Baptist History Homepage

The Dead Speak
By Rev. John L. Waller, 1851
Editor of the Western Baptist Review
"And by it, he, being dead, yet speaketh." - Hebrews xi. 4.
     It is said in the Scriptures, with inimitable beauty and pathos, that "mortal men dwell in houses of clay, whose foundation is in the dust. They are crushed before the moth. They are destroyed from morning to evening. They perish for ever, without any regarding it. Doth not their excellency that is in them go away? They die even without wisdom." "One dieth in his full strength," says the Patriarch, "being wholly at ease and quiet. His breasts are full of milk, and his bones are moistened with marrow. Another dieth in the bitterness of his soul, and never eateth with pleasure. They shall lie down alike in the dust, and the worms shall cover them." "The mighty are exalted for a little while, but are gone, and brought low. They are taken out of the way, as all others, and cut off, as the tops of the ears of corn."

     If the appointed time of man upon earth, be the whole of his existence - if there be no more of him, than the few fleeting years which he frets away upon the theatre of this world - then he is the most unmeaning portion of the creation of God. Then he is but an abortion of

[p. 323]
nature, adapted to no wise purpose, and destined to no valuable end. Other sentient beings in earth, in ocean, and in air, attain to the perfection of their being. They soon learn all they can learn, and they soon enjoy, in complete fruition, all they are capable of enjoying. The life allotted to them is ample for their every desire, and sufficient for the gratification of their every want.

     It is not so with man. This life is too short, and this world too small, for the development of his menial and moral capacities and powers. He is only permitted to catch a glimpse of the glorious dawn of knowledge, when the night of death closes upon his existence. He but begins to think, and act, and speak, when he falls into the grave. On earth, he has no real pleasure, no enduring peace. He is a prey to restlessness, dissatisfaction, and care. He is subjected, perpetually, to anxious, longing desires - to an earnest and ardent solicitude for ease and happiness, which are here denied satisfying aims and objects - to constant and insatiable aspirations for sublime and elevating attainments, and a bright and blissful existence, for which this world presents no promise - all furnishing conclusive evidence, that, if this were his home, and here his exclusive abode, he is endowed with a nature which only mocks him with happiness, deludes him with false hopes, and imparts to him whatever comfort and consolation he feels, by presenting to the hunger and thirst of the soul, but the shadows of food and drink.

     It Nor is it enough, that such reflections lead us to the irresistible conclusion, that man is immortal. That philosophy but half solves the mystery of our nature, which pauses, satisfied with the deduction, that those mental impulses which push our hopes and fears beyond the finite and the visible, merely point to a hereafter, and

[p. 324]
intimate an eternity in the spirit land. And yet, here we are wont to stay the investigation. Usually, the most liberal and enlightened philosophy has been accustomed to regard man as identified with time and its concerns, only during his short sojourn upon earth; and to alledge, that, when he is carried to the bourne of the tomb, his spirit mounts to other and sublimer scenes, and moves, and mingles in an existence, and a society, wholly distinct from those in our world, and with which he retains no connection and no sympathy - his place in this world a vacuum, and every trace of his life here obliterated, or, at best, but retained for a short time, a pleasing, or a mournful recollection, in the minds of kindred and acquaintances.

     Admit this reasoning, and grant that man's actions, and his connection with this world, ceased with the brief period of his life, and how profound and impenetrable the darkness which envelopes the design of his existence! The question will be asked, and the philosophy alluded to, can give no answer, Why was he made capable of doing so much in this earth, created for his comfort and his control, and yet denied the opportunity? Was he sent here, merely to survey the beauties, and to contemplate the capacities of the world, and ere he could execute his plans for its enjoyments, or its use, to be summoned to resign this pleasing, anxious being, and sink to dumb forgetfulness? Is his life a mere ignis fatuus, emitting a fitful and momentary glare over the quagmires of time, and then extinguished for ever? Are all the projects of man's hopes, and all the results of his unceasing endeavors to form and fashion the things of time, to be dissipated as bubbles, by the rude touch of death; and he be made to stand the dread ordeal of the judgment day, for the empty schemes of a flitting

[p. 325]
and evanescent life? The very supposition is stamped with absurdity. It not only makes our nature unmeaning, but places upon our existence here, the impress of caprice and folly.

