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Evidences Of Man’s Immortality
by [?]

Unless you accept the testimony of the Bible as conclusive, what evidence have you of God’s existence and man’s immortality?–GLADSTONE.

The same evidence that we would have of the existence of the ocean were one drop of water withdrawn, of the life of a forest, were a single leaf to fall. The Bible did not create man’s belief in God’s existence and his own immortality, but of this belief, old as Zoroaster, antedating Babylon, was the Bible born. It is simply an outward evidence of man’s inward grace. I do accept the testimony of the Bible, but only as one of a cloud of witnesses. In questions of such grave import, we cannot have too much evidence; hence it is strange indeed that anyone should make the Bible the sole foundation of his faith, should take his stand upon an infinitesimal portion of what the world knew in ages past. The Bible is but one of many sacred books in which man has borne witness that he is the favored creature of an Almighty Being, but one voice in a multitude singing hosannas to the Most High, a single note in the mighty diapason of the universe.

A hundred men are shipwrecked upon an island in the Arctic Ocean. By day and night they dream of absent friends, of mother, wife and child, the pleasant meadows or the sunny hills of their distant homes. Hourly they scan the horizon with eager eyes. Daily they ask each other, “Is there hope?” All former animosities are forgotten, for they are brothers in misfortune. One declares that the island lies in the pathway of a regular line of steamers, and that they must soon be rescued. This view is approved by many, and their hearts beat high with hope. Their sufferings are borne with cheerfulness, their hardships appear trivial, for their probation is soon to pass and they will be at home. Another avers that they are too far north to be reached by the ocean liners, but that a whaler will soon be due in that vicinity, and all will be well. This view is approved by some, and thus there are two parties confidently expecting succor, but from different sources. A third studies the map, notes the advanced season, inspects the food supply and shakes his head. “We shall be lost,” he says; “desire has misled your judgment; you do but dream.” Do the two parties that entertain hope strive, each to disprove the theory of the other, and unite in persecuting the dissenter? No; they reason together, each anxious to ascertain the truth, knowing that it will profit him nothing to believe a lie. Suddenly a cry is heard, “A sail!” Do those who put their trust in the whaler turn their backs to the sea and say, “Oh, H–l! that’s only one of those regular steamship heretics! no rag of canvas will he discover!” Do those who were destitute of hope decline to look? No; all rush to the shore, and strain their eyes to penetrate the mist, little caring whether it be whaler or steamer, so they do but see a ship. When one makes out the vessel, he is not content until the eyes of others confirm his vision, and all look, not with the jealous hope that he may be wrong, but with an earnest prayer that he may be right. That island is this little earth, its shipwrecked mariners all sons of men; yet how different we set about determining whether, from out the everlasting sea that encircles us, there comes indeed a Ship of Zion to succor and to save!

What one man believes or disbelieves is a matter of little moment; for belief will not put gods on High Olympus, nor unbelief extinguish the fires of Hell. Man can neither create nor uncreate the actual by a mental emanation. If Deity exists, he would continue to exist did a universe deny him; if he exists not, then all the faith and prayers and sacrifices of a thousand centuries will not evolve him from the night of nothingness. There is or there is not a life beyond the grave, regardless of the denial of every atheist and the affirmation of every prophet. Then what boots it whether we believe or disbelieve in God’s existence or man’s immortality? Nothing, in so far as it concerns the factual; much, in that upon our hopes and fears is based our terrestrial bane or blessing. Banish all belief in God, eliminate the idea of man’s responsibility to a higher power, make him the sole lord of his life and earthly good his greatest guerdon, and you destroy the dynamics of progress, the genius of civilization. Man has a tendency to become what he believes himself to be. Consciously or unconsciously, he strives with less or greater strength toward his ideal; hence it is all-important that he consider himself an immortal rather than the pitiful sport of Time and Space; a child of Omniscience, rather than the ephemeral emanation of unclean ooze. Had man always considered himself simply an animal, his tendencies would have been ever earthward; believing himself half divine, he has striven to mount above the stars. True, many great men have been Atheists; but they were formed by ancestry and environment permeated by worship of Divine power. Without a belief in his own semi-divinity to lead the race onward and upward, the conditions which produce a Voltaire or Ingersoll were impossible. Civilization is further advanced than ever before, and Atheism more general; but those who employ this fact as argument against religious faith forget that a body thrown upward will continue to ascend for a time after it has parted from the propelling power. Atheism is in nowise responsible for human progress, for Atheism is nothing–a mere negation–and “out of nothing nothing comes.” A belief in God affords man a basis upon which to build; it is an acknowledgment of authority, the chief prerequisite of order; but in Atheism there is no constructive element. While it may be no more immoral to deny the existence of Deity than to question the Wondrous Tale of Troy, history teaches us that, considered from a purely utilitarian standpoint, the most absurd faith is better for a nation than none; that the civic virtues do not long survive the sacrifice; that when a people desert their altars their glories soon decay. The civilization of the world has been time and again imperiled by the spirit of Denial. When Rome began to mock her gods, she found the barbarians thundering at her gates. When France insulted her priesthood and crowned a courtesan as Goddess of Reason in Notre Dame, Paris was a maelstrom and the nation a chaos in which Murder raged and Discord shrieked. To-day we are boasting of our progress, but ’tis the onward march of Jaganath, beneath whose iron wheels patriotism, honesty, purity and the manly spirit of independence are crushed into the mire. We have drifted into an Atheistical age, and its concomitants are selfishness, sensationalism and sham. The old heartiness and healthiness have gone out of life, have been supplanted by the artificial. Everything is now show and seeming–“leather and prunella”–the body social become merely a galvanic machine or electric motor. In our gran’sire’s day “the great man helped the poor, and the poor man loved the great”; now the great man systematically despoils the poor and the poor man regards the great with a feeling of envy and hatred akin to that of which the French Revolution was born. Character no longer counts for aught unless reinforced by a bank account. Men who have despoiled the widow of her mite and the orphan of his patrimony are hailed with the acclaim due to conquering heroes. Our most successful books and periodicals would pollute a Parisian sewer or disgrace a Portuguese bagnio. The suffrages of the people are bought and sold like sheep. The national policy is dictated by Dives. Men are sent to Congress whom God intended for the gallows, while those he ticketed for the penitentiary spout inanities in fashionable pulpits. The merchant who pays his debts in full when he might settle for ten cents on the dollar is considered deficient in common sense. The grandsons of Revolutionary soldiers, who considered themselves the equal of kings and the superior of wear the livery of lackeys to obtain an easy living. Presidents save seven-figure fortunes on five-figure salaries and are applauded by people
who profess to be respectable. Governors waste the public revenues in suppressing pugilistic enterprises, begotten of their own encouragement, only to be reelected by fools and slobbered over by pharisees. Bradley-Martin balls are given while half a million better people go hungry to bed. Friendship has become a farce, the preface of fraud. Revolting crimes increase and sexuality is tinged with the infamy of the Orient. Men who were too proud to borrow leave sons who are not ashamed to beg. In man great riches are preferable to a good name, and in woman a silken gown covers a multitude of sins. The homely virtues of the old mothers in Israel are mocked, while strumpets fouler than Sycorax are received in society boasting itself select. Why is this? It is because the old religious spirit is dormant if not dead; it is because when people consider themselves but as the beasts that perish, they can make no spiritual progress, but imitate their supposed ancestors. Religion is becoming little more than a luxury, the temple a sumptuous palace wherein people ennuied with themselves may parade their costly clothes, have their jaded passions soothed by sensuous music, their greed for the bizarre satiated by sensational sermons.