Luther A Fox.

Evidence of a future life : from reason and revelation online

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remains. The thoughts as the evening shades
come on fly beyond the golden gate in the west to
the home where the loved one has gone.

The memory of the dying is frequently busy
with thoughts of those long since dead. The old
man in the delirium of disease talks lovingly of
the companions of his youth and early manhood.
Affection reaching out to those who have crossed
over the river, wonders if they retain their love
for us and asks with Mrs. Henians:

"Tell us, thou bird of soleiuu strain,
Can those who have loved forget?
We call and they answer not again ;
Do they love — do they love us yet?"

The love that goes beyond the grave, defying
separation and death, has existed in all ages.
The splendid monuments erected to their memory,
the inscriptions upon tombs, and various other
mementoes, bear witness to it in the early dawn


of history. The Egyptian mummies, the Chinese
ancestral shrines, the American mounds, testify to
that affection down through the ages. The
rudest savages as well as the most cultivated
races cherish the love for their dead. It is there-
fore a natural affection. It subserves no purpose
in life, and if it does not point to a future life,
what is its meaning? But clearer than any logic,
and above all logic, it is in itself a testimony. It
bears in itself by instinct, or intuition, or inner
revelation, or whatever one may be pleased to call
it, the evidence that rational love can never

Among the affections we find also love for God,
who is an infinite person. There is not much
need for such a love in the narrow limits of life.
Mere utilitarianism can not satisfactorily account
for it. The attempted explanation is that it in-
fluences character. But if life here is all of
existence, there is not much need of character.
Good health is better than character in the merely
mortal. The work of to-day has its full fruits
to-morrow, and so each succeeding day. If it all
does not end in naught, there must be a future life.

If this love of God was a natural product and
intended solely for earth, we should have found in


this, as in other purely natural instincts, uniform-
ity of results. As a matter of fact all men have the
faculty, but the great majority do not actually ex-
ercise it. * Paul said the natural heart is at enmity
with God. The history of the world confirms the
judgment of the Apostle. Men have feared and
shrunk from God. The great body of the world
had forgotten the one God, and not being able to do
without religion, had fallen into polytheism. This
is inexplicable on the ground of pure naturalism,
but is in complete harmony with that religion
which teaches a fall of man and a future life.

The love of God has here no sufficient scope.
The most devout come far short of their desire. In
their best service there is imperfection, and in their
deepest devotion a consciousness of falling below
the demand. An infinite God deserves infinite
praise and love, and another life is needed to perfect
these affections. There is a capability of the
indefinite expansion of our affections, and another
life is needed to complete that which is here only
happily begun. If there is any worth in character
at all, love toward God is the noblest and best thing.
We intuitively pronounce it the best. It is irra-
tional to think otherwise. But if there is no future
life, Nature's highest, noblest, best work perishes in


its very beginning. Its grand promise turns out a
failure. The noblest and worthiest aspirations are
awakened, but only to be blasted. The success
which marks Nature's work everywhere else forbids
us to accept this conclusion. The capacity to love
God is a proof of the existence of a God to be loved,
and a perfect God would not leave so grand a
scheme to fail. With or without the thought of
God, the afifections point clearly to a future life.


THE world does not meet the promises contained
in its constitution. It has capabilities that are
not developed, better possibilities than are real-
ized. Many things were left intentionally imper-
fect, that man might find his home a school for
self-discipline and self-development, but there are
many imperfections and evils which are not needed
for this purpose. The greatest failure is man.
He has fallen much below what seems the mani-
fest purpose of his Maker. He is made for one
end, but he reaches another. A few individuals
rise up above th^ race towards the ideal of life, but
even they are conscious of great imperfections,
while the masses are perverted from the higher
aims of existence. These are dark facts from any
point of view. No satisfactory theodicy has yet
been found. But if there is no future life the
darkness is greatly intensified, and pessimism ap-
pears the true philosophy. We must, on that sup-
position, ascribe the world either to a force w^hich

works blindly and is unable to carry out what we


mistake for purposes, or to a fickle Deity, who
changed His plan in the midst of His work and
left the world an orphan.

