain to the judgment of the great day: this has been the case from the beginning of the world, witness the spirits in prison, who were disobedient in the times of Noah; the wicked of all nations in the world, in all ages, as asserted by David; and that without respect to persons, rich or poor; the rich wicked man died, and in hell lift up his eyes, according to the parable of our Lord, #1Pe 3:19 Ps 9:17 Lu 16:22. And the souls of good men return to God at death, are retained by him, into whose hands, at death, they commit them; and are immediately admitted into his presence, and fulness of joy there; and so remain until the second coming of Christ, when he will bring them with him, raise their bodies, and reunite souls and bodies; and when in both, they shall be for ever with him: and whereas the immediate state of the wicked after death, is but sparingly spoken of in scripture; but that of good men more plentifully, the proof of the latter will be chiefly attended to, and which may be taken,


1a. First, from #Ec 4:2 where the saints dead are preferred to living ones.


1a1. By the "dead" are meant the righteous dead; for though the

righteousness of Christ, from which they are denominated

righteous, delivers them from eternal death, yet not from a

corporal one; "The righteous man perishes", or dies, as

others do; though his death is different from the death of

others, and is attended with happy circumstances; hence

Balaam desired to die the death of "the righteous",

#Nu 23:10.


1a2. By the living, are meant saints in the present state, who

are distressed with a body of sin and death, and groan,

being burdened with it; are harassed by the temptations of

Satan, with which they are sorely grieved; are exercised

with a variety of afflictions, from different quarters, and

on different accounts; meet with various tribulations in the

world, and are greatly oppressed with the persecutions of

men, as in #Nu 23:1 which makes their present state

uncomfortable at times. Now,


1a3. The righteous dead are delivered from all these; they are

freed from sin, and are out of the reach of Satan's

temptations, and of the persecutions and oppressions of men.



1a4. Are in a state of fellowship with God, and Christ, and with

angels and glorified saints, in heaven, and so happy, and in

a state preferable to living saints. But,


1a5. If this was not the case, if they were in a state of

insensibility, and without the enjoyment of the divine

presence; they would not be happier than, nor so happy, as

living saints, with all their sorrows, arising from within

and from without; for they have their intervals of joy,

peace, and comfort; have the love of God shed abroad in

their hearts, by the Spirit, at times; and are indulged with

fellowship with the Father, and his Son Jesus Christ: and

besides, they have comfortable fellowship with the saints,

in the word and ordinances; with whom they go to the house

of God in company, and are there greatly delighted and

refreshed: the tabernacles of the Lord are amiable and

lovely; a day in his courts is better than a thousand

elsewhere. Wisdom's ways are ways of pleasantness, and her

paths, paths of peace; and therefore they are happier than

the righteous dead, if they are not in the divine Presence,

and sensibly enjoying that, until the resurrection.


1b. Secondly, from #Isa 57:1,2. "The righteous perisheth", &c.


1b1. By the righteous and merciful, are meant such as are truly

made so by the righteousness of Christ, and live righteously

under a sense of such grace, and who have obtained pardoning

mercy of God, and show mercy to others; the same with the

good man, the godly, and the faithful, elsewhere, #Mic 7:2

#Ps 12:1.


1b2. The death of such is meant by their "perishing", and being

"taken away"; for persons so described can never perish

eternally, only as to the outward man, and the transitory

things of this world; out of which they are taken by death,

and to God himself. And


1b3. As soon as they are taken from hence, they are at once in a

state of happiness; being not only taken from evil to come,

from public judgments and calamities coming upon a nation; or

from the evil of sin, and of error, by which they might have

been ensnared and distressed; all which is a kind of

negative happiness; but they have, besides this, at death, a

real and positive happiness, which they are at once

possessed of; signified by the following things,


1b3a. They "enter into peace": are not only freed from sorrow,

disturbance, and distress, on any account whatever; but they

are put into the possession of a peace which passeth all

understanding, and can never be interrupted; they enter into

it as into an house, where they are to dwell; and upon a

land where there is no pricking brier nor grieving thorn.


