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Title: Eternal Life
Author: Drummond, Henry, 1851-1897
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Eternal Life

    By Professor

Henry Altemus

Copyright 1896 by Henry Altemus.


"This is Life Eternal--that they might know Thee, the True God, and
Jesus Christ whom Thou has sent."--_Jesus Christ_.

"Perfect correspondence would be perfect life. Were there no changes in
the environment but such as the organism had adapted changes to meet,
and were it never to fail in the efficiency with which it met them,
there would be eternal existence and eternal knowledge."--_Herbert

ONE of the most startling achievements of recent science is a definition
of Eternal Life. To the religious mind this is a contribution of immense
moment. For eighteen hundred years only one definition of Life Eternal
was before the world. Now there are two.

Through all these centuries revealed religion had this doctrine to
itself. Ethics had a voice, as well as Christianity, on the question of
the _summum bonum_; Philosophy ventured to speculate on the Being of a
God. But no source outside Christianity contributed anything to the
doctrine of Eternal Life. Apart from Revelation, this great truth was
unguaranteed. It was the one thing in the Christian system that most
needed verification from without, yet none was forthcoming. And never
has any further light been thrown upon the question why in its very
nature the Christian Life should be Eternal. Christianity itself even
upon this point has been obscure. Its decision upon the bare fact is
authoritative and specific. But as to what there is in the Spiritual
Life necessarily endowing it with the element of Eternity, the maturest
theology is all but silent.

It has been reserved for modern biology at once to defend and illuminate
this central truth of the Christian faith. And hence in the interests of
religion, practical and evidential, this second and scientific
definition of Eternal Life is to be hailed as an announcement of
commanding interest. Why it should not yet have received the recognition
of religious thinkers--for already it has lain some years unnoticed--is
not difficult to understand. The belief in Science as an aid to faith is
not yet ripe enough to warrant men in searching there for witnesses to
the highest Christian truths. The inspiration of Nature, it is thought,
extends to the humbler doctrines alone. And yet the reverent inquirer
who guides his steps in the right direction may find even now in the
still dim twilight of the scientific world much that will illuminate and
intensify his sublimest faith. Here, at least, comes, and comes
unbidden, the opportunity of testing the most vital point of the
Christian system. Hitherto the Christian philosopher has remained
content with the scientific evidence against Annihilation. Or, with
Butler, he has reasoned from the Metamorphoses of Insects to a future
life. Or again, with the authors of "The Unseen Universe," the apologist
has constructed elaborate, and certainly impressive, arguments upon the
Law of Continuity. But now we may draw nearer. For the first time
Science touches Christianity _positively_ on the doctrine of
Immortality. It confronts us with an actual definition of an Eternal
Life, based on a full and rigidly accurate examination of the necessary
conditions. Science does not pretend that it can fulfil these
conditions. Its votaries make no claim to possess the Eternal Life. It
simply postulates the requisite conditions without concerning itself
whether any organism should ever appear, or does now exist, which might
fulfil them. The claim of religion, on the other hand, is that there are
organisms which possess Eternal Life. And the problem for us to solve is
this: Do those who profess to possess Eternal Life fulfil the conditions
required by Science, or are they different conditions? In a word, Is the
Christian conception of Eternal Life scientific?

It may be unnecessary to notice at the outset that the definition of
Eternal Life drawn up by Science was framed without reference to
religion. It must indeed have been the last thought with the thinker to
whom we chiefly owe it, that in unfolding the conception of a Life in
its very nature necessarily eternal, he was contributing to Theology.

Mr. Herbert Spencer--for it is to him we owe it--would be the first to
admit the impartiality of his definition; and from the connection in
which it occurs in his writings, it is obvious that religion was not
even present to his mind. He is analyzing with minute care the relations
between Environment and Life. He unfolds the principle according to
which Life is high or low, long or short. He shows why organisms live
and why they die. And finally he defines a condition of things in which
an organism would never die--in which it would enjoy a perpetual and
perfect Life. This to him is, of course, but a speculation. Life Eternal
is a biological conceit. The conditions necessary to an Eternal Life do
not exist in the natural world. So that the definition is altogether
impartial and independent. A Perfect Life, to Science, is simply a thing
which is theoretically possible--like a Perfect Vacuum.

Before giving, in so many words, the definition of Mr. Herbert Spencer,
it will render it fully intelligible if we gradually lead up to it by a
brief rehearsal of the few and simple biological facts on which it is
based. In considering the subject of Death, we have formerly seen that
there are degrees of Life. By this is meant that some lives have more
and fuller correspondence with Environment than others. The amount of
correspondence, again, is determined by the greater or less complexity
of the organism. Thus a simple organism like the Amoeba is possessed of
very few correspondences. It is a mere sac of transparent structureless
jelly for which organization has done almost nothing, and hence it can
only communicate with the smallest possible area of Environment. An
insect, in virtue of its more complex structure, corresponds with a
wider area. Nature has endowed it with special faculties for reaching
out to the Environment on many sides; it has more life than the Amoeba.
In other words, it is a higher animal. Man again, whose body is still
further differentiated, or broken up into different correspondences,
finds himself _en rapport_ with his surroundings to a further extent.
And therefore he is higher still, more living still. And this law, that
the degree of Life varies with the degree of correspondence, holds to
the minutest detail throughout the entire range of living things. Life
becomes fuller and fuller, richer and richer, more and more sensitive
and responsive to an ever-widening Environment as we rise in the chain
of being.

Now it will speedily appear that a distinct relation exists, and must
exist, between complexity and longevity. Death being brought about by
the failure of an organism to adjust itself to some change in the
Environment, it follows that those organisms which are able to adjust
themselves most readily and successfully will live the longest. They
will continue time after time to effect the appropriate adjustment, and
their power of doing so will be exactly proportionate to their
complexity--that is, to the amount of Environment they can control with
their correspondences. There are, for example, in the Environment of
every animal certain things which are directly or indirectly dangerous
to Life. If its equipment of correspondences is not complete enough to
enable it to avoid these dangers in all possible circumstances, it must
sooner or later succumb. The organism then with the most perfect set of
correspondences, that is, the highest and most complex organism, has an
obvious advantage over less complex forms. It can adjust itself more
perfectly and frequently. But this is just the biological way of saying
that it can live the longest. And hence the relation between complexity
and longevity may be expressed thus--the most complex organisms are the
longest lived.

