« PředchozíPokračovat »
DOES THE GRAVE END ALL?
If a man die, shall he live again?--Job 14:14.
'HE question raised in this passage of scripture is one
To the profounded inquiries that has creaper rengaged
the thought of man. The question is as old as the race, and men have been asking it and seeking for its answer from time almost immemorial. Notwithstanding its antiquity, its answer was never sought with more interest and enthusiasm than by thinking men of the present day. It was doubtless one of the first questions that trembled upon the lips of man, when in the early morning of the world's history, men first began to philosophize about life. And it is the last inquiry which lingers in a man's thought when passing from this scene of action into the great unknown. From the time the race first began to speculate upon the problems of life, it has been a question of deepest concern; and it comes to us today with as much freshness and as profound an interest as when it was first asked. Not until death with all its bitterness and destructiveness is abolished; not until the grave with all its coldness and sadness becomes unnecessary; not until human homes cease to be broken up and human hearts cease to bleed; not until we cease to lay our loved ones away in the cold ground, will men cease to ask this question. Our interest will always be intense, as long as the race moves toward that bourn from whence no traveler ever returns.
To most of us life appears little more than an insoluble mystery, and ostensibly the future stretches away into impenetrable darkness. Standing after this present existence is an interrogation point, and the knowledge most in request is that touching our future destiny. Does the grave end all? Is this life to find its supplement and complement in another? When we lay our loved ones away is this their final end, or does the soul survive the dissolution of the body? Does growth cease when it has scarcely
begun, or is there another realm somewhere, where it will continue? When life flees from our bodies is the soul blown out as by a puff of wind, or does it pass to another clime, where it shall be reincarnated under more favorable circumstances? Does man fade as the leaf and pass back into the great sum of things, as rain drops melt back into the ocean?
These are questions which engage the thought of every intelligent man. And our belief in a future life largely determines the use we make of the present. The aim of this discourse is not to answer these questions with any demonstrative proof. Such proof cannot be had. The most we can do in a single hour is to cite a few reasons and tabulate a few evidences, which, in our judgment afford a rational basis for a hope of immortality.
I remark first: The nobility of man's endowments, indicates his high destiny. This is the being of upturned face, and gripping at his heart are aspirations which predict a future. Somewhere his spirit was finely touched to fine issues, and it is but reasonable to suppose that there will be scope and sweep, somewhere, for his full development. His powers of reflection raise him above the sphere of mere sensation. He is an animal, but he is more. Of all beings in the universe he stands closest to God, and is most like Him. Through reason he elaborates from the facts of sensation, vast systems of thought. Modern science, with all its marvelous achievements, is at once the instrument and the result of his reflection. Looking toward the heavens he discovers the relative positions of moving worlds, and noting their order and relationships, he builds the great science of astronomy. Discovering the great law of chemical affinity, and watching the results of the combination of chemical elements, he builds the great science of chemistry. Walking among the rocks and reading the meaning of the strata of the earth, he builds the science of geology. By inventive ingenuity he pries into the secrets of the electric current, and providing pathways along which it may travel, he illuminates buildings and communicates his thoughts. Through language, he overcomes time, and bursts the barriers of personal isolation. He hands forward his thought to succeeding generations, and thus blesses posterity with his monumental genius. In poetry and the fine arts he rises to the loftiest conceptions of ideal excellence.
Through trope, simile and rythm he inspires the souls of his fellows. Stamping his thought on the fleeting tones of his voice, he makes halls and cathedrals resound with his eloquence. But the crowning glory of man is the sense of responsibility he carries. He admires virtue and perceives moral obligation. He is aware that he is the architect of his own fortune. He is conscious that there is a power above him that calls him up and out to the highest conceivable destiny. The faculty which discerns the beauty of right choice is conscience. This is an ever present force in human nature. Man alone, of all God's creatures can distinguish the moral qualities of action, and his conduct is ever influenced by the tremendous power of moral obligation. His endowments indicate a nature fettered by present conditions. Manifestly, his supplies are incommensurable with his demands. He is dissatisfied with his present environment and unsatisfied by it. He is like an oak tree planted in a flower pot.
