J. Paterson (John Paterson) Smyth.

The gospel of the hereafter online

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E-text prepared by Al Haines

Transcriber's Note:

The Greek words in this e-book have been transliterated according
to Project Gutenberg's Greek How-To. Such words are indicated
with surrounding underscores. There are a couple of instances
of author-transliterated Greek words. Those words are bracketed
and not italicized. Underscores are also used to indicate
italicization of words, but in this e-book such words are always
English words.




_Rector of St. Georges, Montreal, Late Professor
of Pastoral Theology, University of Dublin_

_Author of "How We Got Our Bible," "The
Old Documents and the New Bible," etc., etc., etc._

New York - - Chicago - - Toronto
Fleming H. Revell Company
London And Edinburgh

Copyright, 1910, by
Fleming H. Revell Company

New York: 158 Fifth Avenue
Chicago: 17 North Wabash Ave.
London: 21 Paternoster Square
Edinburgh: 75 Princes Street

_To My Wife_




I. "I"




Publishers' Note

This tenth American (and sixteenth British) edition has been carefully
revised and where necessary rewritten by the author. We call special
attention to an interesting note on page 108.

This year a Norwegian edition has been published, translated by Judge
Hambro of the Supreme Court of Norway assisted by the Bishops of
Christiania and Trondheim. Also request has been received for
permission to translate the book for readers in Holland. But more
interesting is a letter from a Brahmin gentleman in India asking
permission to produce at his own cost an edition for his people and
dedicated on the front page, "TO MY SON, SEREM ALI, WHO IS NOW IN THE


The Lord is risen, but the people do not know it. There is no death,
but the people do not believe it. Human life is the most exciting
romantic adventure in the Universe, going on stage after stage till we
are older than Methuselah and then on again through the infinite
eternities - and yet men pass into the Unseen as stupidly as the
caterpillar on the cabbage-leaf, without curiosity or joy or wonder or
excitement at the boundless career ahead.

Instead of the thrill of coming adventure we have the dull grey
monotony of aged lives drawing near the close, and the horror of this
war is doubled and the torture of wife or mother as the beloved one
crosses the barrier.

What is the matter with us, Christian people? Do we not know? Or have
we lost our beliefs? or has imagination grown dulled by too frequent
repetition of God's good news?

* * * * *

It was so different in early days when the world was younger, when
Christ's revelation was fresh. Look at St. John, four-score years and
ten, like an eager boy looking into the Great Adventure: "Beloved, now
are we the sons of God, and IT DOTH NOT YET APPEAR WHAT WE SHALL BE."[1]

What we shall be! What we shall be! Is not that the chief delight of
being young? Guessing and hoping and wondering what we shall be.

The dreariest thing in life is dulness - monotony. The brightest thing
in life is outlook - vision. And God has given us that. Like St. John
we too can stand on the rim of the world and look out over the wall.

* * * * *

Life is full of latent possibilities - of outlook, of romance, of
exciting futures. God has made it so, if we would only see it. God's
world of nature has its continuous progress, its ever new and
fascinating stages. God's caterpillars in their next stage are going
to be soaring butterflies - God's acorns are to become mighty
oaks - God's dry little seeds in the granary to-day will in autumn be
alive in the waving harvests. God's world of nature is full of
romantic possibilities.

And God's world of men is infinitely more so, and one of life's
delights is to know it and look forward to it guessing what we shall
be. Outlook. Vision. That is what gives zest to life. That is what
we need to make life bright and beautiful.

* * * * *

I see a group of small boys sitting at their play, and their eyes are
bright looking into the future. They are going to be soldiers, and
sailors, and circus riders, and travelers, and all sorts of things.
Because they are boys with the enthusiasms of boyhood, they may be
anything. All the possibilities of boyhood belong to them. It doth
not yet appear what they shall be, but it is delightful to look forward
and speculate about it.

