THE MISSION OF CHRIST; FUTURE REWARDS AND PUNISHMENTS

It is often charged by the sceptical world that the mission of Jesus
has thus far proved a failure, for that only about one third of the
inhabitants of the earth have ever heard the name of Christ; that of
Christian nations but a limited proportion of the inhabitants belong to
the Christian Church; and that of the church membership there is but a
limited number who so live as to entitle them to the rewards of heaven.
Measured by the common idea of what constitutes salvation, there may be
good ground for that criticism. But measured by the number of those who
believe in the immortality of the soul; by the number who have a hope
of a life beyond the grave; by the number who have a consciousness of
the existence within them of the transcendental ego; or by the number
of those who have risen, directly or indirectly, through the teachings
of Christ so far above the level of the brute creation as to have a
consciousness of the possibility of immortal life, and a consequent
hope and subjective belief in immortality,–his mission has proved the
grandest success recorded in the history of missionary effort.

It must be remembered that when he came into the world the doctrine of
immortal life held a very vague and uncertain place in the philosophy
of civilized mankind. I do not say that the doctrine of immortal
life was unknown, but it was undefined, and so tinctured with finite
conceptions, and limited by the uncertain boundaries of a hundred
different systems of fantastic philosophy, that it did not, and could
not, form a basis of rational hope or intelligent promise.

Thus, among the Chinese of that day (1), the doctrines of Confucius
held the most prominent place. His was a system which might be called a
parent-worship, in which virtue was rewarded and vice punished in the
individuals, or in their posterity, on earth, no promise of immortality
being held out. (2) The sect of Rationalists, founded by Lautsz in the
sixth century before Christ, taught the emanation of all good beings
from the Bosom of Reason, and their absorption thither for an eternal
existence, while the bad were doomed to successive births and many
sorrows. (3) Another sect held that the principle of all things is but
a vacuum,–nothing,–from which all things have sprung, and to which
all must return.

The Hindoo doctrine was substantially the same as it is now; and it is
so well known as not to require a particular statement, further than to
say that its disciples believe in successive incarnations of the soul,
and its final absorption into the incorporeal nature of Brahm.

The Persians believed in the doctrine of hell for the wicked, and of
paradise for the good; but held that all the wicked would eventually
be purified by fire. It was thought that the fires were hot enough to
purify the most abominable soul in about three days.

Herodotus tells us that the Egyptians were the first to defend the
doctrine of the immortality of the soul, and he says that they believed
in its transmigration through various animal bodies for a period of
three thousand years before its return to a human body.

Of the Grecian schools, the Pythagoreans held that the soul is
eternal,–that is, uncreated and indestructible; that no real entity
is either made or destroyed. The Eleatics held practically the same
doctrine. The Ionics taught that the soul was reabsorbed into the
Divine reason. The Stoics believed in the periodical destruction of all
things by fire, when the good will be absorbed and the wicked perish.
The Epicurean faith was well described by Paul in the phrase, “Let us
eat and drink, for to-morrow we die.” The Pyrrhonists were the sceptics
of the age, and doubted everything. Socrates taught the doctrine of
immortality for the good, the virtuous, and the wise. The incurably
bad are “hurled into Tartarus, whence they never come forth;” whilst
those who can be cured are subjected to needful punishments before
being admitted into the mansions of the blest. Plato was a Pythagorean,
with certain bizarre notions of his own, such as the migration of souls
through various brute and human forms; and he believed that even the
duration of divine work is limited.

It will thus be seen that when Jesus appeared on earth he found the
philosophy of the soul in a very chaotic state. It was his mission
to bring order out of chaos, and to proclaim the true philosophy; to
declare the conditions of immortality, and point the way to eternal
happiness. That he simplified the doctrine of immortality into a system
so plain that “the wayfaring man, though a fool, need not err therein,”
no one will deny. Its grand simplicity, when placed in contrast with
the complicated doctrines of all other systems of religious philosophy,
ancient or modern, places upon it the stamp of inherent probability;
for scientific truth is always simple and free from complication. It
was Jesus who gave the doctrine of immortality a distinct and definite
form and a permanent place in the philosophy of the civilized world. It
was he who first proclaimed the fundamental law underlying the science
of the soul. It was from his words, spoken to a few humble followers
in an obscure corner of the earth, that the doctrine has spread
throughout all the civilized world. From the centres of civilization
the Church has sent its missionaries, its representatives of the
Master, among all peoples, civilized and savage, preaching the gospel
of immortality to all mankind. Its influence is not confined to those
who believe in the tenets of the Christian Church, nor even to those
who have heard the name of Christ. It has spread, through some subtle,
unseen power and potency, until it permeates every fibre of human
society, and constitutes the promise of every religion, the hope of all
humanity.

