In dealing with the question of manís redemption, we must, necessarily, consider the question of his origin and nature; and in doing this we are quite conscious of having much prejudice to contend with. There is a popular side to this question, and it has bred and fostered a sensitiveness which makes the task of reducing it to reason and subjecting it to the light of scripture quite a difficult one. He who would undertake to call in question the popular view must not hope to escape the suspicion of being a troubler, bent upon "turning the world upside down."
Those in whom truth has produced thorough conviction, will never shirk a duty from fear of popular sentiment. Truth is too precious to be bargained off for the good will and applause of the world, especially truth upon which hangs the question of what is pleasing or displeasing to Him "in whom we live and move and have our being." If it is the duty of honest conviction to face the popular prejudice at all risks in the presentation of truth, it is also the duty of every man to so far overcome prejudice as to investigate for himself in an earnest endeavor to obey the injunction, "Prove all things and hold fast that which is good."
But, the reader will say, you are assuming that the claims you are about to make are sustained by truth. Certainly, otherwise we should not attempt to brave opposition with the certainty of incurring the displeasure of the religious world, of friends and of neighbors. Whether our claims are based upon assumption, however, is the very question we beseech our readers to test, and the only way to test it is to read carefully what we say, and examine impartially the evidence given and then judge ye.
On many exploded theories the world in all ages has drifted into the habit of following the popular procession, spurning any attempt of truth to emerge from the obscurity of its shelter in caves and to break into the ranks and sound a word of warning. Perseverance, however, has many times succeeded--not that we hope to stop the procession, but the most we can hope for now is to pull a few out of the crowd and help to save them from the precipice ahead. The time for a revolution will come, but not by human effort; that honor is reserved for him who is the strong arm of the Almighty. With the few who may be willing to stop and reason we desire to reason on the question in hand.
"What is man that thou art mindful of him" (Psa. 8: 4)? is a question in which the whole problem of life here and hereafter is involved. In seeking the answer, experience and observation are not sufficient, for if you ask two men to look at a man and answer the question, What is he? two very different answers will be given. One will say he is a being composed of two natures, that he is an immortal soul and a mortal body; the former capable of surviving the latter as a living, conscious entity. The other will answer that he is a mortal being, animated by that principle of life which sustains all living beings, and without which he must cease to be.
The doctrine of the immortality of the soul has such a hold upon the people that to challenge it is to arouse the indignant question, What! all of our great men of this day and ages gone by, wrong? Nothing but the courage of strong conviction can meet this, and the question is, how best to induce it to lay down its arms long enough to reason on the matter. We think that perhaps a brief history of the doctrine would help to induce this prejudice to give place to reason, and so let us glance over this phase of the subject under the heading of
THE HISTORY OF THE IMMORTALITY OF THE SOUL
It is well known that the doctrine of the immortality of the soul is called "Platonic;" which is an implied admission that Plato was its founder, at least in its present popular form. This places the matter in a bad light at once; for who that has the least knowledge of the Bible can help viewing with suspicion a doctrine having its origin in the mind of a heathen philosopher? The Grecian philosophers were the very men of whom the apostle Paul warned the churches of Christ to beware. Writing to the church at Colosse, he says, "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world and not after Christ" (Chap. 2: 8).
If we trace the history of this doctrine farther back than the time of Plato and Socrates, its more ancient origin is calculated still more to arouse suspicion--yea, rather to stamp it with unqualified condemnation, as emanating from a nation who were the enemies of God and His people, and who groveled in the lowest depravity of their natures. These were the Egyptians, who are said to be the first to hold the doctrine of the soulís immortality, believing also, as Plato did, in the transmigration of souls through various animal bodies, and their return to a human body in a period of three thousand years. Search where we will, instead of this doctrine having its origin in the Scriptures of truth, it has emanated from heathen minds, and come down through heathen channels, at last to be united with so-called Christianity when the latter became enthroned as the religion of the State.
Herodotus, the oldest historian, says:
The Egyptians say that Ceres (the god of corn) and Bacchus (the god of wine), hold the chief sway in the infernal regions; and the Egyptians, also, were the first who asserted the doctrine that the soul of man is immortal. --Herodotus, p. 144.
