Luther A Fox.

Evidence of a future life : from reason and revelation online

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THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY

Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations



PRESENTED BY THE

NATIONAL TEMPERANCE SOCIETY

JANUARY 1917



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EVIDENCE OF A FUTURE LIFE,



FROM REASON AND REVELATION.



" ;^a8 man witbin him an immortal seed^
EJr does the tomb take all? "



BY

LUTHER A. FOX, D. D.,

PROFESSOR OF PHILOSOPHY IN ROANOKE COLLEGE.



PHILADELPHIA:
LUTHERAN PUBLICATION SOCIETY.



/ /9501J'






Copyright, 1890,



LUTHERAN PUBLICATION SOCIETY.



TO

My Wife,

HENRIETTA C. FOX,

whose; sympathy and hei.p have made this work
possible and piveasant.

I.. A. F.



JV/io hath abolished death and brought life and immortality
to light through the Gospel. — Paul.

" To me the existe^ice of another world is a necessary supple-
m,ent of this, to adjust its inequalities and imbtie it with moral
significance.''^ — Thurlow Weed.

^^The doctrine of the souVs immortality cannot be established
by rigid demonstration^ any tnore than that of the Divine ex-
istence. But in the one, as in the other, there are necessary
principles involved which work to obvious facts, and issue in a
connectio7i which m,ay be described as natural'' — McCosh.

'■''The importance of a clear and well-founded belief in an
eternal destination can scarcely be overrated. It elevates, com-
forts and sanctifies ma7i with a peculiar power, whilst the re-
sistance of it ordinarily brings about the fnost unfortunate
results for religion and morality, as well as for the cause of
humanity. ^^ — Van Oosterzee.

" 3Ty own dim life should teach me this.
That life shall live forevermore,
Else earth is darkness at the core,
And dust and ashes all that is. ' '

Tennyson.



CONTENTS.



PAGE

CHAPTER I.
The Need and Character of Proofs of Immor-

TAIvlTY II

CHAPTER II.
Argument from Anai^ogy 27

CHAPTER III.
Universal Beuef 43

CHAPTER IV.
Conscience 78

CHAPTER V.

INTEI^LECTUAI. POWERS 99

CHAPTER VI.
Sensibilities 112

CHAPTER VII.
Condition of the World 128

CHAPTER VIII.
Evidence from the Bible 150

CHAPTER IX.
Proofs from the Old Testament 171

(V)



VI CONTENTS.

PAGE

CHAPTER X.
Proofs from thf Nfw Testament i88

CHAPTER XI.
Soui, AND Life 210

CHAPTER XII.
B101.0GY 225

CHAPTER XIII.
RE1.AT10N OF Mind and Body 240

CHAPTER XIV.
Nature of the Mind 257

CHAPTER XV.
Sensation 277

CHAPTER XVI.
The IMMATERIA1.1TY OF THE Soui, 291

CHAPTER XVII.
IMMORTA1.1TY OF Brutes 295

CHAPTER XVIII.
HiSTORiCAi, Sketch of Phii^osophic Bewef 307

CHAPTER XIX.

PRACTICAI, RESUI.TS OF DlSBEWEF IN A FuTURE IvIFE. • 355



PREFACE.



n^HIS book was commenced as the first part of a
work on Eschatology, but it is deemed better to
publish it as a separate and independent volume.
It has been written because it seemed to be needed.
No one observant of the current thought among
reading people can fail to notice a feeling of uncer-
tainty and doubt as to a future life and a desire for
clearer evidence. There is a want of fixed opinion.
Many are respectful towards religion because they
are not sure that there will be no future retribu-
tion, but their doubts neutralize religious impres-
sions and paralyze their spiritual energies. They
would be glad to accept the truth if they knew how
to find it. Much of the seeming weakness of the
Church and the lack of power in the pulpit has its
true explanation in the absence of a faith in our
immortality.

There are Christians who have not attained
(7)



8 PREFACE.

intellectual satisfaction. They have religious faith,
but they would like to have proved to their under-
standings what their hearts accept.

This uncertainty has been felt in all ages. It is
due in our day to the fact that fundamental beliefs
are being subjected to a thorough re-examination.
It is known that some of the old proofs of immor-
tality have lost much of their force, but it is not
known how many remain untouched. Science has
made wonderful discoveries, and there is a suspic-
ion, encouraged by reckless speculators, that it has
been proved that there is no other life.

