« EelmineJätka »
THE IMMORTALITY OF THE SOUL.
MR. CHRISTOPHER HAWORTH.
[Thx following thoughtful lecture is the composition of a
working man. It was read before the Eclectic Mutual Improvement Society, Ardwick, Manchester.]
THAT man has a mind distinct from the matter of which his body is composed, and not the result of any combination of essences, or of any mere organisation of matter, however subtle and refined, we would content ourselves here by referring for proof to the physiological fact, that whilst the atoms which enter into the composition of his body are continually passing off, and being substituted by fresh ones, so that in the course of a few years not a single atom now entering into the composition of the whole shall remain ; yet the mind, down to the latest hour of life,-during which period several of these changes may have been passed through-ever retains a certain and vivid consciousness of its own personal identity.
The doctrine of the soul's immortality cannot be fally demonstrated by reason: all that she can accomplish is to establish a possibility, or, at the utmost, a probability ; the certainty of it must necessarily be the subject of revelation.
To a few of the facts which go to shew the thing not only possible, but highly probable, it is the purpose of this paper to call attention.
There is the indestructibility of matter. It never has been-it never can be annihilated by any process or force with which we are acquainted : only that power which brought it into being can cause it to cease to exist. Chemistry tells us that the totality of matter is the same now as it was at the beginning of the creation : that is, that the earth has not really lost one single particle from the begin. ning of time till now; and that all we can mean by waste and destruction, resolves itself simply into decomposition and recomposition, ad infinitum. Now, if the Creator has (and as far as we can see He has) imparted endless being to that which is least, dead, unconscious, inert matter, is it not much more likely that He would impart the same property to conscious, intelligent, nobler mind?
Another, and a strong presumptive argument for the immortality of the soul, we draw from the instincts of the soul itself. It has been truly said,
“Man never is, but always to be blest." This is not the case with the inferior animals : the fowls of the air, and the fishes of the sea, and the cattle of the forest, seem to attain to and to enjoy the utmost perfection of their being. The merry lark, rising from the dewy greensward, and trilling his cheerful lay as he soars amid the orient splendours of the new-born sun; the cow, stretched her full length, and ruminating at leisure on the flower-bespangled grassy knoll ; puss, reclining at her ease, and purring away on the warm hearthrug ;-each seems the image of perfect satisfaction and content. ment. They are little troubled with memories of the past, and still less made either uneasy or joyous by anticipations of the future. Not so with man. Whatever his attainments in wealth, in knowledge, in power and social influence, still he is not satisfied; he is ever stretching forward to something yet beyond, which, when he has attained, he finds is so far from completely satisfying him, that it has only increased his capacity to contain, and his desire to possess more and more. The eye
is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear with hearing, nor the spirit with knowing, thinking, feeling, and enjoying ; but whatever we may acquire, there remains an undefinable, irrepressible longing for something higher, better, nobler, yea infinite and eternal.
We shall ground another argument in our favour, on the universality of the belief by the wise and good in all ages and countries. "Conscience uninfluenced tells every man there is a hereafter.” Apart from those countries that have been favoured by the light of revelation, there has been a tradi. tionary recognition of the doctrine in question in the minds of all peoples and nations, savage and civilized, in all ages and parts of the world. It was so in ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome; it is so still amongst the Hindoos, the North American Indians, and the South Sea Islanders. That it exists in a crude form, such as the transmigration of the soul, and the gross corporeal paradise of the Mahometans, we admit; but there it is, and, generally speaking, only those have doubted or denied it, who dared not be immortal on account of their irreligion, immorality, and vice.
Centuries before the Christian era, thus sang Homer :
“When life the body leaves,
-Odyssey, bk. ix.
"Here patriots live, who for their country's good,
In fighting fields were prodigal of blood;
Priests of unblemished lives here make abode,
-Æneid, bk. vi. The elder Cyrus, just before his death, is represented by Xenophon speaking after this manner :" Think not, my dearest children, that when I depart from you I shall be no more; but remember that my soul, even while I lived among you, was invisible to you; yet by my actions you were sensible it cxisted in this body. Believe it, therefore, existing still, though it still be unseen. How quickly would the honours of illustrious men perish after death, if their souls performed nothing to preserve their fame? For my own part, I could never think that the soul, while in a mortal body, lives; but when departed out of it, dies; or that its consciousness is lost when it is discharged out of an unconscious habitation. But when it is freed from all corporeal alliance, then it truly exists. Further, since the human frame is broken by death, tell us what becomes of its parts? It is visible whither the materials of other beings are translated, namely, to the source from whence they had their birth. The boul alone, neither present nor departed, is the object of our eyes."
“ This," says Cato, “is my firm persuasion, that since the human soul exerts itself with so great activity, since it has such a remembrance of the past, such a concern for the future, since it is enriched by so many arts, sciences and discoveries, it is impossible but that the being which contains all thoso must be immortal."
The following is the language which Addison causes Cato to give utterance to :
"The son!, secured in her existence, smiles
At the drawn dagger, and defies its point !
The following by Menu, is worthy of our own enlightened age: he says, “Single is each man born, single he dies, single he receives the reward of his good, and single the punishment of his evil deeds.' " When he leaves his corpse, like a log or a lump of clay, on the ground, his kindred retire with averted faces; but his virtue accompanies his soul." "Continually, therefore, by degrees, let him collect virtue for the sake of obtaining an inseparable companion, since with virtue for his guide he will traverse a gloom how hard to be traversed.”
Now, there must be something in the nature of things to cause this doctrine to linger in the minds of men in the absence of revelation; and perhaps the chief reason it has been so fondly entertained by the wise and good is, its being so well calculated to suppress vice, and because it is so encouraging to the cultivation of the mental faculties and the constant practice of virtue. Never was reason more terribly outraged, never were human passions more awfully rampant and violent, than when the citizens of Paris wrote over the gateway of their cemetery, "Death here is an eternal sleep!"
"O argument for truth divine,
In that reserved, that endless life.” We argue, it is needful for the soul to be immortal, in order to justify the ways of divine providence, and to explain the enigma of human life. In looking over the history of nations, of families, and of individuals, not only do we find much that is mar