* * * * *

I see them again a dozen years later. They are starting in life, just
left college, young soldiers and lawyers and curates and business
men - still with their visions and dreams of the future. It doth not
yet appear what they shall be, but because they are young men, all that
belongs to young manhood lies before them, as they look forward in
their day-dreams. What countries they shall live in and what girl they
shall marry, and what positions and what work, and what excitements,
and what pleasure lie before them. Ah, it is delightful to be young,
realizing the possibilities in front - dreaming of what we shall be.

* * * * *

I see a crowd of older people, men and women dull, uninterested. "We
are no longer young," they say, "we are middle-aged or elderly. And we
have ceased looking forward. We have lost the vision. We have not
become as great as we expected, or as good as we expected. We are
fairly comfortable. We have not much to complain of. But life is a
bit dull. The path is a bit monotonous now. We have traversed most of
it. We can see to the end. There are no more romantic possibilities
to make life exciting, no more visions of 'what we shall be.'"

* * * * *

Don't believe it! Not a word of it. The visions are there all right.
Look out over the wall. This life of yours is only one of the stages
in your career, and not the first stage, either. The first came to
you, silent, unconscious, "where the bones do grow in the womb of her
that is with child." There you grew and developed for the next move
forward. One day came the crisis of birth and you passed into the
second stage, the training stage for life and for God. Then through a
new crisis you pass on again to new adventures. For God has revealed
that what you call death, the end of this career, is but birth into a
new and more wondrous career which again passes you forward into still
nobler adventures, and that again, perhaps - who knows? Who shall fix
the limit?

* * * * *

Nay, you are not elderly. You are not middle-aged. These are but
comparative terms. A house-fly is elderly in twenty-four hours. An
oak-tree is young after a hundred years. And you, children of eternity
with ages and millenniums before you - you are not even one year old
babies in the light of your great future.

Now do you see why the old apostle of Ephesus did not feel aged or
elderly - why he looked out like an eager boy into the adventure before
him? "Beloved, now are we the sons of God but we don't know yet what
we shall be." Aye, we don't know yet. No more than did the small boys
laughing in their play and going to be soldiers and sailors and
wonderful people. We don't know yet. But it is all before us. And it
is all going to be good because it is in the Father's presence.

So I bid you do what I sometimes do myself, look out into the void and
guess like the children what you shall be when you are older than

Shake off the dulness and monotony from your life. Don't talk as if
old or middle-aged any more. Be children again in the presence of the
Father, and with happy child hearts keep guessing what you shall be.

* * * * *

I see a woman with the deep pain in her eyes, one of the many mothers
whom I have met in these terrible four years.... They were afraid to
tell her when the War Office telegram came.... He had crept out in the
night to bring in a wounded chum, and the German sniper got him. At
first she could not believe it. It must be some mistake, - some one of
similar name. But the days passed on. And the light died in her eyes
and she became suddenly old. Her prayers ceased. God had disappointed
her. There was nothing left to pray for now. Nothing to be ambitious
for any more. Her boy was dead - buried in a shallow grave in France
with a little wooden cross at his head. And he was only twenty-two!

* * * * *

The awful waste of it! All her loving thought over his childhood - all
her care, her anxiety, her efforts, her prayers that God would make him
a good and noble man. All her hope and pride in the high promise of
his boyhood. He was dead. All that he might have been and done in the
world was lost. Her life was forever desolate. And God had let it

Kindly friends came to comfort and sympathise. But it was of little
use. They had not lost their boy. They could not understand. They
bade her be proud that he had died in a noble cause - that he had died
to save another. They told her that time would bring a blessed easing
to her pain. They told her she must bow to God's mysterious will.

Ah! what is the use of it? How can any outsider intermeddle in the
pain of a mother whose boy has just been killed?

Not all the talking since Adam
Can make death to be other than death.

* * * * *

God help us all if there were no better comfort for a tortured world in
this hour of its bitterest need - to "make death to be other than death."