The lack of satisfaction arises in part, also, from
a failure to consider the nature of the only possible
evidence in this question. If one looks for demon-
stration where demonstration is impossible he must
go away dissatisfied. It is of the greatest import-
ance to know the kind of proof to be expected and
upon which he must form his judgment.

The aim of this book is to show the nature of the
proof of a future life and to set forth the evidence in
the light of the present. The author from personal
experience and from association with educated



PREFACE. 9

young men knows how to sympathize with honest
doubt. He appreciates the cravings of the heart
and the mind, and has sought to deal frankly and
fairly with them. He has tried to state honestly
and fully every objection that fell under the line of
his discussion, to minimize no difficulty and mag-
nify no proof. He has endeavored to present the
truth in its true light and leave it to the judgment,
of his readers. How well this aim hd!s been met, .
and the field been covered by this book the public-
must decide.

The plan will be so easily seen that only a word
in regard to it is necessary. In the first chapter
there is a general view of the nature of the argu-
ment. To the eleventh chapter there are positive
proofs. The following seven are chiefly defensive.
They are necessarily largely metaphysical and the
facts are condensed, sometimes it may be to a little
obscurity. The historical review proves to be a
strong argument. The last chapter shows the
truth by the results of disbelief.

So many references are given in the body of the
book that no general acknowledgement is required.



lO PREFACE.

The author has drawn from his general reading
and has used, doubtless, the thoughts of other
writers while mistaking them for his own, but
the most important question is not in respect to
originality but truth.

The author must be excused for expressing the
hope, as he parts with this little book, that it may
accomplish some good in the world.

ly. A. F.

Roanoke College^ October^ i8go.



CHAPTER I.

THE NEED AND CHARACTER OF PROOFS OF
IMMORTALITY.

WHAT is after death? This is the greatest
problem of the world. The question as to
our origin, often coupled with it, is much less im-
portant, for it has only a speculative value except
as it helps to determine our eternal destiny. We
want to know from what we came that w^e ma}^
learn what we are to be. The desire for immortal-
ity is universal, and it increases in force as we rise
in nobility and worthiness of character. It is
quickened under a sense of danger of losing it.
The current of scientific opinion tends towards the
belief in a future life. There is a "visible diminu-
tion in the hostility once entertained by science to
the idea." But as so many old faiths have been
shaken there is a fear in the public mind that the
fouudations upon which this rested has been un-
settled. Anxiety because of the great interests in-
volved makes a new demand for the proofs that
death does not end all.

The discoveries in science and philosophy wathin
(II)



12 EVIDENCE OF A FUTURE LIFE.

the present century has brought some new light to
this problem. Biological studies and physiological-
psychology have taught us much upon the nature
of life, and the relation of the body to thought.
We have learned more of the methods of nature in
the development of the world. Our acquaintance
with the range of law in all directions has been ex-
tended. We may not be ready yet to determine
the final bearing of the new truth upon the faith
in our future existence, but we may gather up the
results already attained and see the trend of scien-
tific investigation. We may learn how many of
the old proofs remain to us, what new ones have
been furnished, and some of the tendencies of the
higher thought upon this subject. We may see
very clearly that nothing now known warrants the
opinion that science has proved or will ever be able
to prove that there is no future life, or if there is,
that we can know nothing about it.

By a future life or immortality, we understand a
continued conscious existence. The Materialist
and the Pantheist speak of immortality, but not of
a conscious self after death. As one of them has
said, "We believe in an immortality, not of the
individual but of the race.'^ David's Positivist's
Primer has expressed that common faith a little



NEED AND PROOES OF IMMORTALITY. 1 3

more fully: ''We believe that there is a real im-
mortality for man, both objective and subjective,
but no conscious life hereafter so far as our facul-
ties go." Harrison still more clearly said: "It
may be useful to retain the words soul and future
life for their association, provided we make it clear
that we mean by soul the combined faculties of the
living organism, and by future life the subjective
effects of each man's objective life on the actual life
of his fellowmen." The Materialist does not deny
that the separate powers, which in combination
constituted life, continue to exist. The doctrine
of the correlation of forces, now universally ac-
cepted, prevents him from believing in absolute
annihilation. But according to Materialism we
lose at death our identity, and we continue to
exist only in other forms. The organism is de-
stroyed, and with it mind and self perish. The
elements which made us are dissipated and enter
into new and diverse combinations. The Pantheist
may believe in the unity of the personal force and
regard it as something distinct from the body, but
that something is at death absorbed in God. All
personality is lost. Memory, will and conscious-
ness are destroyed. That which we call ourself is
swallowed up in deity. He may think that the



