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ready response of beatified spirits to the incantations of itinerant lecturers and monomaniac maidens, as those whose purged spiritual instincts reluct from the sublime and significant marvels, which affixed the seal of omnipotence to the worldredeeming energy and love of the Saviour. Never have words of Scripture been more literally and amply prophetical than these, (as applied to our own times,) —“Because they received not the love of the truth,
for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:” — we forbear to finish the quotation.
On the other hand, the Christian camp numbers among its defenders not a few of the most eminent skeptics of modern times. Such was the character of Bacon, Locke, Newton, Milton, Boyle, Pascal. They had no respect for time-hallowed opinions, as such, and yielded to no merely human authority. They cast ancient systems of mechanics, astronomy, metaphysics, morals, and government, into the crucible of torturing investigation, and unearthed foundations on which the belief of mankind had reposed for centuries. They were all Christians, because they were skeptics. They were not credulous enough to admit the incongruities and absurdities involved in the rejection of Revealed Religion. They were no strangers to the doubts and difficulties in the way of its reception; but found an immeasurably larger array of doubts and difficulties in the way of the opposite hypothesis.
We can best illustrate the legitimate workings of enlightened skepticism by an example; and we will take, for this purpose, the Christian doctrine of the resurrection of the dead -a subject on which it is hardly possible that we should not repeat much that may have been often and better said, yet on which, because it is a common theme of discussion, we can all the more clearly illustrate our proposed line of argument.
In the first place, we admit a strong array of improbabilities in the way of this doctrine. There is the absence of any confirmatory fact within our own or recent observation. There is the destruction of the body by death, and the passage of its material elements into new combinations, undoubtedly, in many instances, into other human bodies. There
is the unanswerable question,-“ How are the dead raised, and in what bodies do they come?” There is the intangible, inconceivable nature of the vital principle, which no chemistry can analyze, no philosophy expound.
But, on the other side of the question, we might first allege, that the difference between man and other animals is such as to render his annihilation by death improbable. Other animals evidently do their work and complete their destiny in this world. A summer's life of the insect, two years with the bird, a little longer period for the quadruped of larger growth, has carried him through the whole cycle of his earthly experience, has given him all the knowledge that he will ever attain, has brought his nature to perfection. A dog at two years of age knows as much as at ten. The robin builds her first nest as skilfully, rears her first brood as carefully, as if she had been many times a builder and a mother. Age adds nothing to the resources of bird or beast, whether for shelter, defence, or sustenance. There are no marks of growing wisdom with growing years, no decline of juvenility till enforced by physical decay. Man, on the other hand, improves, or may improve, so long as he lives. His domain of being, thought, intelligence, enlarges; till a late old age, he may go on adding to his treasures of intellectual wisdom ; and when the senses and the apprehensive powers become blunted by the decline of the bodily frame, the moral nature may still gain strength, the virtues may be refined and mellowed, the spiritual vision may grow more vivid and penetrating. But on this career, how many fall midway or at the starting point! Humanly speaking, what an immense waste is there of undeveloped capacity, of unused power of progress, of improvable elements that hardly begin to grow! Over how much of promise unfulfilled is the grave continually closing! How incomplete and fragmentary is the condition of man, considered as an earthly being! How much is there, even in the longest and best occupied life, which looks less like living than like laying up materials for living! Especially does this seem the case, hen we consider that curiosity grows by what it feeds on, at aspiration is the invariable consequence of attainment,
wisdom and goodness, it is those who have the
most, that most feel the need of more. Here is the point at which the distinction between man and the lower orders of animated being is most sharply drawn. Other animals spend little time in acquiring, acquire only what is to be immediately used, and put whatever they acquire into full and constant use; while acquisition, without reference to immediate or earthly use, seems an innate tendency in man. It is enough for him if his mind and heart are growing richer and better, though of his inward wealth the larger part may be such as he cannot coin into current utilities, such as can in no earthly sense be made manifest or available, so that he seems to be nourishing a hidden life, feeding an under current of being which, in this world, never rises to the surface. Now, what becomes of this under current, this hidden life, this noblest portion of man's acquisition and experience? Is it sucked up by the sands, in the desert of his pilgrimage; or does it keep its own separate flow across the river of death, to spring up beyond into immortal life? Is not all this waste, this fruitless attainment, this laying up treasure for the grave, in the highest degree improbable? Has the unbeliever any mode of accounting for it? It was a difficulty strongly felt by many of the philosophers of classic antiquity, who, because there was so much in man that looked not like undressing for the grave, but like making ready for another life, came to the conclusion that he must needs live again. We deem this difficulty incomparably greater than any which rests on the theory of immortality, when the divine omnipotence is taken into the account.