* * * * *

She was a brave woman. She faced the issue clearly. She talked with
wise friends. She came back to her prayers. She recalled and
relearned the teaching of her Bible and her church which had lain
hazily in memory till her need arose. And gradually God's blessed
comfort came to her "as to one whom his mother comforteth." Slowly
peace came to her heart, and in spite of her pain life became worth
living again.... He was a good boy. He loved his God. He loved his
mother. He had his faults, but she could trust Christ with them. She
had had high ambitions for him. Her ambitions came back.

She learned to think of him in the wondrous new adventure, living a
full conscious life, thinking and remembering, growing and becoming
fitted for the eternal Heaven that is still in front. She believed
that the high promise of his boyhood might be fulfilled after all, and
that she might one day see it.

Life is still very desolate without him; but she believes that he lives
and knows, that he is growing and going on - that he remembers her and
loves her as never before, that he is waiting for her, perhaps watching
over her as in his days on earth, even though he cannot write home.
And trustfully, gratefully she remembers him in her prayers. She
thinks that the Heavenly Father is not likely to forget what a mother
says to Him about her son.

* * * * *

This book is a poor, imperfect attempt to put together some of the
teachings of our holy religion, to help a troubled world, in this day
of its necessity, "to look out over the wall."

[1] John iii. 2.


The Near Hereafter



The title of this chapter is a very short one. It consists of but a
single word, and that the shortest word in the whole English language.
And though it is the shortest word, yet it is the most wonderful and
mysterious word. Though it is a word that every one of us has on his
lips every moment of the day, yet no one who reads this book - no one in
the whole world - has ever been able to understand what it means.

Just the letter "I." - All day long, from morning till night, we are
using it: - I did this. I mean to do that. I ought. I shall. I will.
I think. I wish. I love. I hate. I remember. I forget. And so on
and on - ever ringing the changes on this little word in all its cases
"I" and "my" and "mine" and "me." I want to set you thinking. Who or
what is this "I," this "me"?

Perhaps you will say, "Oh, there is nothing mysterious about it - I know
very well what I mean by it. 'I' means myself."

But what do I mean by Myself? Of course there is a rough work-day
meaning in which it means my whole being as I stand - clothes, body,
brains, thoughts, feelings, general appearance, everything. But every
thinking man knows that this is not the real "I," that when he says I
can, I do, I will, I ought, I remember, the "I" means to him something
much deeper and more mysterious than that. Ask yourself, each one,
what do you mean by "I"?

§ 1

IS IT MY BODY? Nay, surely not. I know that my body is only my
outward garment woven by "me" out of certain chemical substances. In a
scientific museum I can stand before a glass case and see neatly
labelled the exact portions of lime and silica and iron and water and
other elements which compose my body. I know that this body is
continually changing its substance like the rainbow in the sky, like
the eddy round a stone in the river. The body I have to-day is no more
the body of last year than the fire on my hearth to-night is the fire
that was there this morning. I have had a dozen different bodies since
I was born, but I am the same still. Every thinking man knows that the
"I," the real self, stands behind the body looking out through the
windows of the eyes, receiving messages through the portals of the
ears. It rules the body, it possesses the body. It says, "I have a
body." "This body is a thing belonging to me."

As you watch the changing expression in the face of your friend, as you
see his eyes flashing in anger, or softening in affectionate sympathy,
do you not feel that all you see is but the outward casing, that the
real self of your friend is a something dwelling within?

I hope I am not puzzling you. What I want to do is to introduce you to
your own self, to make you really acquainted with that mysterious being
in his first stage of existence here and then to follow him out into
the great adventure of the Hereafter.

§ 2

Let us go on. What is this I, this self? IS IT MY BRAIN?
Physiologists tell us wonderful things of that brain; how its size and
shape, and the amount of gray matter modify my character; how it
excites itself when I am thinking; how it has different departments for
different functions; how it rules and directs everything I do. And men
impressed by these wonders have sometimes asserted that there is
nothing more to be found. It is the brain which originates all,
thought is only certain activities of the brain - memory is only
impressions on the substance of the brain - when the brain decays there
is no self remaining. What I call "I" is merely a function of my brain.

