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Here and Hereafter

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    1 Introduction

    FORTUNATELY there are some things which men cannot deny. There are plenty of them who deny God, deny Christ, deny the Holy Spirit, deny divine revelation, and deny any hereafter. But they cannot deny that which may be called the “here.” The present state of existence is a fact which cannot be ignored. Man finds himself in a real, material, world, on a plane of existence which is full of mystery and marvel. He finds himself with a bodily organism wonderfully constructed; with capabilities opening before him a wide field for activity; with a mind able to reason, reflect, draw conclusions, and lay plans for the future. He can pry into the secrets of nature, resolve substances of the earth into their original elements, and with instruments that multiply his vision a thousandfold, explore the blue expanse above him, and study a stellar worlds in their grand procession through boundless space. The wonders of nature and the marvelous achievements of his fellow men excite in his own mind conceptions of almost infinite possibilities.HHMLD 7.1

    But amid all the phenomena of life, he sees another, if possible stranger still — the phenomenon of death. The man of most skilful acquirements and mightiest intellect, falls in death. Immediately, so far as anything appears to the outward sense, his powers are gone. His mind ceases to act; his body, unable longer to resist decay, disintegrates and mingles with the dust. Truly one must be of very stolid and stupid mold, who under such circumstances does not let his mind run out beyond the limits of his visible horizon, and have some inquiries to make in the regions of “things not seen.” And the broad plane of one’s present existence, — a realm of reality not shadow, of fact not fancy, — affords a firm basis from which to extend one’s deductions into other fields, even the hereafter.HHMLD 7.2

    Without either counsel or co-operation of our own, we find ourselves on the place of human existence, subject to all the conditions of this life, and hastening forward to its destiny, whatever it may be. A retinue of mysterious inquiries throng our steps. Whence came this order of things? Who ordained this arrangement? For what purpose are we here? What is our nature? What are our obligations? And whither are we bound? Life, what a mystery! Having commenced, will it ever end? Once we did not exist; are we destined to that condition again? Death we see everywhere around us. Its victims are silent, cold, and still. They give no outward evidence of retaining any of those faculties, mental, emotional, or physical, which distinguished them when living. Is death the end of all these? And is death the extinction of all human beings? These are questions which have ever excited in the human mind an intensity of thought and a strength of feeling which no other subjects can awaken.HHMLD 8.1

    To these questions, so well-defined, so definite in their demands, and of such all-absorbing interest, where shall we look for an answer? Have we any means within our reach by which to solve these problems? We look abroad upon the earth, and admire its multiplied forms of life and beauty; we mark the revolving seasons and the uniform and beneficent operations of nature; we look to the heavenly bodies, and behold their glory, and the regularity of their mighty motions, — do these answer our questions? They tell us something, but not all. They tell us of the great Creator and upholder of all things; for, as the apostle says, “The invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead.” They tell us upon whom our existence depends, and to whom we are amenable.HHMLD 8.2

    But this only intensifies our anxiety a thousandfold. For now we want to know upon what conditions his favor is suspended. What must we do to meet his requirements? How may we secure his approbation? He surely is a being who will reward virtue and punish sin. Sometime our deeds must be compared with his requirements, and sentence be rendered in accordance therewith. How will this affect our future existence? Deriving it from him, does he suspend its continuance on our obedience? or has he made us self-existence beings, so that we must live forever, if not in his favor, then the conscious recipients of his wrath?HHMLD 9.1

    With what intense anxiety the mind turns to the future! What is to be the issue of this mysterious problem of Life? Who can tell? Nature is silent. We appeal to those who are entering the dark valley. But who can reveal the mysteries of those hidden regions till he has explored them? and the “curtain of the tent into which they enter, never outward swings.” Sternly the grave closes its heavy portals against every attempt to catch a glimpse of the unknown beyond. Science proves itself helpless on this momentous question. The imagination breaks down; and the human mind, unaided, sinks into a melancholy, but well-grounded despair.HHMLD 9.2

    Multitudes, however, profess to be able to answer these queries. The world has so long been so taught on this subject, that hundreds upon hundreds of millions now believe, and have believed, that man has, inherent in his own nature, and undying principle, and “immortal soul,” which is the real, intelligent, responsible man, — the living element in the body, — but which is independent of the body, — but which is independent of the body, and can exist as well without the body as with it; which is just as much alive after the body is dead as it was before; which is therefore conscious, active, and intelligent in that condition known as death, or while the body is in the grave; and which, after the Judgment, according as that great tribunal decides, must live in conscious happiness or misery through all eternity.HHMLD 10.1