14 EVIDENCE OF A FUTURE I.IFE.

present life lias some influence upon our future con-
dition, and that it is important to live in such
manner as will enable us to pass over into the next
form in the best possible condition, but of real ac-
countability and reward there are none. In the
view of both philosophies, self as such is annihi-
lated.

Such unconscious impersonal existence as these
philosophers hold out to us has the least possible
degree of importance or interest. It is not the
Christian doctrine of a future life. It is not what
men in all ages mean by immortality. It. is not
that which the human heart desires nor that in
which it instinctively believes. Under the form of
reality the doctrine resolves into a shadow. We
feel that we have been mocked. We asked for
bread but are given a stone, and for a fish there is
given a serpent. It is not mere existence that we
want. We are not particularly concerned about the
fate of the forces of the body. We desire the con-
tinuity of conscious life. We want to carry with
us our memories to testify to our identity. We
want the preservation of our faculties which are
the elements of self. This is the only immortality
worthy of our personality. Having conceived the
possibility of such a future life we are indignant at
the tender of any other.



NEED AND PROOFS OF IMMORTAUTY. 1 5

The Christian believes in his immortality be-
cause it is a fact of 'revelation. The Bible does
not offer any argument for the immortality of
human life except that which is drawn from itself
Christ in answering the objection of the Sadducees
to the Jewish doctrine of the resurrection proves a
future life, which was involved, by appealing to
the books of Moses. The Bible assumes our im-
mortality as a fact. It claims to be a revelation,
and the certification of that claim, which it pre-
supposes, sets aside the necessity of direct argu-
ments for its facts. But the Bible affords us our
greatest certainty. All the evidence which it has
for itself as a supernatural revelation is evidence
also of our immortality. Even if we deny it a
supernatural character, and regard it inspired only
in the lowest sense, its statements must be taken
as the highest attainments of quickened insight
and therefore as truth. It gives us evidence, also,
by awakening a conviction stronger than that
which comes from external credentials. It calls
into exercise the higher elements of our nature
and with them comes the assurance of a personal
relationship with the eternal. It begets a sense of
immortality. Under the power of its truth, we
know ourselves immortal by a spiritual intuition.



1 6 EVIDENCE OF A FUTURE LIFE.

To the mere rationalist this may seem like mystic-
ism. Whatever name may be appropriate for it
the fact belongs to Christian experience. Men
whose characters are well known to be above sus-
picion of fanaticism or superstition or irrational
sentiment, unless all religion is superstition, have
borne testimony to it. "The faith of immortality
depends on a sense of it begotten, not on an argu-
ment for it concluded." (Bushnell.) "Faith in
eternal things brings into the soul a sense of
eternity." (James Freeman Clarke.) "It would
seem that the highest and holiest soul carries with
it, like an atmosphere, a perfect serenity, a sense
of present eternity, a presage of immortality."
(Merriam.) "It is the life of humanity in Christ
that is the evidence of the incorruptible, the
immortal life. The Christ has brought to the
spirit of man, the realization of life and immor-
tality; he has brought life and immortality to
light." (Mulford.) "The belief in immortality
is at first only a wish and a belief on the authority
of others; but the more that any one assures to
himself his spiritual life by his own free efforts and
a pure love of goodness, the more certain does
eternity become, not merely as something future
but as something already begun." (Hase). "Im-



NEED AND PROOFS OF IMMORTALITY. 1 7

mortality begins here." (Channing). This idea
is embodied in the lines of Tennyson:

"Who forged that other influence,
That heat of inward evidence
By which he doubts against the sense.-*"

And Ivessing seems to have had the same thought
when he said, "Thus was Christ the first practicai'
teacher of the immortality of the soul. For it is
one thing to wish, to conjecture, to hope for, to
believe in immortality as a philosophical specula-
tion — another thing to arrange all our plans and
purposes, all our inward and outward life in ac-
cordance with it." To these testimonies a great
many others, collected from different ages and
countries, might be added. This Christian assur-
ance comes largely as a feeling, but there is a per-
ceptive power in all feeling as there is a feeling in
all perception. Hamilton says that every ultimate
truth is a feeling ; and the self-evidence of primary
principles is closely connected with the feelings.
The analogy to philosophic truth and the testimony
of so many thoughtful men are certainly sufficient
reasons for checking a rash charge of fanaticism,
upon the Christian's certainty of a future life.

