Luther A Fox.

Evidence of a future life : from reason and revelation online

. (page 11 of 19)
Online LibraryLuther A FoxEvidence of a future life : from reason and revelation → online text (page 11 of 19)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


disputable, cannot be explained except by its
resurrection. The enemies did not remove it, and
the feeble, disheartened, demoralized and disbanded
disciples could not. These facts are so clearly
established, that the theory of a swoon has been
proposed to evade the evidence of a resurrection,
but that supposition cannot stand before the evi-
dence of His death.

Another fact fully established is that the dis-
ciples, in a few days after the crucifixion, began to
preach that Christ had risen. A very great and
sudden revolution took place in their feelings.
The timid, cowardly apostles at once became
heroes. The Peter who had denied Him, in that



204 EVIDENCE OF A FUTURE LIFE.

same city pronounced severe denunciations against
those who with wicked hands had crucified the
Lord of glory. Thousands were convinced of the
truth and were added to the followers of the lately
despised Nazarene. From Jerusalem they went
everywhere proclaiming the fact of Christ's resur-
rection ; and during the life-time of those present
in Jerusalem when it took place, and from that
very assembly thousands were converted to the
new faith.

Another fact beyond dispute is that two days
commemorative of His resurrection, the one weekly
and the other annual, began in the time of the
Apostles to be observed everywhere in the Church.
Jews with all their inherited feelings of sanctity
for the Sabbath, in common with Gentile converts,
commenced observing the first day as the Lord's
day.

Another fact above question is that from the
very beginning there was the profoundest convic-
tion of its truth, and the facts establishing it were
carefully preserved among all Christians.

Another fact admitted by the most radical his-
toric criticism, and therefore denied by none, is
that Paul wrote Romans, the two Corinthians, and
Galatians. In these letters he expresses his own



PROOFS FROM THE NEW TESTAMENT. 205

perfect faith in it. This is of greater value when
we remember that he was in Jerusalem soon after
it occurred, was high in the counsels of his nation,
and acquainted with all the facts in the possession
of the rulers in regard to Christianity, of which he
was at first a fierce persecutor. In these epistles
he appeals to the fact of Christ's resurrection as
well known and universally admitted among
Christians. He tells us that he had several con-
ferences with the Apostles who had seen the risen
Lord. He briefly reviews the evidence — not dwell-
ing on it because facts so well known required
only the most rapid mention. He says that Christ
was seen of Peter, then of the twelve, then of above
five hundred, then of James, then of all the Apos-
tles, and last of all by himself. These epistles
were all written within thirty years, at the very
longest, after the crucifixion.

Another fact that cannot be disproved is that the
Gospels, whether authentic or not, give us the
facts as they were preached from the beginning of
the Church on down through the first century.
These facts we^e transmitted by public preaching
to the age when these books were certainly ac-
cepted as genuine. Besides the allusions in the
writings of Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Polycarp



206 EVIDENCK OF A FUTURE LIFE.

and the Shepherd, we have the direct and extended
statements of Justin Martyr, placing this fact be-
yond dispute.

The testimony to Christ's resurrection, which
was repeatedly given under the most solemn cir-
cumstances and sealed with the blood of the wit-
nesses, is that Christ after His resurrection showed
Himself to Mary Magdalene in the garden about
sunrise; immediately after to a number of women
as they were returning to the city, and permitted
them to embrace His feet; then to Peter, but the
place is not given; then to the two disciples going
to Bmmaus; then to the ten disciples, with whom
He not only talked, but by whom He was handled,
and in whose presence He ate bread and fish. These
manifestations were all made on the day of the res-
urrection. On the next first day He showed him-
self to the eleven. Some days after He showed
himself to seven on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.
Soon after He was seen by the five hundred. Then
He was seen by James in a private interview, as He
had formerly been by Peter. Then at last by the
disciples, as He went with them to Mt. Olivet, from
which He ascended.

This is the evidence as it has come down to us.
In all important respects it has been correctly re-



PROOFS FROM THE NEW TESTAMENT. 207

ported from the lips of the witnesses. It has never
been successfully impeached, nor its force fairly
evaded.

