Page images

early Hebrew historians and prophets, holding out neither the hope of everlasting glory nor the fear of everlasting agony as guiding motives for man's present life, lay down little direct doctrine of a future state, yet their incidental mentions'justify the translators who regard Sheol as Hades. Sheol is a special locality where dead men go to their dead ancestors : “ And Isaac gave up the ghost, and died, and was gathered unto his people .... and his sons Esau and Jacob buried him." Abraham, though not even buried in the land of his forefathers, is thus “gathered unto his people ;” and Jacob has no thought of his body being laid with Joseph's body, torn by wild beasts in the wilderness, when he says, “I shall go down to my son mourning to Sheol” (Els Qdovin the LXX., “èresēt èàmenti” in the Coptic, " in infernum " in the Vulgate). Sheol (582 from 282) is, as its name implies, a cavernous recess, yet it is no mere surface-grave or tomb, but an under-world of awful depth: “High as Heaven, what doest thou ? deeper than Sheol, what knowest thou ? ” “ Though they dig into Sheol, thence shall mine hand take them ; though they climb up to Heaven, thence will I bring them down.” Thither Jew and Gentile go down : “What man liveth, and shall not see death ? shall he deliver his soul from the hand of Sheol?” Asshur and all her company, Elam and all her multitude, the mighty fallen of the uncircumcised, lie there. The great king of Babylon must go down :“Sheol from beneath is moved because of thee, to meet thee at thy

corning: He rouseth for thee the mighty dead, all the great chiefs of the

earth; He maketh to rise up from their thrones, all the kings of the

nations. All of them shall accost thee, and shall say unto thee: Art thou, even thou too, become weak as we? Art thou made like

unto us?"

The rephaim, the “shades" of the dead, who dwell in Sheol, love not to be disturbed from their rest by the

necromancer; “And Samuel said to Saul, why hast thou disquieted me to bring me up?" Yet their quiet is contrasted in a tone of sadness with the life on earth; " Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in Sheol, whither thou goest.”] Such thoughts of the life of the shades below did not disappear when, in the later years of the Jewish nation, the great change in the doctrine of the future life passed in so large a measure over the Hebrew mind, their earlier thoughts of ghostly continuance giving place to the doctrines of resurrection and retribution. The ancient ideas have even held their place on into Christian thought, in pictures like that of the Limbus Patrum, the Hades where Christ descended to set free the patriarchs.

The Retribution-theory of the future life comprises in a general way the belief in different grades of future happiness, especially in different regions of the other world allotted to men according to their lives in this. This doctrine of retribution is, as we have already seen, far from universal among mankind, many races recognizing the idea of a spirit outliving the body, without considering the fate of this spirit to depend at all upon the conduct of the living man. The doctrine of retribution indeed hardly seems an original part of the doctrine of the future life. On the contrary, if we judge that men in a primitive state of culture arrived at the notion of a surviving spirit, and that some races, but by no means all, afterwards reached the further stage of recognizing a retribution for deeds done in the body, this theory will not, so far as I know, be discountenanced by facts. Even among the higher savages, however, a con

+ Gen. xxxv. 29 ; xxv. 8 ; xxxvii. 35; Job xi. 8; Amos ix. 2 ; Psalm lxxxix. 48; Ezek. xxxi., xxxii.; Isaiah xiv. 9, xxxviii, 10-18; 1 Sam. xxviii. 15; Eccles. ix. 10. This argument is mainly from Alger, “Critical History of the Doctrine of a Future Life. ch. viii.; see F. W. Farrar in Smith's . Dic. of the Bible,' art. “hell."

? The doctrine of reversal, as in Kamschatka, where rich and poor will change places in the other world (Steller, pp. 269-72), is too exceptional in the lower culture to be generalized. See Steinhauser, ‘Rel. des Negers.' .. c. p. 155. A Wolof proverb is “The more powerful one is in this world,

nexion between man's life and his happiness or misery after death is often held as a definite article of theology, and thence it is to be traced onward through barbaric religions, and into the very heart of Christianity. Yet the grounds of future reward and punishment are so far from uniform among the religions of the world, that they may differ widely within what is considered one and the same creed.