To state and illustrate the proposition conversely may make the point
still further clear. The less highly organized an animal is, the less
will be its chance of remaining in lengthened correspondence with its
Environment. At some time or other in its career circumstances are sure
to occur to which the comparatively immobile organism finds itself
structurally unable to respond. Thus a _Medusa_ tossed ashore by a wave,
finds itself so out of correspondence with its new surroundings that its
life must pay the forfeit. Had it been able by internal change to adapt
itself to external change--to correspond sufficiently with the new
environment, as for example to crawl, as an eel would have done, back
into that environment with which it had completer correspondence--its
life might have been spared. But had this happened it would continue to
live henceforth only so long as it could continue in correspondence with
all the circumstances in which it might find itself. Even if, however,
it became complex enough to resist the ordinary and direct dangers of
its environment, it might still be out of correspondence with others. A
naturalist for instance, might take advantage of its want of
correspondence with particular sights and sounds to capture it for his
cabinet, or the sudden dropping of a yacht's anchor or the turn of a
screw might cause its untimely death.

Again, in the case of a bird in virtue of its more complex organization,
there is command over a much larger area of environment. It can take
precautions such as the _Medusa_ could not; it has increased facilities
for securing food; its adjustments all round are more complex; and
therefore it ought to be able to maintain its Life for a longer period.
There is still a large area, however, over which it has no control. Its
power of internal change is not complete enough to afford it perfect
correspondence with all external changes, and its tenure of Life is to
that extent insecure. Its correspondence, moreover, is limited even with
regard to those external conditions with which it has been partially
established. Thus a bird in ordinary circumstances has no difficulty in
adapting itself to changes of temperature, but if these are varied
beyond the point at which its capacity of adjustment begins to fail--for
example, during an extreme winter--the organism being unable to meet the
condition must perish. The human organism, on the other hand, can
respond to this external condition, as well as to countless other
vicissitudes under which lower forms would inevitably succumb. Man's
adjustments are to the largest known area of Environment, and hence he
ought to be able furthest to prolong his Life.

It becomes evident, then, that as we ascend in the scale of Life we rise
also in the scale of longevity. The lowest organisms are, as a rule,
shortlived, and the rate of mortality diminishes more or less regularly
as we ascend in the animal scale. So extraordinary indeed is the
mortality among lowly-organized forms that in most cases a compensation
is actually provided, nature endowing them with a marvellously increased
fertility in order to guard against absolute extinction. Almost all
lower forms are furnished not only with great reproductive powers, but
with different methods of propagation, by which, in various
circumstances, and in an incredibly short time, the species can be
indefinitely multiplied. Ehrenberg found that by the repeated
subdivisions of a single _Paramecium_, no fewer than 268,000,000 similar
organisms might be produced in one month. This power steadily decreases
as we rise higher in the scale, until forms are reached in which one,
two, or at most three, come into being at a birth. It decreases, however
because it is no longer needed. These forms have a much longer lease of
Life. And it may be taken as a rule, although it has exceptions, that
complexity in animal organisms is always associated with longevity.

It may be objected that these illustrations are taken merely from morbid
conditions. But whether the Life be cut short by accident or by disease
the principle is the same. All dissolution is brought about practically
in the same way. A certain condition in the Environment fails to be met
by a corresponding condition in the organism, and this is death. And
conversely the more an organism in virtue of its complexity can adapt
itself to all the parts of its Environment, the longer it will live. "It
is manifest _a priori_," says Mr. Herbert Spencer, "that since changes
in the physical state of the environment, as also those mechanical
actions and those variations of available food which occur in it, are
liable to stop the processes going on in the organism; and since the
adaptive changes in the organism have the effects of directly or
indirectly counterbalancing these changes in the environment, it follows
that the life of the organism will be short or long, low or high,
according to the extent to which changes in the environment are met by
corresponding changes in the organism. Allowing a margin for
perturbations, the life will continue only while the correspondence
continues; the completeness of the life will be proportionate to the
completeness of the correspondence; and the life will be perfect only
when the correspondence is perfect." [1]

[1] "Principles of Biology," p. 82.

We are now all but in sight of our scientific definition of Eternal
Life. The desideratum is an organism with a correspondence of a very
exceptional kind. It must lie beyond the reach of those "mechanical
actions" and those "variations of available food," which are "liable to
stop the processes going on in the organism." Before we reach an Eternal
Life we must pass beyond that point at which all ordinary
correspondences inevitably cease. We must find an organism so high and
complex, that at some point in its development it shall have added a
correspondence which organic death is powerless to arrest. We must, in
short, pass beyond that finite region where the correspondences depend
on evanescent and material media, and enter a further region where the
Environment corresponded with is itself Eternal. Such an Environment
exists. The Environment of the Spiritual world is outside the influence
of these "mechanical actions," which sooner or later interrupt the
processes going on in all finite organisms. If then we can find an
organism which has established a correspondence with the spiritual
world, that correspondence will possess the elements of eternity--
provided only one other condition be fulfilled.

That condition is that the Environment be perfect. If it is not perfect,
if it is not the highest, if it is endowed with the finite quality of
change, there can be no guarantee that the Life of its correspondents
will be eternal. Some change might occur in it which the correspondents
had no adaptive changes to meet, and Life would cease. But grant a
spiritual organism in perfect correspondence with a perfect spiritual
Environment, and the conditions necessary to Eternal Life are satisfied.

