Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

least, to speak about it so obscurely that their words should settle nothing in the case.

Whence this contrast in the scriptural treatment of these ideas? Will it be said that man's immortality is sufficiently clear to man's unaided reason ? But that important truth ought to be exceedingly clear to human reason, which need not be named in a revelation. And if the more obvious truth is named less frequently because more obvious, then man's immortality should be as much clearer than God's existence as a thousand is greater than zero; for this is about the numerical ratio in which the truths are named.

No one will claim that the soul's immortality is so clear past all shadow or dream of doubt. But if we suppose, for

argument's sake, that it is too clear to need explicit mention in the Bible, we only encounter a new difficulty. The revelation which God should make to man is of necessity given in man's language; not only in a human dialect, but also in the current phrases of human speech, including many proverbial expressions. But if the immortality of men were so clear a doctrine of the human reason, it must be a most cherished sentiment, and must give rise to many familiar expressions — household words of natural theology. In fact, the doctrine has created various forms of expression that reveal the sentiment, wherever it has been believed. These now appear in the daily speech of Christendom, and we shall find them also in the old forms of gentile philosophy. Why, then, are such expressions wholly avoided and unknown in the Bible? Why should the spirit of prophecy, that catches so readily the language of men, have failed to conform to their style of thought in this most important item of their own immortal nature? If man is born an heir of the future eternity, why is he not invited and encouraged to its suitable virtues by some mention of the fact ? The gift of immortality is surely preëminently worthy of God's sacred mention to those who think and say so much of their supposed possession of the boon. Why has he not deigned to say a plain word about a nature in man which would be the chief element of the divine image in him?

Such are our difficulties, on the supposition that man's proper immortality is too clear to need mention in a revelation. Turning from the supposition to the facts, we only meet a new difficulty in the anxious doubts of long generations on this very question. Because man was made for immortality, we find in his fallen nature, through all history, some sentiment of the birthright he had lost. He finds himself subject to death ; but he also finds, or thinks he finds, some remnant within him of that which is too good to die. Is death an eternal sleep? or, “ If a man die, shall he live again?” This was the Question of Ages. But when it came to be answered, and “ Life and Immortality were brought to light,” there was not a word said respecting the immortal nature of which there had been so much talk. He who “had the words of eternal life” never said that all men were to live for ever. He never spoke of the life that he gave as an attribute or quality of some other essential life which men already possessed.

As I have remarked already, the Universalist will not probably claim that Christ gave immortality to all men; for this would imply that it had been lost. He will say rather that Christ revealed and gave assurance of what was already true. Thus a writer on 2 Tim. i. 10, in the Universalist Quarterly (vol. ii. p. 55), says: “Immortality of some beings was brought to light; but not surely the immortality of angels or of beings in another sphere of action. It was the immortality of mankind. But this could not have been disclosed, unless it had been possessed as an inherent attribute of the soul, prior to its disclosure— before the appearing of Christ.” But Christ never said that men are immortal. His own words are never such as to describe such an existing fact. And the expression “ brought to light" does not require such an interpretation. It may as naturally signify that he pointed out the way of life; or that he showed that there is immortality for man, and how it may be gained. And this accords perfectly with the general tenor of his language. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” “ He that eateth of this bread shall live for ever.” “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” “Because I live, ye shall live also." Whether these and similar expressions cover the doctrine of immortality, I shall examine hereafter. But if they do, we see at once that they confirm my interpretation of the phrase in question.

And equally significant, it seems to me, is the silence of Paul respecting the immortality of the soul. It may be said that the Jews were too little philosophic, or too full of national conceit and prejudice, to think of such an immortality, good for all nations and all men. But Paul surely suffered no such lack of culture, nor such narrowness. He was the apostle of the Gentiles; and he who could quote the gentile poets, and was even more a logician than a poet, could not have been so grossly ignorant of the Grecian philosophy as to know nothing of its doctrine of immortality. Why did he, then, never speak of the immortality of the soul? Or, if he thought that too abstract and metaphysical a form of thought, why did he not speak of an immortal nature in man? or of man as somehow immortal? Nay, if he thought the Greeks in the truth respecting a universal immortality, but in error respecting the nature or method of it, why did he not take special pains to recognize their half of the truth, and complete the doctrine by showing the connection between its two parts? When some mocked at the mention of the resurrection of the dead, why did he not show that immortality did not at all depend on the resurrection ? And when, in that most ample discussion in the 15th chapter of 1st Corinthians, he made a supposition of no resurrection, why did he say, “ Then they which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished” ?