1b3b. They "rest in their beds"; not only their bodies rest in

their graves, where their rest together is in the dust; but

their souls in the bosom of Abraham, in the arms of Jesus;

where they rest from all their toil and labour; and have

continual and never ceasing communion with all the heavenly



1b3c. They "walk" in their "uprightness"; they "walk", and so are

not in a state of insensibility and inactivity; they have

"places" given them to "walk among those that stand by", to

take their turns, and converse with angels and glorified

saints; and with them they walk clothed in white, because

worthy, through the worthiness of Christ; in the

righteousness of Christ, the fine linen, clean and white;

and in spotless purity and holiness; and in the shining

robes of bliss and glory.


1c. Thirdly, from #Lu 16:22,23. "And it came to pass that the beggar died", &c. The scope of this parable, as observed in the preceding chapter, is to be attended to; which is to set forth the immediate state of men after death, whether good men or bad men; for though it may have a principal respect to Christ, and to the Pharisees of his times, yet holds true of all good men, the members of Christ; arid of all wicked men, whether under a guise of religion, or openly profane.


1c1. The beggar, the good man, upon his death, is represented as

under the care and convoy of angels, and by them seated in

Abraham's bosom, a phrase used by the Jews, expressive of

the heavenly happiness; in allusion to a feast, at which,

according to the custom of the Jews, the guests lay upon

beds, or couches, about the table; so that he who lay below

another, and next to him, leaned, as it were, on his breast,

and lay in his bosom; and this denotes the intimate

communion of the saints with each other, in the enjoyment of



1c2. The rich and wicked man, he is said, upon his death, to be

"in hell", where he lift up his eyes, and saw the poor good

man in great felicity and comfort, whom he had treated with

neglect and contempt; which served to aggravate his misery;

and where he found himself surrounded with the flames of

hell, and filled with inward torments and horrors of mind.


1c3. The state of both these is summed up in a few words,

#Lu 16:25. "But now he is comforted, and thou art

tormented"; even "now", immediately after the death of both.



1c4. That this respects the intermediate state between the death

of the body, and the resurrection of it, is clear, from what

the wicked man petitioned, on the behalf of his brethren in

his father's house, in the state of the living, and having

the means, the law and the prophets; only he thought, if one

sent from the dead to them, it would strike them with

greater conviction; when he was told, they would not be

persuaded, though one rose from the dead; which shows the

parable respects the state of men before the resurrection,

and as taking place immediately upon death.


1d. Fourthly, from #Lu 23:43. "And Jesus said unto him", the repentant thief, then suffering death; "verily I say unto thee", which being thus solemnly affirmed might be depended on, "today thou shall be with me in paradise", in heaven! for,


1d1. By paradise is meant the third heaven, into which the

apostle Paul was caught, #2Co 12:2,4 the seat of the divine

Majesty, and the dwelling place of angels and glorified

saints; so called in allusion to the garden of Eden, that

earthly paradise, for the delight, pleasure, and happiness

of it.


1d2. Hither Christ himself, as soon as he expired on the cross,

went; not into "limbus patrum", to deliver the Old Testament

saints from thence; nor into the prison of hell, to preach

to, and convert the spirits there, as say the papists, upon

the mistaken sense of #1Pe 3:19 but into heaven itself,

having commended his spirit, or soul, into the hands of his

divine Father, by whom it was received. And,


1d3. The happiness promised the thief, upon his request to him,

to remember him in his kingdom, is, that he should be with

him in paradise; should enjoy all the happiness of that

place, and his presence in it, in which the happiness of it

lay. And,


1d4. He assures him, that this happiness he should enjoy

immediately, that very day; "This day thou shall be with

me", &c. to put the stop after "today", and read it as

connected with what goes before, "I say unto thee today", is

a mere shift, and gives a most trifling and jejune sense of

the words.


1e. Fifthly, from #2Co 5:1-8. "For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens". In which may be observed,


1e1. That death is signified by a dissolution of the earthly

body; that is called a tabernacle, or tent, set up for a

while, and then taken down; and an "earthly house", an house

of clay, formed out of the earth, which has its foundation

in the dust; and death is an analysis, or resolution of it,

into earth and dust again.


1e2. Heaven is represented as another house of a different

nature, not made with the hands of men; but what God is the

maker and builder of; and it is not on earth, but in heaven;

is eternal, will continue for ever; it consists of many

mansions and apartments, prepared by Christ for his people.


