Faith in the Last Days - J. Thomas

I. It contravenes the Mosaic account of the Fall.

MOSES says, that God made Man "a living soul"; (Gen. 2:7) but Orthodoxy says, that God made man an "immortal soul".

God said, "In the day thou eatest of the Tree of Knowledge, dying thou shalt die "; (Gen. 2:17--Margin) but the dogmatist says, "in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt die figuratively, and thy body shall die literally; and thus thy immortal soul shall become liable to the pains of hell for ever".

God said, " Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return " (Gen. 3:19); the dogmatical theologians say, "Dust is thy body and of the Divine Essence thy soul, and unto dust shall thy mortal body return, and thy soul to me, or else to hell".

" And the Lord God said, Behold, the man has become like one of us, to know good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand and take also of the Tree of Life, and eat, and live forever; therefore, the Lord God sent him forth from the Garden of Eden ". (Gen. 3:22,23) The Dogmatists alter this to suit their systems in teaching that the pronoun "he" has reference to his body. With this emendation it should read, lest he put forth his hand and eat, and his body live for ever".

But it is easier said than proved, that a "living soul" and "an immortal soul" are identical. They are not the same; but as diverse as blood and spirit.

It is obvious, that the subject of the penalty is the violator of the law. The eater of the fruit was to die, and the sentence was consummated in the 930th year of his age; but the record says nothing of liability to the pains of hell for ever.

The expulsion of an immortal from Eden that he might not live for ever is nonsense. The truth is, Man is a living soul; that is, a living creature. He was created with a susceptibility of death or life eternal, predicated upon his own choice; which was a quality that distinguished and exalted him above all other animals. In Eden he held a position relatively to the Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Life. Death and life eternal were before him; the one the wages of sin; the other, the reward of obedience, as has been revealed. If he had been created subject to death, death would certainly not have been assigned as a punishment for eating the forbidden fruit; and had he been formed immortal from the dust, or immortality been breathed into his nostrils, eternal life would not have been connected with any thing exterior to him. The truth is, that his destiny was predicated upon his actions. He disobeyed, and, in transgressing, he came under the sentence of the Law, which said "to dust thou shalt return". This was a process of many centuries: a process which might have been interrupted. To avert this calamity, the Lord God expelled him from the Garden; for had he eaten of the Tree of Life he would have lived forever, an immortal sinner, and subject to all the ills of flesh eternally: therefore, because he had come to know evil, the Lord God drove out the man, that he might not "live forever".

2. The dogma of the immortally of the soul reduces the Mosaic account to an absurdity.

When God breathed into man's nostrils the breath of lives, say they, He imparted to him a particle of His own Essence, immaterial, and of course, of a nature kindred to Himself, and this they style the immortal soul. If this be true, what was it that sinned against God? A particle of God sinned against Himself! What became liable to the pains of hell forever? The immortal soul! Then a particle of God became liable to the pains of hell forever! Does the immortal soul in rebelling against the law of God show that it is of a kindred nature to the Deity? What is subjected to glowing torments in hell forever? The immortal soul, say divines! Then God consigns a part of Himself to eternal misery for disobeying His own appointments! If this be wisdom, it is certainly that wisdom which the scripture describes as "earthly, sensual, and devilish".

3. The dogma of the immortality of the soul necessitates a change of the words of the Spirit from their proper to a figurative signification .

It is well known, that death, destruction, corruption, perdition, etc., are all predicated of man in the scripture; and are often spoken of in connection with the events of a period subsequent to the present life. The literal and proper signification of these words is extinction of the being. But if a part of man, which is of a kindred nature to the Deity, and therefore indestructible and undying, is to be the subject of death, destruction, corruption, and perdition, it is manifest that the meaning of these words must be changed from their proper signification to some other, so as to suit the theory; for an undying soul cannot die, therefore when it is said, " The soul that sinneth, it shall die ", (Ezekiel 18:4,20) this must be understood to mean "shall live in torment". Again, an indestructible soul cannot be destroyed; hence, when, it is written of wicked souls, " Whose end is destruction ", (Philippians 3:19) it must be understood to mean "whose end is to be always destroying, but never destroyed" Again, an incorruptible soul can never be corrupt; when therefore, it says, " He that soweth to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption ", (Gal.6:8) it follows, seeing that all souls are incorruptible, that they shall never corrupt; no, not even be tainted with corruption, for then the soul would prove to be mortal.

