Luther A Fox.

Evidence of a future life : from reason and revelation online

. (page 8 of 19)
Online LibraryLuther A FoxEvidence of a future life : from reason and revelation → online text (page 8 of 19)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


rights, and philosophers like Kant and Hickok
have denied that even animals, because wanting in
personality, have rights and claims. But whatever
we may think of this philosophic opinion, the
claims of animals are not of the same order as that
of man, and when an animal is injured we are not
so offended as when man is. We are not so indig-
nant at the cruel master of the brute as at the cruel
owner of human slaves. The difference in the
judgment may be grounded in selfishness, but still
it is the universal feeling. We cannot regard the
evils in the human world in the same way that we
do similar ones in the lower order of beings.

'We have a consciousness of individuality which
modifies the conception of our relation to general
law. The brute has a feeling of identity and a
sense of pain, but not of personality and wrong.
He may be sunk in the interests of his species
without a feeling of injustice. We are aware of
relations to our race, and of great claims upon our-
selves that may even demand our self-sacrifice, but



CONDITION OF THE WORLD. 145

we never lose the consciousness of individuality.
When life is given for the general weal it must be
offered voluntarily or we feel most deeply wronged.
Individuality is never sunk in the mass. There
are personal claims never surrendered. We have a
right to our moral character against the world.
No seeming good, whatever, to the world can make
a valid demand upon the individual for a single-
immoral act. This claim holds against the uni-
verse. If we could imagine that an infinite being
were to chain us Prometheus-like to a rock and
torture us forever because we refused to commit a
vile act, we would denounce him as a tyrant. This
conviction has long existed as a maxim: ^^I^et
justice be done though the heavens fall."

The individual seems to have claims, therefore,
against general law. If there is nothing behind
physical law, no responsible agent, man has no
claims and can only submit to be crushed. He
may try to make the best of it and look for com-
pensation in a better character. But it may be
that the injury he has received issues in an early
death. The character may last, say, only two or
three months, and then, after intense suffering all
the while, go out into nothingness. It is cold
comfort. As one stands over the smoking ruins of
7



146 EVIDENCE OF A FUTURE LIFE.

bis home in which went down his family, he may
possibly dismiss thought with the remark, *'It
cannot be helped," but the heart is not satisfied.
The innate sense of wrong asserts claims, and thus
implies a God behind these general laws who will
recompense for the evil done. The cyclone may
ruin, but if we can feel that there is another life
where the injury will be converted into good, every
demand of justice is met, and there is inward satis-
faction. The pre-natal mark may disfigure and
embarrass, or the inherited disease may cut off life
as it opens brilliantly, but the mind and heart are
at rest when it may look forward to another life.
There may be an inherited tendency to sin, but if
there are motives and influences sufiicient to re-
strain it and form personal character and shape
destiny, there can be, and there is, no sense of in-
justice. An infinite God can and will make all
things that happen unequally under general law
equal in the future life. But when we shut off
faith in that life the world is full of wrongs that
can never be corrected, and we escape madness by
declining thought.

If we take our stand with atheism, we are the
products of blind force, and feel that we are its
victims. There are no claims or rights except as



CONDITION OF THE WORI.D. 1 47

man against man. There may be, for aught we
know, an eternal future of misery without guilt,
and we dare not complain of it as injustice. The
idea of character grew up out of sensations and
now remains only as an inveterate prejudice. There
are no eternal principles of right, but certain max-
ims of prudence which have been transmuted into
conscience, and there is really no such thing as
character. The world came we know not how,
and will go we know not where, and all is gov-
erned by the iron rule of fate. Our sense of justice
is a fiction of legislators which we find profitable
to perpetuate, and all our primary ideas are illu-
sions. We are the sports of fortune. Coming out
of darkness and going back into it again, we can
know nothing beyond the narrow range of experi-
ence. It is best to drift along with the current,
making ourselves as comfortable as possible, and
when the tide turns against us bow to our fate and
end all by one blow. This solves the problem by
writing failure upon the destiny of man and clos-
ing the darkest curtains about our heads. This is
the outlook from atheism.