1e3. Into which they are at once removed, when dislodged from

their earthly house, the body; "We know, that if", or "when

our earthly house", &c. when we are warned out of that, we

have another house immediately to be admitted into; saints

are not, at death, turned adrift, as Adam, when drove out of

Eden; nor are they without any certain dwelling place, as

sometimes the apostles were; they have an house ready for

them to go into; as soon as they are ordered out of one,

there is another prepared to receive them.


1e4. This is no conjecture, but a certain thing; "We know", from

the provision God has made of it, from the preparations of

Christ for it, from the right and title Christ's righteousness

gives unto it, from the security of it in him, and from the

testimony of the Spirit.


1e5. After which there are strong desires in the saints; they

groan in the present tabernacle, being burdened, longing for

a deliverance from it, and an admittance into their other

house in heaven; being willing to quit the body, that they

might enjoy the presence of God; which they would not be so

pressingly desirous of, if they knew they should not be

introduced into it immediately.


1e6. But of this they have an earnest, even the Spirit of God;

and therefore are quite confident, being wrought up by him

for this self-same thing, by his power and grace, that when

they are removed from hence they shall be with the Lord.


1e7. And this will be as soon as they are absent from the body,

as they are at death, they shall be present with the Lord,

and enjoy communion with him.


1f. Sixthly, from #Php 1:21,23. "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain----for I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ, which is far better!" From whence it appears,


1f1. That the apostle believed, that upon his departure out of

this world, by death, he should be immediately with Christ,

and enjoy communion with him; which would be a real gain

unto him, and be preferable to his continuance in this life,

there being nothing here that could be a counterbalance to

it. Or otherwise,


1f2. If he had not believed this, his immediate admission into

the presence of Christ, and enjoyment of eternal happiness,

he could never have considered death as gain unto him; for

he must have been a loser by it; since in his present state,

notwithstanding all his fatigue and labour, his sorrows and

his sufferings, yet he had communion with God, the presence

of Christ, the teachings and leadings of the divine Spirit,

much pleasure and success in his work, being the happy

instrument of converting sinners, and comforting saints; all

which he would be deprived of, if at death he entered into a

state of insensibility and inactivity. Nor,


1f3. Would he have been at a loss what choice to have made, whether

to live or die; whether to depart out of the world, or to

continue in it; he could have easily discerned, that it was

his interest to abide in the flesh, or in the present state,

in which he received much good for himself, and did much for

others; whereas, if he was not to enter upon a state of

happiness until the resurrection, but remain inactive and

useless; it certainly was much more eligible to continue as

he was. For,


1f4. Most certain it is, that it would have been better for the

churches of Christ, for the interest of religion, and for

the glory of God, if he had remained on earth to this day,

and so on to the second coming of Christ, than to be

sleeping in his grave, receiving no benefit to himself, nor

being of any use to others.


1g. Seventhly, from #Re 14:13. "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord", &c.


1g1. By "the dead that die in the Lord", are not meant merely, or

only, the martyrs of Jesus, who die for the sake of Christ,

and his gospel; but all the saints who die in union with

Christ, in faith in him, as the only Saviour and Redeemer;

in hope of eternal life by him; and in expectation of being

for ever with him; and whose faith, hope, and expectation,

will not fail, nor be disappointed.


1g2. Truly good men are blessed now; they are blessed who trust

in the Lord, and make him their hope; they are happy who

dwell in his house, enjoy his ordinances, and are employed

in his service; who walk in his ways, and keep his

commandments: but they are much more blessed at death; which

would not be their case, if the did not immediately enter

into the presence of and into the joy of the Lord. And,


1g3. This is the blessedness intended here; for it commences

"from henceforth", from the instant of their death; and

which is confirmed by the testimony of the Spirit; "Yea,

saith the Spirit"; he says, they are blessed from that time;

which blessedness,


1g4. Lies in a "rest from their labours"; not merely in a rest

from the labours of their bodies, much less in a cessation

from the spiritual exercises of their souls; but in inward

everlasting peace, joy, and comfort; and in "their works

following them", not only what they had done as witnesses of

the truth of grace, but what they were to do, and be

employed in, until the coming of Christ; which leads to

consider the proof that may be given,


2. Secondly, that the souls of men, when separated from their bodies by death, are not in a state of insensibility and inactivity. There are some, who, though they do not deny the immortality of the soul, yet think it sleeps with the body until the resurrection; and this was the firm opinion of Socinus, as he himself says {1}, that the soul of man, after this life, does not so subsist of itself, as to be sensible either of rewards or punishments; or, indeed, as to be capable of perceiving those things; and the same is held by some Arminian writers {2}. But in opposition to this notion, and some that Calvin calls Catabaptists, and who go by the name of soul sleepers with us {3},