The exact terms of Mr. Herbert Spencer's definition of Eternal Life may
now be given. And it will be seen that they include essentially the
conditions here laid down. "Perfect correspondence would be perfect
life. Were there no changes in the environment but such as the organism
had adapted changes to meet, and were it never to fail in the efficiency
with which it met them, there would be eternal existence and eternal
knowledge." [1] Reserving the question as to the possible fulfilment of
these conditions, let us turn for a moment to the definition of Eternal
Life laid down by Christ. Let us place it alongside the definition of
Science, and mark the points of contact. Uninterrupted correspondence
with a perfect Environment is Eternal Life according to Science. "This
is Life Eternal," said Christ, "that they may know Thee, the only true
God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou has sent." [2] Life Eternal is to know
God. To know God is to "correspond" with God. To correspond with God is
to correspond with a Perfect Environment. And the organism which attains
to this, in the nature of things must live for ever. Here is "eternal
existence and eternal knowledge."

[1] "Principles of Biology," p. 88.
[2] John xvii.

The main point of agreement between the scientific and the religious
definition is that Life consists in a peculiar and personal relation
defined as a "correspondence." This conception, that Life consists in
correspondences, has been so abundantly illustrated already that it is
now unnecessary to discuss it further. All Life indeed consists
essentially in correspondences with various Environments. The artist's
life is a correspondence with art; the musician's with music. To cut
them off from these Environments is in that relation to cut off their
Life. To be cut off from all Environment is death. To find a new
Environment again and cultivate relation with it is to find a new Life.
To live is to correspond, and to correspond is to live. So much is true
in Science. But it is also true in Religion. And it is of great
importance to observe that to Religion also the conception of Life is a
correspondence. No truth of Christianity has been more ignorantly or
wilfully travestied than the doctrine of Immortality. The popular idea,
in spite of a hundred protests, is that Eternal Life is to live forever.
A single glance at the _locus classicus_, might have made this error
impossible. There we are told that Life Eternal is not to live. This is
Life Eternal--_to know_. And yet--and it is a notorious instance of the
fact that men who are opposed to Religion will take their conceptions of
its profoundest truths from mere vuglar perversions--this view still
represents to many cultivated men the Scriptural doctrine of Eternal
Life. From time to time the taunt is thrown at Religion, not unseldom
from lips which Science ought to have taught more caution, that the
Future Life of Christianity is simply a prolonged existence, an eternal
monotony, a blind and indefinite continuance of being. The Bible never
could commit itself to any such empty platitude; nor could Christianity
ever offer to the world a hope so colorless. Not that Eternal Life has
nothing to do with everlastingness. That is part of the conception. And
it is this aspect of the question that first arrests us in the field of
Science. But even Science has more in its definition than longevity. It
has a correspondence and an Environment; and although it cannot fill up
these terms for Religion, it can indicate at least the nature of the
relation, the kind of thing that is meant by Life. Science speaks to us
indeed of much more than numbers of years. It defines degrees of Life.
It explains a widening Environment. It unfolds the relation between a
widening Environment and increasing complexity in organisms. And if it
has no absolute contribution to the content of Religion, its analogies
are not limited to a point. It yields to Immortality, and this is the
most that Science can do in any case, the broad framework for a

The further definition, moreover, of this correspondence as _knowing_ is
in the highest degree significant. Is not this the precise quality in an
Eternal correspondence which the analogies of Science would prepare us
to look for? Longevity is associated with complexity. And complexity in
organisms is manifested by the successive addition of correspondences,
each richer and larger than those which have gone before. The
differentiation, therefore, of the spiritual organism ought to be
signalized by the addition of the highest possible correspondence. It is
not essential to the idea that the correspondence should be altogether
novel; it is necessary rather that it should not. An altogether new
correspondence appearing suddenly without shadow or prophecy would be a
violation of continuity. What we should expect would be something new,
and yet something that we were already prepared for. We should look for
a further development in harmony with current developments; the
extension of the last and highest correspondence in a new and higher
direction. And this is exactly what we have. In the world with which
biology deals, Evolution culminates in Knowledge.

At whatever point in the zoological scale this correspondence, or set of
correspondences, begins, it is certain there is nothing higher. In its
stunted infancy merely, when we meet with its rudest beginnings in
animal intelligence, it is a thing so wonderful, as to strike every
thoughtful and reverent observer with awe. Even among the invertebrates
so marvellously are these or kindred powers displayed, that naturalists
do not hesitate now, on the ground of intelligence at least, to classify
some of the humblest creatures next to man himself. [1] Nothing in
nature, indeed, is so unlike the rest of nature, so prophetic of what is
beyond it, so supernatural. And as manifested in Man who crowns creation
with his all-embracing consciousness, there is but one word to describe
his knowledge; it is Divine. If then from this point there is to be any
further Evolution, this surely must be the correspondence in which it
shall take place? This correspondence is great enough to demand
development; and yet it is little enough to need it. The magnificence of
what it has achieved relatively, is the pledge of the possibility of
more; the insignificance of its conquest absolutely involves the
probability of still richer triumphs. If anything, in short, in humanity
is to go on it must be this. Other correspondences may continue
likewise; others, again, we can well afford to leave behind. But this
cannot cease. This correspondence--or this set of correspondences, for
it is very complex--is it not that to which men with one consent would
attach Eternal Life? Is there anything else to which they would attach
it? Is anything better conceivable, anything worthier, fuller, nobler,
anything which would represent a higher form of Evolution or offer a
more perfect ideal for an Eternal Life?

[1] _Vide_ Sir John Lubbock's "Ants, Bees, and Wasps," pp. 1, 181.

But these are questions of quality; and the moment we pass from quantity
to quality we leave Science behind. In the vocabulary of Science,
Eternity is only the fraction of a word. It means mere everlastingness.
To Religion, on the other hand, Eternity has little to do with time. To
correspond with the God of Science, the Eternal Unknowable, would be
everlasting existence; to correspond with "the true God and Jesus
Christ," is Eternal Life. The quality of the Eternal Life alone makes
the heaven; mere everlastingness might be no boon. Even the brief span
of the temporal life is too long for those who spend its years in
sorrow. Time itself, let alone Eternity, is all but excruciating to
Doubt. And many besides Schopenhauer have secretly regarded
consciousness as the hideous mistake and malady of Nature. Therefore we
must not only have quantity of years, to speak in the language of the
present, but quality of correspondence. When we leave Science behind,
this correspondence also receives a higher name. It becomes communion.
Other names there are for it, religious and theological. It may be
included in a general expression, Faith; or we may call it by a personal
and specific term, Love. For the knowing of a Whole so great involves
the co-operation of many parts.

