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must be false.” As Mr. Perowne implies, the danger of this system is not so much in the actual arguments it offers,—for it is blind to one whole class of facts, -as in the spirit which it indirectly inspires. But although it may be impossible to disprove a future life, equal mischief is of course effected, when all but the present life is ignored and forgotten.
The second solution is that of Pantheism, which assures us of the immortality, if such it may be called, of the soul, by its absorption into God; or rather—since there is no God left in our sense of the term-into the Universal Principle. Those who have been accustomed to regard Pantheism as being merely a system with which foreign missionaries must prepare to grapple in India and elsewhere, may be surprised to hear that it is the creed of a numerous body of philosophers on the Continent. Mr. Perowne points out the invidious nature of this system, in the fact of its securing immortality to the élite alone of mankind, to those only who have sufficient intellectual and moral power to attain to a sense of immortality. “I can see no reason," says one of its advocates, “why a Papuan should be immortal.” The real reason, we apprehend, why this system has never had the slightest currency amongst ourselves, is its entire opposition to that fierce sense of individuality which an active life seldom fails to engender. The Englishman would rather come to an end altogether, than exist, even for ever, like the leaf of some gigantic vegetable. The rhapsodies of Mr. Emerson, of Boston, U.S., represent almost the only AngloSaxon utterances on this subject which we can call to mind at the present moment.
There remains the system of Spiritualism—the system, namely, which attempts to secure the Christian's hope of a really personal immortality, without admitting the Christian's foundation for it. Mr. Francis Newman is one of the prominent apostles of this creed. As the passages devoted to the consideration of this doctrine are mainly occupied with the arguments which the Spiritualist advances, we will leave them to the sequel, when we propose to give a sketch of the principal arguments for immortality which have found favour at different times.
The next branch of the subject, and one which is tolerably fully treated by Mr. Perowne, is the historical one, viz., what have been, as a matter of fact, the beliefs which different nations "have entertained on the subject of a future life? The question is not only interesting in itself, but extremely valuable as affording the only trustworthy means for appreciating the value of the common arguments for immortality. These arguments, when advanced now by Christians, are, of course, used in support of a conclusion which really rests on other grounds. But it is as impossible to estimate correctly the force of an argument on which we do not actually rely, as it is to know
the strength of a rope on which there is no strain. The speculators of Greece and Rome had no direct revelation on the subject; in their case, therefore, we have some means of judging what those arguments are worth as weapons, which most of us have ceased to regard except as ornaments.
The second and third lectures are respectively occupied with the hopes of the Gentile and the Jew, and are, to our minds, the most interesting in the book. The progressive character of the belief in immortality is very clearly marked in the following paragraph :
“Its first and simplest expression has been in the respect shown for the dead, in the interment, in the treasuring of the ashes in the urn, in the tomb, however simple and unadorned. Its first attempt to conceive of another life has been by assigning to the soul a form, and by imagining that the pursuits and occupations of the next world were a mere continuation of the pursuits and occupations of the present world. In a later stage of culture, when the moral problems of life have begun to press more heavily, and the moral sense has been more keenly exercised, we see men not content with the bare belief in a future existence, but picturing it to themselves as the great theatre of Divine righteousness, as a state in which the final severance shall be made between the good and the wicked, as .everlasting joy to the one and everlasting confusion to the other. And, finally, as marking a yet higher degree of the reflective analysis, or of the Divine education, we find a belief, more or less clearly implied, that the body itself shall be redeemed from corruption, and raised to share with the spirit an endless and incorruptible life.” (p. 35.)
Of these stages, the earliest record, at least from amongst people who had attained any considerable stage of civilization, is found among the Egyptians. Mr. Perowne's description of this is so interesting that we cannot forbear from quoting it at some length:
“What is the language of the most ancient documents to which we can appeal ? We shall find it, as we might anticipate, not in a formal treatise, but in a popular expression, and, strange to say, in an Egyptian romance. There is in the British Museum an old papyrus, brown and crumbling, covered with mysterious characters, traced two-and-thirty centuries ago by the hand of the scribe Annana. He was, in all probability, a contemporary of Moses, and the story which he has written, and which has recently been deciphered, bears in some particulars a curious resemblance to the history of Joseph as recorded in Genesis. It is full of interest, both from its many points of contact with the rites and traditions of other countries, and also from the singular light it throws on the manners and customs and beliefs of the ancient Egyptians. But the special interest for our present purpose lies in the way in which throughout it implies a belief, not only in the transmigration of souls, but also in the separate existence of the soul from the
body. Two brothers figure in the story. The soul of one goes into the topmost blossom of a cedar-tree while he is still alive. After a time he dies, and then his brother, seeking three years for the soul, finds it at last in the fruit which has fallen from the tree. He places it in a vessel of water, and it revives, and enters again into his brother. After this, his brother is changed into a bullock, and then, when the bullock is slain, the soul passes into a tree, retaining in each of its transmigrations the power of speech and the recollection of his former life. Such is perhaps the earliest account to be found in any heathen nation, of a belief in an existence after death. It is in many respects coarse and material; it is confused in its expression. It stands in strange contrast with those yet earlier words of a Jewish book, ‘And Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him ;' but it has its value, as an ancient testimony to man's instinctive assurance of his own immortality. Granted that this takes the form of metem psychosis, still in one noticeable respect it differs from later systems in which the same doctrine appears. The soul preserves its personality. Whatever body it may assume, it remembers its former existence. It drinks no water of oblivion, as in the myths of Plato, or in the fantastic pictures of some modern philosophers.” (p. 36.)