2a. First, I shall endeavour to prove, that the soul is operative, and in a state of action, when separate from the body; and that insensibility is not to be concluded from the absence of the body. For,


2a1. The soul can and does operate without the use of bodily

organs in its present state, and in many things stands in no

need of them; the rational soul thinks, discourses, and

reasons without the use of them; its powers and faculties,

the understanding and will, need them not; the will is

directed and guided by the understanding; and the

understanding has to do with objects in the consideration of

which bodily organs are no ways assisting; as in the

consideration of God, his nature and perfections; of angels

and spirits, and their nature; and of a man's own spirit,

and the things of it, which it penetrates into without the

help of any of the instruments of the body: it can consider

of things past long ago, and of things very remote and at a

great distance; and such objects as are presented to it by

the senses, it reasons about them without making use of any

of the organs of the body; and if it can operate without the

body, it can exist without it; for since it is independent

of it in its operations, it is independent of it in its

being; and as it can exist without it, it can act in that

separate state of existence without it: wherefore since it

dies not with the body, it is not affected as to its

operations by the absence of it, nor at death becomes

insensible as that is.


2a2. The case of persons in raptures, ecstasies and trances, when

the body is senseless and inactive, and as if it was dead,

and yet the soul is active and attentive, and capable of

receiving things communicated to it, shows most clearly the

soul can operate without the body; and if in this state,

much more in a more perfect one. The apostle John was in the

spirit, in an ecstasy, when he saw and heard the various

things recorded in the Book of the Revelation; the case of

the apostle Paul is very remarkable, a particular account of

which he gives, though not knowing whether in the body or

out of it, #2Co 12:2-4 now though the apostle was not

certain whether his soul was in his body or not, during his

rapture; yet this appears most certain, that it was his

sentiment that a soul out of the body is capable of seeing

such things as he did; or otherwise it would have been no

difficulty with him to have determined whether he was in or

out of the body; for if he could not hear and see such

things as he did out of the body, then he must without all

doubt be in the body when he heard and saw them; but his way

of speaking clearly shows that he thought his soul was

capable of attending to these things, though it might be out

of it; and if this is the same with the trance recorded in

#Ac 22:17-21 as some think, it appears that while he was in

it, and his body lay senseless and inactive, his soul had a

sight of Christ, and a conversation with him, and received a

mission from him to the Gentiles. Now if the soul is not in

a state of insensibility when the body sometimes now is,

there is no reason to believe it is in such a state when the

body is dead and separated from it; since the body in an

ecstasy is of no more use to it, nor the organs of it, than

if it was dead.


2a3. The soul, freed from the body, must be more capable of

exercising its powers and faculties, and be more active than

when in it; especially as it is corrupted with sin, and

incumbered with it, which is a clog and hinderance in the

performance of spiritual duties; it cannot attend to it as

it would; "the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak"; but

when it is separated from the body, and is joined to the

spirits of just men made perfect, it must be much more

capable of serving God with greater activity, spirituality,

joy, and pleasure.


2a4. The soul separate from the body is most like unto the

angels, and its state, condition, and employment, greatly

resemble theirs. Now nothing is more foreign to angels than

insensibility and inactivity, who always behold the face of

God, stand ready to do his commandments, hearkening to the

voice of his word; and no sooner do they receive orders from

him, but they do his pleasure; they are continually before

the throne of God, praising his name, and celebrating his



2a5. If the souls of believers after death are in a state of

insensibility and inactivity, their case would be much worse

than that of the living, as has been observed; since in the

present state, amidst all their evil things, they enjoy much

good, receive much from God, and have much spiritual peace

and joy in the exercise of grace; whereas there is a stop

put to all this, and an entire cessation from it, if upon

death they enter into a state of insensibility and

inactivity; particularly it would have been much more happy

for the apostle Paul to have stayed on earth, and continued

here till Christ came again; and more to the advantage of

the churches of Christ, than to be where he is, if insensible

and inactive; here he might have made use of his great

talents, exercised his graces, had much communion with God,

and been of great service in the interest of Christ, in which

he would have found a real pleasure, but now deprived of all,

if the above is his case.