Its promoters argued from that known doctrine of the Platonic School, which was also accepted by Origen and his disciples, that the divine nature was diffused through all human souls. --Mosheimís Ecclesiastical History, Vol. I, p. 86.
Even with the
originators of the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, it was a matter of
expediency rather than one of truth. As Gibbon says, "With the
people"--the ignorant masses--"it was equally true, with the
philosophers equally false, and with the statesmen equally necessary." The
"Pious Fraud" was used as a means in the hands of philosophers and
statesmen to intimidate the common and ignorant masses. With them the policy
was to do evil that good might come--to teach lies as productive of supposed
good results. They would seem to have reasoned thus: We must persuade the
masses that they have or are immortal, or never-dying souls; and that if they
do not obey the laws of the State, their souls will be preserved in misery
eternally in the fires of Tartarus; but if they are obedient to the laws of
their superiors, then their souls will be taken to the happiness of the elysium
fields. Hence Plato, alluding to this sentiment says, "If falsehood be indeed of no service to the gods, yet useful to men in
the form of a drug, it is plain that such a thing should be touched only by
physicians, but not meddled with by private persons. To the governors of the
State then (if to any) it especially belongs to speak falsely, for the good of
the State, whereas, for all the rest, they must venture on no such thing."
It is said that
The most casual examination of the Pious Fraud of the Greeks and Romans will reveal the similarity between it and the popular religious systems of our times. The Platonic and the modern beliefs in relation to the soulís immortality are identical; for the heathen tartarus the Bible term hell has been made to do service in expressing the heathen doctrine of endless misery, and the term heaven to represent that of the elysium fields. It is a question if the same "Pious Fraud" is not secretly perpetuated by the theologians of our times; and indeed it is observable that the immortality of the soul and its cognate doctrine of endless misery find more willing welcome among the ignorant masses than with those whose minds have by education been released from the slavery of a cruel delusion and a degrading superstition. Of the modern phase of this Mr. Hudson says: "Isaac Watts deserves praise for his exposure of a flagrant instance of ĎPious Fraudí by Thomas Burnet, who had advised a preacher, in sly Latin, to use the common language concerning future punishments, whether he thought them eternal or not."
When the theory of eternal torment is treated of in what quotations we make under this heading, it must be remembered that it stands related to the immortality of the soul as effect does to cause. Eternal torment is a necessary outgrowth from the immortality of the soul, for if the soul is immortal and some are to be lost, what can be done with them? They cannot be destroyed; and therefore a place of eternal misery must be provided for them.
From the "Bible Vindicated" we quote the following:
"Fitch, in his review of Tyler, on future punishment, gives the following translation of one of the early fathers in reference to eternal torment: ĎAllowing our tenets to be as false and groundless presumption as you would have them, yet I must tell you they are presumptions the world cannot well be without. If they are follies, they are follies of great use; because the believers of them, under the dread of eternal pain, and hope of eternal pleasure, are under the strongest (?) obligations to become good men.í"
It is well known that
Plato and other Grecian philosophers received considerable of their education
As the work of Christ
and his apostles progressed and prospered, in the pulling down of the
strongholds of both Jewish and Pagan superstition, and by signs and mighty
wonders performed by the apostles in attestation of their cause the masses were
becoming loosed from the thralldom of the "Pious Fraud" that had held
them in ignorant and slavish subjection, and they rallied around the standard
of "Christ and him crucified" until the pagan world was being turned
upside down, the philosophers saw that something had to be done to save their
cherished thoughts from utter destruction. In the state of unrest incident to
the wonderful revolution which the cause of Christ was effecting,
the selfish and ever watchful priests of paganism and the ambitious and
unscrupulous politicians were on the lookout. They were planning the best
methods to appropriate the new cause to their own use, and to make it
subservient to a system of selfish and ambitious priestcraft and statecraft. To
carry out their plans, they cunningly worked the scheme of amalgamating
paganism and Christianity. A little Christianity and much of paganism would do,
