Luther A Fox.

Evidence of a future life : from reason and revelation online

. (page 3 of 19)
Online LibraryLuther A FoxEvidence of a future life : from reason and revelation → online text (page 3 of 19)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

makes the distinction in the sentiment already
given. Disbelief and doubt in regard to a future
life are often only speculative, the published utter-
ances are the language of the study, while behind
them there is a practical faith shaping the life, and,
on occasions calling for it, giving forth its own
confession. Whatever hold they may have upon
us, they are always the product of logical processes.
Men come to them through reasoning. They are

* Three Essays, p. 249.


always secondary, following in respect of time the
belief in immortality. The opinions, therefore, of
speculative philosophers cannot be taken as import-
ant exceptions to the universality of this faith.


The fact of the universality of the belief in a
future life is now widely admitted, but it will be
of service, especially to those who have not ex-
amined the evidence, to have some of the more
prominent points of it brought forward.

In Europe the earliest man was cotemporary with
the mammoth and the cave hyena. He has left
traces of his life and thoughts in the caves in which
he dwelt. He lived by hunting, and carried on a
fierce struggle with wild beasts and inclement sea-
sons for his existence. His period cannot be
accurately determined, but conservative thinkers
put him in the quaternary age, several thousand
years before the generally accepted date of man's
appearance on the earth. This European man is
the oldest geological man. Rude as he was, and
with a life little above the brutes, he cherished
hopes of another life. Foster, who holds very ad-
vanced views of man's antiquity, says: "Primeval
man did not regard death as an endless sleep, as is


shown by the implements and ornaments found in
the sepulchres. That homage which in all ages
and among all nations the living pay to the dead,
those ceremonies which are observed at the hour of
final separation, that care which is exercised to
protect the manes from all profane intrusion, and
those delicate acts prompted by love or affection
which we fondly hope will soothe the passage to
the happy land — all these observances our rude an-
cestors maintained. These facts show that deep as
man may sink in barbarism, brutal as he may be
in his instinct, there is still a redeeming spirit which
prompts to higher aspirations and that to him even
there is no belief so drear}- as that of utter annihil-
ation."* The Canstadt race is regarded as the
oldest in Europe, and thus the oldest known to
Geology. Only a few of their dwelling places have
been discovered. There are no traces thus far
found of their places for burial, and we have no
clew as to their view of death, and another life.
They were followed by the Cro-MagJion race. The
earlier members of this race were not much superior
to the preceding one, but there are marks of a lit-
tle progress in the improved implements. They
were hunters, and in addition to the larger animals

"^ Prehistoric Races, p. 33.


the horse appears as a favorite food. They had the
rude beginnings of art, and there are etchings of
animals and of men. Qua trefages asks, ''Had the
quaternary man any belief in another life? Had he
a religion?" and answers, "There can be no doubt
as to the first of these questions. The care bestowed
upon burial-places shows that the hunters of Men-
tone, as also those of Salutre and Cro-Magnon, be-
lieved in the wants of the dead beyond the tomb.
Our acquaintance with the customs of so many
savage nations of the present epoch forbids any
other interpretation of the interment of food, arms
and ornaments with the body."* The next race
was the Furfooz. The two experienced the great
climatic changes of the glacial age. Like their
predecessors they were hunters, but were pacific in
disposition. In intellect they belong to a very low
order, but they have left proofs of their belief in
another life. In the sepulchral grotto where the
Les Nutons buried their dead, are a number of
perforated shells, ornaments in spar, flat pieces of
sandstone traced with sketches, a vase and flint
implements. "It is clear that they had been laid
in the sepulchral vault under the impression that
they would serve to supply the wants of the de-

* Human Species, p. 328.


ceased in the new existence which was opening
before them."*

At a later period, bnt at an unknown age, were
created in England the dolmens, menhirs and
cromlechs, and great burial mounds. They are
so many monuments of the belief of that day in
a future life. Tylor thus speaks of them: "Pre-
historic burial places in our country are still-
wonders to us for the labor they must have cost
their barbaric builders. Most conspicuous are the
great burial mounds of earth or cairns of stone.
Some of the largest of these seem to date from the
stone age. But their use lasted on through the
bronze into the iron age. Within the old burial
grounds or barrows, there may be a cist or rude
chest of stone slabs for the interment, or a
chamber of rude stones, sometimes with gal-
leries." "In the barbaric religion which has left
such clear traces in our midst, what is supposed to
become of the soul after death ? The answers are
many, but they agree in this, that the ghosts must
be somewhere whence they can come to visit the
living, especially at night time."t