A similar sketch is next made of the systems of belief which have prevailed at different times in Greece from the time of Homer onwards, and in India. In each case we find the same testimony. There is first a confused feeling of immortality, the existence of which is gathered rather from indications than from any distinct consciousness or assertion of it. It is held through much obscurity and in spite of many contradictions. Men could not conceive that the dead existed without bodies, and yet they could not believe that they had the same bodies as had already rotted in the ground; and so they made a sort of compromise between the two, “The dead have lost their true conscious personality, yet they can be recognized; they still retain their earthly image and lineaments. They have a form, but it is an unsubstantial form which eludes the grasp." The growth of the moral element is very striking. In the representations of Homer,* hardly any crime is singled out for special punishment hereafter, except perjury; whilst, in the time of Æschylus, retributive justice has made considerable advances. Grecian thought culminated in the speculations of Socrates and Plato on this subject. The description of the last moments of the sage, as described in the Phædo, contains pathetic scenes which none can read without emotion,-and not many, we should think, without reproach, when they consider how such a man employed such light as he enjoyed to guide his steps.
* It is, however, very questionable how far Homer can be considered an adequate exponent of the moral and religious life of the Greeks before his time. See Professor Curtius's History of Greece, vol. i. p. 154, vol. ii. pp. 49-51.-ED.
We have said already that Mr. Perowne has very clearly brought out the progressive character of the belief in a future life, though we think that even he has hardly given sufficient prominence to the hazy and imperfect nature of primitive beliefs on such points as this. There is no error more common than that of assuming that, when a conclusion seems to us very simple and obvious, any people, however rude, supposing that they had any opinions upon the subject at all, would draw the same inferences that we should. To take a specific instance: an endless life seems to us to rest upon almost exactly the same grounds as any future life at all; in other words, few* reasonable men would entertain the opinion (quite conceivable as it is) that we are to live after death, but not to live for ever. The fact is, that we have reached as clear a conception of the meaning of eternity as our minds are perhaps capable of entertaining. But now suppose a people in such a rude and unreflective stage that they have never distinguished between the great and the infinite. This is notoriously the case with most savages, as illustrated in the familiar fact of their inability to count beyond some very low figure; all above this partakes, to them, of the nature of the infinite. If we question such a people as to what has become of their fathers, we may find an obscure belief that these are still living somewhere. But when we enquire what has become of more remote generations, we may find that they have ceased to regard these as being now alive at all. Such an immortality as this, in reference to the hopes and fears which it is calculated to excite, is to all intents and purposes no immortality whatever. An African traveller (Dr. Livingstone, if we remember right) has distinctly asserted that he found this to be the case in one tribe, and we suspect that, were special enquiries directed to this point, the phenomenon would be found much more common than is supposed. Those who have struggled into clearness of conception will often find it almost impossible to realize the mental condition of others who are still in confusion. The beliefs of the latter, when forced into precise statements, will often emerge in propositions which to the former appear obviously contradictory. The task of piecing together hazy and casual expressions, by processes of inference which appear to us anything but sound, is no easy one. This is a difficulty to which we are always exposed, when we regard as an argument in favour of any particular doctrine, the fact that the belief in it is generally accepted by all nations.
# We say "few"; since doctrinal difficulties--the horror, viz., of a fu ture state of everlasting punishment have driven some to accept this doctrine, annatural as it would otherwise
appear. The fact that it is resorted to by a few only, and in order to escape a difficulty, illnstrates .what is said above.
By a natural transition, we step from the hope of the heathen to that of the Jew. On this subject—which, as every one knows, has been so hotly contested—the opinion of a competent Hebrew scholar like Mr. Perowne is most valuable. His conclusions, expressed in a few words, are as follows :
“The future life, as a doctrine, occupies no prominent place in the religion of Moses and the prophets. The immortality of the soul is neither argued nor affirmed. The resurrection of the body is kept in the background, and not fully disclosed till towards the end of the Old Testament dispensation. Darkness rests upon the grave, and upon all beyond it; and the rewards and punishments of the future life are either unknown, or apparently exercise no practical influence on men's conduct here.”
These statements of course provoke several enquiries. In the first place, if all was thus dark, what advantage had the Jew over the heathen in his anticipations of death? We quote from the third lecture :
"It cannot be denied that, so far as any distinct knowledge of a future life went, the Jew had no advantage over the Gentile. Like the Gentile, he thought that in some form, he knew not what, his existence would be prolonged after death. To him, as to the Gentile, Sheol was a gloomy, sunless abode, and life in this world more blessed than life in the next, even for the righteous. But there is one marked and characteristic difference between the thought of the Gentile and the thought of the Greek, as they look upon death. Both cling to life, both recoil from the awful shadow that sits at the portal of the grave. But the Jew clings to life, not for the sake of its pleasures or its gifts, but because he can know and love and praise God; he hates death because there he is cut off from God, forgotten of His hand. The Greek clings to life, because it is life, because the sun is bright, and there is much animal and sensible enjoyment; he hates death, because with death all his earthly pleasures are extinguished. The thought of God is far from him; the thought of this world only is in his heart.”.
So much for the sentiments of the people in general. But are there no distinct revelations on the subject in the Old Testament Scriptures ? The well known text in Job will of course occur to every mind; the use of which in our Burial Service clearly shows that the compilers of our Liturgy regarded it as apposite and conclusive. As this is a question of criticism,-the interpretation, namely, of the Hebrew text,—we simply state Mr. Perowne's opinion, leaving it to be estimated by those who are competent to do so :-* . “It is a shock to be asked to give up the familiar rendering.
* We append to this article an Excursus upon this important point, as we think Mr. Perowne wholly mistaken in supposing that in Job xix. 25 there is no allusion to a resurrection or to a future existence.--ED.