only give it the name of the former; and upon the great Constantinian tidal
wave they were carried up to the throne of "Christendom," where, by
decrees of councils, patronized by the emperor, they fortified themselves and
were in a position to compel the acceptance of the doctrine of the immortality
of the soul and all its cognate theories. Peter, being led by the Spirit to
forsee this, says, "There shall be false teachers among you, who privily
shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them. * * *
And many shall follow their pernicious ways, by reason of whom the way of truth
shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words
make merchandise of you; whose judgment now of long time lingereth not, and
their damnation slumbereth not"--II. Pet. 2: 3. Paul assures us that these
deceivers should cause a "falling away," and says that the
"mystery of iniquity doth already work." Here and there after the
apostlesí death we find an opponent of these heathen dogmas, as they were
stealing their way into the
For if you have
conversed with some that are indeed called Christians and do not maintain these
opinions, but even dare to blaspheme the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac
and the God of Jacob, and say that there is no resurrection of the dead, but
that the souls, as soon as they leave the body, are received up into heaven,
TAKE CARE THAT YOU DO NOT LOOK UPON THESE. But I, and all those Christians
that are really orthodox in every respect, do know that there will be a
resurrection of the body and a thousand years in
But what could an
individual protest do to stem the tide of what was rapidly becoming the popular
sentiment? The light of immortality brought to light through the gospel was doomed
to be hidden under a bushel in order to afford scope for the continuance of the
"Pious Fraud," which of course would prove profitable to the
"clergy" at the expense of the intelligence, liberty and salvation of
a plastic and helpless "laity." The "mystery of iniquity"
continued to work until the man of sin was revealed. The old Platonic doctrine
of the immortality of the soul was incorporated into the so-called Christian
religion, which then became the religion of the State. The philosophy of
Whereas, in our days some have dared to assert, concerning the nature of the reasonable soul, that it is mortal, or one and the same in all men; and some, rashly philosophizing, declare this to be true, at least according to philosophy: We, with the approbation of the sacred council, do condemn and reprobate all those who assert that the intellectual soul is mortal, or one and the same in all men, and those who call these things in question; seeing that the soul is not only truly, and of itself, and essentially the form of the human body, as is expressed in the canon of Pope Clement V, published in the general council of Vienne, but likewise immortal * * * And seeing that truth never contradicts truth, we determine every assertion which is contrary to the truth of revealed faith to be totally false; and we strictly inhibit all from dogmatizing otherwise, and we decree that all who adhere to the like assertions shall be shunned and punished as heretics."
The system of abomination which here finds vent in the decree of council and pope is the one which has profaned and degraded the name of Christ by effecting the unholy alliance between paganism and Christianity, and in this is to be seen the Antichrist so clearly described by the apostle Paul in the following words: "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; forbidding to marry" (priests, nuns, etc.), "and commanding to abstain from meats (on Friday and Lent) which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them that believe and know the truth"--I. Tim. 4: 1-3.
This system, the apostle says, shall be headed up in "the man of sin, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself against all that is called God or that is worshipped; so that he sitteth in the temple of God, setting himself forth as God" (II. Thes. 2:4).
It is by the decree of this "man of sin," with the "approbation of the sacred(?) council," and by "the canon of Pope Clement V," that the immortality of the soul is declared to be true; and it is by this Antichrist that the faithful are "strictly inhibited from dogmatizing otherwise," and commanded to be "shunned and punished as heretics." In thus maintaining the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, and other heathen doctrines by force, the "man of sin" has fulfilled the prophecy: "I beheld and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them * * * and he shall speak great words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High" (Dan. 7: 21, 25).
Now, dear reader, if
you cherish this heathen dogma, look at its origin! Look at the channels
through which it has come down to you! Look at the character of its supporters!
