IN the Summer of the year 1853, a kind friend, who is now a dweller in the Land of Promise, had kindly procured my admission to a theological institute, situate on the banks of the Hudson. I was not a student of theology, and I frankly confess, that a slight intimacy with those who were, led me to be thankful that I was not. The institute was built on an eminence, commanding view of peculiar beauty below lay the city; on the right, the river was lost in its windings among the rocky hills surrounding West Point ; on the left it lay in expanse and could be traced for a distance of many miles; behind, spread out the country, with its pretty little farm houses dotted here and there. I have sat for hours of an evening, watching the feeble flickering lights, and endeavouring to picture in my imagination the life-emotional which must from time to time have crossed those thresholds. Now, fancy pictured a young girl, on whose form time and care had passed but as an evening breeze; and a little further off it was, perchance, a mother whose little one was suffering, and every beat of whose feeble pulse she had counted with that hope which only a mother may know as she prays to spare the pure, gentle, and loving little one whom He has given her. Anon, it was one bowed down with age and sorrow; all that he had loved had gone to their rest, and he was alone in that world. Bright pictures of his youth flitted before him, but these only augmented his loneliness, for the light of the past had brought out in deeper contrast the shadows of the present.
These and similar trains of thought often occupied my idle hours; and, at times, these fancied scenes became as it were real, and furnished ample resource to a mind, naturally inclined to dwell on subjects beyond the little narrow circle of every day life.
One evening, I had been pondering deeply on that which the world calls death, and on the eternity that lies beyond, until wearied I found relief in prayer, and then in sleep. My last waking consciousness had been that of perfect trust in God and a sense of gratitude to Him for the enjoyment I received from contemplating the beauties of the material creation. It might have been that my mind was led to watching this by the fact of my having watched a beautiful star as it shone and twinkled in the profound stillness of the night. Be this as it may, it appeared to me that, as I closed my eyes to earthly things, an inner perception was quickened within me, till at last reason was as active as when I was awake. I, with vivid distinctness, remember asking myself the question, whether I was asleep or no, when, to my amazement, I heard a voice which seemed so natural, that my heart bounded with joy ~ I recognised it as the voice, who while on earth was far too pure for such a world as ours, and who, in passing to that brighter home had promised to watch over and protect me. And, although I well Knew she would do so, it was the first time I had heard her Voice, at least--with that nearness and natural tone. She said, Fear not, Daniel, I am near you ; the vision you are about to have is that of death, yet you will not die, as your spirit must again return to the body in a few hours. Trust in , God and his angels : all will be well." Here the voice became lost, and I felt as one who at noonday is struck blind; as he would cling to the last memories of the sunlight, so I would fain have clung to material existence-not that I felt any dread of passing away, nor that I doubted for an instant the words of my Guardian Angel ; but I feared I had been over presumptuous in desiring knowledge, the very memory of which might disturb
my future life. This was but momentary, for almost instantaneously came rushing with a fearful rapidity memories of the past; even thoughts bore the semblance of realities, and every action appeared as an eternity of existence. During the whole time I was aware of a benumbing and chilling sensation which stole over my body, but the more inactive my nervousness became, the more active was my mind, till at length I felt as if I had fallen from the brink of some fearful precipice, and as I fell, all became obscure, and my whole body became one ****y mass (could be dreamy). l only kept alive by a feeling of terror, until recognition and thought simultaneously ceased, and I knew no more. How long I had lain thus I know not, but soon I felt that I was about to awaken in a most dense obscurity; terror had now given place to a pleasurable feeling, accompanied by a attitude of some one dearly loved being near me, yet invisible: It then occurred to me that the light of the spheres must necessarily be more effulgent than our own, and I pondered whether or not the sudden change from darkness to light might not prove painful, for instinctively I realized that beyond the surrounding obscurity lay an ocean of silver-toned light. I was at this instant brought to a consciousness of light, by seeing the . whole of my nervous system, as it were, as thousands of electrical scintillations, which here and there, as in the created nerve, took the form of currents, darting its rayons over the whole body in a manner most marvellous ; still this was but a. cold electrical light, and besides, it was external. Gradually however, I saw that the extremities became less luminous, and the finer membranes surrounding the brain became as it were glowing, and I felt that thought and action were no longer connected with the earthly tenement, but that they were in a body in every respect similar to the body which I knew to have been mine, and which I now saw lying motionless before me on the bed. The only link which held the two forms together seemed a silvery-like light, which proceeded from the brain; and, as if it were a response to my earlier waking thoughts, the same voice, only that it was now more musical than before, said, " Death is but a second birth, corresponding in every respect to the natural birth, and should the uniting link now be severed, you could never again enter .the body. As I told you, however, this will not be. 'You did wrong to doubt, even for an instant, for this was the cause of your having suffered, and this very want of faith is the source of every evil on your earth. God is love ; and still His children ever doubt Him. Has he not said ' k nock and it shall be opened unto you: seek and ye shall find ? ' These being His words, must be taken as they were spoken. It is not for men to give any interpretation they may believe or desire to believe, to what God has said. Be very calm, for in a few moments you will see us all, but do not touch us, be guided by the one who is appointed to go with you, for I must remain near your body."
