The Success of Christ's Mission. - Chaotic State of Spiritual Philosophy in His Time. - The Various Doctrines in Vogue. - Jesus the first to simplify the Doctrine of Immortality. - He gave it a Definite Status in Philosophy. - The Doctrine of Future Rewards and Punishments. - God will "render to every Man according to His Deeds." - Spiritual Penalties for Violations of Spiritual Law. - The Sin against the Holy Ghost. - The Sin of Unbelief. - The Status of a Lost Soul. - Possible Reincarnatipn. - The Means of Punishment for Sin. - Affections. - Conscience. - Memory. - General Conclusions. - Scientific Basis of Christianity.
IT is often charged by the sceptical world that the mission of Jesus has thus far proved a failure, for that only about one third of the inhabitants of the earth have ever heard the name of Christ; that of Christian nations but a limited proportion of the inhabitants belong to the Christian Church; and that of the church membership there is but a limited number who so live as to entitle them to the rewards of heaven. Measured by the common idea of what constitutes salvation, there may be good ground for that criticism. But measured by the number of those who believe in the immortality of the soul; by the number who have a hope of a life beyond the grave; by the number who have a consciousness of the existence within them of the transcendental ego; or by the number of those who have risen, directly or indirectly, through the teachings of Christ so far above the level of the brute creation as to have a consciousness of the possibility of immortal life, and a consequent hope and subjective belief in Immortality, - his mission has proved the grandest success recorded in the history of missionary effort.
It must be remembered that when he came into the world the doctrine of immortal life held a very vague and uncertain place in the philosophy of civilized mankind. I do not say that the doctrine of immortal life was unknown, but it was undefined, and so tinctured with finite conceptions, and limited by the uncertain boundaries of a hundred different systems of fantastic philosophy, that it did not, and could not, form a basis of rational hope or intelligent promise.
Thus, among the Chinese of that day (1), the doctrines of Confucius held the most prominent place. His was a system which might be called a parent-worship, in which virtue was rewarded and vice punished in the individuals, or in their posterity, on earth, no promise of immortality being held out. (2) The sect of Rationalists, founded by Lautsz in the sixth century before Christ, taught the emanation of all good beings from the Bosom of Reason, and their absorption thither for an eternal existence, while the bad were doomed to successive births and many sorrows. (3) Another sect held that the principle of all things is but a vacuum, - nothing, - from which all things have sprung, and to which all must return.
The Hindoo doctrine was substantially the same as it is now; and it is so well known as not to require a particular statement, further than to say that its disciples believe in successive incarnations of the soul, and its final absorption into the incorporeal nature of Brahm.
The Persians believed in the doctrine of hell for the wicked, and of paradise for the good; but held that all the wicked would eventually be purified by fire. It was thought that the fires were hot enough to purify the most abominable soul in about three days.
Herodotus tells us that the Egyptians were the first to defend the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, and he says that they believed in its transmigration through various animal bodies for a period of three thousand years before its return to a human body.
Of the Grecian schools, the Pythagoreans held that the soul is eternal, - that is, uncreated and indestructible; that no real entity is either made or destroyed. The Eleatics held practically the same doctrine. The Ionics taught that the soul was reabsorbed into the Divine reason. The Stoics believed in the periodical destruction of all things by fire, when the good will be absorbed and the wicked perish. The Epicurean faith was well described by Paul in the phrase, "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die." The Pyrrhonists were the sceptics of the age, and doubted everything. Socrates taught the doctrine of immortality for the good, the virtuous, and the wise. The incurably bad are "hurled into Tartarus, whence they never come forth;" whilst those who can be cured are subjected to needful punishments before being admitted into the mansions of the blest. Plato was a Pythagorean, with certain bizarre notions of his own, such as the migration of souls through various brute and human forms; and he believed that even the duration of divine work is limited.
It will thus be seen that when Jesus appeared on earth he found the philosophy of the soul in a very chaotic state. It was his mission to bring order out of chaos, and to proclaim the true philosophy; to declare the conditions of immortality, and point the way to eternal happiness. That he simplified the doctrine of immortality into a system so plain that "the wayfaring man, though a fool, need not err therein," no one will deny. Its grand simen to attain placed in contrast with the complicated .their lives in this other systems of religious philoys of that life. It was no places upon it the stamp of intact the accepted geography tific truth is always simple and fould only add confusion to was Jesus who gave the doctr parables were drawn from and definite form and a permareir every-day life, and were of the civilized world. It was lication to a spiritual exist-fundamental law underlying thenforce a code of morals was from his words, spoken to ciples of right and justice, an obscure corner of the earth to their comprehension, but throughout all the civilized world. From the centres of civilization the Church has sent its missionaries, its representatives of the Master, among all peoples, civilized and savage, preaching the gospel of immortality to all mankind.