Luther A Fox.

Evidence of a future life : from reason and revelation online

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questioned; but they were regarded as prophecies
by the Jewish people, who understood best their
own modes of thought and forms of expression.
These prophecies led them to look for a Messiah at
the very time Christ came, and enabled them to
find His birth-place and determine many of the
particulars of His life. The argument drawn from


the prophecies was always of greatest force with a
Jew. The prophecies were certainly in existence
several hundred years before Christ came. The
Septuagint version, made under Ptolemy Philadel-
phus about 270 B. C, gives us the fullest proof of
this fact. In these prophecies we have miracles as
great as any recorded in the Bible.

The Bible carries with itself its own light. The
truth and the miracles mutually support each
other. Bach furnishes a proof to the other. It is
not strange, then, that we find some emphasizing
more the miracles and others more the truth.

The Bible is a book of religion, and it is not ad-
dressed directly to the reason or the moral nature,
but to religious intuitions. It seeks to reach the
religious nature through the understanding and
conscience, but its ultimate aim is always the reli-
gious element in us. In calling out the religious
character it elevates the whole man, stimulating
the intellect, quickening the conscience, and pro-
moting the well-being of every factor of his na-
ture. A true religion must civilize and enlighten.
According to this test, Christianity is the truest
religion ever offered to the world.

Its power in modern civilization is above dis-
pute. It has gained its influence by its own inher-


ent truth. It has discarded all the means employed
by the world, yet it has risen from a remote corner
to the supremacy of the most enlightened peoples
of the earth. It has sometimes fallen into the
hands of most unworthy friends. The outward
Church has often been blind and degraded, and has
exposed itself to severest censure, but Christianity
is always distinguishable from its professors. It be-
trays a want of honesty in any scholar who makes
Christianity responsible for the evils of the Church.
Despite these errors of its professors, the religion
has held its course. It has risen up from under
the superstition that was piled around it, and dis-
engaged itself from all the false alliances forced
upon it. It has an inherent energy independent
of those who propagate it. It has shown a vitality
that can be nothing less than divine.

The Bible commends itself to the human heart.
It reveals the human spirit to itself It opens up
its mysterious depths and portrays its hidden char-
acter. The woman of Samaria said, "I have
found the Messiah, because He has told me all that
ever I did." As she stood before Christ she felt
that she was in the presence of one who thor-
oughly understood her as only God could, and
therefore He must be the one sent from God.


The Bible has made millions tremble before this
strange power. It uncovers our hearts to our own
inspection, and flashes on us a sense of our sinful-
ness. It makes us stand with unveiled faces in a
divine light. It makes us feel that its author fully
xmderstands us. It brings with it life. It works
not merely a moral reformation, but a renovation.
The Bible calls it regeneration, and so the Chris-
tian feels it. It creates a radical change such as
no human instrumentality has ever done, such as
we believe only God can do.

The Bible meets the deepest wants of our spirit-
ual nature, and comes therefore with the marks of
its divine paternity upon it. We feel that our
hearts and the Bible have one common Author.

This can be positive and direct evidence only to
the personal subjects, but it has also its evidential
value for others. When a great number testify to
the same experience from the same cause, we be-
lieve. Millions have testified to this power of
Christianity over themselves. The changed char-
acters confirm their testimony. Whatever influ-
ence Christianity has had over the world in its
moral, intellectual and political phases, has been
only the reflex power from the religious transfor-
mations it has wrought. The new face the world


wears is a confirmation of what Christians claim to
have realized. If error has such happy results, we
need not be so much concerned about the truth.
If Christians are deceived and Christianity a delu-
sion, the world ought to rejoice over the deception.
But falsehoods and lies never sanctify. They can-
not make men better, and Christianity cannot be