Communion with God--can it be demonstrated in terms of Science that this
is a correspondence which will never break? We do not appeal to Science
for such a testimony. We have asked for its conception of an Eternal
Life; and we have received for answer that Eternal Life would consist in
a correspondence which should never cease, with an Environment which
should never pass away. And yet what would Science demand of a perfect
correspondence that is not met by this, _the knowing of God?_ There is
no other correspondence which could satisfy one at least of the
conditions. Not one could be named which would not bear on the face of
it the mark and pledge of its mortality. But this, to know God, stands
alone. To know God, to be linked with God, to be linked with Eternity--
if this is not the "eternal existence" of biology, what can more nearly
approach it? And yet we are still a great way off--to establish a
communication with the Eternal is not to secure Eternal Life. It must be
assumed that the communication could be sustained. And to assume this
would be to beg the question. So that we have still to prove Eternal
Life. But let it be again repeated, we are not here seeking proofs. We
are seeking light. We are merely reconnoitering from the furthest
promontory of Science if so be that through the haze we may discern the
outline of a distant coast and come to some conclusion as to the
possibility of landing.

But, it may be replied, it is not open to any one handling the question
of Immortality from the side of Science to remain neutral as to the
question of fact. It is not enough to announce that he has no addition
to make to the positive argument. This may be permitted with reference
to other points of contact between Science and Religion, but not with
this. We are told this question is settled--that there is no positive
side. Science meets the entire conception of Immortality with a direct
negative. In the face of a powerful consensus against even the
possibility of a Future Life, to content oneself with saying that
Science pretended to no argument in favor of it would be at once
impertinent and dishonest. We must therefore devote ourselves for a
moment to the question of possibility.

The problem is, with a material body and a mental organization
inseparably connected with it, to bridge the grave. Emotion, volition,
thought itself, are functions of the brain. When the brain is impaired,
they are impaired. When the brain is not, they are not. Everything
ceases with the dissolution of the material fabric; muscular activity
and mental activity perish alike. With the pronounced positive
statements on this point from many departments of modern Science we are
all familiar. The fatal verdict is recorded by a hundred hands and with
scarcely a shadow of qualification. "Unprejudiced philosophy is
compelled to reject the idea of an individual immortality and of a
personal continuance after death. With the decay and dissolution of its
material substratum, through which alone it has acquired a conscious
existence and become a person, and upon which it was dependent, the
spirit must cease to exist." [l] To the same effect, Vogt: "Physiology
decides definitely and categorically against individual immortality, as
against any special existence of the soul. The soul does not enter the
foetus like the evil spirit into persons possessed, but is a product of
the development of the brain, just as muscular activity is a product of
muscular development, and secretion a product of glandular development."
After a careful review of the position of recent Science with regard to
the whole doctrine, Mr. Graham sums up thus: "Such is the argument of
Science, seemingly decisive against a future Life. As we listen to her
array of syllogisms, our hearts die within us. The hopes of men, placed
in one scale to be weighed, seem to fly up against the massive weight of
her evidence, placed in the other. It seems as if all our arguments were
vain and unsubstantial, as if our future expectations were the foolish
dreams of children, as if there could not be any other possible verdict
arrived at upon the evidence brought forward." [2]

[1] Büchner: "Force and Matter," 3d ed., p. 232.
[2] "The Creed of Science," p. 169.

Can we go on in the teeth of so real an obstruction? Has not our own
weapon turned against us, Science abolishing with authoritative hand the
very truth we are asking it to define?

What the philosopher has to throw into the other scale can be easily
indicated. Generally speaking, he demurs to the dogmatism of the
conclusion. That mind and brain react, that the mental and the
physiological processes are related, and very intimately related, is
beyond controversy. But how they are related, he submits, is still
altogether unknown. The correlation of mind and brain do not involve
their identity. And not a few authorities accordingly have consistently
hesitated to draw any conclusion at all. Even Büchner's statement turns
out, on close examination, to be tentative in the extreme. In prefacing
his chapter on Personal Continuance, after a single sentence on the
dependence of the soul and its manifestations upon a material
substratum, he remarks, "Though we are unable to form a definite idea as
to the _how_ of this connection, we are still by these facts justified
in asserting, that the mode of this connection renders it _apparently_
impossible that they should continue to exist separately." [1] There is,
therefore, a flaw at this point in the argument for materialism. It may
not help the spiritualist in the least degree positively. He may be as
far as ever from a theory of how consciousness could continue without
the material tissue. But his contention secures for him the right of
speculation. The path beyond may lie in hopeless gloom; but it is not
barred. He may bring forward his theory if he will. And this is
something. For a permission to go on is often the most that Science can
grant to Religion.

[1] "Force and Matter," p. 231.

Men have taken advantage of this loophole in various ways. And though it
cannot be said that these speculations offer us more than a probability,
this is still enough to combine with the deep-seated expectation in the
bosom of mankind and give fresh lustre to the hope of a future life.
Whether we find relief in the theory of a simple dualism; whether with
Ulrici we further define the soul as an invisible enswathement of the
body, material yet non-atomic; whether, with the "Unseen Universe," we
are helped by the spectacle of known forms of matter shading off into an
evergrowing subtilty, mobility, and immateriality; or whether, with
Wundt, we regard the soul as "the ordered unity of many elements," it is
certain  that shapes can be given to the conception of a correspondence
which shall bridge the grave such as to satisfy minds too much
accustomed to weigh evidence to put themselves off with fancies.

