If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come.
There is scarcely a religion known to us of which belief in a future life does not form part of its creed. The most notable exception is that of Buddhism. Our natural instincts are against the denial of immortality. Immortality is believed in, altogether apart from the revelation of it in the Christian Gospel, by civilised and savage races alike. At the most this amounts to no more than a probability; but probabilities count for something. The two chief causes of unbelief are bad morals and bad philosophy. By bad morals I mean such a way of living the life that now is as either not to want the doctrine of a future life to be true, or not to keep in activity those higher elements of our nature to which the doctrine more particularly appeals. Sincerely and practically to believe that we are immortal, we must more or less feel ourselves immortal. But this feeling of immortality will seldom visit the bosom of the man who does not honestly try to live on earth the life of heaven. Spiritual things are not likely to be discerned by the animal man. The disbelief also springs from bad philosophy. Many who are living right lives, have no faith in immortality as Christians believe in it. All the immortality they look for is to live in hearts they leave behind them, "in minds made better by their presence." They are agnostics or materialists. Against this unbelief we set the assertion of the Christian Gospel that man is destined to a life beyond the grave. The future life is not in the nature of things a matter of present experience. It is almost entirely a matter of direct revelation from God. We must accept it because it is an essential part of the Christian faith. There are, however, some considerations which render the truth of a future life eminently reasonable.
1. The fact of human personality. The most impressive of the works of God is the soul of man. A soul — a self! Is it possible to exhaust the meaning of those mysterious terms? Our physical frames are ever changing, yet our personalities are preserved. Is the one change we call death going to destroy us? The very suggestion is absurd.
2. A future life is demanded by our feeling of the symmetry of things. The extinction, the utter extinction of one single human soul would shake my belief in God to its foundations.
3. Our conscience demands a future life. To speak as though good men enjoyed here the fulness of reward, and bad men suffered here the fulness of penalty, is not accurate. There are moral inequalities, moral inconsistencies, which need a future life for their removal and redress. Thus, when Christianity comes to us with its magnificent revelation of immortality it finds us already prepared, on such grounds as we have been just noticing, to welcome the revelation, because it accords with some of the deepest convictions both of our heads and of our hearts. The witness without is confirmed by the witness within. Still, it is not on our reason, nor on our feelings that the Christian revelation of a future life is based. It is on the "resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." All the teaching of Christianity on the question is pivoted there.
(Henry Varley, B. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come.