The most recent and plausible effort to get rid
of the facts is Strauss' s celebrated mythical theory.
The disciples had some mental hallucinations which
served as a basis for the myths which grew up into
the story as we now have it. The theory necessa-
rily implies prepossession, definite expectancy. But
all the facts show that such expectancy was en-
tirely wanting. They had been so prepossessed with
another idea that they misunderstood His predic-
tions of His resurrection, and His death filled them
with the deepest despondency. They saw Him when
they least expected it, and sometimes were slow
in recoo:nizinof Him. In His manifestations He de-
livered to them long discourses, walked with them
frequently,' and even took food with them. He
was at much pains to remove their doubts and
convince them that He was not a vision but an ob-
jective reality. The theory of vision ignores all
these facts. Myths are of slow growth. It re-
quires ages for them to mature. But the story of
the resurrection was fully completed a number of
years before Paul wrote his epistles. It was full
grown long before the first thirty years had elapsed.



2o8 EVIDENCE OF A FUTURE LIFE.

It started, so far as the evidence goes, immediately
after the event occurred. This theory, so preten-
tious and specious, has been abandoned by almost
all scholars.

The preaching of the resurrection introduced
new life into the world. A revolution was com-
menced which, both as to means and success, is
without a parallel. A germ was planted at Jerusa-
lem by Galilean fishermen that transformed the
society of Europe, and has sent its blessing down
through eighteen centuries. The Church in all its
grand proportions and its splendid work was
founded upon it. The result which followed
from it is the highest confirmation and surest
testimonial.

No event in history is sustained by a stronger
array of facts than those proving the resurrection
of Christ. This has been admitted even by ration-
tionalists. We must accept it, or give up faith in
historical narratives.

The resurrection of Christ is a proof of our
future existence, because it is the divine confirma-
tion of all His teaching. It puts beyond doubt His
claims to be the Messiah. It is also a proof be-
cause of His relation to the race. He is in orofanic
union with the family of men. He was one of us,



PROOFS FROM THE NEW TESTAMENT. 209

but was also our Head. He was representative,
and acted for all. Because He lives we shall live
also. The Christian, through Paul, before the fact
of assured life raises the exultant shout: "Thanks
be unto God who giveth us the victory through
our Lord Jesus Christ."



CHAPTER XL

SOUL AND LIFE.

TT7H come now to consider the evidence to be ob-

* ' tained from the nature of the soul. Our

study must necessarily, for several chapters, be

metaphysical.

We descend from the bright, clear light of Chris-
tianity to the dust and smoke of modern science.
We do not seek positive proofs, but safeguards
against doubts and fears awakened by scientific
experiments and speculations. We desire to see
how many of the old fundamental faiths remain to
us, and how far the old proofs and evidence have
been influenced by the new faAs. We commence
with the relation of the soul and life.

The materialist believes that matter is the sole
: substance, and that material things are the only
realities. He believes, therefore, that mechanical,
chemical, vital and mental phenomena are pro-
ducts of material forces. These phenomena are
manifestations of the same principle in different
spheres of activity. The mental and vital belong

to the same agent. If the soul is nothing but the
(210)



SOUL AND I.IFE. 211

vital principle, and the vital is the result of the
material organization, then when the body dies
life and soul perish together. The argument is
not conclusive until every step has been proved.
If he fails to establish the identity of the vital and
mental principles, his argument fails.

Some dualists have agreed with the materialist
in the opinion that the mental and vital are only
different phases of the same agent. President
Porter, who believes in the immortality of the
soul and stands up vigorously and firmly against
materialism, states the doctrine in regard to the
relation of the soul to life in these words: "The
force or agent which at first originates the bodily
organism and actuates its functions, at last mani-
fests itself as the soul in higher forms of activity,
viz. : in knowledge, feeling and will. In other
words, the principle of life and of psychical activ-
ity are one."* To this the materialist can sub-
scribe.

The most ancient Greek philosophers known
to us were hylozoistic, and knew of no agent or
principle separate from the common life of the
world. Every form of motion or action came from
life. Thus Thales ascribed the attraction of the

* Human Intellect, p. 36.



