B. F. (Benjamin Fiske) Barrett.

Letters on the future life, addressed to Henry Ward Beecher online

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The Future Life.




The Future Life,





"There is no Death ! What seems so, is transition;
This life of mortal breath
Is but a suburb of the life elysian,

Whose portal we call Death." — Longfellow.








k^POt, lE.tfiK AND
S li)44 L

Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1872, by


in the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.




THE immediate occasion of these Letters, was Mr.
Beecher's sermon on "The Hereafter" published in
Plymouth Pulpit, March 23d, 1872. Three of them ap-
peared first in The Golden Age; and were favorably
received, I am told, by persons of spiritual insight and
religious culture.

I have, therefore, been induced to add three more of con-
siderably greater length, and to publish them together in
their present form ; hoping they may exert some influence in
overcoming the still prevalent but senseless prejudice against
the seer of Stockholm, and may increase the growing interest
in his writings among the reading and thinking cla.feses.

Mr. Beecher says that the "great Future to which we are
going" — meaning the world which the soul enters when the
body is laid aside — " is now all haze, with here and there a
single point jutting out before us." To a large majority of
Christians, no doubt it is. But it need not be so. It is not
so to that small but steadily increasing band of believers
who have become familiar with the writings of the Swedish


The author's aim has been, to show that a veritable revela-
tion of the condition of things in the great Hereafter has
actually been vouchsafed, and to vindicate Swedenborg's
claim as a divinely authorized seer and revealer of the real-
ities of the spiritual world.

The Letters, though addressed to the esteemed pastor of
Plymouth pulpit, are intended for the thoughtful and inquiring
of all denominations — and of no denomination. The ques-
tion they undertake to discuss, is one of exceeding interest
and importance. And it is hoped the discussion has been
conducted in such a spirit, and the argument presented with
such force, as to produce a favorable impression upon the
candid reader, and lead him ultimately to the crystal light of
the New Jerusalem. More than this the author could not ask.

B. F. B.

West Philadelphia,
September I, 1872.










Death and Resurrection 49

Form of the Spirit 53

Man Essentially a Spirit 55

The Sun of Heaven 56

Light and Heat in Heaven 57

Objects Seen in Heaven 60

The Essence of Heaven 62

Many Societies in Heaven 65

Heaven and the Church within the Soul . .67
The Whole Heaven Resembles a Man . . .70

, Changes of State in Heaven 73

Time and Space in Heaven 76

Correspondence of Spiritual with Natural Things 81

Houses in Heaven 87




Governments in Heaven 91

Temples and Worship in Heaven . . . .93

Speech of the Angels 95

Danger in Speaking with Spirits . . . .99

The 'Wisdom of the Angels loi

Angelic Innocence 104

Heavenly Peace 106

Angels and Devils from the Human Race . . 108

A Heaven for Gentiles no

Children in Heaven 113

Rich and Poor in Heaven 118

Marriages in Heaven 121

Employments in Heaven 128

The Happiness of Heaven 132

The Life that Leads to Heaven .... 143

The Nature of Hell 147

The Fire of Hell 151

Appearance of the Devils 154

The Lord does not cast into Hell . . . .155
Man's Book of Life 159





" The great question which concerns us all, is that of immortality.
Am I near the verge and end of myself? Am I made to tick and
keep the hours of this mortal sphere only ? When I am done here,
shall I be run down forever, never to move again, or record the
hours of time ? Or do I belong to the horology of the universe ?
Passing through life, do I enlarge my sphere? Do I fit myself to
live more nobly, more fruitfully, with augmented sweep of being?" — ■
Henj-y Ward Beecher.

"An unclouded view of the spiritual world once disclosed, how
solemn and yet how entrancing are its perspectives ! — and how near
they come and open beneath our eye! There is no death, but only
the removal of deathly coverings ; the word vanishes from the Chris-
tian vocabulary, and the thing it represented vanishes from the pros-
pect of the Christian believer. For ourselves, we cannot raise to
heaven a song too jubilant for this victory over the grave. All fear
of mere death is removed; and that done, we can fix our undisturbed
attention upon the only thing to be feared in any state of being, — the
moral evil that glooms from within us, and clouds the landscape, and
shuts out the smile of God," — Edmund H. Sears.