If there is no future life man is in prison, with little opportunity for expansion or development. With only the present brief span before him, there is a colossal contradiction between his powers and opportunities. With the longest life, man has scarcely begun to grow before his life is suddenly snuffed out. There must be higher designs than those unfolded here, else life is an insoluble mystery, and death an intolerable tragedy.
I remark second: There are certain fore-gleams of immortality, both structual and constitutional, which prophesy a future. One such foregleam is self-identity. Our personality is the same it was twenty years ago, notwithstanding the mutations of matter. The physical body undergoes change, but through all its changes, our personality maintains its identity. Physologists tell us our bodies undergo a complete change within a brief time, but not so our selfhood. The brain,-such is the strain of thought upon nerve tissue,-undergoes two complete changes within a year, but not so the mind. If therefore, the soul survives the changes of the body here, why not hereafter? It is not matter, but it distinguishes itself from matter. May it not, therefore, be all together independent of matter?
Another fore-gleam is seen in the aspirations and in
"Immortality,”-(Hillis), p. 14.
stincts of the soul, which are prophetic. The instincts of animals, as also man, are deeply significant. Scientists are studying them now, as never before. The bee, the beast and the bird trust them and are not deceived. The lark lifts itself into the air, being spurred to flight by an inward instinct, only to find a medium which bears it up, and which answers to the demand of the instinct within. The robbin goes in search of the tropics, and instead of being mocked in its obedience to its instincts, is blessed by finding a response in the far away Southern clime. Following their instincts, the fish of the Southern seas travel toward the North, to spawn, and are rewarded by the cooler waters of the Northern seas, which answer to their native demands.
It is not reasonable to suppose that nature would speak truth to animals and lies to man. Everywhere men long for another life. Death is a horrifying and a dreadful thought. The desire for immortality is as universal as is hunger. No race of man has ever been found which did not desire and long for another life. Certainly our native aspirations do not mock us. A noble discontent inspires effort. All growth comes through a hidden stimulous toward the higher. It is the belief that this life stretches out and away into another and a larger life that nerves us for effort, and sustains us in the hour of trial.
Another fore-gleam of immortality is the beginnings of resurrection, which we see in the present life. We need only to open our eyes if we would see man emerging from the tomb. At best, in this world, he is but mind entombed in flesh. He is but reason bound in the grave clothes of matter. The escape of the soul from animalism is partial resurrection. The emancipation of manhood from hindrances and limitations is a bursting asunder of the bonds of death. Everywhere the lower man is gripping at the throat of the higher. When we would do good, and be our real selves, evil and the lower self stands in our path. Real selfhood is resurrected, as coarseness is refined out. What is germinal in man, bursts into full blossom in Christ. He is the great universal man, toward whose full-orbed manhood the race is traveling. By as much as we become like him, we are being redeemed and resurrected to our largest selfhood.
I remark last: Without immortality life is a colossal enigma. Without a future life, this is either a chance
world, or God is a monster. If the grave ends all, the universe is a huge machine, not for making, but crushing us. If we front darkness, suicide were a greater boon than life. The withheld completions of life would make life a curse. Early untimely deaths would be a riddle. The wrecks and failures of life strewn along the shores of time, would make living sickening. Somewhere growth begun here must be continued. It cannot be that the life of man is snuffed out like a candle. It cannot be that we flash across the firmament of existence like a meteor, only to go out in darkness. It cannot be that we melt back into nothingness as the rain drop melts into the bossom of the Ocean. It cannot be that the soul is blown out, as by a puff of wind. It cannot be that the grave ends all. Death is not a tragedy, but a transition. "The voiceless lips of the unreplying dead" are not altogether sealed. Amid the blackness of awful darkness through which we grope, “hope sees a star;" and amid the roar and din of voices which beat on our ears, "listening love hears the rustle of a wing." A message of hope from an empty tomb rings around the world. Christ has brought life and immortality to light. He lives, and we may live also. There must be some far off realm toward which we are moving,
"Else whence this pleasing hope,
When the young king of Argos was about to give up his young life by order of the gods, his young wife, bending over him asked him to tell her if they should meet again. He said, “I have asked that dreadful question of the hills that look eternal; of the flowing streams that lucid flow forever, of the stars, amid whose asure fields my raised