I have, in other chapters, pointed out some of the proofs which science
affords of the doctrine of immortality, and of the verity of the
history of Jesus of Nazareth. I have shown that every known fact which
bears upon the subject points to the continued life of the soul after
the death of the body. I have shown that the discoveries of modern
science demonstrate the fact that Jesus was in possession of a complete
knowledge of the science of the soul in its relations to its physical
environment. I have shown that all known facts bearing upon the subject
go to prove that he also had a knowledge of its laws in its relations
to a purely spiritual existence.

We have then, _first_, an array of demonstrable facts which
irresistibly lead to the conclusion that the soul survives the body;
_secondly_, another array of facts which prove that it was possible
for an exceptionally endowed person to perceive the laws of the
soul; _thirdly_, an array of facts which demonstrate that Jesus did
understand those laws as far as they pertain to the soul’s relations
to the physical man; _fourthly_, we have facts which show that he
understood the laws of the soul in its relations to the spiritual
world, and the essential conditions of its conscious existence after
the death of the body; and _fifthly_, we have in the New Testament a
record of the acts which demonstrated his knowledge of the subject,
as well as of his solemn and repeated declarations of the laws which
pertain to that subject.

When we consider together all these cumulative proofs, it may safely
be said that there are few principles of nature that are more clearly
established by inductive processes of reasoning than is the principle
of immortality.

Having established this proposition, it remains only to consider
Christ’s doctrine of future rewards and punishments. Obviously, this
is a more difficult question to handle, for the reason that there
are necessarily few facts known to mankind which can be considered
scientifically demonstrative of any proposition which has been made
by any one on that subject. Nevertheless, if there is one known fact
which confirms his declarations on that question, and at the same time
satisfies the demands of human reason and the common sense of Divine
Justice, we may safely conclude that the Christian religion rests upon
a purely scientific basis.

The first important fact which confronts us in considering this branch
of the subject is, that Jesus said very little on the subject. It was
obviously impossible for him to convey to the human mind any adequate
knowledge or idea of the actual conditions of a spiritual existence.
He was hedged about by the limitations of human speech and the finite
understanding of his followers. His descriptions, therefore, of the
places of future rewards and punishments were necessarily limited to
material conceptions. He could effectively employ no other symbolism
than that with which his hearers were familiar and which they could
appreciate. He had taught them in plain and unmistakable terms the
conditions upon which the soul could attain a conscious existence;
and having done that, his mission was thenceforth a moral one. Having
taught them how to attain eternal life, he taught them so to conduct
their lives in this world as to entitle them to the joys of that life.
It was no part of his mission to reconstruct the accepted geography of
the world of spirits, for it could only add confusion to their crude
conceptions. His parables were drawn from the objects and incidents of
their every-day life, and were necessarily limited in their application
to a spiritual existence. His only object was to enforce a code of
morals founded upon the eternal principles of right and justice,
simple in terms, and adapted to their comprehension, but grand in its
simplicity, and adapted to the varying conditions of human society for
all time.

The question now is, What is to be considered the doctrine of future
rewards and punishments to be gathered from the New Testament? It is
clear that we must reject all material conceptions of both heaven and
hell. It follows that the punishment must be a moral one, since there
is no material entity to be dealt with. The sense of justice inherent
in all mankind would seem to indicate that the punishment shall be
commensurate with the offence. It must be assumed, therefore, that the
true doctrine is expressed in Romans ii. 6, where it is said that God
will “_render to every man according to his deeds_.”