The date of man's appearance in America is a

* Human Species, p. 344.
t Anthropology, p. 348, 349.


disputed point. The juxtaposition of bones in
Missouri, and a pipe with a good drawing of the
mammoth found in Iowa, seem to indicate that
man came before that animal disappeared. But
this is denied by eminent authority. The earliest
known race was the Mound-builders. Their
period is undetermined. Short says, "We have
seen that as }'et no truly scientific proof of man's
great antiquity in America exists. This con-
clusion is concurred in by most eminent author-
ities. At present we are not warranted in
claiming for him a much longer residence on this
continent than that assigned him by Sir John
Lubbock viz; three thousand years."* These
Mound-builders may belong to any period from a
thousand to three or four thousand, or even
longer, years ago. They belong, however, to
what are called the prehistoric races, and at the
time they occupied the territory of the U. S. were
low in the scale of civilization. The mounds,
among other purposes, were burial places. From
a burial mound near Chillicothe, about two
hundred pipes carved in stone, pearl and shell
beads, copper tubes and copper ornaments, were ob-
tained. This mound is a specimen of them, though
* North Americans of Antiquity, p. 130.


the offerings to the dead were in the earlier
mounds very often of a ruder character. Foster
has described their burial customs as learned from
the relics: "The corpse was almost invariably
placed near- the original surface of the soil,
enveloped in bark or coarse matting, and in a few
instances fragments of cloth have been found in
this connection. Sometimes it was placed in a
sitting position, again it was extended, and still
again it was put within contracted limits.
Trinkets were often strung about the neck; water-
jugs, drinking cups and vases, which probably
contained food, were placed near. The com-
parative absence of warlike implements is a
noticeable fact." "All the circumstances seem
to indicate that burial was a solemn and deliberate
rite, regulated by fixed custom of perhaps re-
ligious or superstitious origin."* Some of the
mounds were for sacrifices, and there were human
offerings. These things touchingly reveal to us
the deep feelings towards God and the life to
come, that stirred in the bosoms of the men who
roamed in the western wilds many centuries ago.
All scientific evidence, as well as Biblical, points
to Asia as the original home of man. Far back

* Prehistoric Races, pp. 188, 189.


the great Aryan race divided, and one branch
rolled down into India and became the Hindu peo-
ple. The relation of their language to ours, the
increased facilities of becoming acquainted with
their ancient books, and growing commercial rela-
tions, have developed among us a profound interest
in them. There is evidence that they carried with
them from central Asia a belief in a future life. In
the Vedas Yama is the impersonation of life after
death. He has been supposed to be in their tradi-
tions the Adam of the Scriptures. He is repre-
sented as receiving all who die into the spirit
world. The Iranians call the impersonated future
life Yima. The father of Yama in the Vedas is
Vivasat, and the father of Yima in the Zend-Avesta
is Vivanghat. The similarity of names of both
father and son shows that the Yama of the one is
the Yima of the other, and also that both races be-
lieved in a future life before the division which
took place beyond the reach of certain historic

In the earlier books of the Veda there are not
many statements as to future existence, but they
are sufficiently numerous to show that belief in it
lies at the very heart of their religion. "It was
not a positive, abstract conception," says Fairbairn,


** still it was as comprehensive as was possible to
the early Hindus."* Samuel Johnson, writing of
the same early age, says, '*We hail the simplicity
of this moral and religious instinct, so frank and
direct, like the opening eyes of the child, or move-
ments at play. This entire confidence in immortal-
ity was based on an instinctive trust in the con-
tinuity of life and in destiny proportionate to the
best desires." *'The instinct of continued exist-
ence is found so deeply embodied in the Vedic
poems for the very reason that it is so closely as-
sociated with the affections. Every god and every
good act it would seem was the promise of immor-
tality." He quotes Burnouf: "The belief in the
immortality of the soul, not naked and inactive,
but living and clothed with a glorious body, was
never interrupted for a moment; it is now in India
what it was in ancient times, and even rests on a
similar metaphysical basis. "f The simple faith
of the Vedas under the influence of the priests and
philosophers was made more definite, and at last
was almost or quite lost in Brahmanism. In the
Bhagavid Gita we find still the old belief in a
personal immortality. "As the soul in the body

