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Man’s Nature and Destiny

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    35 THE CLAIMS OF PHILOSOPHY

    AFTER the Bible, what? When once the word of God pronounces upon a question what further evidence is needed to sustain the position, or what evidence is strong enough to break its decision? What can human reason, science, and philosophy do for a theory upon which the Scriptures have written “Ichabod”?MND 295.1

    We have, in previous chapters, examined the teaching of the Bible on the whole subject of man’s creation, nature, death, intermediate state, and final doom. We have found that man was not created absolutely mortal or immortal, but relatively both: immortality was within his reach, and mortality lay as a danger in his path. He sinned, and became absolutely mortal. Then death becomes an unconscious sleep in the grave; and man’s destiny beyond the tomb, if he does not secure through Christ, eternal life, is, after being brought up to be judged, and receive the sentence for his own crimes, an utter loss of existence. But there are some who think that reason, science, and philosophy are sufficient to disprove these conclusions; or, at least, that they are so strong that the Bible record must be made to harmonize with the claims drawn from these sources. But they forget that much that we call reason is in the sight of God “foolishness,” that there is a philosophy which the Bible pronounces “vain,” and some kinds of science which it says are “falsely so called.”MND 295.2

    We are willing to grant philosophy the privilege of trying to substantiate its claims. It may boast like Goliath, but it will be found weaker than Belshazzar before the handwriting on the wall.MND 296.1

    1. The soul immaterial. - It is claimed that the soul is immaterial, and cannot therefore be destroyed, and hence must be immortal. Luther Lee says: -MND 296.2

    “If God himself has made the soul immaterial, he cannot destroy it by bringing material agents to act upon it.”MND 296.3

    This claim is good if whatever is indestructible is immortal. But this is a manifest error. The elements of the human body are indestructible, but the body is not therefore immortal. It is subject to change, death, and decay. But if it is claimed that the soul, being immaterial, is without elements, then perhaps it might follow that it is indestructible; for that which is nothing can never be made less than nothing.MND 296.4

    But if the soul of man, being immaterial, is thus proved to be immortal, what shall we say of the souls of the lower orders of animals? for they manifest the phenomena of mind as well as men. They remember, fear, imagine, compare, manifest gratitude, anger, sorrow, desire, etc. Bishop Warburton says: -MND 296.5

    “I think it may be strictly demonstrated that man has an immaterial soul; but then, the same arguments which prove that, prove, likewise, that the souls of all living animals are immaterial.”MND 297.1

    Whoever, therefore, affirms the immortality of man from the immateriality of his soul, is bound to affirm the same, not only of the nobler animals, but also to the lower orders of the brute creation. Here, believers in natural immortality are crushed beneath the weight of their own arguments. If it be said that God can, if he choose, blot from existence the immaterial soul of the beetle and the titmouse, we reply, So can he that of man; and then its immortality is at an end, and the whole argument is abandoned.MND 297.2

    2. “Matter cannot think.” - This is the fundamental proposition on which the airy phantom of the immortality of the soul relies for its support. Since man does think, and matter cannot think, the mind or soul must be immaterial and immortal. It is one thing to make such an assertion; it is quite another thing to prove it; and the proof lies not within the power of man.MND 297.3

    On this point we will let a representative man speak for the popular view. D. W. Clark, D.D., Bishop of the M.E. Church, in his work, “Man All Immortal,” pp.57,58, thus argues: -MND 297.4

    “The opinion that even organic matter could, by any possibility, be made to exhibit such power, cannot be received without the most clear and indubitable evidence. What is there to be found in the composition of the brain and nervous system, or in their organization, that would lead us to look for the development of thought, feeling, or conscience in them? The brain has been analyzed, and more than eight-tenths of its substance has been found to be water. Indeed, this, mixed up with a little albumen, a still less quantity of fat, osmazome, phosphorus, acids, salts, and sulphur, constitutes its material elements. In all cases, water largely predominates. Take even the pineal gland, - that interior and mysterious organ of the brain, supposed by Descartes, and by many philosophers after him, to be the peculiar seat of the soul, - even this has been analyzed. Its principal elements are found to be phosphate of lime, together with a smaller proportion of carbonate of lime, and phosphates of ammonia and magnesia.MND 297.5

