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ence. “Till it be determined,” says Butler, arguing upon the principles of his opponents, “that it—that is, the soul—is larger than the solid elementary particles of matter, which there is no ground to think any natural power can dissolve; there is no sort of reason to think death to be the dissolution of it.” We know of no annihilation in that which is least, and “some God must tell us," before we dare assert it of that which is greatest.
2. Consentaneous with this fact in the world of matter and of substantial existence, is another in the world of mind no less remarkable : the wide prevalence of belief in the soul's future existence, in all ages of the world. The force of the argument upon this point has been questioned, and it may be well to call attention to these objections as presented from two opposite directions. It is urged, for instance, by Christian writers, by way of showing the necessity of a revelation, that the heathen were in perfect darkness as regards a future life; special reliance being placed in the argument, upon quotations from the philosophical writers of heathenism. On the other hand, it is objected by the annihilationist, that there are certain savage nations who have no idea or belief whatever in regard to this doctrine. A word or two upon each of these objections will be sufficient.
And first, as to the theory of total or almost total heathenish darkness, urged by the defender of revelation. Is it not frequently the case that strong prevalent convictions may exist and exert an influence upon communities, who can give no satisfactory account of them? Is there not such a thing as popular belief without a definitely rendered reason? And is it not sometimes the case that an unsuccessful attempt to give a reason for this belief endangers it, at least with those who thus fail in their undertaking? This seems to have been actually the case among the ancients. There was light enough for popular belief in a future state after death. But there was not enough for a systematic theology. The philosophers who attempted to construct one, failed, shook their own faith, and exercised a pernicious influence upon that of the masses, but never destroyed it altogether. To quote the sentiments of these writers, as is done, for instance, by Whately, is not to give us
the convictions of the masses. These writers, in fact, frequently speak of the sentiments of the masses with the utmost contempt. Sherlock has well called attention to the mode in which this deteriorating process went on with one of these classes. He says that the popular belief among the Gentiles, as among the Hebrews, merely extended to the fact of man's life beyond the grave. Of some sort of difference between soul and body they had a conception; but as to the immateriality of the soul-its entire separation from all bodily organization—these and similar refinements had never presented themselves to their minds for consideration. They simply thought of the man as living after death, and as capable, upon special occasions, of making himself manifest. When, however, the philosophers began to refine, and to prove the immateriality of the soul, to separate it entirely and forever from the body, and thus logically to destroy its capacity of being manifested, they took away from themselves and their disciples all the materials upon which the
popular mind can rest, and a portion of the material necessary · to permanent philosophical conviction. This debauchery of
belief would have been universal were it not for the fact that these theories did not widely extend to the knowledge or comprehension of the masses. So it is to a certain extent now. We distinguish between the immortality of the soul and the resurrection of the body. But the popular mind does not and can not. And the great probability is, if this doctrine of the resurrection of the body be discarded, that not only the popular but the philosophical mind will retain such a weak hold upon the idea of future life, that it will exert little or no influence upon present conduct. No less forcibly has Professor Lewis called attention to the fact that Plato, in drawing up the argument for immortality which his master employs, makes him go back at last to these primitive and prevalent beliefs and traditions of humanity. The refined and philosophical are rarely the representative exponents of popular conviction. They are either above or below it; and whether above or below, they despise it. We must look for it elsewhere : in popular traditions, religious rites and customs, poetry, historical delineations of character and action. Thus looking for this
idea of a future life, we find it upon every recorded page of human history.