2a6. If the souls of truly gracious persons are, upon their

departure from hence, insensible and inactive, what is become

of the work of grace upon their souls? in what condition is

it, and must that be? there must be a full stop to it, and to

the exercise of it, and that for a long season; where is

growth in grace, where no grace is to be seen? and when it

might have been expected it would be in its full perfection,

does not appear at all {4}? How does this "well of water

spring up into everlasting life", when it does not spring at

all, but the streams of it cease to flow? what a chasm must

there be between grace and glory, when the scriptures

represent them as closely and inseparably connected together?

grace is the beginning of glory, and glory is the finishing

and perfection of grace, and in which there is no



2a7. The proof that has been given of souls separate from the

body entering immediately into a state of happiness or

misery, is also an abundant proof of their sensibility; when

either they enter into the presence of God, are with Christ,

and feel unutterable pleasure and delight; or are in

inexpressible torments under the lighting down of the arm of

God's wrath and indignation upon them. I proceed,


2b. Secondly, to take notice of what is urged in favour of the insensibility of souls upon their departure.


2b1. All such passages of scripture are urged which speak of

persons "sleeping" when they die; as of sleeping with their

fathers, and of sleeping in the dust of the earth, phrases

frequently to be met with in the Old Testament; and of

Christ being the firstfruits of those that slept, and of

sleeping in Jesus; and of some not sleeping, which are used

in the New Testament, #2Sa 7:12 1Ki 1:21 Job 7:21 Da 12:2

#1Co 15:18,51 1Th 4:14. But,


2b1a. By sleep in all these passages death itself is meant. It

was a way of speaking much used in the eastern countries,

and is expressive of the death of the body, and of that

only; so to "sleep with the fathers", is to die as they did,

and to be buried with them; and to "sleep in the dust", is,

being dead, to be laid in the grave, to be interred in the

dust of the earth; and to "sleep in Jesus", is to die in the

Lord. When Christ said, "our friend Lazarus sleepeth", he

meant that he was dead; and when the apostle Paul says, "we

shall not all sleep", he designs nothing else but that we

shall not all die; for those who are alive at Christ's

coming will be changed; the reason why death is expressed by

sleep is, because sleep is the image of death, it locks up

the senses, gives rest to the weary body, is but for a time,

and then it awakes again.


2b1b. Death being designed by those expressions, if they prove

anything in this controversy they prove too much; for if

they prove that the soul sleeps with the body, they would

prove that the soul dies with it, since by sleep is meant no

other than death.


2b1c. No mention is made of the soul in any of these passages; it

is not said of that neither that it sleeps nor dies; the

passages only respect the body; it is that only which at

death is gathered to the fathers, and buried in the graves

of ancestors; and which sleeps in the dust, or is buried in

the dust of the earth; the sleep of which stands opposed to

the change that will pass on the bodies of living saints at

the coming of Christ.


2b1d. Sleep is only of the body {5}, and, according to the

philosopher is a passion that belongs to the sensitive part,

a kind of a band and immoveableness of it, so that it cannot

operate; and says it only belongs to animals that have a

brain, or something analogous to it {6}; it is defined


"a cessation of the external senses from operation, the

vapours filling the nerves and the sensory passages, and

so hinder the influx of the animal spirits" {7}.


But what is all this to the soul, an immaterial and

incorporeal substance, which has no brain, nor nerves, nor

sensory passages, nor animal spirits? and therefore sleep has

no place in it, and cannot be predicated of it.