     But enlightened reason, guided in its investigations by the Scriptures, recognizes a nobler and more pleasing pathway, along which the human family were created to walk. With reference to our sublunary existence, "it is not the whole of life to live, nor all of death to die." In a certain and an important sense, the first word ever uttered by man to his fellow, is now heard by all the human family, and will continue to be heard, until this earth and these heavens shall pass away. By faith, Abel, being dead, yet speaketh. His voice has rolled over the great flood; it has been heard by the successive generations of sixty centuries, and now, in sweet and celestial accents, it calls upon all men, every where, to come to the love and service of God. The tombs are not the abodes of silence and inaction, then. They are eloquent in instruction, and mighty in their influences for the weal or the woe of this sin-stricken world. The dead speak: and, as in life, so, and even more, in death, they will contribute their influence in the formation of sentiment and character, until the trump of the archangel shall terminate the day of probation. To prove this position, and to illustrate its consequences, will now be our business.

     First. That the dead speak - that the influence of those who now compose the pale nations of the spirit world, is still felt in this life - we argue, in the first place, FROM THE STRUCTURE OF HUMAN SOCIETY, AND THE CIRCUMSTANCES UNDER WHICH MEN ARE PLACED BY THE NECESSITIES OF THEIR NATURES. We enter the world the most helpless and the most ignorant of all animal

[p. 326]
creation. For the incipient development ot our physical, mental, and moral powers, we are wholly dependent. Our tastes and our pursuits are not, in the beginning, fashioned and selected by ourselves. Our minds, in their germination, are in subjection to others. We are born without language and without thought. We know not how to feed or to clothe ourselves. We are ignorant of our own parents; and all things around us are clad in mystery and night. We are made for society. No man can live to himself. Our very nature abhors solitude. Hence, we come into the world members of the social compact, and under its control. In the cradle, we are subjected to its moulding influences. It is the dictate of nature, as well as of religion, that parents should train their children in the way they would have them go. And, after the parents who directed our infant feet in the paths of life, have sunk into the silence and the shades of the tomb, we continue to feel the power of their influence. The kind and endearing accents of a father's and a mother's solicitude, dwell upon the recollection. Often, on memory's ear, fall their earnest and anxious warnings, when dangers beset our pathway. The recollection of their advice and example, is the beacon to direct our course in the darkness of life's pilgrimage. And these influences, thus derived, we impart to those whom Providence may commit to our charge; and thus, through succeeding generations, our parents, being dead, will speak.

     This fact is supported by the history of all men. Even those who have been regarded the exceptions in their generations - who have stood out the most distinguished of their contemporaries - the hero, the statesman, the scholar, and the sage - when critically and thoroughly analyzed, their biographies will disclose the fact, that the

[p. 327]
peculiarities of their characters received direction from parental and early influences. "As the twig was bent, the tree inclined." What they learned in secret, they proclaimed from the house-tops. The impressions they received in the hey-day of life, in the quiet and seclusion of the domestic circle, laid the foundations of what constituted their subsequent greatness and renown.

     But these early influences do not end here. They are not confined to the domestic circle, in making their impress upon the youthful mind. We must follow the boy from the parental roof to the school-house. He is now under the direction of another instructor. He associates with other children, and, through them, gathers views and sentiments from other parents, unfamiliar and new. By books, too, he is introduced into a strange region of thoughts and ideas. He now walks in paths, to him new and untried; but he finds them worn smooth by the foot-prints of those who preceded him. Other influences now mingle with those coming from home. By these, his first and earlier impressions may be strengthened, modified, or displaced. Divers and conflicting opinions are presented to his mind, and it is his business to elect which shall control him. But, in every event, he is under the guidance of others. And those who direct his course, are but imparting to him what they had, when in his condition, received from those who went before them. In a word, the dead are speaking to him. The rays of light now being shed into his understanding, are emitted by a luminary which first dawned upon the minds of men in remote antiquity; and which has rose higher, and shone brighter, in each succeeding generation of man.

     He is now a man. He leaves the halls of science, and engages in the busy scenes of life. Hitherto he has

[p. 328]
been in the stream; he is now out on the ocean of terrestrial existence. He is no longer under tutors and governors. He must now meet the tide, and breast the storms of life, his own pilot and his own helmsman. An untried state is before him, and unfamiliar influences are around him. From every direction he meets sentiments in conflict with his own, more strange and startling than any he has hitherto encountered. He may resist, or he may yield to them. The tempest may divert the course, or may founder his bark. In either event, we see, in the man, what we beheld in the boy - an individual under the forming power of society - directed in his opinions, and guided in his course, by the influence of others. Around him are the trees of knowledge, planted and watered by other hands, and he may pluck and eat at his pleasure. Here are the paths of virtue, and there are the paths of vice; and along them are the graves of the mighty multitudes who have gone over them. From these dark and dread abodes, in emphatic tones, are heard voices of warning or of entreaty, telling him the way in which he should go. By one he is wooed to seek wealth, by another to run after fame. Here he is entreated to seek after wisdom ; and there he is solicited to follow only pleasures. He listens, and he determines : and thus is led, by the persuasions of the dead, into a career of peace and pleasantness, or of wretchedness and despair.

