If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come.
It is a strange fact that the human mind has always held to the immortality of the soul, and yet has always doubted it; always believing, but always haunted by doubt. Yet this throws no discredit upon the truth. Were the belief not true, the doubt would long since have vanquished it, for nothing but truth can endure constant questioning. This truth takes up and sets forth the antagonism found in man's own nature, as a moral being put under material conditions, a mind shut up in a body. The consciousness of mind and moral nature is always asserting immortality; the sense of our bodily conditions is always suggesting its impossibility. It is the same thing that has always showed itself in philosophy; idealism denying the existence of matter, and materialism denying the reality of spirit. But the true philosophy of the human mind is both idealistic and materialistic. Nearly all doubt or denial of immortality comes from the prevalence of a materialistic philosophy; nearly always from some undue pressure of the external world. Great sinners very seldom question immortality. Sin is an irritant of the moral nature, keeping it quick, and so long as the moral nature has a voice, it asserts a future life. Just now the doubt is haunting us with unusual persistence. Certain phases of science stand face to face with immortality in apparent opposition. The doctrine of continuity or evolution in its extreme form, by including everything in the one category of matter, seems to render future existence highly improbable. But more than this, there is an atmosphere, engendered by a common habit of thought, adverse to belief. There is a power of the air that sways us, without reason or choice. Science is rapidly changing its spirit and attitude. It is revealing more and more the infinite possibilities of nature. True science admits that some things may be true that it cannot verify by result, or by any test that it can use. Evolution does not account for the beginning of life, for the plan of my life, for the potency that works in matter; for the facts of consciousness, for moral freedom and consequent personality. In considering immortality, it is quite safe to put science aside with all its theories of the continuity of force, and the evolution of physical life, and inwrought potentiality and the like. We are what we are, moral beings, with personality, freedom, conscience, and moral sense; and because we are what we are, there is reason to hope for immortal life. In any attempt to prove immortality, aside from the Scriptures, we must rely almost wholly upon reasons that render it probable. Our consciousness of personality and moral freedom declare it possible, but other considerations render it also probable and morally certain. Let us allow no sense of weakness to invest the word probability. Many of our soundest convictions are based on aggregated probabilities. Indeed, all matters pertaining to the future, even the sunrise, are matters of probability. Give some of the grounds for believing that the soul of man is immortal.
1. The main current of human opinion sets strongly and steadily towards belief in immortality.
2. The master minds have been strongest in their affirmations of it.
3. The longing of the soul for life, and its horror at the thought of extinction.
4. The action of the mind in thought begets a sense of a continuous life. One who has learned to think finds an endless task before him. Man reaches the bounds of nothing.
5. A parallel argument is found in the nature of love. It cannot tolerate the thought of its own end.
6. There are in man latent powers, and others half revealed, for which human life offers no adequate explanation.
7. The imagination carries with it a plain intimation of a larger sphere than the present. It is difficult to conceive why this power of broadening our actual realm is given to us, if it has not some warrant in fact.
8. The same course of thought applies to the moral nature. It has been claimed by some that they could have made a better universe...The step from instinct to freedom and conscience, is a step from time to eternity. Conscience is not truly correlated to human life. The ethical implies the eternal. Turn from human nature to the Divine nature.We shall find a like, but immeasurably clearer group of intimations. Assuming the theistic conception of God as infinite and perfect in character, this conception is thrown into confusion if there is no immortality for man.
1. There is failure in the higher purposes of God respecting the race; good ends are indicated, but not reached. Man was made for happiness, but the race is not happy.
2. The fact that justice is not done upon the earth involves us in the same confusion. The slighting of love can be endured, but that right should go forever undone is that against which the soul, by its constitution, must forever protest. The sentiment of righteousness underlies all else in man and in God. But justice is not done upon the earth, and is never done, if there be no hereafter.
3. Man is less perfect than the rest of creation, and, relatively to himself, is less perfect in his higher than in his lower faculties.
4. As love is the strongest proof of immortality on the manward side of the argument, so is it on the Godward side. The probabilities might be greatly multiplied. If stated in full, they would exhaust the whole nature of God and man.
Parallel VersesKJV: If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come.