Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature: An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891. Vol. IV: Literature of the Republic, Part I., Constitutional period, 17881820
The Future Life
By Joseph Stevens Buckminster (17841812)
[Born in Portsmouth, N. H., 1784. Died in Boston, Mass., 1812. Sermons. 1829.]
WHEREVER we may exist hereafter, we shall not cease to be men. Our human nature will not be changed into the angelic, nor shall we constitute a different order of beings. It is true our Lord has said, that they who are worthy to attain that world, neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of light. This change, however, in our condition, results, as we may well suppose, from our freedom from these material bodies; and the language of our Saviour is rather a precaution against the sensual fancies of those who would transfer to heaven the delights of a terrestrial paradise, than any specific description of a future world. We shall not, however, be transformed into a superior order of spirits, as angels are imagined to be; for if this were to be the case, there would be no propriety in saying that we should be like them.
What then! are not all our imperfections to be removed? Are we to continue to be frail, limited, finite creatures? Must we still be men? I hope there is no presumption in replying, that we must. For is man, the work of God, the image of the supreme intellect, so poor and worthless a creature that his nature is not worthy of being continued? Let us learn to think more worthily of our destination. If man has been granted so exalted a place in the infinite works of the Creator, he is no doubt worthy of being continued in that exalted station. We find nothing in what we are allowed to observe in the works of God, which indicates that any chasm is to be left in the scale of being, by the transformation of one rank into another. The plan of God appears to be the progressive improvement of the individuals of a species, not the gratification of that vain ambition by which men would be angels, angels would be gods.
Not only may we conclude that our human nature will be preserved, but that every individual also, will retain his own individual nature, or that which distinguishes him from every other person. Every man has his peculiar capacity, or disposition, which he brought with him into the world, or which he has acquired by diligent cultivation, and we have no reason to imagine that these discriminating properties of his character are to be abolished by the dissolution of his body. In the future world, as in the present, an harmonious whole will no doubt be composed by every ones filling his proper place; by every description of mind finding its proper rank, employment, and happiness; but we have reason to expect a far more perfect state than the present, because composed of better spirits. There, no doubt, as well as here, the degrees of happiness will be as various as the diversities of attainments in knowledge and virtue. It will be enough to secure the perfection of that state, that every one may strive for higher degrees of virtue and happiness without envy; enjoy what is peculiar to himself, and proceed towards the highest points of human perfection, without interruption from the cares, the passions, and the sorrows of this life.