     The Saviour of men, in the establishment of his Church, recognized and used this structure of human society, to convey, through all ages, the knowledge of his religion. By his express ordination, the dead are now his inspired missionaries, to preach to a lost world the plan of salvation. He might have chosen other instrumentalities than those he did select. Even from heaven, his dwelling

[p. 329]
place, he might, to all generations, and among all kindreds, and tongues, and people, under the whole heaven, have dispatched a multitude of the heavenly hosts, to proclaim, as to the shepherds of Judea of old, "Peace on earth, and good will to men." But it pleased the Messiah, while dwelling upon earth, to select a few men, his chosen messengers to the world, clothed with miracle, and speaking as they were moved by the Holy Spirit; and they were made the fountain-source of his glorious gospel. From them were to go forth waters of life, to refresh and fertilize the moral wastes of the world. To the Jew and the Gentile, to men in all subsequent time, they were to teach the things belonging to the everlasting kingdom of the Redeemer. Knowing the terrors of the Lord, they were to persuade men. As the ambassadors of God, they were to beseech sinners, in Christ's stead, to be reconciled to God. From these individuals we have received a knowledge of the truth. From them, the glories of redemption have found their way to our understandings. It was by their means, the splendors of the gospel have been shed over so many people, until, in earth and in heaven, unnumbered millions are in the enjoyment of eternal life through their instrumentality.

     Yes: the great commission to preach the gospel in all the world, and to every creature, is now being executed by the very men to whom it was originally given, eighteen centuries ago. Those old soldiers of the cross, who, in the infancy of the Christian dispensation, bore the banners of the gospel against spiritual wickedness in high places, are, in this day, the leaders of the Lord's hosts in their march to possess the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heavens. That voice, which, upon Mars Hill, startled

[p. 330]
the inhabitants of classic Athens, in the annunciation of the new and strange doctrine of Jesus and the resurrection, is now heard reverberating through every land, calling upon all men, every where, to repent, because God has appointed a day in which he will judge the world, by that man whom he has ordained.

     In short, in whatever aspect we may contemplate man, it will be seen, that from the very necessities of his nature, he is dependent upon the dead for much of the instruction which guides and controls his course. It might be shown that, not only in the matter of religion, but in almost every thing else, the Father of our spirits has ordained that man shall be subject to this law of his existence. It is a constituent element of society for which man is formed. It is no part of our present purpose to inquire into the reason of these things; it is enough that we prove that they exist, that nature and God have established and recognized their wisdom and importance; that, tracing men in every walk of life, however humble, or however exalted, upon every feature of his character, we recognize, in lines to be seen and read of all men, the impress of the dead.

     Secondly. That the dead speak, is evident, from FACTS ATTESTED BY THE OBSERVATION AND EXPERIENCE OF ALL MANKIND. By careful examination we will find, that the institutions of the world - religious, literary, social, and civil, have derived their peculiar characteristics from those who now repose in the silence of the grave. Let us go to those parts of the earth, where prevail the moral darkness and desolations of superstition, and let us inquire respecting the abomination's of idolatry; and we will be told, that no man living can be charged with the crime of their origin. In ages lost in the distance of the past, the idols of the heathen's adoration were made and consecrated.

[p. 331]
Men, long since consigned to the stench and rottenness of the charnel house, contrived the ceremonies now observed by the deluded multitude. The priest, who by artful mummeries, misleads the millions, is but one of a succession of cheats and imposters, whose beginning is hid in the remote depths of antiquity. That cloud of folly and superstition which hangs, like the pall of death, over the great majority of the human family, arose out of an ignorance to which the memory of man can assign no epoch; and has gathered intensity of blackness and darkness as it approached loweringly the present age and generation. The degrading rites of pagan worship are lessons which the men of these times have learned from those of the past. The polluted stream, of which the heathens drink, has its source high up in the world's history, and its depth and desolating fury have been augmented by the long lapse of time, down which it has poured its dark torrents.