But whether the possibilities of physiology or the theories of
philosophy do or do not substantially assist us in realizing
Immortality, is to Religion, to Religion at least regarded from the
present point of view, of inferior moment. The fact of Immortality rests
for us on a different basis. Probably, indeed, after all the Christian
philosopher never engaged himself in a more superfluous task than in
seeking along physiological lines to find room for a soul. The theory of
Christianity has only to be fairly stated to make manifest its thorough
independence of all the usual speculations on immortality. The theory is
not that thought, volition, or emotion, as such are to survive the
grave. The difficulty of holding a doctrine is this form, in spite of
what has been advanced to the contrary, in spite of the hopes and wishes
of mankind, in spite of all the scientific and philosophical attempts to
make it tenable, is still profound. No secular theory of personal
continuance, as even Butler acknowledged, does not equally demand the
eternity of the brute. No secular theory defines the point in the chain
of Evolution at which organisms become endowed with Immortality. No
secular theory explains the condition of the endowment, nor indicates
its goal. And if we have nothing more to fan hope than the unexplored
mystery of the whole region, or the unknown remainders among the
potencies of Life, then, as those who have "hope only in this world," we
are "of all men the most miserable."

When we turn, on the other hand, to the doctrine as it came from the
lips of Christ, we find ourselves in an entirely different region. He
makes no attempt to project the material into the immaterial. The old
elements, however refined and subtle as to their matter, are not in
themselves to inherit the Kingdom of God. That which is flesh is flesh.
Instead of attaching Immortality to the natural organism, He introduces
a new and original factor which none of the secular, and few even of the
theological theories, seem to take sufficiently into account. To
Christanity, "he that hath the Son of God hath Life, and he that hath
not the Son hath not Life." This, as we take it, defines the
correspondence which is to bridge the grave. This is the clue to the
nature of the Life that lies at the back of the spiritual organism. And
this is the true solution of the mystery of Eternal Life.

There lies a something at the back of the correspondences of the
spiritual organism--just as there lies a something at the back of the
natural correspondence. To say that Life is a correspondence is only to
express the partial truth. There is something behind. Life manifests
itself in correspondences. But what determines them? The organism
exhibits a variety of correspondences. What organizes them? As in the
natural, so in the spiritual, there is a Principle of Life. We cannot
get rid of that term. However clumsy, however provisional, however much
a mere cloak for ignorance, Science as yet is unable to dispense with
the idea of a Principle of Life. We must work with the word till we get
a better. Now that which determines the correspondence of the spiritual
organism is a Principle of Spiritual Life. It is a new and Divine
Possession. He that hath the Son hath Life; conversely, he that hath
Life hath the Son. And this indicates at once the quality and the
quantity of the correspondence which is to bridge the grave. He that
hath Life hath _the Son_. He possesses the Spirit of the Son. That
Spirit is, so to speak, organized within him by the Son. It is the
manifestation of the new nature--of which more anon. The fact to note at
present is that this is not an organic correspondence, but a spiritual
correspondence. It comes not from generation, but from regeneration. The
relation between the spiritual man and his Environment is, in
theological language, a filial relation. With the new Spirit, the filial
correspondence, he knows the Father and this is Life Eternal. This is
not only the real relation, but the only possible relation: "Neither
knoweth any man the Father save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son
will reveal Him." And this on purely natural grounds. It takes the
Divine to know the Divine--but in no more mysterious sense than it takes
the human to understand the human. The analogy, indeed, for the whole
field here has been finely expressed already by Paul: "What man," he
asks, "knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in
him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.
Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which
is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of
God." [1]

[1] 1 Cor. ii. 11, 12.

It were idle, such being the quality of the new relation, to add that
this also contains the guarantee of its eternity. Here at last is a
correspondence which will never cease. Its powers in bridging the grave
have been tried. The correspondence of the spiritual man possesses the
supernatural virtues of the Resurrection and the Life. It is known by
former experiment to have survived the "changes in the physical state of
the environment," and those "mechanical actions" and "variations of
available food," which Mr. Herbert Spencer tells us are "liable to stop
the processes going on in the organism." In short, this is a
correspondence which at once satisfies the demands of Science and
Religion. In mere quantity it is different from every other
correspondence known. Setting aside everything else in Religion,
everything adventitious, local, and provisional; dissecting into the
bone and marrow we find this--a correspondence which can never break
with an Environment which can never change. Here is a relation
established with Eternity. The passing years lay no limiting hand on it.
Corruption injures it not. It survives Death. It, and it only, will
stretch beyond the grave and be found inviolate--

      "When the moon is old,
      And the stars are cold,
      And the books of the Judgment-day unfold."

The misgiving which will creep sometimes over the brightest faith has
already received its expression and its rebuke: "Who shall separate us
from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution,
or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?" Shall these "changes in
the physical state of the environment" which threaten death to the
natural man destroy the spiritual? Shall death, or life, or angels, or
principalities, or powers, arrest or tamper with his eternal
correspondences? "Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors
through Him that loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor
life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present,
nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall
be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus
our Lord." [1]

[1] Rom. viii. 35-39.

It may seem an objection to some that the "perfect correspondence"
should come to man in so extraordinary a way. The earlier stages in the
doctrine are promising enough ; they are entirely in line with Nature.
And if Nature had also furnished the "perfect correspondence" demanded
for an Eternal Life the position might be unassailable. But this sudden
reference to a something outside the natural Environment destroys the
continuity, and discovers a permanent weakness in the whole theory?

To which there is a twofold reply. In the first place, to go outside
what we call Nature is not to go outside Environment. Nature, the
natural Environment, is only a part of Environment. There is another
large part which, though some profess to have no correspondence with it,
is not on that account unreal, or even unnatural. The mental and moral
world is unknown to the plant. But it is real. It cannot be affirmed
either that it is unnatural to the plant; although it might be said that
from the point of view of the Vegetable Kingdom it was _supernatural_.
Things are natural or supernatural simply according to where one stands.
Man is supernatural to the mineral; God is supernatural to the man. When
a mineral is seized upon by the living plant and elevated to the organic
kingdom, no tresspass against Nature is committed. It merely enters a
larger Environment, which before was supernatural to it, but which now
is entirely natural. When the heart of a man, again, is seized upon by
the quickening Spirit of God, no further violence is done to natural
law. It is another case of the inorganic, so to speak, passing into the

