20. Let us suppose – what is so often seen – a young man of twenty, ignorant, vicious, denying alike the existence of God and of the soul, and giving himself up to wickedness of every kind, until he finds himself placed among new circumstances, and influences, that exercise a beneficial effect upon his mind. He, then, relinquishes his former habits, enters upon a course of useful study, gradually surmounts his evil tendencies, and becomes, at length, an enlightened, virtuous, and useful member of society. Is not the fact of such a reformation – and we witness such reformations every day – a positive proof of the progress of the soul during an earthly lifetime? The reformed rake, whose moral advancement we are supposing, dies, at length, full of years and of honors, and no one has the slightest doubt of his salvation. But what would have been his fate if some accident had caused his death some forty or fifty years before? At that time he was, in all respects, just in the right condition for being damned, and all possibility of progress would have been over for him. So that, in such a case, a man, who, according to the doctrine of eternal punishment, would have been lost forever if he had died when he was young – which might have happened as the result of some casualty – is saved, simply because his life has been prolonged. But, as his soul was able to progress during his earthly lifetime, why might it not have achieved an equal amount of progress in the same length of time after his death if some cause, independent of his will, had prevented him from achieving that progress at a later period in his earthly life? Why, then, should God have refused to such a soul the means of progressing after death? Repentance, though tardy, would have been awakened in this individual in the course of time; but if, at the very instant of death, his soul had been met by an irrevocable condemnation, its repentance would have remained sterile throughout eternity, and its aptitude for progressing would have been neutralized forever.