By Aaron Hills
THE IMMORTALITY OF THE SOUL
To escape the troublesome prospect of eternal punishment, many seek refuge in the doctrine of annihilation. It becomes, then, more than ever necessary to discuss in our age the truth of the immortality of the soul. Some have sought relief in materialism, holding that matter is all, and mental facts have an adequate ground in matter, and it is their actual source. But this is a wholly unproved and unprovable hypothesis. A spiritual nature in man is the only adequate ground of mental facts. The phenomena of matter cannot be expressed in terms of spirit; neither can the phenomena of spirit be expressed in terms of matter. Materialism therefore cannot account for the facts of mind. Matter may change and some form of it may be obliterated; but the self-conscious, personal soul lives on, surviving all changes, and superior to all accidents and environments. Is it too much to infer that a deathless spiritual mind, ever abiding in simple unity of essence, is the only possible explanation of this abiding self-consciousness?
The doctrine of man's immortality may be argued from analogy, instinct, reason, and revelation. All unite in showing the utter improbability of annihilation.
I. What does Analogy make probable? There is no instance of annihilation in the strict sense of the word. All physical sciences proceed on the principle that, with all the infinitude of changes and transmutations of form that take place throughout the universe, no portion of matter is reduced to nonentity; there is a change only in its relative state, not annihilation of its entity, the termination, not of being, but of a particular mode of being. The iceberg floats out into the sea and decomposes, and disappears, but lives again in the water of the sea. The tree is consumed by fire, but reappears in the ashes and the ascending vapor and smoke. The pond of water in the field seems to be destroyed; but it has simply mounted into the air to hang over the plain in the rain cloud. Precisely so there is no phenomenon of actual death to indicate the annihilation of that spiritual entity we call the soul." Our ignorance of its future would be no proof of its destruction, or cessation of being.
1. The nature of the mind affords a presumption of its immortality. As a simple spiritual existence it is not subject to dissolution or death, in the manner of compound or organic existences. Nothing in any instance of dissolution or death can exemplify the extinction of the soul of man. Its extinction must be a virtual annihilation; but there is no natural evidence of such a destiny of the soul, but much against it.
2. But we do not rest our argument against annihilation merely on man's natural immortality. Such an argument might be made that is practically unanswerable. "A creature formed in the image and after the likeness of the eternal and invisible God; possessed of a spiritual essence, by its origin and qualities indefinitely lifting him above the rest of the animal creation; holding personal intercourse with the manifested Deity; laid under sacred charge of fidelity to the gift of life that was in him, - a creature so represented is virtually affirmed to have been made for incorruption; and, by the necessity of things, he must himself have been aware that this was his sublime prerogative and destiny. By his very nature he cannot have been ignorant that he belonged to the sphere of the immortal; that his closest affinities were with God and spiritual beings; that the everlasting was his province and goal; that in fact, either on earth or elsewhere he was heir to an existence coeval with the life of the Immortal One whose child he was" (Wood's "Annihilation and Universalism," p. 22).
If no atom of matter is annihilated, how infinitely improbable is the soul's extinction, when the superiority of its substance is considered! Defilement of character may entail loss of happiness and well being, but does not destroy the spirituality of its essence. And for God to extinguish its being is immeasurably more improbable than that He should annihilate unthinking matter. The conclusion must be that nature, consulted on this subject of the annihilation of the soul whether good or evil gives no hint of it, but puts up a mighty presumption against it.
3. God only has absolute, self-sustained existence and immortality. All creaturely existence is dependent upon Him. With such dependence upon God, in whom we live and move, and have our being, the question of our continued existence or extinction must be viewed in the light of His purpose. The soul is naturally free from the laws of dissolution and death, and. it may survive death or any other future change and live on, and live forever. But in view of our absolute dependence on God, the question of immortality turns on His pleasure concerning us. "The question is not whether God can annihilate the soul He has created, but will He? Looking at power abstractedly, He has the natural ability to do many things, which we are assured He will not do. By the immortality of the Soul we do not mean that we know God has no power to end its existence, but that it cannot be ended by any power of its own or of any other creature, and that God wills its ceaseless continuance. Such immortality granted, it becomes a foundation stone of an argument for eternal punishment. "But, not granted, the doctrine of endless punishment, proved by the testimony of Scripture, remains, and becomes the foundation stone of an argument for the immortality of the soul" (Wood's "Annihilation," p. 27).
