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“And hear at times a sentinel
Who moves about from place to place,
And whispers to the worlds of space,
“And all is well, though faith and form
Be sundered in the night of fear;
Well roars the storm to those that hear
In Memoriam, cxxvi. “ The foundations of a faith in a future life lie outside of Revelation, and ought, therefore, to be disclosed independently of it. . . . It is immortality which gives promise of Revelation, not Revelation which lays in our own constitution and in the government of God the foundations of immortality." — Pres. Bascom, Philosophy of Religion, page 185.
" There is in man the suspect that in the transient course of things there is yet an intimation of that which is not transient. The grass that fades has yet in the folded and falling leaves of its flower that perishes the intimation of a beauty that does not fade. The treasures that are frayed by the moth and worn by the rust are not as those in which love and faith and hope abide. There is a will that in its purpose does not yield to mortal wrong. There is a joy that is not of emulation. There is a freedom that is other than the mere struggle for existence in physical relations, and is not determined in its source or end by these finite conditions.” — MULFORD, Republic of God, page 243.
IMMORTALITY AND SCIENCE.
“Seeing that these things are thus all to be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy living and godliness, looking for and earnestly desiring the coming of the day of God, by reason of which the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? But, according to his promise, we look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” — 2 PETER iii. 11-13.
It is a singular fact that these words. have far more probability of truth than they had a generation ago. Then, the stability of the physical universe was held to be a settled fact of science; it is not so regarded now. The science of to-day is inclined to the opinion that the physical universe will undergo great catastrophes and probably be extinguished. But while science thus adds its weight to Scripture, it throws difficulties in the way of belief in future existence by destroying the only known theatre of life. If this world and the universe of worlds are to undergo at times such catastrophes as science and Scripture indicate, even to possible destruction, where shall immortal man abide ? Where is he when the heavens are on fire and the elements melt with heat? The Scriptures do not heed the question, but modern thought stumbles over it into unbelief. · The question most eagerly urged to-day is that of human immortality. It is doubted and assailed on all sides, consciously and unconsciously. It is discussed and denied under definite form ; it mingles with the current thought of the hour; it haunts the most thoughtful minds; it disturbs the faith of the most devout. It is doubted not only by science but by theology. There is springing up a school of religious thinkers, learned and devout, that denies the inherent immortality of man, regarding it as an achievement, or result of faith and virtue. The religious form of this opinion is immortality conditioned upon holiness; its scientific form is the survival of the fittest. They are the two sides of one theory and tend to support each other, though the advocates of each work their vein of inquiry independently of the other. It is not impossible that the scientific theory, the survival of the fittest, so far as it relates to the past of existence and up even to the very verge of the working of the Christian system, will prevail, and win common acceptance; but it is a question if Christianity is not the exact reversal of this principle, and the introduction of another phase of God's eternal laws. Christianity teaches not that the strongest only survive but also the weak. Indeed Christianity is not itself except it teaches this. Its inmost principle, its entire significance, is the salvation of the weak. Its contrast with nature is that it saves and does not destroy. It abdicates its place and function when it admits that any part of humanity perishes at death.
But the common, every-day skepticism of immortality springs from a somewhat general though not very thorough knowledge of the scientific theories as to life and origin now at the front. It is the influence, rather than the knowledge, of these theories that lies behind the doubts.
Physical science chiefly touches human destiny at two points of what is technically known as the principle of Continuity ; namely, the resolution of thought and feeling into molecular changes; and the development of man from preceding lower orders of life. The principle is thought to militate against immortality, as it implies that all the po tency of life is within matter, and that all mental and moral activities are but the operation of organized matter. Under this hypothesis thought and feeling are resolved into the whirl of molecules and the formation and destruction of tissue, a wholly material process, necessary in its character and admitting of no permanent personality. To find anything outside of this all-comprehending law of which immortality can be predicated, anything that survives when the bond breaks that holds the whirling atoms together, is an impossibility under this conception. On the contrary, its analogies seem to point to an opposite result. Personality under this theory is but a momentary lifting up of certain particles and forces from the ocean of being into which it soon falls back, like a wreath of spray snatched by the wind from the crest of a wave, drawing its energy from it, never ceasing to play into it, and finally mingling with it. The main thing is not personality but the all; the chief object is not to
erect lasting personalities but to keep the great ocean of activity in full working order; the real value of existence lies not in yielding an order of enduring persons, but in the undiminished energy of itself, throwing up, for a moment, such phenomena as trees and beasts and men, as if for its own secret delight. So long as science held only this view of the world it was not wholly devoid of no bility of sentiment. It could speak of immortality if not of enduring personality; the forces entering into and passing out of human life do not cease but live and act forever; men perish, but man survives; the generations pass away, but the race endures. Here, indeed, is a certain kind of immortality, capable even of sustaining a lofty, if not real theory of altruistic morality.
But of late, these fine sentiments have been losing their force. There are indications that leading physicists are getting somewhat concerned at their own conclusions, and are surmising if there may not be some world or order outside the reach of their tests; or if in that something that lies back of whirling atoms, – that something which it is forced to recognize though it cannot lay hold of it, — there may not be a universe spreading out in regions as vast as those revealed by the microscope and telescope ; if this universe of suns and planets, of earth and air, of revolving atoms and continuous force, is not, after all, a hemisphere against which lies another universe as real as this, a universe of causes and beginnings, and therefore perhaps of ultimate destinies. For science is now asserting that the