But immediately the question arises, Which brain? The particles of my
brain are always changing. I have had a dozen different brains in my
lifetime, with not a particle remaining the same. Which of these
brains is it that "I" am only a function of? And how does it happen
that I remember what I thought and did and said with the old vanished
brains of twenty and thirty years ago? Memory insists that I am still
the same "I" in spite of all those changes of brain. If memory be but
a series of impressions registered on the brain these could no more
survive the dissolution of the brain than impressions on wax could
survive the melting of the wax. Surely my memory, my irresistible
conviction of personal identity with my past makes it abundantly clear
that "I" am a mysterious unchanging spiritual being behind this ever
changing brain.

And that is what the best modern science asserts - that the brain is but
my instrument. If we compare it to a violin then "I" am the unseen
violin player behind it. The musician cannot produce violin music
without a violin, but also the violin cannot produce a musical note,
much less take part in a complex symphony without the musician behind
it. If the strings of the violin be injured, or if they be smeared
with grease, the result is discords and crazy sounds. If the brain be
physically injured or disordered the result is what we call mental

To say, then, that the brain is the _seat_ of thought is not at all to
say that it is the _source_ of thought. Everything involved in my
conscious personality is _related_ to the brain, but it is not
_originated_ by the brain. The mysterious spiritual "I" is behind the
brain, using the brain - nay further - actually educating and fitting the
brain for its work. The brain of a little child with its plastic gray
matter is smooth and unformed. It is the "I" behind that is steadily
creasing and moulding and training it for its purpose. I don't know of
anything more impressive than the study of the human brain in its
activities, and how "I" am continually changing and modifying and
educating my brain. You feel sometimes as if you could almost lay
hands on that mysterious spiritual being that is behind it, like a
spider in his web - feeling and interpreting every quiver of it, sending
messages out into the world by means of it. But he always eludes you.
You have no instrument that can touch him. You only know that he is
there, enshrouded in mystery, a supernatural being not only using the
brain but educating it for use. The brain itself has no knowledge or
thought, and no power of itself to originate knowledge or thought. The
brain of a baboon differs very little from the brain of a man. The
difference is in the being who is behind it. I read lately the
statement of a great scientist: "As far as I can see, if the soul of a
man could get behind the brain of an ape he could probably use it
almost as well as his own."

I have never known a really thoughtful student of science satisfied
with the foolish notion that the brain is what thinks and remembers and
wills. He looks upon a human brain, on the dissecting table, a mere
mass of cells and nerve centres suffused with blood, and he thinks of
the glorious poems and the mighty intellectual efforts and the noble
thoughts of God and Righteousness, and perforce he laughs at the
thought that that poor bleeding thing originated them. Something
within him indignantly replies: "Nay, 'I' am not the brain. I possess
it. I use it. It is mine, but it is not me!"

§ 3

We have not yet gone deep enough to discover this "I." It is hardly
necessary to ask the next question which some foolish people are
speculating about to-day. Am I merely the TRAIN OF THOUGHTS AND
FEELINGS AND EMOTIONS? Am "I" but like an Eolian harp, played on by
the wind of sensations from without?

Surely not. This mysterious "I" is constantly and persistently
claiming to be a real conscious person behind all these - greater than
all these - possessing all these. Listen to the voice down deep in your
consciousness - COGITO, ERGO SUM. "I" think - therefore "I" exist. I am
not the thoughts and feelings and emotions - I am greater than them all.
I am the possessor of them all. They are mine. They are not Me. They
are only passing phases of my being. They are always changing.
Everything around is changing. I remain the same being always.
Nothing else in the universe remains the same being - except God. God
and I. God and these selves that are in every one of us.