The Bible presents us with the only perfect life
in history. Mr. Lecky, the able historian of Eu-
ropean Morals, said, "It was reserved for Chris-
tianity to present to the world an ideal character,
which through all the changes of eighteen cen-
turies has filled the hearts of men with impas-
sioned love, and has shown itself capable of acting
on all ages, nations, temperaments and conditions,
and has not only been the highest pattern of vir-
tue, but the highest incentive to its practice, and
has exerted so deep an influence that it may be
truly said that the simple record of three short
years of active life has done more to soften and re-
generate mankind than all the disquisitions of
philosophers and all the exhortations of moralists.
This has been the well-spring of whatever is best
and purest in the Christian life. Amid all the

* Vol, 2, p. 8.


sins and failings, amid all the priestcraft, the per-
secutions and fanaticism which have defaced the
the Church, it has preserved in the character and
example of its Founder an enduring principle of
regeneration." Christ was not simply the greatest
of great men, but the only perfect man.

This character is portrayed in the Gospels written
by fishermen. The ideal which lives in the Church
was not a fiction, a slow creation of excited imagi-
nations, but was drawn from the writings of the
disciples. They write as plain historians, noting
only facts as they occurred. In these simple
narratives they have drawn a perfect life. Christ
lived it, and in an artless manner, surpassing the
highest art, they have described it.

Christ was not a product of His age. He was a
carpenter, the reputed son of an humble mechanic.
He was brought up in the little city of Nazareth,
hid away in the Galilean mountains. He had no
predecessors except John the Baptist, above whom
He towers in infinite grandeur. He stands a soli-
tary figure among His own countrymen, as He does
in the world. This life is a fact, and if it had not
a divine origin, it was without any known cause.

This life stands in a peculiar relation to Chris-
tianity. It is its central principle. The whole


system depends upon it. Eliminate the personal
history of Christ from His religion, and the vital
power is destroyed. No other teacher has sustained
such a relation to his doctrines. In this Christianity
is wholly unique among all the philosophies and
religions of the world.

The religion of the Bible is, therefore, a super-
natural power introduced among the forces of the
world. It is a miracle, and having accepted it ac-
cording to its claims, we cannot stumble at its
miracles. The supernatural events which attended
its introduction and its most important additions,
were only in harmony with its own nature, and
were to be expected. The Jews looked for great
miracles at the coming of the Christ, and asked in
wonder at those performed by Jesus of Nazareth.
"When Christ is come, will He perform greater
works than this man?" The miracles were digni-
fied and benevolent, and serve to illustrate the
truths He taught. They were works worthy of

The truth taught in the Bible, bearing in itself
a divine light and power and confirmed by mir-
acles, is worthy of our credence. It has com-
manded the confidence of the vast majority of the
greatest thinkers for eighteen hundred years, and


the failure of all recent assaults shows how impreg-
nable the rock is upon which our faith rests.

When it tells us that we shall live forever, it
comes to us as a voice from God, giving us cer-
tainty instead of a simple hope.


THE Jews obtained their position in history and
literature chiefly, if not exclusively, from their
religion. They were never important factors in
the political world. The prominence which they
had for a short time under David and Solomon in
their own section in Asia, was soon lost. Their
kings during most of the subsequent ages were
tributaries to the great monarchs of the East.
They were not eminent in art, or science, or
letters. They lost their country eighteen hundred
years ago, and since that time have been scattered
through the earth. They have given rise to no
very great writers or philosophers who remained
true to their ancient but now perverted faith. Men
like Spinoza and Neander and Delitzsch are not
thought of as Jews. The Jews are merely a rem-
nant, numbering only about eight millions. Yet
they hold a prominent place in the eye of the
world. It is not on account of what they now are,
or what they have done in the political world, but


because of the part they have taken in religious
history. Through them has come the most im-
portant of all religions, and their work in this
matter will not permit the world to overlook or
forget them.

The Old Testament contains their sacred books,
and in them we may trace the history of their doc-
trine of a future life and the evidence upon which
it was believed.

