Peter Taylor Forsyth.

This life and the next : the effect on this life of faith in another online

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MACMILLAN & CO., Limited





The Rffect on This Life
of Faith in Another

,:. ^ • \^,-< BY

P. T?VoRSYTH, M,A., D,D,

Principal of Hackney College, Hampstead, and

Dean of the Faculty of Theology in

the University of London

I13eto gotk


AU rights reservm



R 1918 L



Set up and electro typed. Published, May, 1918

■ * ^ I *» ) • V * '



I Is Life the more Great or Dear as

IT IS Brief ? i

George Eliot's " Jubal." The effect of
life's brevity on its value. Death good for
life only as it promises life beyond. The
moral action of immortality on life due to
the enhanced value of personality.

II The Egoism of Immortality ... 15

The egoism of Christ. The fear of pun-
ishment and the hope of heaven. Demor-
alization possible. But my neighbor's im-
mortality. The v^^orth of our immortality
to God. The egoism of the anti-egoists.
Immoral immortality.

Ill The Egoism of God 27

The immortals not an elite. The egoism
of God is the blessing of the world. The
moral paradox and miracle of holy love.


:hapteb page

IV De Mortuis 35

The egoism of the will to live is qualified
by the suicides and the martyrs. Demor-
alizing sacrifice. Falso consolations and
true. Prayer for the dead.

V The Practice of Eternity and the

Experience of Life 47

The moral psychology of the saints. The
change wrought by age on the soul's direc-
tion. But also in the soul's interests. The
effect on life of the antepast of Eternity.

VI Immortality as Present Judgment 54

It is a vocation rather than a problem.
Life is another thing if we confuse these.
Immortality is a destiny rather than a rid-
dle. Live immortally. Choose; do not
argue. To live for Eternity is much, but
to live Eternity is more.

VII Eternity within Time, Time with-
in Eternity 61

The other life then is the other life now.
The timeless in Time. Time's Sacrament.
We are Eternal each moment. Eternity
and progress.




Vlli Life a Sacrament 74

Time sacramental of Eternity. How part
and lot in the Eternal raises the common
tasks and tragedies of life beyond the

IX Immortality and the Kingdom of

God 80

Absence from able publicists of either idea.
But the only perfection is in a common
realm and a common King.

X Immortality and Redemption . . 92

The theology of it and the psychology.
The ethic of it. The holy the guarantee
of the eternal. The difference of faith
and experience.

XI Eternity and New Birth ... 99

Does the great change refurbish or regen-
erate? Do we need more a fuller life or
an altered? Immortality is the continu-
ance less of the soul than of its change.
Meaning of the new creation. Not an
annexe, nor a surrogate, but a reconcilia-
tion of the soul. The idea of Resurrec-
tion as the nexus of that life and this,



XII The Fructification of Failure . 112

The future is the fruition of failure here.
Eternity holds the key of history, the
meaning of progress, the interest of tears.
All opens out in that light. The pathos of
the past.

XIII L'Envoi 117

To live is Christ, to die is more Christ.
We pass into a genial native land.




George Eliot's " Jubal." The effect of life's brevity on
its value. Death good for life only as it promises life
beyond. The moral action of immortality on life
due to the enhanced value of personality.

I AM not proposing to speak about the
grounds In this life of a belief In another, but
about the reaction of that belief upon this
life. It Is not a question about the basis of
a belief In Immortality, but about Its moral
rebound. We often hear from pulpits of
the effect of this life on the next; but this is
not a pulpit, and what we are now to dwell
on is rather the reaction of the next life on
this. Sometimes we are bidden to turn from
considering what we do for posterity to real-
ize what posterity does for us — which is
much. Mr. Benjamin KIdd lectured in 1906
at the Royal Institution on this subject, " The
significance of the Future in the theory of
organic evolution." Well, It Is great. But
the future has a greater significance still for


our spiritual evolution. Posterity does much
for our souls. We are to think, then, of
the reflex action on us of the idea of immor-
tality, or, in a more Christian way, the power
over us of an endless life in Christ, where the
gain in dying is but more of our career in
Christ. If to live Is Christ, to die is more