But if we take our stand in theism we have a
sufiicient cause for the world. We have a Ruler
who is able to correct all the evils growing out of



148 EVIDENCE OF A FUTURE LIFE.

the general administration of the laws of nature.
We have an infinitely wise and holy power presid-
ing over our destiny. He never does evil by mis-
take or weakness. He is able to perfect all His
plans. He will never leave a wrong without cor-
rection. He is the centre of those principles which
we are compelled to regard eternal, and affords a
sufficient cause and ground for our own personality.
Because the present life does not furnish scope for
the execution of His schemes and the adjustment of
the evils, He has ordained for us another life and
given us promises in the innate desire, in the uni-
versal belief, in the sense of justice, and also in a
claim which He has implanted in our hearts.
Every proof of the existence of God is a proof of a
future life. If there is a God and not another life,
there are promises which He never fulfills, and
plans which He never carries out. He stands, in
all the light we have now, convicted of injustice.

It may be said that in the absolute blank which
will follow the close of human life on earth — a
close which science even is able to foresee — in the
absolute stillness that comes when the last wail of
human grief has ceased, there will be no one to
charge Him with failure or blame for injustice.
There will be no one but God Himself. He will



CONDITION OF THE WORLD. 149

be left to reflect upon the facts that the world was
never perfected; that He gave us capacities that
were never fully developed; that He inspired us
with hopes that were never realized; that He en-
dowed us with a sense of individuality and rights
which He never respected; that He crushed mill-
ions of persons for the benefit of a few for only a
moment in the vast sweep of eternity; that He
made promises only to deceive. He will stand
condemned before His own conscience and will be
tortured by the thoughts of His own degradation.
No, no: God cannot do wrong. We shrink from
the statement of the possibility, even though it be
to bring out truth. We must believe in a future
life or leap back into atheism. If there is a God,
we shall die only to live again. If there is no God,
then welcome annihilation. Nothingness is infi-
nitely preferable to an eternity without a heavenly
Father. Having had the conception of infinite
truth and holiness, let it go out only with exist-
ence.



CHAPTER VIII.

EVIDENCE FROM THE BIBLE.

'T^HB Bible contains the sacred books of more
-*- than one-fourth of the human family. The
Old Testament is held in devout, almost super-
stitious reverence by eight millions of Jews. The
whole Bible is received by four hundred millions
of Christians as a divine revelation.

The Bible is a very old book. The latest part
cannot be later than the fourth century A. D. As
a complete book it is therefore, at the very least,
fourteen hundred years old. In its oldest part it
dates back three thousand five hundred years.
The most radical criticism admits that portions
of the Pentateuch belong to the Mosaic age. If
it is not the oldest, it is certainly one of the very
oldest books now extant.

The Old Testament grew up among the Jews.
They were inferior to their cotemporaries in
science and art, but they were superior in religious
conceptions. Their monotheism and moral code
have been accepted by the civilized world. They
(150)



EVIDENCE FROM THE BIBI.E. 15I

have been the teachers of the world in religion.
Christianity sprang up in the Roman Empire dur-
ing its Augustan period. It fought its way up
through persecution, brought to its aid all the
higher elements of society, and has been the power
of the highest civilization for fifteen hundred years.

Such old books, having so great authority and
power over the most enlightened people of the
world, are entitled to respect, and their teaching
has certainly some weight. If the most intelligent
part of our race has been deceived upon a matter
in which the profoundest interest has been felt, we
may well despair of the truth.

The Bible teaches clearly the doctrine of a future
life. The earlier statements may be somewhat
vague and uncertain, but enunciations become
clearer and more distinct until we reach the New
Testament, where they are very positive and defi-
nite. The dreamy, confused hope grows into a
most decided conviction. The belief is implied in
every Christian doctrine, and so interwoven into
every thread of the system, that if it be eliminated
we have nothing of its religion left worth the
saving.