And so, as to the objection of the annihilationist, that drawn from all absence of idea or belief in regard to any such doctrine, among certain nations and tribes in the lowest state of savage bestiality. Without pausing to taunt him with the association into which he is thus doctrinally brought, the reply to this objection is no less direct and satisfactory. In speaking of any belief as universal, there is a natural limitation to our language which may be easily understood. The moral force of such general sentiment is not at all affected by rarely occasional exceptions. As we shall undertake to show further on, there may be facts connected with such exceptions which really heighten it. There are, for instance, in every community, individuals who, through certain abnormal conditions of physical, mental, or moral organization, may be regarded as idiosyncrasies. And yet, upon certain questions, and in spite of these cases which defy all rational classification, there is no practical difficulty in speaking of the settled convictions of that community as a whole. In the great communities of peoples by which our world is inhabited, there may be, and from the same causes, extending in their influence through a long 'series of years, individual nations and tribes which are no less incapable of such classification. And yet there may be just as little real difficulty in this, as in the former case, in getting the settled convictions of this world's community. The number of these exceptions has no doubt been exaggerated. Full and extensive observation has shown in some instances that cases cited as among these exceptions were wrongly classified. And such, doubtless, will be the future fate of others. It is but too frequently that investigations upon this and similar subjects, are conducted merely in a spirit of curiosity, by civilized men over whose own lives religious and even moral truth exert little controlling influence. The direct assertion or exhibition of practical belief on the part of the civilized man, is much more apt to bring out a practical response from the savage, than any amount of curious or scientific catechising. But taking into account the fact that some of these investigations have been carried on in a different spirit, and by men of a different cha
racter, and supposing these exceptions to be authenticated beyond the possibility of a doubt, to what do they really amount? Is it any more to be wondered at, or does it any more interfere with the argument from general consent, than do those extreme individual exceptions to general sentiment and feeling, in every community, of which we have spoken? We meet, for instance, in a Christian community, with a man who, by a course of vice and outrageous impiety, has apparently destroyed all capability either of fully appreciating the fact of eternal life or of believing in its existence. But we never take him into the account when we speak of the natural sentiment of that community. We should as soon think of including the vagaries of the lunatic or the sillinesses of the idiot. We are told of a community of such men in a savage tribe, who, through successive generations of moral debasement and corruption, have sunk themselves to the same condition; and in the general account, we treat this case as we do that of the individual—the one being as monstrous and unnatural, yet as easily explained, as the other. Subtracting all such exceptional monstrositiesand when we remember the stupefying influences of heathenism, the real wonder is that they are not more numerous—there is still this general consent of the human race, in all ages, upon this point. Wherever and whenever the mind of a community has been sufficiently exercised to come to any opinion at all, it has been in favor of the idea of a future life. In every system of religious belief this is one of the doctrines. It has been held by itself when it seemed impossible to form any such system. And its influence may often be traced in the conduct of those who profess to reject it. If there be any one fact over which man, as man, has rejoiced in hope or quaked with fear, it is this of the soul's immortality. How this conviction has been reached makes but little difference as to our present purpose. If we say that it originated in the dictates of a primeval revelation, its authority is of course beyond question. If we trace it to the obvious and general dictate of reason, its authority with reasonable men is no less unquestionable. If it be found in the universal dictate of conscience, still more sacred becomes its authority. If we go lower down and find it in the region of animal or social instinct, no less clearly is it thereby proclaimed
to be founded in some great natural truth, to which those instincts, unperverted, are responsive. How it is that human nature in any one, or all of these its principles combined, and in every age, should concentrate itself upon this idea of a future life, and in many respects treat it as founded in truth, constitutes a difficulty, upon the supposition of its falsehood, which admits of no explanation. Just as we infer that the eye was made to see, because when uninjured and free from disease it always sees, or that the ear was created for hearing because in the same condition it always hears, so we infer of the unperverted human mind that it was constructed to believe this doctrine because it always does believe it. And as God never works uselessly or without a purpose, so we infer that as He has created the mind with an original susceptibility for this truth, so He has provided it with this truth, as material upon which to be nourished and exercised. That we sometimes meet with the double vision of superstition, or the stone-blindness of skepticism, no more interferes with this general conclusion, than do the occasional instances of physical blindness and deafness disprove the existence of the power of vision and hearing, or of the material in nature upon which they are properly exercised.
III. But there is an additional fact, in connection with this latter, which can scarcely be overrated as to its importance : the peculiar correlation of this doctrine of immortality to a certain state of the natural and moral affections; the closeness and clearness with which it is held by a certain class of character. If it is true that the belief of immortality purifies the soul, it is no less true that as this soul is thus purified it values more highly, and believes more firmly, and clings more closely to the fact which is the instrument of its purification; and that a pure soul is naturally predisposed to its reception. There is a most important sense, in which it may be said, of a depraved being like man, vox populi vow diaboli : when the grand author of evil, through the multitudinous clamors of passion, of interest, and of appetite, drowns the expostulations of reason and conscience. There is again a most important sense, in which it may be said, vox populi vox Dei, where the undisturbed sentiments and convictions of our race universally