May I be personal and reminiscent? The
formative part of my life was spent In a
world ruled by the giants of the Victorian
days, of whom one of the most potent was
George Eliot. And I can well remember
when her poem, '* The Legend of Jubal,"
came out In Macmillan^s Magazine. I was
a student in an ancient university In a far
northern city. A few of us seized the maga-
zine as soon as It could be bought, and took
It out for consumption one morning by the
banks of the highland river that there ends
in the North Sea its passionate yet pensive
life. George Eliot was not at her best as a
poet, and I do not think that " Jubal " Is as
much read now as her lyric with the same mo-
tive, which probably will live In the antholo-

" O may I join the Choir Invisible,
Of those immortal dead who live again
In souls made better by their presence, etc.'*


But " Jubal " was more dramatic, more pic-
turesque, and at the same time more philo-
sophic, which appealed to us as we then were.
It had a story, and it had reflection. And
one passage that impressed myself deeply
that morning was the lines describing the ten-
der value given to life by the new sense of its
mortality. According to this legend, death
had never entered the world till an accident
brought it. As the finality of the sleep came
home to the race, its effect was revolutionary.
And the nature of the effect was more fever-
ish energy, and an affection tender because

" And a new spirit from that time came o'er
The race of Cain ; soft idlesse was no more,
But even the sunshine had a heart of care,
Smiling with hidden dread — a mother fair
W^ho, folding to her heart a dying child,
Beams with feigned joy that but makes sadness

Death now was lord of life, and at his word
Time, vague as air before, new terrors stirred.
With measured wing now audibly arose,
Thrilling through all things to some unknown

Now glad content by clutching haste was torn,
And work grew eager, and device was born.

It seemed the light was never loved before.
Now each man said, ' I will go and come no



No budding branch, no pebble from the brook,
No form, no shadow, but new dearness took
From the one thought that life must have an end.
And the last parting now began to send
Diffusive dread through love and wedded bliss,
Thrilling them into finer tenderness.

Thus to Cain's race death was tear-watered seed
Of various life, and action-shaping need."

Now, who does not feel the touching truth
in this ? Who has not clung with new tender-
ness to the dear one whose days are num-
bered? How many have recognized their
angels only as they were leaving them? Even
In health who has not stayed the impatient
word, at the remembrance that the time to-
gether Is at most so short, and might be short-
ened to an hour? Who has not felt a new
fascination in the world's beauty as our lease
of It runs out, even If we have had many fits
of disillusion about It?

But what If this became our general atti-
tude to the world! If the ruling feeling of
society were that of brief life, sure sorrow,
and eternal loss! If this feeling became a
social principle! If we all lived In the con-
viction that death ended all, and was no new
departure ! What would the effect of that
be ? Would It not be like that of alcohol —
first bustle then blight, excitement and then
stupidity. If we only looked forward to
Jubal's goal, to Immersion In the All —


'' Quitting mortality, a quenched sun wave,
The all creating presence was his grave."

would there be much creative vigor left in
life under that doom?

A far greater poem on immortality came
from the Victorians than George Eliot's.
There was " In Memoriam." And we can
call it great whatever critical reserves we may
have about certain aspects of that spiritual
achievement to-day. It is a poem that ought
to be read and studied to-day more than ever
before. Our preachers of comfort and hope
should make much of it, and, even if they
quote little, draw much from it, while they
add something. It is better and holier than
ghosts for the comfort and making of the
soul. Well, there is a line in it which is very
true to the psychology of sorrow. Unless
we can be sure of love's immortality, Tenny-
son says, a blight would come on love, it
would be

" Half dead to know that It could die."

So it would be. It would take the energy
out of us, and the zest, if we came, habitually
and collectively, to believe that death ended
all, and that we only survived in our life's
resultant among men, and not In Its person-
ality with God.