If the Bible were only a human book, its testi-
mony to a future life would be, in some degree,



152 EVIDENCE OE A FUTURE IvlFE.

evidence of the fact. What has been believed by
so many and for so long a time, must have a basis
in truth. But the Bible claims to be a revelation
from God. This claim is fundamental. If that
claim can be invalidated, the essential element of
its character is destroyed, and it is difficult for us
to hold it in that respect which in any case it de-
mands as a record of human beliefs. But if its
claims can be maintained, it becomes ultimate in
authority, its teaching as to a future life the answer
of the Author of our nature to the great question
of humanity, "If a man die shall he live again?'*
and here doubt ends. Absolute certainty as to the
validity of that claim gives us absolute certainty of
Hie after death; but if that claim can only be made
worthy of our belief, then its doctrine of future
existence is made to the same extent credible.
Whatever evidence the Bible commands in support
of its claims is evidence of a future life. All the
arguments, internal, external and collateral, of
Christian evidences, are so many arguments for
our post mortem existence. We cannot attempt
here a general discussion of a subject upon which
so many volumes have been written, but must con-
fine ourselves to a brief statement of a few points
bearing more immediately upon the evidence of
our immortality.



EVIDENCE FROM THE BIBLE. 1 53

The books of the New Testament have all the
evidence as to their authenticity- that can be reason-
ably asked. They are very short, most of them
being letters either to individuals or to congrega-
tions. The age in which they were written did
not keep strict records of authorship. Even Chris-
tians did not as a rule cite their authorities by
name until the last quarter of the second century.
We cannot look for proofs of authenticity in contem-
porary literature. How many books of the first
century could stand this test ? But the evidence is
very strong that they were in existence in the
Apostolic age, were regarded as sacred, and were
entrusted to the strictest custody of the ministers
of the churches. Clement of Alexandria tells us
that a continuous line of bishops bore testimony to
their genuineness, and no book was received which
was not so accredited. We know that a great deal
of care was taken in forming the canon, and that
no book was admitted that did not have positive
proof. Some books known now to be equal in
evidence with the others, were long held in q^ies-
tion by parts of the Church because they were not
fully certified. The Tiibingen school of criticism
left us four epistles of Paul as unquestionable, and
these four assure us of the great events in the life



154 EVIDENCE OE A FUTURE LIFE.

of Christ, including the greatest of His miracles.
But the Tiibingen theologians have been driven
away from the position of Bauer, and now acknowl-
edge as certainly authentic all the books necessary
for our argument. No books of that period can
command a tithe of the evidence which the books
of the New Testament have as to their authentic-
ity.

Aside from the proof of their authenticity,
there is other evidence of their credibility. They
record what was universally believed among Chris-
tians of the first century. They give us what the
disciples believed. They are the records of eye-
witnesses, no matter who wrote them. This evi-
dence is so clear that many acknowledge their
credibility in general, but still question it in re-
gard to the miracles, because they suppose that
miracles are impossible.

Miracles do not now have the prominence in
Apologetics that they once had. More importance
is attached to other proofs. But they are so con-
nected with the Biblical story and with our reli-
gion, itself professing to be miraculous, that they
never can cease to be important. The Christian
will always be called to defend his belief in them,
and they must remain one of the chief grounds of



EVIDENCE FROM THE BIBLE. 1 55

his faith. If they can be shown to be impossible,
or the evidence for them incredible, Christianity,
as we now regard it, must be abandoned, and be-
reft of our certainty of a future life, we must fall
back into a wavering hope.

Miracles are not impossible. John Stuart Mill
has given the weight of his great name to what
is really a dictum of common sense: God is a suf-
ficient cause for miracles. He may not choose to
do it, but an Almighty Being can work miracles
if He will. Only atheists can say that miracles
are impossible.

Miracles are not improbable. Serious men in
all ages of the world have felt the need of some
direct revelation of God's will. Some of the deep-
est longings of the heart cry for a word from God,
clearer and more distinct than any which comes
through nature. Men who have professed to have
direct messages from Him have never failed to find
an audience. On its spiritual side, this is the
secret of the power of Mormonism in our day,
just as it was of Mohammedanism in the early
centuries and of Numa in the beginnings of
Rome. If God is the kind, loving Father that
Nature indicates, and our hearts in their better
moods instinctively regard Him, He will not leave
7*



156 EVIDENCE OF A FUTURE LIFE.

that great want unmet. He did not plant that de-
sire merely to torture us, but will at the proper
time gratify it. He does answer the cry of His
children, and out from behind the cloud He speaks
to them.