    “If the brain at large constitutes the soul, then the soul is only a peculiar combination of oxygen and hydrogen, with albumin, acids, salts, sulphur, etc. Or, if the pineal gland constitutes the soul, then the principal element of soul is phosphate of lime!”MND 298.1

    To this, Eld. D.M. Canright, in his sterling little work, “Matter and Spirit,” p.38, replies as follows: -MND 298.2

    “To immaterialists this may sound like good reasoning; but to us it seems wholly inconclusive. It is simply setting aside the power of God entirely, and arguing that what we cannot do, cannot be done. How foolish!MND 298.3

    “Try his argument on the organization of dumb beasts. I have in my hand a little live mouse. Behold how bright his eye, how keen his sight. Look at his ear. How sharp his hearing. Prick him with a pin. How quickly he feels it. Again, how acute is his smell. How soon he will find a piece of cheese, or detect the presence of a cat. Here we certainly have sight, hearing, smelling, feeling, and, indeed, all the senses. Let us analyze this little animal as the bishop did the brain, and what do we find? ‘Eight-tenths of its substance has been found to be water. Indeed, this, mixed up with a little albumen, a still less quantity of fat, osmazome, phosphorus, acids, and sulphur, constitutes its material element. In all cases, water largely predominates.’ We have found simply ‘a peculiar combination of oxygen, hydrogen, sulphur, etc.MND 298.4

    How unreasonable to suppose that these gross materials could ever see, hear, or smell! No; it cannot be so. There must be an immaterial, immortal, never-dying soul in that mouse, which did all the seeing and hearing. The mouse must have an immortal soul, and the mosquito surely has a never-dying spirit! Reader, to such absurd conclusions are our opponents driven, to maintain their immaterial theory. It is simply a square denial of the power of God, and the common sense observation of every-day life. Such reasoning is a mere appeal to the vulgar prejudices against matter.”MND 299.1

    From the same work we also quote the following: -MND 299.2

    “Those who deny that matter can be so organized as to think, love, hope, fear, etc., have contrasted this action or attribute of organized matter with matter itself; and because the distinctive characteristics of matter, such as size, form, weight, etc., are not applicable to these qualities, they have fallen into the inexcusable error of assuming that there must be an immaterial spirit to produce thought, love, hope, etc. They ask, Is love round or square? Is fear triangular or hexagonal? is hope long or short? How much does anger weigh? Thus they entirely ignore the difference between matter and its operations. It is hard to credit that learned men should make such blunders; yet it is a fact. Thus Joseph Cook (Lecture on Biology, p.224) reasons: ‘When Caesar saw Brutus stab, and muffled up his face at the foot of Pompey’s statue, was his grief round, or square, or triangular? [Laughter.] When Lincoln, by a stroke of his pen, manumitted four million slaves, was his choice hexagonal or octagonal?’ ‘These questions show that the terms which we apply to matter are totally inapplicable and meaningless when applied to mind.’MND 299.3

    “This superficial reasoning would prove that not only beasts, but even vegetables, have immortal souls. The dog is angry; the ox hopes for his dinner; and the cat loves her kitten. Try the same reasoning on the sweetness of sugar, the sourness of a lemon, the elasticity crooked, or density triangular? [Laughter.] Then these intangible qualities must be proof of an immaterial spirit in sugar, lemon, rubber, and iron, the same as intangible thought proves an immaterial spirit in man! What nonsense! As it is utterly impossible for sweetness or sourness, elasticity or density, to exist separate and apart from the material substances which give rise to these qualities, so it is just as impossible for mind to exist separate from the brain which produces it. Just try to imagine pure thought wholly separate and apart from any organized being! How would you describe it? Nay; how would you even conceive of it? You could as well conceive of motion without a moving body, or sweetness as an abstract thing, without any material substance to produce it. It is astonishing how a false theory will blind the wisest men.”MND 300.1

    That mind, like electricity, may be a property of matter, or result from material causes, Sidney Smith, in his “Principles of Phrenology,” 1838, very clearly states as follows: -MND 301.1