The Future Life.



My Dear Brother : — Thirteen years ago, I had oc-
casion to write you some friendly letters on the sub-


ject of the Divme Trinity. Your recent sermon on
''The Hereafter," which I have just read in Plymouth
Pulpit, moves me again to address you ; and to present
some thoughts on this interesting subject which seem to
me worthy of your consideration, and which I doubt not
you will receive in the same friendly spirit in which they
are written. If so, no harm can come from what I say,
even though I should fail to impress you with my own
convictions. The weak may sometimes aid the strong ;
and little children, you know, may now and then drop
hints from which wiser heads may profit.

For fifteen years or more, I have been an interested
reader of nearly all your published writings ; and I have
often read and loaned and recommended them to others.
I have generally found them interesting and instructive —

2 13


always pervaded by a free, earnest and catholic spirit, and
abounding in the advanced thought of these New Times
upon nearly all religious and theological questions. Per-
haps you are not aware how closely most of your reli-
gious beliefs and teachings resemble those of a great author
who is fast coming into notice, but of whose writings the ma-
jority of intelligent Christians are still profoundly ignorant.

I mean Emanuel Swedenborg ; — a man of rare gifts
and attainments, and whose writings furnish evidence, I
think, of a higher spiritual enlightenment than was ever,
enjoyed by any other individual. Upon all the more im-
portant and fundamental doctrines of the Christian reli-
gion, I find in your teachings substantially the same views
as those put forth by the great Swede more than a hundred
years ago — widely different, however, from the views
commonly recognized as orthodox in Swedenborg' s or
even in our own times. This statement will, no doubt,
surprise your friends — and possibly yourself; neverthe-
less it is strictly true.

On the central doctrine of Christianity — the Divine
Incarnation and true Object of religious worship ; on the
supreme and sole divinity of Jesus Christ; on the nature
and way of regeneration ; on men's various conceptions
of God and the cause thereof, and how to form right con-
ceptions of Him ; on the essential character of the Di-
vine Being as consisting of perfect love and perfect wisdom
— of love that is exercised alike toward the evil and the
good ; on man's capability of becoming somewhat like


God, and how we are to grow into the Divine likeness ;
on love to the Lord and the neighbor as constituting the
essential thing in the Christian religion and in every true
church — and how to develop and strengthen this love;
on the nature of the resurrection and the ministry of
angels ; on the nature of true and practical religion and
how it is to be attained ; on the highest kind of worship,
as consisting in the conscientious and faithful performance
of the duties of one's vocation ; on the great end of hu-
man existence — to wit, the full and orderly development
of all the noblest elements of human character — the
development of the man into the angel ; on the momen-
tous question of the proper religious education and train-
ing of the young ; on the importance of social recreation

— dancing, games, innocent amusements of all kinds —
not only as things to be tolerated by Christians as harm-
less, but things to be everywhere encouraged as useful ;
on the breadth and comprehensiveness and catholicity of
the Lord's true Church, and the endless variety to be ex-
pected therein, as in all the rest of the Creator's works ;
on forms and ordinances and institutions and rituals, and
their comparative insignificance, and utter worthlessness
save as means or helps in the formation of heavenly char-
acter ; — on all these, and many other kindred topics, I
generally find you in such substantial agreement with
Swedenborg, that I reckon you as one of the most efficient
instruments in the propagation of the New Christianity ;

— all the more efficient from the fact that you have never


taken on any new name, however you may have shaken off
the old theology.

