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“The faith of immortality depends on a sense of it begotten, not on an argument for it concluded.” – DR. BUSHNELL, Moral Uses, page 16.
“ It would seem that the highest and holiest soul carries with it like an atmosphere a perfect serenity, a sense of present eternity, a presage of immortality." — GEORGE S. MERRIAM, The Way of Life, page 156.
“But souls that of his own good life partake,
IMMORTALITY AS TAUGHT BY THE
“Because I live, ye shall live also." - ST. JOHN, xiv. 19.
SCIENCE may throw no barrier in the way of belief in immortality; nature and the heart of man may suggest clear intimations of a future life; human society may demand another life to complete the suggestions and fill up the lacks of this life; but, for some reason, all such proof fails to satisfy us. It holds the mind, but does not minister to the heart. It is sufficient to extinguish the horror of great darkness that falls upon us at the thought of death, but it does not kindle the sense of life into a flame of joy. It is a matter of experience that the faith in immortality that is based upon the logic of our own nature and conditions, is not a restful faith. It is forever going over the proofs to see if there be no flaw in them; it is startled by the new discoveries of science; it grows weak before the pressure of the physical world and its laws; it is ever haunted by questions: after all, may not the mind be as the body and perish with it? — is not this law of waste and destruction that wars continually against life and everywhere conquers it, stronger than life ? — stronger in the visible world, may it not be stronger in the invisible world ? And so this faith stands with a question upon its lips, tremulous at times, peering into the future with a troubled gaze, hoping rather than believing, and passing into the future with the peace of resignation rather than the joy of assurance.
It is noticeable also that the faith of natural evidence awakens no joyful enthusiasm in masses of mankind. Plato and Cicero discourse of immortality with a certain degree of warmth, but their countrymen get little comfort from it. Their joys and hopes still play about the present life; death is still terrible; mere continuance of existence yields no inspiring joy. The reason is evident when we refer to our own experience. The mere fact that I shall live to-morrow, does not sensibly move me; it awakes no raptures ; it does not even awaken reflection. Something must be joined with existence before it gets power. Or, to come at once to the point, immortality must be united with character in order to solace and inspire men. Or, striking to the very heart of the matter, immortality must be connected with the living God, in order to be a living and moving fact.
We will now consider the way in which Christ treated the subject; and so I trust we shall come to see how it is that a Christian faith in immortality differs in power from any otherwise suggested.
When Christ entered on his ministry of teaching, he found certain doctrines existing in Jewish theology; they were either imperfect or germinal truths. He found a doctrine of God, partial in conception; He perfected it by revealing the divine fatherhood. He found a doctrine of sin and righteousness turning upon external conduct; He transferred it to the heart and spirit. He found a doctrine of judgment as a single future event; He made it present and ongoing. He found a doctrine of reward and punishment, the main feature of which was a place in the under and upper worlds where pleasure was imparted and pain inflicted; He transferred it to the soul, and made the pleasure and pain to proceed from within the man, and to depend upon his character. He found a doctrine of immortality, held as mere future existence; He transformed the doctrine, even if He did not supplant it, by calling it life, and connecting it with character. His treatment of this doctrine was not so much corrective, as accretive. He accepts immortality, but He adds to it character. He puts in abeyance the element of time, continuance, and substitutes quality or character as its main feature. Hence He never uses any word corresponding to immortality (which is a mere negation — unmortal), but always speaks of life. The continuance of existence is merely an incident, in his mind, to the fact of life. It follows inevitably, but is not the main feature of the truth.
For a moment, we will speak of the subject without regard to this distinction. We find Christ holding to immortality; He does not assert but assumes it, and not only assumes it, but at once begins to build upon the assumption. He never makes a straight assertion of future existence except once, when the Sadducees, pressing him with a quibbling
argument against the resurrection, are led away from their point to the matter of future life itself, and are confounded by the simple remark, that when they speak of the God of the patriarchs, they confess that the patriarchs are alive because God is the God of the living and not of the dead, that is, the non-existent. Elsewhere, He simply assumes a future life. But an assumption is often the strongest kind of argument. It implies such conviction in the mind of the speaker that there is no need of proof. Christ calmly takes it for granted that there is a proper field for the play of his truth. He will not stop to prove that such duties as self-denial, love, faith in God, obedience, prayer, are based upon a future existence. They presuppose it, and of themselves are a sufficient argument for it. Without it, how inconclusive all his teachings become, how meagre, how untrue! Why put men under a law of self-denial that may even involve death, as it did in his own case, if death ends all? Why reveal to men the powers of eternity, if they are the creatures of time? Why mock them with revelations of the upper world, if they are never to enter it? And if Christ perished at death, what a jangle of inconsistency his own life becomes ? His dying words,
Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit,” become mere dying breath wasted in empty space.
In Christ's own mind, the intense and absolute consciousness of God carries with it immortality, as it does the whole body of his truth. Hence, if I were to construct one all-embracing argument for immortality, and were I to put it into one word, it