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The Creation Concept

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VI. On the Orthodox Doctrine on the Nature and Destiny of Mankind

VII. On the Possibility that Christendom has Erred on the Doctrine of Human Destiny

VIII. On the Immortality of the Soul

IX. On the Original Constitution of Man

Edward White Selections from the book:

Life in Christ

by Edward White

Elliot Stock, 62 Paternoster Row, London.


Read the entire book Life in Christ online

A biography of Edward White



The term 'orthodox' is employed in this connection as the most convenient mode of designating the doctrine which has prevailed in Christendom both most widely and most durably; for, although the Roman, Greek, and Protestant Churches have differed exceedingly on other questions of interpretation, there has existed a singular unanimity between them as to the facts and general principles which underlie what is held to be a correct view of the condition and destiny of mankind.

The Reformation attempted no modification whatever of the basis of theology in respect of the doctrine of the Fall of Man, and its consequences for the human race, The dissident Protestant sects during all their earlier history stood fast on the old ways, and reiterated the principles which have prevailed in the Church-- at least since the age of Augustine. It is in the writings of Augustine that the first full and complete development of this system of ideas respecting God's dealings with men is to be found. There is nothing entirely resembling it either in the New Testament or in the Ante-Nicene Fathers. The central thought of this doctrine springs from a belief, in which we sympathise, in the historical truth of the narrative of the trial and sin of Adam and Eve in the book of Genesis; but it branches out into several subordinate doctrines of vast extent and importance, not so plainly contained in that narrative. It has been held, with the nearly unanimous consent of the ancient theological authorities, and has been embodied as an article of faith in the Judgment of the Church, that Adam the ancestor of mankind was created at first under a complex constitution; endued with a body that could die, which, however, served but as the shrine and tabernacle of a soul that should never die; this immortality of the soul depending ultimately on the will of God.

It has been held that the death threatened to Adam in case of transgression is to be understood in several distinct senses, according to the part of his complex nature which was affected by the judgment of God, and the relations to time or eternity borne by the different portions of the punishment. With nearly absolute unanimity it has been held by all the great historical Churches that when Adam sinned the sentence of death took effect upon his body, by ensuring the physical dissolution of his animal structure. This is technically called temporal death. Next, it is held that as soon as he sinned his soul was separated morally from God, and, since God is the fountain of 'spiritual life,' that apostate condition of Adam's soul is described in sacred language as spiritual death-- a description which is considered to be authorised by the Apostle Paul when he speaks of sinners being 'dead in trespasses and sins' (Eph. ii. 1). And, lastly, it is held that when this life ended, and the naturally never-dying soul went forth into the unseen world of judgment, it was doomed to enter upon a prospect of everlasting suffering in hell, which is termed eternal death.

It has been for ages the fundamental doctrine of Christian theology in Europe that in the original trial of Man in Paradise Adam was thus threatened with temporal, spiritual, and eternal death, this last sense of the term standing for everlasting damnation, or conscious punishment throughout the future eternity. Whether Adam as an individual person actually will undergo this triple condemnation is a wholly different question. But, as a representative man, there is a wonderful concurrence of divines that by his sin he incurred this appalling complex doom.

The Confession of Faith of the Assembly of Divines of Westminster, representing the best thought in theology up to that time, only confirms the general judgment of Roman and Protestant Christendom when it declares, in the sixth paragraph of its sixth chapter, under the title of 'The Fall of Man, of Sin, and of the Punishment thereof'-- that 'every sin, both original and actual, being a transgression of the righteous law of God, and contrary thereto, doth in its own nature bring guilt upon the sinner, whereby he is bound over to the wrath of God, and curse of the law, and so made subject to DEATH, with all miseries spiritual, temporal, and eternal.'

This however is but the beginning of sorrows. For the next universally received doctrine of the orthodox Church was, and is, that this direful destiny descended by inheritance from Adam upon the whole of the human race, so that every human being, under the 'covenant of works,' is born, 1, liable to temporal death; 2, under the curse of spiritual death; and 3, certain to endure the woe of death eternal, or endless mysery. It is held that this is the doom under which every human infant is conceived and born into the world, (thrice happy the unborn!): so that endless misery is its destiny by the law, as the natural result of its descent from Adam, and before it has 'done good or evil.'

The Protestant Articles of Religion, framed herein on the lines of the ancient Church, expressly repudiate the idea that the curse of 'eternal death' comes upon men only in consequence of personal active imitation of the sin of Adam.

It is declared to be a congenital inheritance. Adam by his sin incurred eternal damnation in hell in the sense of endless misery; and this is the curse which has descended as an heirloom on his infant posterity. Let us hear the Church of England in her IXth Article, 'Of Original or Birth Sin.'

'Original Sin standeth not in the following of Adam (as the Pelagians do vainly talk); but it is the fault and corruption of the Nature of every man that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam; whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness (quam lungissime), and is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the spirit; and therefore in every person born into this world it deserveth God's wrath and damnation;' by which the authors of the Article intended endless misery.

The Westminster Assembly of Divines in the sixth chapter of its Confession is even more explicit.

'Our first parents being the root of all mankind, the guilt of their sin was imputed, and the same death in sin and corrupted nature conveyed to all their posterity, descending from them by ordinary generation.

'From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions.'

Then follows the fore-cited sentence. 'Every sin, both original and actual, doth in its own nature bring guilt upon the sinner, whereby he is bound over to the wrath of God, and so made subject to death, with all miseries, spiritual, temporal, and eternal.'

It thus appears to be unquestionably the orthodox faith of Christendom that, before they have done good or evil, all mankind are born liable to eternal misery through original sin, and that the development of their corrupt nature, whereby they are made 'opposite to all good,' can only aggravate an eternal destiny to suffering already incurred through the transgression of Adam.

The Augustinian divines of the Church of Rome, no small portion of the whole body, and the Calvinistic divines of the Protestant Churches, add to these terrible conclusions the further doctrine of predestination to damnation. The Assembly of Divines (setting forth the present accredited faith of the Church of Scotland) explicitly teach in their third chapter-- that 'By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others foreordained to everlasting death.' And of the non-elect they say, 'The rest of mankind God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of His own will, whereby He extendeth or withholdeth mercy as He pleaseth, for the glory of His sovereign power over His creatures, to pass by, and to ordain them to dishonour and wrath for their sin, to the praise of His glorious justice.'

Since, however, these formidable super-additions are held by but a portion of orthodox Christendom, it is better to leave them out of present view. The statements in which the orthodox Churches are agreed suffice for the present purpose. The sum of the whole is, that mankind is born in a state of everlasting damnation, under a curse of Death, which is to be taken in the three senses, of bodily decease, moral apostasy, and everlasting misery. And from this doom there is no escape except by the grace of God in regeneration. 'Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.' All the unregenerate portion of mankind is destined to suffer in 'everlasting fire.'

There can be no question that these are the views under which the historical Churches of Christendom have contemplated the condition and destiny of the human race, and under which they have sought to apply the remedy in missionary enterprise and benevolence. In his letters from India, Xavier speaks only the uniform sense of his Church when he describes the destiny of the unbaptised millions around him as involving the prospect of eternal torment, and maintains that the unevangelised millions of previous ages had descended to that irrevocable doom. In a letter of S. Francis Xavier, written in 1552 (edited in 1873 by Rev. E. Coleridge, of the Society of Jesus), he says, 'One of the things that most of all pains and torments these Japanese is that we teach them that the prison of Hell is irrevocably shut-- so that there is no egress therefrom. For they grieve over the fate of their departed children, of their parents and relatives-- and they often show their grief by their tears. So they ask us if there is any hope-- any way to free them by prayer from that eternal misery, and I am obliged to answer that there is absolutely none. Their grief at this affects and torments them wonderfully-- they almost pine away with sorrow. But there is this good thing about their trouble-- it makes one hope that they will all be the more laborious for their own salvation, lest they, like their forefathers, should be condemned to everlasting punishment.' 'They often ask if God cannot take their fathers out of hell, and why their punishment must never have an end. We gave them a satisfactory answer; but they did not cease to grieve over the misfortunes of their relatives,-- and I can hardly restrain my tears sometimes at seeing men so dear to my heart suffer such intense pain about a thing which is already done with, and can never be undone.'

Not so logically or consistently have some Protestant Divines of recent time sought to mitigate the terribleness of the prospect by tampering arbitrarily with the interpretation of the threatening of Death, on which hangs the system of Augustinian theology. Dr. Payne of Exeter (Congregational Lecturer on Original Sin) speaks indeed the general sense of English theologians of the latter portion of this age when he attempts to discriminate between the various senses of this threatening, and to direct their incidence more mercifully than has been the ancient wont of the Churches; but in so doing he opens the door to the entrance of a principle of interpretation which will inevitably destroy both his own doctrine and the elder scheme of doctrine which he assails.

Smitten to the heart by the terrific dogma of the descent of the curse of eternal death, in the sense of endless suffering, upon the infant posterity of Adam, these 'merciful doctors 'have insisted upon a limitation of the signification of this curse as respects the personally guiltless. The old Roman Divines had found in S. Paul's argument addressed to their own Church (Rom. v. 12) decisive evidence that the Death which 'entered by one offence,' or 'the offence of one,' 'passed upon all men,' without any limitation, 'even,' as S. Paul declares specially, 'upon them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression.' Whatever reason, therefore, there was for understanding this threat in the triple sense, so as to include eternal misery for Adam himself (a point of belief on which no one seems to have entertained a doubt), there was exactly the same reason for believing that it descended in its direful integrity upon all his posterity. The case of infants might be indeed fearful, but there was no loophole of escape for them from the system which embraced in its iron grip the whole race of man. To insinuate that for them the 'eternal death' formed no part of the inherited curse was to break up the foundation of faith in redemption, and in the descent of original sin. Accordingly this position was maintained with the utmost firmness by all the Roman theologians, and not less by the Reformers. Augustine had set the example of such firmness. 'It may, therefore, be rightly said (says he) that little ones dying without baptism will be in the mildest damnation of all (in damnatione mitissima). Yet he greatly deceives and is deceived who preaches that they will not be in damnation; since the apostle says, Judgment was by one to condemnation.' (Multum autem fallit et fallitur, qui eos in damnatione predicat non futures.-- Opp. vii. p. 142.)

