Luther A Fox.

Evidence of a future life : from reason and revelation online

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among themselves, we are often very much sur-
prised at the brightness of a few; but if we com-
pare these same animals with man, the highest
intelligence does not rise above the low order of


This vast difference in degree has its bearing
upon the argument for a future life. So far as the
evidence rests upon the higher powers of man, it
does not apply to the brutes. The animal shows
an instinctive dread of death, — it is Nature's mode
of enforcing self-preservation, — but the animal
evinces no idea or hope of immortality. This
pledge of a future life has not been given it. It
knows nothing of God, and has no longings for
fellowship with Him. It has no aspirations above
mere sensual enjoyment. It has no conception of
a moral law. Justice is entirely beyond the range
of its mental horizon. It has therefore no hope or
fear of future rewards and punishments. While
therefore it may possibly, because of its immaterial
principle, live after death, it has no promise writ-
ten in its nature such as man possesses.

The reason against believing in their immortality
has been forcibly put by Julius Muller: "What is
there to make these lower individual existences in
nature immortal? They are only exemplars or
samples of their species, kind, and so forth, but
they possess no individuality of any significance in
itself, or worth preserving; they simply serve as
instruments whereby the species manifests itself
and secures its continuance by the production of


others like them. They are insusceptible of any
real individuality for this very reason — because
there is no personal centre, no ego in them, self-
conscious, distinguishing itself from others, and
assuming certain relations by voluntary self-deter-
mination. It is only around such a centre as this,
that any dejfinite individuality can be formed; suchi
a centre alone has the power of attracting and com-
bining into a harmonious whole the manifold ele-
ments, without which it would merely coexist and:
then be dispersed again in the general tide of
things. While the lower existences in nature are
merely passive instruments in relation to their
species, personal beings can distinguish themselves,
not only theoretically by making their species the
object of their consciousness, but practically by a
free resolve either to a loving surrender to their
species or a selfish abandonment of it." * The
brute is bound up with nature. It may have will,
but it is not free. It has affections, but they are
linked with their sensuous desires. They have
sympathies, but they are not altruistic. These
and similar facts indicate that with them death
ends all.

The Bible makes no positive declarations upon

^Doctriue of Sin, vol. ii, p. 288.


this subject. We ought not to be surprised at this
silence, for the Bible was not intended to gratify
curiosity, but to teach us our relation to God and
our duty to Him. The destiny of brutes does not
concern our salvation, and it did not fall within
the purpose of God's revelation. Solomon inti-
mated that they perish. " Who knoweth the spirit
of man that goeth upward and the spirit of a beast
that goeth downward to the earth ? " * Paul is
thought by some to teach the contrary in that
difficult passage in Romans: "The creature itself
shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption
into the glorious liberty of the sons of God." f
Wesley t interprets this as a declaration concerning
brutes. He argues their immortality upon the
ground of their undeserved sufferings. But the
great body of commentators take a different view,
some understanding it to apply exclusively to man,
and others to the system to which man belongs.

When we sum up the evidence, we dare not say
that the brutes are not immortal, but we are forced
to admit that the weight of the proof is against
their immortality. And this review shows that if
we were certain that they are annihilated at death,
we may still believe on both rational and Scrip-
tural grounds in our own immortality.

* Ecc. iii. 21. t Rom. viii. 19-22. J Sermon lyXV.



n^HE history of a doctrine or belief gives us an
^ important view of it. We can not fully under-
stand it until we know the stages through which
it has passed, the grounds upon which it was held,
and the errors from which it has been discriminated.
No question of truth can be settled by vote, yet
there is might in a majority. When we find that
a majority of those who have given careful stu(?y
to a subject are of the same opinion with ourselves
we feel strengthened in it, but when they hold
the contrary we go back and re-examine our
premises and processes. In a former chapter we
reviewed the evidence of the universal belief in a
future life. In this we will give a brief sketch of
the opinions of philosophers as to the nature and
evidence of the immortality of the soul. It may
be necessary in a few instances to repeat facts
given in the study of special subjects.