Look at the means employed in its support! and then
tell me what you think of a doctrine which was conceived and born in Egyptian
darkness, which was nursed and fed in the speculative heathenism of
The deeply interesting story must not be told here--how Tetzel the indulgence-monger, bearing the bull of Leo X, on a velvet cushion, traveled in state from town to town in a gay equipage, to his station in the thronged church, and proclaimed to the credulous multitude, "Indulgences are the most precious and sublime of Godís gifts; this red cross has as much efficacy as the cross of Christ. Draw near and I will give you letters duly sealed, by which even the sins you shall hereafter DESIRE to commit shall be forgiven you. There is no sin so great that indulgence cannot remit. Pay, only pay largely and you shall be forgiven. But more than all this, indulgences save not the living alone, but they also save the dead. Ye priests, ye nobles, ye tradesmen, ye wives, ye maidens, ye young men, hearken to your departed parents and friends (immortal souls of course), who call to you from the bottomless abyss, "We are enduring horrible torment, a small alms would deliver us, you can give it, will you not? The moment the money clinks at the bottom of the chest, the soul escapes from purgatory and flies to heaven. With ten groschen you can deliver your father from purgatory. Our Lord God no longer deals with us as God--he has given all power to the pope."
It will be seen that
the doctrine of the immortality of the soul is the very foundation of this
corrupt practice; and no wonder, therefore, that the papacy should go to such
lengths to maintain it. Remove the doctrine. Relegate it to heathenism whence
it came, and what would be the result to
Mr. Guinness says of this wicked system:
As to the practice of this unchangeable church there is not a statement in the following quotation which history does not abundantly substantiate: "As some luxurious emperors of Rome exhausted the whole art of pleasure, so that a reward was promised to any who should invent a new one, so have Romish persecutors exhausted all the arts of pain, so that it will now be difficult to discover or invent a new kind of it which they have not already practiced upon those marked out for heretics. They have been shot, stabbed, stoned, drowned, beheaded, hanged, drawn, quartered, impaled, burned or buried alive, roasted on spits, baked in ovens, thrown into furnaces, tumbled over precipices, cast from the tops of towers, sunk in mire and pits, starved with hunger and cold, hung on tenter hooks, suspended by the hair of the head, by the hands or feet, stuffed and blown up with gunpowder, ripped with swords and sickles, tied to the tails of horses, dragged over streets and sharp flints, broken on the wheel, beaten on anvils with hammers, blown with bellows, bored with hot irons, torn piece-meal by red-hot pincers, slashed with knives, hacked with axes, hewed with chisels, planed with planes, pricked with forks, stuck from head to foot with pins, choked with water, lime, rags, urine, excrements, or mangled pieces of their bodies crammed down their throats, shut up in caves or dungeons, tied to stakes, nailed to trees, tormented with lighted matches, scalding oil, burning pitch, melted lead, etc., etc.
Here we stop, for other things given are too horrible to repeat, and we again ask you who still hold the very doctrine from which all these crimes, cruelties and abominations have resulted, what do you think of it and its results?
The mysteries of
It is certain that it
is not in the power of the church or the pope to establish articles of faith,
or laws for morals or good works * * * But I permit the pope to make articles
of faith for himself and his faithful such as * * * the soul is the substantial
form of the human body, the pope is emperor of the world, and the king of
heaven and God upon earth; the soul is immortal, with all those
monstrous opinions to be found in the Roman dung-hill of decretals.--Lutherís
Works, Vol. II, fol. 107.
As Justin Martyr answered the Platonists of the second century, so did Tyndall those of the fifteenth:
Ye (he says), in the putting them (souls) in heaven, hell and purgatory destroy the arguments wherewith Christ and Paul proved the resurrection.* * * If the souls be in heaven tell me why they be not in as good case as the angels be. And then what cause is there of the resurrection?
Notwithstanding the strong protest of these men, according to the light they could catch in the midst of such thick darkness, the doctrine of the immortality of the soul still held its heathen grasp upon the minds of the people, and merged from Papalism into Protestantism, and is found today the foundation of popular religion in all its increased and ever increasing branches. The Bible, however, having been plucked as a brand from the fires of Roman tyranny, was opened to the people, and was no longer entirely monopolized by a selfish and dishonest clergy. To the extent that the Bible was carefully read and studied, it was once more true that the "poor had the gospel preached unto them." Here and there has sprung up a John in the wilderness, through whom the light of the gospel immortality has been caused to shine in a dark place. Coming to bear witness of that light, the truth in a measure has been revived, and in the wilderness of Romish superstition, as in the wilderness of Judea, the former in relation to the second coming of Him who is the Light, as the latter was to his first coming, the voice is heard, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord; make his paths straight." The Scribes and Pharisees of Romanism, like those of Judaism, gnash their teeth at the sound of the voices; and if their king had not lost his power to "wear out the saints," how gladly would even the daughters of Rome dance before its Herod could they thereby secure the heads of those Johns who rebuke them as a "generation of vipers," and warn their followers to "flee from the wrath to come," when the "merchants" of Rome, "who have been made rich by her delicacies, shall stand afar off for the fear of her torment, weeping and wailing, and saying, "Alas, alas, that great city, that was clothed in fine linen, and purple, and scarlet, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls; for in one hour so great riches have come to naught. Alas! Alas! for in one hour she is made desolate, with violence thrown down, and shall be found no more at all."