212 EVIDENCE OF A FUTURE LIFE.

magnet to its life. The world was regarded as a
great organism, like a plant or an animal. Anaxa-
goras began to distinguish between the Creator
and the world, but he used the idea of God to ex-
plain what he could not account for by natural
forces. The Atomists, Leucippus and Democritus,
were atheists, and ascribed the cosmos to mechan-
ical principles. All of them regarded the soul as
a function of life — the Hylozoists as the animating
principle manifesting itself in man through men-
tal phenomena, the Atomists as a result from the
vital human organism.

The tendency started with Anaxagoras was de-
veloped by Socrates. The distinction between the
soul and body was clearly recognized, and was re-
peatedly discussed and illustrated by that great
Athenian philosopher. Plato taught the pre-exis-
tence of souls and the ethereal nature of their
essence. He divided the human soul into three
parts corresponding to vegetable, animal and mental
phenomena; but he wavered as to the relation of
the two former to the body, sometimes maintaining
that they survived with the intellectual, and some-
times that they perished with the body. Aristotle,
while holding to the common belief in its principal
facts, made a wide departure in regarding the



SOUL AND LIFE. 213

notes as superadded to the lower elements and
capable of existence after their destruction. These
ancient philosophers of the Socratic and pre-So-
cratic schools, so far as they have left evidence of
their speculations on this subject, supposed that
the soul is the animating principle, and they spoke
of the soul of plants and animals, as well as of men.
Aristotle is the only one who seems to have made
in any respect a distinction between the higher
faculties and the soul, or lower mental powers, the
entelechy of the body.

There are expressions in the Old Testament
which indicate that the Hebrews, as the Greeks,
believed that animals and plants as well as men
have souls, and they are supposed to have regarded
the soul as the animating principle. But the high-
est authorities in this branch of theological learn-
ing are not agreed as to whether they believed in
trichotomy or dichotomy. Both views are sus-
tained by numerous passages. *

Among the school-men there was no special inter-
est felt in this subject, and there were not man}'
utterances upon it. Thomas Aquinas, with Aris-

* As it was a matter of science and not religion, different
opinions may have been held in different ages, and found ex-
pression in the sacred books. We should no more go to the
Bible to settle a question in psychology, than in astronomy.



214 EVIDENCE OE A FUTURE LIFE.

totle, calls the soul the entelechy of the body, but
ascribes to the same soul rational, animal and vege-
table functions. William Occam is opposed to the
identification of the intellectual, the sensitiva
anima and the organizing principle of the body.
He held to three powers. Bckhart, the pantheistic
m3^stic, said clearly that the soul is the vitalizing
principle of the body.

Descartes produced a revolution in philosophy,
and French philosophers say that the publication
of his book on Method was the birth-day of mod-
ern philosophy. He made the broadest distinction
between matter, whose essence is extension, and
spirit, whose essence is thought. One of the great
problems for the Cartesians was the possibility and
manner of influence between mind and matter.
"Occasional Causes" and ''Pre-established Har-
mony" were theories proposed for its solution.
Spinoza offered his noted scheme of pantheism.
The Cartesians, after Descartes himself, believed
that the vital belonged to the material, and attri-
buted to it, through reflex influence, the instinct
of animals. The brute was an automaton. With
them the vital and mental were entirely distinct
agents.

Leibnitz thought that the soul is the governing



SOUL AND LIFE. 215

monad or substantial centre of the body, control-
ling the monads of the body, or furnishing the rea-
son for physical changes, though it was not done
by a direct influence, but according to the pre-
arranged harmony.

Modern materialists have revived, in one phase
or another, the old Grecian hylozoistic doctrines-
Voltaire could not think that the soul was an un-
extended substance in the brain, and preferred to
consider it a mere abstraction or personification of
a peculiar psychical force. De la Metric, from per-
sonal observation upon himself during an attack
of fever, concluded that mental actions are the-
results of bodily organization, or that the mind is
a function of the body. Prof. Huxley attempts to-
reduce mental activity to reflex influence.

Ulrici, among more recent Germans, is a decided^
and strong opponent of materialism. He wrote his
great work, "God and Man," to demonstrate that
the soul is an independent existence, but he is
not sure that it is not identical with the vital force.

