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THE IMMORTALITY OF THE SOUL.
“ A man hath no pre-eminence above a beast ; for all is vanity." Ecc. iii. 19.
The language of the wise man is perfectly true, while limited to, and expressive of, the external appearance of earthly calamity and temporal death, as, doubtless, it was directly used for this purpose; but when men, who are wise above what is written, insist on Solomon's language as expressive of the sentiment that in man there is no immortality—that his life and being are as transitory, and as actually perish, as the brute creation ; they are guilty of using unjustifiable license with the Scriptures, and with the uprising and throbbing emotions of the conscious soul. It is true, that many live a life of atheism, and as though they were unblessed with a nature and destiny superior to the brute; yet all this does not warrant the shocking conclusion, that man has no immortal soul. For all this, there may lie within him, though buried and debased, mental faculties, and moral powers, and latent aspirations, which rank him with immortal beings; and when brought under religious training and proper development, he will be qualified to range over the Elysian fields of immortality, and scan the ever-varying evolutions of inexhaustible glory.
To deny that the soul is immortal and repress that grand and ever-desirable attribute of man's inner nature, is the product of deep depravity and groveling baseness. It is violence to the instincts and aspirations of the soul-it is brutish.
However, there are those who reject the doctrine of the spirituality and proper immortality of the soul. Among others, are the Socinians, who profess to believe that the soul is void of spirituality, and not capable of a separate existence; “ that man is wholly material, and that our only prospect of immortality is from the christian doctrine of a resurrection.” That many among the Universalists believe in the materiality of the mind, and deny that man is properly immortal, is a point easily proved. Perhaps, many of their preachers hold to the immortal and separate existence of the soul, and others believe it a doctrine of such small importance as unworthy of careful investigation; as A. B. Grosh, of Utica, declares. That many of the people adhere to the theory of the Scriptural doctrine on the subject, and others deny it, is unquestionable. The doctrine of materialism is variously modified and presents various phases. From rank Materialism, as advocated by Priestly and others, that matter in a certain state of organization is the only mind, man is in possession of, and that there is no such thing as a spiritual and separate substance superadded to man, we find some advocating the destruction and annihilation of all the wicked after the resurrec- * tion; and others, that man will have no conscious existence from the period of death until the resurrection, and that the immortal existence of man is not dependent on anything in himself, but wholly dependent upon the resurrection of the dead. All of these positions and modifying explanations constitute a virtual denial-of the spiritual, separate and immortal existence of the soul. How far Universalism, as it now is, harmonizes with the above views, will be seen, when we shall have drawn a comparison be. tween the writings of a number of the principal advocates
of the system of Universalism, and the foregoing principles of Materialism. . We will begin with Walter Balfour, the good and amiable man, as A. B. Grosh calls him; for he is a bold denier of the doctrine of the immortality of the soul. He is the man who has effected mighty things for Universalism, in conjunction with Hosea Ballou. They applied the plastic hand of learning and influence to Universalism, and moulded it to its present shape and position. How far they have revolutionized the mind of their fraternity, and fitted them to follow in the wake of their reformatory progress, time will yet disclose ? That they may bring the great portion of the denomination to assume their present position, may be anticipated, without seeming precipitate and harsh, from the success which has crowned their labors heretofore among their brethren.
Walter Balfour says, in reply to the Editors of the “ Olive Branch,”! “ I would then say to the Editors of that paper, if a rejection, of the doctrines of the immortality of the soul, makes me an infidel in their estimation, I would thank them to tell all the world that I have no faith in it; and that they must produce far better proof of it from the. Bible, before I can believe it. They, and all others who believe it, are nearer to heathenism and infidelity, than I am in rejecting it. I will also be obliged to them, to tell all the world, that I believe it to be a doctrine of heathen origin.” Such a testimony against the doctrine of the immortality of the soul is bold and unequivocal. Mr. Balfour declares distinctly where he may be found.
If a man can harbor such sentiments and still be fraternized by the denomination as “a good and amiable brother," then it is true, that the people either harmonize in views and feelings, or else they deem the doctrine of the immortality of the soul of but small importance. How
much better is a man, who rejects the immortality of the soul, and frowns upon this doctrine as originating in heathenism, than a downright infidel ? Yet this is the sentiment of Walter Balfour, as he has deliberately and fully expressed it. We might add a few quotations from his writings. He says in reference to man's exit from this world, and entrance into heaven, “I send no man, either good or bad, to heaven at death, nor at any period after it, until the resurrection of all the dead.” Thus, there is nothing in the nature of man which will insure existence after death, or an entrance into heaven, even if Universalism be true ; nor is there any great probability of man's existence until after the resurrection from the dead. This is an obvious denial of the immateriality and immortality of the soul, and of any conscious existence from the day of death until the resurrection morning. He asks Professor Stuart, “ Does the gospel, sir, bring to light any other life and immortality, but by a resurrection from the dead ? If it does, I will thank you to show this, for here I confess ignorance.” He adds, “I travel through both Old and New Testament in search of evidence for your immortal soul; but I can find none, that either such a soul was breathed into man, or is breathed out of any one at death.” According to the views of this teacher in Israel, no man has any pre-eminence above a brute, and he would have no more assurance of future existence than the beasts that perish, were it not for the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. These are the views of the learned champion of modern Universalism ; and there is no intelligent Universalist who will venture to deny that this is the true position of Balfour. A. B. Grosh acknowledges that Mr. B. entertains these sentiments ; but he disowns that they have a general prevalence in the denomination.
But there are others who hold the same sentiments ; and many more who are altogether unwilling to commit themselves either on the one side or the other. Mr. Hosea Ballou, at times professes his total ignorance of the future, and at other times obviously doubts the conscious existence of the soul in the intermediate state. He says, “ After all that has been said by our doctors of divinity on the subject of a future state, reason will acknowledge that they have no more knowledge concerning its particulars, than an infant child. No, they do not know for certainty that man will exist in another state. I am happy to believe in the doctrine of . the Scriptures, and to hope for immortality. beyond the grave; but as to any knowledge concerning that state, I have none.” Again he says, “ Being fully satisfied that the Scriptures teach us to believe no moral state, between the death of the body and the resurrection-state, it seemed to me immaterial whether we enter, immediately, after the dissolution of the body, on the resurrection-state, or sleep in unconscious quietude any given time before that glori-. ous event shall take place.” Here we learn, that the profound mind of Ballou, has discovered, that it is quite uncertain from Scripture, whether man shall repose in unconscious sleep after death until the resurrection, or enter immediately upon the resurrection-state ; yea, it is a doubtful matter, whether man shall have an existence in another state ; but one thing is certain, in the opinion of Mr. Ballou, that the Scriptures teach no moral state, between the dissolution of the body and the resurrection. Pray, what state must that be, where moral and rational beings can exist, without involving moral character? It cannot be a state of activity, for where activity is put forth by rational beings, there must be moral character-it cannot be a state of misery, for all misery and punishment in man is the result of moral delinquency-and it cannot be a state of bliss,