II. An argument for immortality is drawn from the instinct of man. The primal fact that meets us in this discussion is the general belief in immortality, among all men in all ages. It may be called the universal belief, because it has prevailed in the popular mind without any question. It has been called in question here and there by some theorist or speculating infidel who has followed his logic instead of his instinctive judgment; but, in general, philosophers as well as others have held, even without revelation, the doctrine of immortality. There must be sufficient reason for such a belief. It must be (1) An instinctive faith; or (2) An intuition of reason; or (3) An inheritance from an original revelation. On no other ground can its universality be explained. But from whichsoever source, it had a divine origin, which makes it an expression of His purpose concerning us.
Now we may account this general belief as quite conclusive evidence of the fact. It must spring from natural promptings of the soul, or from such innate indications of the fact of immortality that men naturally accept it. If there be no life hereafter it is difficult to see why men should be so constituted as to anticipate it. And if the anticipation is false and misleading, how could we justify such a constitution as the work of a wise and benevolent God? These considerations make the universal belief in immortality a practical proof of it. But reason comes along and greatly fortifies this primal instinct of the soul, giving additional evidences upon which the belief securely rests.
III. The voice of reason.
1. "We have," says Fairchild, "what may be called the Metaphysical argument, drawn from the existence and nature of mind as follows: Whatever exists will continue to exist unless some cause or force appears which tends to destroy it. The soul exists, and the only thing to outward appearance that threatens its continued existence is death. But death, so far as we can ascertain, operates only to dissolve the material organism; the mind being immaterial does not fall under its power. Proof of this immateriality of the soul is involved in the first elements of our knowledge; in the different attributes of matter and mind as revealed in perception. We have, as given in consciousness, the perceiver, the subject, the me, and the thing perceived, the object, the not-me. The materialistic philosophy is a pure assumption, setting aside this primary fact of consciousness.
Death, therefore, acting on the material organism, affords no presumption of the dissolution of the spiritual essence, which thinks and feels. The presumption of the continued existence of the soul must still stand. Beyond this the metaphysical argument cannot carry us. Other causes might intervene to destroy the soul, causes which lie beyond our knowledge. We cannot prove its indestructibility, but there is a balance of presumption in favor of its continued existence" (Theology, p. 49, 50).
2. As we have observed, God being the original of the soul, and of the intellectual powers with which it is endowed, it is reasonable to think that He intends for it the opportunity of a development and attainment commensurate with its powers. It is unreasonable to think to the contrary. For, without such opportunity, these marvelous powers can have no adequate and appropriate end. But the present life affords no such opportunity, being too brief and uncertain. Here the most favored can only begin the intellectual life of which we are capable. With the many there is hardly a beginning. When can it be otherwise? From the necessities of the case, the mass of mankind must be the productive toilers. Only the few can be students. Surely there is a better day ahead for these starved and hungry minds. A world of brawn must give place to a world of brain; a world of physical toil to a world of thought. God has prepared some better thing ahead for the race He has created in His own likeness.
3. Man is morally constituted. Back of all conduct is the ever-present "I ought" of the soul, putting each of us under moral obligation and responsibility. So high and exacting is this law of duty that no one can attain a perfection of life above His sense of obligation. Conscience requires us to hold our own ease, our comfort and enjoyment subordinate to the good of others and the higher ends of life. It puts duty before pleasure. It makes moral character or virtue more important than meat or drink, or happiness or life itself. It leads us to sacrifice animal enjoyments for the good of our spiritual nature, present enjoyments for future good, the present certain good of this life for the hoped for good of the life to come, our own good for the good of others, whom we shall never meet and never see this side the eternal world. Such a principle of action is not in harmony with the idea that "death ends all." "This demand upon every moral being," says Fairchild, "for self-sacrifice should carry with it the pledge of continued existence, of a real blessedness, not thus forfeited.
