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♡ 23. The doctrine of materiality inconsistent with future existence
With the subject of the immaterial nature of the soul, that of its immortality is closely connected. It is true, the immortal existence of the soul does not follow with absolute certainty from the mere fact of its immateriality ; but it is, at least, rendered in some degree probable. Certainly we have no direct evidence of the discontinuance of the soul's existence at death as we have of that of the body. What takes place at death is only a removal of the soul's action from our notice, but not, as far as we know, a cessation and utter extinction of it. The supposition, therefore, is a reasonable one, that the soul will continue to exist, merely because it exists at present, inasmuch as its immaterial nature does not require the suspension of its existence at death, and as we have no direct evidence of such an event.--Death, in the language of Mr. Stewart, only lifts up the veil which conceals from our eyes the invisible world. It annihilates the material universe to our senses, and prepares our minds for some new and unknown state of being.
But the opposite doctrine, that which asserts the materiality of the soul, so far from furnishing a presumption in favour of our future existence, seems to render immortality impossible. Those who hold that thought and feeling are in some way the direct and positive result of material organization, are understood to admit that the soul (or, rather, what they speak of as the soul) dies with the body; and certainly they would be very inconsistent with themselves if they did not do so. Where, then, is that immortality, of which the light of nature as well as Revelation assures us ?We are aware of what the materialist will say here. We understand him to assert that a new soul will be created after death, either at the final resurrection or at some antecedent period, which will take the place in all respects of the old one which perished with the body. But there is an insuperable difficulty here. It is inconceivable (we assert it with entire confidence) that a soul, created subsequently in time, should be conscious of, or, rather, should recognise, mental operations and affections as its own, which operations and affections pertained, in point of fact, to another soul. Such a case would
constitute an origination rather than a continuance of ex istence; it would not be our immortality, but that of an other; the chain connecting the present with the future would be broken; and we, who are destined, on the system of materialism, to perish with the body, could not by any possibility participate in that future existence which is raised up to take the place of the present. Would there be any propriety or justice in bringing such new-crcated soul before the judgment-seat of the Supreme Being in reference to crimes or to virtues which in fact pertained to another soul! It is evident, since such a soul could not be conscious of or recognise a previous existence, simply because such existence had never taken place, it would not be a suitable subject of praise and blame, reward and punishment, in reference to deeds done in the present life. So that it seems to be an inevitable conclusion, that the souls which are destined to come under the Divine adjudication must remain permanent, whatever may become of the body, until the final sentence shall be passed upon them. But if the soul is material and dies with the body, then it is not permanent, and cannot be so. The immateriality of the soul, therefore, on the supposition of the body's being dissolved and destroyed at death, becomes the basis of its immortality. If the doctrine of immateriality falls, then that of immortality and of a future retribution falls with it.-All arguments, therefore, which go to sustain the soul's immortality and its
, liability to future judgment, indirectly support the doctrine of its immateriality. We add nothing further, excepting the single remark, that the distinction between the body and soul is either implied or asserted in various passages of the Scriptures; as, for instance, when we are lirected not to fear them which kill the body, but are 20t able to kill the soul.”
LAWS OF BELIEF.
$ 24. Of belief, its degrees, and its sources. MAN is so constituted that, under certain circumstances, he naturally and necessarily believes, and has knowledge. As that state of mind which we term BELIEF is simple, and, consequently, undefinable, we have therefore a knowledge of it, not by verbal definition, but wholly by our own internal reflection or consciousness. Belief is always the same in kind or nature; but it admits of different degrees. We ascertain the existence of these differences of strength, which we express by various terms, such as presumption, probability, high probability, and certainty, by means of that same internal consciousness which assures us of the existence of the mere feeling itself.
In the chapter on Primary Truths, we had occasion to assert it as an indisputable principle, that there are in men certain original and authoritative grounds of belief. This is an important doctrine in mental philosophy, and one which is always to be kept in mind. It is perhaps proper, before we proceed further, to state some of those original principles by which our belief is thus naturally controlled.