But that which they dreaded, as fatal to systematic divinity, has been asserted by our English and American divines of recent times. These affirm, apparently without any evidence, except that derived from their own sense of moral fitness, that although the death threatened to Adam himself included the threefold curse with eternal misery, the curse as it descended on the posterity dropt its most fearful signification, and came upon the human race in its birth only as a twofold doom, as temporal death, and an inherited corruption of their nature which is termed 'death spiritual.' Thus, it is supposed, all mankind are born, not under sentence of eternal misery for Adam's sin, but only under a corrupt constitution of nature, by which, when they come to years, they will incur that sentence by their own transgressions. [1]

There is no doubt that this mode of treatment of the language of Scripture offers an immense alleviation. We learn no longer to look upon the countenance of a child, with all our orthodox progenitors, as on a wretched being under sentence of eternal misery for the offence of a distant ancestor. Some would even encourage us to regard the new-born child as born under Redemption, and by its birth into a world where Christ lias died, entitled thereby to regenerating grace and everlasting glory. But this is an extreme view towards which few incline.

The chief objection to this brighter representation of the results of the Fall of Man on the prospects of Mankind is that it proceeds on a method of interpretation which is fatal to the whole fabric of theology which it seeks to uphold.

If, from regard to our supposed sense of right, we operate upon the term death which describes in apostolic language the curse which has 'passed upon' mankind (Rom. v. 12)-- if by an ipse dixit the enlightened Protestant expositor may sweep away at one stroke of his pen the whole tremendous prospect of everlasting misery from before the world of Adam-born children-- what is to hinder, asks the more consistent Roman theologian, the sweeping away of that third sense of death-- or eternal misery, in its supposed application to Adam himself, and all other persons affected by his behaviour? A precedent in interpretation is established which will certainly be acted upon in a larger signification. The difficulty is already great of teaching that the 'death' of the body, in the death threatened to Adam, signified its dissolution, while in the 'Second Death' (or infliction of eternal suffering) the same term, even in reference to the body, is taken for endless misery. But how much greater the difficulty of maintaining that the original curse was designed to convey the meaning of eternal suffering, if at the first occurrence of an objection, occasioned only by our tender compassion for infants, it is held that the word must be stripped of its infinite meaning in its application to them.
The Augustinian system is best defended in its integrity. Take away one of its fundamental definitions, and it falls to the ground. The recent Protestant glosses breathe a compassionate leniency, but they endanger far more than they defend. Augustine and Calvin were solid ligicians, and may be trusted in their estimate of what is necessary to the coherency of their theological system.        

We return, therefore, to the ancient doctrine, which is that the whole multitudinous human race, either through an hereditary curse, or through a transmitted corruption of nature which leads to an ungodly life, is, and has always been, in danger of a Hell never-ending; from which danger it is delivered only by a remedy, so far as the present world is concerned, apparently of most limited application.

'Broad is the road that leadeth to Destruction, and many there be that go in thereat.' If the word destruction is rightly taken for the idea of endless misery, the force of Christ's words agrees with the general and ancient sense of Christendom, that the majority of mankind have in all ages gone forward to endure an eternity of woe.

That such 'woe' will be proportioned to the deserts of the offenders no believer in Divine Justice, not even S. Augustine, can for one moment have doubted or denied. The extreme ignorance of multitudes of wicked men may be regarded with comparative lenity. On the other hand, the offences of the most guilty, because the best informed, would with equal justice be followed by far more awful inflictions. Let us, therefore, now attempt to arouse the reader's mind to consider what it is which Christendom professes in its standards to believe, whether in the case of those most lightly punished, or of those on whom will descend the heavier dooms. The main force of the orthodox doctrine on the effects of the Fall on the condition of mankind lies in the eternity of those effects. Sin brings Death as its wages; and Death signifies eternal misery. It must be, then, a wholesome exercise to strive to realise the prospect. Every divine truth seems to be more true the more we dwell upon it and consider it. Truth unveils itself in its evidence and completeness to those who impartially endeavour to apprehend its bearings. God the Lord also is best known by His works; and if the issue of human life in its overwhelming numbers will be to fix, whether a majority, as most suppose, or a minority, as some few affirm, in an unchangeable state of torment, or misery, or even of darkness and sorrow, it must serve the interests of truth and righteousness, and of theology itself, to follow in the path of the poets and divines who have taught us how to meditate, first of all on future suffering, and, secondly, upon that everlastingness which is the measure of its duration.

The writers who have of late years come forward to maintain the orthodox doctrine agree in their general conclusion. Let us seriously endeavour to understand what that conclusion is.

It is-- that, notwithstanding denial, there is compelling reason to believe that all who die unforgiven shall suffer-- for ever and ever-- in hell. Words easily spoken and written, but which reveal their meaning, or rather a glimmer of their meaning, only to those who set themselves steadily to the task of realising the doctrine. The significance of words is limited also by men's experience, most persons being deficient in the power of vigorously conceiving of either suffering or duration. Those who have endured severe chronic pain for several decades of years, and those who have been visited by the more dreadful forms of mental anguish, are likely to attach a deeper meaning to such a phrase as 'endless misery' than men whose strong health, or unchequered history, or unimaginative natures have concealed from them the more woful experiences of life. The generality of teachers who insist upon a literal eternity of pain seem to have little capacity for picturing to themselves what their doctrine portends. On some it seems to exert a hardening influence. They speak with something like contempt of a 'sensational recoil' from the idea of endless torment-- as if there were nothing in it that ought to cause any difficulty to a devout, considering man. They evince no need of those alleviations by which gentler spirits seek to shade their eyes from the blinding prospect. [2]

The believers in that prospect, indeed, are not agreed upon the degree or kind of suffering which is revealed as eternal; and those who anticipate the deepest horrors might seem, as is natural, to stagger at them less than those who believe in lighter inflictions.

Unwillingly I add a few specimens of the mode of presenting the supposed threatenings of Revelation from approved divines. That holy man, President Jonathan Edwards, says:--

'Here all judges have a mixture of mercy, but the wrath of God will be poured out upon the wicked without mixture, and vengeance will have its full weight. We can conceive but little of the matter. We cannot conceive what the sinking of the soul in such a case is. But to help your conception, imagine yourself to be cast into a fiery oven, all of a glowing heat, or into the midst of a glowing brick-kiln, or of a great furnace, where your pain would be as much greater than that occasioned by accidentally touching a coal of fire as the heat is greater; and imagine also that your body were to lie there for a quarter of an hour, full of fire, as full within and without as a bright coal fire, all the while full of quick sense: what horror would you feel at the entrance of such a furnace! Oh, then, how would your heart sink, if you thought, if you knew, that you must bear it for ever and ever! that there would be no end! that after millions and millions of ages your torment would be no nearer to an end than ever it was! and that you never, never should be delivered! But your torment in hell will be immensely greater than this illustration represents.'-- Vol. iii., p. 260.

Mr. Spurgeon, whose opinions represent in the most vigorous form, and with striking sincerity, the theology of the middle and lower classes of England, does not hesitate to hold before his hearers a prospect of endless physical agony:--

'Only conceive that poor wretch in the flames, who is saying, "0 for one drop of water to cool my parched tongue! "See how his tongue hangs from between his blistered lips! How it excoriates and burns the roof of his mouth, as if it were a firebrand! Behold him crying for a drop of water. I will not picture the scene. Suffice it for me to close up by saying, that the hell of hells will be to thee, poor sinner, the thought that it is to be for ever. Thou wilt look up there on the throne of God,-- and on it shall be written, "For ever!" When the damned jingle the burning irons of their torments, they shall say "For ever!" When they howl, echo cries, "For ever!"
     " 'For ever' is written on their rocks,'
    'For ever' on their chains;'
    'For ever' burneth in the fire,'
    'For ever' ever reigns."
Doleful thought! "If I could but get out, then I should be happy." "If there were a hope of deliverance, then I might be peaceful; but here I am for ever! "Sirs! if ye would escape eternal torments, if ye would be found amongst the number of the blessed, the road to heaven can only be found by prayer,' etc.-- Sermon preached in 1855.

It may be objected that this sermon was preached twenty years ago; but only three years since Mr. Spurgeon declared his adhesion to the former style of discourse on future punishment in these words:--

'We are sometimes accused, my brethren, of using language too harsh, too ghastly, too alarming, with regard to the world to come; but we shall not soon change our note; for we solemnly believe that if we could speak thunderbolts, and our every look were a lightning flash, and if our eyes dropped blood instead of tears, no tones, words, gestures, or similitudes of dread could exaggerate the awful condition of a soul which has refused the gospel and is delivered over to justice.'-- Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit (revised and corrected), p. 186.

A still more graphic style of representation is common among Roman Catholic preachers. Those who believe in the beneficial effect of pictorial horrors on youug and ignorant people might take a lesson from the religious manuals of  the Roman priests. Mr. Lecky quotes the following, in his History of European Morals, from a Tract 'for children and young persons,' called The Sight of Hell, by Rev. J. Furniss; published "permissu superiorum," by Duffy (London and Dublin). It is a detailed description of the dungeons of hell:--

'See on the middle of that red-hot floor stands a girl: she looks about sixteen years old. Her feet are bare. Listen; she speaks "I have been standing on this red-hot floor for years! Look at my burnt and bleeding feet! Let me go off this burning floor for one moment! "The fifth dungeon is the red-hot oven. The little child is in the red-hot oven. Hear how it screams to come out; see how it turns and twists itself about in the fire. It beats its head against the roof of the oven. It stamps its little feet on the floor. God was very good to this little child. Very likely God saw it would get worse and worse, and would never repent, and so it would have to be punished more severely in hell. So God in His mercy called it out of the world in early childhood.'

All this, says Mr. Furniss, is to last for ever.

Such representations would, however, be severely reprehended by the majority of educated orthodox preachers in our own time. To them the eternal hell is of a more spiritual character; but it is still eternal, its pains are to endure as long as the Nature which is unchangeable and divine.

For in addition to these inflictions, whether literal or largely figurative, our divines believe in a spiritual misery of lost souls, which is not figurative, but will consist partly in their remorse for the sins of time, and partly in the fact that, being immortal, they are condemned to sin, and to suffer for fresh sins, throughout ETERNITY.-- But who knows what that means? The duration which is immeasurable! It signifies that all the arithmetical power in the creation, after labouring for millions of years to invent numerical methods of expressing enormous successions of time, would thereby succeed in reaching in imagination only the beginning-- the threshold-- the earlier moments, of that unsearchable futurity which is the lifetime of the NECESSARY BEING,-- and, it is said, the lifetime of the condemned. It means that beyond all such imagined epochs, counted out by human or angelic faculty, there will extend an infinite prospect of misery for sinful beings, in graduated but everlasting pain.

I shall offer some reflections on these beliefs of various types in the language of the late Mr. Foster, author of Essays on Decision of Character, contained in a memorable letter to the writer, in the year 1841. [3]

'Nevertheless,' says Mr. Foster, 'I acknowledge myself not convinced of the orthodox doctrine. If asked, why not?-- I should have little to say in the way of criticism, of implications found or sought in what may he called incidental expressions of Scripture, or of the passages dubiously cited in favour of final, universal restitution. It is the moral argument, as it may be named, that presses irresistibly on my mind-- that which comes in the stupendous idea of eternity.

