Imágenes de páginas

much of them seemingly subversive, which have repeatedly invaded the region occupied by the followers of Christianity. At present there is no book more read than the Bible, no life more deeply studied and discussed than the life of Christ. There is probably a greater amount of earnest attention devoted to these subjects than to any other branch of human inquiry. Nevertheless there is great confusion, and an almost despairing outcry from many of the inhabitants of the Christian region. It is imagined that fences and landmarks have disappeared, and that at length the rising tide is about to attack, as it has long threatened, the very lives and holdings of the community.

It will be our endeavour to reassure these somewhat over-timid people. Being students of physical science, we will try to gauge the strength of the tide, and more especially of the forces which give it motion, and endeavour to convince those who are sufficiently calm to receive conviction, that there neither is nor can be any real danger to their lives and holdings from the violence of the waters; but that, on the contrary, they will ultimately receive a blessing from that which will remain behind after the present confusion has disappeared.

'Skin for skin,' said a certain evil one, 'yea all that a man hath will he give for his

life,' and the proverb is true (with a modifica tion) as regards the life of the soul, no less than as regards that of the body. Take away all hope of a future state,-appear to demonstrate, if not with absolute certainty, yet with an approach to it, that such a condition of things is antagonistic to well-understood scientific principles, and we feel certain that the effect upon humanity would be simply disastrous.

At any rate, those who propound an argument of this kind must reasonably expect determined opposition from the followers of religion.

Let us here, before proceeding further, take the opportunity of stating that we discuss only the physical aspects of the argument regarding a future state. Being neither metaphysicians nor moral philosophers, we leave to others more competent than we can be the argument which may be based upon the universal craving among the intelligent races of mankind for a life beyond the grave.

In the fourth and following editions of our work, while we have not materially altered our argument, we have recast to some extent the shape in which it was first put before the reader, and this recasting has taken a more definite form in our present edition.

The large amount of friendly criticism which our work has called forth has convinced us that we did not at first sufficiently separate

between certain conclusions which inevitably flowed from our argument, and certain others which, while deriving their strength from a totally different quarter, were yet not inconsistent with the former, but even, it might be, supported by them. The consequence has been that we have found ourselves credited with attempts which were very far from our thoughts, such, for instance, as the endeavour to deduce Christian theological doctrine from mere physical considerations.

We have therefore thought it desirable to bring in review before the reader, in this introductory chapter, the fundamental points of our argument, more especially as in what follows we may not always be able without an undesirable formality to keep separate the foundation and the superstructure.

In his justly renowned Analogy, Bishop Butler begins with a chapter on a future life. He says with great truth that if there is an idea that death will be the destruction of living powers, that idea must arise either from the reason of the thing or the analogy of nature. 'But it does not arise (he proceeds to say) from the reason of the thing; for we do not know what death is. Again, we do not know on what the existence of our living powers depends; for we.see them suspended in sleep, for example, or

in a swoon, and still not extinguished. Neither does it arise from the analogy of nature; for death removes all sensible proof, and precludes us consequently from tracing out any analogy which would warrant us in inferring their destruction.' Now, it is well known that since the days of Bishop Butler a school has arisen, the members of which assert that they have at length learned what Death is, and that in virtue of their knowledge they are in a position to tell us that life is impossible after death. It is one of the main objects of this volume to demonstrate the fallacy which underlies the argument brought forward by this school. We attempt to show that we are absolutely driven by scientific principles to acknowledge the existence of an Unseen Universe, and by scientific analogy to conclude that it is full of life and intelligence that it is in fact a spiritual universe and not a dead one.

But while we are fully justified by scientific considerations in asserting the existence of such an unseen universe, we are not justified in assuming that we have yet attained, or can easily or perhaps ever attain, to more than a very slight knowledge of its nature. Thus we do not believe that we can really ascertain what death is.

To those, therefore, who assert that there is no spiritual unseen world, and that death is an

end of the existence of the individual, we reply by simply denying their first statement, and in consequence of this denial, insisting that none of us know anything whatever about death. Indeed, it is at once apparent that a scientific denial of the possibility of life after death must be linked with at least something like a scientific proof of the non-existence of a spiritual unseen world. For if scientific analogy be against a spiritual Unseen, then evidently it is equally against the likelihood of life after death.

But if, on the other hand, we feel constrained to believe in a spiritual universe, then though it does not follow that life is certain after death, inasmuch as we do not know whether any provision has been made in this unseen world for our reception, yet it does follow that we cannot deny the possibility of a future life. For to do so would imply on our part such an exhaustive knowledge of the Unseen as would justify us in believing that no arrangement had been made in it for our transference thither. Now, our almost absolute ignorance with regard to the Unseen must prevent us from coming to any such conclusion.

We have been accused by some of our critics of being dogmatists. So far is this from being true that in the first part of our argument

« AnteriorContinuar »