The oldest of the Greek schools of philosophy
was the Ionic. The cast was naturally material-



istic. The great world with its mysterious origin
and laws first invited study. Starting with ma-
terial principles, the school became partly panthe-
istic and partly atheistic. Thales (640 B. C.) re-
garded water as the original principle of all things,
and the world as a great organism. Life was sup-
posed to be the sole power. We have no reliable
information in regard to his doctrine of God and of
the soul, except that he called the soul '*a self-mov-
ing power.'' Anaximander thought that matter is
infinite, and is governed solely by mechanical laws.
He is said to have believed that the soul is aeriform.
Anaximines took air as the original principle.
He identified the soul with the vital force. Hera-
clitus posited fire, and held all things to be in a
perpetual flow. The soul is an emanation from
the universal mind.* Diogenes of Apollonia re-
vived the doctrine of Anaximines, but refined it.
He posited ether. He opposed the doctrine of
dualism which began to be taught. Pheracydes,
who is sometimes classed with this school, taught
that the soul is immortal.

The Italic school started with an intellectual
principle, and became idealistic. Pythagoras (580

*"If he materialized mind he also spiritualized matter."
Butler's An. Philos., vol. i, p. 297. •


B. C.) took numbers as the original source, and
defined the soul to be the harmony of the body.
He believed that it is an emanation from the cen-
tral fire, capable of combining with any body and
destined to a union in succession with several.
None of the doctrines of his school are more cer-
tainly traced back to him than that of metempsy-
chosis. Philolaus first published the doctrines of
the school. The names of more than twenty of
his disciples have come down to us as eminent
teachers. Alcmseon taught that the soul is seated
in the brain, up to which all sensation is conducted.
The Eleatics were idealistic pantheists. They
speculated upon the nature of being. They be-
came skeptical upon all phenomena, denying the
credibility of the senses. Xenophanes (570 B. C.)
found the highest being in God, one and unchange-
able. Parmenides abstracted that being still more,
and denied all motion. Zeno in defending the
doctrines of the school became the first of logicians.
Melissus concluded the system by denying space.
Parmenides regarded the reasonable mind the same
as the soul, which he supposed to be located in the
abdomen. The soul which has been driven into
the world returns to the bosom of the One. Empe-
docles is often classed with the Eleatics. His phi-


losophy was a compound of the then existing
schools. He thought that the soul of man is the
correlative of the soul of the world, and modified
the Pythagorean doctrine of transmigration to suit
his system.

The Atomists were gross materialists. Leu-
cippus (about 450 -B. C.) posited atoms with two
principles — space and vacuum; therefore all things
were governed by necessity. Democritus carried
out still further the theory. He said that the
atoms were distinguished from each other only
geometrically. The soul is composed of rounded
atoms. The body is the tent of the soul. The
soul is the noblest part of man. The names of a
few of the adherents of the school have been pre-
served. Diagoras was banished from Athens on
the charge of Atheism.

The Sophists were not serious philosophers.
They were brilliant rhetoricians, with some philos-
ophic acuteness. They were skeptics. They at-
tempted to demonstrate the impossibility of knowl-
edge. Protagoras (480 B. C.) was the first. ^ He
located the soul in the senses. He was followed
by Gorgias, Hippias, Prodicus, and Buthydemus.
Critias, infamous from the part he took in the
trial of Socrates, belonged to this school, and lo-
cated the soul in the blood.


Anaxagoras is usually classed with the Tonic
school, but he is distinguished from them in im-
portant particulars. He was born about 500 B. C.
He saw that the Ionic and Eleatic schools had not
recognized sufficiently clearly the difference be-
tween matter and mind, and brought out the over-
looked element. He separated God from the
world, and announced principles of theism. He
taught that mind is distinguished from matter by
its simplicity, independence, knowledge, and su-
perior power over matter. He is supposed to have
borrowed his ideas from Hermotimus, who, accord-
ing to Pliny, believed that the soul often wanders
to a great distance from the body, in order to ob-
tain the knowledge denied it whilst residing in its
tenement. Archelaus, trying to conciliate the new
with the old, fell back towards materialism.