But when you come to speak of the life after death,
you fall ever so far below my expectations. You fail —
please pardon this frankness — to do justice to yourself or
your theme. Your discourse is meagre and comparatively
barren. You rob death of none of its stings. You throw
no cheerful light on that vast realm of being beyond the
tomb. Your faith seems weak, your eye-sight dim, your
foot-hold insecure. You are far less interesting and in-
structive than you might be and ought to be. Your dis-
course lacks power in the degree that your convictions
lack clearness and strength. You are, according to your
own confession, in such utter darkness concerning the life
beyond the grave, that some of your readers may, I fear,
be led to doubt whether indeed there be any such life.
You do not pretend to know what heaven is, or what hell
is ; what are the joys of the one, or the miseries of the

Of course, then, you have no instruction to offer others
concerning the state or condition of people in either of
these kingdoms in the great Hereafter. You "infer"
from the teaching of Christ and some of the apostles,
" that we shall retain our identity in the other life ; but,"
you add, '^ there is no explicit knowledge or teaching on
this subject. ' ' And how far from certain you consider even
this, may be inferred from your saying, "that when we
come to live together again, much that we call our per-


sonal identity here, will be left behind." You do not
know but ** all the passions and appetites and imperfec-
tions " — and sins, I suppose, though you do not say this
— will drop off along with the material body, leaving to
some of us very little, when we enter the other world,
whereby our friends would be able to recognize us. You
do not know whether those who die in infancy will remain
forever in that diminutive and infantile form, or whether
they will grow there to the full stature of manhood and
womanhood; though you think "very likely" the latter.
You do not know what is the condition of the wicked, any
more than of the righteous, in the Hereafter; though you
feel constrained to teach on this subject what you find in
the Bible (according to the spirit, or the letter?) — adding :
**It is there; and if I am faithful to my whTole duty I
must preach it. As a surgeon does things that are most
uncongenial to himself, so sometimes do I. And I do this
with tears and with sorrow. It makes me sick. ' ' — Sermon
on ^^ Future Punishment, ^^ p. 109.

In short, you confess yourself in almost total darkness
respecting the spiritual world and all its grand realities.
You say, in your sermon on ''The Hereafter," which
has induced me to address you at this time : —

'' That great Future to which we are going is now
all haze, with here and there a single point jutting out
before us.

'' To those, then, who ask what are to be the conditions
in the other life of the countless myriads of men who have
2* B


been going out of this world through countless ages, all
the answer that can be given, is, We know not. We know
not whether from other sources than this earth heaven is
thronged and populated. We know not where heaven is.
We know not what it is. It has not been revealed to us.
There is not a word from the beginning of the Bible to
the end, that can tell you definitely where heaven is, or
what it is. (!) It is the place where the blessed are.
Place ? That term smacks of physical matter ; and so far
it is an imperfect term. Where the blessed are, is heaven ;
but whether it is near or far, whether it is above or below,
we know not. We are not in a state to know. . . . You may
say, ' Thus fondly have I thought ; thus am I glad to be-
lieve ; ' but nothing more have you permission to say."

Again, in the same discourse :

*' We know not whether there are to be national divi-
sions, communal groups, or anything such as we have here.
The mode of future being transcends anything that we
know. We are as unable to understand it as a dog is to
understand the nature of a commonwealth. Go, try to ex-
plain to the next intelligent creature below you all that you
know of virtue, and disinterestedness, and love, and beauty.
Explain a joke to a dog, if you can. Here are beings one
or two ranks below you ; and it is absolutely impossible
to explain to a lower state of faculty the qualities of a
higher state, or of a higher class of faculties superinduced
upon a lower one. We stand in the line of the same
analogy ; and it is impossible to explain to us the evolve-


ments which come from new faculties, or from old facul-
ties developed to such a degree that they are to all intents
and purposes new to us."

And again :

'*I believe that we shall know our children [in the
Hereafter], as they shall know us — not only as well as we
know them, but far better. Will they not have grown ?
Very likely. I do not know. ' I cannot say."

*' If you ask why God did not reveal more to us respect-
ing the Hereafter, I reply by asking, Why do not you
explain something of the domesticities of life to a dog ?
He could not understand it if you did. And we could
not understand that which relates to the future [life] if
God should explain it to us."

