« ForrigeFortsæt »
DOCTRINE OF A FUTURE LIFE.
Complete Bibliograpby of the Subject.
WILLIAM ROUNSEVILLE ALGER.
One question, more than others all,
From thoughtful minds implores reply:
What fate awaits us when we die?
FOURTH EDITION, THOROUGHLY REVISED.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1860, by
WILLIAM ROUNSEVILLE ALGER, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the District of
ELECTROTYPED BY L. JOHNSON & CO., PHILADA.
Who follows truth carries his star in his brain. Even so bold a thought is no inappropriate motto for an intellectual workman, if his heart be filled with loyalty to God, the Author of truth and the Maker of stars. In this double spirit of independence and submission it has been my desire to perform the arduous task now finished and offered to the charitable judgment of the reader. One
be courageous to handle both the traditions and the novelties of men, and yet be modest before the solemn mysteries of fate and nature. He may place no veil before his eyes and no finger on his lips in presence of popular dogmas, and yet shrink from the conceit of esteeming his mind a mirror of the universe. Ideas, like coins, bear the stamp of the age and brain they were struck in. Many a phantom which ought to have vanished at the first cock-crowing of reason still holds its seat on the oppressed heart of faith before the terror-stricken eyes of the multitude. Every thoughtful scholar who loves his fellow-men must feel it an obligation to do what he can to remove painful superstitions, and to spread the peace of a cheerful faith and the wholesome light of truth. The theories in theological systems being but philosophy, why should they not be freely subjected to philosophical criticism ? I have endeavored, without virulence, arrogance, or irreverence towards any thing sacred, to investigate the various doctrines pertaining to the great subject treated in these pages. Many persons, of course, will find statements from which they dissent,-sentiments disagreeable to them. But, where thought and discussion are so free and the press so accessible as with us, no one but a bigot will esteem this a ground of complaint. May all such passages be charitably perused, fairly weighed, and, if unsound, honorably refuted! If the work be not animated with a mean or false spirit, but be catholic and kindly,-if it be not superficial and pretentious, but be marked by patience and thoroughness,-is it too much to hope that no critic will assail it with wholesale condemnation simply because in some parts of it there are opinions which he dislikes? One dispassionate argument is more valuable than a shower of missile names. The most vehement revulsion from a doctrine is not inconsistent, in a Christian mind, with the sweetest kindness of feeling towards the persons who hold that doctrine. Earnest theological debate may be carried on without the slightest touch of ungenerous personality. Who but must feel the pathos and admire the charity of these eloquent words of Henry Giles ?
“ Every deep and reflective nature looking intently before and after,' looking above, around, beneath, and finding silence and mystery to all his questionings of the Infinite, cannot but conceive of existence as a boundless problem, perhaps an inevitable darkness between the limitations of man and the incomprehensibility of God. A nature that so reflects, that carries into this sublime and boundless obscurity the large discourse of Reason,' will not narrow its concern in the solution of the problem to its own petty safety, but will brood over it with an anxiety which throbs for the whole of humanity. Such a nature must needs be serious; but never will it be arrogant: it will regard all men with an embracing pity. Strange it should ever be otherwise in respect to inquiries which belong to infinite relations,—that mean enmities, bitter hatreds, should come into play in these fathomless searchings of the soul ! Bring what solution we may to this problem of measureless alternatives, whether by Reason, Scripture, or the Church, faith will never stand for fact, nor the firmest confidence for actual consciousness. The man of great and thoughtful nature, therefore, who grapples in real earnest with this problem, however satisfied he may be with his own solution of it, however implicit may be his trust, however assured his convictions, will yet often bow down before the awful veil that shrouds the endless future, put his finger on his lips, and weep in silence."
The present work is, in a sense, an epitome of the thought of mankind on the destiny of man.
I have striven to add value to it by comprehensiveness of plan,—not confining myself, as most of my predecessors have confined themselves, to one province or a few narrow provinces of the subject, but including the entire subject in one volume; by carefulness of arrangement, -not piling the material together or presenting it in a chaos of facts and dreams, but group
ing it all in its proper relations; by clearness of explanation,-not leaving the curious problems presented wholly in the dark with a mere statement of them, but as far as possible tracing the phenomena to their origin and unveiling their purport; by poetic life of treatment,—not handling the different topics dryly and coldly, but infusing warmth and color into them; by copiousness of information,—not leaving the reader to hunt up every thing for himself, but referring him to the best sources for the facts, reasonings, and hints which he may wish; and by persevering patience of toil,—not hastily skimming here and there and hurrying the task off, but searching and re-searching in every available direction, examining and re-examining each mooted point, by the devotion of twelve years of anxious labor. How far my efforts in these particulars have been successful is submitted to the public.
To avoid the appearance of pedantry in the multiplication of foot-notes, I have inserted many authorities incidentally in the text itself, and have omitted all except such as I thought would be desired by the reader. Every scholar knows how easy it is to increase the number of references almost indefinitely, and also how deceptive such an ostensible evidence of wide reading
When the printing of this volume was nearly completed, and I had in some instances made more references than may now seem needful, the thought occurred to me that a full list of the books published up to the present time on the subject of a future life, arranged according to their definite topics and in chronological order, would greatly enrich the work and could not fail often to be of vast service. Accordingly, upon solicitation, a valued friendMr. Ezra Abbot, Jr., a gentleman remarkable for his varied and accurate scholarship-undertook that laborious task for me; and he has accomplished it in the most admirable manner. No reader, however learned, but may find much important information in the bibliographical appendix which I am thus enabled to add to this volume. Every student who henceforth wishes to investigate any branch of the historical or philosophical doctrine of the immortality of the soul, or of a future life in general, may thank Mr. Abbot for an invaluable aid.
As I now close this long labor and send forth the result, the oppressive sense of responsibility which fills me is relieved by the consciousness that I have herein written nothing as a bigoted