But, in the second place, it is complained as if it were an enormity in
itself that the spiritual correspondence should be furnished from the
spiritual world. And to this the answer lies in the same direction.
Correspondence in any case is the gift of Environment. The natural
Environment gives men their natural faculties; the spiritual affords
them their spiritual faculties. It is natural for the spiritual
Environment to supply the spiritual faculties; it would be quite
unnatural for the natural Environment to do it. The natural law of
Biogenesis forbids it; the moral fact that the finite cannot comprehend
the Infinite is against it; the spiritual principle that flesh and blood
cannot inherit the kingdom of God renders it absurd. Not, however, that
the spiritual faculties are, as it were, manufactured in the spiritual
world and supplied ready-made to the spiritual organism--forced upon it
as an external equipment. This certainly is not involved in saying that
the spiritual faculties are furnished by the spiritual world. Organisms
are not added to by accretion, as in the case of minerals, but by
growth. And the spiritual faculties are organized in the spiritual
protoplasm of the soul, just as other faculties are organized in the
protoplasm of the body. The plant is made of materials which have once
been inorganic. An organizing principle not belonging to their kingdom
lays hold of them and elaborates them until they have correspondences
with the kingdom to which the organizing principle belonged. Their
original organizing principle, if it can be called by this name, was
Crystallization; so that we have now a distinctly foreign power
organizing in totally new and higher directions. In the spiritual world,
similarly, we find an organizing principle at work among the materials
of the organic kingdom, per forming a further miracle, but not a
different kind of miracle, producing organizations of a novel kind, but
not by a novel method. The second process, in fact, is simply what an
enlightened evolutionist would have expected from the first. It marks
the natural and legitimate progress of the development. And this in the
line of the true Evolution--not the _linear_ Evolution, which would look
for the development of the natural man through powers already inherent,
as if one were to look to Crystallization to accomplish the development
of the mineral into the plant,--but that larger form of Evolution which
includes among its factors the double Law of Biogenesis and the immense
further truth that this involves.

What is further included in this complex correspondence we shall have
opportunity to illustrate afterwards. [1] Meantime let it be noted on
what the Christian argument for Immortality really rests. It stands upon
the pedestal on which the theologian rests the whole of historical
Christianity--the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

[1] _Vide_ "Conformity to Type," page 287.

It ought to be placed in the forefront of all Christian teaching that
Christ's mission on earth was to give men Life. "I am come," He said,
"that ye might have Life, and that ye might have it more abundantly."
And that He meant literal Life, literal spiritual and Eternal Life, is
clear from the whole course of His teaching and acting. To impose a
metaphorical meaning on the commonest word of the New Testament is to
violate every canon of interpretation, and at the same time to charge
the greatest of teachers with persistently mystifying His hearers by an
unusual use of so exact a vehicle for expressing definite thought as the
Greek language, and that on the most momentous subject of which He ever
spoke to men. It is a canon of interpretation, according to Alford, that
"a figurative sense of words is never admissible except when required by
the context." The context, in most cases, is not only directly
unfavorable to a figurative meaning, but in innumerable instances in
Christ's teaching Life is broadly contrasted with Death. In the teaching
of the apostles, again, we find that, without exception, they accepted
the term in its simple literal sense. Reuss defines the apostolic belief
with his usual impartiality when--and the quotation is doubly pertinent
here--he discovers in the apostle's conception of Life, first, "the idea
of a real existence, an existence such as is proper to God and to the
Word; an imperishable existence--that is to say, not subject to the
vicissitudes and imperfections of the finite world. This primary idea is
repeatedly expressed, at least in a negative form; it leads to a
doctrine of immortality, or, to speak more correctly, of life, far
surpassing any that had been expressed in the formulas of the current
philosophy or theology, and resting upon premises and conceptions
altogether different. In fact, it can dispense both with the
philosophical thesis of the immateriality or indestructibility of the
human soul, and with the theologicial thesis of a miraculous corporeal
reconstruction of our person; theses, the first of which is altogether
foreign to the religion of the Bible, and the second absolutely opposed
to reason." Second, "the idea of life, as it is conceived in this
system, implies the idea of a power, an operation, a communication,
since this life no longer remains, so to speak, latent or passive in God
and in the Word, but through them reaches the believer. It is not a
mental somnolent thing; it is not a plant without fruit; it is a germ
which is to find fullest development." [1]

[1] "History of Christian Theology in the Apostolic Age," vol. ii. p.

If we are asked to define more clearly what is meant by this mysterious
endowment of Life, we again hand over the difficulty to Science. When
Science can define the Natural Life and the Physical Force we may hope
for further clearness on the nature and action of the Spiritual Powers.
The effort to detect the living Spirit must be at least as idle as the
attempt to subject protoplasm to microscopic examination in the hope of
discovering Life. We are warned, also, not to expect too much. "Thou
canst not tell whence it cometh or whither it goeth." This being its
quality, when the Spiritual Life is discovered in the laboratory it will
possibly be time to give it up altogether. It may say, as Socrates of
his soul, "You may bury me--if you can catch me."

Science never corroborates a spiritual truth without illuminating it.
The threshold of Eternity is a place where many shadows meet. And the
light of Science here, where everything is so dark, is welcome a
thousand times. Many men would be religious if they knew where to begin;
many would be more religious if they were sure where it would end. It is
not indifference that keeps some men from God, but ignorance. "Good
Master, what must I do to inherit Eternal Life?" is still the deepest
question of the age. What is Religion? What am I to believe? What seek
with all my heart and soul and mind?--this is the imperious question
sent up to consciousness from the depths of being in all earnest hours;
sent down again, alas, with many of us, time after time, unanswered.
Into all our thought and work and reading this question pursues us. But
the theories are rejected one by one; the great books are returned sadly
to their shelves, the years pass, and the problem remains unsolved. The
confusion of tongues here is terrible. Every day a new authority
announces himself. Poets, philosophers, preachers, try their hand on us
in turn. New prophets arise, and beseech us for our soul's sake to give
ear to them--at last in an hour of inspiration they have discovered the
final truth. Yet the doctrine of yesterday is challenged by a fresh
philosophy to-day; and the creed of to-day will fall in turn before the
criticism of to-morrow. Increase of knowledge increaseth sorrow. And at
length the conflicting truths, like the beams of light in the laboratory
experiment, combine in the mind to make total darkness.