Now with this history before the eyes of the reader we may hope to have disarmed, in some degree, the prejudice that would indignantly refuse to calmly consider this question; and by way of gaining still more the friendship of our readers we would press upon their attention that the quotations from Justin Martyr, Luther, and Tyndall show that in protesting against the doctrine of the immortality of the soul we are in good company. Perhaps to supplement these it would not be amiss to refer to a few writers of more modern note:
The doctrine of the immortality of the soul is omitted in the law of MosesóGibbon, Vol. 1, p. 530-31.
No idea can be more erroneous than to suppose that man is an immortal being, on account of the substance of which he is composed.--George Combe's, System of Phrenology, p. 595.
As a noun nephesh (the Hebrew word for soul) hath been supposed to signify the spiritual part of man, or what we commonly call his soul. I must confess that I can find no passage where it hath undoubtedly this meaning.--Parkhurstís Hebrew Lexicon.
Before examining the highest authority, the one that must forever settle the question, it may be profitable to view the subject from the standpoint of nature, for if we find from history and nature that the evidence is against the doctrine the satisfaction of finding the Scriptures in harmony with these will be all the greater. So let us consider the question:
DOES NATURE TEACH THE IMMORTALITY OF THE SOUL?
We behold man a living, breathing, thinking creature, possessed of what we call the five senses--seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling and tasting. Viewing him as we see him in the exercise of his various functions, forbidding the play of imagination, and excluding the influence of theological training, do we find anything in him that may be set down as proof that he is possessed of an immortal, or immaterial soul? Does the fact that he can see and hear, smell, taste and feel prove it? If it does, then it proves the same for every creature possessed of these senses. The five senses are exercised and experienced by contact, in some form or other, with objects; and it is the same whether in the lower animals or in man. Is it, as some claim, that "the eyes are the windows of the soul?" If so, then what are the eyes of all animals the "windows" of? Why do they have "windows" if there is nothing in them to use the "windows," to look out through the "windows?" The eyes of the lower animals serve the same purpose as the eyes of man. They produce sight in both. There is a use for the eyes of the animal and there is something to "look out through the windows." What is it? Is it not the animal itself? the living, breathing (if not the thinking) animal? When the eyes of the horse strike an object, it is the horse that sees, and when any part of the animal comes in contact with any other substance, it is the horse that feels. Why is it not the same with man--why is it not the living, thinking, breathing man that "looks out through the windows," or that sees? Call the horse a soul--for that is what he is, a living creature--and then we may say, "The eyes are the windows of the soul," and yet never dream of an inside horse-soul, separate from the living, breathing horse. Call the man a soul, and forbidding the play of imagination and excluding the influence of theological training, why not say, "The eyes are the windows of the soul," i. e., the living, breathing, thinking man sees with his eyes, and not that there is an inside soul entirely separate from the physical man we behold?
It is not claimed that the immortal soul is visible. When we examine man from the natural standpoint we cannot see the immortal soul. If we believe there is one it is not because it has come in contact with the five senses--either any or all of them. Our five senses will not reveal to us an immortal soul in man or beast. It is no use to try to find it by sight, hearing, feeling, tasting, or smelling; and since these are the five natural senses, and we are considering the subject from a natural standpoint, there is no natural sense by which to discover it. If it is discoverable at all, it must be by supernatural means, which we will examine further along.
