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ON THE IMMORTALITY OF THE SOUL; OR THE SOUL'S EXISTENCE IN THE INTERMEDIATE STATE.
No one unacquainted with Universalism, according to its latest pattern, would dream of its being needful to prove the immortality of the soul, in an argument with those whose doctrines provide an eternal salvation for all men. But for reasons which will appear in the sequel, Mr. Balfour strenuously denies it. In his reply to Stuart he says, "It is my honest opinion, that the whole doctrine of future punishment, whether limited or endless, depends on this,-Is the soul immortal, and is it capable of suffering or enjoyment in an intermediate state ?" The reader then will understand, that proof of the immortality of the soul, and of the fact of its existence after death, and before the resurrection, amounts by Mr. B.'s own confession, to proof of the doctrine of future punishment.
In considering this subject, I shall for convenience sake reverse the order of subjects which Mr. B. has pursued; so that I may dispose of the less important consideration first. His last section is devoted to answering objections to his denial of of the soul's separate existence. And he promises in the outset to confine himself to such as are likely to be urged. I am willing that Mr. B. should enjoy his belief that such objections, the mere creations of his own brain, are likely to be urged, but
I am sure it will not be, till his opponents become strangely stultified. They are such objections as I never heard of, and, for the most part, such as have no relation to the subject. If Mr. B. can find amusement in building, and then slaying a man of straw, I would not deprive him of it. But it is no part of a fair and honest reasoner, to put into the mouths of his opponents, arguments whose silliness conveys an insult to their understandings, and then set himself gravely to their refutation; as if they were the main hinge of the controversy. Surely he has presumed much on the ignorance of his readers, or he would not dare hold out the pretence, that the immortality of the soul was believed on such grounds.
Mr. Balfour's fourth section of this essay, is occupied with objections, or what he calls "facts showing that the common opinion respecting a man's soul and its condition after death cannot be true." These I shall notice in their numerical order. 1. "When God created man he did not inform him that he had given him an immortal soul." Answer. That he did not we have Mr. Balfour's assertion. And if he did not, the fact proves nothing. For he did not inform him of a thousand other things which were facts notwithstanding.
2. “God has not imparted to Adam's posterity immortal souls either by gift or propagation." Answer.--This rests on Mr. B.'s bare assertion. It is an assertion that man has not an immortal soul brought as a fact to prove that he has not.
3. "God has not, during the past history of man, ever informcd him that he has given him an immortal soul which shall either suffer or enjoy in a future state." Answer.--Here again we have an assumption of the very point in dispute brought to prove that point, and need not occupy the time in refuting it. The tirade against revivals of religion and missionary exertions which is brought in to illustrate this objection, is doubtless a genuine expression of the writer's feelings, but is of little avail to prove that men have not immortal souls.
4. "We do not read in scripture of any persons in time of sickness, or near prospect of death, expressing fears that their souls after death would go to hell, and suffer endless misery."
Answer. Should we grant this assumption, the fact that God had not revealed man's immortality, by recording in his word expressions of the dying to that effect, would be no proof that he has not amply revealed it in other forms.
5. "We never read in scripture of any soul's being in heaven or hell after death." Ansiver.-Here, those who understand the scriptures as they plainly read, will differ in opinion from Mr. B., and find it hard to be convinced by such an argument.
6. "None of the persons raised from the dead intimated that their disembodied spirits, while they were dead, enjoyed happiness, suffered misery, or had conscious existence of any kind." Answer.-That God has not seen fit to record in his word any surveys of the world of spirits made by these persons, is very true; and for a very good reason. For if it had been consistent with his wisdom to lay out to our view the scenes of that world, he has more effectual means of doing it. But he chooses to deal with men now, rather through Moses and the prophets, than through those who arose from the dead. Whether, in the nature of things, it was possible for Lazarus to bring and publish reports in this world of scenes in a world of spirits, is a question which we are not interested to decide. For the fact that we have not testimony of a certain kind, does not invalidate sufficient testimony which we have of other kinds.
7. "Nothing is said in Scripture respecting the immortality of men's souls or disembodied spirits at the resurrection of the dead." 8. "Nothing is said of them after the resurrection." 9. "The term immortal is never joined in Scripture with the terms soul or spirit." Answer.-Respecting the last three, this general remark is sufficient;―That admitting the assertion true, about which different opinions will be entertained, as we understand certain passages differently, it proves nothing. It is only saying, because we have not this kind of evidence whi we choose to demand, that which we have, full and distinct as it is, is good for nothing. So much for our author's chapter of objections. If this be all that he has to object, it will surely require no great amount of positive proof to balance it.
His third section consists of a labored attempt to show that the doctrine of the soul's immortality prevailed among the heathen; and that from them it was borrowed by christians. This section, of course, will not require particular examination. For the question before us, is, whether it be or be not a doctrine of christian revelation. And this is a question wholly independent of the questions agitated in this section. Mr. B. seems to reason as if the fact that some vague notions of the soul's immortality floated about.among the heathen, was, of it- ́ self, enough to disprove the doctrine of its immortality. As well might you say, that because many heathen nations had some notion of a God, therefore the being of a God is not taught in the Bible, but was incorporated into christianity through the influence of the Platonic philosophers. I cheerfully grant, that all the more enlightened heathen nations had some ideas of the immortality of the soul, and consider it a strong proof that this doctrine was divinely communicated to man in the first ages of the world, and by tradition diffused over the world, and a proof that it is at least intimated in the law which is written in the hearts of men. But I go not to tradition nor to the law written in the heart, when I have before me the more sure word of prophecy, in which life and immortality are brought to light. The question is simply this, Is the doctrine taught in the Bible?
Mr. B.'s third section is occupied in putting down what he calls the doctrine of ghosts. Yes, the man, for purposes best known to himself, spends thirteen pages of his learned treatise in seriously arguing that apparitions, and the disembodied spirits of the departed dead, are not wont to reveal themselves to the bodily eye in this world. I wonder why he did not incorporate with his disproof of future punishment also, a dissertation upon witch-craft, and number off his objections up to eighthly, against the once popular notions of houses being haunted by evil spirits. It would have been equally instructive and pertinent.
We have now gone over all the ground of this essay except the first section. This section consists of an examination of