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"THE SOUL HERE AND HEREAFTER.”
ANOTHER book has been written to defend the traditional
of Professor (in the language of the Congregationalist) " has earned the gratitude of all lovers of Bible truth for having taken down the old sword and wielded it so valiantly, and so successfully in the fight that now is ;” another great religious Publishing Society invites the approbation of its numerous clientage for giving to them a “timely book " in behalf of this great popular delusion, which seems to be losing its hold on the minds of thinking men and intelligent Christians throughout the world.
The book is entitled, The Soul Here and Hereafter. The author is Rev. Professor C. M. Mead, of Andover Theological Seminary. It is published by the Congregational Publishing Society, Boston. It is a volume of 462 pages. It had its origin, as the writer tells us, in a series of newspaper articles reviewing Dr. Ives' Bible Doctrine of the Soul. But as now completed, it embraces criticisms on Rev. E. White's (English) work, entitled Life in Christ, and Rev. J. H. Pettingell's Theological Trilemma, with occasional allusions to the works of several other authors on the same general question of Conditional Immortality.
It is indeed " timely” in view of the exigencies of the cause it undertakes to defend. But we are inclined to think that this "old" mediæval “sword” of the schoolmen, which has proved such a terrible weapon in the hands of the Papacy, will hardly answer his purpose among Protestant Christians in this enlightened age, however “ valiantly” he may be thought to “wield it." Thinking men at the present day need something more than traditional dogma or ecclesiastical decretals, or theological sophistry to hold them to those views of God and His government that outrage their moral sense, contradict the plain teachings of His word, and are utterly inconsistent with the spirit and principles of the gospel. They are beginning to suspect, to hope, to believe that our God is, not like the gods of the heathen, a monstrous tyrant, whom none but His special favourites can trust, but a benignant Father, whom all can love and confide in, and who “ so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not PERISH but have EVERLASTING LIFE.”
They are coming to believe, more and more, that the great salvation he has provided, is not a rescue from an incredible doom which none but a fiend could desire to inflict-and which God certainly has never threatened; but from the death which is the necessary result of our fallen condition, to an endless life in His heavenly kingdom ; that it was not man's Creator, but-the deceiver who said ye shall not surely die ;” that this death was the very doom which Christ suffered for us, and rose again that He
might give eternal life-not blessedness simply—but ETERNAL LIFE to perishing mortals.
This work makes quite a show of Greek and Hebrew scholarship, and of biblical criticism. But the author succeeds most wonderfully in muddling the Scriptures and in mystifying whatever point he attempts to discuss. Indeed, he does not aim to establish any definite position for himself, but rather to see how often he can hit his antagonists, and how unworthy of confidence he can make them appear. His method is what is called in “ carnal warfare " bushwhacking, or that employed by the Indians—firing at the enemy from behind a tree. He shows considerable tact in searching out unguarded points, or infelicitous modes of expression in any one of the several authors he criticises, and of charging them over against all the others.
This device of reviewing several authors at the same time, and of making them all responsible for the deficiencies, mistakes, or errors of each other is not new with him. It is an old artifice, and an easy way of avoiding the strong arguments of any one of them, and of seeming to gain a victory over them all. If we should practice it upon him, and charge him with all the errors and heresies of others who hold the doctrine of endless sin and misery in common with himself, he would complain, and not without reason. Indeed, the modern advocates of the modified view of the eternal torments of the lost that now obtains, do complain when we reproduce the horrid pictures of hell with its material fires, and cite the graphic language employed by their venerated fathers, in describing the dreadful sufferings of “immortal souls” in the world of woe.
The object of religious disputants upon any moral question should be the truth. In comparison with this, the personal faults of writers or speakers, the idiosyncrasies of those who argue for or against any view, are of small consequence. Now the real question in discussion between us is, or ought to be, this-Is immortality the certain and inalienable inheritance of all the children of Adam by a natural birth, or is it the special gift of God through Jesus Christ by a second, spiritual birth? Did Christ die to save immortal creatures from eternal sin and suffering, or to save men from actual death as the final result of sin, and to raise them to an eternal life of blessedness in His coming kingdom ?
It seems a great pity to have this great question, that has so important a bearing on our estimate of the character of God and of our relation to His government, and of the object of Christ's death, and of the meaning of the gospel message-degraded or obscured and so lost sight of, by the discussion of irrelevant issues and by personal accusation, and flings, and unchristian reflections by the parties who engage in it. It is no doubt very difficult for earnest men to conduct any controversy—much more a religious controversy-in a fair, Christian spirit. We are all too much inclined to consider whatever is said against the truths or the errors we advocate as said against ourselves. But it certainly should be the aim of every disciple of Christ to discuss the great doctrines of Divine revelation with a supreme regard for the truth, with charity towards those who may differ from them, and in as impersonal a manner as possible. That the advocates of the doctrines of Life in Christ are without censure in this regard, we do not assert, for they have had great provocation; but we are constrained to say, that the treatment they have received, and are receiving, at the hands of those who oppose their views, is eminently unchristian and unfair, not to employ harsher terms to characterise it. They have been sneered at, denounced, misquoted, misrepresented, falsely accused, and rarely, very rarely has there been, in all the notices that have appeared of their writings or of their views, any honest attempt to state the doctrine as they hold it, or to meet the real issue. In fact, there has very generally appeared a determination to misrepresent them and their views; and the orthodox organs of our various denominational bodies, through which these misrepresentations have been freely circulated, have been persistently closed against them for the purpose of brief correction or explanation.