2b1e. When the body is asleep the soul is awake and active, as

appears in abundance of instances, in dreams and visions of

the night, when deep sleep falls upon men, and is capable of

attending to what is suggested to it, and of receiving

instruction; see #Job 4:12-17 33:15,16 it understands and

perceives, devises and contrives, reasons and discourses,

chooses and refuses, grieves and rejoices, hopes and fears,

loves and hates, and the like; it can take in hints,

admonitions, advice, and directions from God, or angels sent

by him; as in some not good men, as Abimelech, Laban, Balaam,

&c. and others truly good men, as Jacob, Daniel, Joseph, &c.

whose souls, when their bodies were asleep, were capable of

attending to them, and receiving them, and acted according to



2b2. The advocates for the insensibility and inactivity of the

soul after death, urge such scriptures which represent the

happiness of the saints, and the misery of the wicked, as

not taking place until the last day, the end of the world,

the resurrection of the dead, and the day of judgment, when

the wicked shall go into everlasting punishment, and the

righteous into life eternal, #Lu 14:14 1Th 4:16,18 2Ti 4:8

#Col 3:3,4 Mt 11:22,24 13:40,41,47,50 25:46 Re 20:12,15

to which may be replied, that though they are represented as

then happy or miserable, it is no where said that they are

not happy nor miserable before that time; nor that they are

insensible of any happiness or misery, but the contrary.

Besides there is a twofold state of the righteous and the

wicked after death, respecting their happiness and their

misery; the one is just begun at death; the other is full,

consummate, and perfect, at the resurrection and judgment;

now it is of the latter these scriptures speak, and not of

the former; and it is allowed, the righteous will not be in

the full possession of happiness until the last day, when

their bodies will be raised and united to their souls, and

both together enter into the full joy of their Lord; nor will

the wicked receive the full measure of their punishment until

the resurrection and the judgment are over, when both soul

and body shall be cast into hell; just as it is with the

devils, they are not yet in full torment, though cast down to

hell, and are reserved to the judgment of the great day; but

then they are not in a state of insensibility, they feel

distress and anguish now, and tremble at their future doom;

so the wicked, they are not insensible of their misery now,

and of what they are to endure: and both righteous and wicked

upon death enter immediately into a state of happiness or

misery; the righteous are happy from the time of their death,

and as soon as absent from the body are present with the

Lord; and the wicked are no sooner dead, but in hell they

lift up their eyes; though neither the one is in complete

happiness, nor the other in full misery, yet both sensible of

their present case, and what they shall be in hereafter.


2b3. They improve all such places to their advantage, which speak

of those in the grave, and in the state of the dead, as

incapable of praising God, #Ps 30:9 88:10,11 115:17,18

#Isa 38:18 to which it may be answered,


2b3a. Not to observe that Calvin {8} interprets the passages of

the damned in hell under the wrath of God, and a sense of

it. These scriptures speak only of the body, which is dust

originally, and returns to the dust at death, and is buried

in the dust, and while in such a state cannot praise God;

"Shall the dust praise thee?" it is the body which only

dies, and goes down to the pit, and is laid in the grave,

and which, while there, cannot be employed in praising God,

"Shall the dead arise and praise thee?" &c. but then this

hinders not but that their souls may and do praise God, in

the manner as angels do, with whom they are sometimes joined

in the Book of the Revelation; and are represented as with

them, glorifying God, praising his name, singing

hallelujahs, ascribing "salvation to him that sits upon the

throne, and to the Lamb for ever and ever", #Re 7:9-12.


2b3b. These passages only respect praising God before men, and in

the church militant, as is done by saints now in the land of

the living; but then notwithstanding, the souls of departed

saints may and do praise the Lord in the church triumphant,

and with the hundred and forty four thousand in mount Zion,

and before an innumerable company of angels and spirits of

just men made perfect, to whom they are come; and therefore

such passages are no proof of the insensibility and

inactivity of separate souls.


2b4. They argue from souls being deprived of thought and memory

at death, that therefore they must be in a state of

insensibility. As for thought, that passage is urged in

#Ps 146:4. "In that very day", that is, in which man returns

to his earth, or dies, his thoughts perish; but these, as has

been observed, do not design thoughts in general, but

purposes, schemes, and plans, the effect of thought, which

come to nothing at death, and are never carried into

execution; and though the thoughts, particularly of good

men, are not employed about the same things as when on

earth, about worldly things, yet they are employed about

spiritual and heavenly ones; and can, with pleasure and

gratitude, remember the great and good things God did for

them in life; yea, even the memories of wicked men are

pointed to after death; "Son, remember that thou in thy

lifetime receivedst thy good things", &c. #Lu 16:25. And

that worm that dies not, is no other than consciousness of

guilt contracted, and the memory of past sins committed in

life, which torture the separate soul after death, #Mr 9:44.