But, it will be said, there is something back of the five senses; because sight, hearing, feeling, etc., are not mere contact. True, there may be contact without feeling, or without producing the experience of any of the five senses; there must be "something" to take cognizance of contact--to feel pain or pleasure; but what is that "something?" If we, for the want of any natural law of demonstration, imagine it is the immortal soul, then we have over-reached the mark, because that "something" experiences the results of contact in animals as well as in man. What is it that makes the animal conscious that any part of its body has come in contact with another substance? In other words, where is the seat or center of consciousness in the animal, to which the fact of contact is instantly carried by the electric nerve wires of its natural being? Can we, by the use of our natural senses find the center? If we can find it in the animal, shall we not be in a fair way of discovering its seat in man? Well, we shall not look for it in its feet, nor in its body; but, instinctively, we shall go to the head of the animal, and when we remove a portion of the skull, we shall find that by pressure upon the brain we are able to stop the consciousness from taking cognizance of contact--the five senses will cease to perform their functions. The animal will be in a state of insensibility. Why is it that the contact of the foot with another substance is not felt now? If it were the foot that felt, it would still feel, but an interference with the brain is what has stopped the sense of feeling, and what does this prove? It proves that the brain is "headquarters" of the animal institution, and when it is prevented, by natural causes, from performing its natural functions, there is no consciousness, no experience of pain or pleasure, no knowledge, no thought.
When the animal is in its normal state, the fact of any part of its body coming in contact with another body is felt because by the electric nerve-wires the fact is communicated to the nerve-center, the brain, and then causes sensation; pain or pleasure is experienced, and knowledge produced, which is retained in the storehouse of memory, and used, practically, according to the degree of intellectuality possessed by the creature. The very same is true of man, and therefore, so far, we have found no reason, viewing the subject from the standpoint of nature, for manís possession of an immortal soul.
The metaphysician asserts that matter cannot think, and upon this he proceeds to build his theory, adding, "Man thinks, therefore he is more than matter." In the same manner it might be asserted that matter cannot see; the horse sees, therefore he is more than matter. Logic will lie if it is based on a false premise. Who is to say what matter can or cannot be made capable of doing when fearfully and wonderfully organized and vitalized by the creative hand of Omnipotence? What is it that feels, sees and hears in the horse--yea, what is it that thinks and retains thoughts, manifesting them in memory, in some animals, too, in a higher degree than in some men? Who will be presumptuous enough to assert that it is not matter? If it is anything besides matter in the animal then the mark is overreached again, in proving the animal in possession of an immateriality which is desired to be limited to man. If thought is the property and product of immateriality, then nothing material can affect it; the one cannot come in contact with the other, and therefore they cannot interfere with each other, any more than an act of congress can collide with a locomotive. But we do find that materiality may interfere with thought, that one material substance producing pressure on another--the brain--will put a stop to the evolution of thought. Numerous experiments have proved this, and observation demonstrates it every day. From the American Advent Review the Bible Vindicated quotes the following:
Prof. Chapman in one of his lectures, says: "I saw an individual with his skull perforated, and the brain exposed, who was accustomed to submit his brain to be experimented upon by the late Prof. Weston before his class; his intellectual and moral faculties disappeared on the application of pressure to the brain. They were held under the thumb, as it were, and restored at pleasure to their full activity by discontinuing the pressure."
The most remarkable case, however, is that given by Sir Astley Cooper, in his "Surgical Lectures," as follows:
A man by the name of
Jones received an injury to his head while on board a vessel in the
These facts are sufficient to show that men and animals are dependent upon matter, in the form of brain, for the power of thought, and that it is the living brain that takes cognizance of contact, and is, therefore, the center to which facts that come within the range of the five senses are carried to be intellectually dealt with. When communication with this center is cut off, or when the brain is injured, consciousness and intellectuality cease in all creatures possessing these powers.