     The fetters of the Moslem faith were forged and fastend full twelve centuries ago in the Arabian desert. The debased multitudes now marshalled under the Cresent - who recognize Mohammed as the prophet of God - who receive with cringing reverence, the crude and incoherent ravings of an imposter, with the vaticanations of a messenger from the abodes of the blessed; and who with blind and bigotted fury, are ready to kill, or be killed, in defebce of a system of ethics and religion, revolting to every dictate of reason and commn sense - are all the more stubborn, unyielding and fanatical, because the system of falsehood, by which they are led captive, is venerable, in their esteem, by the recollection of centuries; and because it comes to them by the approval, and hallowed by the recommendation of mighty multitudes of the dead.

[p. 332]
     The last of the great facts which constitute the basis of the religion of Christendom, transpired eighteen hundred years ago. Since then, no one has spoken by inspiration. Prophecy, and tongues, and miracles, have ceased. Long since, God uttered his last precept, and instituted his last ordinance. Many and mountain high have rolled the waves of time, sweeping, in ruin and forgetfulness, over cities, and nations, and empires, since the final amen was affixed to the book of God's inspiration: and yet, how potent its truths upon the minds of men! How efficient it is still, in bringing men out of darkness and bondage into the light and the liberty of the glorious gospel. The altar fires of the worship inculcated in the Sacred Scriptures, burn as brightly as when first enkindled from on high. Those holy and heavenly truths, to which bowed the hearts of patriarch, prophet, apostle, and holy men of old, have been preserved from generation to generation, and now control the moral being of millions of the human family.

     The Christian derives his most important and impressive lessons from the instructions of the dead. The tombs are his best academies. Does he hesitate to forsake the society of kindred and friends, the endearments of home and early associations, to follow and serve the Lord? One, in far off Ur, of the Chaldees, speaks to him words of encouragement, and tells of a "Syrian ready to perish," who, at the command of God, forsook kindred, and country, and home, and wandered, in a distant land, a pilgrim and a stranger, all the days of his life; and, because by faith he did this, he was called the friend of God, and was made the father of many nations, and the heir of the world. When the charms of wealth, and the seductions of greatness and glory allure us from the paths of religion, the great lawgiver of Israel calls to our minds

[p. 333]
the remembrance of his example. He spurned the diadem and the throne of the greatest kingdom of that age, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasure of sin for a season, because he had respect unto the recompense of reward. When pursued by persecution - when the cause we love seems to be deserted of all men - when almost crushed in heart by the oppressor's wrong, and the proud man's contumely - we are stimulated to stand unmoved by the exhortations of Elijah, who, because he remained pure, amid surrounding corruption, was escorted by angels, in a chariot of fire, home to happiness and heaven; of Daniel, who, because he adhered unwaveringly to the worship of God, when he knew to such worship was attached the doom of death, was saved from the jaws of hungry lions; and of the three Hebrew children, who, because they refused to bow with the great and the noble of earth, at the command of a haughty and imperious monarch, in the adoration of an idol, were preserved unhurt in the fiery furnace, and were sustained in the flames by the companionship of one like unto the Son of Man. In short, every Christian is encompassed by a great cloud of witnesses, the denizens of the pale nations of the dead. A mighty host of these cheer him in his onward march, through temptations and trials, to the land of light, and love, and holiness. They have preceded him in the straight and narrow way. They are familiar with its difficulties, and have triumphed over its obstacles. They are competent, then, to instruct the pilgrim in his journey through the wilderness of sin and suffering to the heavenly Canaan. And when he fails or falters, whose cheering shout so encouraging, as the shout of those who, through many tribulations, have attained everlasting habitations in that glorious city, whose builder and maker is God; who
[p. 334]
now enjoy the inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away.