The result is more definite than the cause, the end than the means. Men who alike look forward to a region of unearthly happiness beyond the grave, hope to reach that happy land by roads so strangely different, that the path of life which leads one nation to eternal bliss may seem to the next the very descent into the pit. In noticing among savage and barbaric peoples the qualifications which determine future happiness, we may with some distinctness define these as being excellence, valour, social rank, religious ordinance. On the whole, however, in the religions of the lower range of culture, unless where they may have been affected by contact with higher religions, the destiny of the soul after death seems comparatively seldom to turn on a judicial system of reward and punishment. Such difference as they make between the future conditions of different classes of souls, seems more often to belong to a remarkable intermediate doctrine, standing between the earlier continuance-theory and the later retribution-theory. The idea of the next life being similar to this seems to have developed into the idea that what gives prosperity and renown here will give it also there, so that earthly conditions carry on their contrasts into the changed world after death. Thus a man's condition after death will be a result of, rather than a compensation or retribution for, his condition during life. A comparison of doctrines held at various stages of culture may justify a tentative speculation as to their actual sequence in history, favouring the opinion that through such an intermediate stage the doctrine of simple

the more servile one will be in the next.” p. 28.)

(Burton, 'Wit and Wisdom,' future existence was actually developed into the doctrine of future reward and punishment, a transition which for deep import to human life has scarcely its rival in the history of religion. · The effect of earthly rank on the future life, as looked at by the lower races, brings out this intermediate stage in bold relief. Mere transfer from one life to another makes chiefs and slaves here chiefs and slaves hereafter, and this natural doctrine is very usual. But there are cases in which earthly caste is exaggerated into utter difference in the life to come. The aerial paradise of Raiatea, with its fragrant ever-blooming flowers, its throngs of youths and girls all perfection, its luxurious feasts and merrymakings, were for the privileged orders of Areois and chiefs who could pay the priests their heavy charges, but hardly for the common populace. This idea reached its height in the Tonga islands, where aristocratic souls would pass to take their earthly rank and station in the island paradise of Bolotu, while plebeian souls, if indeed they existed, would die with the plebeian bodies they dwelt in. In Vancouver's Island, the Ahts fancied Quawteaht's calm sunny plenteous land in the sky as the resting-place of high chiefs, who live in one great house as the Creator's guests, while the slain in battle have another to themselves. But otherwise all Indians of low degree go deep down under the earth to the land of Chay-her, with its poor houses and no salmon and smail deer, and blankets so small and thin, that when the dead are buried the friends often bury blankets with them, to send them to the world below with the departed soul.? The expectation of royal dignity in the life after death, distinct from the fate of ordinary mortals, comes well into view among the Natchez of Louisiana, where the sun-descended royal family would in some way return to the Sun; thus

[ocr errors]

also in the mightier empire of Peru, where each sundescended Inca, feeling the approach of death, announced to his assembled vassals that he was called to heaven to rest with his father the Sun. But in the higher religions, the change in this respect from the doctrine of continuance to the doctrine of retribution is wonderful in its completeness. The story of that great lady who strengthened her hopes of future happiness by the assurance, “ They will think twice before they refuse a person of my condition," is a mere jest to modern ears. Yet, like many another modern jest, it is only an archaism which in an older stage of culture had in it nothing ridiculous.

To the happy land of Torngarsuk the Great Spirit, says Cranz, only such Greenlanders come as have been valiant workers, for other ideas of virtue they have none; such as have done great deeds, taken many whales and seals, borne much hardship, been drowned at sea, or died in childbirth. Thus Charlevoix says of the Indians further south, that their claim to hunt after death on the prairies of eternal spring is to have been good hunters and warriors here. Lescarbot, speaking of the belief among the Indians of Virginia that after death the good will be at rest and the wicked in pain, remarks that their enemies are the wicked and themselves the good, so that in their opinion they are after death much at their ease, and principally when they have well defended their country and slain their enemies. So Jean de Lery said of the rude Tupinambas of Brazil, that they think the souls of such as had lived virtuously, that is to say, who bave well avenged themselves and eaten many of their enemies, will go behind the great mountains and dance in beautiful gardens with the souls of their fathers, but the souls of the effeminate and worthless, who

IRec. des Voy. au Nord,' vol. v. p. 23 (Natchez); Garcilaso de la Vega, Commentarios Reales,' lib. i. c. 23, tr. by C. R. Markham; Prescott, Peru,' vol. i. pp. 29, 83 ; J. G. Müller, p. 402, etc.

2 Cranz, “Grönland,' p. 259.

3 Charlevoix, ‘Nouvelle France,' vol. vi. p. 77 ; Lescarbot, ‘Hist. de la Nouvelle France, Paris, 1619, p. 679.

« PreviousContinue »