Happiness. — We were created for happiness.
There are many things provided for our comfort.
The colors blending in beautiful harmony delight
the eye; the concord and cadence of sweet sounds
through the manifold forms of tone please the ear;
the delicious flavors and fragrances gratify the
taste and smelling. There are domestic, social
and intellectual pleasures — something in every re-
lation and at every turn to make us happy. There
is pleasure attached to the activities necessary to
preserve life. The young have buoyant spirits,
bright hopes, high aspirations and lively passions,
making life brilliant and gay. Passing years tone
down the exuberance of spirits, but middle life has
its duties that furnish an ample compensation.
Old age has its weaknesses, but also its peculiar
joys. Pains beyond a certain degree are lost in
unconsciousness, and sorrows after a while become
sweet memories.

It is true that the world has its discomforts, but

it has also its provisions against them. There are

diseases, but there are remedies and safeguards.

There are bereavements, but there are sympathies


that afford a solace, and time, the sovereign healer,
at length brings relief. There are poisons, but
there are antidotes. Nature did not leave us un-
exposed to the evils surrounding us. We cer-
tainly were not intended to be miserable, but to be

But men are not happy. They often make
themselves unhappy by overlooking the thousand
comforts and fixing their attention upon some one
thing which they have lost or which they covet.
Many Ahabs with superabundance weep and refuse
to eat because they covet the little gardens of Na-
boths. Men pervert pleasures and turn them into
pains. Proper labor is itself pleasant and condu-
cive to health and happiness, but the millions toil
inordinately and wear out life in ceaseless strug-
gle. The furrow fixed by care upon the brow is
not effaced by the smile that plays in the social
circle. Our passions are inflamed by unreasonable
indulgences. Weakened constitutions follow ex-
cesses. Selfish aims create conflicts. There are so
many sufferings that it has been gravely ques-
tioned whether life is worth the living. The race
falls far short of its possible happiness.

Freedom. — Man was made for freedom. The
ancients had no clear conception of this truth, and


even Plato and i\ristotle taught that some men
were by nature slaves. The differences among men
were more obtrusive, and great as were these phil-
osophers, they failed to see the common humanity
which lies back of all outward diversity and con-
stitutes one common brotherhood. The universal
desire for liberty might have taught them that no
man was born to be a slave. Alen in bondage pine
as imprisoned birds. Years in servitude may make
the yoke tolerable, but never pleasant. No heredi-
tary influence can render it natural. The free will,
the power of self-determination in the higher
sphere of character, protests against shackles as
unnatural, and cries out for freedom. It gives the
lie to all the badges of bondage. All men, because
they were created rational, were created free, and
so far as the value of humanity reaches they are
equal. Because they are men they are entitled to
liberty. Slavery is a wrong. It is an outrage
upon our common nature. It is an indignity to
humanity, and an insult to the race. Unless we
read Nature's purposes backward, all men were
created to be free.

But as a matter of fact, all men have not been
free. Millions have been in bondage. In the days
of the Gracchi, two-thirds of the population in


Italy were slaves. In Greece, whicli has long been
celebrated as the cradle of liberty and whose strug-
gles for freedom have stirred the schoolboy's heart
in all succeeding ages, only the favored few were
freemen, and the rest were slaves. In Egypt the
slaves were so abundant that several hundred thou-
sand lives might be sacrificed in gratifying the
whim of a king. The ancient world never had the
idea of personal freedom — theirs was only civic
liberty. It was the freedom of the State, and not
that of the individual. While England was grow-
ing up in its liberty, and long after it had wrested
from John its Magna Charta, the churls were slaves
and the serfs mere chattels. Feudalism, which
ruled in Europe for several centuries, was an organ-
ized system of slavery where a few nobles held the
rest in bondage. When England emancipated her
slaves under William IV. in 1834, there were still,
despite the labors of philanthropists like Clarkson
and Wilberforce, three-fourths of a million in the
Empire In the United States, the home of free-
dom, that country which published the doctrine
that all men are created free and equal,, there were
four millions of slaves emancipated in 1865. In
South Africa the Boers, with the connivance of
England, steal and enslave the African tribes about