     And how distinct, and how deleterious do those who died in unrighteousness, yet speak to the ungodly and the sinner! If those who died in the Lord, like a far distant star of benign aspect, pour cheering and celestial light from the remote past, upon the minds of men; so, in fearful contrast, the wicked, like the terrible storm-cloud, clothed in blackness, and charged with death, sweep, with destructive and desolating fury, over the hearts and the consciences of the ungodly. The heroes and conquerors of other ages, "from Macedonia's mad-man to the Swede," - the arm of their greatness, long since palsied by death, and the track of their conquests indiscernible by the wasting and oblivious influences 'of time - from their graves "cry havoc, and bid slip their dogs of war!" The battle shout, which urged the phalanx and the legion of old on to carnage and to conquest, rings yet in the world's ears, and incites yet ardent warriors "to seek the bubble reputation, even at the cannon's mouth." The "warrior's greatness" of the past, did not cease in the oceans of blood which it spilt in the cities and countries it laid in desolation - in the woe and wretchedness which stalked in its train: but, even now, it incites to scenes of slaughter, revels in blood and tears, and rides in ruin over the hopes and happiness, the peace and prosperity of the unoffending millions! From the dead, nations now learn war. The dead are still busy and bustling in the agitation of strife. They still fiercely and furiously blow the clarion bugle of conflict, summoning the chieftains and their clans to the foul and fiendish carnival of embattled hate!

     The infidels of the last and the preceding centuries, though dead, yet speak. Their profane sneers and scoffs

[p. 335]
at our holy religion; their demon derision of the Son of God; their senseless and shallow cavils at the Sacred Scriptures, are; in this our day, conned and quoted by silly youths and reckless profligates; by the former, because they covet to be esteemed witty; and by the latter, because they are anxious to quiet the clamor of conscience, and to divert the mind's eye from that "fearful looking for of judgment, and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversary." Vast multitudes now walk in the footsteps of Voltaire, Volney, Paine, and kindred spirits, in the broad roa.d that leads to death. The influence of the wicked, because it panders to the natural disposition of the human family, is ever certain and potent in its operations, is ever readily and rapidly received and acknowledged. Men love darkness rather than light; hence the power, which the shallow pertness and drivelling nonsense of scepticism and infidelity exerts over their minds; hence the ease, with which the infidels, who are dead, still.make disciples; and hence the facility, with which they infuse the poison of their sentiments into full many a mind in this generation. They strike a chord which vibrates in unison with the carnal mind; and, as long as such minds exist, so long will earth be rendered hideous by the discordant music which unbelief discourses for the everlasting destruction of our race.

     But, turning from the religious and the moral, let us hastily contemplate other institutions, and other influences. Let us look, for a moment, at the literature of the world. Greece and Rome have long since fallen from their high estate. The pride of their greatness, and the pomp of their power, have almost faded from the world's memory; and yet, who has not listened, with wrapt delight, to the songs of their bards? Who has not hung entranced upon the eloquence of their orators? Or been enlightened by

[p. 336]
the wisdom of their sages, and improved and instructed by the lessons of their philosophers? The temple of science had its foundations laid by the first man; and, in every subsequent age, it has been builded, added to, and adorned, until it is the beautiful and wonderful structure which we now behold. Who is the scholar, but he whose mind is "rich with the spoils of time?" The very alphabet, and the multiplication table, are confirmations that the dead yet speak. The course of instruction in our colleges and seminaries, in their very design and necessary tendency, are but propositions to form and control the youthful mind, by the sentiments and doctrines of the dead - to subject it to the direction of that stream of influences which swept over all the past generations of men

     The political and civil institutions now existing over the earth, in all their essential features, are the workmanship of the dead. The maxims of politics and law, which now govern the nations, are, in the main, to be assigned an origin and authorship of which the memory of man has no record. This is not only true respecting the states and kingdoms of the old, but also of the new world; not only of the civilized, but of the barbarous portions of mankind. And now, when our own great republic is threatened with civil dissention and overthrow; when fanaticism, political and religious, is calling for the disruption of the Union, even if it should cause fraternal blood to flow like water; its patriotic founders cry from their tombs, in stern rebuke, of the mad and ruinous suggestion. From the hallowed shades of Mount Vernon, from the heights of Bunker Hill, from the plains of Lexington, Camden, Saratoga, and Yorktown - from every battle field of the Revolution, the bones and dust of those who died to achieve our independence, and to secure our national

[p. 337]
existence, become eloquent in their entreaties to spare the government - the achievement of their valor, the reflection of their wisdom, and the price of their blood.