Should it be urged, that a person, when asleep, is destitute

of thought, especially when in a deep sleep; who, upon

awaking, cannot remember anything he has thought of: this

doth not carry in it sufficient conviction, that the mind is

then destitute of thought; for how often is it that a man,

when awake, cannot remember what he thought of the last

minute? it is owned, that in dreams the soul thinks, but

then the man is asleep, and shows that sleep and thought are

not incompatible: besides, when deep sleep falls upon man,

the soul is capable of attending to what is suggested to it,

and receiving instruction thereby; as some passages in Job,

before mentioned, show. And after all, it should be proved,

that the soul is asleep when the body is; and particularly,

when separate from it, ere any argument from hence can be

brought to prove the soul is deprived of thought by it; and

is in a state of insensibility.


2b5. It is observed, that it is said of the "dead", that they

"know not anything", #Ec 9:5. But this is to be understood

of the things of this world; they do not know the affairs of

it, what is done or doing in it, no, not the condition and

circumstances of their own families they have left behind;

they do not know whether their sons come to honour or to

disgrace; whether they are in prosperous or in adverse

circumstances, #Job 14:21. But then they know the things of

the other world, in which they are; they know God, and

Christ, and the holy angels, and the spirits of just men

made perfect, and the happiness of these and of themselves;

they know even as they are known: yea, wicked men know and

feel the lashes of an accusing, torturing conscience, the

pains of hell, and the wrath of God, the fire that is not

quenched; and so are not in a state of insensibility. I go



3. Thirdly, to point out the work and employment of separate souls, especially of good men, after the death of the body, until the resurrection of it: and here I shall not give a scope to fancy and conjecture, which may lead persons to say many things doubtful and uncertain; and since the scriptures are sparing in the account they give of this matter, I shall content myself with just observing some few things which may be gathered from thence; and which may suggest unto us the work they are employed in; for it cannot be thought that they are idle and unemployed in the happy state in which they are. And


3a. First, it need not be doubted, but that they are employed in celebrating and adoring the perfections of God; since this is the work of their kindred spirits, the angels, with whom they are now associated; they are constantly employed, in ascribing glory to God, #Re 7:11,12 5:11,12 so holy souls adore the perfections of God's holiness, to which they bear some resemblance, and are thankful at the remembrance of it; and the almighty power of God, of which they have had experience in this life, and in bringing them to the happy state they are now in; and the wisdom of God, displayed in the works of nature, providence, and grace, of which they have now a clearer understanding; and the grace, mercy, and love of God, which appear in every branch of their salvation; and the faithfulness of God to his counsels, covenant, and promises; to dwell on these subjects will be no inconsiderable part of their employment.


3b. Secondly, they are also employed in beholding God in Christ, and the glory of Christ; being pure in heart, and perfect in holiness, they see God with the eyes of their understanding; behold him for themselves, and not another, as their covenant God and Father in Christ; and his glory as displayed in the Person of Christ; and have as much knowledge of him as creatures are capable of; and solace and delight themselves in the views of him, and in communion with him: and though they see not Christ with the eyes of their bodies, as they will after the resurrection; yet with the eyes of their minds they gaze upon and wonder at those glories and excellencies they see in him; and this is the end of Christ's intercession for them, that they be with him where he is, and behold his glory, #Joh 17:24.


Thirdly, they are likewise employed in the exercise of various

graces: if is commonly said of faith, hope, and love, that

they are travelling graces, which accompany saints in this

life; but cease, as to their exercise, at death, especially

the two former; the latter is indeed allowed to continue

after death: but faith is usually said to be changed for

sight, and hope for fruition; which, in some respects, and

in part, is true; yet I see not why faith and hope may not

be thought to have their use, and to be in exercise after

death, and especially in the separate state, until the

resurrection: it can scarcely be doubted, that separate

souls firmly "believe" the resurrection of their bodies,

that they will be raised again, and reunited to their

souls; and as that will add to their happiness, it cannot

but be desired by them; and as it is what is at present

unseen, unenjoyed, and is future, it must be the object of

hope, about which that grace must be conversant, until it is

brought to pass; and thus as Christ "rested in hope of the

resurrection of his body", #Ps 16:9 so the souls of saints

in heaven rest in hope of the resurrection of theirs; and

may be truly said to "wait for the redemption of the body".

