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ART. 1.-THE MORAL ARGUMENT FOR IMMORTALITY..
The argument for another life which nature affords is, by different parties, variously estimated at from zero to conclusiveness. We place it midway between them.
Granted, that reason did not originate the idea of a future state. Her argument implies a taste for abstract science, which implies a state of civilization, and this, in turn, implies the bonds of morals and religion : granted also, that the voice of philosophy concerning a future state is rather that of hope than of conviction, and that the reasonings of ancient sages would not satisfy us, and led them to believe in the pre-existence of the soul : yet may reason construct an argument important and impressive, fitted to resolve doubts, answer cavils, develop harmonies between nature and revelation, and create an antecedent probability which may prepare the mind to receive the Scripture revelations; an argument sufficient, of itself, to lay men under obligations to act as if it were demonstrative, seeing that probability is the only guide of human life, though not adequate to restrain the passions or assuage the woes of the masses of mankind. Of this argument four things may be premised.
It is cumulative: each element of the series has an independent power and a separate influence upon the conclusion, so that its strength is to be estimated not by its weakest part but by the combined force of the whole. It may be compared to a number of chains arranged to sustain the same weight.
It is progressive: it acquires increased force as man advances in civilization : we may infer that when he reaches his highest state of culture, which is his most natural state, it will shine as the noonday sun.
FOURTH SERIES. VOL. XII.-1
It is partial : though it may not reach the conclusion, there is a reserve of proof and argumentation by which it may be supplemented.
It is difficult, among Christians, to eliminate it, since we cannot, if we would, divest ourselves, even for an hour, of the influences of our faith.
It may be divided into the metaphysical and the moral. Let us limit ourselves to the latter : the former is merely negative. In passing we may sum it up. We cannot prove that death does more than dissolve the body ; but the soul is not the body. Some claim that this argument has an affirmative value, and allege that we have the same reason to believe that the soul survives the dissolution of the body as that the ultimate particles of matter do; but this is not sound; the belief that the particles of the body survive death rests upon experimental proof. A better affirmative argument is in this form. We believe that the soul will continue with all its attributes unless it be altered or destroyed by death. We are satisfied that death will not alter or destroy it. Thus we have the same kind of probability that the soul will exist after death as that the sun will shine to-morrow, though not in the same degree. This probability is strengthened by many analogies, and often by the phenomena of dying. In the agonies of dissolving nature, when the body has been worn to a skeleton, and its most important organs are decayed, the soul sometimes rises with transcendent energies; instead of being carried down with the body, it feels as though it could soar aloft bearing the body on its wings. When you accompany your friend conversing, step by step, as he passes to the door of death, and hear his voice, still pregnant with living thought, until the very door closes upon him, you naturally believe that though he is hidden from your view he still lives.
This argument, resting upon the distinction between the living powers and the animal body, would prove also the immortality of brutes. At such a conclusion many revolt: no wonder, for it carries with it the immortality, not merely of horses and lions, but of frogs and flies. This revulsion is, however, greater at first than upon refection. Suppose all animated beings immortal, the Almighty, in immensity and eternity, may have modes of disposing of them that we know not; or they may exhibit latent faculties or undergo transformations of which we have no conception; or, on the other side of the grave, as on this, there may be innumerable and diversified orders of being. But let us not overestimate the affirmative force of the argument; it is not demonstrative, only probable. Admit that the soul is naturally immortal, who made it so? God. Cannot he who made it so make it otherwise ? Grant that the soul is not
naturally immortal, cannot God make it so? We come then, after all, to the will of the Creator. Prove the natural immortality both of man and beast, yet, if it can be shown unreasonable that the latter should survive death, we can readily suppose that God will annihilate it; and while the soul of the beast goeth downward, there may be abundant reasons why the soul of man should go upward.
