UPON THE INTERMEDIATE STATE OF SOULS.
Bt Johann Heinrich Uesinus.
It is certain and undeniable, if it be only rightly understood, that even the souls of the righteous—although, perhaps, according to their nature, so far as it alone is concerned, they live immortally, and by God's grace are blessed through Christ, and in heaven—are nevertheless subjected to the condition of death, or, as the fathers say, to its laws, sway, and dominion, so long as they are severed from their bodies. The Holy Scripture describes such a state by the word Scheol, as a common place whither all men descend, good and evil (Gen. xxvii. 35, xlii. 38; Ps. lv. 15). No one can deliver a soul from the hand of hell, i.e. from the might and power of death (Ps. lxxxix. 48); and thus death and hell are usually associated, when not only the godless, as Ps. xlix. 15, but also the elect are spoken of (Hos. xiii. 14), until the Lord by His glorious appearing shall destroy death, the last enemy (1 Cor. xv. 26), and the land of the dead shall perish (Isa. xxvi. 19) ;x which passage nobody interprets better than St John in his Revelation (xx. 14), that the Lord shall cast death and hell into the lake of fire. Thus hell is distinguished from the lake of fire, and therefore signifies nothing else than the kingdom and dominion of death, which Isaiah calls the land of the dead, indicating that after the resurrection none of His elect shall either die
1 Ursinus follows the translation of Luther (which, according to the Masoretic vocalization, is impossible to bo justified); but Luther himself had previously translated—as the passage is generally rendered now—and the land shall cast out its dead.
or be under the mastery of death as heretofore; but death and all his might, dominion, and kingdom, shall only take effect upon the condemned—which is the second and eternal death. Even as St Paul says of Christ our Head, Henceforth He shall die no more, death shall have no more dominion over Him (Rom. vi. 9), and as now such a state of death as that to which all men are subjected is named in Holy Scripture a land of the dead, and Scheul, the grave; not as if it were a natural positive place in the world, but according to its custom per condesceusum of speaking thereof after human fashion ;— therefore the fathers of the church cannot be blamed who retain such a manner of speaking. Thus they elsewhere do not reject the divine doctrine of the blissful condition of souls, but believe that all souls, because they are in the like state of death, by reason of the severance of their bodies in a similar manner, await the last day in a common keeping, in an invisible place, but that they nevertheless, as immortal spirits, have also for themselves their appointed dwellings; and especially the faithful souls, when they must ga the way of all flesh, in the midst of death, immediately press through the dark valley into heaven, to eternal bliss. And this is the common dwelling, and, as it were, the grave of souls, of which D. Lutlierus at various times makes mention, of which those who see the truth and yet wilfully abuse it make so much complaint. For he certainly expressly establishes both positions: that the souls ratione compositi in respect of their natural condition into which they are created by God,—that body and soul should be one man,—are subjected to the common dominion of death and its laws; and yet, moreover, ratione mi in respect of their own spiritual immortal nature, retain their life outside of all the power of death, and are either blessed in heaven or cursed in hell.1 Hence follows of itself,
Secondly, That the souls of the righteous are confessedly still
1 Thus Hades is no place, but a state; so that the separated souls of the righteous are at the same time in heaven and in Hades. Scripture nowhere thus expresses itself, and certainly will not thus be understood. If Hades were actually only the name of a state, it could not then be said that the souls of the righteous are in Hades: they are in eternal life, which they had even here below, free from the troubles that in this world accompany their possession.
until the last day, in a position constrained, unnatural, and incomplete, contrary to tlieir nature and the final cause for which they were created by God; and thus they have not yet attained their consummatam beatitudmem, as Bernhard rightly says. This is the common doctrine of all the fathers of the church, thoroughly found in God's word and Christian teaching, that the soul was not for itself before and external to the body, independently with God, but was first given after the formation of the body to man by God in the creation; that accordingly the soul, by the intention and plan of its Creator, an ens incompletum, was indeed thus constituted and endowed with immortality, that even after death it may and should remain, subsist, and live apart from the body, although contrary to its nature and final cause. Thence, moreover, is gathered incontrovertibly the resurrection of bodies, because it is impossible that the soul should continue in an unnatural state for ever, into which it has fallen per accidens by means of sin, and for which God did not create it. For although after death souls live and praise the Highest, yet they are not the entire man (Ecclus. xvii. 27), as the Platonic wisdom was apt to fancy, but only an essential piece of man. On this account, that God might not have created man in vain, —which is contrary to His wisdom,—man must, although by death perchance he have ceased to be a man,1 nevertheless, by resurrection from the dead, again become a man, and remain one to eternity; that God's honour, either in respect of His mercy to the elect, or His justice to the condemned, but to all in respect of His power and divine wisdom, might be manifested and praised to eternity.
Accordingly, (3) the soul of the righteous remains from death to resurrection in a mediate condition; blessed indeed in heaven, so far as in its own nature it is an immortal soul, and still not yet perfect, so far as it is a human soul. And in this understanding, the Romish theologians rightly said at
1 Not so: the body without the soul is, indeed, only a thing; but the spiritual soul, as that which personifies man, is, even without the body, still a person. Death robs the human personality of the body belonging to it, as its immediate means and object of attesting itself; but the soul, which in its twofold sidedness is the peculiar essential form of man, continues to exist, and is therefore the man in respect of the essence of his spiritual corporeity.