     Even what we call discoveries and inventions, are but the natural and necessary results of preceding influences. Borne upward and above, by those who have gone before us, we ought to reach higher, and see farther than they. The influence on which we are insisting, and which we ascribe to the dead, comprehends the idea of advancement. It is opposed to quietude and inaction. It is a tree, planted in the beginning of the human race, putting forth new leaves, and twigs, and blossoms, in every generation - springing from a common root, invigorated by the lapse of time, and gathering freshness, and fragrance, and beauty from the ashes of the dead. Hence, those wonderful inventions, which impart a lustre and a peculiarity to modern times, are but the natural heavings of the mighty tide of influences rolling upon the ocean of the past. Thus, Franklin, carefully scanning one discovery after another, in the science of electricity, and standing at length upon llie last and the highest, reached forth his hand, and "arrested the forked shafts of Jove, and played with his bolts of thunder." And thus Morse, led on by the discoveries of Franklin and his successors, has astounded the world, by making the lightning messengers, swift as winged thought, bearing the news to all nations, reckless of space and time. Mankind must have stood still, and rolled back the torrent of influences sweeping down the past, if some one had not discovered the art of printing when it was. So, also of the other thousand and one discoveries and inventions of modern times. A.s the world grows older, men ought to be wiser. New mansions of light, in the halls of science and art, are constantly being

[p. 338]
unfolded. Those behind us push us to the threshold, and bid us enter; and it is this entering which makes up the marvels of our age.

     Nor must we conclude that it is only the favored few - the great and illustrious - who have made their impress upon following generations. Not merely the majestic rivers pouring their floods into its channel, but the myriad babbling fountains and purling brooks, winding their unpretending courses every where, from the peaks of the Rocky Mountains to those of the Alleghanies, lend assistance in forming the mighty and resistless current of the Mississippi. The smallest particle of matter upon this globe of ours, as philosophy bears witness, exerts an influence upon the largest and most distant orb, rolling in the immensity of creation. The smallest ray of light lends its agency to that flood of refulgence constantly rolling its tides of ceaseless and exhaustless splendor over the unmeasured fields of space. The ocean is composed of drops of water. The smallest grain of sand contributes its proportion to the bulk of this "great globe itself." So the most obscure individual - "unknown to fortune or to fame" - living in the most remote past - may, nay, must have assisted in swelling the stream of influences now pouring its resistless torrents over the intellectual and moral estates of mankind. The formation of men's characters, whatever their position by birth or fortune, is essentially by the same process. To the fireside - to the solitude and seclusion of the social circle - we must look, as before intimated, for much of that early impress which has given cast and tone to the individual throughout his life. Examine this fact, in its connection and consequences, and any one may readily perceive, how the obscure and the humble, not less than those who have received the posthumous acclaim of the million, have been instrumental

[p. 339]
in moulding the present condition of mankind. Parents, brothers and sisters, nurses, school companions - all the intimate and cherished associations of early life, when the mind is easily impressed, and the character is most flexible - have done most in preparing for their careers, even those who have shared most largely in the world's admiration and esteem. And, besides, all men are identified with each other. God has made of one blood all the nations of the earth, We are all portions of one great family. We are thus indissolubly linked to the past, the present, and the future. By tracing his genealogy back a few centuries, a man may readily perceive that his ancestors were the whole population of the earth! and that, consequently, by hereditary descent, he derives an influence from all!

     What a sublime lesson to be derived from this view of the subject! We look back, and find that all of mankind, from the least to the greatest, who have preceded us, have contributed to the moral, intellectual, civil, and religious state of things which surround us in this life. The poor and the proud, the mean and the mighty, the humble and the haughty, of far removed generations, have been uttering lessons of warning and encouragement to us and our children. The oath of the blackguard, that shocked the moral sense of some quiet and forgotten village, and excited the admiration and imitation of certain truant school-boys a thousand ages ago, still grates in tones of harsh thunder upon the world's ear. That idle word, which the heedless individual uttered to a few giddy companions, and which he supposed was but for a moment, has come on over many generations of men; and the reverberations of silly laughter which it excites, is now heard throughout the moral universe. Those words of comfort and consolation which, in the hovels of the poor,

[p. 340]
soothed the aching heart of want and wretchedness, fall in sweetest cadence upon us now. The precepts of the good, the counsels of the wise, the incitements of the ambitious, the blasphemies of the impious, uttered in all ages, are yet heard - "their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the end of the world." The pedagogue, who, hundreds of years by-gone, "taught the young idea how to shoot" - the mother, directing the infant steps of her child in the paths of virtue - the philosopher, leading his disciples up the steeps of knowledge - the minister of the gospel, pointing to the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world - were all but contributing to swell the stream of influences, the first gushing of whose springhead was when "the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy," at the completion of creation; and which is destined to swell and sweep along the earth, until it disembogues in the ocean of eternity at the last day. Of every man who now sleeps in the dust of the earth, it may as truly be said as of Abel, "He being dead, yet speaketh." From the silence of the spirit land, he calls upon men to walk in the paths of virtue, or of vice - he invites to the bright and glorious abodes of eternal joys, or else tempts to the dark domains of everlasting and keen despair.

