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philosophies of Greece and Rome, and on the other with the semi-savage creeds of those less civilised races of man which were destined ultimately to overpower the Roman Empire. But it was chiefly when the apostolic pioneers came into contact with the acute minds of the antient philosophers that we have light struck regarding what may be termed the philosophical system of Christianity ; thus we have already remarked (Art. 32), that the nature of the glorified body is most clearly indicated to us by the Apostle Paul. As respects the more barbarous nations which afterwards embraced Christianity, they were not likely to puzzle themselves about the physical possibilities of a future state, nor even to contest the reality of a place of eternal physical torment. And so it happened that, when dealing with a lower class of converts, some prominent Christians in post-apostolic periods appealed more to their fears than to their hopes, bringing vividly before them awful ideas of the nature of hell ; while on the other hand, the higher class of converts, if they had not a very clear idea of heaven, were yet drawn with intense longing to a future which they were to spend in the company of Christ.
38. In the course of a few hundred years we find the whole Roman Empire converted to Christianity, while, however, in Arabia and the East it appears either to have made very little progress, or to have become corrupted into something very different from that which we read of in the New Testament. It had not become the national religion of the Arabs; and we can well imagine that this nation, with their pretensions to be regarded as the most antient representatives of the Semitic race, would not look kindly upon a religion which took its origin in a rival branch of the same family. We can further imagine that, with such a feeling, they would be very ready to welcome any skilfully devised religious system which should spring up amongst themselves. Such an opportunity was afforded them by Mohammed. Acknowledging in some measure the claims of Moses and of Christ, Mohammed yet claimed for himself and his religion a superiority over his rivals, flattering by this means the vanity of his own countrymen, who considered themselves the elder branch of the Semitic race. The heaven which was promised by Mohammed was altogether of a sensuous character, and well calculated to strike the imagination of his countrymen. He succeeded equally well in describing hell as a place of physical torture reserved for those who did not believe in his religion. He further commissioned his followers to propagate his tenets by the sword, so that men became converts from dread of earthly punishment, and were retained in his ranks by the success which attended his arms, and by the promise of a paradise full of earthly delights, as well as by the threat of a horrible material hell which was reserved for unbelievers. We could not possibly have a better or more graphic description of such a system than that which is given us by Byron :
Who falls in battle 'gainst the Giaour
The disciples of Mohammed believed in the unity of God, but it is evident that they had not a very exalted conception of His character. Their trust in Him could infuse zeal into their hearts and vigour into their arms when they went to make proselytes by the sword, but could not produce that lofty type of character which has so frequently appeared amongst the followers of Christ.
39. We have now reached in the history of our problem the period known as the dark ages, during which the spirit of scientific inquiry was well-nigh extinct. At length, however, there arrived a time when the human mind, from a variety of causes, suddenly awoke from the lethargy into which it had sunk.
When scientific thought was once more directed to the subject of immortality it was easily seen that the doctrine of the resurrection in its vulgar acceptation could not possibly be true, since a case might easily be imagined in which there might be a contention between rival claimants for the same body. We might, for instance, imagine a Christian missionary to be killed and eaten by a savage, who was afterwards killed himself. It is indeed both curious and instructive to note the reluctance with which various sections of the Christian Church have been driven from their old erroneous conceptions on this subject ; and the expedients, always grotesque, and sometimes positively loathsome, with which they have attempted to buttress up the tottering edifice. Some deem it necessary that a single material germ or organised particle of the body at death should survive until the resurrection, forgetting that under such a hypothesis it would be easy to deprive a man of the somewhat doubtful benefits of such a resurrection, by sealing him up (while yet alive) in a strong iron coffin, and by appropriate means reducing his whole physical body into an inorganic mass. Boston, again, in his Fourfold State, goes still further, adopting the idea that a single particle of insensible perspiration which has escaped from a man during his life, will be sufficient to serve as a nucleus for the resurrection body. So that according to the disciples of this school, the resurrection will be preceded by a gigantic manufacture of shoddy, the effete and loathsome rags of what was once the body being worked up along with a large quantity of new material into a glorious and immortal garment, to form the clothing of a being who is to live for ever! Unquestionably we have continuity in this hypothesis, but it is the continuity of the Irishman's coat in the story, the owner of which always made a point of retaining as many as possible of the rags which were present on the last occasion, those only which had absolutely fallen to pieces being replaced by something new! We have only to compare this grotesquely hideous conception with the noble and beautiful language of Paul, to recognise the depth of abasement into which the Church had sunk through the materialistic conceptions of the Dark Ages.
40. But it is needless to say that this offer of a certain class of theologians to surrender everything except a single shred of the worn-out body, liberal as it may appear, was nevertheless at once rejected by the school of scientific men. Death, they replied, must be regarded as a total and complete destruction of the visible body, so far at least as the individual life is concerned. At the same time professing themselves unable to conceive such an existence as a disembodied spirit, they were forced to conclude like Priestley, that the soul is not in its nature immortal. At this point, however, the scientific school splits up into two or even three sections, one believing with Priestley and others that immortality is a fresh and miraculous gift conferred upon man at the resurrection; another, unable to conceive the possibility of
l a miracle in the case of each individual, denying a future state altogether; while a third section maintains that there is no use in discussing the subject, because man after death has passed beyond the sphere of human inquiry.
41. Regarding the existence and nature of the Deity, various opinions have been entertained by the disciples of what we may term the extreme school of science. Some have maintained that we have no evidence of the existence of any such Being, others that we have no evidence of His personality, while others argue that although we may become convinced of His great power and wisdom from the works of creation, there are other attributes of His
1 See Professor Iluxley's Birmingham Lecture.