    “The existence of matter must be conceded, in an argument which has for its object the proof that there is something besides; and when that is admitted, the proof rests with the skeptic, who conceives that the intervention of some other principle is necessary to account for the phenomena presented to our experience. The hidden qualities of this substance must be detected, and its whole attributes known, before we can be warranted in assuming the existence of something else as necessary to the production of what is presented to our consciousness. And when such a principle as that of galvanism or electricity, confessedly a property of matter, can be present in, or absent from, a body, attract, repel, and move, without adding to or subtracting from the weight, heat, size, color, or any other quality of a corpuscle, it will require some better species of logic than any hitherto presented to establish the impossibility of mind being a certain form, quality, or accessory of matter, inherent in, and never separated from it. We do not argue thus because we are confident that there exists nothing but matter; for, in truth, our feeling is that the question is involved in too much mystery to entitle us to speak with the boldness of settled conviction on either side. But we assume this position, because we think the burden of proof falls on the Spiritualists, and that they have not established the necessity of inferring the existence of another entity besides matter to account for all the phenomena of mind, by having failed to exhaust all the possible qualities, or probable capacities of that substance which they labor so assiduously to degrade and despise.MND 301.2

    “But while they have altogether failed to establish this necessity, whereon depends their entire proposition, they have recourse to the usual expedients of unsuccessful logicians, by exciting the ignorant, prejudices of bigotry and intolerance, against all that is dignified with the name of dispassionate philosophy.MND 302.1

    “The truth is, it is time that all this fudge and cant about the doctrine of materialism, which affects the theory of immortality in no shape whatever - as the God who appointed the end could as easily ordain that the means might be either through the medium of matter or spirit - should be fairly put down by men of common sense and metaphysical discrimination.” On the same point, Mr. W.G. Moncrieff says: -MND 302.2

    “Often do we hear the words, ‘Matter cannot think,’ and the trumpet of orthodoxy summons us to attend.MND 302.3

    “In our simplicity we have been led to reason thus: Matter cannot think - God made man of the dust of the ground - then of course man cannot think! He may grow like a palm-tree, but can reason no more than it. Now this argumentation seems really valid, and yet every human being in his senses laughs it to scorn. I do think, is the protest of each child of humanity. Then if you do, we respond, in your case, matter must perform the functions of reflection and kindred operations. More than living organization you are not, and if you declare living, organized matter incapable of thought, we are bound to infer that you have no thought at all. Accepting your premises, we must hand you the conclusion. The logic is good, but we are generous enough to allow that we cannot subscribe to it. It has often occurred to us as a fair procedure, just for the sake of bringing orthodoxy to a stand, to assert that spirit cannot think; of course, we are only referring to created beings, on this occasion. We have often tried to understand the popular idea of a spirit; and we must confess that it defies our apprehension. It is something, nothing; a substance, an essence; everything by turns, and nothing long. To believe that such a production could evolve thought, is an inordinate demand on human credulity. How the expedient was resorted to we cannot tell: was it because thought is invisible, that this invisible parent was sought for? Then why not trace heat beyond the fire, perfume beyond the rose, attraction beyond the sun, and vitality beyond the branchy oak? Of all insane fancies, this popular idea of the human spirit is the most complete; we have no wish to give offense, but the truth must be spoken.”MND 302.4

    We arraign this theory also before the majesty of the brute creation. What about the immaterial minds of the lower animals? Does matter think in their cases? or have they also immortal souls? Dogs, horses, monkeys, elephants, etc., have been taught to perform different acts, imitate various movements, and even to dance the same tune over and over again, to accompanying strains of music, - acts which involve the exercise of memory, will, reason, and judgment.MND 303.1

    The exercise of high mental powers is shown in the intelligence and sagacity of the horse and elephant; in the manifold cunning of the fox; in the beaver and bee, which construct their houses with such mechanical ingenuity; in the mules of the Andes, which thread with so sure a foot the gloomy gorges and craggy heights of the mountains; and in the dogs of St. Bernard, as they rescue benighted and half-frozen travelers in the passes of the Alps. Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd, speaking of the sagacity of one of his dogs, says: -MND 303.2