In a world wisely and righteously constituted a moral nature is a charter of immortality." Many believe this is such a world. They try to live a life on a moral plane, above the plain of self-gratification, strive earnestly, strive persistently, and through great sacrifice and the loftiest moral heroism, attain a noble character. They come to the end of life in possession of the divinest graces- and die! "Shall such attainments perish in death? Shall the unyielding fidelity, the enduring fortitude, the conquering heroism, the pure flame of love, the charity which makes glad the heart of many, the graces which bless the vision of angels and merit the benediction of God-shall all these perish in the hour of death? NO: reason and religion, the character of God and the interests of the moral universe, answer, "No!" There must be another life in which such graces shall still live, and such souls receive the reward of the heavenly Father, "Who is not unrighteous to forget their work and labor of love" (Heb. 6: 10) (Miley, Vol. II, p. 428).
4. Even the fact of sin points to a future, as surely as does a life of virtue. Sin itself bears witness to the godlikeness of our endowments, and the sacredness of our moral obligations. The consciousness of sin is anticipative of future retribution. Men become monsters in crime and receive little or no punishment in this life, and die in the very act of committing some awful deed of sin. Such a life is a sure prophecy of a future state of retribution. Divine equity confirms the anticipation of the awakened conscience.
5. Reason further observes that there is in man's nature a passionate desire for continued existence. This well-nigh universal aspiration for immortality persists through all stages and conditions of life. Nothing can repress it but the hopeless sense of an irrecoverable forfeiture of future well-being from a career of willful sin. But Milton represents even Satan as saying: "Who would lose, though full of pain, this intellectual being; these thoughts that wander through eternity?" And the nobler the life, the fuller of holy activities, the wider the sweep of spiritual vision, the nearer the approach to Christ in character, the closer the likeness to the divine, the more ardent is the longing for immortality. There is a shrinking from extinction of being, a dread of ceasing to be. It is found in every normal constitution, quite apart from the fear of death which involves pain, and the apprehension of possible retribution.
Such an aspiration is a prophecy of the future. It seems to answer no purpose with regard to this life; it is, therefore, reasonable to suppose it a divinely implanted craving which foretells a future existence.
6. Reason further discovers in man a capacity for indefinite progress, and a corresponding ambition for advancement in all knowledge and excellence. This, too, is full of significance. Every individual is conscious of an incomplete development, and feels that he is not all that he might have been, or might yet become. Those that have achieved the most know in their inmost souls that they have been only children playing on the shore of a boundless ocean of possible achievement. The most fruitful life, at its close may be typified by the broken column so often seen in our cemeteries that might have been built higher, to pierce the skies, if there had only been more time. Well, eternity will furnish the time and the opportunity. A creature that is to perish in death should naturally become all that he is capable of in this life, reach the limit of his being, and the full scope of his powers. The brute does; but not so with man. He always departs life with plans unfinished, with hopes unrealized, with self-appointed tasks undone; but with capacities unexhausted and amply capable of going on. Henry Buckle wrote a noble "History of Civilization," and departed life with the second volume only half completed. He died, with the pathetic cry on his lips, "O my book, my precious book is not finished!" This fact bears witness to the greatness of man, and suggests a field of endless opportunity hereafter for this child of God and heir of eternity.
7. Furthermore, there is a vitality and persistence in human affection that gives promise of life after death. It is observed that parental affection in brutes ends with the rearing of the young; it has no further purpose and fails. With man it is different. His natural affections do not wane, but strengthen with advancing years; and are often strongest in old age, in the end of life. In the Titanic disaster, before the monster ship went down, the aged Mrs. Strauss, wife of the New York multi-millionaire, refused to leave the ship, preferring death with her husband to life without him. One other woman did the same. Those women, standing on the deck of that ill fated steamer, clasped in their husbands' arms, voluntarily choosing death rather than separation, speak volumes for the immortality of the soul. Such loves are too sacred to be limited to a brief earthly life; they are an abiding prophecy of a life to come. "Without such a hope they would be a burden laid upon human nature without apparent reason." They find their only interpretation in the reality of an endless life.
8. The value of faith in immortality is an evidence of its truth. We all need it as an abiding force in this life. It seems to be essential to the highest human character,-to that self-control and restraint of passion which lead to a well-ordered life and the highest human good. Society needs it, to prompt men to all those holy philanthropies that sweeten life and relieve the sorrows of the poor and unfortunate. Without this faith, life itself seems cheap, and scarcely worth living, and the motives that prompt us to live for others and for God are immeasurably lowered.