* Cotemporary Review, 1871.

t Oriental Religious. India, p. 133.


undergoes changes of infancy, youth and age, so it
obtains a new body hereafter. As a man abandons
worn-out clothes, and takes new ones, so does the
soul quit worn-out bodies and enter others."* It
is well known that the later Hindus believed the
doctrine of transmigration, a new form of the old
doctrine, attesting the existence ,of the belief in
immortality. Buddha introduced the idea of
Nirvana. About the exact nature of Nirvana schol-
ars are not agreed. James Freeman Clarke says,
"At present the best Buddhist scholars incline to
the belief that Nirvana does not mean annihilation,
but immovable rest. It probably means what
Christianity means by the rest of the soul in God."t
But if it does mean annihilation, it has only the
value of a speculative opinion.

The age of the Chinese is not known, but they
came down from a very early period. They are
tenacious of customs, and from the present na-
tional habits we may reason back to a remote past.
The ancestral shrine testifies to the belief in a
future life. It has been transmitted from a very
early day. "From the oldest times," says John-
son, "the ancestral shrine has held the first place

*Ch. 2.

t Ten Great Religions. Part II, p. 332.


in the Chinese affections." "The Shiking de-
scribes the music and dances and pleasant viands
in these dwellings of the expected ones, three
thousand years ago." "The candle at the bedside
of the dead, and the paper money and clothes
burned for his service, have been supposed to prove
that the dead aiie conceived as ghosts groping in
darkness and indigence, but the symbols of senti-
ment must not be too literally read." "The filial
piety of the living would fain establish a real union
with the dead. Such invocations are common :
'Thy body is laid in the grave but thy spirit dwells
in this temple of our home. We beseech thee,
honored one, to free thyself from thy former body
and abide in this tablet forever.' "* The Chinese
have held for centuries a doctrine of evolution.
Man was born of nature, but he is composed of a
spiritual, as well as animal part. At death the
spiritual ascends to heaven, the animal descends to
dust. The philosophers did not directly teach the
doctrine of immortality, but they taught nothing
inconsistent with it according to the Chinese mode
of thought. The people carry the belief into
every-day life. They announce every important
family event to their ancestors. They pay devo-

^ Oriental Religions. China, p. 700, etc.


tions to the patron saints of their vocations. The
carpenter adores Pang, once a famous artificer in
the province of Shang-tung ; and the soldier
Kwang-tae, the war-god, who was once a distin-
guished soldier.

Shintooism, one of the religions of Japan, is evi-
dence of the belief of a future life among the Jap-
anese. Among the inferior deities of the Empire
are nearly three thousand deified men.

Egypt was one of the very oldest of civilized
countries. Its original settlement is not known.
Egyptologists do not agree upon the date of the
accession of Menes, the first known king. Mariette
puts it at 5000 B. C. ; Brugsch at 4400; Bunsen at
3059; Poole at 2700; Rawlinson between 2450 and
2250. But all agree that civilization was carried
here to a high state of perfection at a very earl}^
period in the history of man. There is evidence
that from the first they believed in another life.
Their monuments, coming down from their earliest
ages, are records of their belief in immortality and
the resurrection. The Book of the Dead, a copy
of which was deposited in every mummy case,
gave minute directions to the soul how to work its
way to heaven, and contained specific descriptions
of the other world and life in heaven. The mum-


mies are witnesses of their belief even in a resur-
rection of the body. The Egyptian lived with the
thought of a future life constantly with him. ' ' The
sun when it set seemed to him to die, and when it
rose the next morning, tricking its beams, flamed
once more in the forehead of the sky, it was a per-
petual symbol of the resurrection. ' ' Here was also
found the doctrine of transmigration; and Herodo-
tus, not comprehending the idea of a resurrection,
supposed that they embalmed the body because the
delay was prolonged as long as the body was kept