We find equal improbability in the death of the human affections. When we mark the fondness of birds and beasts for their young, and see that, after a few weeks or months, they no longer recognize their own offspring, we perceive that the care of the defenceless is the only and sufficient end of the instinctive love that they cherish. But in man, when dependence ceases, attachment survives and grows stronger. It is the testimony of those who know, that, severe as is the sorrow when little children are called away, those who die in their maturity carry with them a still larger portion of the parent's heart. The affections grow with the growth of cha
racter, and are never more intense and active than on the near approach of death, when every cherished name of the living and the departed mounts to the lips, and the last strength of dissolving nature is expended in words of love and consolation for those that are to survive. If these affections are to slumber forever in the grave, why are they suffered thus to grow through life and to live in death? We receive their permanence as a pledge of immortality. If not, what else does it mean? how else is it to be accounted for? why this distinguishing attribute of human love in contrast with all else that bears the semblance of love?
All the phenomena of disease and dissolution present insuperable difficulties, unless man be immortal. If that which thinks and loves is part and parcel of the bodily frame, why does it live in undiminished and growing vigor with the mutilation and decay of that frame? How can the tongue, the hand, the foot be palsied, and the mind unimpaired ? How can the body waste to the shadow of its former self, and the soul that tenants it seem more luminous and majestic than when its tabernacle was entire and sound ? If the soul has not a separate life of its own, how can it be so clear and bright, so self-collected and earnest, so keen of apprehension, so rapid in action, as it often is up to the very moment of dissolution? Why is it that the process which Christians call disembodiment frequently enhances, to an amazing degree, the quantity of mental and spiritual life, so that the feeble grow strong, the timid bold, the slow of tongue eloquent, the lame of counsel wise, the dull of fancy rich in lofty and gorgeous imaginings? These things look not like the death of the soul. If it dies with the body, they are mysterious, incomprehensible, and constitute a most serious difficulty, for which the unbeliever in immortality is bound to give account. They attach an intense improbability to the death of the soul, far greater than can belong, under the government of omnipotence, to its resurrection and renewed life.
There are also grave difficulties, connected with the New Testament, in the way of annihilation at death. That the first Christian preachers of immortality suffered every form flnes, ignominy, and torture, that most of them encountered
an agonizing death as felons, in attestation of what they taught, is an undoubted historical fact.
And what they taught was not mere theory, in which they might have been deluded, but events of which they professed to be eye-witnesses. That they knew the person of the living Jesus, and that they were fully aware of his crucifixion, death, and burial, there can be no question; and equally little, that they professed to have seen the same Jesus alive again, to have examined the wound-marks of the nails and the spear, to have had repeated and familiar interviews with him, and to have witnessed his ascent to heaven from the last of those interviews. It is equally certain that they professed to have known persons, whom his word or touch recalled alive from the deathbed, the bier, and the sepulchre, and that they connected with these narratives, and reported, as attested by them, the confident assurance of the same Jesus that all men should live after death and forever. That they told these things, that they knew whether they were true, there can be no doubt. They were not facts that admitted of being falsely imposed upon their credence. Delusion is out of the question; for they said that they not only saw Lazarus come out of the tomb, but were at table with him afterwards — that they not only met Jesus near his sepulchre, in the dim morning twilight, but talked with him, walked with him, eat with him. If they knew these things to be false, and yet suffered and died in attestation of them, their conduct presents a series of miracles far more stupendous than those which they asserted to have been wrought by the omnipotence of God. Their imposture stands alone in the history of humanity, as its most improbable and unaccountable chapter; and the unbeliever in immortality is bound to suggest some rational method of accounting for it, before he lays any stress on the improbability of a life beyond the grave.
Now, in view of these multiplied improbabilities, the inconceivableness of the mode in which life is to be renewed after the dissolution of the body constitutes no valid objection. All the processes of creation and of life are similarly obscure as to their theory and mechanism. Birth is as mysterious as immortality - the formation of the visible world as the organ