'It appears to me that the teachers and believers of the orthodox doctrine hardly ever make an earnest, strenuous effort to form a conception of eternity; or rather a conception somewhat of the nature of a faint incipient approximation. Because it is confessedly beyond the compass of thought, it is suffered to go without an attempt at thinking of it. They utter the term in the easy currency of language; have a vague and transitory idea of something obscurely vast, and do not labour to place and detain the mind in intense protracted contemplation, seeking all expedients for expanding and aggravating the awful import of such a word. Though every mode of illustration feeble and impotent, one would surely think there would be an insuppressible impulse to send forth the thoughts to the utmost possible reach into the immensity-- when it is an immensity into which our essential interests are infinitely extended. Truly it is very strange that even religious minds can keep so quietly aloof from the amazing, the overwhelming contemplation of what they have the destiny and the near prospect of entering upon.

'Expedients of illustration of what eternity is not, supply the best attainable means of assisting remotely toward a glimmering apprehension of what it is. All that is within human capacity is to imagine the vastest measures of time, and to look to the termination of these as only touching the mere commencement of eternity.

'For example:-- It has been suggested to imagine the number of particles, atoms, contained in this globe, and suppose them one by one annihilated, each in a thousand years, till all were gone; but just as well say, a million, or a million of millions of years or ages, it is all the same, as against infinite duration.

'Extend the thought of such a process to our whole mundane system, and finally to the whole material universe: it is still the same. Or, imagine a series of numerical figures, in close order, extended to a line of such a length that it would encircle the globe, like the equator-- or that would run along with the earth's orbit around the sun-- or with the outermost planet, Uranus-- or that would draw a circle of which the radius should be from the earth or the sun to Sirius-- or that should encompass the entire material universe, which as being material, cannot be infinite. The most stupendous of these measures of time would have an end; and would, when completed, be still nothing to eternity.

'Now think of an infliction of misery protracted through such a period, and at the end of it being only commencing,-- not one smallest step nearer a conclusion:-- the case just the same if that sum of figures were multiplied by itself. And then think of Man--his nature, his situation, the circumstances of his brief sojourn and trial on earth. Far be it from us to make light of the demerit of sin, and to remonstrate with the Supreme Judge against a severe chastisement, of whatever moral nature we may regard the affliction to be. But still, what is man?-- He comes into the world with a nature fatally corrupt, and powerfully tending to actual evil. He comes among a crowd of temptations adapted to his innate evil propensities. He grows up (incomparably the greater proportion of the race) in great ignorance; his judgment weak; and under numberless beguilements into error; while his passions and appetites are strong; his conscience unequally matched against their power;-- in the majority of men, but feebly and rudely constituted. The influence of whatever good instructions he may receive is counteracted by a combination of opposite influences almost constantly acting on him. He is essentially and inevitably unapt to be powerfully acted on by whatever is invisible and future. In addition to all which, there is the intervention and activity of the great tempter and destroyer.

'I acknowledge my inability (I would say it reverently) to admit this belief, together with a belief in the Divine Goodness--the belief that "God is love," that His tender mercies are over all His works. Goodness, benevolence, charity, as ascribed in supreme perfection to Him, cannot mean a quality foreign to all human conceptions of goodness; it must be something analogous in principle to what Himself has defined and required as goodness in His moral creatures, that, in adoring the Divine Goodness, we may not be worshipping as "unknown God." But if so, how would all our ideas be confounded, while contemplating Him bringing, of His own soverign will, a race of creatures into existence, in such a condition that they certainly will and must,-- must, by their nature and circumstances, go wrong and be miserable, unless prevented by especial grace,-- which is the privilege of only a small proportion of them, and, at the same time, affixing on their delinquency a doom, of which it is infinitely beyond the highest archangel's faculty to apprehend a thousandth part of the horror.

'Can we,-- I would say with reverence-- can we realize it as possible that a lost soul, after countless millions of ages, and in prospect of an interminable succession of such enormous periods, can be made to have the conviction, absolute and perfect, that all this is a just, an equitable infliction, and from a power as good as He is just, for a few short sinful years on earth-- years and sins presumed to be retained most vividly in memory, and everlastingly growing clearer, vaster, and more terrible to retrospective view in their magnitude of infinite evil--every stupendous period of duration, by which they have actually been left at a distance, seeming to bring them, in contrariety to all laws of memory, nearer and ever nearer to view, by the continually aggravated experience of their consequences?

'Yes, those twenty, forty, seventy years, growing up to infinity of horror, in the review, in proportion to the distance which the condemned spirit recedes from them;-- all eternity not sufficing to reveal fully what those years contained!-- millions of ages for each evil thought or word.

'But it is usually alleged that there will be an endless continuance of sinning, with probably an endless aggravation, and therefore the punishment must be endless. Is not this like an admission of disproportion between the punishment and the original cause of its infliction?-- But suppose the case to be so-- that is to say, that the punishment is not a retribution simply for the guilt of the momentary existence on earth, but a continued punishment of the continued, ever-aggravated guilt in the eternal state; the allegation is of no avail in vindication of the doctrine; because the first consignment to the dreadful state necessitates a continuance of the criminality; the doctrine teaching that it is of the essence, and is an awful aggravation, of the original consignment, that it dooms the condemned to maintain the criminal spirit unchanged for ever. The doom to sin as well as suffer, and, according to the argument, to sin in order to suffer, is inflicted as the punishment of the sin committed in the mortal state. Virtually, therefore, the eternal punishment is the punishment of the sins of time.'

'Under the light (or the darkness) of this doctrine, how inconceivably mysterious and awful is the aspect of the whole economy of this human world! The immensely greater number of the race hitherto, through all ages and regions, passing a short life under no illuminating, transforming influence of their Creator; ninety-nine in a hundred of them perhaps having never even received any authenticated message from Heaven; passing off the world in a state unfit for a spiritual, heavenly, and happy kingdom elsewhere; and all destined to everlasting misery.-- The thoughtful spirit has a question silently suggested to it of far more emphatic import than that of him who exclaimed, "Hast thou made all men in vain?" '

It was the absorbing meditation on such conclusions as these in early days which created in the writer the life-lasting purpose of at least striving to enforce them on his fellow beings, if truths they were; or of shaking their pernicious hold on the public mind if one could solidly learn that they were delusions. It is a question in which all that is of profoundest import in the definition of the Divine Attributes of Justice and Goodness is concerned,-- which touches more deeply than any other the springs of faith and unbelief,-- and which clearly has bearings of the utmost moment on the whole system of human thought respecting both this world and the world to come.

If these things plainly are indeed as described by theologians, it is as wicked as useless to palter with the evidence, or to conceal it from the world; and it is nothing better than cruelty to talk of alleviating the prospect. If it be true, let the truth be spoken, and let men recognise the facts of their existence on earth and beyond. Truth needs no alleviations.

But, at all events, these things ought not to be believed except on decisive evidence; for a mistake either way will exert a prodigious influence on the religion of mankind. The danger is not all on one side, as most suppose. For there is nothing less than an infinite difference between a BEING who will so act towards His creatures and one who will not; between a God who will inflict eternal suffering, however slight, whether of mind, or body, or both, on creatures born of a degenerate race, and generally educated in ignorance of divine things, even when intellectually cultivated, and One who will not. A different feeling and a different worship will grow up out of the two systems of thought, just in proportion as they are realised by the worshipper.

And the determination of the question is of equal importance in relation to the Creator's will. If the Eternal Power will act as these writers suppose, it must, as they truly affirm, be highly offensive to Him to deny or dispute it. If true religion consist so largely in the element of fear, as it must on this theory, it is to detract from truth to represent God as less than He really is an object of terror to His creatures. But, on the other hand, if such thoughts never 'entered into His mind,'-- so the Almighty is represented in the book of Jeremiah as exclaiming, in reference to the momentary passage of children through the fire to Moloch,-- if the whole doctrine comes, as many learned and pious men think,-- men as learned and pious as any others,-- from a wresting of the words of Scripture; if it have no surer basis than a determination to maintain the figment of the natural immortality of one part of man's nature, of which the Bible itself never once speaks; if the doctrine of pain that shall never end be the offspring of the combination of a false psychology with the traditionary interpretations of a superstitious and uncritical antiquity, it is easy to see that the Deity must abhor the falsehoods taught in His name, in Europe as in Asia, and will highly commend the work of those who set themselves to overturn this stumbling- block, and to rend the dogma which at once veils from sinful men His real and awful Justice, and from His children so much of the light of the eternal Love.


[1] Mr. Peill, an able representative of this opinion, says, "Thus it is evident from Scripture itself that the second death [or eternal misery] is not included in the penalty threatened against Adam, which began to take effect the day that he sinned. The second death comes only through personal unbelief, and not as the necessary result of the conduct of another. Reason and Scripture are both at variance with the doctrine that eternal death was included in the punishment incurred by Adam's transgression. Reason declares it unjust that one man's eternal destiny should be determined for him by the act of another. Such a view outrages man's moral sense, conflicts with his personal responsibility, and is utterly incompatible with the equitable character of his present trial and its issues.'-- Man's Immortality Proved, p. 38. Mr. Peill, therefore, will doubtless offer no objection to the use of our ' reason ' and ' moral sense ' in still further discriminating the meaning of the threatening of death contained in the Scriptural account of the fall of Adam.

[2] 'Popular conceptions are taken largely from lurid sketches drawn by Dante and the poets. Hence men have come to speak of the lost as in flames. What if much of this teaching is a mistake? The fire that is never quenched may be the burning eagerness with which they cherish perverse desires, an eagerness that blights and blasts everything generous, as it has long since blasted everything holy. There are no doubt positive punishments as there are positive rewards; but the descriptions of each are largely figurative-- "pearly gates," "golden streets," "flaming fire," "ascending smoke." Here again there is some relief.'-- Dr. Angus on Future Punishments.]

[3] Reprinted at length in the Life and Correspondence of John Foster, vol ii.]



'The history of the Christian Church for the greater portion of its existence has been so little in consistent practical accordance with any Idea or Principle that is obviously Divine, that the merely being opposed to such a majority as it presents need not be to any spiritual mind a very distressing or a very dangerous position.' -- Frederic Myers, Catholic Thoughts, p. 15.