The Assyrians and Babylonians also have great
antiquity. Bunsen put the beginning of the
Chaldean kingdom at 3784, but Rawlinson says
that from the monuments alone we should not be
compelled to place it further back than 2025. They
worshipped several deified kings and Hea, god of
the under- world. *

The Zendic books date, as Haug, and approved
by Rawlinson, thinks about 1500. The Iranians
many years before had deified Yima. The Zend
Avesta gives clear expression to the belief in a

* Assur, Merodach, Nebo, Nergal god of hunting, Vul storm-
god, Asur king of heaven, and Hea lord of hell, were the prin-
cipal gods. Smith's History from Monuments, 10, 11.


future existence. * 'Joyously go the pure souls to
the o:olden throne of Ahuraand his immortal ones."
"The soul of the righteous attains to immortality,
but that of the wicked has everlasting punish-
ment." Johnson, who has given these with other
extracts, says, "Immortality in the Avesta is not
involved in transmigration; it does not tend to ab-
sorption in Ahura; it does not mingle man with
the brute, nor merge him with the gods. It is dis-
tinctly and completely personal."*

The Greeks were very careful to discharge the
duties which they supposed to be due from the liv-
ing to the dead. They believed that the soul
wandered about the world, not permitted to enter
Hades, until the body was buried; and they provided
for it an honorable interment. As soon as dead the
friends put in the mouth of the corpse a coin to pay
the ferryman across the river Styx. Honey-cake
was given it. The body was washed, anointed
with perfumes, crowned with flowers and dressed in
white. In some ages various objects, as painted
vases, mirrors and trinkets, were placed in the
tomb.t All these testify to a belief in another life.
The funeral customs and the faith inspiring them

* Oriental Religions. Persia, p. 66.
t Becker's Charicles, Burials.


came down from the very earliest times. The
Homeric age may not have had a clear conception
of the fact that the thinking powers snrvived the
body, but there is abundant evidence that the people
of that day believed that man did not wholly die.
Fairbairn says, "The Homeric belief in a future
life of the soul was a faltering, inconsistent, indis-
tinct, yet veracious utterance of that great human
instinct which demands for man continued exist-
ence."* Psyche often appears as a shadow, a
ghostly form of man, destitute of the properties of
either mind or body, a vague, intangible some-
thing, yet somehow continuing the life of the per-
son. Then, it sometimes appears as self-conscious,
with power of appearing and speaking to the living
either asleep or awake. Patrokles appears to
Achilles and begs for burial.

"Let my pale corpse the rites of burial know,
And give me entrance to the realms below;
Till then the spirit finds no resting place,
But here and there the unbodied spectres chase
The vagrant dead around the dark abode.
Forbid to cross the irremediable flood."

Ulysses' mother describes her own death and
what has happened in Ithaca. Achilles rejoices to

* Contemporary Review.


hear of the heroism of his son. In these and other
passages the soul embodies all the essential elements
of man. In Hesiod the conceptions become clearer
and more consistent. The earliest philosophers
were materialistic and could find no solid ground
in their philosophy for immortality, but the belief
in it shows itself in their speculations, and some-
times obtained clear expression. Heraclitus said,
*' When we die our souls revive and live." '*The
gods are immortal men." The tragic poets re-
flected the common faith, and their utterances are
not doubtful. Socrates represents both the instinct-
ive public belief and that of the philosopher. As
a philosopher he offers two arguments: the perfecti-
bility of the soul, and its nature as divine. As a
man he talks confidently to his friends on the night
of his death, of that higher state upon which he
was about to enter. Plato discusses it in many
places, and his profound convictions come out as
an essential element of his philosophy.