How do you know we could not? — permit me to ask.
How do you know but our life beyond the grave, is merely
a continuation of the present life of our spirits ? — a more
complete unfolding of our souls* capabilities and essential
characteristics or ruling loves ? — necessitating, therefore,
civil, social, industrial, and domestic arrangements in the
other world so nearly allied to those in this, that we could
not only understand but greatly profit by them if they
were revealed to us ? Do you not see that, without some
change of your present mental attitude, you would in-
evitably deprive yourself, and others over whom you have
influence, of the blessings of any revelation which God
mighthQ pleased to make concerning the Hereafter? You
would render such a revelation, should it ever be made,


altogether nugatory; for you would persuade yourself and
others that it could not be from God, and therefore not
true, because God would not attempt to explain what men
are incapable of understanding.

Then do you really believe that the death of the body
(which is the mere covering or husk of the spirit) works
such a stupendous change in all our human characteristics
— in our thoughts, dispositions, feelings, desires, motives
and purposes — that we in the flesh are as incapable of
understanding the condition (were it revealed) of those in
the other world, as dogs are incapable ''of understanding
the nature of a commonwealth," or of appreciating the
amenities or "domesticities" of our human life? Such
seems to be your meaning. But how can you be so un-
reasonable and unphilosophical, not to say unscriptural ?
For the angel, you remember, said to John, when he was
in the spirit, " I am thy fellow-servant, and of thy breth-
ren the prophets." This, certainly, is an acknowledg-
ment of close relationship — of similarity, yes, of absolute
identity, as to species, nature and essence. A man would
hardly address such language as this of the angel to a dog
-^ v;ould he ?

And so, consistently enough with your confessed igno-
rance of nearly everything pertaining to the future life, you
leave your ten thousand eager and inquiring readers to
picture, each one for himself, such a condition of things
in the Hereafter, as his own imagination may suggest.
For you say that, in respect to "those things which a


mother's heart, or a father's heart, or a lover's heart, or a
friend's heart craves to know, there is no answer. But
you are left to your own liberty. As a poet is left to im-
agine what he pleases, and as an artist is left to draw what
he pleases, so you may imagine and draw what you please "
concerning the life beyond the grave.

And, according to the teaching of your sermon from
which I have here quoted, men are to remain forever in
this impenetrable darkness concerning the spiritual realm ?
The inhabitants of this world will never know anything
about that other world which they are here to prepare for,
and in which they are to live forever ! If I understand
you, God will never (in your opinion) make any disclos-
ures concerning that world, because, if He should, men
could not understand them any more than a dog ** can
understand the nature of a commonwealth," or appreciate
the sanctity of marriage.

Yet we are taught to pray that the Lord's will may be
done on earth as it is done in heaven. Are we, then,
never to know how his will is done in heaven ? or how
the angels live, and what is the '"chief source of their
abounding joy? We are promised a time, too, when the
Spirit of truth shall come, and shall guide men into all
truth. Are you quite sure that ** ^// truth " does not em-
brace any truth concerning the life after death, or con-
cerning the condition of things in the Hereafter? — truth
which such multitudes of human hearts long to know ?

Moreover, a time is prophesied of, when ''the glory


of the Lord shall be revealed"; when ''the tabernacle
of God shall be with men ; . . and God himself shall be
with them, their God" ; when ''the earth shall be full
of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the
sea " ; when the Lord Jesus will come again to our human
world, that is, to the understandings and hearts of men —
breaking through the clouds of Scripture, or the obscuring
mists of its literal sense — with an illuminating power
scarce dreamed of hitherto; or, as the prophecy reads,
"with power and great glory." When the dawn of that
glorious Era begins, are you sure that none of the old
darkness which has so long hung over the tomb will be
dispersed, and no new and rejoicing light concerning the
great Hereafter be diffused among men ? Are you so sure
of this that you would not look at or listen to any such
alleged disclosure, however well authenticated might be
its claim to a heavenly or even a divine origin ? If so,
then you may deprive yourself and others of a grand in-
heritance — nay, of the richest boon which it is in God's
power to bestow upon the children of men.

