The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 8
The great mistake about the two modes of being which death parts or divides, I take to be the notion of their entire dissimiliarity. Hence the fears of devout minds and the confidence of superstitious ones; and from its absence the courage of those who have been engaged in some great and good work, and the dignity of superior intellects, whatever their opinions. The great question is, what is man's mental and moral condition? That which is the record of the past is also the presage of the future. in what he is now we best trace what he has been and what he shall be; for on every reasonable and religious ground we must (or should) anticipate the continuance of a being essentially the same, however progressive—indefinitely progressive it may be—in its powers and faculties. Instead, then, of vainly struggling after a luminous-ncss which cannot be obtained, we should rather endeavour to condense, each for himself, the light that does exist. In our moral being (or nature) we see the rudiments of what we shall be; and if we cannot define to ourselves what "strange thoughts" may "arise in our minds" when death is known to be near, or "when we have shuffled off this mortal coil," we may, at least, approximate thereto; and by some moments, taken as opportunity serves, of introspection and reflectiveness, attain to portions even of prophetic truth. And if in such moments the importance of many objects and occupations undergo a change in its relative proportions; if mountains sink and valleys rise; if interests dwindle into insignificance, and victories seem but vanities;— page 145 while the realities of thought and of affection, which had been regarded as incidentals of existence, grow more and more distinct to the mind, and more and more beautiful as they become more distinct, like soft music heard at night when the din of day has subsided into silence;—and if then a plan of life, simpler and purer than what may have been actually followed, but yet capable of accomplishment and of exerting its influences upon years, unfold itself to the mind, I think this may be received as a revelation and a guidance—as something of the light of eternity thrown upon the things of time—as spiritual truth apprehended by the soul when contemplating the world, whether consciously or unconsciously, by the sense of its own immortal nature.—W. J. Fox.