If I stopped right here, I might reasonably claim to have established the fact that the religion of Christ is founded upon a purely scientific basis. But I do not intend to rest content with mere presumptive evidence. I propose to show that his knowledge of the law of immortality did not rest upon inferential deductions from the facts known by him regarding the relations of the soul to its physical environment. I propose to show that the world is now in possession of facts from which we can reason inductively up to the same conclusions which he proclaimed, ex cathedra, as the law of immortality.
Before proceeding to do so, we must first inquire just what he taught. In doing so I intend to confine myself to the one essential proposition which he made regarding the condition essential to the soul's salvation; for I do not propose to be led into a discussion of the great fabric of doctrinal religion which has been built up since he ascended to the Father. I leave that to the theologian. What I intend to show is, that, viewed from a purely scientific standpoint, the declaration which he made regarding the condition precedent to the salvation of the soul is necessarily true.
The first question, therefore, is, What did Jesus declare to be the one essential condition necessary to the attainment of immortal life ? When I say, "necessary to the attainment of immortal life," I mean literally what I say; for I hold that if there is one principle laid down by the Master that is more clearly defined than any other, it is contained in his declaration, so often repeated, that faith - belief - is the one essential condition precedent to the continued life of the soul after the death of the body; and that, in the absence of belief in immortality, the soul itself will necessarily perish. That this was his doctrine, literally interpreted, no one will deny. That he meant exactly what he said, I shall attempt to show. That his declarations to that effect were statements of a scientific truth, I shall attempt to demonstrate by the process of inductive reasoning from facts known to modern science.
Before proceeding with the main argument, I hasten to say that the doctrine of future rewards and punishments will be left untouched. That question will stand just where it has always stood, - for each one to decide for himself according to his own interpretation of the Scriptures on that point, or his own sense of Divine Justice. I shall not even attempt to destroy the comfort and consolation which many good persons seem to derive from their belief in eternal fire. My only object is to show, from a purely scientific standpoint, that the history and essential doctrines of Jesus are confirmed by the facts and necessary inductions of modern science, and, incidentally, to harmonize certain passages of the New Testament which, through misinterpretation, have seemed to be at variance.
According to the Gospel of Saint John, the first declaration by Jesus of his doctrine of immortality was made to Nicodemus in the following words: -
"And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up:
"That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."1
1 John iii. 14-16.
Again, in John vi. 40, 47, he makes the same declaration in the following clear-cut sentences: -
"And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life. . . .
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life".
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life."1
"I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:
"And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die."2
Other passages might be quoted to the same effect, but these must suffice.
The question now is, Did Jesus mean just what he said; or were these idle words, having no significance taken in their literal sense ? Jesus was not in the habit of uttering idle words, or of making statements that did not contain the elements of eternal truth. If these are exceptions, they are the only ones recorded in his history. I hold that they are not exceptions, but that they are authoritative statements of a literal scientific truth.
I have already shown that in formulating the doctrine of faith as the essential condition prerequisite to successful healing, he gave utterance to a scientific principle which it has taken nineteen hundred years for the world to understand and appreciate. It is equally true that, in formulating the proposition that belief is the essential prerequisite to the attainment of immortality, he gave words to a scientific principle of far greater importance than the other.
I am aware that one portion of the Christian Church believes that by the words "eternal life " Jesus meant that reward in heaven which is promised to the just, and that by "eternal death" he simply meant the punishment which the wicked must undergo for their sins. On the other hand, there are those of the Church who hold that the literal death of the soul is the punishment meted out to all who die in their sins, while "eternal life" is the reward promised to all who are good. Neither of these sects has, however, satisfactorily explained to unbelievers why it is that belief or unbelief enters as a factor in the case, since man is not supposed to be able to command his belief.
1 John v. 24.
2 John xi. 25, 26.
It is to the reconciliation of these conflicting theories that I shall now address myself.