    “He had never turned sheep in his life; but as soon as he discovered that it was his duty to so, and that it obliged me, I can never forget with what anxiety and eagerness he learned his different evolutions; he would try every way, deliberately, till he found out what I wanted him to do; and when once I made him understand a direction, he never mistook or forgot it. Well as I knew him, he often astonished me; for when hard pressed in accomplishing the task which was set him, he had expedients of the moment that bespoke a great share of the reasoning faculty.”MND 304.1

    John Locke, the distinguished writer on metaphysical questions, says: -MND 304.2

    “Birds’ learning of tunes, and the endeavors one may observe in them to hit the notes right, put it past doubt with me that they have perception, and retain ideas in their memories, and use them for patterns.... It seems as evident to me that they [brutes] do reason, as that they have sense.”MND 304.3

    Pritchard, “On the Vital Principle,” says: -MND 304.4

    “Sensation is an attribute of the mind, and the possession of mind certainly extends as far as its phenomena. Whatever beings have conscious feeling, have, unless the preceding arguments amount to nothing, souls, or immaterial minds, distinct from the substance of which they appear to us to be composed. If all animals feel, all animals have souls.”MND 304.5

    H.H. Dobney (“Future Punishment,” p.101) says: -MND 304.6

    “While consciousness, reason, and the sense of right and wrong, are among the highest attributes of man, these in a degree are allowed to be possessed by some at least of the brute creation. Dr. Brown, according to his biographer, Dr. Welsh, ‘believed that many of the lower animals have the sense of right and wrong; and that the metaphysical argument which proves the immortality of man, extends with equal force to the other orders of earthly existence.’ “MND 305.1

    Similar views are attributed to Coleridge and Cudworth.MND 305.2

    Dalton, in his treatise on “Human Physiology,” p.428, says: -MND 305.3

    “The possession of this kind of intelligence and reasoning power, is not confined to the human species. We have already seen that there are many instinctive actions in man as well as in animals. It is no less true that, in the higher animals, there is often the same exercise of reasoning power as in man. The degree of this power is much less in them than in him, but its nature is the same. Whenever, in an animal, we see any action performed with the evident intention of accomplishing a particular object, such an act is plainly the result of reasoning power, not essentially different from our own.MND 305.4

    “The establishment of sentinels by gregarious animals to warn the herd of the approach of danger; the recollection of punishment inflicted for a particular action, and the subsequent avoidance or concealment of that action; the teachability of many animals, and their capacity of forming new habits, or improving the old ones, - are instances of the same kind of intellectual power, and are quite different from instinct, strictly speaking. It is this faculty which especially predominates over the other in the higher classes of animals, and which finally attains its maximum of development in the human species.”MND 305.5

    With these testimonies from such eminent witnesses, we leave the friend of the rational argument inextricably mixed up with the brute creation. The legitimate result of their theory is to confer immortality upon all orders of animated existence. We are sometimes accused of degrading man to the level of the brute. But if our friends of the other side elevate all brutes up to the level of man, how does that practically differ from what they accuse us of doing? The result is the same. If all come at last upon the same level, it matters not whether brutes come up, or man goes down.MND 306.1

    But our view is not open to this objection. While we deny that immortality is proved for either man or beast by any vital or mental powers which they may exhibit, our theory finds a superior position for man in his more refined mental and physical organization, whereby he becomes possessed of a higher mental and moral nature, and is the proper recipient of the hope of immortality.MND 306.2

    Another fact on which it is supposed that an argument for immortality can be founded is -MND 306.3

    3. The capacities of the soul. - The mind of man, it is argued, by its wonderful achievements, and its lofty aspirations, shows itself capable of some higher and better state of being than we at present enjoy. And from this the conclusion is easy (if people will not stop to scan very critically the connection) that such a state of being inevitably awaits mankind, in which they are destined to live forever.MND 306.4

    But this argument, which, stripped of its disguise, is simply an egotistical assertion, - I am fit to be a god, and therefore I am a god, - will be found to collapse under very slight pressure. Mr. J. Panton Ham describes it in fitting terms, when he speaks of it as follows: -MND 306.5

