Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

deed, all matters pertaining to the future, even the sunrise, are matters of probability.

We propose to name some of the grounds for believing that the soul of man is immortal. I speak chiefly to those whose faith in the Scriptures is not absolute, and to those who are troubled with flashes or seasons of doubt that blind them to their better hope ; to those also, who, by some state or habit of their minds, demand other testimony than that of revelation.

1. The main current of human opinion sets strongly and steadily towards belief in immortality. Whenever the question has been raised, it has been decided in the affirmative. It is a permanent conviction of the race, varied only by solitary voices of denial, and by periods of doubt, like the present, through the over-pressure of hypothetical and seemingly antagonistic truth.

2. The master-minds have been strongest in their affirmations of it. We do not refer to those who receive it as a part of their religion. In weighing the value of the natural or instinctive belief, Augustine's faith does not count for so much as Cicero's, and Plato's outweighs Bacon's; Plutarch is a better witness than Chrysostom ; Montesquieu than Wesley; Franklin than Edwards ; Emerson than Channing; Greg's hope is more significant than Bushnell's faith. All the great minds, often in spite of apparently counter philosophies, draw near to the doctrine, and are eager to bear testimony to it. Even John Stuart Mill, whose religious nature was nearly extirpated by an atheistic education, does

[ocr errors]

not say nay when the roll of the great intellects is called. Blanco White, another wanderer from the fold of faith, wrought into the form of a sonnet so perfect that we instinctively call it immortal, an argument, the force of which men will feel so long as “Hesperus leads the starry host :"

“If light can thus deceive,

Wherefore not life?” Wordsworth touched the high water-mark of the literature of the century in his ode on immortality, and Tennyson's greatest poem is throughout exultant in the hope that “ Life shall live forever more.

3. The longing of the soul for life, and its horror at the thought of extinction. Emerson profoundly says : “ When the master of the universe has points to carry in his government, he impresses his will in the structure of minds.” That this inwrought desire should only guard the mortal life would be an unworthy use of so deep a passion, even if it did not come nigh to deception. The universe is adequate to meet the wants of all its children. It does not use infinite thoughts for finite ends. There must be correlation between desire and fulfillment.

4. The action of the mind in thought begets a sense of a continuous life. One who has learned to think finds an endless task before him. He comes to the end of nothing, solves nothing, reaches no full truth, only a few hints and stepping-stones “that slope through darkness up to God.” The brute probably has a clear understanding of all subjects upon which it thinks; that is, the bounds of perception and thought are identical ; but man reaches the bounds of nothing. The atom may hide a universe, and the seen heaven of stars may be but an atom to the whole. We speak of cause and effect, but we grasp only a little section of an infinite series. We trace cause

till
eye

and thought can go no farther, when we reverently say God, spanning, in our ignorance, worlds of unattainable truth. We trace effect only to lose it as the drop is lost in the ocean. Thus, with a sense of truth, we cannot absolutely measure any truth. All things are linked together, and the chain stretches either way into infinity. It is a necessity of thought to follow it, and the necessity indicates the fact. There can be no fit and logical end to thought till it has compassed all truth. It is unreasonable to suppose that we are admitted to this infinite feast only to be thrust away before we have well tasted it.

5. A parallel argument is found in the nature of love. It cannot tolerate the thought of its own end. “It announces itself as an eternal thing." The spontaneous forms it assumes in language put it outside all limitations of time. It takes us over into the field of absolute existence, and says : Here is native ground; I cannot die; if I perish I am no longer love, but misery. Love has but one symbol in language - forever; its logic is, there is no death.

“ What vaster dream can hit the mood
Of love on earth ?"

6. There are in man latent powers, and others half revealed, for which human life offers no adequate explanation. Worship demands for its justification a broader field than this life. Time might possibly explain obedience, but not rapture ; reverence or dread, but not the longing of the soul after God. There is within us a strange sense of expectancy. As Fichte says: My mind can take no hold of the present world, nor rest in it for a moment, but my whole nature rushes on with irresistible force towards a future and better state of being.” A divine discontent is wrought into us, — divine, because it attends our bighest faculties. It is true that one who has reached the higher grades of life has learned not to fret against time, but it is equally true that he is not content with time. The repose of the greater spirits is not acquiescence in the allotments of time, but the conscious possession of eternal life. Time and mind are not truly correlated. Hence the delight we take in all symbols of vastness and power. The child claps its hands as it looks upon the sea and hears its “wild uproar," — feeling a secret kinship with it. The peace brought by the mountains is but the content of the mind in having found a somewhat truer measure of its own vast

The repose of the soul when night reveals the immensity of the universe, springs from its .contact with a truer symbol of itself than the day affords. Hence, in the night, all the passions of the soul have greater sweep; it is then we pray, that inspirations breathe through us, that imagination opens widest her doors; the upper deeps of space call to the deeps within. I would not weaken what I believe to be sound argument by any admixture of mere sentiment. I refer therefore, in the soberest and severest way, to those blind emotions that fill the mind whenever we listen to the music of the masters, or look upon true art, or in any way come in contact with what is highest and best. So far as they are translatable into thought, they assert a perfection and a life of which this is but a foretaste. So also the wind blowing through reeds upon the margin of a lake or the branches of mountain pines, or perchance over grasses that cover the graves of the dead, has a Memnonian tone that foretells the dawn of an eternal day. The perfect of whatever sort, whether the purity of a flower, or the harmony of sounds, or the perfection of character, awakens a kindred sense within us that is the denial of all limitations.

ness.

7. The imagination carries with it a plain intimation of a larger sphere than the present. It is difficult to conceive why this power of broadening our actual realm is given to us, if it has not some warrant in fact. If this world is all, an intense perception of it would seem to be of more value than any imagining of what is not and cannot be. But our minds are not set more to a realization of world-facts than to dreams of what is possible. How blind were the earlier civilizations to the material world while they sang their great poems and built their still enduring philosophies. The most natural thing the mind does, is to break through its visible barrier and fall to enlarging its domains. It finds itself in a cell, it builds a palace; roofed over and walled in, but will own no limits save the infinite spaces of heaven. The imagination is plainly the

« ElőzőTovább »