It now appeared to me that I was waking from a dream of darkness to a sense of light; but such a glorious light. Never did earthly sun shed such rays, strong in beauty, soft in love, warm in life-giving glow, and as my last idea of earthly light had been the reflex of my own body, so now this heavenly light came from those I saw standing about me. Yet the light was not of their creating, but was shed on them from a higher and purer source, which only seemed the more adorably beautiful in the invisibility of its holy love and mercy , thus to shower every blessing on the creatures of its creation; and now, I was bathed in light, and about me were those for whom I had sorrowed, for although I well knew that they existed, and loved and cared for me, nevertheless, their earthly presence was not visible. One that I had never known on earth then drew near and said, " You will come with me, Daniel." I could only reply, that it was impossible to move, inasmuch as I could not feel that my nature had a power over my body. To this he replied, " Desire and you will accomplish your desires which are not sinful, desires being as prayers to the Divinity, and he answereth, the every prayer of his children."
For the first time I now looked to see what sustained my body, and found that it was but a purple tinted cloud, and that as I desired to go onward with my guide, the cloud appeared -if disturbed by a gentle breeze, and in its movements found I was wafted upward until I saw the earth, as a vision, far, far below us. Soon, I found that we had drawn nearer, and were just hovering over a cottage that I had never seen · and I also saw the inmates, but had never met them in life. The walls of the cottage were not the least obstruction to my sight, they were Only as if constructed of a dense body of air, yet perfectly transparent, and the same might be said of every article of furniture. I perceived that the inmates were asleep, and I saw the various Splrits who were watching over the sleepers. One of these was Endeavouring to impress his son where to find a lost relic of him Which the son much prized, and the loss of which had greatly moved him. And I saw that the son awoke and thought it just an idle dream, and three times this impression was repeated by the spirit; and I knew tlhat when morning came, the young man would go, out of curiosity, where he had been impressed to go. and that he would there find what he sought for. In an adjoining room I saw one who was tormented by dreams, But they were but the production of a diseased body.
I was most deeply interested in all this, when my guide said “We must now return.” When I found myself near my body, I turned to the one who had remained near my bed, and said ''Why must I return so soon, for it can be but a few moments I been with you, and I would fain see more and also remain near you longer?" She replied, " It is now many hours since you came to us; but here we take no cognisance of time, and as you are here in spirit you too have lost this knowledge; we would have you with us, but this must not be at present. Return to earth, love your fellow-creatures, love truth, and in so doing you will serve the God of infinite love, who careth for and loveth all. May the Father of mercies bless you, Daniel !”
I heard no more , but seemed to sink as in a swoon, until consciousness was merged into a feeling that earth with it trials lay before m e - and that I, as well as every human being, must bear my cross and when I opened my eyes to material things I found the little star had given way to the sun, which had been above the horizon about four hours; making in all about eleven hours that vision had lasted. .My limbs were so dead, that at least half an hour elapsed before I could reach the bell rope, to bring anyone to my assistance, and it was only by a continued · friction that, at the end of an hour, I had sufficient force to let me to stand upright.
I merely give these facts as they occurred; let others comment On them as they may. I have only to add, that nothing could ever convince me that this was an illusion or a delusion ; and that the remembrance of those hours are as fresh in my mind now, as at the moment they took place.