Ferrara,1 that the souls of the blessed, according to their nature, considered specially for itself, so far as they are souls, had already their perfect blessedness. On the other hand, the fathers were also right in saying that such souls, so far as they were human souls, and are so constituted that they inhabit bodies, and are meant to be an essential part of man, had not yet their perfect blessedness. If there were some among the ancients (which cannot be denied) who left such a distinction out of consideration, and attributed to the souls of the righteous only a privativam beatitudinem, or such a blessedness as that of being in their own nature freed from all evil, they have given too little attention to the matter. On the other hand, Popish teachers of the present day make too much of it, in assigning to such souls entire perfect blessedness in such a way, that they had nothing more to expect or to receive beyond the glorification of their bodies. We adopt the middle course, with all the fathers. And in this concurs also the saying of the ancients, that the souls of the righteous had already received primam stolam, the first white robe, but still had to expect duplicia vel binas stolas.
But that (4) the perfect contemplation of the holy threefold nature belongs to this separate blessedness of the righteous souls, —as the decree of the Florentine Concilii declares,—remains a matter of dispute. Bellarmine, who takes great pains to maintain this, has not strictly proved it by any single clear testimony of Holy Scripture—by any single express affirmation of the old church teachers—by any reasonable argument. The condemned, says Bellarmine, are already in torment (Luke xvi.); therefore the righteous are already in bliss. Answer: But as the former are not yet in perfect torment (even the devils are not, as Bellarmine himself teaches); therefore the latter also are not in perfect bliss. Further, the day of death of the saints is their day of birth; therefore it is a beginning of their blessedness, for when they die on earth they are born in heaven. Answer: Amen 1 A beginning in the same way as a new-born infant looks upon the light, lives upon earth, is his father's heir, is nourished, cared for, beloved by his parents, is honoured by the whole household as an heir, learns to know his father day
1 At the Council of Ferrara, Florence (1438-39), where the above specified view of the Latins obtained the victory over the Greeks.
by day, until a perfect man is formed therefrom; so also it is in this case. Further, the hope which withdraws itself, pains the souls: therefore the souls have at once what they hope for without delay; for it is not fit that they should be pained which have no sins. Answer: If the conclusion were true, the souls in heaven would have to hope for no resurrection of their bodies, no avenging judgment of God upon their enemies, no new world and heavenly new Jerusalem. But such a hope, because it is wholly certain, and unfailing, and depends upon the time which God has appointed, causes neither fear nor pain, but yet certifies that the souls have not yet attained the perfect good.
But if the souls of the righteous regard their own blissful condition, no time is long to them; no time is, in fact, long: they have already what alone, according to God's counsel and promise, is proper for their satisfaction, and can desire for themselves in such a state nothing beyond; because they know that, according to God's will, they ought for themselves to desire nothing further. The blessed souls live in no human time that is reckoned by days, months, and years, but in an angelic time, where a thousand years are as a watch in the night; even as God's eternity is only a little point—so little, that nothing there is past or future, and so infinitely great, that it comprehends and circumscribes in itself all times. Seven years Jacob served Laban for Rachel with extreme labour; yet they appeared to him as it were but a single day, for the love that he bore her (Gen. xxix. 20). How, then, could the time be long to elected souls in the home of their Father, more beloved than all, and with their Bridegroom, the fairest of all? But because they know that God has prepared for them a still greater blessedness; know that their brethren on earth are still engaged in contest; know that their adversary the devil still has dominion upon the earth, as if there were no God in heaven, and His vengeance were to sleep for ever; know that, separated from their bodies through the power of death, they must live out of their constituted position; know that everything of such a kind comes from sin (for death came into the world by sin, so that it has dominion over all men till Christ shall put an end to its dominion by His glorious appearing);—therefore they long thereafter with heartfelt longing, but still in moderation, without fear, anguisb, fretfulness, impatience, wholly acquiescing in God's will and ordinance, and well satisfied. That there is still something wanting to infinite perfection, disturbs them as little as it does a youth, that he is not yet a man. But they long that body and soul should be crowned together on the great coronation day of the Lord. Their longing especially is indulged after the redemption of their bodies and reunion with them, as Bernard writes. This natural craving is so strong in them, that even their whole love and desire does not yet freely go forth towards God; but, as it were, it is indented and wrinkled, etc. [This bold passage occurs in Sermo iii. in festo omnium Sanctorum: Unde hoc tibi, O misera caro, O foetida, unde tibi hoc? Animse sanctae, quas propria Deus insignivit imagine, te desiderant, quas redemit proprio sanguine te exspectant, et ipsarutn sine te compleri lsetitia, perfici gloria, consummari beatitudo non potest. Adeo viget in eis desiderium hoc naturale, ut necdum tota earum affectio libere pergat in Deum sed contrahatur quodammodo et rugam faciat, cum inclinantur deeiderio tui.] Bernard regards the longing question of the souls (Apoc. vi. 9) as proceeding not so much from desire after judgment, as rather from longing after the resurrection and glorification of their bodies, which will follow the day of judgment. The holy souls are sine macula (Apoc. xiv. 5), but to this well-justified longing they have aspired yet not sine ruga. The end of the history of redemption, however, is a glorified church, which has neither spot nor wrinkle.