But here are two outstanding authorities agreed--not men, not
philosophers, not creeds. Here is the voice of God and the voice of
Nature. I cannot be wrong if I listen to them. Sometimes when uncertain
of a voice from its very loudness, we catch the missing syllable in the
echo. In God and Nature we have Voice and Echo. When I hear both, I am
assured. My sense of hearing does not betray me twice. I recognize the
Voice in the Echo, the Echo makes me certain of the Voice; I listen and
I know. The question of a Future Life is a biological question. Nature
may be silent on other problems of Religion; but here she has a right to
speak. The whole confusion around the doctrine of Eternal Life has
arisen from making it a question of Philosophy. We shall do ill to
refuse a hearing to any speculation of Philosophy; the ethical relations
here especially are intimate and real. But in the first instance Eternal
Life, as a question of _Life_, is a problem for Biology. The soul is a
living organism. And for any question as to the soul's Life we must
appeal to Life-science. And what does the Life-science teach? That if I
am to inherit Eternal Life, I must cultivate a correspondence with the
Eternal. This is a simple proposition, for Nature is always simple. I
take this proposition, and, leaving Nature, proceed to fill it in. I
search everywhere for a clue to the Eternal. I ransack literature for a
definition of a correspondence between man and God. Obviously that can
only come from one source. And the analogies of Science permit us to
apply to it. All knowledge lies in Environment. When I want to know
about minerals I go to minerals. When I want to know about flowers I go
to flowers. And they tell me. In their own way they speak to me, each in
its own way, and each for itself--not the mineral for the flower, which
is impossible, nor the flower for the mineral, which is also impossible.
So if I want to know about Man, I go to his part of the Environment. And
he tells me about himself, not as the plant or the mineral, for he is
neither, but in his own way. And if I want to know about God, I go to
His part of the Environment. And he tells me about Himself, not as a
Man, for He is not Man, but in His own way. And just as naturally as the
flower and the mineral and the Man, each in their own way, tell me about
themselves, He tells me about Himself. He very strangely condescends
indeed in making things plain to me, actually assuming for a time the
Form of a Man that I at my poor level may better see Him. This is my
opportunity to know Him. This incarnation is God making Himself
accessible to human thought--God opening to man the possibility of
correspondence through Jesus Christ. And this correspondence and this
Environment are those I seek. He Himself assures me, "This is Life
Eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ
whom Thou has sent." Do I not now discern the deeper meaning in "_Jesus
Christ whom Thou has sent?_" Do I not better understand with what vision
and rapture the profoundest of the disciples exclaims, "The Son of God
is come, and hath given us an understanding that we might know Him that
is True?" [1]

[1] 1 John v. 20.

Having opened correspondence with the Eternal Environment, the
subsequent stages are in the line of all other normal development. We
have but to continue, to deepen, to extend, and to enrich the
correspondence that has been begun. And we shall soon find to our
surprise that this is accompanied by another and parallel process. The
action is not all upon our side. The Environment also will be found to
correspond. The influence of Environment is one of the greatest and most
substantial of modern biological doctrines. Of the power of Environment
to form or transform organisms, of its ability to develop or suppress
function, of its potency in determining growth, and generally of its
immense influence in Evolution, there is no need now to speak. But
Environment is now acknowledged to be one of the most potent factors in
the Evolution of Life. The influence of Environment, too, seems to
increase rather than diminish as we approach the higher forms of being.
The highest forms are the most mobile; their capacity of change is the
greatest; they are, in short, most easily acted on by Environment. And
not only are the highest organisms the most mobile, but the highest
parts of the highest organisms are more mobile than the lower.
Environment can do little, comparatively, in the direction of inducing
variation in the body of a child; but how plastic is its mind! How
infinitely sensitive is its soul! How infallibly can it be tuned to
music or to dissonance by the moral harmony or discord of its outward
lot! How decisively indeed are we not all formed and moulded, made or
unmade, by external circumstance! Might we not all confess with

      "I am a part of all that I have met?"

Much more, then, shall we look for the influence of Environment on the
spiritual nature of him who has opened correspondence with God. Reaching
out his eager and quickened faculties to the spiritual world around him,
shall he not become spiritual? In vital contact with Holiness, shall he
not become holy? Breathing now an atmosphere of ineffable Purity, shall
he miss becoming pure? Walking with God from day to day, shall he fail
to be taught of God?

Growth in grace is sometimes described as a strange, mystical, and
unintelligible process. It is mystical, but neither strange nor
unintelligible. It proceeds according to Natural Law, and the leading
factor in sanctification is Influence of Environment. The possibility of
it depends upon the mobility of the organism; the result, on the extent
and frequency of certain correspondences. These facts insensibly lead on
to further suggestion. Is it not possible that these biological truths
may carry with them the clue to a still profounder philosophy--even that
of Regeneration?

Evolutionists tell us that by the influence of environment certain
aquatic animals have become adapted to a terrestrial mode of life.
Breathing normally by gills, as the result and reward of a continued
effort carried on from generation to generation to inspire the air of
heaven direct, they have slowly acquired the lung-function. In the young
organism, true to the ancestral type, the gill still persists--as in the
tadpole of the common frog. But as maturity approaches, the true lung
appears; the gill gradually transfers its task to the higher organ. It
then becomes atrophied and disappears, and finally respiration in the
adult is conducted by lungs alone. [1] We may be far, in the meantime,
from saying that this is proved. It is for those who accept it to deny
the justice of the spiritual analogy. Is religion to them unscientific
in its doctrine of Regeneration? Will the evolutionist who admits the
regeneration of the frog under the modifying influence of a continued
correspondence with a new environment, care to question the possibility
of the soul acquiring such a faculty as that of Prayer, the marvellous
breathing-function of the new creature, when in contact with the
atmosphere of a besetting God? Is the change from the earthly to the
heavenly more mysterious than the change from the aquatic to the
terrestrial mode of life? Is Evolution to stop with the organic? If it
be objected that it has taken ages to perfect the function in the
batrachian, the reply is, that it will take ages to perfect the function
in the Christian. For every thousand years the natural evolution will
allow for the development of its organism, the Higher Biology will grant
its product millions. We have indeed spoken of the spiritual
correspondence as already perfect--but it is perfect only as the bud is
perfect. "It doth not yet appear what it shall be," any more than it
appeared a million years ago what the evolving batrachian would be.