    “Because a man has skill and ability, is he therefore immortal? We, in our ignorance and imperfection, would exalt the intellectual above the moral. The former has greater attractions for imperfect man than the latter. Had we the peopling of paradise, we should fill it with the world’s heroes in literature, science, and the arts. The skillful are the world’s saints, and the proper candidates for heaven’s ‘many mansions.’ This argument, dispassionately considered apart from the imposing parade of human achievements, is just this: Man is clever, therefore he is immortal. Here is neither logic nor religion. The cleverness of man is surely no title to immortality, much less is it the proof of its possession. It is a silly logic which asserts human immortality from such strange premises as balloons and pyramids, electro-telegraphs and railways.”MND 307.1

    But all men cannot engineer the construction of a pyramid, nor construct a balloon, nor build an engine, much less accomplish the greater feat involved in their first invention. All men are not learned and skillful, and of such eminent capabilities. Is it not, in fact, almost an infinitely small proportion of the human race that has manifested those great powers on which this argument is based! And can the capacities of a few leading minds determine the density of the great mass of men who possess no such powers?MND 307.2

    And if an argument may be based on the capacities of some, may not an equal and opposite argument be based on the incapacities of others? and in this case on which side would the weight of evidence lie? And as there is almost every conceivable gradation of intelligence, who will tell us whereabouts in this scale the infinite endowment of immortality is first perceptible? Looking at the human race, and the races immediately below, we behold a point where they seem to blend indistinguishably into each other. Will an utter lack of capacity be affirmed of the higher orders of the brute creation? And descending in the scale, where shall we stop? Where is the transition from immortality to mortality?MND 307.3

    We have given, in the preceding portion of this chapter, extracts from eminent authors, showing that brutes reason, that they exercise, to a degree, all the powers of the human mind, that they have a sense, to some extent, of right and wrong, and give evidence of the same nature as man is able to give in reference to himself, that they possess just as immaterial a soul as he. And have we not all seen horses and dogs that gave evidence of possessing more good sense than some men? And in this graduated scale of animated existence, where is the dividing line between the mortal and the immortal? Will some one locate it? And here we leave this argument. It demands no further notice till its friends who base immortality on mental capacity will determine which class of their less fortunate brothers is so low as to be beyond its reach.MND 308.1

    4. Universal belief and inborn desire. - Men have universally believed in the immortality of the soul, it is claimed, and all men desire it; therefore, all men have it. Strange conclusion from strange premises! As to the first part of this argument, - the universal belief, - that appears not to be true, in fact. On this, a glance at a quotation or two must suffice. Whately (Essay 1 on a Future State) says: -MND 308.2

    “We find Socrates and his disciples represented by Plato as fully admitting in their discussions of the subject, that ‘men in general were highly incredulous as to the soul’s future existence.’ The Epicurean school openly contended against it. Aristotle passes it by as not worth considering, and takes for granted the contrary supposition, as not needing proof.”MND 309.1

    Leland, on the Advantages of Revelation, says: -MND 309.2

    When Cicero “sets himself to prove the immortality of the soul, he represents the contrary as the prevailing opinion,” there being “crowds of opponents, not the Epicureans only; but, which he could not account for, those that were the most learned persons, had that doctrine in contempt.”MND 309.3

    Touching the other portion of the argument, the universal and inborn desire, those who make use of it, to make it of any avail, are bound to supply and prove the suppressed premise, which is that all men have what they desire. The syllogism would then stand thus: 1. All men have what they desire. 2. All men desire immortality. Conclusion. Therefore, all men are immortal. This is a fair statement of the question; but are any presumptuous enough to take the ground that all men have what they desire? Is it true, in fact? Do not our every-day observations give it the unqualified lie? Men desire riches, but do all possess them? they desire health, but do all have it? they desire happiness here, but what an infinitely small portion of the race are really happy! To try to get over the matter by saying that these desires that men have may be gratified by their taking a right course, is an abandonment of the whole argument; for thus much we readily grant concerning immortality: all men may gratify their desires here by taking a right course; immortality also is suspended upon conditions, and those only will have it in whom those conditions are found to be scrupulously complied with; but they may comply with them, and thus obtain it.MND 309.4

    But there is another fatal flaw in this argument in another respect; for it is not immortality in the abstract that is the object of this great desire among men, but happiness. And the very persons who contend for immortality because men desire it, hold that a great portion of the race will be forever miserable. But this is not what men desire; and not being what they desire, it follows that all will not obtain what they desire, and hence the argument built on desire is good for nothing on their own showing. It simply proves universal salvation, or that men will be forever happy because all men desire it, or it proves nothing.MND 310.1