    One cannot but stand dazed and confounded before the awful possibilities involved in such an answer; and before accepting it, one would do well to search most carefully to ascertain beyond all reasonable question whether it be true. For if it be true, the first great appalling fact that stands out before us is that the greater portion of the human family are destined to exist forever in conscious torture beyond the power of language to describe — torture inflicted without the intention or possibility of accomplishing one iota of good either for themselves or others, and from which they can never gain one moment’s relaxation through an agonizing duration that shall never, never end. And all for what? — Generally speaking, as a punishment for a life of less than fifty years of carelessness and sin in this world. Is there a man with a spark of human kindness in his soul, or the least shadow of a sense of justice and mercy in his heart, who could endure the sight? Is there one who can tolerate the thought? Then how must the Creator of mankind be looked upon who can thus deal with them, even though they be sinners? Is it any wonder that God, under such teaching, has come to be regarded by an ever-growing army of skeptics, as a heartless, revengeful tyrant, who delights in rendering as miserable and wretched as possible, the creatures of his hand, whom he preserves alive for that very purpose?HHMLD 10.2

    But aside from the overwhelming terror of eternal conscious misery, a long train of conclusions follows, concerning which we should consider whether we are prepared to accept them or not, before we subscribe to the answer above given. If it be true that man has an immortal soul that cannot die, it follows (1) that he who assured our first parents in Eden that they should not surely die (Genesis 3:4, 5), told the truth, and a belief of the truth was the deception which brought sin into the world to destroy the peace and happiness of mankind; (2) that the deification of dead men and the worship of ancestors, which prevail throughout heathendom, and upon which so much of idolatry is founded, has at least some foundation; (3) that the saint-worship, Mariolatry, purgatory, and mass, of the the Roman Catholic and Greek churches, are true doctrines; (4) that the future coming of Christ, and a future general Judgment, and a resurrection of the dead, can all be set aside as inconsistent and unnecessary; (5) that Restorationism, Universalism, and Spiritualism can be, on this hypothesis, defended from the Scriptures.HHMLD 11.1

    On the other hand, if man possesses no such undying principle by nature, as an immortal soul; if the dead are not conscious; if future eternal life depends on Christ alone, all the doctrines and practices named above, topple over as gigantic frauds, deceptions, and superstitions;HHMLD 11.2

    Christ, in his position and work, as the Source of life and immortality, stands forth in his true light and untarnished glory; the coming of Christ, the resurrection of the dead, the Judgment, and the time of rewards and punishment, all find a place which corresponds to the testimony of the Scriptures; and apparent harmony reigns in all branches of this subject. Surely the decision of a question, on the answer to which so much depends, cannot be left to human testimony. He who alone has knowledge of the unseen world, must resolve the doubts, dispel the mysteries, and explain the queries which cluster about these momentous problems. God must tell us, or we can never know what lies beyond this state of existence, till we experience it for ourselves. He who has placed us here, must himself make known to us his purposes and his will, or we are forever in the dark. Of this, all reverent and thoughtful minds are well assured.HHMLD 12.1

    Stuart, in his “Exegetical Essays on Several Words Relating to Future Punishment” (pp.13,14). says:—HHMLD 12.2

    “The light of nature can never scatter the darkness in question. This light has never yet sufficed to make the question clear to any portion of our benighted race, whether the soul is immortal Cicero, incomparably the most able defender of the soul’s immortality of which the heathen world can yet boast, very ingenuously confesses that, after all the arguments which he had adduced in order to confirm the doctrine in question, it so fell out that his mind was satisfied of it only when directly employed in contemplating the arguments adduced in its favor. At all other times he fell unconsciously into a state of doubt and darkness. It is notorious, also, the Socrates, the next most able advocate, among the heathen, of the same doctrine, has adduced arguments to establish the never-ceasing existence of the soul, which will not bear the test of examination. If there be any satisfactory light, then, on the momentous question of a future state, it must be sought from the word of God.”HHMLD 12.3

    Alvin Hovey, D. D., “State of Men after Death,” p. 35, says:—HHMLD 12.4

    “But what does the sacred record say of departed spirits? For if we are to know anything in respecting to their condition after death, light from revelation is indispensable; the testimony of reason, conscience, aspiration, leaves us still in doubt; the eye of sense cannot pierce the veil; and our only refuge is the word of God.”HHMLD 13.1

    H. H. Dobney, Baptist minister, of England (“Future Punishment,” p. 107), says:—HHMLD 13.2

    “Reason cannot prove man to be immortal. We may devoutly enter the temple of nature; we may reverently tread her emerald floor and gaze on her blue, ‘star-pictured ceiling,’ but to our anxious inquiry, though proposed with heart-breaking intensity, the oracle is dumb, or like those of Delphi and Dodona, mutters only an ambiguous reply that leaves us in utter bewilderment.”HHMLD 13.3