them. There are in various parts of the world
many millions still in slavery. From the days of
Abraham, men have been bought and sold. There
has been a large portion of the race which has
lived and died in slavery. Thus the purpose of the
Creator has been thwarted, and millions, without
any fault of theirs, have, through gross injustice,
never known one of the greatest pleasures of exist-
ence, or enjoyed one of the most sacred rights of
man. If there is no future life, these wrongs can
never be set right.

Knowledge. — We were made for intelligence.
Instinct does less for us than for any other part
of the animal world. It directs in the first effort to
obtain nourishment. It furnishes the first expres-
sion of want and pain. It assists in some acts
necessary to personal preservation, as startling in
sudden danger, and in some connected with the
perpetuation of the race. But all else is left for us
to learn. The babe is seen learning the distinction
between himself and his body, the uses of the
members of the body, and how to form judgments
from sensations of sight and hearing, touching and
smelling. He learns what is pleasant and what is
hurtful. All this, so far as the brute ever knows
it, is given by instinct.


It is impossible for us to determine how mnch
man has learned by his own powers. We cannot
prove that he was originally a savage, and then
infer that all he knows he has acquired. We have
no minute history of the early races. The Bible
tells us that Cain tilled the soil and afterwards
went to the land of Nod and built a city. But
that city was very rude, and his agriculture must
have been of a very simple form. At that time the
use of iron and brass was unknown. It was in the
sixth generation we find Tubal-Cain, "an instructor
of every artificer in brass and iron." In that same
age we find Jabal, "the father of all such as dwelt
in tents and have cattle;" and Jubal, "the father
of all such as handle the harp and organ." These
statements give us the rise of certain things which
we now think belong to the lowest form of civili-
zation. Whatever may have been the state of so-
ciety before this, we have here the evidence that
nearly all the implements of common life were
obtained through invention. The growth of im-
provements as known in history is an interesting
study. Some have been discovered by accident,
but most by experiment. The wonderful im-
provements within the last century give promise
of others still greater and more wonderful in the


future. These things are incomparably superior to
the few things which the highest form of animal
intelligence has been able to learn.

We have faculties for knowing things lying
entirely beyond the range of the useful. The great
body of our science has no practical bearing. As a
motive for exercising these faculties Nature has
given us a keen spirit of inquiry. We are exposed
to ennui from sameness, and we are driven to
something new. The love of novelty often runs
into radicalism, which not rarely blunders upon
important truth. The purpose of Nature could not
have been more clearly indicated than is done in
placing us in such conditions that we must learn
in order to live, and in giving us higher faculties,
stimulated by curiosity and the desire to know for
the sake of knowing.

But this purpose is not met in the great masses.
A large part of tlie world is engaged in winning
bread, and seeks no knowledge above that which is
necessary to make a living, and the little current
in neighborhood gossip. In the most enlightened
countries, until within the present century, there
were no proper provisions made for the diffusion
of knowledge among all classes. The poorer chil-
dren, except in rare cases, cannot be educated


without the assistance of the state. Governments,
for nine centuries, have provided higher schools.
Alfred the Great established Oxford, and Charle-
magne encouraged learning. During the Middle
Ages every sovereign in Europe, and particularly
in Germany, wanted a national university. But
common schools are one of the chief glories of our
own century. England did not adopt common
school laws before 1870, and in Great Britain a
large per cent, cannot read. In France, fourteen
per cent, are illiterate. In Germany even, where
the greatest attention has been given to popular
education, there are two per cent, unable to read.
It is true that an elementary education is not the
only means of intelligence, and ability to read is
not an absolute test. Louis IX. of France and
Otto I. of Germany were much more intelligent
than many a parish clerk of their day. Many who
can read do not read anything worth it, and re-
main in almost complete ignorance of everything
beyond the narrowest circle. But where illiteracy
is great, there we know general ignorance is deep.
In America, where there are schools of all grades,
where there are a great number and variety of per-
iodicals, where the mail facilities are very good,
where books abound, and agents carry them to the


