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But this moral argument, however forcible as suggested by what we see in the experience of others, is still. more so, as derived from the experience of our inward nature. This capability of sitting in judgment upon our own conduct, of condemning and approving ourselves, of doing this in reference not to what is expedient or inexpedient, but in view of what is right and wrong, of experiencing remorse as distinguished from regret, self-approval as distinguished from self-congratulation, this capability in the very fact of its individual operation, is a silent prophecy of future existence. When Plato, for instance, speaks of the intrinsic loveliness of virtue, and describes the heart of the tyrant as cut and torn by contending passions, and when, again, in the person of his murdered master, he asserts that it is better to suffer the punishment of an evil deed than to escape it, that he would choose rather than aet unjustly to suffer unjustly, and when the great orator of his city, not many years afterwards, in spite of the advancing power of Philip, reminded his countrymen that the “true and the just” were the only stable basis of human action, they made their appeal to this inward principle of our nature which in all seasons of moral disorder instinctively and ever looks forward to a scene of final and perfect adjustment. A couple of extracts revealing the personal experience of individuals, will bring this testimony before the reader more clearly, perhaps, than any amount of abstract reasoning. “In another walk to Salisbury,” says Izaak Walton, “Mr. Herbert saw a poor man, with a poor horse, that was fallen under his load; which, perceiving, he put off his canonical coat, and helped the poor man to unload, and after to load his horse. The poor man blessed him for it, and he blessed the poor man; and was so like the good Samaritan, that he gave him money to refresh both himself and his horse; and told him that if he loved himself he should be merciful to his beast. Thus he left the poor man: and at his return to his musical friends at Salisbury, they began to wonder that Mr. George Herbert, who used to be so trim and clean, came into that company so soiled and discomposed; but he told them the occasion : and when one of the company told him, 'He had disparaged himself by so dirty an employment,' his answer was: “That the thought of what he had done would prove music to him at midnight; and that the omission of it would have upbraided and made discord in his conscience whensoever he should pass by that place; for if I be bound to pray for all that lie in distress, I am sure that I am bound so far as it is in my power, to prac. tise what I pray for. And though I do not wish for the like occasion every day, yet, let me tell yon, I would not willingly pass one day of my life, without comforting a sad sonl, or showing mercy; and I will praise God for this occasion.'" "I feel,” says Coleridge, when speaking of the vicious habit which had been the bane of his life, “I feel with an intensity unfathomable by words, my utter nothingness, impotence, and worthlessness, in and for myself. I have learned what a sin is against an infinite and imperishable being such as is the soul of man. I have had more than a glimpse of what is meant by death and outer darkness, and the worm that dieth not, and that all the hell of the reprobate is no more inconsistent with the love of God than the blindness of one who has occasioned loathsome and guilty diseases to eat out his eyes, is inconsistent with the light of the sun.” Now, alike, in the words and thoughts of light and of gladness with which one of these extracts is filled, as in those of bitterness and woe which overflow the other, do we read this prophecy, which the individual conscience distinctly utters, as to the individual's future destiny. This remorseful consciousness of having done what is known to be wrong, as also the self-approving sense of having done what is known to be right, is of a complex character. The present discomfort of remorse is not the whole of such remorse. There is combined with this present discomfort, naturally springing out of it, and reflexively heightening it, the anticipation and dread of something beyond and future : " a fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation.” So also in regard to the opposite feeling of self-approval. It goes beyond the present, and instinctively anticipates future good. These feelings go with us through life; they overshadow or enlighten the valley of death ; and, in their every experience, remind of a future and perfect adjustment, to which they look forward. It is only upon the supposition that the ordinary course of nature as well as man's moral instincts play him false that this intimation can be disregarded: a supposition as derogatory to the moral nature of God as it is to that of man. “ There is no peace to the wicked.” “A good man is satisfied from himself.” There may be some difficulty in ascertaining who belong to these two classes respectively. But that question being settled, natural conscience at once recognizes the truth of these statements, feels it with peculiar keenness in view of their personal application: will admit, whatever may be the present exceptions, that somehow and somewhere, there must, and can not but be a final adjustment.
