Whither now is the soul going? what will be the issue within a few moments? Is it annihilated? doth death not only separate the body and soul, but destroy our being, so that we shall be no more to eternity? So some would have it; for it is their interest it should be so. Is the soul going into a state of wandering in the air, under the influence of more powerful spirits?—which was the opinion of the old pagan world, as that which caused appearances of the dead so frequently upon the earth.
And this persuasion was taken into purgatory by the Papists ; from whence they concluded that there were great appearances of them that were departed continually. And you have a thousand stories of them, which we know to be all the actings and deceits of evil spirits. And such is our darkness as to the invisible world, that the greatest part of Christians have feigned a third state, that is not in it, but the fruit of superstition and idolatry. For this is superstition, to invent things in religion suited to men’s natural affections, or to gratify their lusts for their own profit; both which were designed in this case. For when persons thought the souls of men that were gone into an eternal condition were lost, and that for ever,—”No, there is another venture for them,” say they; and so they pacified them, that if they were the worst of men, yet there might be hope for them after death. Nor has it a less tendency to gratify men in their lusts, and encourage them to live at their pleasure. And the whole of this they turn to their own profit who invented it. This by the way,—only to manifest the darkness that mankind is in as to this invisible world.
– John Owen –
from a sermon on The Christian’s Work of Dying Daily, volume 9 of Works, pages 337-8