IT cannot be denied that the frightful doctrines on the future of humanity, described in the preceding chapter, though supported by the general authority of nearly all Christendom for at least fourteen centuries, are regarded with contemptuous scepticism by the bulk of the existing male population of Europe, who assign these articles of 'the faith' as the chief reason for their ever-extending and fierce revolt against Christianity. The external evidence of ancient miracle and prophecy, and even the stronger moral evidence of the Gospel, do not suffice to overpower the antagonistic conviction of the masses of educated and uneducated men in civilised Europe, that the 'Catholic Religion' cannot be of divine original. The people who dwell in the interior of Churches have in general but a slight acquaintance with the ideas of those who are without. If by any remarkable awakening the Christian people could be made to understand the world of modern thought which surrounds them, they would discover from one side of Europe to the other that faith in the supposed divine revelation has almost faded away from the classes who are alienated from traditionary religion. And the chief cause of such decaying faith is found beyond question in the views of the future which have been set forth in the preceding pages.

Men hold that such conceptions of moral government cannot possibly be in accord with the thoughts of God, 'whose tender mercies are over all His works.' This disbelief is not, indeed, a sufficient reason for rejecting Catholic Christianity; but it is a sufficient reason for subjecting it to a resolute re-examination. That which practically works so ill certainly cannot claim to be exempt from fresh scrutiny: especially since the disorder of latent scepticism has eaten like a cancer into the breast of the Church itself. Christians on all sides, exactly in proportion to their knowledge and culture, are tormented in our time with agonising doubts as to the truth of the whole system of Divine Revelation, in consequence of the doctrine imputed to it on the destination of mankind. The positive declarations sometimes made, on the final salvation of the largely preponderant majority of men, as the result of their present term of probation, seem to rest on no solid foundation. They contradict the Bible itself. They are expressions of a hopeful piety, and little more. The fact of general ungodliness remains; and the Scripture record also remains, which consigns all persistently wicked men to eternal death. If death signifies endless misery, there seems no escape from the established dogma; but this dogma shakes the Christian faith even of its most devoted adherents. Richard Baxter himself describes the inward and dangerous struggle which he often experienced in the effort to submit his mind to these supposed doctrines of 'revelation.'

There is especially one class whose case deserves attention, that of unwilling infidels. For it is right to add that infidelity is of two kinds, malignant and involuntary; and that there is a description of unbelief widely spread which does not take the form of virulent attack upon the Scriptures, but rather stands aloof in the dim intermediate territory between friendship and hostility. This is the infidelity of persons who, although not denying the apparent existence of some strong evidence for the divine mission of Christ, are yet so much confounded at the character of what they have been led to suppose are His doctrines as to pass their lives in a state of equilibrium or indifference; never breaking out into open scepticism, but never seeing their way to a clear persuasion and bold avowal of the truth of the gospel revelation. They have been taught that the doctrine of Christ is, that in Adam all fell directly or indirectly under the curse of everlasting misery, and that a certain number are to be saved from this dreadful doom in consequence of a divine decree in their favour from eternity past; all the rest departing to endless suffering for the glory of the justice of God. This, which is the common and popular belief, staggers them; their minds become confused, and finding no relief from the believers in Christianity, who maintain their 'faith' in such doctrines mostly by a decided habit of not thinking upon them, they vibrate between the twilight of a half unbelief, and the thick darkness of a gloomy atheism. There are hundreds of thousands of minds of the class now described, -- souls surely as valuable as the souls of the inhabitants of the South Sea Islands, on whose behalf all zeal is accounted praiseworthy. It is conceivable that a fresh examination of our theology under a new idea might bring to light for such minds a 'hope full of immortality.'

One question, however, of discouraging aspect confronts the earliest movements of the mind towards such re-examination of Christianity, in dim hope of discovering a more benignant yet tenable interpretation of its records: -- Is it possible that God can have permitted a conception of His own character, so false as this must be, if false at all, to prevail during nearly the whole Christian era? Must we not regard the fact of the general acceptance of these doctrines, as articles of faith, as a sufficient evidence of their truth? And, further, can it be for a moment believed that instructed divines, who are to be counted by hundreds of thousands, belonging to all Churches, in every successive century of Christianity, can have erred so egregiously, as they must have erred, who have mistaken the sense of the Divine Revelation, supposing these doctrines to be not in the Bible, and to have formed no part of original Christianity? This is a question which suffices at the outset to quell and suppress the rising spirit of inquiry, by an appeal to the conscious insignificance of the individual. And it might well prohibit a single step in advance, were it not that the continuous history of Christendom, both in science and religion, bids us take courage, and compels us, as the first of all duties, to fling aside resolutely the delusive fear imposed by paralysing appeals to authority.

For when it is asked whether it be possible or conceivable that Providence can have allowed any doctrine grievously misrepresenting the Divine Majesty to have taken root on earth, or in Christendom, the answer is obvious and direct, that the Almighty Creator has allowed every imaginable error respecting His attributes, physical, intellectual, aud moral, to prevail among men, age after age, since the beginning of the world. One-half the world to-day is still idolatrous, or devoted to Buddhistic atheism. And the Apostles departed from life (however wonderful this may be), declaring with one voice that 'strong delusion' awaited the subsequent generations of Christendom.

When further it is naturally asked whether it be possible that so many millions of learned and pious divines and their followers in former ages can have erred in so great a matter as this, the answer must be, -- assuredly it is possible. The Reformation is expressly founded on the fact that all Europe had erred on the most important doctrine of Christianity for more than a thousand years, during the darkness of the middle age, even on the central doctrine of our justification. There is no Church or Church party in Christendom which does not hold it for certain that it is quite possible for whole sanhedrims of the most respectable divines, notwithstanding their learning, and millions of the common people, to misunderstand important doctrines of revelation. Both Roman Catholics and Protestants believe that after the learned rabbins of Judaism have studied the Old Testament for eighteen hundred years, since the fall of Jerusalem, they are still wrong in regarding our Lord Jesus Christ as an impostor. The Protestants believe that all the learned and pious men of Romanism err in religion fundamentally. The Roman Catholics, in turn, believe that all the learned men of Protestant countries, and all their disciples, are in error on the foundation truths of Christianity. In the same manner all the Calvinistic divines of Europe believe that all the Arminian divines misunderstand two important doctrines of revelation; and the Arminians think the same of the Calvinists.

Thus also the popular opinion, maintained by the large majority of Protestant divines, is in favour of the doctrine of Christ's second advent after the millennium. But multitudes of learned Christians in each century have maintained that the right doctrine clearly is that Christ will return from the heavens before that epoch, and they therefore regard the doctrine of the majority as erroneous. In the same manner the majority of Englishmen profess to believe that the Book of Common Prayer 'containeth nothing which cannot be proved by warrant of holy Scripture;' and to all is known how many thousands of learned men, occupants of the benefices of the English Church, have upheld that position for nearly three hundred and fifty years. But all the learned Scottish divines, and all the English Nonconformists, many of whom have been the equals of their opponents in literature and ability, while fully sensible of the many excellences of the Prayer Book, maintain that the New Testament manifestly contains no warrant for Prelacy, Ecclesiastical Courts, baptismal regeneration, or the compulsory support of religion. Thus, finally, the opinion of Christendom, generally, is in favour of infant baptism, and the doctrine of baptismal regeneration; yet this does not hinder a minority, scattered through Europe and America, but earnest, learned, and able, from maintaining, with Neander, that the practice of the apostles obviously was to baptise only intelligent confessors of Christ, and that infant baptism, notwithstanding its universality and antiquity, is a pernicious error.

On these grounds, then, we conclude that it is within the limits of parallel experience for Christendom to have erred even on matters so grave as those which now occupy our attention. The history of opinion shows nothing more clearly than the immense influence of ancient traditions on learned criticism, and the gross ignorance or perverseness of many of the expositors who in ancient times pitched the tune which has been diligently followed in after ages. Let any one remember the critical processes by which modern Roman divines of the first distinction operate upon the Scriptures for the support of their ecclesiastical and doctrinal system; and think also of the armies of great names adduced in support even of the most audacious portions of that system; -- and he will thenceforth learn to admit that other leading ideas in Christendom may be false and falsifying; so that even whole battalions of Protestant authorities may be found buttressing interpretations having a deceptive show of argument, while rotten at their very foundations. And it is not improbable that the errors which have proved more dangerous and pervasive than any others may be found lurking in those psychological assumptions, which, unquestioned in Europe, as in Asia, underlie in both continents the fabric of strictly theological doctrine. In Europe the doctrine of the Immortality of the Soul is the source whence has sprung the mighty determining tide of past thought on the destiny of man; and if that source has been a well-spring of delusion, its influence has extended over both time and eternity.

The general object of this book is to show that here, in the popular doctrine of the soul's immortality, is the fons et origo of a world of theological error; that in its denial we return at once to scientific truth and to sacred Scripture; at the same time clearing the way for the right understanding of the object of the Incarnation, of the nature and issue of redemption in the Life Eternal, and of the true doctrine of divine judgment on the unsaved.



THE not far from universal judgment of modern Christendom regards as one of the two foundation truths of religion the immortality of the soul; the other being the existence and moral character of God.

It is held by the Christian community, as a first principle of faith, that man possesses a spiritual soul ; and that this soul, either as the result of the simplicity of its substance, indissoluble by any natural cause acting from within or from without, -- or as a consequence of a general law fixed by the Sovereign Will, that all thinking, free, and accountable agents shall live for ever, -- or as the effect of a special decree in relation to man, -- is destined in every case to everlasting duration.

By some writers the moral relations of the soul with the Eternal Nature of God are held to necessitate a corresponding perpetuity of existence. The soul's relation to God as Moral Governor is held to involve an eternal continuance in being, to imply and compel an infinite destiny. [1]  Such arguments may impose on the imagination of devout metaphysicians, but they do not carry with them any rational evidence. It might be answered, even out of the Scripture, that while to be 'a God' to Abraham doubtless requires the eternal perpetuation of Abraham's life, the renunciation of the relationship of a 'God' to the disobedient on the part of the Almighty may involve the destruction of individual being. Human destiny does not depend, we may be assured, on any abstract ontological relation of the finite mind to the Infinite, but on the moral relations between the two, as declared by the Deity; and to be cast off by God may be to perish.

A second argument much depended on by some writers is derived from the general doctrine of the indestructibleness of substance. All things that exist, it is said, continue in being. Matter changes its form, but never passes out of existence. There is a perpetual conservation of substance and of energy. Nothing perishes. Nature makes known no example of annihilation. Combinations alter, but substance endures. This, which is demonstrably true of material things around us, must be true also, it is thought, of things spiritual. The whole analogy of nature, so far as known, is opposed to the idea of the destruction of substance; -- whence it is argued the soul will last for ever. In the poetic language of John Smith, the Platonist of Cambridge, 'Nothing dies that can discourse, that can reflect in perfect circles.' Why should mind be less durable than matter? Why should intellect vanish out of being when every gaseous atom is naturally eternal? It is to assail a fundamental law of nature to presume on the destruction of mind. Nothing was made to perish ; all substance was formed at first for an endless use under varying forms. Therefore also mind was formed to live for ever.