With Socrates (369 B. C.) philosophy entered
upon a new career. Cicero said that he called it
from the clouds to dwell in the houses of men.
He believed that God is a rational being, and is the
source of moral law. He taught the distinction
between mind and body, and that personality was
in the mind; that the soul is like God, and there-
fore immortal. He did not attain to absolute cer-
tainty of a future life, but to such a strong faith


that he could talk as composedly to his friends in
the presence of death about his departure, as if he
were only leaving for a short visit to one of the
neighboring islands. Xenophon, among those who
followed closely their master, is best known to us.
The names of ^schines, Crito, and a few others,
are found in history.

There were three schools formed by "partial
disciples." The founder of each took some part
of the teaching of Socrates and developed an in-
dependent system. Aristippus, the Cyrenaic, re-
garded pleasure as the end of life, and became one
of the forerunners of Epicurus. His aim was
moral rather than metaphysical. Antisthenes was
the founder of the Cynics. He taught that virtue
is the only good, and the essence of virtue is self-
control, and was a forerunner of the Stoics. Euclid
■was the founder of the Megaric school, far more
profound than either of the other two, but panthe-
istic. Ritter says that the Megarians acknowledged
a supreme universal rationality, but were unable to
combine with it personal consciousness, and thus
became involved in inexplicable opposition to all
human notions.*

Plato, one of the pupils and interpreters of Soc-

* History, vol. iii, p. 639.


rates, by his own profound thought became the
head of a school, and remains a master in the phil-
osophic world. He distinguishes between the
mind and all corporeal things. Fire and earth
with air and water are the fundamental elements
of matter. The soul is eternal, and is a self-acting
energy. The divine idea is manifested in the soul.
He taught that the mortal animal must consist of
soul and body. He distinguishes two component
parts of the soul — the mortal and immortal parts —
with an intermediate link. The first is the ani-
mating principle ; the intermediate, the active
faculties or impulses ; and the third, the rational
soul, generated by the Supreme Being. The ra-
tional soul had a pre-existence, and is brought to
occupy a body because of sin. It retains the ideas
of its former existence, and by these it is able to
return to its happy condition. He argues its im-
mortality from (a) its nature as self-moving ; (d)
the life of the soul which is not destroyed by
moral evil ; {c) the goodness of God, who cannot
will that so beautiful an object should be destroyed ;
(d) the desire of knowledge ; (e) contrarieties in
the world — the living die, so the dead must return
to life ; (g-) innate knowledge, which is a kind of
reminiscence ; (/^) and from the indivisibility of


the soul, as seen from the fact of its knowing
simple and indestructible objects. A dead soul
is a contradiction. He recognized the influence
of the body upon the soul, and thus accounted for
the ignorance of childhood ; but the dependence
is not essential, but relative.

Aristotle, the pupil of Plato, was perhaps the
greatest of all the ancient philosophers. He was
a natural philosopher as well as metaphysician.
He was the critic of the preceding schools, and his
criticism became one of the very best sources of
the history of that period. He examines the doc-
trines of his predecessors in regard to the soul, and
is not satisfied with any. The principle of soul
diffused through the world, as taught by Thales,
would imply either that all things are animated,
or that soul was superadded to some matter; but
either is contrary to facts, for all admit the dis-
tinction between animate and inanimate, and also
between the soul of fire and soul as the principle
of life and thought. The doctrine of the Atomists
lost sight of the distinction between the mere mov-
ing principle and the mind in its higher faculties.
He ridicules the doctrine of Aristoxenes, that the
soul is the harmony of the body. The health of
the body is its harmony. He refutes the doctrine


of the self-moving nature of the soul. Motion
ihiplies place. Self-motion would include the
possibility of violent impulse to motion and rest.
The soul moves the body, but its own motion is
that in which it participates with the body which
moves. If the soul be essentially self-moving, it
can not be moved by other objects; but this is con-
tradictory of the facts of sensation. For these and
other reasons he rejects the doctrine of a self-
moving number as taught by Pythagoras.