    And what information have they been able to give us, who have either been ignorant of divine revelation, or, having the light, have turned their backs upon it? Listen to a few of their words, which sufficiently indicates the character of the knowledge they possessed.HHMLD 13.4

    Socrates, about to drink the fatal hemlock, said:—HHMLD 13.5

    “I am going out of the world, and you are to continue in it; but which of us has the better part is a secret to every one but God.”HHMLD 13.6

    Cicero, after recounting the various opinions of philosophers on this subject, levels all their systems to the ground by this ingenuous confession:—HHMLD 13.7

    “Which of these is true, God alone knows; and which is the most probable, is a very great question.”HHMLD 13.8

    Seneca, reviewing the arguments of the ancients on this subject, said:—HHMLD 13.9

    “Immortality, however, desirable, was rather promised than proved by these great men.”HHMLD 13.10

    And the skeptic Hobbs, when death was forcing him from this state of existence, could only exclaim, with dread uncertainty, “I am taking a leap in the dark!” — dying words not calculated to inspire any great degree of comfort and assurance in the hearts of those who are inclined to follow in his steps.HHMLD 13.11

    With a full sense of our need, we turn, then, to the revelation which God has given us in his word. Will this answer our inquiries? It is not a revelation if it does not; for this must be the very object of a revelation. Logicians tell us that according to the plainest principles of their science, there is “an antecedent probability in favor of a divine revelation, arising from the nature of the Deity and the moral condition of man.” On the same ground, there must be an equal probability that, if we are immortal, never-dying beings, that revelation will plainly tell us so.HHMLD 14.1

    To the Bible alone we look for correct views on the important subjects of the character of God, the nature of life and death, the resurrection, heaven, and hell. But our views upon all these must be, to a great extent, governed by our views of the nature and destiny of man. On this subject, therefore, the teaching of the Bible must, of consistency, be sufficiently clear and full.HHMLD 14.2

    And when we say the Bible, let it be understood that the Bible just as it reads, and just as it stands, is intended, not the Bible as emasculated by the modern “higher criticism.” We have no use for a Bible such as these critics leave us, its earlier records lost in the fog of myth and fable, while claiming to be given by inspiration of God. The Bible is a unit, and as a whole stands or falls together. Its earliest records, and most disputed portions, are openly recognized as genuine by Christ and his apostles; and one word of endorsement from such a source, is worth more than all the criticism which all the world upon the other side can offer. The story of the creation, the fall of man, and the scheme of human redemption, there revealed, is the only rational ground on which to account for the presence and continuance of sin and suffering in a world under the control of an Omnipotent Being whose name and nature is purity and love. This record, then, will, in this work, be accepted as a straightforward narrative of plain, unvarnished verities.HHMLD 14.3

    Prominent upon the pages of this book if inspiration, we see pointed out the great distinction which God has put between right and wrong, the rewards he has promised to virtue, and the punishment he has threatened against sin; we find it revealed that but few, comparatively, will be saved, while the great majority of the human family will be lost; and as the means by which the perdition of ungodly men will be accomplished, we find described in fearfully ominous terms, a lake of fire burning with brimstone, all-devouring and unquenchable.HHMLD 15.1

    How these facts intensify the importance of the questions, Are all men immortal? Are these wicked immortal? Is their portion an eternity of incomprehensible, conscious torture, and unutterable woe? Have they in their nature a principle so tenacious of life that the severest implements of destruction with which the Almighty can assail it, an eternity of his intensest devouring fire, can make no inroads upon its inviolate vitality? Fearful questions! — questions in reference to which it cannot be that the word of God will leave us in darkness, or perplex us with doubt, or deceive us with falsehood.HHMLD 15.2

    In commending the reader to the word of God on this great theme, it is unnecessary to suggest to any candid mind the spirit in which we should present our inquiries. Prejudice or passion should not come within the sacred precincts of such an investigation. If God has plainly revealed that all the finally impenitent of mankind are doomed to an eternity of conscious misery, we must accept that fact, however hard it may be to find any correspondence between the limitation of the guilt and the infinitude of the punishment, and however, hard it may be to harmonize such treatment with the character of God, who has declared himself to be “LOVE.” If, on the other hand, the record shows that God’s government can be vindicated, sin meet its just deserts, and at the same time such disposition be finally made of the lost as to relieve the universe from the horrid spectacle of a hell forever burning, filled with sensitive beings, frenzied with fire and flame, and blaspheming in their ever-strengthening agony — a disposition which accords with the sense of justice and emotions of benevolence which reign in every undepraved heart — can any one be the less ready to accept this fact, or hesitate, on this account, to join in the ascription, “Great and marvelous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints”?HHMLD 15.3

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