Such reasonings may amuse a theologian's leisure, but it is wonderful that they can satisfy as a basis of hope any serious inquirer. That the soul of man is an uncompounded substance, or indivisible essence, has never been proved, and cannot be proved. All the evidence of comparative physiology rather favours the opinion that it is a complex and therefore dissoluble structure. [2] Of its essence we really know nothing. Of the destruction of its substance we know nothing. But as, when the body dies, it dissolves, and is no more a living organism, so, if it shall please God to break up the soul, its substance may or may not remain, but its individual life will perish, and it shall be no more a soul. That the soul of man is in its nature less dissoluble than the 'souls' of animals, to use the Biblical idiom, has never been shown -- nor is likely to be shown on scientific grounds alone. All modern observation tends to the belief in the unity and continuity of nature. The sharp distinction between vegetable and animal is passing away. The sharp distinction between matter and spirit is vanishing also. Meantime this argument for immortality derived from the perpetuity of substance is equally valid for the eternal duration of all life; and no decisive anticipation of immortality for mankind as a substructure for religious faith can be deduced from a premiss which compels the conclusion of an equal immortality for the life-force of zoophytes and infusoria. [3]

A third, and more promising argument has, in all ages, been derived from the moral instincts of mankind. There is in men a widely developed instinctive expectation of survival in death for judgment. The good hope for, great souls desire, and bad men often profoundly dread, a 'something after death;' and this instinctive expectation of continued life with a view to retribution is thought to prove the soul's indestructible duration.

Men in all ages, and in nearly all lands, have looked with more or less of confidence for a life to come. The tombs of the ancient Egyptians testify to the established belief in a future state of blessedness or misery. It was not simply a speculation of the priesthood, but a fixed persuasion of the people. In every burial scroll and on every mummy-case there is a picture of the Balance of Justice in which the soul is weighed against the image of truth in the presence of Osiris, the lord of the under-world. The ancient literatures of India and China attest on every page the prevalence of a similar faith in the soul's survival. In Greece Socrates expressed in death the common hope of good men, that they had an inheritance beyond the present life. Before Germany was Christianised the faith in the soul's immortality was widely diffused over barbaric Europe. In modern ages the irrepressible instinct of survival practically triumphs in every country over the opposition of scientific materialism. No stress of physiological evidence on the structure and development of the brain, on the relation of the human brain to that of animals, on the dependence of thought on cerebral machinery, avails completely to silence the 'oracle of God' within the heart, which tells us that 'it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment.'

No valid answer, I think, can be given to these arguments, if they are taken only for what they are worth, as morally probable evidence of survival or of revival; but if we are to be governed by accurate criticism it will be seen (1) that this probable evidence of survival is far from carrying with it an  equal probability of eternal survival. The souls of men may survive for a time, and then lapse one by one into the universum, as four hundred millions of Buddhists still believe; or some may survive eternally, and some may perish. The light of Nature can give no assurance of everlasting duration for all souls. There may be a survival and a transformation, as in the example of many physical organisms, the last transformation to be followed by death. The butterfly rises from the chrysalis, yet the butterfly is not eternal. And (2) the probable evidence of survival arising from the moral consciousness, though it may hold out to men of the better sort, like Socrates, the prospect dimly seen, even of an eternal existence of some kind, whether material or immaterial, throws no light whatever on the cause or quality of that survival or resurrection. The fact may seem to be probable to the moral judgment, yet the reason of the fact be completely concealed. Thus, 'in the ever touching dialogue of the Phaedo, it is easy to distinguish between the comparative solidity of the main hope of some future life, held by the Athenian martyr, and the worthlessness of most of the arguments for pre-existence and immortality by which that hope was supported. 'Contradictories generate each other, therefore death leads to life eternal.' Plato might think it worth while, as a literary man, to spin such gossamer threads as these, but it was not by them that Socrates anchored his soul in his dying hour. No physical argument reaches further than to show that survival of the living energy is barely possible. No argument derived from the progressive nature of intellect offers solid ground until we are assured of the purpose of a benevolent Deity, which is not made very clearly known by the light of Nature. The apparent dependence of intellect on the brain, the black and ugly fact of death, and the ever-strengthening force of the argument for non-survival derived from the side of comparative biology, leaves but a faint glimmer of hope to be drawn from some imaginary law of 'everlasting progression.'
Nature 'red in tooth and claw' may be thought to yield small signs of any special regard for humanity as one species of the million who consume the fruits of the earth. No, it is the moral argument alone which carries weight, the probability of retribution or salvation by a living God. Good men like Socrates are drawn to believe, feebly or firmly, in an Eternal Justice which will receive their souls beyond. But this shows that the ontological arguments for the soul's immortality are practically valueless. The fact of survival may be correctly appreciated ; the reason of it may be concealed, or concealed from many who have rightly believed the fact. It may not result from the nature of the soul as essentially immortal, but solely from the pleasure of God, that souls of men, of the character of Socrates, will survive in death, and live for ever. It may not be in any degree from the nature of the soul, but from the purpose of God in judgment (who, adding fresh opportunities of salvation to human life, 'exacts the more,' and inflicts fresh penalties on the whole nature), that wicked men are often led instinctively to apprehend a terrible future.

Persons who accept the New Testament theology must moreover allow that no man, however 'good,' can deserve an everlasting life in happiness. All men by nature are sinful, and by their sins have deserved future punishment, of which conscience warns the wicked in some degree. Therefore nature, if it teach the immortality of the soul, might seem to teach for all sinners, that is for all men, only an immortality in punishment. But indeed nature, which is the voice of Law, teaches nothing of the kind. So far as strict evidence is concerned, we are in the dark under natural conditions as to the future of the soul, except that judgment to come looms in the distance to some men's fears. One philosopher dreams in one manner of its destiny, another in a different manner.  (See this shown with great effect in Joseph Hallet's Observations on the Soul and its Immortality, an excellent book, published in 1729.)

An affecting summary of the arguments for immortality under natural light has been given by Mr. John Stuart Mill in his recent work on Religion. They are in part cited here, because by many Mr. Mill will probably be accounted an able expositor of what nature, carefully reasoning, really teaches as to the probability of survival, on most of the grounds on which theologians have rested hitherto; and it will be seen that his judgment is not on the side of hope:--

'The common arguments (for immortality) are -- the goodness of God; the improbability that He would ordain the annihilation of His noblest and richest work, after the greater part of its few years of life had been spent in the acquisition of faculties which time is not allowed him to turn to fruit; and the special improbability that He would have implanted in us an instinctive desire for eternal life and doomed that desire to complete disappointment. These might be arguments in a world the constitution of which made it possible without contradiction to hold it for the work of a Being at once omnipotent and benevolent. But they are not arguments in a world like that in which we live. . . . One thing is quite certain in respect to God's government of the world, that He either could not or would not grant to us everything we wish. We wish for life, and He has granted some life. That we wish, or some of us wish, for a boundless extent of life, and that it is not granted, is no exception to the ordinary modes of His government. Many a man would like to be a Croesus or an Augustus Caesar, but has his wishes gratified only to the moderate extent of a pound a week or the secretaryship of his trade union. There is, therefore, no assurance whatever of a life after death on grounds of natural religion.'

To the same conclusion came the late Archbishop Whately, who says: 'That the natural immortality of man's soul is discoverable by reason may be denied on the ground that it has not in fact been discovered yet. No arguments from reason, independent of revelation, have been brought forward that amount to a decisive proof that the soul must survive bodily death.' [4]

Dr. J. J. S. Perowne, after a careful summary of all the probabilities for survival alleged by Dr. M'Cosh, M. Renan, and Jules Simon, thus concludes: 'It cannot be said that such arguments make a future life certain. They make a future life not improbable, but they do not prove it. So far as they are strong, it is because in a degree which we little suspect we bring them in aid of our Christian faith ; but apart from that faith they have no solid ground. Take away this faith, and these arguments lose their force. You are left in a world of shadows. The immortality of the soul is a phantom which eludes your eager grasp.' [5]

It offers too remarkable an analogy between the teaching of Natural and Revealed Religion to allow of its postponement to a future page in this work (as a strict method might demand), that the Scripture, regarded as the multifarious record of divine movements for man's salvation, speaks as little as Mr. John Stuart Mill, or any one else who utters the language of reason, of the abstract or essential Immortality of the Soul. Of the survival of souls in a Sheol, or Hades, it seems to speak often; of the actual eternal survival of the saved it also often speaks; but it never once places the eternal hope of mankind on the abstract dogma of the Immortality of the Soul, or declares that Man will live for ever because he is naturally Immortal.

That the doctrine of the Immortality of the Soul is never once explicitly delivered throughout the whole range of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures is a fact of which every reader may satisfy himself by examination; and it is a fact which long ago has drawn the attention of thoughtful and exact inquirers.

If the doctrine be true that the spirit of man is a deathless intelligence, a power destined by its God-imposed nature to endure as long as the NECESSARY BEING, we might surely have expected to find at least some few traces of this fundamental in the ages which were illustrated by direct communication with heaven. Neither men nor languages were so differently formed in antiquity as to necessitate a steadfast neglect of every verbal reference to an idea which is alleged to lie at the basis of the system of Redemption; and one of transcendent importance in every aspect of the case, as the zeal of its modern upholders sufficiently testifies. If Redemption, and the Incarnation of the Deity which gave it its force, were 'wasted' unless man were an immortal, and the object were to redeem him from endless misery, the idea of Immortality would have occurred at least as often as the idea of Redemption. In every other instance we obtain from the Prophets and Apostles clear and frequent expressions of the doctrines which they were commissioned to deliver; even of those which unaided reason was able to discover, as the existence of God and the difference between good and evil. But in this instance nearly a hundred writers have by some astonishing fatality omitted, with one consent, all reference to the Immortality of the Soul; no sentence of the Bible containing that brief declaration 'from God,' or even a passing reference, which would have set the controversy for ever at rest. In our own times scarcely a religious work issues from the press addressed to sinful men, scarcely is a public exhortation directed to them, without a distinct exhibition of the doctrine of Immortality, of deathless being in the nature of man, as the basis of the whole theological superstructure. Now, how shall we explain the remarkable fact that neither Apostles nor Prophets have ever once employed this argument in dealing with the wicked-- 'You have immortal souls, and must live for ever in joy or woe, therefore repent!' -- an argument of almost irresistible force, if it be true? How, otherwise than by concluding that this was not their philosophy, that this doctrine formed no part of the 'wisdom of God,' and that they were withheld from proposing it to the world by Him who has declared that the eternal life of the righteous is the gift of His grace, and that 'all the wicked He will destroy'? We are taught, in certain cases, to argue confidently from the silence of the Scriptures; and since, as in the case of the priesthood of Judah (Heb. vii. 14), the Bible has 'spoken nothing' in any of its numerous books, during the fifteen centuries of its composition, concerning man's natural or necessary immortality, one gathers courage to ask for the proofs of so important a doctrine. [6]

An eminent writer tells us, indeed, that 'this is an old and futile argument. The word Trinity never occurs once in Scripture, nor Providence. Are both, therefore, to be denied? Was there no death under the old economy, or no everlasting life for the holy, for angels, for the blessed God? The complete fact is all in favour of the common view: men are said to be mortal, but mortal or mortality is never applied in either Testament to soul or spirit.' But this is to evade the argument. In every modern sermon, prayer, and hymn you hear of 'immortal souls,' - and every modern address to man is founded on a declaration of their immortality; it is not so in any one of the many books which compose the 'Bible.' And not only is the word not used, or any equivalent in Hebrew or Greek, but no single expression of Scripture can be pointed out in which man's natural immortality is affirmed directly or indirectly, The argument is, that if the doctrine were true and important, it would not be left to divines to teach us that we are by nature immortal, any more than it has been left to them to teach us the doctrine of the plurality of Persons in the Godhead, or of God's Providence ; but it would be found everywhere in Scripture in one form of speech or another, that all men shall live for ever.