Besides this first and great source of certainty
there is other evidence. President Bascom has said'-



l8 EVIDENCE OF A FUTURE I.IFE.

"The foundations of a faith in a future life lie out-
side of revelation and ought therefore to be dis-
closed independently of it." The attempt to sepa-
rate knowledge and faith, now popular in high
quarters, is an effort to divorce that which God has
joined together. Bacon remanded all religious
truth to faith and has had a disciple in this respect
in as devout a Christian and eminent a philosopher
as Prof. Baden Powel. A faith that does not stand
without conflicting with science must at length fall.
Our nature is a unity and our intellectual and
religious convictions must harmonize. The Chris-
tian feels a certain satisfaction in finding his faith
confirmed by reason because his intellectual nature
has wants as well as the religious. Because of the
unity of his being there is an inter-dependence
among the different elements, and he cannot throw
off" these laws. The body exerts an influence upon
the mind, and the mind upon the body, and both
upon the religious character. The flesh lusteth
.against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh,
and if we live after the flesh we shall die. The
report of the senses are subjected to the test of the
understanding, and the theories of the understand-
ing are tested by the senses. Scholasticism neg-
lecting observation paid the penalty by its barren-



NEED AND PROOFS OF IMMORTAI.ITY. 1 9

ness. The understanding obtains its laws from the
reason, and reason without the material furnished
by the understanding is empty form. The under-
standing rebelling against the reason is chained to
the contingent, and the reason throwing aside the
help of the understanding soars into the mists and
loses itself in airy nothingness. Whenever the
natural relation is disturbed there is a vague unsat-
isfied desire. So the facts of the religious life must
be brought down, whenever possible, to the test of
the intellect. In this way we keep our faith rational
and avoid fanaticism and superstition. This intel-
lectual want is seen in regard to the faith in the
existence of God. No Christian doubts that God
is, but the large number of books giving theistic
proofs show how much interest the Christian un-
derstanding takes in them. He believes independ-
ently of the arguments, but he draws from them a
confirmation of his faith. They meet a demand of
his nature. In the same way the Christian faith
finds a satisfaction in the proofs of a future life.

The Christian religion presupposes a belief in
immortality, and that belief must come from
proofs independent of Revelation. These proofs
show those who are not Christians that there are
some rational grounds for the Christian's hope.



20 EVIDENCE OF A FUTURE LIFE.

These proofs may not produce positive conviction,
but they open the way for religious impressions.
They answer a purpose analogous to the evidences
of Christianity. No man rising from a careful
study of the evidences has ever felt that there was
not a possibility of doubt. The evidences alone
have never made a man a Christian, and therefore
no converted infidel has been able to explain satis-
factorily the steps by which he became a believer.
But these evidences are of great importance in over-
coming opposition and creating a religious suscep-
tibility. Wesley is said to have done more than
Butler to overthrow Deism in England, but
Wesley's work would not have been possible with-
out that of Butler and his great co-workers. The
arguments for a future life may not leave us with-
out some doubt, but they are important to lead us
under the influence of Christian truth which gives
us certitude,

A review of the arguments for immortality is the
more important, both for the Christian believer and
for others, because of the sceptical tendencies of
our age. There is a materialistic spirit or mater-
ialistic habit of thought out of which doubts as to
the future life spring up spontaneously in the pub-
lic mind. The spirit originates in three causes.