He distinguishes between the body and soul,
and between the nutritive, sensitive and rational
soul. To understand his doctrine, it is necessary
to refer to his classification of causes. He recog-
nized four causes: material, formal, efficient, and
final. The material is that of wdiich a thing is
formed, as gold. The formal is the figure or form
given, according to a plan, as the ring. The
efficient is the energy that gives the form. The
body is the matter given a definite form. The
matter of the body is mere capacity, and the form
is act. Body considered separately is materially
and potentially a living substance. The soul is
that which gives form, and is the first energy,
"the first entelechy of a natural organic body,
which body itself has life potentially." "The

3i6 evidence: of a future life.

soul is not without the body, nor the body without
the soul." This is said of the nutritive and sensi-
tive soul. The soul and body are correlates.
The plant has only a nutritive soul. The animal
has both nutritive and sentient soul. Man has in
addition a noetic soul. While Aristotle did not
draw a sharp line between life with and without
consciousness, he did between the principle which
feels and the principle which knows. The nutri-
tive and sensitive souls are inseparable from the
body and perish with it, but the noetic is divine
and immortal.

For two or three centuries the followers of Aris-
totle applied themselves more directly to the study
of nature, modified in many ways the teaching of
Aristotle, and took a strong naturalistic turn.
Theophrastus leaned to the idea of immanence,
but admitted a substantial existence to the nous
and regarded it the divine part of man. Strabo
denied any soul separable from the body, and lo-
cated the soul in the head between the eyebrows.
Dicsearch supposed only one universal vital and
sensitive force, which is temporarily individualized
in different bodies. Later Peripatetics returned
more closely to the doctrines of Aristotle, among
whom Andronicus, Boethus of Sidon, and Alex-
ander Aphrodisias, became noted.


There was a strong tendency in the Greek mind,
during the political decline, towards skepticism.
Pyrrho (340 B. C.) taught that real knowledge is
impossible because real things are inaccessible to
human faculties, and that a wise man must remain
always tranquil. Timon was his most famous dis-
ciple in that century. The school repeatedly ap-
peared in subsequent ages.

Epicurus at the same time (341 B. C.) became
the founder of a school called, from himself, Epi-
cureans. He was a decided materialist. He took
the doctrine of Democritus as the basis of his
physics, and of Aristippus as that of his ethics.
Epicurus held that the soul is corporeal, else it
could not influence the body. Its elementary
principles are heat, ether, spirit, and a peculiar
matter which is the ground of sensibility. The
rational soul is in the heart; the parts of the soul
are scattered through the body. The soul is not
immortal, because it depends upon a physical en-
velope, and because it is composed of atoms. It is
born with the body and perishes with it. The low
moral tone of this philosophy suited the degenerate
age, and it had numerous adherents in that and
several successive centuries. Many of his princi-
ples in physics are regarded to-day as sound doc-
trine by the materialists.


Zeno (362 B. C.) was the founder of the contem-
porary and rival school. The physics were
founded upon the Heraclitian philosophy, and the
ethics were taken from the Cynics. He held in
regard to the soul that it is an emanation from the
Deity, a part severed from Him. The soul and God
react upon each other. While the soul is dis-
tinguishable from the body and outlives its organ,
it is not necessarily immortal, and can live at
longest only to the end of the world period. The
later Stoics were more positive in their belief in

To earnest minds there was something very
attractive in the Stoic philosophy, and there is a
long list of eminent names among its adherents.
Cleanthes and Chrysippus, teachers in the original
school, Diogenes the Babylonian, Panaetius of
Rhodes, Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius,
were among the noteworthy Stoics.

In the interval between the deaths of the great
masters and the establishment of Christianity
there were a number of new schools formed by the
revival of the older ones and by new combinations
of them. There were the Neo-Pythagoreans, the
Pythagorizing Platonists, the Neo-Platonists, the
Jewish Alexandrian, the Skeptics and the Eclectics,


besides tlie three schools into which the disciples
of Plato divided. Some of these extended several
centuries into the Christian period. We will
commence with the older.