     In fine, on this point - divest us, as individuals, as members of society, and as nations, of what we have learned from the dead - extinguish within us the sentiments and sympathies imparted by their influence - and we would be without religion, without law, without knowledge, and beneath the condition of the most degraded, mean, and miserable community known to exist upon earth. The world of mankind now existing, must recognize all past generations as their parents, instructors, and guides, training them for the paths in

[p. 341]
which they would have them to go, and making them all that they are in intellect, morals, and religion.

     3. The last argument we shall adduce in support of the position that the dead speak, will be derived from The Scriptures. Time would fail us, to refer to a hundredth part of the examples which go to illustrate and establish this doctrine. We shall let it suffice to allude merely to a few, as a fair specimen of the whole. Indeed, we have already, to a considerable extent, anticipated this part of our subject. Not only Abel, but of Cain, it is substantially said in the Scriptures, "He being dead, yet speaketh." We are warned by the apostle, not to do "as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother, because his own works were evil, and his brother's good." And another apostle, speaking of certain persons in his day, exclaims, "Woe unto them! for they have gone, in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core." We are taught, too, that Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forlh for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire." And John heard a voice from heaven, saying, "Write, blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from henceforth; yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors, and their works do follow them," And many and melancholy are the records in the sacred chronicles, respecting the kings of Israel and of Judah, who "walked in all the ways of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and in his sin wherewith he made Israel to sin, to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger with their vanities!" The evil influences of this wicked monarch were felt in Israel, until God, in his displeasure, delivered them into the hands of their enemies; aye, are even felt now, as may be seen

[p. 342]
in the present condition of the once favored nation of heaven, scattered and peeled over the whole earth, a proverb and a by-word among all people. It is written of those nations who were placed in the cities of Samaria, "So these nations feared the Lord, and served their graven images, both their children and their children's children: as did their fathers, so do they unto this day."

     But a most potent, if not a resistless argument, may be derived in support of posthumous influences, from the teachings of the Scriptures respecting the judgment day - a specific day at the conclusion of the affairs of this world, when the living and the dead must stand before the judgment seat of Christ, and be judged according to the deeds done in the body. But let us see what the Scriptures say of this awful and tremendous day: "Verily, I say unto you," was the language of the Saviour to the Jews, "it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah, in the day of judgment, than for that city." "But I say unto you, [Chorazin and Bethsaida,] it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon, at the day of judgment, than for you." "I say unto you, [Capernaum,] that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom, in tlie day of judgment, than for thee." "Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment." "The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it; because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and, behold, a greater than Jonah is here. The Queen of the South shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it; for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here." Paul testified to the Athenians, that God "now commandeth all men every where to repent; because he

[p. 343]
hath appointed a day in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom lie hath ordained." The same apostle, writing to the Romans, says, "We shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ; for it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God." So then, every one of us shall give account of himself to God." To the Corinthians, he writes, "We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in the body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." Says the apostle Peter, of this day, "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also, and the works that aro therein shall be burned up. Seeing, then, that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat." But we need not quote more. These passages sufficiently describe the judgment day.

     The flippant universalist, is wont to descant, in affected horror, at the monstrosity of a procedure which consigns to perpetual punishment, an individual, for the transactions of a life as evanescent as the morning vapor and the early dew! And the pert infidel, jeeringly inquires into the wisdom and equity of a jurisprudence, which punishes a man first, and then gives him a hearing - which assigns him his portion at death, and brings him to trial at the judgment day! But these silly cavils are seen to be the mere bubbles of nonsense, when considered in the light of the facts and deductions alreadv established.