This satisfies the finite sense of justice, and perfectly accords
with the highest human conceptions of the character of a God of love,
mercy, and justice. The good man would ask nothing more, the bad could
expect nothing less. Reasoning from analogy would lead to the same
conclusion. We know from daily experience that every violation of the
laws of our physical nature is followed inevitably by its adequate
punishment. We have a right to suppose, therefore, that every violation
of moral and spiritual law will be followed by its appropriate penalty.
We know, indeed, from what we have seen of the teachings of Christ,
that spiritual penalties follow a violation of spiritual law. In other
words, the law of suggestion follows the soul across the boundaries
of eternity. Spiritual death is the inevitable result of spiritual
unbelief. It is not a vindictive punishment, it is the fundamental law
of spiritual life. Just as the spirit quickens the flesh, so does faith
quicken the spirit.

Again, we find a spiritual penalty following a violation of spiritual
law in what Christ taught regarding the sin against the Holy Ghost.
Just what that sin consists of, never has been satisfactorily defined.
We are told that it is a sin which cannot be forgiven. It must,
therefore, consist of a violation of some fundamental law of the
soul’s existence, the penalty for which is inevitable according to the
fixed laws of God. It cannot be a moral offence, consisting simply
in wrong-doing, for such sins can be atoned for. A moral offence so
gross that a God of infinite mercy and love cannot forgive it, and, if
the Scriptures are to be believed, does not stand ready to forgive it
when proper atonement is made, cannot be conceived. Nor has it been
mentioned in Holy Writ. We are therefore forced to the conclusion that,
as before remarked, the sin against the Holy Ghost must consist of a
violation of the fundamental law of the soul’s existence. It must,
therefore, be the sin of unbelief, and consist of a blasphemous denial
of the existence of the soul and its Father, God. This would be in
strict accordance with the fundamental law of suggestion, as it has
been scientifically demonstrated to exist. The emphatic and persistent
denial of the soul’s existence must eventually prove to be a suggestion
so strong as to overcome its instinctive belief in its own existence,
and thus neutralize its instinctive desire for immortal life. It would,
therefore, have the same effect as unbelief arising from a want of
knowledge, or a lack of the intellectual power to conceive the idea of
immortality. The soul, in either case, could not have a consciousness
of its own existence or individuality.

It may be asked, What becomes of the soul when deprived of a conscious
existence? Does it actually die, disintegrate, and return to its
original elements? Is it possible that a human soul, created by God
and endowed with the power and potency of immortal life, can fail of
accomplishing its mission, and become extinct? Can a segregated portion
of the Divine essence, once individualized, ever perish or lose its
identity? All these questions, and more, will be asked. I do not know.
Perhaps it is reincarnated. I do not know anything about reincarnation.
I know as much about it, however, as any one else knows. I mean by
this that no one can be said to know anything about the truth of any
proposition that has not underlying it a substratum of demonstrable
fact. The theory of reincarnation has no such basis; and I shall not,
therefore, indulge in speculation on the subject further than to say
that it is possibly true that reincarnation is the process of the
soul’s evolution. If so, reasoning from analogy, I should say that
the process ceases when the soul reaches the status of a conscious
existence. In the physical world we see that the process of evolution
has gone forward progressively from the lowest form of animal life up
to man. There the process ceases. All further progress is in the line
of improvement in the human race. No higher type of animal life is
developed, and in our pride of manhood we believe that there never can
be any higher animal existence. It may, therefore, be true that the
progress of a soul is through reincarnation from the lower animal life
to the higher, until it reaches the human; and that it may still go on
in the lower grades of human organisms until it reaches the dignity of
a conscious human soul. Having reached that point, the law of progress
will expend its force in carrying it forward to its ultimate destiny.
Considered as the process of the soul’s evolution, the necessity for
further reincarnation apparently no longer exists after the soul has
attained the power and potency of a conscious, self-existent entity.

I throw out this suggestion for the benefit of those spiritistic
mediums and other trance-seers who have found out so much more than
Jesus knew about the internal economy of the spiritual world and the
laws which pertain to spiritual existence. But this is a digression
into the forbidden field of speculation without facts.