The state needs this faith to inspire that heroic patriotism which sacrifices all on the altar of the country's good, having "respect unto the recompense of future reward." The noblest characters of history, - the soldiers who have gladly died that nations might live, the statesmen of loftiest patriotism, the benefactors of abounding charities, the missionaries of most saintly character and largest service, have all been moved and made by this sublime faith. Even Jesus, "for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross." Infidelity on this point does not beget great souls. Like the corn of wheat, men must die for others in order to live. And what can be the source of such consecration and devotion, but the sublime hope of a future life?
9. Again, as Fairchild has beautifully expressed it, "human character in its best attainment, is too costly a product to find its extinction in death. It is brought to its best estate through trial and hardship and self-sacrifice - a long course of discipline, the work of a life-time. It would seem but a poor use of so valuable and costly a product, to obliterate it when it has reached its completeness. There is nothing so costly or so valuable as a perfected human soul. Why should it be thrown away in the hour of its perfection? The hardship and discipline of life, by which this training is secured, cannot be justified but in the light of a continued existence" (Theology, p. 52).
10. The imperfect exhibition of God's moral government in this world demands to be supplemented hereafter. We live in a world of mixed providences. The good and evil dwell together. It is often unwise to separate the tares from the wheat. Evil men do not always have the punishment they deserve, and, for the time being, it is not always best that they should. The good are not always vindicated and rewarded here. They may go down in seeming disgrace and defeat.
"Right forever on the scaffold; wrong forever on the throne. But that scaffold sways the future; and behind the dim unknown, standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above His own." Herod and Nero on the throne: John the Baptist and St. Paul in the dungeon, and at the block. Hut still God reigns, and has all the future to display Himself. "Justice and judgment are the habitation of His throne." Herod and Nero will meet their desert: John and Paul will have full reward. But eternity is a necessary factor in the problem, if sin is to be punished, and righteousness rewarded, and the justice of God vindicated. The good are sustained and blessed by this hope: the wicked are oppressed with fear, - "with a certain fearful looking for of judgment." But the hopes and the fears are alike groundless, unless both the righteous and the wicked are heirs of eternity. Granted this, all will at last be well. The tangled skein of human affairs will be finally unravelled to the perfect satisfaction of an onlooking moral universe.
On such grounds as these reason brings in her verdict that man is destined to live forever. "The considerations presented sustain the doctrine of natural immortality; that is, of immortality as an attribute of the human soul, - the common birthright of man, rather than a special appointment or gift of God to a class of men" (Fair-child's Theology, p. 53.
IV. The Voice of Scripture.
When philosophers have undertaken to settle this question theoretically, they sometimes speculate themselves into doubt. Then Scripture comes in to dispel the doubt and "bring life and immortality to light." We come to the Book and ask what light God has given us on the subject. We do not ask in vain. Though there are comparatively few texts directly declaring man's immortality,, yet the spirit of it pervades the Book from beginning to end/ Miley concludes with these words: "Its truth is ever present in both Testaments, but with the clearer unfolding in the New. Without the truth of immortality the deepest, divinest verities of Christianity must be denied. No place can remain for a divine incarnation in the person of the Son of God, or for an atonement for sin in the voluntary sacrifice of Himself. If we are to perish utterly in the event of death, we need no salvation from a future wrath, no Savior who shall bring us to future wrath, no Savior who shall bring us to future blessedness. Hence it is that the central truths of our Christian soteriology mean the immortality of the soul" (Vol. II, p. 429). Thus it is that the whole Book is fragrant with the odor of this blessed truth.
But let it not be supposed that there are not many texts plainly bearing on the subject even in the Old Testament. Note some of them:
1. "And Enoch walked with God; and he was not; for God took him." This good man's translation doubtless had a meaning and a lesson for the men of his time, and they understood what it meant, and interpreted it as we do, - an evidence that he was pleasing to God (Heb. 11: 5).
2. Gen. 37: 35. "I will go down to Sheol to my son mourning." He meant that he would go to the world of spirits.
3. Gen. 25: 8. "And Abraham gave up the ghost . . . and was gathered to his people." Gen. 35: 29. "And Isaac died, and was gathered unto his people." Gen. 49: 33. "And Jacob yielded up the ghost, and was gathered unto his people." These phrases do not refer to burial, but to the fact of joining the spirits of the departed.