The Etruscans were the acknowledged sources
of the augury, games, architecture and religious
rites of the Romans. Rome, probably, obtained
from them the whole of their early civilization.
They lived in the northern part of Italy along the
Po, until they drove out the Umbrians and located


in Etruria. They were probably of Turanian
origin. Historical critics have been perplexed
about the time of the commencement of their civil-
ization. Some have fixed it at 1400 B. C. ; others
locx); others as late as 650. They attained con-
siderable skill in massive architecture, painting,
music, and statuary in bronze. They had many
physical comforts and indulged in luxuries, enjoy-
ing an elegance in their houses, a variety and rich-
ness in dress, and a magnificence in their orna-
ments, equal perhaps to any cotemporary. Their
religious ideas were low. They had a form of
nature worship. They practiced gloomy supersti-
tious rites, and offered human sacrifices.* But
they had a strong belief in a future life. They
buried their dead in vaults and in tombs hewn out
of rocks. The ceilings were ornamented wath
painting or sculpture. With the body were de-
posited bronze instruments, gold ornaments, rings
and engraved gems. On the walls of the tombs
were inscriptions recording their hopes of another
life, such as: "While we depart to naught our
essence rises. " "We rise like a bird." "We as-
cend to our ancestors." "The soul rises like

* Origin of Nations.


The belief in immortality has been found among
every people known to history since the Christian
era. Of the Goths and Huns, those terrible ene-
mies of the Roman empire in the days of its de-
cline, Sir William Temple says, "It is certain that
an opinion was fixed and general among them that
death was but an entrance to another life." The
Teutonic tribes thought of death as going home.
The Celts believed in a metempsychosis.

The North and South American Indians at the
time of the discovery by Columbus were divided
into a large number of distinct tribes and peoples;
but while differing widely as to the degrees of civi-
lization and religious practices, they all believed in
a future existence. Charlevoix, in an oft-quoted
remark, says, "The belief best established among
aboriginal Americans is that of the immortality of
the soul." Dr. Robertson says, "With respect to
the great doctrine of religion concerning the im-
mortality of the soul, they were more united. We
can trace the opinion from one extremity of Amer-
ica to the other, in some regions more faint, in
others more developed, but nowhere unknown."
Brinton, in his "Myths of the New World," tells us
"that there was only one class found among the
Indians of North and South America, and that a


very small one who seemed to have no notion of a
future life; and even they believed in charms,
dreams, and guardian spirits." Clark says,* ''The
Mexicans said to the dying, ' Sir, awake, the light
is approaching; the birds begin their song of wel-
come. ' The Esquimaux looked to the land of per-
petual day, where there are plenty of wolves. Nic-
araugua Indians thought the soul comes out of the
mouth in the form of a living person." The Pe-
ruvians believed that the soul, at a time not exactly
determined, would return to the body, beginning a
new terrestrial life.f Schoolcraft tells of the vam-
pire among the iVlgonquins, and adds, "The belief
in necromancy and witchcraft was universal, and
that of transformations and metempsychosis was
equally common, east and w^est of the Alleghany
mountains. J

The lowest and most brutal races have been
found by more recent travelers to believe that the
soul lives after the body dies. Among the lowest
are the Bushmen. It has been said that they have
no religion and no idea of a future life. Living-

* Clark's Teu Great Religions, Part II, p. 139.

t Rivero and Tschuddi's Peruvian Antiquity, by Hawkes, p.

J Iroquois, p. 144.


stone traveled among them and became acquainted
with their habits and modes of thought. He found
at Zanga a Bushman's grave which "showed dis-
tinctly that they regarded the dead as still in an-
other state of being, for they addressed him and
requested him not to be offended even though they
wished to retain him a little while longer in this
world."* He says that the tribes in South Africa
show so little reverence and feel so little in regard
to God and a future state that it is not surprising
that some have supposed them entirely ignorant on
the subject, and gives an instance of a similar mis-
take he made with a Bushman. He questioned the
Bak wains "as to their former knowledge of good
and evil, of God and the future state, and they
scouted the idea of their ever having been without
a tolerably clear idea on all these subjects. ' ' f When
they speak of the dead they say he has gone to the
gods. The Barotse showed somewhat more relig-
ious feeling than the Bechuanas, but still very
degraded. He asked a priest at Santuru's grave
for a relic, but was refused because Santuru ob-
jected. At Tete he met Senhor Candido, who
knew the language of the country perfectly, and

* Travels, p. 183.
t Do., 176.


whose statements, Livingstone says, may be relied
upon. Candido told him that "all the natives of

1 3 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19

Online LibraryLuther A FoxEvidence of a future life : from reason and revelation → online text (page 3 of 19)