V. But there is still another sphere of man's nature, in which we may look for intimations upon this subject. The argument here finds its force in the supposition of a moral system of things—may, therefore, in some respects, be classified with the one just presented, and yet the fact upon which it is based, looked at purely in its relation to man, as a social being, is eminently important and suggestive. That fact is the influence of this doctrine, as it is firmly held, contrasted with an opposite state of things, under the influence of an opposite opinion. The present influence for good, of belief in man's immortality, we have already suggested, as a reason for the candid and serious examination of arguments offered in its favor. We now go further, and say it forms a part of that argument. The good and the true are moral correlatives. Grapes are not to be expected from thorns, nor figs from thistles. Falsehood can not bring forth goodness and purity; nor can truth, evil and pollution. Looking over the surface of human society, we can see various individuals, who stand in different relations to this fact of immortality. By some it is denied and disbelieved, except during certain terrible moments of alarm and apprehension, in view or suspicion of what may come hereafter. By others, it is assented to, or rather not denied; but as by those just spoken of, only occasionally realized. By others again, it is really and constantly believed, but the belief is so distracted with other objects of interest that it exercises but little practical influence. By others, it is fully believed and constantly realized to be a fact, all-important, and of the deepest interest. The same phenomena, and in all these varieties, will be exhibited on a larger scale, if we extend
onr glance beyond the limits of any particular community, to the different national components which go to the making up of our race as a whole. And just as we rise through these different scales and gradations of human belief and opinion, from the blank annihilationist, whose earth is his jail-yard, and whose grave is the dungeon, in which he rots and is forgotten, up to the man whose pilgrimage is on earth but whose home is in heaven, just as we rise through these gradations, do we also rise in those of intelligence and moral purity, of individual happiness, of social welfare, and national elevation. This fact, as we have said, will usually be exhibited, by comparison of individual cases. But it is more clearly and invariably manifested over a broader surface, such as is presented by whole communities and through long periods, in which the respective tendencies of these different beliefs have full scope for development. The most skillful practitioner may find it difficult to decide upon the comparative merit of two different modes of treatment, from but a single trial of each, upon the physical peculiarities of single individuals suffering from the same disease. The result of such single trial may lead him to infer that both modes of treatment are alike, and equally good. And yet it may perhaps be demonstrated, from the wider induction of a longer practice, or from the still wider field of recorded professional experience, over broad surfaces, and through long periods of time, that one of these modes of practice is very greatly to be preferred to the other; that one of them, in the large majority of cases, would end in the destruction of the patient. Just so is it in the treatment of man's moral constitution. A single individual may survive a certain moral regimen, because there are unknown counteracting agencies, by which the effect of such regimen is thrown off, or held in abeyance. Another may die under the best treatment, because of organic or superinduced infirmities, for which that treatment makes no provision. There may occasionally, though rarely, be some little difficulty in individual cases in seeing the full manifestation of the effects of truth and falsehood. But put large numbers of these individuals of either class by themselves for any considerable interval, and all such difficulties will disappear. Just in proportion as men receive and realize this fact of a future life, in the same proportion are they enlightened, and elevated, and purified, and rendered happier. It has ever been so, this assertion being as easily substantiated from profane as from sacred history.
Now upon the hypothesis of a future life, all this is what may be anticipated. Truth, in a world governed by a God of truth, is or ought to be—with reverence, yet with confiding trust in Him be it spoken-naturally productive of what we see in the experience of those who act upon this hypothesis. The inference is, that these effects of truth proceed from, and only from, the truth. If, moreover, we see the opposite and disastrous effects of falsehood flowing from the opposite doctrine, this, our former conclusion, is immeasurably strengthened. Seeing these things, we are justified in saying that if there be no life beyond the grave, we are involved in the most monstrous of contradictions—that of supposing the whole frame of human nature and human society to be constructed on a falsehood; that infinite truth has originated and is sustaining a system of things, in which truth darkens, and pollutes, and destroys, and error ennobles, blesses, and enlightens. We see no way of escape, except upon the hypothesis of a future life, from this overwhelming absurdity.
Nor is this contradiction and absurdity at all diminished by the reply sometimes given to the argument just offered, that belief in the immortality of man, is the effect of a high state of moral and social purity and welfare, rather than its cause. It is sometimes said, in regard to this doctrine, as to Christianity in general: “We admit the fact of the invariable connection between this doctrine, as believed, and a certain desirable state of things in society. But it is not the doctrine which produces this elevation and purity of society, but this state of things which gives rise to the reception of the doctrine." Very well. It can easily be shown that this assertion is not true. But there is no need of going to that trouble. Logically there is no objection to it, as bearing upon the conclusion just stated. Supposing, but not granting, that such is the fact, what is gained by it, to the infidel in the way of relief? The same difficulty comes back in an exaggerated form, namely,