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cross, that their tongues sing Thy praise, and that they smite their breasts thrice with their little hands. It is for love of Thee, O Jesus Christ, that the spot that bears Thy adorable blood is kissed. For Thee the child who serves sounds the little bell, and performs his functions. The riches collected from distant countries, the magnificence of chasubles, all have relation to Thee. Why are the walls and the high altar of marble clothed with tapestry on the feast of Corpus Christi ? For whom do they make a road of flowers ? For whom are these banners embroidered? When the Ave Maria sounds, is it not for Thee? Matins, vespers, prime, and nones, are they not consecrated to Thee? These bells within a thousand towers, purchased with the gold of whole cities, do they not bear Thy image cast in the very mould ? Is it not for Thee that they send forth their solemn tone? It is under Thy protection, O Jesus Christ, that every man places himself who loves solitude, chastity, and poverty. Without Thee, the orders of S. Benedict and S. Bernard would not have been founded. The cloister, the tonsure, the breviary, and the chaplet bear witness to Thee. O delightful rapture, Jesus Christ, for Thy disciple to trace the marks of Thy finger where the eyes of the world see them not! O joy ineffable for souls devoted to Thee, to behold in caves and on rocks, in every crucifix placed upon hills and by the highways, Thy seal and that of Thy love! Who will not rejoice in the honours of which Thou art the object and the soul ? Who will not shed tears in hearing the words, Jesus Christ be praised ?' Othe hypocrite who knoweth that name, and answereth not with joy, Amen!' who saith not, with an intense transport, Jesus be blessed for eternity, for eternity !'”
i Lavater : Worte des Herzens, für Freunde der Liebe u. des Glaubens, 8th ed. 1855.
THE DOGMA OF IMMORTALITY
"A man may believe in the immortality of the soul for twenty years, but only in the twenty-first, at some great moment, is he astonished at the rich substance of this belief, at the warmth of this naphtha-spring." --JEAN-Paul Richter.
The basis of Christian hope-Proofs of Immortality inadequate to give
certainty-Future life of fame unsatisfactory-Future life desired by the suffering---It is a necessity of the soul— Because the soul cannot satisfy all its desires here— Because the capability of enjoyment is limited here-Contrast between what we have and what we hope forThe Christian heaven corresponds with the desire felt for it on earthThe blunting of the finer faculties incapacitates man for enjoymentdestroys his aspirations—and therefore limits his Heaven—The idea of Hell not necessarily one of pain but of low enjoyment—The idea of Purgatory one of gradual education—The idea of the Resurrection of the body necessarily part of the Christian's hope.
WE have seen
what is Christian faith and Christian
love; we come in order to Christian hope. As Gibbon has observed, Philosophy, notwithstanding its utmost efforts, has been unable to do more to satisfy the hope and desire instinctive in man, than feebly indicate the probability of a future life, and therefore it belongs to Revelation to affirm its existence, and to represent authoritatively the condition of the souls of men after their separation from the body.
As I have shewn at some length in my former volume,
the idea of immortality is inextinguishable in man. I said,
In order to form an idea of the destruction of the conscious self, an amount of exhaustion of impressions is required wholly beyond the powers of an uncultivated mind. Man's personality is so distinctly projected on the surface of his consciousness, that the idea of its obliteration is inconceivable without doing violence to his primary convictions.”
In a state of health, every man desires to live; he desires, because the instinct of self-conservation is one of the most primary and ineradicable and the strongest in his nature. This desire, at first negative, becomes on reflection, under the pressure of life and its cares and sorrows, a positive desire. But if he desires immortality, he desires to be certified of it, so as not to be left to conjecture alone.
Reason cannot gratify this hope, and all the proofs of immortality that have been collected by philosophers have only served to make it probable, not certain. For reason, not being able to know future life, cannot demonstrate it. Reason can give general, abstract proofs; but the certainty of the eternal duration of one's personal existence cannot be furnished by it, and it is precisely this certainty which is demanded.
To obtain it, a proof, an immediate witness, which may fall under the senses, is requisite. One who has died, of whose death we are well assured, -not any one, but one who is a type and model of all others,— must rise from his grave, as a guarantee to all of their resurrection.
This is what the Resurrection of Christ supplies. The Incarnation was an accommodation of God to all the wants of man's nature, and this, the most imperious of all, the demand for personal restoration to immortal life, is certified to man by the dogma of the Resurrection.
The immortality of the soul is unquestionably one of those primordial beliefs proclaimed by universal instinct, forced into prominence by causes I have detailed in the first volume.
It has survived all the convulsions of human beliefs, and although men have changed their modes of worship and ideas of God, their belief in an immortality awaiting them has never died out.
Plato, convinced of this truth, reposes on ancient tradition as his authority. “This is certain," says he; "that which we call the soul lives. We do not believe that the mass of flesh we burn is the man, knowing that the son or brother whom we bury is really gone to another country, after having accomplished his task in this-one must believe these things on the faith of legislators or ancient traditions.” 1
Socrates, who died a martyr to his convictions, is represented to us, the fatal cup in his hand, discussing the question of questions on the threshold of death. After having retraced his philosophic conceptions on this grand subject, he said to his interlocutor: "Doubtless you regard these stories as the dreams of a delirious crone, but you are mistaken. I would myself despise them, if in our researches we had found anything more salutary and more certain.” Such was the foundation of his faith: it was but a pis aller. He had the wisdom to see that reason could not establish the certainty of this most important doctrine ; and he said touchingly: “One must pass the stormy sea of life on the fragments of truth that remain to us, as on a little boat, unless we be given some surer way, such as a divine promise, a revelation, which would be to us a vessel in which we might brave the tempests.”2 1 Plato : De Leg. xii,
Cicero believed in the immortality of the soul. In his treatise on Old Age, he says: “Nature has not set us in this world to inhabit it for ever, but to lodge in it in passing. Oh the bright day in which I shall leave for that celestial assembly, for that divine council of souls !” But turn the page, and read, “If I am deceived in believing in the immortality of the soul, I am deceived with pleasure.
If I die altogether, as think some minute philosophers, I shall feel nothing.
Even if we are not immortal, it is nevertheless desirable to end our days," &c. And in his Epistles, he says, “Whilst I live, nothing shall distress me, so long as I am free from blame; and if I cease to be, I shall lose all consciousness."1
A makeshift to satisfy this desire for immortality is life in the memory of posterity, in the mouth of fame. It is this which Cicero expatiates on in his oration upon Archias, and which M. Comte holds out to his followers as the future for which they are to strive. But this is poor comfort to the dying man. When Bossuet was in his agony, a friend bade him rejoice, for his fame would be eternal. “Fame !" echoed the dying eagle, "what is that to me now? Pray for my soul."
The reasoning of Jack Falstaff is true to nature; fame will never satisfy the want man feels. “Honour pricks me on, yea, but how if honour prick me off when I come on? How then ? can honour set to a leg? No. Or an arm ? No.—What is honour ? He that died o' Wednesday, doth he feel it? No. Doth he hear it? No. Is it insensible then? Yea, to the dead. But will it not live with the living? No. Why? Detraction will not suffer it: therefore I'll none of it.” 1 Epist. vi. 3.
2 1 Part of Henry IV. Act. v. Sc. i.