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I know all you would say to me. I went to Sundayschool the same as you did; I used to be a worker in the Church; I had my notions, as you have them now, about man's eternal destiny. I have come to the conclusion that there is no such destiny, and that, if there were, I don't seek it; it matters nothing to me. I have worked hard all my life, and my ideal can be summed up in a few sentences. It is this: To provide a competence for my five children, and then let death come as soon as it pleases. I ask for no waiting on the other side.”
Trouble has driven many people to that condition. I know some at the present hour who would be glad to feel that the evening had come, that the night would soon close down, and all their worries and their sorrows be hid in the silence of the grave.
And yet with all this there is such an interest in the subject of personal immortality that I question whether many others can compare with it in significance and importance. Men for the most part do want to live. Even some of those who say that they do not, if they could be assured that the best is true, and not the worst, would very soon change their outlook and their hopes, feelings, and desires.
“ Whatever crazy sorrow saith,
No life that breathes with human breath
It is love that speaks with the loudest tongue here. There are some people to whom life has ceased to signify much since the dearest went away. Most of
your interests now are upon the other side; you feel that the cruellest thing that ever came into your experience was Death's invasion of your home, and if you could be assured that you will see your dead again, you would not trouble very much about your personal immortality-you would be glad to think that love can never lose its own.
It is for this reason that men are always asking, and will continue to ask, in the words of Job, “If a man die, shall he live again?” I have no hesitation about the answer. No, he will not; for the simple reason that he will never die. We have the highest authority for saying this. Deathless life is in Jesus Christ. The Master of the universe, who holds the keys of death and hell, is the One who came to save mankind. The destiny of humanity is bound up with the life of Jesus Christ. To Him do you belong, not to yourself; not your own are you, but bought with a price. Jesus Christ has rights over your souls, and it is in Him that all your hope is centred, not only for yourself, but for your dear ones. If Christ were wrong in the authority He claimed and the assurance with which He spoke, it is a dismal fact for humanity to-day; but if He were right, all the best we hope for and expect is bound up in our kinship with Jesus Christ. “Because I live, ye shall live also." I will venture upon a prophecy. It is that the next great rehabilitation of the fundamentals of religion will come, not from the side of theology, but from the side of science. Theology, anyway, is no more than speculation; it always stumbles along in the wake of spiritual experience. Experience comes first and theology afterwards. My belief is that we are at the dawning of a day when the rehabilitation of the great facts of religion will come from the side of that which has hitherto been hostile to it. Moreover, I think the time is coming when our knowledge will be unified with our experience, and our highest aspiration will find justification in the known facts of our life.
There are certain great names to-day which stand out as exponents of science, and which are associated, at the same time, with a not unfriendly interest in religion. Among these I would like to mention Sir Oliver Lodge, Principal of the University of Birmingham. This great man, ex-President of the British Association, said some time ago that to him the hypothesis of a World Soul intimately and immediately concerned with ours is the best explanation of things as they are. The second volume of a work by the late F. W. H. Myers, which bears the significant title, “Human Personality, and Its Survival after Bodily Death,” contains these two passages. The first is :
“On a basis of observed facts, Christianity, the youngest of the great types of religion, does assuredly rest. Assuredly, those facts, so far as tradition has made them known to us, do tend to prove the superhuman character of its Founder and His triumph over death, and thus the existence and influence of a spiritual world where man's true citizenship lies.
The second passage is this:
“I venture now on a bold saying, for I predict that, in consequence of the new evidence, all reasonable men a century hence will believe the resurrection of Christ; whereas, in default of the new evidence, no reasonable man a century hence would have believed it.”
The second part of that statement is too strong; the former part I entirely and implicitly believe.
Again, from this side of Christian experience and this new friendly interest of science in human nature from the religious standpoint, we have derived certain great ideas.
The first is that the world itself is spiritual. What do I mean by that? I do not want to use a vague term and leave it. It may be neither matter nor mind, but it is something greater than either, and which has immediate significance for the highest of which human nature has shown itself to be capable. If we could get at the meaning of the universe, the ultimate meaning, we should find that it has an immediate bearing upon morality, our relations to one another, and to the Soul of all things. Now, if all is spirit, in that regard, if all is soul, Sir Oliver Lodge, whose soul is it that bears such an immediate moral relationship—a relationship which we cannot repudiate and with which we cannot dispense—whose is it? The answer of Christian experience comes to our aid, and says, Jesus Christ is Lord of all, the World-Soul, comes the affirmation from a quarter in which we never heard it before, is the same as He who spoke on the hillsides of Galilee and in the upper room at Jerusalem. Because I live, ye shall live also.”
The second great idea is this—that personality is the ultimate reality in the whole scheme of things. You were prior to the universe; you are a universe yourself. Every soul has infinite value-here Jesus speaks again-yours is worthy of an eternal destiny for that reason alone. I could quote Dr. Parker in saying, "Man is a soul, and he has a body.” The body is but the language of the soul. “Words, like nature, half reveal and half conceal the soul within." Moreover, life is lived in limitation. Here I will utter a sentence I will not attempt to prove or expound, which has little to do with my immediate subject. I say it and leave it. Some men are better than their bodies will let them be. Moreover, life has value in relation. You cannot live alone the best life or the highest. It is love which gives significance to the living. Take that to the very highest plane that humanity has ever known. Love of God has produced a somewhat in human character compared with which all else is dim and sordid and ugly. The witness of saintship in the world is this—that life, to be life at all, should be lived with God. It is not eating and drinking and sleeping; it is righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost. This is life eternal, that we might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.
From this point we can get farther and eagerly so. The authority of Jesus comes to our aid. He has not left us without definite witness. Observe how little the Christ ever said about the life to come, and yet how every word He spoke had immediate relation to it. “In
my Father's house are many mansions.” Suffer me to change that word, time-honoured as it is. A mansion means a big thing now; it did not mean that when King James's translators first put it down here. A mansion is a remain-sion, a place to remain in. "In My Father's home are many resting-places. If it were not so, I would have told you. I
go to prepare a place for you.” The sweet authority of Christ comes to our aid in the spiritual witness of believers. There is one type of man who never doubts personal immor