God could give a revelation to each individual, or
He could make it to the world through certain
chosen agencies. If there is a revelation at all, it is
not made to each person, nor is it written upon the
sky, but it was given through prophets to be com-
municated at first orally, and then to be committed
to writing. A miracle is a sufficient credential for
one chosen to communicate a truth imparted to
him by inspiration. He who works above the laws
of nature to confirm a message must be sent of God.
Nicodemus, believing that Christ wrought mira-
cles, gave expression to a rational judgment when
he said, "No man could do the things which thou
doest, except God be with him." No other creden-
tials are so good as miracles. If the revelation be
within the range of reason, no one can be sure that
it was not simply a discovery by reason, and com-
mending itself to reason, it needs no credential.
But if it be above reason, its confirmation must be
sought in some light outside of itself, and that can
be found only in miracles. If God gives a general



EVIDENCE FROM THE BIBLE. 1 57

revelation, like that which the Bible claims to be,
and takes the only sufficient and best possible cre-
dentials, he will give his agents miraculous power.
Miracles are as probable as is a direct communica-
tion from God.

Upon these points there has been little contro-
versy. The main question is in regard to the
sufficiency of the evidence of the miracles of the
Bible.

Miracles can be proven by testimony. Hume's
celebrated argument is sophistical. He held, on
the basis of the philosophy of Locke, that all know-
ledge comes through experience. It is through
experience that we learn both the uniformity of
nature and the reliability of testimony. But ex-
perience teaches that nature is perfectly uniform,
while human testimony, sometimes by intentional
misrepresentation and sometimes by misconcep-
tion, often deceives us. However great the evi-
dence from testimony as to a miracle, the evi-
dence from nature is always greater. Hume fell
on this argument in a discussion with a Romish
priest about miracles reported to be taking place at
that time. He found that it answered the pur-
poses of his skepticism and elaborated it, but it
may not be too much to say that he himself never



158 EVIDENCE OE A FUTURE I.IFE.

fully accepted it. It is true that individual and
conspired human testimony sometimes deceives
us, but concurrent testimony without previous
agreement does not and cannot. If three or more
competent persons, without any complicity, testify
to the same miracle, open to the full test of the
senses, we are forced to believe. That concur-
rence is a fact that can have no cause except in the
truth, while the miracle has a cause in the power
of God. The case may stand thus: a fact with an
adequate cause against a fact without a possible
cause.

Huxley, the editor and biographer of Hume, re-
cedes from Hume's argument. He admits that if
one man of sufficient scientific ability to make a
thorough examination and of well-established ve-
racity were to testify that he had seen a centaur,
he would believe. Prof Huxley in common with
the world believes that a miracle may be proven
by testimony. It is then only a question of fact.
Is the testimony sufficient to prove the miracles of
the Bible?

The testimony comes to us from both friends
and enemies of Christianity. The facts were not
called in question for several centuries after the
Apostolic age. Julian, the emperor, admits them,



EVIDENCE FROM THE BIBLE. 1 59

but tries to minimize them. Hierocles attempts to
offset them by publishing the stories about Apollo-
nius of Tyana. The Sanhedrim voiced the feel-
ing of that and subsequent ages, when it said,
"That great and .notable miracles have been
done is known to all the people of Israel, and
w^e cannot deny them." Christians everywhere
from the beginning boldly asserted it, and their
enemies admitted that miracles were performed by
Christ and by the Apostles. The testimony can
be assailed only on the ground of the incompe-
tency of the age to judge of the miraculous.

Mr. Lecky has said, and brings strong proof of
the fact, that it was a superstitious period disposed
to see miracles, a^d therefore saw them. Testi-
mony, he thinks, may prove a miracle, but not
that of the first Christian century.

The superstition has been magnified. The Jews
were not so superstitious, so disposed to find
miracles, that they attributed the miraculous power
to John the Baptist, though they all believed that
he was a great prophet. They had not discovered
any miracle for four hundred years. How then did
this inventive power become suddenly so active?
It is strange that a people so easily deceived should
have given rise to the greatest religion of the world.



l6o EVIDENCE OF A FUTURE LIFE.