NEED AND PROOFS OF IMMORTALITY. 21

One is the rapid strides in material progress made
in the more recent years. So many energies of
mind and body are concentrated upon material
things, that the habits of thinking have beeii
thrown into materialistic channels. Another cause
is the rapid progress of physical science. The at-
tention of the reading world is largely occupied
with the new sciences which have recently sprung
up, and the great discoveries made in the older
ones. In the physical world the law of necessity
rules, and as we watch the operations of that law
we lose sight of the world of freedom. The last
cause is the state of philosophy. In the English
speaking world a materialistic philosophy, if not
dominant, is exerting a very great influence upon
public thought. It has its power because it falls
in with the general modes of thinking. Specula-
tive philosophy in Germany, in the early part of the
century went entirely beyond the range of ordinary
minds, and, as many philosophers have thought, lost
itself in the mists of the Absolute. The results
were not satisfactory, not even to the Germans,
and there has been a groping about to find a sub-
stantial basis for metaphysics. Many have become
sceptical in philosophy and discard metaphysics.
It is no uncommon thingf to hear scholarly men



22 EVIDENCE OF A FUTURE LIFE.

say, "We have no confidence in metaphysical
philosophy. We want facts. " Materialistic phil-
osophy professes to proceed by observation and
bring all its reasonings down to the test of feeling.
It claims to assume no a priori principles, but to
deal only with facts. It denies, under the modest
disclaimer of not being able to know the existence
of God or a spiritual substance. It grew out of the
condition of the public mind and reacts upon it,
intensifying, by seemingly justifying the public
sentiment. It is important, therefore, to call at-
tention again to the evidence that we are not ma-
chines, that life is not mechanical, that we do know
a force that is not under the law of necessity, and
that there are strong reasons for believing in a
future life.

Too much is often expected from the proofs of
immortality. We are so deeply interested in the
subject we would be glad to have every doubt re-
moved. What would be regarded as overwhelming
evidence on most subjects leaves us in this with the
feeling of Johnson, "I wish that there were more
proofs." We would be glad to have absolute cer-
tainty, and if we do not find it we are inclined to
depreciate the value of the ;^oofs we have. This
is the reason for the neglect of the arguments which



NEED AND PROOFS OF IMMORTAUTY. 23

have come down to us from the past. It is not be-
cause they have no force, but because they have
not all the force the feelings crave. The character
of the problem is forgotten, and unreasonable de-
mands are made by the feelings.

The proof cannot be demonstrative. A demon-
stration is a necessary deduction from self-evident
principles. It starts with necessary truths, truths
which cannot without absurdity be denied, and it
proceeds by self-evident steps. We can demon-
strate a proposition in Geometry because we start
with axioms, and having created figures in pure
space we apply these axioms to every step in the
analysis, and thus test the correctness of the pro-
cess. Demonstrative proof belongs to mathematics.
But there are no intuitions of reason to be taken as
premises for a demonstration of a future life.
There is no A=A in the argument as Leibnitz
says there is in mathematical reasoning, and by
which he explains the absolute conviction produced.
The steps are not exposed to intuitions so that we
can test and verify them as we proceed. We can-
not find premises so certain that the contradictories
are absurd, and there must always remain in the
conclusion the possibility of doubt. The mathe-
matical form of reasonino' is sometimes assumed



24 EVIDENCE OF A FUTURE UFE.

and many persons are deceived by it. Spinoza's
Ethics appears to be a mathematical demonstration,
but he started from principles which are not neces-
sary, and in the process he introduced elements
from experience. We may throw the argument
for immortality, or the argument against it into a
demonstrative form, but it can not be a demonstra-
tion or reach an absolutely necessary conclusion.
The subject lies outside of the sphere of necessary
truth. The range of demonstrative proof is very
narrow. The most practical things cannot be
demonstrated. We cannot demonstrate that the
seed sown will produce its kind, or that the sun
will rise to-morrow. Our demonstrations are con-
fined to things that have the least to do with char-
acter. To ask for that kind of certainty in things
to which it can not possibly apply is simply foolish.
If we cannot believe in immortality because we
cannot demonstrate it, we are doomed to self-
appointed doubt.

The proof is necessarily of that kind which
■philosophers call probable. It is called probable
not because it is opposed to certainty, but to math-
ematical reasoning. The premises are obtained
from testimony and experience; and while they may
be unquestionable facts, they are always subject to



NEED AND PROOFS OF IMMORTALITY. 25

the thought of a contrary possibility. We can
always think the contradictory of the premises.
These probable proofs admit of additions. The
convictions produced range from a mere belief up
to a certainty only short of the absolute. The


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