The leading characteristic of Professor Mead's book is its personality. Instead of devoting himself to the discussion of great principles, he nibbles at all the little vulnerable points he can discover in the several books he criticises, and directs as much attention as possible to the authors themselves. Hastily running my eye over the pages of his book I count the name of Dr. Ives 347 times printed in full, and the personal pronoun is everywhere used still more frequently. The names of Mr. White and of Mr. Pettingell, though, of course, not so often employed, may be found scores of times. This personality cannot be altogether excused on the plea of convenience; for it is really the critical, or logical, or exegetical ability of the individuals themselves that he discusses.
I have no reply to make to what is said in his book of the materialistic views of Dr. Ives, and of his definition of the soul as the physical organism, for this is not my doctrine. I have always regretted that Dr. Ives chose to found his argument for the corruptible nature of the soul so largely on a hypothesis concerning it that is certainly open to grave objections in an evangelical point of view, when he might have rested it on a more solid foundation. It is by no means necessary to determine whether the soul be a physical or spiritual entity, or whether it be actually separable from the body and as such capable of independent activity, before we can decide whether it bo destructible or indestructible. If, indeed, it can be shown to be only a material organism, as Dr. Ives argues, then it would seem necessarily to share the fate of the body, as he believed. But if it were proved to be a distinct spiritual entity, it does not follow that it cannot be corrupted and destroyed. If the soul, as such, was created, then it can be uncreated. If it had a beginning, it may have an end, for anything that reason or nature can show to the contrary. And if Divine revelation, which is our only sure authority in this matter, assures us that it is in the power of sin to destroy it, then the teaching of God's Word is to be accepted as conclusive on this point. If indeed we held with Plato and his disciples that soul never was created, but is eternal in its pre-existence, then we can logically believe with him that its future existence will be endless. But Christian philosophy rejects the former part of this proposition as essentially atheistic, and yet, strange to say, its popular defenders hold to the latter part of it, which by itself has no logical force, and to my mind, is equally untenable; and in spite of the teachings of God's Word, gravely asserts, as one of its fundamental axioms, that the soul of man is in its very naiure immortal, and, therefore, the death with which it is threatened on account of sin cannot mean real death, but an eternal state of misery, and that the Life everlasting which is promised through Christ is an opposite state of endless blessedness.
Professor Mead holds in his book, as does Dr. Bartlett, another of this school, that life and death are merely modes or conditions of existence, and that therefore living creatures who could not have begun to be without life and the very essence of whose being is life, can exist after they are dead, and not only exist, but fulfil all the functions of their being without any life at all. This we deny. And to characterise it in his own language, to our minds it is “ rank nonsense.'
He charges us with making no distinction between life and existence. But the confusion is in his own mind. Existence is certainly a broader and more inclusive term than life. Whatever is, exists, whether it have life or not. But he seems to forget that life is the essential thing, the sine qua non of certain kinds of existence. For instance, it takes life to constitute animal existence. Without life no animal can exist, as an animal. What is a horse, for instance, after he is dead ? It is certainly not a horse. The dead carcass remains, that exists; but the horse no longer exists, nor can he exist without life. If we were to say that the life or soul of the horse is a distinct entity of itself that leaves the animal at death, this entity does not constitute the animal. It cannot perform the functions of the animal in its separation. It requires à body, and a body with life in it to constitute the animal. . And there is not the shadow of evidence, in Nature or Revelation, to show that the same is not true of man, or that the spiritual entity, whatever it may be, is all that is necessary to constitute the man, that he can continue his conscious existence, think, remember, sin, and suffer outside and independent of a physical organisation and without life. The Bible always speaks of man as a unit, formed it may be by the union of a living force with a material organism;
but neither of these alone is a man. It requires both together to constitute a man, as truly as the formation of water is by the union of oxygen and hydrogen; neither of them alone is water. It is a speculative philosophy that undertakes to dissolve man into his constituent elements, and to determine which are and which are not necessary to his existence as a man. If the body were not needful, then of what importance is the great doctrine of the resurrection ? a doctrine with this species of philosophy has thrown into the shade, but which Christ and His immediate disciples thought all important: “for if the dead rise not, then they which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.”
But we cannot within the limits of this brief article, give anything more than this general notice of this book.
We cannot think that the work, however widely it may be circulated by the Congregational Publication Society, will do much to check the progress of the “ heresy” at which it is aimed, nor to add to the reputation of its author as a clear thinker and sound theologian, unless by soundness is meant a pertinacious adherence to the traditions and dogmas of the school in which he has been trained and whose creed he is bound to represent and defend.' In this sense he is eminently a safe teacher and his soundness is not to be questioned.
Without definitely stating what he does or does not believe concerning the doom of the wicked, he comes to this grave conclusion at the close of his volume. " That the doom of the lost will be just, whatever it is.” “That God is just ; and the Judge of all the earth will do right." And that we are not qualified to determine what is just or right for God to do in the administration of His government, and that we are to accept the truth as it is made known to us concerning Him, as good and just, whether we can see or feel it to be so or not. “It belongs to us to say, not that such things are not just and therefore cannot be, but that they must be just, because they are the doings of Him whose judgments are true and righteous altogether.” The first part of this proposition, that God is just and good, is a truism that no one would think of disputing. The question is not whether God be just and good or not, but whether the acts which men attribute to Him are just and good. If God be good, how are we to know and feel this and to love and trust Him as such, unless we can form some judgment in our own minds of what is good and just ? Because God is just, it does not follow that we are bound with an unquestioning faith to accept of doctrines concerning Him that outrage every sentiment of justice within us; that are absolutely hideous, even to the mind of a savage ; doctrines that can be made tolerable, only by covering them up, and explaining them away. Whatever may be true of past generations, men of the present day, if they are to be held to the belief in any God, must have one whose goodness they can be made to see and feel, and whom they can love and trust as well as