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Man’s Nature and Destiny

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    01 PRIMARY QUESTIONS

    GRADUALLY the mind awakes to the mystery of life. Excepting only the first pair, every adult member of the human family has come up through the helplessness of infancy and the limited acquirements of childhood. All have reached their full capacity to think and do, only by the slow development of their mental and physical powers. Without either counsel or co-operation of our own, we find ourselves on the plane of human existence, subject to all the conditions of the race, and hastening forward to its destiny, whatever it may be.MND 7.1

    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 the race? 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 produce.MND 7.2

    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 so 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.MND 8.1

    But this only intensifies our anxiety a thousand fold. 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-existent beings, so that we must live forever, if not in his favor, then the conscious recipients of his wrath?MND 8.2

    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. Sciences proves itself a fool on this momentous question. The imagination breaks down; and the human mind, unaided, sinks into a melancholy, but well-grounded, despair.MND 9.1

    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.MND 9.2

    Professor Stuart, in his “Exegetical Essays on “Several Words Relating to Future Punishment” (pp,13,14), says:- “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, that 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.”MND 9.3

    H.H. Dobney, Baptist minister, of England (Future Punishment, p.107), says:- “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 heartbreaking intensity, the oracle is dumb, or like those of Delphi and Dodona, mutters only an ambiguous reply that leaves us in utter bewilderment.”MND 10.1

    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 little of what they have told us, which sufficiently indicates the character of the knowledge they possessed.MND 10.2

    Socrates, when about to drink the fatal hemlock, said:-MND 10.3

    “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.”MND 10.4

    Cicero, after recounting the various opinions of philosophers on this subject, levels all their systems to the ground by this ingenuous confession:-MND 10.5

    “Which of these is true, God alone knows, and which is the most probable, is a very great question.”MND 10.6

    Seneca, reviewing the arguments of the ancients on this subjects, said:-MND 10.7

    “Immortality, however desirable, was rather promised than proved by these great men.”MND 11.1

    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.MND 11.2

    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 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.MND 11.3

    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 teachings of the Bible must, of consistency, be sufficiently clear and full.MND 11.4

    Prominent upon the pages of 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 our race 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.MND 11.5

    How these facts intensify the importance of the question, 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.MND 12.1

    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 our race 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 reconcile 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, - 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?”MND 12.2

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