It may nevertheless be asked with reason:-- 'How is it that a doctrine which, according to you, is destitute of solid foundation in ontological fact, and which is not once explicitly acknowledged in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, has nevertheless taken a hold on the mind of the world in ancient and modern times so firm that the denial of it, even by conscientious inquirers, offers a serious shock to the religious consciousness of the age?'

The answer to this question leads us to the consideration of a remarkable portion of the method of the divine government. The practical work of man's world is carried forward for the most part under imperfect conceptions of the material system, and the practical work of the moral world has been carried forward under equally unscientific conditions. Until quite recently men laboured and navigated under a false conviction that the earth was a plane, and stationary in the centre, while the sun, moon, and stars were whirled round it by a daily revolution of the sky. It is an advantage to know the truth of the Newtonian astronomy; but much sound work was done by mankind under an unshaken conviction of the truth of the Ptolemaic theory. In the same manner an erroneous psychology and theology have for ages dominated over the western world, as over the eastern; but even under such unfavourable conditions it has been possible to answer the chief ends of being in a life devoted to the service of God. The shock occasioned by learning that, after all, there is no reason to place our hope of eternal life on the basis of the soul's immortality, but on the promise of the grace of God, is not greater than was the shock of learning, as Europe two hundred years since was compelled to learn, that the antipodes existed, that the earth was a rapidly moving globe, and that it revolved once a year round the central sun. In the ages which precede the popular establishment of physical, intellectual, and psychological truth there are interim beliefs which serve well enough the purposes of practical life, although attended with many limitations and disadvantages. There is an elementary revelation of half truth to the senses, and a subsequent revelation of scientific truth to the soul.

Such a belief has been the popular conception of the immortality of the spirit. It is, as we hold, when taken in the absolute sense, an error in philosophy and theology ; but since it earned with it the belief of retribution it has served the ends of moral probation, by extending the views of men to another state of being, and by carrying the hopes of good men forward into eternity. As Mr. Heard strongly puts it in his chapter on the ' Immortality of the Psyche ' [7] -- ' The mistake of the Greek thinkers was the most natural one in the world; so natural that they are to be excused, nay, honoured, for holding it. But for us to repeat the error is to betray willful prejudice. The one hypothesis was as good as the other as a provisional theory to account for the facts of the case. Without these hypotheses or landing-places, the heights of discovery would never have been scaled to this day. But when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part is to be done away. So with philosophic theories of existence after death. Till life and immortality had been brought to light by the gospel, it would have been reasonable to argue, as the philosophers did, that the soul does not die because it cannot die. As there was no external evidence of existence after death, they were obliged to fall back on internal. The immortality of the soul was the hypothesis which accounted very plausibly for the contradiction between man's inner aspirations and the humiliating fact of his early and untimely death. But the resurrection of Christ as the first-fruits of the dead is a fact in these moral speculations which is irreconcilable with all previous hypotheses. Either man is non-mortal because he is immortal; or he is non-mortal because the hour is coming in which 'all that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live.' Those who embrace the latter doctrine as the revealed truth of God may well abandon the interim hypotheses of a darker time.

That Christendom should have fallen back upon heathenish speculations, and returned to the beggarly elements of Asiatic and Athenian philosophy as the basis of hope, is consonant with other parallel portions of the history of European thought. Europe sentenced herself to fifteen hundred years of priestcraft and restored paganism, through forgetting the lessons of primitive Christianity. [8] The Reformation has vindicated one half of the original divine revelation against the errors of the middle ages. It may seem incredible to many that the other half at least should remain still to be rescued from the superincumbent accumulations of pagan and Gothic thought. Yet wisely does Lord Bacon warn the modern world: -- 'Another error,' says he, 'is a conceit that of former opinions or sects, after variety and examination, the best hath still prevailed, and suppressed the rest; so as if a man should undertake the labour of a new search, he were but like to light upon somewhat formerly rejected, and by rejection brought into oblivion; as if the multitude, or the wisest for the multitude's sake, were not ready to give passage rather to that which is popular and superficial than to that which is substantial and profound. For the truth is, that Time seemeth to be of the nature of a river or stream, which carrieth down to us that which is light or blown up, and sinketh and drowneth that which is weighty and solid.' [9] I must ask an indulgent application of this hypothesis to explain the facts, at least until the reader has considered the arguments of the following pages.


[1]  'As it is essentially bound up with a moral system which is undoubtedly everlasting, we have no other conclusion open to us than that the soul so constituted and related is destined for an immortal existence.' -- Peill's Immortality Proved, p. 28.

 'We hold by this principle of a God-consciousness in man, a sense of the Infinite, the Perfect, the Eternal, which stamps him with the awful character of Immortality, for it could have no root, no permanent hold in a being whose nature is merely mortal' -- A. Thompson, Doctrine, the Old and the New, p. 22.

[2] See Dr. A. Bain on Mind and Body.

[3] Mr. Peill dismisses the 'living souls' of animals into non-entity in a brief decided sentence. ' The immaterial principle in the lower animals, whose functions correspond to this sensuous element in man, not being a separate, self-conscious, and responsible nature, and being related simply to the wants of the animal body, will, in all probability, close its particular development upon the death of the body.' -- Immortality Proved, p. 15. But indeed most of the arguments on which this devout writer depends in proof of man's natural immortality will appear equally available on behalf of the animals, to one who lives in close and friendly relations with them. John Wesley is known to have entertained strong hopes of their everlasting salvation, their immaterial nature with him involving their immortality. Good news indeed for the ephemera ; but not a gospel founded on sufficient evidence.

Writers of far greater weight than Mr. Peill, the authors of The Unseen Universe, seem to allow that their physical argument for survival of some spiritual substance in man's death is of equal value for the souls of animals, standing alone. But they do not discuss the question whether they are not making a larger demand on the faith of their materialistic opponents than is likely to meet with assent, when they propose as arguments for man's survival a series of considerations which compel the simultaneous belief of the eternal existence of the whole animal creation. See p. 162, Is it not true that these illustrations of the physical possibility of survival become valuable only when the moral and religious argument for survival has been established?

[4] Archbishop Whately on Future Life, p. 17.]

[5] Hulsean Lectures on Immortality, 1868, p. 31.

[6] The Silence of Scripture on man's natural Immortality is treated with great ability by the lamented Professor Hudson, of Cambridge, U.S. Amenca, in his works on Debt and Grace in relation to a Future Life and Christ our Life. (Munroe and Co., 134, Washington Street, Boston; and G.W. Carleton, 413, Broadway, New York.)

[7] The Tripartite Nature of Man, p. 230-1.

[8] See Draper's History of Intellectual Development of Europe

[9] Bacon's Advancement of Learning.



'The notion of the separate existence of the soul has so incorporated itself with Christian theology, that we are apt at this day to regard a belief in it as essential to orthodox doctrine. I cannot, however, help viewing this popular belief as a remnant of scholasticism. I feel assured that the truth of the resurrection does not rest on such an assumption. What our Lord says, in answer to Martha's declaration, "I know that He shall rise again," when He proclaims Himself the Resurrection and the Life, is to this point. The Jews then entertained a philosophical belief of a future state. Our Lord tacitly reproves an assurance on such grounds, by His strong reference to Himself : "I am the Resurrection and the Life: whosoever believeth in me, shall live, though he die." ' -- Br. HAMPDEN, Bampton Lectures, p. 310.

WE have now reached that stage in this argument where it is necessary to commence an examination of the teaching of the Bible. This must be undertaken by us apart from any traditional theory on its verbal inspiration, for Holy Scripture loses rather than gains in authority over men's minds by the enforcement of a uniform church-doctrine respecting the mode of the origination of its various books.

The earlier chapters in Genesis are thought to bear marks of being a compilation from earlier documents, and carry with them admirable evidence of special adaptation to the limited intelligence of an infant nation. The less men know, the less they can be taught. A scientific statement of the genesis of the Earth and Man would have produced more confusion in Hebrew thought than it cleared away. There is a physical revelation made by God to the eye, which is neither infallible nor complete, which requires to be corrected by science, and the vision of the inner eye -- yet which is useful, and adapted to the ends of common life. Thus nature presents the sun and moon of the same size and distance, and alike moving in the sky. Yet we do not herein impute to the Deity inveracity, knowing well that the false impression depends on the limitations of sense and the laws of perspective, while it answers the practical purposes of human existence sufficiently well. An analogous revelation in religion was of old consigned to the patriarchs, including a cosmogony and other monuments, which received their form rather from the limitations of man than from the fulness of God. Moses wrote truth on divinity in a fashion suitable to his times, but his was the unscientific eye, the unscientific voice. To see 'God's back-parts' was the vision vouchsafed to him. He was sent to teach the world that which would not do rather than to propose a binding theory either in physics or morals. The law made nothing perfect.

The books of Moses were designed for the Church in its childhood. Partly 'because of the hardness (blindness) of their hearts,' Moses was permitted to write many things imperfectly besides the old law of divorce. Astronomy, geology, ethnology, natural history, were written for the times, and no other mode of writing them could have profited the readers. It was sufficient that there should be in every case a certain substratum of fact, and such fact we doubt not underlies even that first chapter which describes the latest act of God in the production of new organisms on earth. At the point where the world's human history joins on to the past, it was inevitable that 'clouds and darkness' should rest on the beginning of the story; and the intellectual condition of the learner dictated in that early age the law which excludes an excess of light from the eye feebly opening on the universe.