[1] _Vide_ also the remarkable experiments of Fräulein v. Chauvin on the
Transformation of the Mexican Axoloti into Amblystoma.--Weismann's
"Studies in the Theory of Descent," vol. ii. pt. iii.

But to return. We have been dealing with the scientific aspects of
communion with God. Insensibly, from quantity we have been led to speak
of quality. And enough has now been advanced to indicate generally the
nature of that correspondence with which is necessarily associated
Eternal Life. There remain but one or two details to which we must
lastly, and very briefly, address ourselves.

The quality of everlastingness belongs, as we have seen, to a single
correspondence, or rather to a single set of correspondences. But it is
apparent that before this correspondence can take full and final effect
a further process is necessary. By some means it must be separated from
all the other correspondences of the organism which do not share its
peculiar quality. In this life it is restrained by these other
correspondences. They may contribute to it, or hinder it; but they are
essentially of a different order. They belong not to Eternity but to
Time, and to this present world; and, unless some provision is made for
dealing with them, they will detain the aspiring organism in this
present world till Time is ended. Of course, in a sense, all that
belongs to Time belongs also to Eternity; but these lower
correspondences are in their nature unfitted for an Eternal Life. Even
if they were perfect in their relation to their Environment, they would
still not be Eternal. However opposed, apparently, to the scientific
definition of Eternal Life, it is yet true that perfect correspondence
with Environment is not Eternal Life. A very important word in the
complete definition is, in this sentence, omitted. On that word it has
not been necessary hitherto, and for obvious reasons, to place any
emphasis, but when we come to deal with false pretenders to Immortality
we must return to it. Were the definition complete as it stands, it
might, with the permission of the psycho-physiologist, guarantee the
Immortality of every living thing. In the dog, for instance, the
material framework giving way at death might leave the released canine
spirit still free to inhabit the old Environment. And so with every
creature which had ever established a conscious relation with
surrounding things. Now the difficulty in framing a theory of Eternal
Life has been to construct one which will exclude the brute creation,
drawing the line rigidly at man, or at least somewhere within the human
race. Not that we need object to the Immortality of the dog, or of the
whole inferior creation. Nor that we need refuse a place to any
intelligible speculation which would people the earth to-day with the
invisible forms of all things that have ever lived. Only we still insist
that this is not Eternal Life. And why? Because their Environment is not
Eternal. Their correspondence, however firmly established, is
established with that which shall pass away. An Eternal Life demands an
Eternal Environment.

The demand for a perfect Environment as well as for a perfect
correspondence is less clear in Mr. Herbert Spencer's definition than it
might be. But it is an essential factor. An organism might remain true
to its Environment, but what if the Environment played it false? If the
organism possessed the power to change, it could adapt itself to
successive changes in the Environment. And if this were guaranteed we
should also have the conditions for Eternal Life fulfilled. But what if
the Environment passed away altogether? What if the earth swept suddenly
into the sun? This is a change of Environment against which there could
be no precaution and for which there could be as little provision. With
a changing Environment even, there must always remain the dread and
possibility of a falling out of correspondence. At the best, Life would
be uncertain. But with a changeless Environment--such as that possessed
by the spiritual organism--the perpetuity of the correspondence, so far
as the external relation is concerned, is guaranteed. This quality of
permanence in the Environment distinguishes the religious relation from
every other. Why should not the musician's life be an Eternal Life?
Because, for one thing, the musical world, the Environment with which he
corresponds, is not eternal. Even if his correspondence in itself could
last eternally, the environing material things with which he corresponds
must pass away. His soul might last forever--but not his violin. So the
man of the world might last forever--but not the world. His Environment
is not eternal; nor are even his correspondences--the world passeth away
_and the lust thereof_.

We find, then, that man, or the spiritual man, is equipped with two sets
of correspondences. One set possesses the quality of everlastingness,
the other is temporal. But unless these are separated by some means the
temporal will continue to impair and hinder the eternal. The final
preparation, therefore, for the inheriting of Eternal Life must consist
in the abandonment of the non-eternal elements. These must be unloosed
and dissociated from the higher elements. And this is effected by a
closing catastrophe--Death.

Death ensues because certain relations in the organism are not adjusted
to certain relations in the Environment. There will come a time in each
history when the imperfect correspondences of the organism will betray
themselves by a failure to compass some necessary adjustment. This is
why Death is associated with Imperfection. Death is the necessary result
of Imperfection, and the necessary end of it. Imperfect correspondence
gives imperfect and uncertain Life. "Perfect correspondence," on the
other hand, according to Mr. Herbert Spencer, would be "perfect Life."
To abolish Death, therefore, all that would be necessary would be to
abolish Imperfection. But it is the claim of Christianity that it can
abolish Death. And it is significant to notice that it does so by
meeting this very demand of Science--it abolishes Imperfection.

The part of the organism which begins to get out of correspondence with
the Organic Environment is the only part which is in vital
correspondence with it. Though a fatal disadvantage to the natural man
to be thrown out of correspondence with this Environment, it is of
inestimable importance to the spiritual man. For so long as it is
maintained the way is barred for a further Evolution. And hence the
condition necessary for the further Evolution is that the spiritual be
released from the natural. That is to say, the condition of the further
Evolution is Death. _Mora janua Vitæ_, therefore, becomes a scientific
formula. Death, being the final sifting of all the correspondences, is
the indispensable factor of the higher Life. In the language of Science,
not less than of Scripture, "To die is gain."

The sifting of the correspondences is done by Nature. This is its last
and greatest contribution to mankind. Over the mouth of the grave the
perfect and the imperfect submit to their final separation. Each goes to
its own--earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, Spirit to Spirit.
The dust shall return to the earth as it was; and the Spirit shall
return unto God who gave it"

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[Transcriber's note: misspellings have been left as they are in the
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