If then, death means life in misery, and destruction, eternal life in torment, by the same legerdemain, life means life in happiness, and immortality, life. For, if life and incorruptibility be predicated of an everlasting life, it is clear that life must have some accessory idea to make the scripture harmonize with the opinions of men. Hence according to the theory of the dogmatists, the eis anastasin zoes which occurs in John 5:29, must not be rendered "to resurrection of life" but "resurrection to enjoy life"; because according to their theory, the soul is living before resurrection, so that resurrection with them is, not in order that a man may live, but that being alive his soul may be united with the dust; so that being clothed it may enjoy life.

But if man have no constitutional, or magnetic, qualities, but such as are common to him with all animals, which the scripture plainly teaches, then death, destruction, corruption, etc.; life, incorruptibility, etc., when spoken in reference to his destiny, all have their literal and proper signification. We do not mean to say that these words are never used figuratively; they are frequently so used. When a living man is said to be " dead in trespasses and sins ", (Eph. 2:1) or when it is said, " Let the dead bury the dead ", (Matt. 8:22, and Luke 9:60) it needs no uncommon sagacity to perceive that there is a metaphorical as well as a literal sense to the word "dead", etc.; but whether literally or figuratively used, their relative connexion must determine.

4. The dogma of an immortal soul is subversive of the resurrection and the judgment .

On the supposition of an immortal soul in man, it becomes, necessary to provide for a receptacle for it at death. Being, as is supposed, celestial and ethereal, it is judged incompatible with the fitness of things that it should have sepulture in common with the corruptible body. Hence, it became necessary to translate it to some more congenial system than this material world. Elysium or Paradise in Hades by the Jews and Greeks; and Heaven or the Aion Pleroma by the Orientals and Latins, were accordingly selected for the happy abode of such souls as were released from corporeal bondage in favour with the priests. From the bed of death to the everlasting region of light, where dwells Jehovah, " Whom no man hath seen or can see ", (1 Tim. 6:16) thither, it is alleged, it wends its rapid flight. Glowing are the descriptions of the beatitude of this Ideal Form which adorn the fancy sketches of "eloquent divines". It is judged at death. The fact of its translation to heaven proves its acquittal of trespasses and sins. Death is to it "the path of life" : (Ps. 16:11) "fulness of joy" (Ps. 16:11) is its portion; and "pleasures for evermore" (Ps. 16:11) its present and inestimable reward!

But, though in essence of a nature kindred to the Deity, there are some immortal, immaterial, ethereal souls, which have become contaminated, - contracted ineffaceable defilement in this world! These are vicious; irremediably infected with evil -- corrupted incorruptible souls! Such cannot inherit incorruption; another receptacle must therefore be provided for them, suited to the invincible malignity they have acquired. By some, this receptacle of wicked immortal souls is styled Tartarus, Hell, etc., which are also supposed to be in Hades, where the Devil holds his court, encircled by demons, "ghosts, and goblins damned". Some suppose it to be surrounded by a brazen wall, and its entrance continually hidden from view by a cloud of darkness, which is said to be three times more gloomy than the obscurest night. Virgil says -- and he is good authority, though a pagan, on this side of the question -- that it is surrounded by three impenetrable walls, and the impetuous and burning streams of the river Phlegethon. The entrance is by a large and lofty tower, whose gates are supported by columns of adamant, which no power, human or divine, can open. This is described as heaving within the molten surges of glowing lava, whose flaming and sulphurous fires roar with horrific blast! To this place of torment, we are told, vicious immortal souls are consigned for ever and ever. I will not undertake to detail the horrors of this "endless hell". The lovers of the terrific can be satiated with such details upon all common and special occasions elsewhere. We have said thus much concerning the place of vicious disembodied souls, that you may judge if torment can surpass this. Eternal life in burning sulphur, superadded to anguish and remorse, is the hell of the dogmatists, into which these souls, or spirits, are plunged at dissolution.

Now on the supposition that all this is true, I should like to know, what purpose would be answered by the resurrection of the mortal body to life? One says, the happiness and misery of souls is not perfected until united to the body; hence the necessity of the resurrection. This is the only hypothesis they can take refuge in; and manifestly it is of a flimsy texture. We object to this, that there is no such doctrine taught in scripture as the partial, or incomplete, happiness or misery of virtuous and vicious immortal souls in heaven and hell, immediately consequent upon dissolution. If such a dogma be taught let us have direct testimony from the prophetic and apostolic writings. If souls go to God and to the Devil at death, there is then no use in resurrection; for resurrection is life -- it is the "path of life" ; (Ps. 16:11) how then, can an immortal soul be said to arise to life, when it shall have been living in heaven for thousands of years; or a vicious soul to arise to punishment, when it has been agonizing in flames for ages?