Ø 25. Of suggestion, consciousness, and the senses, as grounds of belief.
The most marked and prominent of those grounds or laws of belief, which are understood to be original and ultimate in the mental constitution, are Original Suggestion, Consciousness, the Senses, Memory, Testimony, Relative Suggestion, and Reasoning.
1.-ORIGINAL SUGGESTION. By means of this we have a knowledge of certain elementary notions, such as the abstract conceptions of existence, mind, self-existence or self, personal identity, succession, duration, space, unity, number, power, right, wrong, and some others. All men possess these notions, all understand them ; but if they
are asked in what way they come to a knowledge of them, they can only say that, in virtue of the constitution of the mind itself, they are naturally and necessarily suggested.—The mind is so constituted, that they naturally and necessarily flow forth from it, and thus furnish the foundations of belief and knowledge.
II.-CONSCIOUSNESS. By means of that internal reflection which is denominated consciousness, we have a knowledge of our mental states, of the various perceptions, affections, and decisions of the mind. In regard to all such objects of knowledge, we are obliged to rest, ultimately, upon consciousness. The belief from this source is in the highest degree authoritative and decisive. It is impossible for us to disbelieve that the mind experiences certain sensations, or puts forth certain operations, whenever, in point of fact, that is the case; or to believe them to be otherwise than they in fact are.
III.—THE SENSES. The states of mind to which operations upon or affections of our senses give rise, are also, by our very constitution, the occasions or grounds of belief. By means of the senses, we have a knowledge, in particular, of the external, material world; of trees, and fields, and waters; of the sounds of the elements and the music of birds; of the sun, and moon, and stars, and all the various and beautiful forms of the tangible and visible creation. Men, prompted by the suggestions of their own mental nature, universally rely upon the senses in respect to everything which comes within their appropriate sphere. When one man states to another a report of what has happened at some time, the hearer yields to him a greater or less degree of credence, according to the circumstances. But if the narrator asserts that he saw or heard it with his own eyes or ears, that the affair actually came under the cognizance of his own senses, everybody deems such a statement satisfactory. What better evidence, they say, than that of his senses !
Ø 26. Memory and Testimony considered as sources of belief. IV.-Another original ground or law of belief is the Memory. So far as we are confident, or, rather, have no particular reason to doubt, that the original sensations and
perceptions in any given case are correctly reported in the remembrance, the latter controls our belief and actions not less than those antecedent states of mind on which it is founded. “ The evidence of memory,” says Dr. Beattie,
commands our belief as effectually as the evidence of sense.
I cannot possibly doubt, with regard to any of my transactions of yesterday which I now remember, whether I performed them or not. That I dined to-day, and was in bed last night, is as certain to me as that I at present see the colour of this paper. If we had no memory, knowledge and experience would be impossible; and if we had any tendency to distrust our memory, knowledge and experience would be of as little use in directing our conduct and sentiments as our dreams now are. Sometimes we doubt whether, in a particular case, we exert memory or imagination; and our belief is suspended accordingly: but no sooner do we become conscious that we remember, than conviction instantly takes place;
I am certain it was so, for I now remember I was an eye-witness."*
There remains, however, another inquiry: What is the origin of this confident reliance? And the reply here is, as in many
cases, It is our nature, our mental constitution; the will and ordinance of the Being who crea
Whatever may be said on the subject, there must be, and there are, certain original grounds, certain fundamental laws of belief, which, in every analysis of our knowledge, are fixed and permanent boundaries, beyond which we cannot proceed. And reliance on memory is one of them.
V-HUMAN TESTIMONY. By this is commonly meant the report of men concerning what has fallen under their personal observation. And this forms another ground of belief. As to the fact that men readily receive the testimony of their fellow-beings, and that such testimony influences their belief and conduct, it cannot be denied. They thus universally yield credence to the statements of each other, unless something comes to their knowledge unfavourable to the credibility of the narrator, because it
* Beattie's Essay on Truth, pt. 1., Cm. ii., $ 4.