Sidor som bilder

We shrink from tampering with it. Yet that rendering is certainly false. There is no allusion, I believe, either to a resurrection or to a future existence. The two great continental scholars who maintain a reference here to a future life, do so only by substituting the forced and unnatural and improbable rendering, without my flesh I shall see God,' for the simple and straightforward one, from my flesh shall I see God.' ”.

In other words, Mr. Perowne holds that Job was referring to his restitution in this life. On the other hand, he finds distinct allusions to the doctrine, in the later books of the Old Testament, both in Isaiah and in Ezekiel, and above all in Daniel.

A doctrine like that of a future life, which has been a subject of discussion from the earliest dawn of speculation, has of course accumulated about it arguments representative of every possible stage of society and of philosophical belief. It is not merely the bulk of these arguments, but their extraordinary variety, which makes their consideration so important. A doctrine which appeals so intensely to our hopes and fears has naturally had its foundations examined from every point of view. All external nature has been surveyed without us, every recess of the mind has been scrutinised within us, to find, if possible, some proof or confirmation, or at least hint, of a life after death. Hence, as we have said, the unique variety of such an assemblage of arguments. We can conceive few enquiries, in connection with evidences, of greater speculative interest and value than a comprehensive attempt to classify these arguments, with the view of ascertaining with what sort of proof people have, as a matter of fact, been contented at different times. A comparative estimate of this kind would also be found of much practical value to those who have to grapple now with doubts on the subject. We need hardly say that we do not propose attempting, within the few pages at our disposal, more than a mere indication of such an enquiry.

We should premise our remarks by saying, that some of the common arguments are not so much arguments themselves, as indications that arguments exist. They produce conviction rather at second than at first hand. For instance, nothing is commoner than to allege in support of a future life, as in support of the existence of a God, the fact that almost all nations in the world have accepted such a belief either explicitly or implicitly. But clearly, to state the general fact of a belief, when what we want is the reason for it, is to do little more than restate the problem to be solved. No doubt, by assuring us that most people have accepted one answer, it predisposes us to believe that that is the true answer; in other words, it suggests that there must be strong reasons in its favour, but it

does not supersede the necessity of examining what those reasons are. Dr. Barrow, as many of our readers are aware, has treated this point at some length in one of his sermons. He suggests four different ways in which universal agreement may be accounted for,-viz., (1) that such an opinion was planted in the mind of man by a natural instinct; (2) that, without its being given to us as an à priori belief, our minds were so prepared for it, that we could hardly fail to accept it immediately on its being propounded to us; (3) that there is some prevalent and obvious reason, easy to the apprehension of all men, in its favour; (4) that it was derived from some source, either of instruction or of primitive tradition. Of these, the third seems to us, under most circumstances, decidedly the most probable. But, anyhow, universal consent can scarcely be more than a temporary argument, or one serviceable to those who are not inclined to undertake the labour of examining its foundations for themselves.

Coming, then, to arguments in their own right, our leading division would be a threefold one, suggested by the historical course of speculation; a division, namely, into those arguments which do not postulate the existence of a God, those which assume the principles of natural religion only, and those which owe their birth to Christianity. The first of these, of course, covers the widest ground in respect of time, for we there come into contact with the earliest struggles of philosophy, with attempts like those of which Jeremy Taylor has spoken so feelingly,—"Men cast out every line, and turned every stone, and tried every argument; and sometimes proved it well, and when they did not, yet they believed strongly, and they were sure of the thing when they were not sure of the argument.” These non-theistic arguments we would again subdivide into the à priori or deductive, and the à posteriori or inductive. The former of these, as might naturally be expected from the spirit of the older philosophy, forms the staple of many of the ancient proofs. The soul is indivisible, and therefore, from its nature, not capable of destruction; it is a unity, it partakes of divinity, and many similar statements. All these, howsoever phrased, come to much the same thing, being attempts to demonstrate that, from its nature, the soul cannot die. Of course, the obvious difficulty here suggested itself, Could the soul have a beginning, if it did not admit of an end ? Some thought not, and were driven into the doctrine of metempsychosis; others thought that a special act of creation was needed to call it into existence, but that, once created, it was incorruptible. In the Phædo of Plato several considerations will be found ad. vanced of this character. There is an ingenious modification of this general argument which one sometimes meets with, and

Vol. 68.–No. 378.


[ocr errors]

which is employed, amongst others, by Bishop Butler in the first chapter of his “Analogy.” The burden of proof is here shifted on to the deniers of the doctrine. We live now, it is said ; it is therefore your duty to prove that we shall not continue to live; till that is proved, the presumption is in favour of immortality. Like most attempts of the kind, such a device is better fitted to puzzle an opponent than to produce conviction in his mind.