We might grant that death teaches us much
as to the value of life, and that life without
death would become a very hard and coarse
thing. With the abolition of death would
vanish the uncertainty which educates faith,
the mystery, the tragedy, which makes life
so great, the sense of another world which
gives such dignity and meaning to this, the
range of sympathy that flows from believing
that our affections are not for this world
alone. Erase death, and Tithonus tells us
life sinks at last into drab weariness. Its
noblest, dearest interest ebbs and fades. Its
tragedy and its chivalry both go. We should
end by having no concern but feeding,
drowsing, prancing and feeding again.
Love, valor, pity, sacrifice; charm, music and
all the nameless spell of nature and of per-
sonality; courtesy and reverence, all the sweet
fine things of life that are tributes to soul,
and that death seems to cut short most pain-
fully — those are the things which would
really die out If we succeeded in indefinitely
averting death.

But, of course, it is not death that preserves
these after all. It Is the conviction that death
is a crisis which opens a new phase of life.
It is the conviction, latent or patent, of Im-
mortality and spiritual growth In It. How
much more true is St. Paul: ^' Wherefore my
beloved brethren be ye steadfast, immovable,


eve»r abounding In the work of the Lord, for
as much as ye know that your labor is not in
vain in the Lord." The work is the Lord's.
It is there not simply to meet man's need,
but God's purpose. That purpose is a
greater action-shaping power than our need
is. It is not true to suggest, as this poem
does, that death, understood as final, could
have set afoot the new feature of energy or
desire, the eagerness of work, the strength of
society, or the tenderness of affection. For
men were already living in a city, " The City
of Cain," before the accident took place or
the stimulus of death came In. The enter-
prise of civilization had started well on its
way. Did it need an accidental death to stir
in the children of the first murderer the ter-
rors that made life tragic, intense, and pa-
thetic? It is not the poverty and brevity of
life that draws out its resources; it is Its sense
of fullness and power. It Is strength that is
the root of action, not need. *' Action-shap-
ing need," yes, but not action-creating. Ac-
tion shaping! Yes, but what inspires action
— moral action as distinct from mere energy,
mere movement ? What makes the good will
which attends at all to the needs of others and
does not just feed our own? A stream Is not
effective which just spreads out and flows Into
each hole It finds. It dies of diversion.
That phrase was a piece of eggshell which


clung to George Eliot from the hatching of
her mind by George Henry Lewes, as any one
may see who reads his now forgotten books.
Need may shape action, but it does not create
action; which is the child of wealth not pov-
erty, of the soul's fullness and not of its
death. We were created by God not out of
his poverty and his need of company, but out
of his overflowing wealth of love and his
passion to multiply joy.

The'passage is fine poetry; It Is true to cer-
tain phases of experience, but It is a pathetic
fallacy all the same. It partakes of that very
sentimentalism in religion which the author's
school unduly despised, — and succumbed to.
Sentiment has its dear place, but It Is demoral-
izing to construe life by the sentiment of its
phases instead of the revelation in Its con-
science. Love is not fondness. Sentiment Is
not life. Sentimentalism Is not cherishing
sentiment but living by It, at the cost of moral
realities. Like art, It is life's friend, but not
Its guide. And It is the peculiar peril of a
religion of love which Is not understood as
holy love.

Of course it would be unfair to say that
with the decay of a belief In Immortality
morality would straightway cease. At least
that would be putting It too bluntly. All
morality would not cease. The nobler souls


would still for a time find goodness good.
And the rest would find incumbent on them
a utilitarian ethic in the interest of the society
of which they were a part. For a long time
at least this would be so. But all the time
there would be question whether a utilitarian
ethic is really moral, whether you find your
moral soul in it or not.

This finding of the soul raises an issue more
direct and just. Would moral vigor, cour-
age, enterprise, civilization continue to rise
and progress under the condition supposed?
Would the disbelief in immortality lead in the
end to the finding of the soul or the losing of
it? Would it lead to the gain of the public
morale or its loss? For I mean the phrase
less in the theological sense than the socio-
logical. Even if the disbelief in our soul's
future did not arrest morality, would It not
lead to a lowered sense of that which Is be-
hind morality and is the condition of It —
the value of personality? And would that
not in the end produce the same effect as the
relaxation of moral sanctions — especially on
society? Public morahty would sink to class
egoism or national patriotism, and finally It
would be abjured. The moral value of the
individual would sink — as it has done In Ger-
many, for instance, where there Is no general
belief in immortality, and where the individ-
ual withers and the State Is more and more.