The Jews made a distinction between spirit and
soul. Sometimes they seem to have regarded
them as distinct principles, but at other times as
different phases of the same principle. The spirit
was supposed to be the animating principle. The
brutes have spirits, though essentially different
from the human. The soul springs out of the
spirit, contains the substance of the spirit as its es-
sential principle, and lives only by the power of
the spirit. The soul gives individuality. It is the
person. In swoons the spirit departs ; in death,
the soul. The Queen of Sheba was overcome by
the splendor of Solomon, and 'Hhere was no more
spirit in her." David, recovered from extreme ill-
ness, said, "Thou hast brought my soul out of

There are two opinions, each advocated by able


men, in regard to the Old Testament doctrine of a
future life. Some, as Hahn, have held that the
Jews believed in annihilation, while others have
found even in the Pentateuch a clearness and defin-
iteness of conception of another life little less than
that of the New Testament. Two questions, easily
confused, ought to be kept distinct: What did the
Jews believe? What does the Old Testament
teach ?

It is improbable, in advance of the examination
of the facts, that the Jews in the time of Abraham,
and especially in the time of the great Pilgrimage,
were ignorant of a future life. It is certain that
Moses was not, for it had long been a positive faith
of the Egyptians, and he was learned in all their
wisdom. The statement of Tacitus is not worth
anything as proof of the source of their belief, be-
cause he was too far removed from the age and the
means of information; but it does give us the fact
that the belief in existence after death had been
common among the Jews for a long time, and also
his opinion as to its probable origin among them.
He says ' ' that they learned from the Egyptians to
bury the body rather than burn it, and there was
the same conviction and care for the souls of the

174 evidence: of a future life.

$ The Jews were the custodians of revelation,
God made a covenant with Abraham and renewed
it with his sons. He gave the law through Moses
and instituted the Jewish worship. They had,
many centuries in advance of all other people, the
doctrine of monotheism clearly taught in their
sacred rites. The one God of the Decalogue was
soon revealed as the only God. They were taught
that man had been created in the image of his
Maker, because God had breathed into him a living
breath and made him a living soul. It is not prob-
able that they would be so much in advance of
their contemporaries in the more abstract concep-
tions of God and have so much clearer views of
moral duty, and yet be so much behind them in
regard to their own eternal destiny.

But when we come to look at the records of their
faith, we are surprised at the indefiniteness and con-
fusion of their statements. Is it the result of ig-
norance, or reserve ? From Augustine to Warbur-
ton, theologians have recognized the problem and
tried to solve it. Account for it as we may, the
fact is clear that so far as the history shows there
was a positive conviction as to a future existence,
but not a cheerful, hopeful view of death. Per-
owne thought the silence in the Pentateuch pro-


found and says that ''only a hint is dropt here and
there suggestive of a belief which is never expli-
citly stated." But the hints are strong enough to
indicate the fact that they believed that the soul
passed into a state called Sheol and was at rest from
earthly cares. There was also a positive element
of comfort in their conception of Sheol, because
they believed that they were there gathered unto
the fathers. ''Abraham gave up the ghost and was
gathered unto his people." (Gen xxv. 8) So it is
also sai4 of Isaac (Gen xxxv. 29). Jacob comforted
himself over the death, as he supposed, of Joseph
by the hope of meeting him in Sheol. " I will go
down into Sheol unto my son mourning" (Gen
xxxvii. 35). It was not the grave, for he supposed
that Joseph had been devoured by beasts. Jacob
died and was gathered unto his people. Where we
look for more distinct hopes, as we would naturally
expect at the death of Aaron or that of Moses, we
find nothing. Balaam, though not a Jew, seemed
to rise to the conception of a higher fate for the
righteous after death when he said, "Let me die the
death of the righteous and let my last end be like
his." But into even this language we may read
more than he intended.

In the Mosaic laws there is no use made of future


retributions as motives of obedience. The rewards
and punishments are confined to this life. This
has exposed Mosaism to attacks from Deists and
Rationalists. They have charged it with Eude-
monism. De Witte says it made the people ex-
ceedingly unhappy, and begot a gloomy view of
life. The charge in the sense intended is false,
but serves to bring out clearly the fact that the
Mosaic religion sought to emphasize the great
privilege and happiness of communion with God
irrespective of time, and did not make prominent
the retributions after death.

