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centre in some great conclusion. But we can say this with much more confidence when we can refer such conclusion not only to the general sentiment of mankind, but to the stronger special sentiment of mankind, in its wisest, purest, most serious, and deliberate moments. And it is in this sense, that the voice of the best of all peoples, not only consensus omnium sed consensus bonorum omnium, giving utterance to the voice of God, has proclaimed the fact of man's immortality. It is not merely the dictate of human nature, but human nature exalted, and enlarged, and purified; acting in its best phases, in its most sacred, social instincts, its highest acquirements of reason, its purest exercise of conscience. Nor can the importance of this distinction be over-estimated. Suppose, for instance, that the recognition of a future life had only been explicitly made, or had been more strongly held during some terrible outburst of crime and impurity, as at Paris in the close of the last century, or during some such continued season of moral corruption and debasement as prevailed in England through the closing years of the reign of Charles the Second. Suppose, again, that it had been the darling faith of the worst specimens of heathen antiquity, the Cleons, the Neros, and the Caligulas, that it had been repudiated by the best, the Platos, the Socrateses, and the Ciceros, what an immense difference, leaving revelation out of view, would there be in its claims upon our reception!. Universal man in his wisest, most sober, and purest moments, has by word and action, affirmed the fact of his own future existence. This creates a natural presumption in its favor. A presumption against which there is nothing to be set on the other side; one which can only be disposed of by its being shown that the Author of our nature has constituted this nature upon a scheme of falsehood-has adapted that nature in its best and soundest moments to receive, and love, and act upon that which is false, and only in its moments of debasement, disorder, and passion to recognize, receive, and love that which is true.
And here we are met by two other objections : first, the general objection of the tendency of the human mind to superstition; secondly, the special objection that this argument of aniversal belief, if sound, will also establish the doctrine of visible apparitions of the departed dead. Doubtless there is this tendency to superstition, in reference to things supernatural. But this, which all admit to be a perversion, only points back to an original principle of human nature—faith in things supernatural upon proper grounds and sufficient evidence. It would scarcely be a greater, outrage to receive every such superstition as out and out true, than to assert that they are all out and out false; that there are no great outward truths, and no inward truthful susceptibilities out of which they have been perverted. And so also as to the particular superstition of frequent visible apparitions of the departed. This superstition, so far as it is one, is based upon the great truth of man's existence after death, and the historical fact that in certain special exigencies apparitions of the dead have been manifested. Taking the Old Testament simply as a history, and leaving out of view certain statements of heathen historians, this latter fact can not be denied, nor can any one who has the slightest conception of our ignorance of the realm of spirit, or of the grounds of man's existence after death, say that such apparitions are imposible. The perversion of the ignorant and vulgar, which constitutes the superstition, is that of the frequent, every day appearance of the departed dead, the apparitio intersit upon all occasions. The scriptural and true idea, as we conceive, is that of such appearance exceptionally, “in vindice nodo," as for instance in the case of Samuel, of Moses and Elias, and of the departed saints, who rose and went into the Holy City at the time of our Saviour's resurrection. But it is the same great fact of man's existence after death, upon which this belief, either in its proper or exaggerated form, is founded, and to which it bears testimony. And what is well worthy of remark, is the fact that just in proportion as the Christianizing, elevating, and purifying process goes on, which throws off these exaggerations, in the same proportion is there a deepening and strengthening of belief and conviction in regard to the truth, which lies at the basis of these exaggerations, that of man's future existence.
IV. Thus far the argument has had only to do with man's physical and intellectual nature. But there is another sphere of his being, in which we may look for proof, in the same direction. There is a moral intimation of man's existence hereafter. In looking around upon human society, we find a rule or law prevailing, that ordinarily virtue is prosperous and happy, vice is disastrous and miserable. Our inward moral judgments approve of this state of things, delight in it as morally right and proper. God thus bears testimony in the ordinary movements of human society, and in the inward convictions of our moral nature, as to His own character; shows Himself to be on the side of virtue, and opposed to vice. In these facts we get our premises for any argument or anticipation in regard to His future mode of treating His creatures. Looking only at these facts, we should conclude that virtue and vice would always be thus treated. And upon the assumption that man's life ends in physical dissolution, it would seem that they ought to be thus treated. Exceptions would not be of a piece with His ordinary administration, and they would involve grievous wrongs to one class, which would be irreparable.