Paul and John, as well as the masses, believed that
they witnessed them, and both these men were
fully persuaded that they themselves wrought
them. What is stranger still, is that all were de-
ceived in matters that were open to the tests of the
senses. It is inconceivable that honest men should
think that they saw a man whom they had long
known to be blind given sight by a touch, when
they did not; or a man long helpless suddenly re-
stored, when no such thing really occurred. Super-
stition may carry men very far into blindness, but
it has its limits. It could not be so deep as to
make a whole age of friends and enemies alike be-
lieve in such miracles as are recorded in the New
Testament, numerous, varied, manifest, when they
did not take place.

Christ claimed to perform miracles. It was a
claim deliberately and repeatedly made. If He
merely pretended to perform them. He was an im-
postor; and if He was Himself deceived. He was a
weak man. If He was an impostor, how did He
create those holy conceptions He communicated to
the world? and how could He beget the impression
of that ideal character so falsely imputed to Him ?
If He was weak, how d-id He gain His influence
over the world, and as teacher win the profoundest
allegiance of the greatest minds?



EVIDENCE FROM THE BIBLE. l6l

Rationalism in the last century failed to account
for the miracles on the ground of naturalism. It
has failed as signally in our own on the theory of
myths, though supported by all the ability and
learning of David Strauss. It haughtily declines
explanation where it finds so much difficulty, and
with Matthew Arnold says, *'We know that
miracles do not occur." But we reply that this is,
not sufficient reason for saying that they never did..
Men are to-day neither immediately created nor
evolved from the lower animals. Shall we say that
they belong to an infinite series? ''We know that
Shakespeares do not occur," and shall we deny
that there ever was a Shakespeare? When the
reason for miracles ceases, the facts disappear.

If we disbelieve in the miracles of the New
Testament, it must be in the face of evidence that
would be regarded as superabundant in other
things, and we fall back on the mere possibility of
error in a case the very nature of which prevents
anything like a demonstration.

From the New Testament we reason back to the
Old. Christ and the Apostles endorsed the Jewish
canon as divine books, and it makes no great differ-
ence to us when or by whom they were written.
A book approved by inspiration has all the author-



l62 EVIDENCE OF A FUTURE LIFE. ,

ity of one divinely inspired. Having satisfied our-
selves as to the miracles of the New, we cannot
doubt those of the Old. We believe the story of
the sun's standing still, of the ass's speaking, of
the whale's swallowing Jonah, and all of them, not
in the sense in which the uneducated understand
them, but as real miraculous events.

Prophecies are supernatural facts, miracles, in the
sphere of mind. They are predictions of events
above all possible human forecast. They may
serve the double purpose of preparing those for
whom they are intended for the events, and of be-
coming credentials of the system to which they
belong. To be sure of a prophecy, we must be
certain both as to the prediction and the fulfil-
ment.

There are prophecies in both Testaments. In
the New we have the predictions of Christ concern-
ing His own resurrection and the circumstances
attending the destruction of Jerusalem. There
can be little doubt that the Gospels of Matthew and
Ivuke were written s-everal years before the great
Jewish war. There is both internal and external
evidence of the fact. The authors write in a sim-
ple, unaffected way about the temple as if still
standing. The whole manner and style are those



EVIDENCE FROM THE BIBLE. 163

of historians, not those of novelists. Tradition
that was not questioned for many centuries, too late
to be overthrown, assigns the composition of these
two Gospels to the period before the siege of Jeru-
salem. These books give us many minute predic-
tions. Josephus, who did not know of them, and
without any sympathy with Christianity, wrote the
history of his own times. Unintentionally he
records the most exact fulfillment of all that Christ
foretold concerning the last days of the sacred city.
In the Old Testament we have predictions con-
cerning individuals, as Cyrus and Alexander the
Great; concerning cities, as Babylon and Tyre; and
concerning nations, as the Egyptians and Jews.
The fulfillment of these prophecies is given in
history and on monuments remaining to the pres-
ent time. The prophecies which are most used as
evidence are those concerning Christ. They are
largely typical, and their prophetic value has been


1 2 3 4 5 6 8 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 8 of 19)