So far as appears from the Pentateuch only, the
Jews seem to have failed to draw the inferences
which naturally followed from the great truths of
man's creation and of his covenant relation to God.
Without any positive proof, we would believe that
they had more definite views and clearer hopes
than have been preserved in their history. The
author of the book of Hebrews in the New Testa-
ment asserts it. *' These [the patriarchs] all died
in faith, not having received the promises, but
having seen them afar off^ and were persuaded of
them and embraced them, and confessed that they
were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For
they that say such things declare plainly that they


seek a country. And truly if they had been mind-
ful of that from whence they came out they might
have had opportunity to have returned. But now
they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly;
wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their
God, for He hath prepared for them a city." If
we accept this as inspired, there is no longer ques-
tion that there were hopes and convictions more
positive than were recorded in their own books.

In the immediately succeeding period the ex-
pressions are somewhat clearer, and the faith grows ,
a little more definite; but there is still much,
of vagueness, and often seeming inconsistency*
Sometimes Sheol is represented as a place of forget -
fulness. David said, "For in death there is no
remembrance of thee ; in the grave who shall give
thee thanks?" (Ps. v. 6.) Even God forgets the
dead: "Free among the dead, like the slain in the-
grave whom thou rememberest no more." (Ps.
Ixxxviii. 5.) Sometimes it is spoken of as a place
of silence, where the dead cease to praise God.
"The dead praise not the Lord, neither any that
go down into the pit." (Ps. cxv. 17.) "What
profit is there in my blood when I go down to the
pit? Shall the dust praise thee? Shall it give

thee thanks?" (Ps. xxx. 9.) "Wilt thou show


wonders unto the dead ? Shall the dead arise and
praise thee? Shall thy loving kindness be declared
in the grave? or thy faithfulness in destruction?
Shall thy wonders be known in the dark ? and
thy righteousness in the land of forge tfuln ess?"
(Ps. Ixxxviii. 10-12.) There is no work there.
*'The dead know not anything; neither have they
any more a reward. There is no work, nor desire,
nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave whither
thou goest." (Eccl. ix. 5, 10.) As late as Heze-
kiah we have the same gloomy view of death.
''The grave cannot praise thee, death cannot cele-
brate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot
hope for thy truth." (Is. xxxviii. 18.)

Along by the side of this dark view of death
there is a growing consciousness of the great privi-
leges involved in their covenant relation to God.
The shadow of sin, bringing death, gives way
slowly to the light of redemption. Death had
appeared only as a curse. Now they begin to
realize that the covenant reaches beyond death, and
will at last destroy it. So running along with this
gloomy line of passages, there is another, cheerful
and hopeful. But we must be careful not to read
all of our New Testament light into them. The
authors did not understand the full import of their


own words. It is, therefore, the more interesting
to w^atch the throes through which the higher faith
came into existence.

In the time of the Pilgrimage there was a belief
that through conjurors the spirits of the dead might
be brought back, and laws were passed against the
superstitious practice (lycv. xix. 31; xx. 6; Dent,
xviii. II.) In the days of Saul there was the famous
Witch of Bndor, who was believed to be able to
consult the dead.

Job often refers to Sheol as a place of mere
existence. Translated grave, his words do not
imply even so much as that (iii. 22; v. 26; x. 17;
xvii. i; xxi. 32). He asks desparingly, ''Man
dieth and wasteth away; yea, man giveth up the
ghost, and where is he?" (xiv. 10.) "If a man
die, shall he live again?" But conscious of life
that cannot perish he adds, "All the days of my
appointed time will I wait till my change come.
Thou shalt call and I will answer thee : thou wilt
have a desire to the work of thy hands." (Vs. 14,
15.) Then the stronger faith gleams out for a
moment: "I know that my Redeemer liveth, and
that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth ;
and though after my skin worms destroy this body,


yet without my flesh shall I see God."* (xix.


Hannah may have had some faint ray of the fact

of a resurrection when she said, *' The Lord killeth
and maketh alive" (i Sam. ii. 6), but she was
thinking more directly of the extremes of dis-
tress, rather than of death, from which the Lord
might deliver.