There is no use denying that there are degrees of intelligence in men and animals. It is a fact that is patent to observation and experience that the shape of the head is quite a consideration in the question of degree of intelligence, both in the creature and man, a fact that can never be accounted for upon the hypothesis of thought being a property or product of an immaterial soul--that which has no shape, because it has no substance, cannot be seen, felt, weighed or measured--which is supposed to possess the power of thought independently of the body, and, indeed, if the body has anything to do with the evolution of thought at all, it is a hindrance rather than a help; and it is claimed that the soul thinks more perfectly when disembodied than when it is imprisoned in the body, although it is difficult to see how a material body could affect the functions of an immaterial entity; and if this difficulty could be explained in relation to man, we should still have the fact that thought, in various degrees--according to the "shape of the head," too--is manifest in animals. Moreover, it is a fact that the degree of thinking powers in the animal ascends in proportion to the extent the shape of its head approaches to that of man. When these facts are recognized it will be evident that instead of there being a necessity of going from the material to the immaterial to account for thought, we are driven to the position that it can be accounted for upon no other principle than that it is a product of electrically vitalized matter--a position which necessarily forces us back to a First Cause, possessed of infinite wisdom, which, in the impartation of the vitalizing power, impregnated it, as it were, with a will force that determined what should be its functions according to natural laws.
The metaphysician and the theologian claim that God is immaterial, and that the soul is part of God and that it is therefore, immaterial--without body or parts. Without stopping to notice the absurdity of that which is without parts being a part of that which has no parts, we may ask, When does this supposed part of God, which is claimed to be the thinking entity, take possession of the body? Is the question of whether a body begotten by natural laws shall be supplied with an immortal entity decided by the laws of nature, or is it decided by the direct will of Him of whom the soul is claimed to be a part? It would be difficult to see how natural laws could reach up to heaven, into the very presence of Him who dwells in light unapproachable, and snatch millions of parts of Godís very essence, transform them into individuals, intellectualities--some of them--and deposit them in their respective bodies as these are forced into the world, some of them in direct opposition to the laws of God, and in the lowest depths of depravity, and the offspring of the worst crimes. To commit oneís self to such a theory would surely be to defy nature and give it power to even enter heaven in defiance of the moral laws of God.
On the other hand, if the question of the supply of the immaterial entities in proportion to the demand of material receptacles is determined by a special decision of God in each case, then why is there so much partiality shown? Why are some of these "thinking entities" possessed of so much greater superiority of intellect than others? Why are some not able to think at all--why are there idiots? Moreover, if the thinking entity comes direct from God, why is there not the power of thought in infancy that there is in maturity? And why is not the mind as strong in old age as it is in the full bloom of manhood? Is it that the immaterial grows and declines with the material? and if the material is dwarfed, the immaterial is proportionately dwarfed? This would make immateriality, after all the effort to seek for the power of thought in it, dependent upon materiality, and thus defeat the object in view in refusing to see that vitalized matter thinks.
Again, a manís mind is largely affected by what he eats and drinks. Look at the man tottering and reeling in a state of intoxication. Listen to his foolish talk, and then let us ask, What is the cause of this? To answer that he has been drinking intoxicants is not enough; another question must be answered, viz.: Why has the drinking of intoxicants by the body affected his mind, if the mind is no part of matter--the body--but is the product of an independent entity which is not matter? Are we not driven back to the position that it is matter, in the form of vitalized brain, that is the thinking part of man and animal, and that certain kinds of material things are adapted to affect other certain kinds of material substances; that intoxicants will inflame and excite the brain, throw it out of its normal state into an unbalanced condition, and the incoherent babble of the inebriate is the result?
There are thousands of poor unfortunate people in a state of insanity. How is this to be accounted for, except upon the principle recognized by the reasonable physician, that it is the result of transmission from parent to child, according to (abused) natural laws, or of impairment or disease of the brain? If thought is not a property of matter, what is the use of placing an insane person in the hands of a physician? Surely his professional skill is limited to the domain of matter; and any treatment from him must be based upon the principle that what will restore the brain to a healthy state, or what will remove a disease from any part of the body that affects the brain, will restore soundness of mind. Were he foolish enough to believe that the mind is the product of an immaterial entity, he would never try to reach it with drugs nor by surgical operations; he would do as the heathen do--turn the patient over to the priests and the gods, who alone are supposed to have jurisdiction in the realms of immateriality.