The modern objections to the book of Genesis appear to be for the most part as futile as are many of its more slavish defences. The withholding of truth is not deception; knowledge is determined by faculty and experience. Eyesight first -- then science. The father speaks to his little sons in such terms as they can understand, and are likely to profit by. When they become men it will be time to 'put away childish things.' Moses was the instructor of the world's infancy; such teaching as his was the only possible training for the time then present, with a view to the future. To ask for science at his hands, or even for strict conformity to all the facts, is to forget that darkness is necessarily the swaddling-band of mind awakening from nothingness.

From the noble poem of Genesis, embodying the general idea of Creation by an Eternal Mind, and probably the fact of a recent local action in six days, he passes on to the still mysterious ground of primeval history. After carefully studying the mythical theories, there is no valid reason known to the writer why we should not accept the history of Adam and Eve as a true narrative. It is not necessary to deny that there may have been previous human races upon the earth, as there had been previous animal races. Assuredly science determines nothing which forbids the belief that existing mankind is of recent origin, or that its introduction was accompanied by a fresh creation of animal life in some departments of nature. There is nothing in the narrative of man's creation which throws discredit on its truth. If man sprang directly from the hand of the Infinite Being (at least a more intelligible hypothesis than that he blindly forced his way upward from the brutes, as the brutes originally forced theirs upward from an abyss of dead atoms), his first stage in life must have been passed in a supernatural scene. Some persons seem to consider that the first chapter of human history ought, in order to be credible, to resemble the last. Such a narrative, however, as that of Genesis is far more credible, on the hypothesis of God's action in creation, than would be an elementary history based on any likeness in man's earliest experience to a chapter in subsequent savage or highly civilised life. The supernatural lustre that shines over Eden, so far from offering an obstacle to rational belief, is a spiritual attestation to its truth.

'Trailing clouds of glory do we come,
From God who is our Home;'

and the credit, which the subjective significance of the narrative -- describing the earliest experience of man as a trial of moral subjection to the Eternal Wisdom -- wins for it from considerate readers, is supported by all subsequent divine revelations. The belief or disbelief in a God working in nature is a potent element in the determination of scientific opinion.

It is beyond question that the fabric of Christian theology assumes the truth of this narrative as the foundation of the divine dealings with men. Christ very distinctly affirms in His teaching the murder of mankind by the Fiend. It is equally evident that the apostles of Christ make this narrative, as in S. Paul's great epistle to the Romans (ch. v. 12 -- 20), the foundation of their system, whether true or false. Redemption has for its object in part to save men from the results of the sin of Adam; and his fall, or 'death,' is referred to as established by the book of Genesis. Thus the complex evidence of Christianity, miraculous, prophetic, internal, is brought to bear retrospectively upon the credit of this early narrative, and verifies it. [1]

We purpose to treat it, then, notwithstanding the modern assumption of its mythical character, as a narrative of truth, which has received the sanction of Christ and His Apostles, and is of equal value with the gospel history, itself so abnormal. It is needless to add that under this old-fashioned view it assumes a momentous aspect, as the starting-point in the method of the divine government of the earth, for it is only as we understand rightly the primary condition of man that we can understand the ruin wrought by the powers of evil, or the redemption wrought by Incarnate Love. [2]

We proceed, then, to examine the Mosaic history.

It introduces Man upon the earth in the character of the king of the world, made immediately by God's hand in God's image.

'And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over every creeping thing. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them' (Gen. i. 26, 27).

The second narrative in Genesis thus resumes 'the wondrous tale,'--

'And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food: the Tree of Life also in the midst of the garden, and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil' (Gen. ii. 7--9).

'And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree in the garden thou mayest freely eat. But of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die' (Gen. ii. 15--17).

In attempting to fix the ideas designed by this narrative it is obviously just to insist that the main drift of Moses is such as would be apprehended by an Israelitish reader of the book of Genesis when it was first published in the wilderness.

1. The first observation suggested by the terms of the history is that, according to Moses, man was not formed within the precincts of Paradise, where grew the Tree of Life; but was created from the dust of the ground in the territory outside it, where animal life abounded, and where, as we now learn from fossil geology, death had reigned over all organised existence from the beginning of the creation. 'The Lord God took the man whom he had formed, and put him in the garden of Eden' (ii. 15). [3] This circumstance seems to point to the conclusion that if the creature so made enjoyed loftier prospects than those of the animals, to whose organisation his own bore so strong a resemblance, this was not from the original constitution of his nature, but from super-additions of grace bestowed on a perishable being.

2. The language in which the creation of man is described is such as to fix with certainty the intention of the writer. 'God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul' (ii. 7). The notion has prevailed that the design of the sacred writer here is to teach that when the body was formed of the dust, a soul was 'breathed into it' by the direct inspiration of God, which was of the immortal nature of the Creator Himself, and could never die. There is nothing more certain in criticism than that this is precisely the reverse of the doctrine intended to be conveyed by Moses.

First of all, the animation of man by the breath of God proves the immortality of his 'soul' no more than a similar asserted animation of brutes proves the immortality of their 'souls.' 'Thou sendest forth thy Spirit, they are created, and thou renewest the face of the earth. Thou takest away thy Spirit, they die, and return to their dust' (Psalm civ.). Neither does the phrase 'man became a living soul' convey the notion of his receiving an 'ever-living spirit' -- but this and nothing more -- that he became a 'living being or animal,' placed, so far as immortality was concerned, but not in respect of the image of God, on a level with other living creatures around him. The same phrase, as descriptive of the lives of beasts, is employed by Moses in describing the animals with whom 'God made a covenant ' after the flood, 'fowl, cattle, and beast' ( Gen. ix. 10). [4] The same phrase is found in the Apocalypse ( xvi. 3), to denote the fishes that died in the sea. [5]

But we have the advantage of a special comment, fixing the meaning of this phrase, from the pen of St. Paul himself. In the fifteenth chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians, he speaks of the burial and resurrection of a Christian in these terms: ' It is sown a natural body, ... ; it is raised a spiritual body, ... And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul, ... ; the last Adam was made a quickening, or life-giving, Spirit, ... The first man is of the earth earthy, ... , a man of dust; the second man is the Lord from heaven' (xv. 44 -- 47). The apostle's argument is lost in the misleading English version. The English reader must understand that the word translated 'natural' in ver. 46 (psuchicon), is an adjective formed from the noun psuche, translated soul in the phrase 'living-soul,' of the Greek version of Genesis. It is as if our word soul stood for animal, and we had such an adjective as soulical formed from it. The comment of the apostle then becomes clear. 'There is a soulical or animal body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul or animal (a phrase distinctly applied in the Scripture to the brutes); the last Adam was made a life-giving Spirit. The first man was of the earth, a man of dust; the second man is the Lord from heaven.'

Here, then, we have the authority of St. Paul for deciding that when Moses described the result of the animation of Adam by the Divine Breath, so far from designing to teach that thereby an immortal spirit was communicated to him, the object was to teach exactly the contrary, that he became a 'living creature or animal,' neither possessed of eternal life in himself, nor capable of transmitting it. And the phrase living soul is chosen, not to distinguish him from the rest of the creation, but to mark his place as a member of that animal world whose intellectual powers partake of the perishableness of their organisations.

In the same manner, the statement that God 'breathed into his nostrils the breath of life,' so far from being intended to indicate the immortal perpetuity of his nature, is specially chosen to mark his dependence on the atmosphere for his continued life. The prophet Isaiah refers to this passage with manifest design of marking man's present evanescence. 'Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils, for wherein is he to be accounted of?' (ii. 22.)

3. When, then, it is said that 'God made man in his own Image,' we far exceed the intention of the book of Genesis, if we affirm that this signifies that God made man absolutely immortal. There is, however, a need to distinguish an absolute from a conditional immortality. Just as the term mortal may be taken to signify either capable of death, or certain to die, so immortal may stand for designed to live for ever, or certain to live for ever. The answer to the question, Was man at first made mortal or immortal? depends on the meaning attached to the word. If mortal means certain to die, then Adam was not created mortal; if it means capable of death in body and soul, he was mortal. If immortal signifies designed to live for ever, then Adam was created immortal. If it means certain to live for ever, then he was created mortal. For the meaning of this venerable record plainly is that man at first was placed on trial for continuous life to be secured by obedience. If he obeyed, he should live on for ever. If he transgressed, he should die, according to the law which reigns over all other earthly organisms.

The 'image of God' then is to be taken to signify his capacity for understanding God and His works, his capacity for sovereignty, his moral uprightness, and his designed destiny to an immortal life conditional on obedience. 'God made him to be -- i.e., that he might be -- the image of his own eternity' -- as an Apocryphal writer justly declares.

But this continuous life depended at present on an external aliment. So long as Adam obeyed, and abstained from the tree of Knowledge, he was permitted to take of the tree of Life, -- the effect of which is declared in this narrative to be life eternal. 'Now lest he put forth his hand and take of the tree of Life, and eat and live for ever, -- so He drove out the man.'

The account which is given by Moses of the constitution of man at his creation differs exceedingly from that account of our nature which is given by modern psychology, and hence the inveterate custom has arisen of compelling these primitive documents to speak a language foreign to their proper meaning. For many ages the European world, in striking contrariety to the habit of the Buddhist world, has maintained the inextinguishable and eternal duration of the animating principle in our nature; knowing of no other basis of hope for a future existence; -- because rejecting the testimony of God that our 'eternal life is in His Son.' Coming to the reading of the Mosaic account of the creation of man under such views, men have compelled the narrative to speak a meaning contrary to its intention.

But of this belief there is no trace in this record. Had the Mosaic idea of human nature been that of modern psychology, that man consisted of a mortal body and an immortal soul, it is inconceivable that it should not have appeared in an authoritative account of the creation. Clearly Moses desired to say something as to man's dignity, in respect of the nature bestowed on him, for he speaks of the Divine Image; and if deathlessness be his inalienable attribute, that was the place in which to declare it. But neither there, nor elsewhere in the Bible, does Scripture confirm this lofty opinion of the nature of man. God 'made man in His own image,' -- and gave him 'dominion' over all animals, but the utmost said of him is that he became a 'living creature,' a phrase frequently applied to the animal creation itself.

The reason of this silence as to deathlessness will become still clearer if we consider the definition of humanity that prevails through the Bible. According to modern conception, the body is an inconsiderable fraction of our nature, mortal and corruptible. It is the spirit which is the true man, the unseen and everlasting personality. The body indeed scarcely deserves the name of humanity; it endures but for a moment. The soul is the Inhabitant of Eternity, the 'great Coeval of God,' the coequal of holy Angels in the possession of immortality. But in the biblical account of man's creation this grandiose style of thought is reversed. There this despised body is spoken of as the Man; 'God formed man from the dust of the ground;' and the whole being takes his name from the ground whence it sprang. He was called Adam, from Adamah, the Earth or ground. His distinguishing name is taken from that corporeal organisation which is supposed by modern idealists to be little better than a transient appendage of the spiritual humanity. And when he sinned, thereby incurring the curse of death, the words attributed to the Creator are these, 'Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return;' no mention even being made of that immortal intelligence which is supposed to constitute the veritable personality which had committed the offence.