4. Numbers 23: 10. "Let me die the death of the righteous and let my last end be like his!" This means, "Let my final destiny be like his."
5. 2 Sam. 12: 23. "But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me." David expected to go to his child in the realm of departed spirits.
6. Ps. 73: 24-26. "Thou wilt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee. My flesh and my heart faileth, God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."
7. Eccl. 12: 7. "The dust returneth to the earth as it was, and the spirit returneth unto God who gave it."
8. 1 Sam. 28: 7. The belief in familiar spirits and the tendency to consult them is a demonstration of belief in a future life.
9. Isa. 14: 9-11. "Sheol from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming; it stirreth up the dead for thee. All they shall say art thou become like unto us?" Verse 16, "They that see thee shall gaze at thee . . . saying. Is this the man that made the earth to tremble?" This represents the reception which the cruel king of Babylon shall receive when he descends to the realms of the dead.
Such passages are numerous and prove that the belief in a future life was common to men in the ancient world. The inscriptions on the tombs, and the writings found in the mummy cases show that a future existence was the accepted doctrine of the Egyptians.
1. This is offered in Hebrews, eleventh chapter, as the explanation of the heroes of faith. Moses "had respect unto the recompense of the reward." "For he endured as seeing Him who is invisible." "These all died in faith, not having received the promises but having seen them afar off, and embraced them and confessed that they were pilgrims and strangers on the earth. . . . They desire a better country, that is an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God for He hath prepared for them a city." This is the inspired explanation of their noble lives of faith.
2. The New Testament further interprets the Old in a most convincing way. Jesus refuted the Sadducees, in Luke 20: 37, 38. "But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed . . . when he called the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Now he is not the God of the dead but of the living; for all live unto Him."
The Pharisees believed in immortality, and were the ruling sect, to which St. Paul and the great bulk of the people belonged.
3. Luke 23: 43. The dying thief was assured that that day he would be with Christ in paradise.
4. St. Paul was in a strait betwixt the two (life or death) having the desire to depart and be with Christ (Phil. 1: 23).
5. The parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16: 19-31) shows plainly what Jesus believed and taught. The thought that all lived after death was the background of all his teaching.
6. So true was this that the Apostle Paul writing to Timothy (2 Tim. 1: 10) said of "Our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death, and brought life and incorruption to light through the Gospel."
7. Acts 7: 59. The martyr Stephen, when in the agonies of death, uttered the solemn prayer, "Lord Jesus received my spirit."
8. Matt. 17: 3. "And behold there appeared unto them Moses and Elias, talking with Him." These men had already spent many centuries in the spirit world.
9. 2 Cor. 5: 6-8. "Being therefore always of good courage, and knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord (for we walk by faith, not by sight); we are of good courage, I say, and are willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be at home with the Lord." By "absence from the body," he manifestly means the separation of the soul from the body at death. Consequently, the souls of the pious dead are with the Lord; which clearly implies, that they are subjects of uninterrupted immortality. This passage is of itself sufficient to settle the question of the soul's conscious existence after death.
Moreover, as Dr. Clarke observes. "There is not the slightest intimation here, that the soul sleeps, or, rather, that there is no soul; and when the body is decomposed, that there is no more of the man till the resurrection. I mean, according to the sentiments of those who do condescend to allow us a resurrection though they deny us a soul."
Opposed to this consenting voice of Scripture is the teaching of Annihilationists. The following are some of their fundamental principles.
1. That man is wholly material. We have shown that this is but an unproved hypothesis. It is a species of infidelity, adopted by Atheists.
2. That death, as a penalty of law, consists in the annihilation of man.
3. All pass into an unconsciousness or non-existence at death, from which they will be raised at the resurrection.
4. After the general resurrection the wicked will again be annihilated, or blotted out of conscious existence the second time, which they call "the second death," or "eternal destruction." The future punishment will not be an endless preservation in misery but a total destruction or annihilation."
5. "That there is now no hell or place of torment in existence." "The fire of hell is not yet kindled, and will not be until after the wicked are raised from the dead, and the processes of the great judgment are completed."
6. "The righteous, after they are raised from a state of annihilation, shall be endowed with endless life, and rewarded with eternal blessedness in heaven."