Upon the hypothesis that every man is possessed of an immaterial entity, and that he depends upon it for his mind, how absurd to believe that insanity is transmissible from generation to generation? If mind comes direct to the child as a quality of an immaterial soul, why do we see traits of character--mental and moral habits--inherited from parents? Mental traits and powers possessed by parents are generally manifest in their children, a fact which is accounted for by what common people call "running through the blood." Bitterness or sourness of the fruit of a tree is transmitted, and no one is foolish enough to claim that these qualities are supernaturally infused into it. Why not allow the same natural laws to operate in man in the production and transmission of temperament, mental powers, and moral proclivities? We should then see that the many faults, idiosyncrasies, idiocy and imbecilities "bred and born" in men are not infused into them as qualities of an immaterial entity direct from heaven; but that they are the results of disease and, many of them, perversion of natural laws, generation after generation.
It has been claimed by some that while thought is a quality of an immaterial soul, the brain is necessary as a channel through which it operates during natural life; and that upon this principle the fact of mind being affected by body is to be accounted for. But instead of this explaining the matter, it only presents the absurdity of the immaterial being affected by, and dependent upon, the material; and a philosophy that would volunteer such a theory to extricate itself from a difficulty only manifests the straits to which it is given to hide itself from the light of reason. To admit that the brain is necessary as a channel for the soul to think in man is to lay down a principle that would prove the possession of thought in the animal to be the result of an immaterial soul operating through the channel of the brain, and therefore prove too much. It will not do to try to evade the force of this by splitting hairs to divide instinct from thought, using the former term in relation to the animal and the latter in relation to man. That is only an artificial distinction--a distinction without a difference, when considered in relation to the intelligence of some animals as compared with that of some men; for it must be admitted that such a comparison in many instances gives a verdict in favor of the animal.
But suppose we grant for a moment that the soul as the thinking entity operates conjointly with and is dependent upon the brain for the evolution of thought, what then becomes of the theory that it continues to think when the body, with its brain, lies silent in the dust of death? If it depends upon the brain for thought in life then in death there can be no thought. It will not do for philosophy to imagine that when the brain is gone another channel will be provided; for that would be going into realms of imagination, and stepping on ground that is forbidden philosophy, revelation being the only means of determining its truth or falsity, and that we will consider further along. It is certainly reasonable and logical to reduce this theory to the following syllogism, which will show that it defeats the very object it seeks to maintain: The soul is dependent upon the brain for thought; the brain dies with the body; therefore when the body is dead the soul cannot think.
Nature stands by and sees one who is to be subjected to electrocution; the subject receives one shock and he is unconscious, but signs of life are manifest. He receives another, and nature pronounces him dead and therefore unconscious, while the priest steps to the front and boldly, however absurdly, exclaims, "No, he is not unconscious." Nature asks the "Rev." gentleman, "Was the man unconscious after receiving the first shock?" "Yes." "And do you mean to say that while the first shock nearly killed and struck the man unconscious, the second absolutely killed and yet struck him conscious?" and the priest answers, "Y-e-s," and proceeds to abuse Nature for being too critical and for encroaching upon ground that belongs only to a monopoly that enriches itself upon disembodied ghosts and immaterial entities.
We behold man as he approaches the verge of death, after a long and struggling life. As his body declines his mental powers gradually weaken and wane, until he is in his "dotage." Then he lies helpless upon his dying bed; and soon, while there is little life remaining, consciousness ceases, and at last the lamp of life goes out, and he who once lived is now dead; he who once talked is now silent; he who once could see now sees no more; he who once could hear is now oblivious of all sound; he who once thought has ceased to think--he is dead.
There nature leaves him, and that is as far as it will take us in the investigation of the question, Is the soul immortal? If there is a future life, it must be by a resurrection, a doctrine that nature will not teach and prove to our satisfaction; and if there is to be a resurrection of the dead, we must derive our knowledge of it from Revelation, in the realms of which we will now proceed to further investigation. The only satisfactory way to settle the question of the immortality of the soul is to appeal to Him who is the author of our being. We depend upon Him for the knowledge of our origin and He has been pleased to reveal the particulars to us of manís formation, what he was formed out of and how he was made a living being. In accepting His explanation we shall not have to do it in spite of true science and philosophy, but we shall find that facts and revelation perfectly agree, so our question now shall be, Does the Bible teach the immortality of the soul?