Page images
PDF
EPUB

And by him, all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses” (Acts 13:38-39).

The veil spread over all nations consists of erroneous theories on religious matters and ignorance of the knowledge of God as revealed in the Old and New Testament Scriptures, as Paul said that the Gentiles are “ alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them” (Eph. 4:18). The Jews made void the law by their traditions and false doctrines, consequently Jesus warned his disciples and said, “Take heed, and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees," and when his disciples understood him to refer to bread, he reproved them and said, “How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees? Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees” (Matt. 16:6-12). Both of these sects held doctrines destructive of the faith. Their doctrines are shown by Luke in the twenty-third chapter of Acts where he mentions that "When Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the counsel, Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question. And when he had so said, there arose a dissension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees: and the multitude was divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both," — that is both angel and spirit, as well as the resurrection of the dead. The one believed too much, the other believed too little. The Sadducees were right in denying the existence of spirits, but wrong in denying the resurrection and the existence of angels. The Pharisees were right in maintaining the existence of angels and the doctrine of the resurrection, but wrong in believing in the existence of spirits.

This feature of their faith embodies what is popularly known as the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, and the existence of the spirits of dead men as persons, yet not having bodies or parts. This doctrine was commonly received by the Jews, for even the apostles themselves, before they were fully instructed in the Scripture doctrine of immortality, appear to have believed the doctrine, for we are told that on one occasion, when Christ came to them walking on the water, they were troubled, saying, “It is a spirit, and they cried out for fear." Again after Christ rose from the dead, and appeared suddenly in their midst, they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit, but Jesus quieted their fears, and said unto them, “Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see: for a spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see me have ” (Luke 24), and he ate and drank in their presence to disabuse their minds of this error. It is not surprising that up to this time the apostles were yet in error on this point, but they were also in the dark touching the resurrection of Christ from the dead, although it had been plainly told them by Jesus himself before his death, as Luke shows (18:31-34), saying, “ Then he took unto him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished. For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on: and they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again.” And now comes the singular and surprising feature of this matter, for it is added, “ And they understood none of these things, and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken."

It was manifestly the purpose of Christ the Lord to teach his apostles the true Scripture doctrine of immortality by first enlightening their minds in the first principles of the truth while he journeyed with them during the period of his ministry; and after his resurrection from the dead, by showing them a practical illustration in his own individual person of what the real salvation of God for dying man is, namely immortality, or eternal life manifested in a material body of flesh and bones by resurrection from the dead. It was something which they could see, and handle, as he said to them, “Behold my hands and feet, that it is I myself. Handle me and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.” After they saw this, and after he opened their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures, they were no more troubled about the spirits of dead men, and they went everywhere, but not preaching the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, and the hope of going to heaven in the form of a disembodied spirit at death, as is done now, but instead they preached Jesus and the resurrection, as the hope of man, and the only hope set before us. We will therefore submit the following proposition, as a standpoint from which to discuss this doctrine.

CHAPTER II

THE DOCTRINE OF THE IMMORTALITY OF THE SOUL. FROM WHENCE IS IT? FROM HEAVEN, OR OF MEN?

Importance of the subject - Resurrection of dead as taught in Old Testament - As taught and illustrated in New Testament Is Immortality of soul taught in Scriptures? -"A living soul-Breath of life"-"Lose his own soulIs man a soul clothed with a body "? Summary Existence of immortal sinners prevented - Inferential evidence Thief on the CROSS " Absent from the body "_" To depart and be with Christ- Importance of believing the truth Not able to kill soulMansions of the righteous "_" In the body, and out of the body Inheritance reserved in heaven for youParable of the Rich Man and Lazarus

Summary.

This doctrine is now of almost universal acceptance. It is believed by all the leading and what are called the enlightened and civilized nations, as well as by the barbarous, semi-barbarous, and savage nations of the earth. The cannibals of Africa and the savages of the American wilderness believe it, alike with the nations who profess to believe the Scriptures, and those who recognize Jesus as the Christ and therefore call themselves Christians, and in the aggregate Christendom, which signifies Christ's kingdom.

This is a doctrine whose antiquity is of ancient days, and the time that it was first devised, and invented is lost in the misty past. All the great nations of antiquity held it, such for instance, as the Assyrians, Babylonians, Medes, Persians, Romans and Egyptians, and as the children of Israel sojourned for a period of four hundred and thirty years in Egypt, they had ample opportunities of learning the doctrine there, in connection with their idolatrous worship, which was abundantly manifested at Mount Sinai. For while Moses was yet in Mount Sinai with the Lord, they changed their glory into the similitude of an ox that eateth grass, like unto the Egyptians. Moreover, it is claimed by its votaries that every person that has ever been born into the world without a single exception, the untold billions of human beings who have lived and died upon the earth have each and every one been possessed of an immortal soul, including the deaf, the dumb, the idiot, babes, sucklings, and infants. Moreover, these souls are understood to be of infinite value, insomuch that the wealth of the world would not be sufficient to purchase or redeem a single one. Consequently, the doctrine of the immortality of the soul is regarded as being next only in importance to the doctrine of the existence of God himself. The great religious systems of the world are predicated upon its supposed existence, and it is for the saving of such souls that they exist, and the priests and ministers of all these religious systems are called "soul curers," for their business is to cure and save immortal souls.