This dogma of immediate flight to heaven or hell at dissolution necessarily flows from the supposition of an immortal soul in man. It is a part of Oriental science "falsely so called" , (1 Tim. 6:20) and was mixed up with Christianity by men "in whom the God of this world had blinded the minds of, them which believed not " (2 Cor. 4:4) (the truth in its purity); "understanding neither what they say, nor, whereof they affirm" . (1 Tim. 1:7) Their "profane vain babblings" (1 Tim. 6:20) have eaten as doth a canker; of whom were Hymenaeus and Philetus, who concerning the truth of the One Hope "erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some" . (2 Tim. 2:16-18)

Hymenaeus and Philetus appear to have been conspicuous opponents of the Apostle's doctrine. He alludes to them in 1 Tim. 6 :20, 21, and names them in his second epistle. They appear to have been professors of Oriental science, which Paul justly avers is "falsely so called" . (1 Tim. 6:20) The dogma of a translation to heaven or hell at death is one item of that profane science, by which they overthrew the faith of some in the resurrection. Their reasonings concerning the tradition of souls, he terms "profane vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called" . (1 Tim. 6:20) This "profane" or Gentile hypothesis rendered nugatory the doctrine of the resurrection; for, if souls go to heaven when the breath departs from the nostrils, what use is there in resurrection? Manifestly none! They saw this clearly, and therefore they concluded, that, all the resurrection there would be had "passed already". (2 Tim. 2:18) If Hymenaeus and Philetus were correct in their views of immortal souls, and their direct translation to heaven at death, they were, right in affirming that "there is no resurrection of the dead" ; (1 Cor. 15:12,13) but if "the truth" averred the resurrection of the dead, their hypotheses were "profane vain babblings" (1 Tim. 6:20; 2 Tim. 2:16) indeed, and "oppositions" (1 Tim. 6:20) to the truth, "of science falsely so called" : (1 Tim. 6:20) for the annunciation of a resurrection of the dead to life plainly teaches a previous interruption of man's existence for a time and a subsequent renewal thereof.

Illustrative of this view of the case of these errorists, I adduce the following fact. Justin Martyr, who was contemporary with the Apostle John, testifies that in the primitive Church they hold those not to be Christians, who maintained that souls are received into heaven immediately after death. Irenaeus ranks these professors as among the heretical; and the testimony of the church is uniform on this point down into popish times.

From this we learn, that what is orthodox now concerning souls going to heaven was regarded by the contemporaries of the Apostle as sufficiently pestilential to consign the men that held it to eternal reprobation; for if they were not to be considered as Christians, it was tantamount to excluding them from the pale of salvation.

It appears that there were persons of this class among the Corinthian Christians. "How say some among you" , Paul inquires of them, "that there is no resurrection of the dead?" (1 Cor. 15:12, 13) By what "profane vain babblings and oppositions of science falsely so called" (1 Tim. 6:20) do you arrive at so fatal a conclusion? Have Hymenaeus and Philetus been tampering with your faith? Instilling into your minds their profane legends about immortal souls, and their translation to heaven at dissolution, and thus "overthrowing" your faith in the truth, which I declared to you, concerning the resurrection of the dead? Do you not remember how ye were baptized for the dead? Have you renounced the hope? Were ye baptized for translation of souls to heaven; or in hope of the resurrection of the dead? Now pause, as if he had continued, and reflect upon the fatal consequences of adopting these vain suppositions by which the truth of the resurrection is subverted. You did believe what I declared to you concerning the resurrection of Jesus, who was the "first fruits" or earnest of that great harvest of the dead which is yet to come. But if there be no future harvest, then there are no fruits: for the first fruits argues a harvest in the field waiting to be reaped. Now if souls are immortal, and go to heaven at death, there remains in the soil only perished seed, which will never yield an increase; there is no waiting harvest -- no resurrection of the dead. And if there be no harvest of the dead, there can be no first fruits, and therefore, Jesus did not rise, but must either have perished, or gone to the everlasting region of light, according to the science and vain philosophy of the Gentiles.