And this means the corruption of the State
itself, which ceases to be a moral entity, and
becomes the prey of the militarist gamblers
in power. The people would be brutalized.
The citizen would really cease to be a citizen.
The free elector would disappear and become
Kanonen-futter fed up to the guns. Under
such a creed the vital natural man would cease
to concern himself with posterity; therefore
he would slacken in public concern. His in-
terests would be but egoist, and his activity
but for the order of the day. He would say
of everything, " it will last my time." His
policy would be from hand to mouth, with a
growing tendency to the mouth and its egoism.
The shortening of the souPs career would
lead to the impoverishment of its interests.
It would be emptied and not merely curtailed.
Pantheism or Positivism, of course, does
not think so. It says that each moment left
would receive an increase of value, like the
Sibylline books. If you reduce the supply
you increase the price of life. Well, that
looks plausible if you treat moral realities and
moral issues commercially, if you regulate the
soul by economics, or politics by mere pru-
dence. But that course has been a failure.
We are now on the other tack. We try to
regulate economics by the soul, wages by the
standard of living, profits with a prime regard
to wage. The soul does not work by the law



of supply and demand. You do not increase
the value of mankind by decimation. To re-
duce population is not the way to a vigorous
and lasting community. Nor is it so if we
reduce the content of each life by stopping
it at a point. On the contrary each person
would then drop to pursue the line of least
resistance. If I am to die in six months I
won't get new clothes. If I must get them,
shoddy will do. A jerry built house will
serve me; and the children can move to a
new one when this begins to crack. Burdens
would be thrown on the aftercomers. Those
upon whom the end of the world should
come would be crushed under the silt of the
obligations left to them before it arrived.
Neglect would not be felt to be criminal.
Whereas the sense that each moment is of
value for an eternal life is like the soul's
sense that it is not its own but is the subject
and property of Christ — it raises the.soul's
sense of dignity, and therefore raises also
its inner wealth and energy. The things it
does are worth while. And it will matter
to us a hundred years hence what we do to-
day or omit. If there were no other consid-
eration, there would be this. If I am to be
extinguished at seventy I need not be too
much concerned about my soul's perfection,
to say nothing of becoming perfect as God is.
And that is the end of moral effort in due


course. The pursuit of perfection is a
greater moral influence than the passion for

The finality of death In the vital sense
leads to all the low temperatures In life
which I have been describing. Its finality In
the moral sense leads to all the enormities
which we associate with the doctrine of
double predestination.

Clearly in this life some are better oE than
others, and some are morally better. That
means, if there be a ruling power In human
affairs, a doctrine of election In one sense or
another. Now, to a doctrine of election we
do not need to object. Ahner c'est choisir.
Love IS preferential. But two things we
must insist on. First, it Is not an election to
prerogative, privilege, and exemption, but
to God's own responsibility, service, and sac-
rifice. The Captain of the elect came to
serve. For it is an election of love. On
that the Gospel is clear. And second, it Is
the action of a moral process that goes on
after death. The fate of the soul Is not
finally determined then. Those lives and
those generations which were elect here were
chosen for the service and good of those
whose turn was not to come In this life. Ed-
ucation, or experience, which begins In this
life does not fructify In certain cases till an-