Yet you say: "I know that we shall be as the angels
of God; I know that we shall be satisfied, because we
shall be like Him ; I know that we shall be sons of God."
What ! — all of us ? Shall we all be as the angels ? — all
be like God? — allht sons of God? — the righteous and
the wicked? — the members of the Tammany and Erie
"Rings," as well as the members of Plymouth church?
This can hardly be your meaning. Yet there is nothing
in your sermon to prevent your being so understood.


But to show that, after all, this declared knowledge
about being ''as the angels," ''sons of God," etc.,
amounts to nothing, you immediately add : " Nobody can
now tell what that means." Strange knowledge, that
which leaves a man in utter ignorance of the meaning of
what he says he knows. And then, of what conceivable
use can such knowledge be ? Suppose I am to be king
some day, and I should say I know I shall be. But sup-
pose I don't know the meaning of the expression; don't
know whether to be king, means to be a pick-axe, a
puppy, or a spirito-celestignifera ; of what practical value
would such knowledge be to me or any one else, I won-
der? Would it stimulate me, or enlighten me, or help
me in any way to prepare myself for the kingly office ?

But already this letter has exceeded the limits I had
prescribed. And yet I have scarcely reached the threshold
of what I desire to say. I will only add here, that you
are entirely mistaken in supposing that God has vouchsafed
no revelation to men respecting their condition in the
great Hereafter. He has made a very full revelation of
the great facts and laws of the spiritual world, and of the
condition of various classes of persons there. This, I
think I may say, I know. And in a future communica-
tion I will tell you how I know it — and shall invite your
special attention to the revelation itself, or to some of the
things contained therein. Meanwhile I remain, with the
highest esteem.

Your Friend and Brother,

B. F. Barrett.



My Dear Brother : — In my previous letter, I said
you are mistaken in supposing that God has vouch-
safed no revelation concerning the life beyond the
grave ; as you are, also, in thinking that if He should re-
veal the condition of things in the other world, it would
be useless, because the revelation would be quite beyond
men's power of comprehension; would be like our at-
tempting ^'to explain something of the domesticities of
life to a dog." I maintain, contrary to your assertion,
that God has made a very full revelation concerning the
Hereafter. He has lifted the veil, and made known to
all who are willing to accept the revelation, the great facts
and laws of the spiritual world, showing the condition
and manner of life of the various classes of persons who
go there — the evil as well as the good. Of this I am
confident ; and if you will allow me, I will give you some
of the grounds and reasons for my confidence.

I shall assume, in the outset, that there is a spiritual
world, and that you believe in its reality. Its existence
has been maintained by the best minds and most advanced
thinkers in every age and nation. ''All nations that are
in any degree cultivated," says Jung Stilling, ''possess



the fundamental idea of God, of a world of spirits, and
of the immortality of the soul." Says the Chinese sage,
Confucius, " How vast is the power of spirits ! An ocean
of invisible Intelligences surrounds us. They are every-
where above us, on the right hand and on the left." And
Dr. Watts, speaking of the occasional appearance of spirits
to men, says: ''The multitude of narrations which we
have heard of in all ages, of the apparitions of the spirits
of persons departed from this life, can hardly be all delu-
sion and falsehood." And nearly all the great masters in
literature, both of ancient and modern times, especially
the great poets — how fully do they recognize the ex-
istence and reality of a spiritual world ! With what
frequency and familiarity do they speak of invisible in-
telligences, who are always present, and interested in the
affairs of our world ! The great Greek and Roman epics
are all aglow with this faith in a spiritual realm. In the
Iliad and ^neid spiritual beings are introduced with as
great freedom, and almost as much frequency, as mor-
tals. And the same may be said of the works of Tasso
and Ariosto, Dante and Goethe, Shakespeare and Milton,

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Online LibraryB. F. (Benjamin Fiske) BarrettLetters on the future life, addressed to Henry Ward Beecher → online text (page 1 of 12)