In the Psalms the conflict of the old and new
faith is most manifest. If David said, "In death
there is no remembrance of thee," he said also of
himself as well as prophetically of Christ, "Thou
wilt not leave my soul in Sheol, neither wilt thou
suffer thine Holy One to see corruption" (Ps. xvi.
10). If he said, "Shall the dust give thee
thanks?" he said also, "As forme I will behold
thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when

*This passage has long been in dispute among scholars.
Oehler says, "Notwithstanding the multitude of erroneous ex-
planations which have been offered, the only view which can be
accepted as doing justice to the words is that which regards the
passage as expressing the hope of a manifestation of God to be
made in Job's favor after his death." "Still the passage, even
according to this explanation which we have adopted, speaks
only of a momentary beholding, which, however, presupposes
a continuance of Job's communion with God after death.'*
Old Testament Theology, ยง 248.


I awake with thy likeness" (Ps. xvii. 15). "God
will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol "
(Ps. xlix. 15). "Thou shalt guide me with thy
counsel, and afterwards receive me to glory" (Ps.
Ixxiii. 24). "In thy presence is fulness of joy; at
thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore "
(Ps. xvi. 11). " Surely goodness and mercy shall
follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell
in the house of the I^ord forever" (Ps. xxiii. 6).
In his bereavement he consoles himself with the
hope of a happy reunion with the deceased child
in the spirit world.

If David had seen all that we may find in his
words he could not have written the former class
of passages; or if he had thought of Sheol as a
place only of darkness and gloom, and of the
future life as simple, bare existence, he could not
have written the latter. We find the solution to
the seeming inconsistency in the fact that his life
fell in the transition period.

The idea of a future life, which struggled for its
existence in the time of David, obtained in the
following ages a more definite character and a
firmer hold in the religious consciousness. In the
time of the later prophets the view of Sheol had
greatly changed. The doctrine of the resurrection


of the body became a common faith. Though
Hezekiah still speaks so gloomily of death in the
time of Isaiah, that prophet in exultant hope ex-
claims: "Thy dead men shall live: together with
my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing,
ye that dwell in the dust." (Is. xxvi. 19.) Eze-
kiel based his vision of a national resurrection
upon the general belief in the resurrection of the
dead. "O, ye dry bones, hear the word of the
Lord. Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones;
' Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and
ye shall live.' " (Ez. xxvii. 1-8.) Hosea also used
the common faith to hold up the hope of a redemp-
tion of the nation. "I will ransom them from the
power of the grave. I will redeem them from
death." (xiii. 14.) Neither of these prophets
spoke directly of the resurrection of the dead.
They foretold certain great redemptive national
events. They drew their bold imagery from the
resurrection which must have become not only a
general but a very familiar idea. Daniel speaks
certainly of the final resurrection and advan-
ces to the conception of a future punishment of
the ungodly. "And many of them that sleep in
the dust shall awake; some to everlasting life, and
some to everlasting shame and contempt." (xii. 2.)


In the period succeeding the close of Prophecy,
the Jews began to philosophize upon the doctrine
of immortality which they had inherited from their
fathers. In the Apocryphal book of Wisdom the
fact of an endless life is based upon the original
creation. "God created man to be immortal, and
made him to be the image of his own eternity.
Nevertheless, through envy of the devil, came
death into the world." "But the souls of the
righteous are in the hand of God, and there shall
no torment touch them. In the sight of the
unwise they seemed to die, and their departure is
taken for misery, and their going from us to be
utter destruction; but they are in peace. For
though they be punished in the sight of men, yet
is their hope full of immortality." (ii. 23, 24; iii.
1-4.) The strength of the common hope is touch-
ingly illustrated in the story of the seven brethren
and their mother who suffered persecution under
Antiochus. After the persecutors had put the first
of the brothers to death they made a "mocking-
stock" of the second. "When they had pulled off
the skin of his head with the hair, they asked him,

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Online LibraryLuther A FoxEvidence of a future life : from reason and revelation → online text (page 9 of 19)