[p. 344]
     Man's is no brief career, and "no pent up Utica confines his powers." Time is his duration, and the world, from its beginning to its dissolution, is the theatre of his action. The influences under which we have shown him to exist, and by which he is fashioned and ibrmed, connect him with the past, and identify him with ihe present and the future. They do not destroy his moral agency. They make him no mere machine. They address themselves to him as a rational being, and it is his business to reason, and determine upon their reception or rejection. He is at liberty to listen to the lessons of the good, or to yield to the seductions of the ungodly ; and which ever course he may adopt, has the sanction of his will. To whatever influence he submits, it becomes a part of his being, and makes him one of the past. He becomes a portion of those who have gone before him, when their sentiments and sympathies constitute his intellectual and moral being. Thus he becomes linked with man from the foundation of the world. The Apostle enforces this sentiment with great power: "By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." It is a silly conceit, then - the flitting and fitful jack-o'-lantern of murky ignorance - to ascribe to the words and the actions of men a short and transitory influence. It is wisely decreed, that, for every idle word man shall be called into judgment. Such words are moral poison, of the most deadly and polluting nature, dealt out to mankind. The actions of no man will cease, until the day of probation shall close - until this earth and these heavens pass away. So long as men may be influenced to do good or evil, just so long must every man be acting upon the intellectual and moral condition of the world. A righteous decision cannot, therefore, be passed upon
[p. 345]
his actions, until the consummation of all things. He must cease to injure or to benefit his fellow men, before he can be judged according to the deeds done in the body. This cannot take place, as we have demonstrated, until the affairs of this world are closed. The knell of time, then, is the appropriate signal to summon him to the judgment seat of Christ. Then, and not till then, will man cease to speak to man for his weal or his woe.

     That will be a fearful reckoning day. The living and the dead will stand before God. The secrets of all hearts will then be disclosed, and the consequences of every man's deeds will then be made manifest. Each man will then see the tremendous effect of what he had fondly dreamed was a short and eventless career in the earth. He will then learn how mighty and how multitudinous were his actions. He will meet at the judgment, a great company whom he has persuaded to walk in the paths of virtue or of vice. The vast majority of them he will then see for the first time. They had heard his voice from the tombs, and were induced to follow in the ways he commended. On that dread day, he will discover, for the first time, the track of desolation, or else the pathway of loveliness and beauty, which he has made in the hearts of untold myriads. He may then discover, that his words, idly or seriously uttered - caught up and echoed - ran, and were reverberated in the ears of men, until their sound was silenced by the trump which startled him from the slumbers of the grave. Then every man's work will have been finished. The world, over which we were given dominion, will then have passed away - its concerns all closed - and the final decision upon the conduct of those who controlled its affairs, will then be entered upon the records of eternity, by the Judge of the quick and the dead.

[p. 346]
     The DEAD SPEAK! How sublime, how instructive, and how dreadful the thought! It invests man with an existence in earth, worthy of his intellectual and moral being. It regards him as an agent, for weal or for woe, more powerful than any agency ascribed to angels; and this, to some extent, may solve the mystery, that, through the Redeemer, he is presented with a kingdom and crown more glorious than those possessed by the angelic host - that he may become an heir of God, and a joint heir with Jesus Christ. And how drivelling the cavil of scepticism, which sneers at the magnitude of redemption, because man is too insignificant to justify so much attention from the Sovereign of immensity! We have shown, that man is no pigmy being; and that, so far as we know, he may prove to be the noblest of the workmanship of the Almighty. At least, he is mighty, in ability, for good or for evil.

     The dead speak! Then, how circumspect ought we to be in our words and actions! What enduring and tremendous consequences hang upon all we say and do! We are operating, not only upon those around us, and in the midst of whom we act and move, but upon unborn millions, and until the end of time; all of whom we have to meet in the judgment. We live in a favored age; we walk in the light of sixty centuries; we enjoy opportunities which no preceding generation ever enjoyed. On every hand, and by unnumbered instrumentalities, we are summoned to engage in works of beneficence, calculated to shed blessings upon the present, and all subsequent times. Alas! the immense majority of our fellow men now upon earth, aro using the advantages committed to their charge, merely to subserve the interests of time and sense! These will rise in the judgment and condemn them. If we would

[p. 347]
be wise, let us dedicate ourselves, and all that we have, to the service of God.

     Yes, the dead speak! Every individual, thrown into the ocean of time, creates a wave that will widen and spread until it breaks upon the shores of the eternal world, at the last day. Time is a harp. The strings at one end are fastened to this world, and, at the other, to the throne of the judgment. Every man who comes into the world, strikes a string, producing tones of moral music, such as angels use; or else, horrible discord, grating like harsh thunder upon the ears of all mankind, until hushed by the voice of the archangel and the trump of God, proclaiming that time shall be no more. May ours be the blessedness of those "who die in the Lord."


[From Thomas P. Akers, A Collection of Original Sermons. . . , 1851, pp. 322-347. Document from Google Books. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

Baptist Biographies
Baptist History Homepage