Modern science, by means of the microscope and
the study of fossils from the remotest ages, has
brought new light to the study of life. A new-
branch has established for itself a place among the
sciences. Biology has discovered new facts in re^



2l6 EVIDENCE OF A FUTURE LIFE.

gard to the lower forms of life, and new relations
between the different orders of being. It has fur-
nished strong support to the doctrine of evolution,
the greatest and most important of all the theories
offered in recent years to the scientific world — a
theory w^hich has threatened to overturn our most
fundamental beliefs. Biology has reopened the
question, Is the soul the principle of life? It is
not a question vital to the belief in the future ex-
istence of the soul, but it has assumed a new im-
portance.

President Porter has given a number of reasons
for regarding the vital and mental agents as one:

I. The vital phenomena are antecedent to the
psychical. Some months have elapsed after the
first living activities, before there is any manifes-
tation of the distinctively mental. The first dis-
play of mental power is of the most rudimental
character. In connection with the first appearance
of the psychical power, there are no indications of
the beginning of a new agent. The vital and
mental are blended so far as observation, both
within and without, can reach. If the soul is a
■distinct principle, when does it begin? If it begins
^ith life, it is very strange that it should remain so
long dormant.



SOUL AND LIFE. 217

In reply to this argument it may be said that it
does not prove that the two phenomena come from
the same agent, but only a close relationship be-
tween their sources. All the facts adduced are
equally accordant with the theory of two prmciples
in mutual dependence. It is a well-known fact that
mind is dependent upon life as developed in the
nervous system, and the same agent and a different
agent must alike wait for its development. Both
theories have the same explanation of the rudi-
mental character of the first mental actions. In
either case the condition of the nervous system de-
termines them. There are the same difficulties to
both. Neither can explain the fact that the soul
is so long without a consciousness of itself. If the
soul is the vital agent, why is it so long dormant as
soul? This first reason, therefore, does not prove

the identity.

2. When life and soul are fully developed, the
general intensity or energy of the powers of each
vary with one another. As is the tone of the
bodily life, so is the general energy of the soul's
capacities. When the tone of life is lowered, as in
sleep, faintness and disease, there is a general
tendency to depression of the psychical activities.
When the tone of life is strong, there is correspond-



10



2l8 EVIDENCE OP A EUTURE LIFE.

ing keenness of perception, power of reasoning,
energy of feeling, and strength of will. This is
the general rule. It is true of general states and
would indicate a common essence.

This reason, as the first, shows nothing more
than that the mind is dependent upon the life. It
does not prove a common agent. The author of
the reason admits this, for he adds, *' provided this
can be reconciled with other facts."

3. The community of essence is indicated by
special activities. The unusual or extraordinary
energy of the one diminishes that of the other.
Special exertions of the nutritive life draw upon
the mental, and high emotional or intellectual
activity retards the nutritive. If physical growth
be abnormal, the mental is dwarfed; or the mind
may dwarf the body. In disease the physical
power is husbanded and the mental is enfeebled.

But this proves nothing more than the other
two. If the mental principle is in organic union
with the vital, the one supplying power to the
other, we would have the same facts as if there was
a common essence.

4. The conscious depend upon unconscious ac-
tivities. Some of these are material and some are
immaterial. The act of sense-perception requires



SOUI. AND LIFE. 219

as its condition a material object, a nervous appa-
ratus, the excitement of the sensorium, and the
transmission of this excitement by a continuous
nervous organism. All these are processes of the
unconscious in man, and prove that the soul in its
nature is complex and extends its activities beyond
the sphere of consciousness.

It is difficult to hold consciousness above a special
faculty if we once admit subconscious activities;
and if we reduce consciousness to a special faculty,
as Ried did, we abandon the philosophy of Natural
Realism. The material activities only bring sen-
sible objects in contact with the sensorium. The
activities of the nervous system bring these move-
ments of matter to the cognizance of the mind.
In sight there is the vibration of ether, and that
excites certain movements in the optic nerve; but
the motion is not sight. While the mind is entirely
engaged with other subjects, the light falls upon
the nerve and produces excitement, but there is no
mental response. It is true of all the senses that
there may be stimulation of the vital organ without
mental reaction. This is best explained on the
theory of two agents. All that is said about the
dependence of the conscious upon the unconscious
proves only that mind, whatever it may be, de-
pends upon a vitalized organ.