An objection has been brought against the very foundation of the metaphysical argument. The distinction between the primary and secondary qualities of matter is denied by some philosophers. Suppose they abolish it, and demonstrate that extension, impenetrability, etc., are no more properties of matter than color or sound, leaving us nothing but phenomena from which to reason. What then They answer : “ The mental phenomena are dependent upon
? the material, so that when the latter cease the former will also." But this is assuming what cannot be proved, for the same consequent may follow from different antecedents. Whatever may be the affirmative value of the metaphysical argument, its negative force is irresistible. It sets the question upon the platform of neutrality, and prepares us for the proper positive argument--the moral. This is founded on a comparison of our nature with our condition and circumstances. It may be divided into three heads, namely, arguments founded, first, upon the intellect; second, upon the heart; and third, upon the conscience. We can give but a glance at each.
The intellectual capacities of man are out of proportion to his present state; he needs a future one fully to develop and employ them. It is otherwise with every thing around him. Should a bird, a beast, or a fish live a million years, would it acquire any new powers, or enlarge its capacity of enjoyment or usefulness? Its instincts are perfect in the infancy of its being, its members are soon matured to the greatest extent desirable in its sphere, and its senses and soul, so far as we can perceive, are incapable of improvement. Man, endued with reason and speech, is capable of progress in knowledge, happiness, and usefulness. Every discovery he inakes increases his ability for further researches, and there is no setting bounds either to his attainments or his achievements-to the number of his ideas, the sublimity of his conceptions, or the range of his thoughts. The conceptions of brutes are limited to earth and time. If man's life is confined to the present sphere, why should his thoughts stray beyond it? Why, passing the bounds of time and space, is he permitted and prompted on wings of imagination and hope, to expatiate in the infinite and soar into the eternal ? He stands on a platform from which he surveys two immensities. By the aid of the microscope, he looks downward upon worlds on worlds
below him. By the aid of the telescope, he looks upward to worlds on worlds above him. He obtains a glimpse of two eternities, the eternity past and the eternity to come. His aspirations correspond to his position. After he has mapped the globe, navigated the seas, explored the caves, ascended the mountains, classified all minerals, and vegetables, and animals, and determined their properties, habitudes, and laws; analyzed earth, air, water, and even the human mind; applied the forces of nature to accomplish his purposes ; weighed, named, and numbered the planetary worlds, measured the heavenly spaces and discovered the laws of celestial motions; traveled on the pages of history backward to the creation of man, and on the pages of nature, God's elder Scripture, backward still over those geological epochs which bring us up to creation’s dawn, and forward by the prophets' light to the period when time shall be no longer, he is still athirst for knowledge. He desires to pierce beyond ; he has seen but a speck, and it has made him cry out,
Great and marvelous are thy works, Lord God Almighty !" what will be his rapture and adoration as he moves onward! He would ascend from planet to planet, from star to star; he would climb up the zodiac and explore the distant nebulæ; he would pause at each world to study its geology, its geography, its botany, its philosophy, its animal wonders, its natural scenes, its rational inhabitants. He would commune with these, would learn their history, their relations, their religion; above all, he would know more and more of their Maker; he would aspire after him and adore him evermore: yet he finds his lofty mind imprisoned in a body, vexed with temporal cares, doomed to spend its chief energies in supplying animal wants, and limited to a petty scene on which his vast conceptions cast supreme contempt. The argument may be thus compressed: The means of Divine wisdom are proportionate to its ends. If this is the only life, the capacities, conceptions, and desires of the human soul are not proportionate to its ends. Therefore, if this is the only life, they are not the bestowments of Divine wisdom. Grant the premises, and the only escape from the atheistic conclusion is in the admission of a future state, We are told, however, that we are not judges of the suitability of means to ends in the providence of God; that what appears to us surplus power and machinery may not be. This is true in all cases of which we have but partial knowledge, but in this instance the whole case is before us. It is alleged that many desires were not intended to be gratified, as the wish for continued health and for higher degrees of happiness in the present life. Both of these however, may be canceled by the higher desire of a future state, with reference to which they may be