The followers of Plato are arranged in three
schools, called the Old, the Middle and the New
Academy. The Old Academy lost the spirit and
power of Plato. Speusippus was at the head. The
soul was defined by him as extension shaped by
numbers. Xenocrates identified ideas with num-
bers, and taught that the soul is a self-moving num-
ber. This school remained spiritualistic. The Mid-
dle Academy was skeptical. Carneades is best
known from his visit to Rome, during which he
disgusted Cato by his contradictory discourses on
justice. The New Academy returned to dogma-
tism. These three chief schools were divided into
four or five tendencies, in which dogmatism and
skepticism struggled for the ascendency, with the
ultimate triumph of the former.

The Jewish Alexandrian school was a sort of
eclecticism, but with Platonic elements predomina-
ting along with Judaism. Philo (25 B. C.) was
the most distinguished representative. He held
that there are tw^o souls in man — a reasonable and
an animal soul. The reasonable has three facul-


ties: sensation, understanding, and language. The
reasonable soul is a portion of the divine essence.
The soul preexisted in bodies. It is immortal.

About the same time there sprang up another
eclectic school, formed of Platonic and Pythagorean
elements. Budorus and Arius Didymus (25 B. C.)
were eminent among the teachers. Later, Plu-
tarch, both as historian and philosopher, became
renowned. Plis essays have made his belief in a
future life well known. Maximus of Tyre taught
that the soul is composed of both mortal and im-
mortal elements. Instinct belongs to the mortal:
intelligence to the immortal. Galen, the physi-
cian, taught, but not without a feeling of doubt,
the Platonic doctrine of the immortality of the
soul. He emphasized the importance of a religious
conviction of the existence of God and providence.
Apuleius taught that the soul has three faculties,
and is immutable and immortal. Numenius agrees
with Philo in much part as to the preexistent state
of the soul.

While these Platonic schools were developing,
there was a revival of the school of Pythagoras by
Figulus (50 B. C). Apollonius of Tyana, a re-
puted worker of miracles, is best known among
the teachers. He believed that there is an affinity


between men and animals, and thus explained
metempsychosis. The school became extinct after
Secundus, about the middle of the second Chris-
tian century.

Skepticism had an able advocate during this
period in Sextus Kmpiricus (70 B. C). He in-
clined somewhat to materialism^ but thought we
can know very little about the soul.

Lucretius (52 B. C), taught Epicureanism in:
Rome. He personified Nature, and was grossly
materialistic. He taught that atoms were self-
moving. He had considerable influence upon the
masses, but left no decided impression upon the
philosophic world.

Cicero (43 B. C), eminent as orator, statesman
and philosopher, was an eclectic in philosophy.
He discussed in different connections the nature
of the soul, and its immortality. Among other
arguments for a future life, he presented the fol-
lowing: (a) The authority of all antiquity; {b)
The universal concern about futurity revealed in
the care for fame, for posterity, for the disposition
of property, and for the establishment of laws for
succeeding generations; {c) The self-motion of the
soul; {d) The marks of divinity in the soul.
** Whatever thinks and understands and wills, and
I *


has a principle of life, is heavenly and divine, and
on that account must necessarily be eternal."
Man only has a knowledge of God, and this proves
his divine origin and destiny. His prudential
argument is often quoted: "If he is correct in his
faith, he will be greatly the gainer; but if mis-
taken, the Epicurean philosophers will not be able
to laugh at him for his mistake."

After the introduction of Christianity, the
Platonic philosophy appeared under a new form
known as the Neo-Platonic school. It shows the
influence of Christianity, though its most eminent
teachers remained heathen, and some of them were
decided opponents of the new religion. The
originator of the school was Ammonius Saccas
(157 A. D.), who is commonly believed to have
been born a Christian, but who returned to
heathenism. Nemesius of Emessa has preserved
some fragments* in which Ammonius advocates
the spirituality and immortality of the soul. There
are two natures, one corporeal and the other spir-
itual, influencing each other, but in real essence
the opposites of each other. The soul has life, and
must be different from that which is dead.

Plotinus (206 A. D.), belongs to this school.

* Ueberweg doubts the genuineness of these fragments.


He was not only by far the ablest and most pro-

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Online LibraryLuther A FoxEvidence of a future life : from reason and revelation → online text (page 16 of 19)