    5. The analogies of nature. - The day shuts down in darkness, but is not forever lost; the morn returns again, and the bright sun comes forth rejoicing as a strong man to run a race. Nature is bound, cold and lifeless, in the icy chains of winter; but it is not lost in absolute death. Anon the spring approaches, and at its animating voice and warm breath, the pulse of life beats again through all her works; her cold cheek kindles with the glow of fresh vitality, and she comes forth adorned with new beauty, waking new songs of praise in every grove. The chrysalis, too, that lay apparently a dead worm, motionless and dry, soon wakes up to a higher life, and comes forth gloriously arrayed, like a “living blossom of the air,” sipping nectar from the choicest sweets of earth, and nestling in the bosom of its fairest flowers. And so, too, it is claimed of man, “that when the body shall drop as a withered calyx, the soul shall go forth like a winged seed.” - Horticultural address, by E.H. Chapin.MND 310.2

    Let us take care that here our judgments are not led captive by the fascinations of poetry, or the rhetorical beauties of which this argument is so eminently susceptible. Among the many instances of nature, we find only a few that furnish the analogies here presented. The chrysalis, so often referred to, after it has spent its brief day as a living butterfly, perishes and is heard of no more forever. So with all the higher order of brutes: they fall in death, and make no more their appearance upon our path. The most, then, that can be drawn from this argument, is a faint foreshadowing, perhaps, of a future life. But here, let it be understood, there is no issue. We all agree that the race shall be called again to life. “As in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive.” 1 Corinthians 15:22. But the point at issue is, Are our souls immortal, and must this life be, to all our race, necessarily eternal? To prove that man will live again is one thing; to prove that that life will be eternal is quite another.MND 311.1

    6. The anomalies of the present state. - How often do we here see the wicked spreading himself like a green bay-tree, having more than heart could wish, while the righteous grope their way along, in trouble and want. The wicked are exalted, and the good are oppressed. This does not look like the arrangement of a God who is the patron of virtue and the enemy of vice. It is therefore argued that there will be another state in which all these wrongs shall be righted, virtue rewarded, and wickedness punished. Yes, we reply, there will. But, certainly, a space of time infinitely short of eternity would suffice to correct all the anomalies of this brief life, which so puzzle men here. This argument, like the former may be a fair inference for a future state; it may portend to the ungodly a scene of retribution, but can prove nothing as to its duration.MND 311.2

    7. Immortality assumed. - We are told that the Bible assumes the immortality of the soul as a truth so evident that it is not necessary to expressly affirm it. This is why the doctrine has come to be so generally received, notwithstanding there is such explicit evidence against it. It has been taken for granted! Says Bishop Tillotson: -MND 312.1

    “The immortality of the soul is rather supposed, or taken for granted, than expressly revealed, in the Bible.”MND 312.2

    “It is taken for granted” that immortality is an essential attribute of the soul, and that therefore for the Bible to affirm it would be mere tautology. But we reply, Is not immortality an essential attribute also of Jehovah? Yet the Bible has been tautological enough to plainly state this fact. And it would seem that it might have carried its “tautology” a little further, and told us as much, at least once, about the soul, if that too is immortal; for surely its immortality cannot be more essential than that of Jehovah.MND 312.3

    8. Annihilation impossible. - Nature everywhere revolts, we are told, against our doctrine of annihilation, and everywhere proves it false; for nothing ever has been, nor ever can be, annihilated. To which we reply, Very true; and here we would correct the impression which some seem to entertain, that we believe in any such annihilation of the wicked, or the annihilation of anything as matter. In reference to the wicked, we simply affirm that they will be annihilated as living beings, the matter of which they are composed passing into other forms. The second definition of annihilate, according to Webster, is, “To destroy the form or the peculiar distinctive properties, so that the specific thing no longer exists; as, to annihilate a forest by cutting and carrying away the trees, though the timber may still exist; to annihilate a house by demolishing the structure.” Just so of the wicked: as conscious, intelligent beings they are annihilated, being resolved into their original elements.MND 312.4

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