« ForrigeFortsæt »
CONTENTS OF VOL. XLII.-1860.
JUL Y NUMBER.
Art. 1.—THE MORAL ARGUMENT FOR IMMORTALITY.
The argument for another life which nature affords is, by different parties, variously estimated at from zero to conclusiveness. We place it midway between them.
Granted, that reason did not originate the idea of a future state. Her argument implies a taste for abstract science, which implies a state of civilization, and this, in turn, implies the bonds of morals and religion : granted also, that the voice of philosophy concerning a future state is rather that of hope than of conviction, and that the reasonings of ancient sages would not satisfy us, and led them to believe in the pre-existence of the soul : yet may reason construct an argument important and impressive, fitted to resolve doubts, answer cavils, develop harmonies between nature and revelation, and create an antecedent probability which may prepare the mind to receive the Scripture revelations; an argument sufficient, of itself, to lay men under obligations to act as if it were demonstrative, seeing that probability is the only guide of human life, though not adequate to restrain the passions or assuage the woes of the masses of mankind. Of this argument four things may be premised.
It is cumulative: each element of the series has an independent power and a separate influence upon the conclusion, so that its strength is to be estimated not by its weakest part but by the combined force of the whole. It may be compared to a number of chains arranged to sustain the same weight.
It is progressive: it acquires increased force as man advances in civilization : we may infer that when he reaches his highest state of culture, which is his most natural state, it will shine as the noonday sun.
FOURTH SERIES, VOL. XII.-1
It is partial: though it may not reach the conclusion, there is a reserve of proof and argumentation by which it may be supplemented.
It is difficult, among Christians, to eliminate it, since we cannot, if we would, divest ourselves, even for an hour, of the influences of our faith.
It may be divided into the metaphysical and the moral. Let us limit ourselves to the latter : the former is merely negative. In passing we may sum it up. We cannot prove that death does more than dissolve the body; but the soul is not the body. Some claim that this argument has an affirmative value, and allege that we have the same reason to believe that the soul survives the dissolution of the body as that the ultimate particles of matter do; but this is not sound; the belief that the particles of the body survive death rests upon experimental proof. A better affirmative argument is in this form. We believe that the soul will continue with all its attributes unless it be altered or destroyed by death. We are satisfied that death will not alter or destroy it. Thus we have the same kind of probability that the soul will exist after death as that the sun will shine to-morrow, though not in the same degree. This probability is strengthened by many analogies, and often by the phenomena of dying. In the agonies of dissolving nature, when the body has been worn to a skeleton, and its most important organs are decayed, the soul sometimes rises with transcendent energies; instead of being carried down with the body, it feels as though it could soar aloft bearing the body on its wings. When you accompany your friend conversing, step by step, as he passes to the door of death, and hear his voice, still pregnant with living thought, until the very door closes upon him, you naturally believe that though he is hidden from your view he still lives.
This argument, resting upon the distinction between the living powers and the animal body, would prove also the immortality of brutes. At such a conclusion many revolt: no wonder, for it carries with it the immortality, not merely of horses and lions, but of frogs and flies. This revulsion is, however, greater at first than upon reflection. Suppose all animated beings immortal, the Almighty, in immensity and eternity, may have modes of disposing of them that we know not; or they may exhibit latent faculties or undergo transformations of which we have no conception; or, on the other side of the grave, as on this, there may be innumerable and diversified orders of being. But let us not overestimate the affirmative force of the argument; it is not demonstrative, only probable. Admit that the soul is naturally immortal, who made it so? God. Cannot he who made it so make it otherwise ? Grant that the soul is not