Now in this simple psychology of the Old Testament it is noticeable that soul, or nephesh, which is attributed to man, is also frequently attributed to the animals. There is indeed no word descriptive of man's inner nature which is not also used to describe that of the animals. If man possesses ... a nephesh, soul or life (as in Gen ix. 5; 'at the hand of every man's brother will I require eth-nephesh, the life of man'), so do they: 'Ye shall eat the blood of no manner of flesh, for the nephesh, the soul or life of the flesh, is in the blood' (Lev. xvii. 14). 'Ye shall not eat the nephesh, the life or soul, with the flesh' (Deut. xiii. 23). If man possesses a ruach, ... or ... 'spirit of life' (Gen. vi. 17), so in biblical phraseology do they.' Who knoweth the spirit of a beast that goeth downward?' 'They have all one ruach' (Eccl iii. 19, 21; Psalm civ. 29, 30, (Heb.). If man possesses a neshamah, or spirit, so do they. 'All in whose nostrils was the nishmatk-ruach cliujim, breath of the spirit of life (which includes the animals, see ver. 21) died' [6] (Gen. vii. 22). The spirit which is in man is of a superior order, as 'the candle of the Lord;' he has 'more wisdom than the beasts of the field; 'nevertheless he shares 'spirit' with all animated natures, although they do not bear the 'image of God.'

The leading feature in the language of the Bible respecting Man is that it agrees in an unexpected manner with the deductions of recent science in treating humanity as an integer. In the language of Mr. Heard, --

'We have not yet reached to the point where we can say what the connection between soul and body is; but all advance is in the direction of a fusion between physiology and pyschology, when we shall neither speak of the body without the mind, nor of the mind o without the body. When two gases uniting in definite proportions combine into a new substance with distinct properties of its own, unlike those of the gases when separate, we call this tertium quid by a name of its own. For all practical purposes Water is still an element. It is not a fusion or a mixture as of water with wine, much less of one floating on the other as of oil or water, hut it is a union in which the very substances themselves of oxygen and hydrogen, and not the phenomenon only, are absorbed into a new substance with new and distinct phenomena of its own which we call water. So in the union of mind and matter in the formation of man. Man is not a mixture of mind and matter, much less an immortal mind in a mortal body, but he is the identity of two distinct substances which lose their identity in giving him his. Man is thus the true monad.' -- Heard, Tripartite Nature, p. 185.

Throughout the Scripture the sacred writers, as if acting under a superintending wisdom, have persistently spoken of this complex humanity, and not of either of its component elements, as the object of the Divine Government. Under this view the body cannot be dispensed with either for judgment, or for reward. It forms an essential element of man's nature; and apart from its destined union with that organism the animating spirit is not spoken of as the veritable humanity. [7]

When God is represented as speaking of man, He always describes him as 'dust and ashes,' or 'flesh and blood.' The blood is said to be 'the life of man,' as of all flesh. When Redemption is accomplished by the Incarnation, the Divine LOGOS is said to have 'become flesh,' to have taken on Him the 'likeness of sinful flesh,' and to have 'given His flesh for the life of the world.' And when judgment is administered to both good and bad, there is a resurrection, or reconstruction of the body, at least in some of its elements, in order that men may be rewarded according to their works. Although S. Paul explains, by the image of a grain sown, and the ear that springs from it, that there is but a partial relation between the present and future body, he nevertheless insists that there it some physical relation between them, as between the rotting grain and the springing ear. One rises from the other. Thus too Christ says, 'All that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth.' And Christ's own resurrection, the pattern of all others, was the revivification of the body which had died -- altered in form and attributes doubtless, but still in some degree atomically identical.

Now such a view of human nature seems to leave no room for the pseudo-philosophic doctrine of an Immortal Soul, which is the true human type. The dissolution of the complex nature is the death of the man, irrespectively of the destruction of its component elements. When Christ died, He was, as a man, ' destroyed ' (Matt, xxvii.). The 'shedding of His blood' was the pouring out of the 'life' of the 'flesh,' which was the shrine of the Godhead. These views of Man's nature are adhered to with marvellous tenacity throughout the Scripture, and they are such as to commend its teaching to thoughtful biologists.

The apostle Paul discusses the subject of the Resurrection of the dead, as if the hope of humanity were bound up with that supernatural consummation. The thought of the independent and eternal perpetuity of the ' soul ' of unredeemed man appears never to have glanced across his mind as affording any prospect of future bliss or future being. He does not even allow that apart from redemption, effected by Christ's resurrection, there was any hope of the temporary survival of souls; -- since the hades-state is, for good and bad, one of the miraculous results of a new probation, ' If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain, ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which have fallen asleep in Christ have gone to nothing' -- ... ; for thus he explains the term in the following verse, 'If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.' What can be gathered from this style of reasoning, except that S. Paul regarded the body of the first Adam as being formally the man, that the animating principle within us is not alone or principally man, that without redemption man would certainly go to nothing at death, and that if redemption is to be accomplished there must be a new birth of spirit -- a union of body and mind with Christ, and a resurrection from the dead?

If we have correctly interpreted the general sense of the biblical doctrine on man's constitution, the true idea of death is the breaking up of the human monad. When the complex man is dissolved he is dead, no matter what may become of the component elements of his being; just as water is put an end to, when the combining oxygen and hydrogen are separated. And as water might be destroyed in two ways, by simply separating its elements, leaving them still to exist, or by annihilating those elements, just so man's death might be brought about in two ways, -- by dividing the body from the soul or animating spirit, leaving both of those elements to exist in a different manner; or, by putting them out of existence altogether. A man may be thus said to be dead both by a Pharisee and a Sadducee; although the one would believe that the animating principle survived, and the other would believe that it had perished. The former idea of death is set forth by Christ in the words, 'Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth single, but if it die it bringeth forth much fruit.' In this case the death of the grain is its disintegration -- the breaking up of the organisation, a process in which one portion survives, to gather around itself fresh materials in a veritable resurrection. Such was His own death. The humanity was broken up, 'destroyed,' and 'poured out its life unto death,' -- but a divine and spiritual energy remained, around which God built up again the dissolved Humanity, and made that so restored God-man the Life of the World.

What shall become of the residuary elements of disintegrated organisms clearly depends in each case upon their relation to the general plan. In some instances each liberated fraction immediately seeks fresh combinations. In others, the specialised energy, as in the electric fishes, is transmuted into heat in the ensuing decomposition. In others, one of the elements, as in the flesh of beasts, becomes the aliment of living organisms. In others, the disintegration leaves one of the remaining germs to form, as in transformed insects, a new life, the same yet not the same. In others, as in the seeds of plants, a portion of the dissolving organism remains to form the nucleus of a new plant or tree, which perhaps gathers its requisite materials from the relics of the former. In others, as in the case of animals, the animating principle either passes out of existence, or is absorbed, according to Oersted, by some over-soul of Nature, or 'returns to God who gave it;' -- but in every case the destination of the component parts, when their union is dissolved, is determined by the will of God as to the future of the organism. This observation will be of value somewhat further on. In no case does the subsequent disposition of the elements affect the reality of the death of the integer. Its dissolution is its destruction. And no temptation to play upon the word ' annihilation,' in its metaphysical sense of abolition of substance, should turn the attention away from the fact that thus all living things on earth are, one by one, destroyed.


[1] In the preceding paragraphs I do not pretend to argue the case of the truth of the narrative in Genesis. It is assumed, and these pages are not addressed primarily to those who deny the authenticity and truth of the Pentateuch. My own conviction rests (1) on a persuasion of the reality of Christ's Divine Character and Miracles, and the consequent truth of His teaching -- that teaching being based on the reality of the Mosaic narrative; and (2) on the internal evidence of divine revelation regarded as a coherent whole, which lends confirmation to the earliest portions by showing their organic relation with those that follow. This is, I think, the sufficient answer to Mr. Draper's too superficial assertions on the subject in his recent book on the Conflict between Religion and Science; but men's views of what is 'sufficient' in argument differ with their spiritual states.

[2] See this drawn out in a passage from Athanasius on the Incarnation, cited in Chapter xxvi.

[3] The rabbins have a remarkable myth to the effect that man was formed in the deep places of the earth, 'made in secret,' and then, at the divine word, was borne into life by the Great Mother.

[4] Heb. nephesh hayah; Eng. V. 'creature that hath life;' Gr. ...

[5] 'Some of our readers may be surprised at our having translated nephesh kayah by living animal. There are good interpreters who have maintained that here is intimated the distinctive pre-eminence of man above the inferior animals. But we should be acting unfaithfully if we were to affirm that the doctrine of an immortal spirit is contained in this passage. The two words are frequently conjoined in Hebrew, and the meaning of the compound phrase will be apparent to the English reader when he knows that our version renders it, in Gen. i. 20, creature that hath life, or each living creature; and so in ch. ii 19, ix. 12, 15, 16. This expression sets before us the organic life of the animal frame.' -- DR. J. PYE SMITH, in Kitto's Dict. Bible, article ADAM.

[6] Even so great a writer as Dr. Delitzsch seems to have been tempted by the spirit of system, a system which has perhaps but slight foundation in the inconstant terminology of Scripture, to declare that the brutes in the Bible are not said to possess neshamah; but the above-cited passage proves this statement to lie incorrect. Dr. Petavel cites the following passage from The Hebrew National for 1867:--

'The Midrash (Bereshith Rabba, chap xii) does certainly enumerate five appellations of the human spirit met with in Scripture: but those alike designate the principle of life in man and in beast. For that spiritual essence which exclusively is the portion of man, the Hebrew language affords no term.' -- Struggle for Eternal Life, p. 39.

[7] The Ante-Nicene Fathers are full to over-flowing of the assertion of this principle -- that the soul is not man, and that the body is not man, but that Man is the tertium quid resulting from their union. The whole catena of proof will be found in the anonymous Defence of Dodwell, 1728, in a work called 'The Holy Spirit the Author of Immortality. By a Presbyter of the Church of England.' Dr. Perowne, in his Hulsean lecture on Immortality, vigorously enforces the same truth. Dr. Thom of Liverpool holds, in his book on Soul and Spirit, that the first man possessed an animal body and soul only, naturally perishing together, and incapable of procreating an immortal progeny. The immortal nature he attributes to the 'Lord from Heaven,' who confers the spirit or ..., and impresses the likenesws of His own eternity on the body and the soul. See in this connection Mr. Dale's tenth Lecture, on the Headship of Christ. -- Lectures on the Atonement, p. 401.