door, and by practiced arts press them upon the
people, there are marks of rapid development, but
there is evidence also of a very considerable degree
of ignorance. When we turn from enlightened
countries to the semi-enlightened and barbarous,
from Europe and the United States to Africa and
Asia, the dark belts are very broad. When we
look from the present through the past, we have
only a small fraction of the race who may be called
intelligent. The human family as a whole has not
met Nature's aim in regard -to intelligence.

Peace. — We were made for peace. All the
highest interests of men are jeopardized by war.
Progress is always retarded by the conflict of arms.
Often war has been made conducive to ultimate
progress, but only by some higher power overrul-
ing its own nature to the general good. The end
could have been reached and the higher interests
subserved better by other means. War is irra-
tional, and it is a sad thing to see men w^ho can
reason take a question from its proper tribunal to
the arbitrament of the sword. It is unnatural.
Might can never make right, but every war is an
appeal to force. The world is coming more and
more to understand its nature, and will not now,
as formerly, sacrifice thousands of lives for mere


But history is so full of the stories of battles that
war seems to be man's normal condition. The
ancient monuments are covered with the accounts
of victories. In a thousand years the temple of
Janus was closed only three times, each time only
for a few months, and Rome in this respect was
not so much unlike its contemporaries. In medi-
aeval ages Europe was in such constant war that
the interference of the Church imposing the truce
of God, preventing any battle from Saturday until
Monday in each week, was a great benefit to soci-
ety. The Crusades were a continuous war for two
centuries. Then followed war after war, until the
peace of Westphalia brought a little respite. The
close of last centiiry and the beginning of the
present were marked by the great Napoleonic wars.
The United States, outside of the circle of antag-
onistic influences that so often disturb Europe, has
been engaged in three important wars since the
revolution which secured it its national existence.
It has been estimated that one-tenth of the race
has perished in war. This, then, is another of
Nature's aims that has not been met.

Virtue. — We were made for virtue. A law
with its internal rewards and penalties has been
implanted within our nature. We were placed


under sucli relations to social and physical laws
that virtue is rewarded and vice punished by
natural consequences. Our happiness is so con-
nected with virtue that utilitarianism has many
plausible supports in common facts. The world
is arranged by its temptations and warnings to
give us moral discipline. A purpose could not be
more clearly revealed than that we were made to
be virtuous.

But the world is immoral. The picture of
Grecian and Roman morals in their best days is
ugly enough, and in their decline is horrible. The
courts of Europe, with some notable exceptions,
have been disgraced by gross immoralities, and
these are indexes of the general public sentiment
of their times. The truth of Scriptural statements
as to the general depravity of man cannot be
denied. Men have testified to their guilt by the
historic efforts to atone for it. Those who have
been purest have been most frank in confessing
that they were sinners. The world has had its
reputed saints, but knows only one spotless
character : Jesus, the Son of God. Sin abounds.

Wrongs. — The world is full of wrongs as well
as failures. The innocent often suffer; the guilty
frequently escape. The pious, truth-loving man


dies a martyr, while the wicked tyrant lives in
ease. The hard-faced, iron-hearted inquisitor is
honored by the world and rewarded by his rulers,
while the humble confessor languishes in a
dungeon without books or light, is put occasion-
ally upon the rack, and at last is dragged out to be
burned at the stake. Millions have been executed
for the impossible crime of witchcraft. Justice
often fails before the best courts, and frequently
the wrongs never can be corrected.