They support these principles by a peculiar meaning given to the words "death," "destroyed," "perish," "life" and "destruction."
Upon these words we remark.
(1) The word "death," when applied to the soul does not mean annihilation, or ceasing to exist, but means separation from God, a loss of the bliss and holy state for which God destined the soul. Natural death and spiritual death are two things totally different. The phrase, "like the beasts that perish," is quoted. But the phrase plainly means no more than that those who indulge their lusts, who live only for this, and take no thought for the future, are like the beasts which are devoid of reason.
(2) Annihilationists argue, that "destroyed" and "destroy" and "destruction" means annihilation. Let us see if they do. "The king of Babylon shall destroy this land": "the land was destroyed by flies." "O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself." Job said: "Thine hands made me, yet thou dost destroy me." Did the king of Babylon annihilate Palestine? or the flies annihilate Egypt? or did God annihilate Job? or did Israel annihilate herself?
(3) "Lost." "I have found my sheep that was lost." "I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." "My son was lost, and is found." Were the sheep, and Israelites and the son annihilated?
(4) Perished. The world that then was "perished." Was it annihilated? We are still living on it. "Lord, save us, we perish." Were they afraid of annihilation?
(5) Lose. "He that saveth his life shall lose (annihilate) it, and he that loseth (annihilateth) his life for my sake shall find it." Nothing is needed but such a substitution to show the folly of their interpretation. It is its own refutation:
(6) They quote. "He that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the "Son hath not life" (1 John, 5: 12). They assert that this teaches that one has eternal life only in Christ. It is true; but they confound "eternal life," with "eternal existence," two things which are entirely distinct and which have no necessary connection. "Eternal life" is a term used in Scripture to express a super-added gift, granted to a being previously endowed with an undying soul. Christ is essentially "the eternal life." "I give unto them eternal life." It is a Divine quality of life. They had existence before. "When Christ who is our life shall appear," etc. "Life, therefore, implies all the blessings of salvation which we have in Christ. He that hath the Son hath eternal life and blessedness in Him." So men who have not Christ and die in their sins, have not eternal life; but they do not cease to have eternal existence" (Wood's "Annihilation and Universalism," pp. 99, 100).
(7) They use another passage: "God only hath immortality." But this evidently means-God only hath immortality in Himself, - absolute, independent, underived. Ours is derivative and sustained by God. If we take this passage absolutely, and accept their interpretation, it would rule out, not only the immortality of the wicked, but also of saints and angels as well. It is argued that if man has immortality why is he encouraged to seek for it as in Rom. 2:7? This answer has been given: This Greek word Aphtharsia occurs eight times in the New Testament. Twice it is rendered "sincerity," and has no reference to body or soul. In the other six passages it refers, not to the soul, but, as Parkhurst remarks, to the body. It has nothing therefore to do with the undying nature of the soul, but with the incorruptibility of the glorified body. In 1 Cor. 15, it is translated four times "incorruption" (Wood, Ibid., p. 101).
Annihilationists hold that at the resurrection the soul and the body will be reunited, and that "ages after ages both will be utterly consumed and annihilated in hell." By the second death the sinner ceases to exist.
Mr. Randles answers: "If a first death does not involve extinction, why should the second? The rashness which declares it to be extinction is, in our judgment, a sinfully presumptuous definition of a word around which the Book leaves an awful haze." . . . Eternal death as the penalty of sin, in the shape of annihilation, is an intelligible idea, but that would not be eternal punishment. The death itself, in the sense of nonexistence, would be eternal; but the punishment would be its own limitation. It must cease when there is no longer a being to receive it. We can as well conceive of a man punished a thousand years before he begins to be, as a thousand years after he has ceased to be." "Is there not something strangely incongruous in the idea of an eternal prison eternally empty, and an eternal fire without anything to burn. . . . Jesus tells us to "fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell"; and assures us that in the place of torment, "They shall be tormented day and night forever and ever. ... If the punishment be thus eternal, the word "destroy" can not mean annihilation of being, for then the punishment would cease" (quoted by Wood, pp. 101-104).
Adam Clarke says: "The first death consisted in the separation of the soul from the body for a season; the second death in the separation of body and soul forever. The first death is that from which there may be a resurrection; the second death is that from which there can be no recovery. By the first the body is destroyed during time; by the second body and soul are destroyed through eternity. Thus the sentence of the second death not only withholds all countenance from the theory of annihilation, but it is in several points directly opposed to it."