The common experience of mankind demonstrates the proposition that
appropriate physical penalties are the necessary result of a violation
of physical laws; and it has been shown from the teachings of Jesus,
confirmed by the inductions of science, that the violation of the
laws of spiritual existence is followed by inevitable spiritual
penalties. It now remains to be considered what facts are known to
science which will confirm the doctrine that moral punishment will
follow the infraction of moral laws, in exact accordance “with the
deeds done in the body.” In order to do so intelligently, we must
first briefly consider the question as to what the nature of the
punishments and rewards must be. It being manifestly impossible for us
to know, affirmatively, the particular modes of spiritual existence,
we can arrive at a conclusion only by the method of exclusion. We
must, therefore, begin by excluding all idea of material penalties or
rewards. All such conceptions of spiritual life must be relegated to
the dark ages of human intelligence, when man was able to conceive
of no joy apart from physical pleasure, and no punishment other than
physical suffering. Our conceptions must, therefore, be limited by
what we know of the nature and attributes of the soul, as exhibited
through phenomena. The first question, then, is, What do we know of the
attributes of the soul?

We know, first, that it is the seat of the emotions. It is therefore
capable of being rewarded or punished through the natural affections.

Secondly, we know that it possesses the inherent power of perception
of the laws of nature and of God, including the eternal, God-ordained
principles of right and wrong. It will, therefore, after its release
from the body, be able to estimate the value of every good deed, and
realize the inherent infamy of every wrong one, as weighed in the
scales of Eternal Justice.

Thirdly and lastly, we know of one attribute and power of the human
soul more pregnant with weal or woe, with joy or sorrow, than all the
others combined; and that is its perfect memory.

These are the essential things that we know of the soul from the
observation of phenomena. Our conceptions of it, therefore, are limited
to its intellectual, moral, and emotional attributes. We know it only
as an intellectual entity, and our conceptions of the rewards and
punishments adequate to the ends of Divine Justice must be limited
accordingly.

Little need be said in explanation of the trend of this brief summary.
The conclusions are obvious. We have before us an intellectual entity
capable of experiencing all the natural emotions of humanity, of joy
and sorrow, of love and friendship; endowed with a perfect perception
of the principles of right and wrong, and consequently in possession of
an awakened conscience more keenly alive and active than the objective
mind can conceive, and possessing a memory so perfect that every good
and every bad deed of its whole earthly existence is constantly before
it like a vast panorama. What greater reward could such a being ask or
experience than would be found in the contemplation of a well-spent
life? What greater punishment than the remorse of conscience arising
from the ever-persistent memory of a life of wickedness and crime?

It is obvious that both rewards and punishments are adequate and exact,
and that God will “render to every man according to his deeds,” by and
through the operation of his immutable, unchanging laws.

I have now summarized enough of the leading points in the history of
Jesus of Nazareth and of his doctrines, and compared them with known
phenomena with sufficient particularity to show that the inductions of
modern science demonstrate the essential truth of the history of his
physical manifestations, and to prove, as far as inductive reasoning
from known phenomena can prove anything not physically demonstrable,
the truth of every essential doctrine of his spiritual philosophy.
I have by no means exhausted the subject, for the New Testament is
full of passages confirmatory of the view I have taken. It is true
that I have interpreted the passages relating to the conditions
precedent to the attainment of immortal life in a way in which they
have never before been interpreted; but in doing so I have harmonized
that which has heretofore seemed incongruous, and have thus removed a
stumbling-block from the pathway of scepticism. I have no fear that
even prejudice will find fault with my interpretation; for it not only
leaves the essential doctrines relating to rewards and punishments
uncontradicted, but it affords strong confirmation of their essential
truth. Moreover, my interpretation is confirmed by the facts of modern
science, and must, therefore, shed a new lustre upon the name and
attributes of Jesus, demonstrating, as it does, the accuracy of his
knowledge of the laws of the soul.

It has been but a few years since the researches of science began to
furnish facts confirmatory of the history and doctrines of Christ;
but it has come to pass that every new fact discovered, and every new
principle evolved, weakens the foundation of every other religious
superstructure, and adds strength and harmony of proportions to that
erected by the man of Nazareth.

It may, therefore, be now confidently asserted that Christianity
possesses that to which no other system of religion can lay a valid
claim; namely, a sound scientific basis.