« AnteriorContinuar »
grave, it was because they feared lest, when death closed their eyes in the present world, they should lose their hold on that Divine friend with whose being and communion the present world had in their minds been so closely interwoven.'1
13. As the nation grew older we find frequent and distinct allusions indicating a belief in a resurrection of some kind. Thus we find the angel saying to Daniel, 'And many of them which sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.' And again: 'Go thy way till the end be; for thou shalt rest and stand in thy lot at the end of the days.' Again, in the Apocrypha, we find one of seven brethren who were put to death by Antiochus, saying to that tyrant,— 'It is good, being put to death by men, to look for hope from God, to be raised up again by Him; as for thee, thou shalt have no resurrection to life,' and the other brethren spoke in like manner. Here it is evident from the whole chapter that the hope expressed was rather the result of perfect trust in God than derived from any process of their own reason, or even from any revelation on the subject which they imagined to have been made.
We have likewise the testimony of Josephus as well as of the New Testament that the Pharisees believed in a resurrection. Josephus tells us,—' They [the Pharisees] say that all souls are incorruptible,
1 Lectures on the Jewish Church.
8 Dan. xii. 13.
2 Dan. xii. 2.
4 2 Macc. vii. 14
but that the souls of good men only are removed into other bodies, but that the souls of bad men are subject to eternal punishment.'1 Again, we learn from the same two authorities that the Sadducees held sceptical notions on the subject, and Josephus says'They take away the belief of the immortal duration of the soul, and the punishments and rewards in Hades.'
14. If we next turn to the Greek and Roman mythologies we find ideas of a future state very similar to those entertained by the Egyptians, from whom probably the Greek notions were originally largely derived.
They called by the name of Elysium the abode appropriated to the souls of the good, while those of the wicked suffered punishment in Tartarus. It has been well remarked by Archbishop Whately that these regions were supposed to be of the most dreamy and unsubstantial nature:—
'The poet [remarks Whately] from whom so many were content to derive their creed [meaning Homer] represents Achilles among the shades as declaring that the life of the meanest drudge on earth is preferable to the very highest of the unsubstantial glories of Elysium :
Βουλοίμην κ' ἐπάρουρος ἐὼν θητευέμεν ἄλλῳ,
It is remarkable too that the same poet seems plainly to regard the body not the soul as being properly "the man" after death has separated them. We should be
1 Wars of the Jews, II. viii. 14.
apt to say that such a one's body is here, and that he, properly the person himself, is departed to the other world; but Homer uses the very opposite language in speaking of the heroes slain before Troy: viz., that their souls were despatched to the shades, and that THEY themselves were left a prey to dogs and birds:
Πολλὰς δ' ιφθίμους ΨΥΧΑΣ "Αϊδι προΐαψεν
Ηρώων, ΑΥΤΟΥΣ δὲ ἑλώρια τεύχε κύνεσσιν. 1
We agree with this writer that the belief in an unsubstantial region of this description can have had no real influence either in deterring men from vice, or in encouraging them to virtue. Indeed its inevitable tendency must have been to foster an undue regard for the pleasures of this present life to the absolute discouragement of goodness and virtue. For while we of the present day regard the future life as in some sense the reward of piety and goodness, the antients looked upon Hades rather as a penalty which inexorable fate had reserved for all men, and from which even piety and goodness were powerless to exempt their possessors.
Cum semel occideris, et de te splendida Minos
Non, Torquate, genus, non te facundia, non te
Infernis neque enim tenebris Diana pudicum
Nec Lethæa valet Theseus abrumpere caro
15. The active-minded as well as the gross-minded members of the community could hardly be expected to care much for such an unsubstantial future, and 1 Essays on some of the Peculiarities of the Christian Religion.
this consideration may probably have led to the readier acceptance of the doctrine of some of the Greek philosophers who introduced a bodily state after death. But these, in so doing, rather favoured the doctrine of transmigration than that of a resurrection of the body which was seen to die, and which, after being devoured by dogs, or destroyed in some other manner, they could hardly conceive to rise again. It is well known that Pythagoras taught the doctrine of transmigration, although as none of his writings have come down to us we are not sure of the exact manner in which he held it. Plato also alludes to a similar doctrine, in a passage which refers no doubt to the doctrine of the pre-existence of souls, and to the view that it is at punishment to become corporeal at all. He tells us :If any one's life has been virtuous he shall obtain a better fate hereafter; if wicked a worse. But no soul will return to its pristine condition till the expiration of ten thousand years, since it will not recover the use of its wings until that period, except it be the soul of one who has philosophised sincerely or together with philosophy has loved beautiful forms. These indeed in the third period of a thousand years, if they have thrice chosen this mode of life in succession, shall in the three thousandth year fly away to their pristine abode, but other souls, being arrived at the end of their first life, shall be judged. And of those who are judged, some, proceeding to a subterraneous place of judgment, shall there sustain the punishments they have deserved; but others, in consequence of a favourable judgment, being elevated into a certain celestial place, shall pass their time in a manner
becoming the life they have lived in a human shape. And in the thousandth year both the kinds of those who have been judged, returning to the lot and election of a second life, shall each of them receive a life agreeable to his desire. Here also the human soul shall pass into the life of a beast, and from that of a beast again into a man if it has first been the soul of For the soul which has never perceived the truth cannot pass into the human form.'1 A certain degree of choice is here supposed to be left to the soul, and those who cannot attain to the more ethereal and refined existence, have to choose a bodily one, returning, after they have become sufficiently purified, once more into human shape.
16. As a matter of course, a dim belief of this nature gave rise to a class of philosophers who denied. the possibility of a future state altogether. The advent of this school of thought was probably hastened by outward events. In the golden age of Greece a vigorous republic served to concentrate upon itself the energies of the citizens, and under these circumstances their minds were not likely to question the truth of the national creed. While the gods smiled upon them they were content to acknowledge their active existence. It has been remarked by Schmitz, that the unfavourable political circumstances of the time may have been concerned in the rise of the Epicurean school-'thinking men were led to seek within for that which they could not find without.' The gods of Epicurus, this writer goes on to remark, 'consisted of atoms, and were in the enjoyment of perfect happiness, which had not been disturbed by 1 Phædrus, quoted by Wilkinson.