(8) They claim that the Scriptures support the doctrine of annihilation, by denying consciousness after death. In support of this they cite Psalm 146: 4, "His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish." The word "'thoughts" in the text mean purposes, or expectations, as it is given in the margin of Revised Version. It refers to the purposes or plans of this life, which do end with death.
(9) Eccl. 9: 5 and-passages that call death a sleep, are similar, and may be easily explained. The dead are oblivious to what transpires here, and no change can come to their future destiny. Moreover sleep is such an image of death, that in all languages and in all ages, death is called a sleep. It is simply a figure of speech.
(10) "David is not ascended into the heavens." So he has not, in his compound nature, soul and body. His body still awaits the resurrection.
So we might go on examining their proof-texts. "The Scripture proofs," says Mr. Randles, "adduced in favor of the doctrine of annihilation consist in passages twisted from their proper design and from their natural harmony with the analogy of faith, a process by which Scripture may be made to teach anything. It is triumphantly affirmed that hundreds of passages are contained in the Bible in favor of the notion under review. Hundreds, yes, thousands; if they may be, like most of these already considered, disjointed, distorted, and accommodated to suit the purpose of the advocate; and the same claim might be made by the most unscriptural doctrine that ever sought shelter under Biblical phraseology."
Archbishop Whately said: "In that state of existence which is to have no end, I shall still be as capable of enjoyment, and of suffering as now, and probably much more so." . . . "If we are all destined, as we are, to live forever, it is possible that the angels, good and evil, are now respectively what we shall be here after, the one part now safe from falling and eternally blessed, the other hopelessly lost."
Prof. J. Agar Beet, that great exegete and dear Christian man, in his "Last Things" tries to be so cautious and fair that he has suffered for it. He has taxed himself to stand so straight that many of us think he has leaned over backward. Yet here are some of his sentences: "The results of our research into the teaching of Paul, expressed in the words I have rendered destruction, corruption, death (are these). Of these terms, the first two are used also to describe injury of any kind, so serious as to render worthless the injured object. They are frequently used where there is no thought of the annihilation of the object injured or lost. This proves that annihilation is no part of the meaning conveyed by these words (pp. 152, 153). The third term 'death' must be interpreted by the conception of the dead prevalent when the New Testament was written. This conception did not include extinction of consciousness. . . . Beyond the assertion of their utter ruin, we have little information from the pen of the Apostle touching the state of the ruined ones. We have nothing asserting, or suggesting that they will be, even ultimately, annihilated, or that their consciousnesswill ever cease" (p. 153).
"Although life beyond the grave, is the gift of Christ to those who receive him, we saw that, since the life that He gives is much more than existence or consciousness, the loss of that life by no means implies loss of conscious existence" (p, 154).
"Outside the metaphor (of five) we are considering, the New Testament contains, as we shall see, no hint whatever that the unsaved will ever cease to be. Now metaphor, unsupported is a most uncertain basis of doctrine." "If punishment be final, this of itself is sufficient to justify the use of the metaphor of destruction by fire" (p. 164).
Professor Hyde asks, what is immortality? He answers: "No mere future existence, but that endless duration which belongs probably to the soul as spirit and to man, whether righteous or wicked, yet is brought to light only in the Gospel, and is secured with its blessings, only in union with Christ."
"Its survival after death is a doctrine that pervades the whole system of Scripture" (Laidlaw).
"There is no evidence that immortal existence was lost by sin, and is restored by faith. The presumption is that men will not only live hereafter but live forever" (Janet). "The human soul is by its very idea imperishable. No force of nature reaches the spirit. Nor can the soul be the author of its own death" (Dorner).
"Our dissatisfaction with any other solution is the blazing evidence of our immortality" (Emerson).
"Annihilation, no matter by what tremendous catastrophe preceded, cuts off the consequences of transgression, and makes the ways of the Lord unequal, who indeed 'trieth the righteous,' but does not 'plentifully reward the proud doer.' This insidious doctrine of conditional immortality by destroying one of the two eternal sanctions of an eternal law, dulls the edge of remorse, weakens the sense of guilt and postpones the necessity of repentance" (Randles).