The sum is this: The Scriptures, given to reveal God's character and man's duty and destiny, speak of the divine existence many hundred times and in considerable variety of ways; but they speak of man's proper immortality, equally important to himself, never. And though the question had been long agitated among men, and the doctrine was incarnated in men's language, Christ, coming to illustrate the subject, said nothing of the doctrine. And Paul, whose education and mis

sion pointed him out as the man to name and teach so great a truth, has failed to do it. The question arises whether the supposed taking for granted of man's immortality is not an assumption out of the Bible, and foreign to it.*

I think that my argument from the silence of the Scriptures respecting man's immortality receives additional force from some facts among the Spiritualists. They offer the spiritual manifestations as proving more than almost any thing else the immortality of the soul. Those Spiritualists who reject the Bible will naturally regard its teachings as defective on this subject. But how is it with those who accept the Bible? I can not speak from very general acquaintance or reading; but I have read enough to know that the following incident means something. The first lecturer on Spiritualism whom I have heard, informed us he had been a Methodist preacher. He found himself in trouble because he could not prove the immortality of the soul from the Bible. He told his perplexity to a friend; yet he found no relief, but aggravation of his difficulty, for his friend was in the same predicament. The friend, however, thought that what the Church had always held must be true, and he must preach it indulging no private speculations on the subject. Our lecturer replied that God gave him the faculty of reason, and he did not dare to forego the use of it ; he must think for himself. And he thought he could now prove the desired immortality, thus : Matter is eternal. Whatever produces material effects is matter. The spirits do this ;

* This argument from the persistent silence of the Scriptures respecting man's immortality I regard as the main argument of my book; and it is so regarded by others. It is passed over in silence by three of my reviewers : D. N. Lord, Theological and Literary Journal, April, 1858; Dr. J. Strong, Methodist Quarterly Review, July, 1858; and Dr. A. Hovey, State the Impenitent Dead. Another reviewer, Prof. E. P. Barrows, Bibliotheca Sacra, July, 1858, entirely misapprehends the argument; he proceeds as if I had in mind only the “immortality of the soul” in the technical or metaphysical sense, though I devote a paragraph (p. 162) to prevent such a misconception. I know the professor too well to suspect him of an intentional ignoratio elenchi ; but the ignorantia elenchi is manifest.

hence they are material and eternal; and the Bible, recognizing their existence, teaches thus the immortality of the soul.

The argument of our lecturer plainly proved a great deal too much,—a past eternal existence, as well as a future immortality, and that of all species of life. It was pretty straight pantheism. Yet I doubt whether the lack of faith among orthodox Christians in a Providence that could give immortal life to the worthy alone, or their reliance on immortality from

“ nature of things,” has not helped forward this modern style of pantheism.

some

§. 2. Is the immortality of the soul IMPLIED in the Scriptures ?

A truth which does not lie on the surface of an expression, or in the form of its words, may yet be very clearly contained or implied in it. Is the immortality of man thus taught in the Bible? A very few passages only need here to be considered.

Gen. i. 26, 27: And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him.”

I think this can prove no more than the creation of man for immortality, of which, nevertheless, he might fail. I think the expression in the Book of Wisdom, ii. 23, denotes just this: “God made man for immortality (ep' aphtharsia), and to the image of his own nature made he him. But by the envy of the Devil death came into the world.” Some editions of the Apocrypha have the word eternity instead of nature ; but this is a false reading of aïdiotētos instead of idiotētos, which has been remarked by various scholars. And I think the context shows that the prospective immortality was, in the opinion of the Jews, cut off by the entrance of death. This appears more fully from the entire context, which I think signifies the immortality of the righteous alone :-“And they (the wicked] knew not the secrets of God, nor hoped for the reward of righteousness, nor esteemed the honor of holy souls. For God made man for incorruption, and to the image of his own nature made he him. But by the envy of the Devil death came into

« AnteriorContinuar »