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Has this time ever arrived? Have those who are alive on the earth ever been changed to immortal beings? Have they ever been able to ascend up and meet the Lord in the air? No man will even pretend this. Then it is evident that the resurrection is a future event; and consequently it cannot be a fact that every person is raised to immortality, at the death of the body. What has been offered is deemed more than sufficient to confute your position, that death and the resurrection are simultaneous events.
But perhaps you will say, that I might have saved have you myself the labor of confuting a position which never advanced as your opinion. But why have you not advanced this position? Your argument absolutely requires it. You are bound by all rules of reasoning to advance this position, or else abandon the inference you draw from it. It is of no use to you to say, that imIt would be of no use to prove mortality cannot suffer. that immortality excludes all suffering, unless you prove also, that every person is raised to immortality at death. Suppose that immortal beings are incapable of pain, how does this prove that there is no misery beyond death? If men do not put on immortality, until long after death, they may be miserable after death, and this misery may continue till the resurrection.
Now we have already seen, that the resurrection is a future event. This completely saps the foundation of your argument. You say, there can be no suffering in an immortal state. We admit it, and what follows? Not that there is no suffering after death; for as the resurrection is yet future, men may have suffered for hundreds or even thousands of years already, since their death, and their suffering may continue hundreds of years to come, before they put on immortality. Now if you were able to prove, that there could be no suffering in an immortal state, it would yield you no assistance.
They may suffer in an intermediate state, if they do not after the resurrection. Though destroying one of your premises overthrows your conclusion as completely, as if both of your premises were destroyed, still we shall not rest satisfied, till we have shown them both to be false. Having seen that your first position is void of foundation, let us now inquire into the truth of your other position, viz. That immortal beings cannot experience suffering. You frequently assert, that immortality cannot suffer. But we shall be better enabled to judge of the correctness of this assertion, when we shall have considered the subject maturely.
In the first place, this declaration comes from you with a very ill grace. For you are in the habit, when pressed with any difficulty relative to a future retribution, of saying, that we have no knowledge of a future state. Attempting to expose a future reward for virtue you say, "Why should we believe that divine wisdom, with an intention to engage us in the service of virtue, should place its reward in a future state of existence, in a world we KNOW NOTHING OF, from which no traveller ever returned." Again, in the same connexion you say, "But all this must be carried on in a secret place, out of sight of all the living; and none to report it to us, only those who know NOTHING about it."* Again you say, "As amazed as any one may be at my ignorance of a future state, I have no pride in pretending to know that of which I am totally ignorant. After all that has been said by our doctors of divinity on the subject of a future state, reason will acknowledge that they have no more knowledge concerning its particulars than an infant child." Once more you say, what man's constitution in a future state will be, "I humbly conceive no living man knows or can know. In these passages you assert,
+ U. Mag. vol. iii. p. 131.
Lectures, pp. 299, 300.
that you know NOTHING of a future state, but are TOTALLY ignorant of it. Now it is not a little surprising that a person who is so completely, so totally ignorant of a future state, should be so intimately acquainted with immortality, as to know, that it necessarily excludes all suffering. When your system requires it, you know nothing at all about a future world! But no sooner is the case altered so as to require more knowledge, than your former ignorance is entirely forgotten, and all at once you are so well acquainted with a future world, and the texture of immortality, that you know that immortal beings can experience no suffering! But where do you obtain your knowledge, that immortality cannot suffer? No where. You say yourself, "For aught we know for certainty, sin may exist in a future state, and may then be purged by the power of divine goodness, and yet we may now be enabled to prove this to be the case!"* In this passage you confess that you know not, but that men may suffer condemnation for sin in a future state. Nay, you confess that this may be the case, though we are unable to prove it.
Now after these numerous concessions, with what propriety can you assert that immortality excludes misey? You lay it down with all the force of an axiom, that immortality cannot suffer; and still you admit that the soul of man is immortal in this world, and experiences a great degree of suffering! In fact you urge this as an argument to prove that men will not be punished after death. Since men suffer so much mental agony in this state, you think, it would be unjust to punish them beyond the grave! Now this is giving up the whole force of the argument. For if the immortal soul suffers in this world, with what consistency can you assert, or even suggest, that immortality cannot suffer? The soul you acknowledge is immortal here,t
* U. Mag, vol. III. p. 186. † See Atonement, pp. 32, 33.
and of course, it can be no more than immortal in a future world. And if it suffers here, it may suffer there; at least immortality will not prevent it. Now if your sentiment, that the immortal soul suffers here be true, then your statement, that immortality cannot suffer, must be false. But if the latter be true, then the former must be false. But as you constantly admit, and as your system requires that you should admit, that the soul is immortal in this state, and does experience misery, it follows of course, that your position, that immortality cannot suffer, must be false.
But perhaps you will say, that in the present world the soul is united with a sinful body, and this occasions the suffering which the soul feels; but in a future state, the soul will be delivered from this corrupt body, and consequently will be exempt from all misery or pain.— This is giving up the whole position at once. It is saying, that immortality does suffer in this world, and might suffer in the next, were it not separated from corruption or sin. This then is resting your system of immediate happiness, not upon the supposed fact, that immortality cannot suffer, but upon the circumstance, that men will then be free from sin. This is giving up the ground on which your argument is based. But no doubt you wish to inquire, whether the apostle does not declare that men shall be raised incorruptible, as well as immortal. We answer yes-he says this of certain characters. But this again is deviating from the point. By referring to this scripture, you seem to admit that it is not from the simple fact, that men will be raised immortal, but from something else, that you would infer their happiness. The passage to which you refer shall be attended to in its proper place; but this is not its proper place. The simple inquiry before us is, whether immortality excludes all suffering.
On the subject of immortality, I conceive that many
people essentially err. The word immortality, simply denotes an exemption from death, or an endless life. This term has reference only to the endless continuance of existence. It has no reference to the character of the being, or to his situation, relative to happiness or misery. An immortal being may be either virtuous or vicious, happy or miserable. We cannot prove that God is good or happy, from the fact that he is immortal. The soul you acknowledge is immortal here, and still you confess that it is sinful and unhappy. In a certain sense, every man is immortal in this world. He has an immortal soul. He may be immortal in another sense. You, Sir, contend that all things take place by divine appointment, or in other words, are as God predetermined they should be; and consequently they could not have been otherwise. Now Adam, for instance, lived nine hundred years. And according to your views, it was the purpose of God that he should live to that advanced age; and it being the purpose of God that he should live thus long, it was impossible that he should have died before. During that period then, he was immortal. He was not subject to death; it being as impossible for him to die, as it is for the purpose of God to fail. Now if the life of Adam had been protracted to ten thousand, or ten million of years, that would not have altered the principle. Or, if the Deity had been pleased to have continued him in being to eternity, the nature of his existence would have been the same. The nature of his existence would not have been changed, if his life had been continued from period to period, and even to eternity. If we live for a limited period, we live not only by divine permission, but by divine support. If we live only for a limited period, we are upheld by God, and that continually. This is a truth you will readily acknowledge. Now if our lives are continued to eternity, * Atonement, pp. 37-40.