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An Essay on the Scriptural Doctrine of Immortality   By: (1803-1882)

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First Page:

AN ESSAY

ON THE

SCRIPTURAL DOCTRINE

OF

IMMORTALITY

BY THE REV.

JAMES CHALLIS, M.A., F.R.S., F.R.A.S.

PLUMIAN PROFESSOR OF ASTRONOMY AND EXPERIMENTAL PHILOSOPHY IN THE UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE, AND FELLOW OF TRINITY COLLEGE.

Anagke gar moi epikeitai ouai gar moi estin, ean me euaggelzûmai 1 Cor. ix. 16

RIVINGTONS

London, Oxford, and Cambridge

MDCCCLXXX

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{1}

AN ESSAY

ON THE

SCRIPTURAL DOCTRINE OF IMMORTALITY.

Considering that under the existing conditions of humanity, disease, and decay, and death abound on every side, it is surprising that the word "immortality" obtained a place in systems of philosophy, the authors of which must be supposed to have been unacquainted with divine revelation. It is not surprising that in the absence of such aid the belief of immortality should not have been firmly held, or that by some philosophers it should have been expressly disavowed. Even in the Canonical Scriptures, the words "immortal" and "immortality" occur only in the Epistles of the Apostle Paul, and consequently not till "life and immortality had been brought to light through the Gospel." It is a remarkable circumstance that these words are met with more frequently in the Apocryphal Books, 2 Esdras, Wisdom of Solomon, and Ecclesiasticus, than in the Canonical Scriptures. The {2} explanation of the apparent silence of the Scriptures, especially those of the Old Testament, on so essential a doctrine, will, I think, be found to be given by the course of argument adopted in this essay.

It may, further, be noticed that, according to philosophical dogma not derived from the teaching of Scripture, immortality is regarded as a principle, or innate quality, in virtue of which the human soul is exempt from the experience of death or annihilation. On this account Greek and Roman philosophers speak of "the immortality of the soul ," and even in the present day the same terms are used, the soul being regarded as per se immortal. But neither in the Scriptures, nor in the Apocrypha, is "immortality" qualified by the adjunct "of the soul;" the reason for which may be that since death, as far as our senses inform us, is an objective reality, the writers judged that mortality and freedom from mortality could only be predicated of body . It must, however, be taken into account that according to the doctrine of Scripture there is "a spiritual body" as well as "a natural body," so that while the natural body is, as we know, subject to the law of death, it may be true that the spiritual body is capable of immortality. This point will be farther discussed in the course of the essay.

To account for the absence of any direct announcement of man's immortality in the Old Testament, and for its being sparingly mentioned in the New {3} Testament, the following argument seems legitimate and sufficient. These Scriptures, as already intimated, give no countenance to the idea that the soul of man possesses any innate principle of immortality; on the contrary, they reveal immortality by revealing the means by which the spirit of man is made immortal. As, according to natural science, the external world, both the animate part and the inanimate, has become such as we now perceive it to be by processes of generation and development, so there is reason from Scripture to say that a spiritual world is being created in an analogous manner, and that to this creation all other creations are subordinate and contributory. Moreover, we, the subjects of this creation, are so constituted that we are conscious of, and can ourselves take cognizance of, the means by which it is effected. These considerations may be applied to account for the mode in which immortality is treated of in the Bible... Continue reading book >>




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