Doctor Franklin more than a century ago put the doctrine in a very clear light, when he said, “Man is not a body animated by a soul; he is a soul clothed with a body. When the clothing is cast aside, the man himself remains unchanged; what he loved, he continues to love, what he hated he continues to hate, and he retains all the peculiarities which distinguished him from other men.” Men's bodies, therefore, according to this theory, are of small importance in comparison to their immortal souls, and consequently the resurrection of the body becomes a doctrine of not much account comparatively and is regarded by many as doubtful, and even unnecessary, and so such representative men as the late Henry Ward Beecher, in carrying out the doctrine to its legitimate conclusion waxed bold and said, “Some believe that this body will rise again, but not I! When I die, I shall say, Good bye, old body. Good bye."

But if, after all, it transpires that this doctrine is not from heaven, but of men, and that it has its origin in the carnal minds of natural and earthy men whose wisdom is from beneath, and that the great and important doctrine of the immortality of human souls is, after all, but a myth and a fable, and that all the consequent theories about its value and importance, and its destiny at death to a place of happiness or misery, are but wind and confusion; and further, should it be found upon closer examination of the Holy Scriptures, which are supposed and understood by millions to teach the doctrine on almost every page, that they not only do not teach the doctrine at all, from beginning to end, but on the contrary, utterly and emphatically deny it, then we ask, if that be so, what becomes of all these great systems of religion which exist, and have existed for the purpose of curing and saving men's immortal souls, if there are no such souls in existence to save? And what becomes of the countless millions of human beings that have been deceived by them, and who have died in hope of such a salvation as they offer? Is it not self-evident in such a case, that in the end all these great religious institutions and their votaries go down into oblivion and perish in the abyss beneath, forever?

Therefore, in view of the gravity of this question, and the momentous issues involved therein to the whole human family, we propose to discuss this doctrine upon its true merits, in the light of the Holy Scriptures; and our controversy is with those only in this place who recognize the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the only standard of doctrine and rule of faith and practise; whatever can be proved by them must stand, but what cannot be proved by them must fall, because it is contained therein, "To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isa. 8: 20).

We shall take the negative side of this question and maintain that the doctrine of the immortality of the soul is not from heaven, but of men, and that the doctrine is not only false, but utterly subversive of the true gospel of God, and of the only hope set before us; also that it blinds the eyes and darkens the understanding, insomuch that so long as men are deceived by this — one of the most dangerous of errors they cannot properly comprehend and understand the mystery of the gospel, so as to render the true obedience of faith, that they might be saved by it. Therefore we say to the advocates and supporters of this doctrine who claim to rest their case upon arguments drawn from the Holy Scriptures,— we say that we will not consent for a moment that a doctrine fraught with such momentous consequences to the whole human family shall be allowed to rest upon doubtful or inferential testimony. It will not answer in a controversy of such gravity and importance to put men off who are in earnest in this matter, with a few Scripture quotations which are supposed inferentially to teach this doctrine, such as, “To-day shalt thou be with me in Paradise”; “Absent from the body, present with the Lord "; "Having a desire to depart and to be with the Lord, which is far better"; and finally to cap the climax with the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, and others of like character. Not by any means! These few debatable quotations may indeed to a superficial reader, upon the face of them, at first sight, appear to favour such a doctrine, whereas upon a closer investigation, in the light of their appropriate contexts and other relative Scriptures, they may be found to favor no such doctrine, but on the contrary, a doctrine of a very opposite nature.

Now we demand, and every person who has been taught this doctrine has a right to demand, and if they have a right and proper spirit in them, will demand of their teachers, that they furnish us with direct and positive proof of the truth of this doctrine. That is, let them show to us where the inspired men of old, who spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit, took up the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, as a doctrine, calling it by its proper name, and discussing it as a doctrine of such infinite importance as this, if true, deserves to be discussed.

To illustrate what we mean more clearly,'take, for instance, the doctrine of the immortality of the soul on the one hand, and the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead on the other. Now according to religious teachers, and the world's philosophers, the body is of little value or importance as compared with the value and importance of the soul. The body is simply earth, and returns to earth, and at death, therefore, is called but "the mortal remains" of the other. The body is regarded as simply the casket in which the soul, the priceless jewel, dwells for a time. The body, they say, is but the mortal coil, and is sloughed off at death. The body is simply regarded as the clothing of the soul, as Franklin said, “Man is a soul clothed with a body, when the clothing is laid aside, the man himself remains unchanged." Consequently the poet puts it into these forcible lines,

“I lay my garments by,
Upon my bed to rest;
So death will soon disrobe me hence

And leave my soul undressed." The body is mortal, but according to this theory the soul is immortal and never dies, and when the body is laid aside, the soul lives on and exists as long as God himself exists.

Now just in the ratio that Protestant and Catholic priests and ministers hold and teach that the immortal souls of men are of more value than their mortal bodies, and the salvation of their immortal souls of more importance than the resurrection of their mortal bodies, in that same ratio do we demand

« PreviousContinue »