But it requires very slight observation to enable us to see, either that our argument is unsound, our assumption unfounded, or that a new class of facts, taken in connection with that argument, must modify our conclusions, at least in reference to man's present state. We find startling exceptions to this general rule, of conscience and human society. And yet with these exceptions we can not give up our ideas of the justice of God, and our expectation that he will prove finally consistent with the ordinary administration of his present government. Every such apparent exception, in the present world, especially when it extends to the end of life, points us therefore to another state of existence. This great moral mystery of suffering righteousness, and prosperous wickedness can only be disposed of upon one of two suppositions. Either, “that all things float up and down as they are agitated and driven by the tumbling billows of careless chance and fortune," or they are portions of a well-arranged whole, imperfectly seen by us here, and fully completed by superintending Wisdom and Justice hereafter. Here are the facts. Can any thing be proposed outside of this alternative? “I saw the prosperity of the wicked. There are no terrors in their death—their strength is firm.” “Behold, these who prosper in the world are the ungodly.” “Neither did Jupiter Olympus strike the tyrant Dionysius with a thunder-bolt; nor did Æsculapius inflict any languishing disease upon him, but he died in his bed and was honoraby interred, and that power which he had wickedly acquired, he transmitted, as a just and lawful inheritance, to his posterity.” “ Thus far," says Plato, describing the last moments of his murdered master, “ most of us were with difficulty able to restrain ourselves from weeping, but when we saw Socrates drinking, and that he had finished the draught, we could do so no longer, but in spite of myself the tears came in full torrent, so that covering my face I wept for myself, for I did not weep for him, but for my own fortune in being deprived of such a friend. Crito, moreover, had risen up even before myself, not being able to restrain his tears. And Apollodorns, who had not ceased weeping for some time before, then burst into an agony of grief, and weeping and lamenting, he pierced the heart of every one present.” How much of this do we see, not only in our own circle of personal experience, but in the records of past ages. “Not this man, but Barabbas.” “ Crucify Him, crucify Him," are the hoarse notes which proclaim through the streets of Zion that Satanic skill, and human malice, and divine love, are each about to have their perfect work. “ And so as to those who, unlike him in sinlessness, have yet endeavored to be like him in striving against sin.” John the Baptist is in his dungeon, Herod in his palace. Paul is the fettered prisoner, Felix is his judge. He upon whose bosom even Jesus leaned in affection, is sent off in his old age in exile to Patmos, while his earthly master, the black-hearted Domitian, sways the destinies of an empire. While Socrates is drinking his hemlock, and his disciples are weeping, the Sophists are rejoicing. Mark Antony is triumphant, and even a Roman mob is weeping at the Rostra over the dead hands and disfigured head of the murdered Cicero. And though it may be said, and said truthfully, that the good man, even in suffering, is better and more to be envied, and sometimes happier than the bad man in prosperity, yet this does not remove the essential difficulty. The very terms of the proposition, in which such attempt is made, imply that this good man, after all that can be said as to his consolation and self-approval, is still suffering, that this bad man, after all the deductions that can be made through the absence of self-approval, is still prosperous. There is still to the one of these classes no small amount of depressing and wrongful, though not hopeless and comfortless affliction; to the other no small amount of guilty though it may be debasing enjoyment. In the one case virtue brings the suffering, in the other vice secures the guilty enjoyment. This state of things frequently continues to the last moment of earthly existence; the last act of life, with individuals of one class, like that of Herod the Great, being a crime of the most awfully malignant character; with those of the other, like that of the martyr Stephen, one of the highest exhibitions of human virtue. This is the difficulty; the apparently contradictory apportionment of these classes respectively, according to their character. It is not merely that the bad man is successfal and prosperous to the end of his days. This, of itself, would be a great mystery. Nor is it merely that the good man goes through life, and even into the cloud and shadow of death, under the pressure of wrong and trouble. This, too, would be of itself no less a mystery. But it is these two facts combined and connected, the one sometimes springing out of the other, the guilty pleasure frequently being secured through the innocent suffering ; this it is which complicates and increases the mystery. This it is which has originated that great and bitter cry from the perplexed conscience of humanity, for a life of retributive justice. And though it may be asked, in doubt and suspense, when, and where, and how, shall this retribution be manifested; though there may be nothing outward in its favor, and many things opposed, yet the mere fact that this its necessity is felt, that we are so constituted as not to be able to explain away this sense of necessity, yet to anticipate the fact which relieves it, constitutes a most important intimation of future existence. This, it may be said, is not sufficient to influence human action. Very true, so far as regards the large majority of men. But may not the fault be, not in the nature of the evidence presented, but in the state of those to whom it comes? This felt necessity of a future life, while it may be of no weight with a seared conscience, may come with the power of a moral demonstration, to one that is quickened and purified.