The emphatic and persistent denial of the soul's existence must eventually prove to be a suggestion so strong as to overcome its instinctive belief in its own existence, and thus neutralize its instinctive desire for immortal life. It would, therefore, have the same effect as unbelief arising from a want of knowledge, or a lack of the intellectual power to conceive the idea of immortality. The soul, in either case, could not have a consciousness of its own existence or individuality.
It may be asked, What becomes of the soul when deprived of a conscious existence? Does it actually die, disintegrate, and return to its original elements? Is it possible that a human soul, created by God and endowed with the power-and potency of immortal life, can fail of accomplishing its mission, and become extinct? Can a segregated portion of the Divine essence, once individualized, ever perish or lose its identity? All these questions, and more, will be asked. I do not know. Perhaps it is reincarnated. I do not know anything about reincarnation. I know as much about it, however, as any one else knows. I mean by this that no one can be said to know anything about the truth of any proposition that has not underlying it a substratum of demonstrable fact. The theory of reincarnation has no such basis; and I shall not, therefore, indulge in speculation on the subject further than to say that it is possibly true that reincarnation is the process of the soul's evolution. If so, reasoning from analogy, I should say that the process ceases when the soul reaches the status of a conscious existence. In the physical world we see that the process of evolution has gone forward progressively from the lowest form of animal life up to man. There the process ceases.
All further progress is in the line of improvement in the human race. No higher type of animal life is developed, and in our pride of manhood we believe that there never can be any higher animal existence. It may, therefore, be true that the progress of a soul is through reincarnation from the lower animal life to the higher, until it reaches the human; and that it may still go on in the lower grades of human organisms until it reaches the dignity of a conscious human soul. Having reached that point, the law of progress will expend its force in carrying it forward to its ultimate destiny. Considered as the process of the soul's evolution, the necessity for further reincarnation apparently no longer exists after the soul has attained the power and potency of a conscious, self-existent entity.
I throw out this suggestion for the benefit of those spiritistic mediums and other trance-seers who have found out so much more than Jesus knew about the internal economy of the spiritual world and the laws which pertain to spiritual existence. But this is a digression into the forbidden field of speculation without facts.
The common experience of mankind demonstrates the proposition that appropriate physical penalties are the necessary result of a violation of physical laws; and it has been shown from the teachings of Jesus, confirmed by the inductions of science, that the violation of the laws of spiritual existence is followed by inevitable spiritual penalties. It now remains to be considered what facts are known to science which will confirm the doctrine that moral punishment will follow the infraction of moral laws, in exact accordance "with the deeds done in the body." In order to do so intelligently, we must first briefly consider the question as to what the nature of the punishments and rewards must be. It being manifestly impossible for us to know, affirmatively, the particular modes of spiritual existence, we can arrive at a conclusion only by the method of exclusion. We must, therefore, begin by excluding all idea of material penalties or rewards. All such conceptions of spiritual life must be relegated to the dark ages of human intelligence, when man was able to conceive of no joy apart from physical pleasure, and no punishment other than physical suffering. Our conceptions must, therefore, be limited by what we know of the nature and attributes of the soul, as exhibited through phenomena.
The first question, then, is, What do we know of the attributes of the soul?
We know, first, that it is the seat of the emotions. It is therefore capable of being rewarded or punished through the natural affections.
Secondly, we know that it possesses the inherent power of perception of the laws of nature and of God, including the eternal, God-ordained principles of right and wrong. It will, therefore, after its release from the body, be able to estimate the value of every good deed, and realize the inherent infamy of every wrong one, as weighed in the scales of Eternal Justice.
Thirdly and lastly, we know of one attribute and -power of the human soul more pregnant with weal or woe, with joy or sorrow, than all the others combined; and that is its perfect memory.
These are the essential things that we know of the soul from the observation of phenomena. Our conceptions of it, therefore, are limited to its intellectual; moral, and emotional attributes. We know it only as an intellectual entity, and our conceptions of the rewards and punishments adequate to the ends of Divine Justice must be limited accordingly.
Little need be said in explanation of the trend of this brief summary. The conclusions are obvious. We have before us an intellectual entity capable of experiencing all the natural emotions of humanity, of joy and sorrow, of love and friendship; endowed with a perfect perception of the principles of right and wrong, and consequently in possession of an awakened conscience more keenly alive and active than the objective mind can conceive, and possessing a memory so perfect that every good and every bad deed of its whole earthly existence is constantly before it like a vast panorama. What greater reward could such a being ask or experience than would be found in the contemplation of a well-spent life ? What greater punishment than the remorse of conscience arising from the ever-persistent memory of a life of wickedness and crime?
It is obvious that both rewards and punishments are adequate and exact, and that God will "render to every man according to his deeds," by and through the operation of his immutable, unchanging laws.
I have now summarized enough of the leading points in the history of Jesus of Nazareth and of his doctrines, and compared them with known phenomena with sufficient particularity to show that the inductions of modern science demonstrate the essential truth of the history of his physical manifestations, and to prove, as far as inductive reasoning from known phenomena can prove anything not physically demonstrable, the truth of every essential doctrine of his spiritual philosophy. I have by no means exhausted the subject, for the New Testament is full of passages confirmatory of the view I have taken. It is true that I have interpreted the passages relating to the conditions precedent to the attainment of immortal life in a way in which they have never before been interpreted; but in doing so I have harmonized that which has heretofore seemed incongruous, and have thus removed a stumbling-block from the pathway of scepticism. I have no fear that even prejudice will find fault with my interpretation: for it not only leaves the essential doctrines relating to rewards and punishments uncontradicted, but it affords strong confirmation of their essential truth.
Moreover, my interpretation is confirmed by the facts of modern science, and must, therefore, shed a new lustre upon the name and attributes of Jesus, demonstrating, as it does, the accuracy of his knowledge of the laws of the soul.
It has been but a few years since the researches of science began to furnish facts confirmatory of the history and doctrines of Christ; but it has come to pass that every new fact discovered, and every new principle evolved, weakens the foundation of every other religious superstructure, and adds strength and harmony of proportions to that erected by the man of Nazareth.
It may, therefore, be now confidently asserted that Christianity possesses that to which no other system of religion can lay a valid claim; namely, a sound scientific basis.