220 EVIDENCE OF A FUTURE LIFE.

5. The soul acts on matter. The soul holds
those relations to extension and matter which are
implied in the unconscious processes or acts which
fulfil its conscious determinations. The fact can-
not be overlooked that it is capable of being
affected by and of acting upon unextended matter.

The vitalized body is the organ of the mind.
There are many facts which show that life is the
medium of its communication with matter. If the
soul is the living principle, it must first exert its
lower activity before it can bring into play the
mental function; and if not, the organ must be
vitalized before it can be used by the mind. The
influence which mind has over matter through a
living organism brings out clearly a relation of in-
timacy, but not identity, between the two princi-
ples. The soul as a distinct agent may exert that
influence as well as one identical with life.

6. The body is in general and particular adapted
to the habits and uses of the species, and of the
individual soul with which it is connected. The
adaptation is so manifold and complete as to indi-
cate that the agent that forms and moulds the
bodily members is the same that uses and applies
them. The hand, for example, is specially fitted
to be used by the inventive and skillful mind.



SOUL AND LIFE. 221

There is in the individual also a special harmony
between the body and the soul. Quickness of in-
tellect is attended by organs that are mobile and
acute, and a temperament that is harmonious with
both intellect and organism. This adjustment may
be accounted for by a general law of pre-established
harmony, or by the individual direction of Provi-
dence, but is more rationally explained by sup-
posing an identity of agent. This conclusion is
strengthened by the fact that after the body is
formed and developed it is changed in many re-
spects by the influence of conscious activities.
Habitual thoughts, feelings and purposes mould
the body so as to make it a readier instrument and
more fit manifestation of the spiritual activities
and states.

This reason, so far from proving an identity of
agency, is one of the strongest proofs against it.
It proves too much. It would prove that there is
a soul principle not only in animals, but also in
plants. The plant is built up from the first cell,
according to a definite plan and for a specific end.
Its life works after a pattern. It shows clearly an
intelligence somewhere, but it certainly is not in
itself. If a vital principle, without any mental
capability, can construct the higher plants, with



222 KVIDENCE OF A FUTURE LIFE.

their adjustments of root, stem, leaves and flowers,
why can not a vital principle only construct the
human body? If the vital can, without being in-
telligent, reveal such powers in the lower, why
should we identify it with the soul in man? If
the vital principle constructs the body and adjusts
it to individual characteristics of the mind, reveal-
ing the most wonderful wisdom, it is very strange
that it should so long be unconscious of itself.
It is also exceedingly strange that the soul should
so long be unacquainted with its own works. It
built the heart, and valves, and arteries, veins and
capillaries as channels, and formed the blood, and
provided a perfect apparatus for circulation, but
only in Harvey, in recent times, it began to under-
stand what it had done. We know that all this
anatomical and physiological structure was formed
under law, and that the vital agent was carrying
out a plan of which it had no conception. If the
vital and mental have a common essence, one part
of that essence is the instrument of law, blind
force, and the other is free and intelligent. There
seems to be little choice between two theories, the
one dividing into diametrically opposite parts the
same agent, and the other postulating two princi-
ples.



SOUL AND LIFE. 223

These reasons fail then to establish an identity.
Every one is reconcilable with the supposition of
two agents. The last reason seems to prove that
there are two principles.

The two classes of phenomena are entirely dis-
tinct. The vital reveals itself in the material, by
changing and arranging the positions and relations
of matter. The mental reveals itself in thoughts.
On account of the union of mind and body, the
arrangements of parts of matter become signs of
thought; but these material movements are not
thoughts. The countenance changes with differ-
ent feelings — relative positions of the parts of the
face are changed, and by continuance tend to be-
come fixed; the mind, through the power which
vitality gives it, moulds the body; but the settled
feature and the moulded frame are in themselves as


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 11 13 14 15 16 17 18 19

Online LibraryLuther A FoxEvidence of a future life : from reason and revelation → online text (page 11 of 19)