I cannot escape that conviction that "I" am the permanent being behind
all the changes. No human vision can see me. No surgeon's knife can
detect me. But I am there, behind everything.

The particles of my body, of brain and nerves and heart are constantly
being changed - every few years they are completely renewed. I have had
a dozen new bodies, a dozen new sets of brains and heart since I was
born - I am always wearing them out. I change them when they are worn
out and throw them aside like old clothes. My thoughts and feelings
are ever changing, like the ripples on the sea.

But I am absolutely certain that "I" am still there - that I am the
same - just as God is the same. The same "I" that played as a little
child - the same "I" that lived and desired and thought and felt and
worked and sinned years and years ago.

Not a particle remains of the brain, or nerves, or tongue, or eyes, or
hands, or feet, with which I did a good or evil deed twenty years
since - but it is impossible for me to doubt that it was "I" who did it,
that I to-day deserve the praise or blame which is due to it.

Every man on earth, when he thinks about it, has this conviction of
himself as an "I" - as a person separate from all other persons, as a
self separate from all other selves, as remaining always the same
being, whatever changes may take place around him. That is what
constitutes man - a self conscious of itself. As far as we can
discover, the lower animals have no such idea. Children, at first,
have not. Did you ever notice how a little child never says "I" till
he is about three years old? He always speaks in the third person. It
is always "Baby does this," "Baby likes that," until the Divine
revelation of his personality gradually grows and he recognizes himself
as a person. Then, without any teaching on your part, the child, of
his own accord, will begin to say "I."

§ 4

Oh, who or what is this awful, mysterious "I" that dwells somewhere in
the centre of my being, and rules and possesses and is responsible for
everything? What is this self, in each of you, that is hidden behind
your faces as behind a mask - that is looking out through your eyes, and
receiving, through your ears, the thoughts that others are trying to
express for you? Can the surgeon's knife find any trace of it? Is it
possible to destroy it? Is it possible to get away from it? It has
survived the putting away of every part of the body a dozen times over.
Will it survive the final putting away of the whole body at death?
Will it survive everything? Shall "I" be "I," the same identical
person through all the ages of eternity?

§ 5

Look in again upon this "I" within you and answer this question. Why
does it assert so positively that it is impossible to doubt it; "I
ought to do certain things, I ought not to do certain other things"?
All over the earth this day - from the St. Lawrence to the Ganges, from
the North Pole to the South - there is no man outside of a lunatic
asylum without that conviction. No race, not even the lowest, has been
found without it. Where did that conviction come from? From the
Bible, do you say? From the teachings of Christ? Nay, surely not.
Long before the Bible, long before the incarnation of Christ, the old
pagan had the thought clear and distinct, though not by any means so
clear and distinct as Christianity has made it. Did you ever think of
the mystery of this authoritative utterance of the self within you: "_I
ought_"? In the very lowest savages it asserts this. St. Paul calls
this sense of "ought" - the law of God written in our hearts (Rom. ii.
15). St. John calls it the light of Christ in us, "the light which
lighteth every man coming into the world" (St. John i. 9). Longfellow
sings of it in "Hiawatha":

That in even savage bosoms
There are longings, yearnings, strivings
For the good they comprehend not;
That the feeble hands and helpless,
Groping blindly in the darkness,
Touch God's right hand in the darkness.

Even in the heart of the thief or the murderer it insists: I ought to
do this, I ought not to do that, and when he disobeys this mysterious
law within him he is compelled to drag himself up for judgment and
fierce remorse for wrong that no one else knows of, that no one else
can punish him for. What do you think of that mysterious fact about
this Conscious Personality within you? Does it not look as if it
belongs to God, that every soul is stamped with God's image and
superscription, as every coin of King George is stamped in the mint
with the image and superscription of the King?

§ 6

And this suggests a further question. Why is there in us this sense of

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Online LibraryJ. Paterson (John Paterson) SmythThe gospel of the hereafter → online text (page 1 of 10)