There are many other forms of evil which men
suffer without compensation in this life, and with-
out any fault of their own. The little child with
splendid but yet undeveloped powers, and the
young man with a bright and useful career open-
ing before him, fall victims to inherited disease.
A pre-natal accident imprints a hideous mark or
even produces idiocy. A careless nurse suffers
a child to fall, and deformity and lifelong suflfering
ensue. The poor widow with a house full of
children is driven from office to make way for an
able-bodied, lazy man. Silly women, with narrow
selfish spirits, fritter away life in frivolous gossip,
while under the shadow of their palatial residences,
worthy women with noble hearts and intellectual
cravings are worn by poverty which holds them


down to the points of needles to obtain the
scantiest living. The favors of the world are
most unevenly distributed. Many an ignoble and
vicious Saul wears the crown, while a princely
David begs for bread. These wrongs meet us
everywhere. They contradict our idea of justice.
They exist despite the manifest tendency of the
principles of the world. God's purpose is not
met. If there is no future life, these wrongs can
never be set right, and God is either unable to
correct them or indifferent to them, or there is
no God.

Objection Stated. — To the argument of this
chapter it may be objected that the fact that the
world is under a general government has been
overlooked. General laws are established for gen-
eral results, and cannot regard special cases. This
is true of every law, both civil and natural, and
injury to individuals is unavoidable. All the evils
mentioned in the argument are the results of gen-
eral laws, and have their parallels in nature.
Much of the unhappiness, slavery, ignorance, war
and personal evil is brought upon men by them-
selves, and the remainder is produced by the gen-
eral course of the natural world. These evils
belong to the nature of things. The very laws


which make happiness, intelligence and virtue
possible, make misery, ignorance and vice also pos-
sible. There could not be pleasure without possi-
ble pain. The imperfections of character grow
out of our natural condition. By a law some-
where we are born with a strong bias to sin, a bias
so strong that theologians call it total depravity,
and yet no one who believes in God regards him
as the author of sin. It must be ascribed to nat-
ural law. The sufferings which come from the
laws of nature may be injurious, but they are not
wrongs. The cyclone arising in atmospheric con-
ditions demolishes a man's house, kills his chil-
dren, and sweeps away all his property. It would
be silly for him to complain of injustice. A law
which brings general good must be accepted, and
when evils come from it to individuals they must
patiently submit. The idea of future compensa-
tion for the natural evils of life involves too much.
It would prove that the beggar must be higher
than the rich man who was equally good, and that
the life-long sufferer must be saved, or there is no
possible compensation for his evils. To perfect
the plan of the world and correct all the wrongs,
not merely a future life is necessary, but universal
salvation; for as long as one individual is lost, the


purpose of happiness, knowledo^e and virtue for all
is incomplete. The plainer and simpler way is to
rest satisfied with the common results, and regard
with pity the innocent victims of the course of the

Answered. — There is force in this objection.
On atheistic ground, it is, perhaps, unanswerable.
The atheist regards the world as the product of
blind force, and the irresponsible laws of the world
can not do an injustice. They are carried forward
without a plan, and, therefore, can not be charged
with failure. The argument of this chapter, then,
can have little weight with one who denies the ex-
istence of God, nor with one who denies the fact
of Providence. On theistic ground, some of the
points of the objection carry us back to the great
problem of evil, and cannot be fully met. We
must take the facts on both sides, and determine
on which side lies the greater probability.

It must be admitted by all, atheist and theist,
that man has higher rights than other creatures,
and suffers wrong where they suffer only injury.
We cannot reason from the myriads of blasted buds,
and the bruised plants, and twisted and gnarled
and stunted trees, to the injuries of men. Nor can
we reason even from the waste of animal life and


feeline, the countless numbers of birds and fish and
more feeble animals brought forth simply to perish
in their infancy, the affectionate dogs kicked and
starved, and faithful horses strained and whipped
and killed by heartless masters. The plant has no

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Online LibraryLuther A FoxEvidence of a future life : from reason and revelation → online text (page 7 of 19)