This class of arguments is now generally abandoned ; and, in better accordance with the spirit of modern science, for the old attempts at strict demonstration is substituted the indirect evidence afforded by analogy and induction. These take two forms. Some attempt to adduce direct analogies; for example, the seeds which apparently perish in the ground, but after a time show that their vitality was only suspended, not destroyed; the caterpillar which passes through the chrysalis and becomes a butterfly, &c. One not unfrequently hears these analogies advanced from the pulpit at Easter, but we confess they seem to us altogether futile. They are not really analogies, for there is nothing essential in common in the instances alleged. They can never attain to more than beautiful metaphors for the use of those who already believe in the doctrine in question. What rational mind can find satisfaction in such a proof as this: “As the day dies into night, so doth the summer into winter; the sap is said to descend into the root, and there it lies buried in the ground; the earth is covered with snow, or crusted with frost, and becomes a general sepulchre; when the spring appeareth, all begin to rise; the plants and flowers peep out of their graves, revive, and grow, and flourish; this is the annual resurrection.” Beautiful as poetry; but one wants something better than poetry on such a subject. Analogy, however, may be employed in an indirect way that is to our minds far more conclusive. Instead of attempting to find cases which really resemble a future life, we may confine ourselves to finding cases which really resemble the belief in it and desire for it. For instance; our horror of annihilation, the profound dissatisfaction and inconclusiveness of our brief life, the splendour of man's intellect compared with its actual attainments in many cases. Reasons of this kind are frequently alleged, and may easily be thrown into a form which really does count for something. The argument would be this :Man's capacities seem always to be satisfied to some extent ; all our senses find their natural objects, our organs have each their appropriate gratification; here is a capacity, the highest of all, is it alone to be disappointed ? If we found in a dark cavern a race of animals with excellent eyes, we should feel sure that they were somehow out of place; is not man, with

his great powers, which never find their fitting exercise, some day to enjoy better things ? This line of proof is sometimes regarded as involving the doctrine of final causes; that is, it is regarded as resting upon the assumption that we can trace the designs of the Creator by a study of His works. No doubt it derives additional force when so regarded, but on merely inductive grounds it appears to us to have some force.

We now come to that second class of arguments, which either presuppose belief in the existence of a God, or at least derive nearly all their force from that belief. These mostly take two forms, direct and indirect. In the first of these, the facts of man's moral nature, combined with our knowledge of the attributes of God, are appealed to as affording conclusive evidence that a future life is needed to redress the wickedness or imperfection of the present. The witness of man's conscience is one of the most favourite forms used in this argument. It is worth calling attention to the fact, that when this proof is drawn out more fully, it takes two forms, according as the Divine attribute appealed to is goodness or justice;, and that these forms are peculiarly appropriate to two different doctrinal systems. Those, for instance, who do not take a deep view of man's sinfulness, direct prominent attention to the misery and oppression of the innocent, and the general frustration of our hopes. They then appeal to God's justice in our favour, to His goodness, that is, as an indication that He will some time redress these inequalities and satisfy these hopes. We may remark, that those who take this ground have a rather delicate task, as it is necessary to prove just a certain amount of distributive justice on earth, neither more nor less. If they prove too little, they sap one of their own foundations, viz. the arguments to prove that God is just. If they prove too much, they subvert their conclusion, by superseding the necessity for another life. When we turn to see how this general argument is modified in the hands of those who take a deep view of man's sin as distinguished from his mere misery, we find, as we might expect, that the attribute appealed to is rather that of pure justice-of justice, that is, as against man. This is the proof of which Dr. M'Caul has made so much in his excellent treatise on the Divine Government. In his opinion, it is almost the only argument of much practical efficacy in convincing the hearts of men. Put into the fewest words, the conclusion in this case is that the forebodings of a condemning conscience are an indication of a full retribution hereafter. “This we hold to be the grand central feeling of mankind, in reference to the world to come; it is an expectation, or rather an apprehension, of a day of reckoning.” We might take respectively, as mottoes of the sentiments appealed to by these different schools, the lines of Tennyson:

“I know transplanted human worth,

Will bloom to profit otherwhere:” and one of the texts which speak of a fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation.

The indirect appeals to the belief in the existence and attributes of God, to which we alluded above, take various forms, and sometimes involve a rather subtle argument. They might be summarized as follows:- The belief in God and the belief in our own immortality are not so much connected logically as psychologically ; it is not that one tends to prove the other, but that it excites and intensifies it. Once rouse a man to the conviction of the greatness and eternity of God, and yet of His care for His creatures, and you will find that, along with this, you have roused and called into efficacy his belief that one 50 cared for cannot perish, Our Lord's confutation of the Sadducees from the text, “I am the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob,” is not unfrequently illustrated in this method.

Of course, when we come to the third main division, of arguments drawn from the facts and revelations of Christianity, we are on very clear ground; indeed, we have but to do little else than follow St. Paul in his First Epistle to the Corinthians. We have the one great instance of the resurrection of our Lord, we have instances of the resurrection of fellow-men; all, not merely proofs, but actual cases in point, of a life after death. And we have, in addition, all the direct statements of Christ and His apostles ; in fact, the whole framework of Christianity is in great part founded on the belief that we shall live hereafter.

With a view of giving our readers an opportunity of judging for themselves of the clearness and eloquence with which Mr. Perowne has treated of these evidences, so far as they have fallen within his scope, we conclude with the following extract:

“Look, then, at the heart of man, see how vast a thing is human love. Conceive of it in any form you please, the love of family, the love of father, child, wife, friends; or the love of art, or glory, or country, or mankind. Whence comes that marvellous force of love ? It is not the object which creates the love, for the heart may set itself upon an unworthy object, and the object which to one seems loveliest may possess no attractions for others. It is the love which clothes the object with ideal loveliness. Nothing shows more strikingly than this fact that we are something in ourselves; that we do not depend entirely upon our senses, and upon the outer world. Look above all at that soul which lavishes itself without one thought of self, which only lives and breathes for the happiness of another, which thinks no sacrifice too great, which cannot be disenchanted, which death cannot rob altogether, which even treachery and contempt cannot alienate, which sheds all its treasures of affection on a deformed body, a sickly spirit, an ungrateful heart. Is that

« FöregåendeFortsätt »