Some think Job has respect to this, when he says, "All the

days of my appointed time will I wait till my change come";

meaning, not his change by death, though that is a truth,

but his change at the resurrection, when Christ will change

the vile bodies of his people, and fashion them like to his

glorious one. Yea, "patience", rest, and quietness, are to

be, and are exercised by souls in their separate state: to

the souls under the altar it is said, "that they should rest

yet for a little season, until their fellow servants also,

and their brethren that should be killed, as they were,

should be fulfilled"; that is, be easy, quiet, and patient,

till that time, comes, and this is done, #Re 6:11. And as

for love, there is no doubt but it will be in its highest

act and exercise.


3d. Fourthly, they are also employed in serving God; so those come out of great tribulation are said to be "before the throne of God, and to serve him day and night in his temple", #Re 7:14,15 not by preaching, and hearing, and attending on the word and ordinances; yet there are duties which are performed in this state; if not prayer, yet most certainly praise, in the highest perfection: I see not why prayer may not be allowed to the church triumphant and its members, though not for themselves, yet for the church militant and its members, that they may be delivered from their present evils; and that the justice of God might be glorified in taking vengeance on their enemies; and that they may shortly join their general assembly; something like this is ascribed to the souls under the altar, who are represented as expostulating with God after this manner, "And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?" #Re 6:10 and, indeed, what is the earnest wish and desire of separate souls, after the resurrection of their bodies and their reunion to them, but prayer, that so it might be? however, praise is their grand employment, their principal business, in which they are continually engaged; these ransomed ones come to Zion with songs, and there they sing them; the songs of electing, redeeming, calling, and persevering grace, ascribing glory to the Father, that has chose them in Christ; and to the Son, who has redeemed them to God by his blood; and to the Spirit, who has regenerated, sanctified, and called them; and to all Three, for the preservation of them to the kingdom and glory of God.


3e. Fifthly, much of the employment of souls in this separate state lies in converse with angels and the spirits of just men made perfect. Angels have some way or other of conversing with each other; we read of the "tongue of angels"; not that they speak any particular language, and with an articulate voice; but they have speech among themselves, which they understand; they can communicate their thoughts to one another, and be happy in their mutual converse; see #Da 8:13 12:5-7 and angels can convey their sense to the spirits of men; and the spirits of men can communicate theirs to them; such an intercourse between angels and the souls of men has been carried on in dreams and visions, even in this imperfect state; and much more are they capable of conversing together in a more perfect one. The souls of men in the separate state are distinguishable from one another; and there are ways and means, no doubt, of knowing one from another; thus the soul of Abraham may be known from the soul of Isaac; and the soul of Isaac from the soul of Abraham; and the soul of Jacob from both: and as the saints will know one another in heaven {9}, one part of their happiness will lie in conversing together about divine and heavenly things; and, indeed, about what they have had experience of, both in providence and grace, while they dwelt in their bodies on earth.


{1} Socin. Epist. 5. ad Volkelium inter opera ejus, tom. 1. p. 454.

{2} Vid. Peltii. Harmon. Remonstrant. & Socin. art. 22. paragraph. 2. p. 258.

{3} Calvin, "Assertio non dormire sed vivere", &c. fol. 51.

{4} "Isti non solum opus Dei ad tempus intermittunt, sed etiam extinguunt", Calvin. "Assertio non dormire sed vivere", &c. fol. 18. 2.

{5} Anaxagoras & Leucippus apud Plutarch. de Placitis Philosoph. 1. 5. c. 25.

{6} Aristot. de Somno, c. 1. et c. 7. et de part. animal. 1. 2. c. 7.

{7} Conimbricenses apud Burgersdicii Philosoph. Natural. disp. 22. s. 13. vide Suidam in voce upgov

{8} Assertio, &c. ut supra, fol. 44, &c.

{9} See a sermon of mine, called, "The glorious State of the Saints in Heaven", p. 34, 35.


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