other. An election to a certain place in this
life does not mean that we are condemned
to that place for ever. Death does not fix
the moral position of the soul Irretrievably.
Other methods of moral discipline lie be-
yond. We cannot be occupied there with the
sordid trivialities which engage so much of
our time here. That Is to say, we are not
predestined for ever to the place or state
in which we die. Does that not take the
sting out of a doctrine of predestination?
We are all predestined In love to life sooner
or later, // we will. An election Is to certain
stages and methods of endless growth. It
is selection for cycles and crises of moral
evolution. It Is not that some are chosen for
eternal life and some are doomed to eternal
death. That was a nightmare which grew
from the association of the truth of election
with the falsehood of death's finality. And
its tendency Is to reduce the value of the soul,
like the notion that death Is final In the sense
of extinction. It Is a doctrine which for the
popular mind has blighted the great name of
Calvin, and prevented us from realizing him
as one of the very greatest makers of his-
tory, and the creator through Puritanism of
modern democracy. Calvin only applied
consistently that Idea of death's finality which
all Protestants held. Take his doctrine of
election, relieve it of the notion of death's


absolute arrest, and you have a great pan-
orama of development which makes this life
organic, with all the possibilities of an endless
growth beyond. It is the abuse of Calvin-
ism, as it is the abuse of purgatory, that has
done the mischief. So we discard the ex-
treme of orthodoxy as we do the extreme of
negation about the finality of death. And
we realize the immense effect on this life and
the use of it from the faith of another life,
which is the continued action of the Kingdom
of God and the discipline of the moral soul.
But why did predestination, as a matter of
fact, not lower personality? Why was it the
religion of the strongest men of the day and
for long after — the makers of history?
Why did it not act like Fatalism in Islam?
Because it was the action not of a Fate but
of a living God and a free God of Grace,
however distorted the conception of His
mode of action. The greatness of God's
free and holy sovereignty overbore the weak-
ness of the rest of the creed. He was a liv-
ing God and a free, and not a force, a pro-
cess, or a fate. And the history of Calvin-
ism shows that a supreme concern for God's
freedom is the best motive and guarantee
for man's.




The egoism of Christ. The fear of punishment and the
hope of heaven. Demoralization possible. But my
neighbor's immortality. The worth of our mortal-
ity to God. The egoism of the anti-egoists. Im-
moral immortality.

The belief in immortality has been charged
with egoism. But there is egoism and
egoism. And In Christ Himself there Is a
unique combination of self-sacrifice and self-

In what sense can we say there was an
egoism In Jesus? " Eternal life Is to believe
in Me," " Because I live ye shall live also,"
^' I shall judge the world," *' Inasmuch as ye
did it to these ye did it to me." These, with
many similar claims, indicate what, in a mere
man, would be egoism carried even to im-
perial megalomania. Yet It does not offend
us. It offends us no more than the egoism
of God — who is a sole and jealous God —
or love's egoism with its monogamy (the so-
cial counterpart of monotheism) and Its ex-
clusive right. As a matter of fact, the ego-
ism of Christ Is In the same category as the


absoluteness of God; and such egoism in God
is the blessing of the world. It is its moral
stability. It is its holiness. To worship it
is not to be infected with egoism, but to lose
it. To glorify God is to find our soul, which
is lost in its own pursuit. It is not egoism to
court an immortality which is the communion
and obedience of His absolute life.

It might, of course, be said that we should
not speak of an egoism in God, and that we
had better betake ourselves to a less familiar
but more fitting word, and speak of His
Egoity. But that hardly meets the case if by
the new term we think to avoid the idea that
God seeks His own. He does seek His
own, since He can seek no higher. Like us,
He must seek the highest. Could He devote
Himself only to an inferior? His grace to
us is a debt to himself. And our faith is a
faith that nothing is well with us until we are
at His service in that quest, that seeking of
His own. For He is a holy God, with a life
self-determined and turned in on Himself
with an infinite self-sufl^ciency, just as surely
as He is a God of love with a life outgoing.
He is at once self-contained and communi-
cative. Without a centripetal force the heav-
ens cannot stand. It were a slack piety, and
one drawn from our sentiment more than
from His revelation, to treat Him as one
whose whole concern is to give, with nothing


in His energy of that self-regard which makes
a character worth much to receive. An

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Online LibraryPeter Taylor ForsythThis life and the next : the effect on this life of faith in another → online text (page 1 of 7)