BY LYSANDER SPOONER.
B 0 S T 0 N
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Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1834, by LYSANDER SPOONER, in the Clerk's office of the District Court of Massachusetts.
THE DEIST'S IMMORTALITY.
Deists are led to believe in a future existence, by the consideration, that, without it, our present one would seem to be without aim, end or purpose. As a work of Deity it would appear contemptible. Whereas, by supposing a future life, we can imagine, in our creation, a design worthy of Deity, viz.. to make us finally elevated intellectual and moral beings.
They are led to this belief by the further facts, that our natures appear to have been specially fitted for an eternal intellectual and moral advancement; that we are here surrounded by means promotive of that end ; and that the principal tendency of the education and impressions, which our minds here receive from the observation and experience of what exists and takes place in this world, is to carry them forward in that progress.
Again,-we are gifted with a desire of knowledge, which is stimulated, rather than satisfied, by acquisition. We are here placed in the midst of objects of inquiry, which meet that desire ; and there is still an unexplored physical, mental and moral creation around us. Here then are supplied the means of our further intellectual growth. We are also the constant witnesses of actions, objects and occurrences, which call into exercise our moral feelings, and thus tend to to improve our moral susceptibilities and characters. Analogy, and all we know of nature, support the supposition, that, if we were to continue our existence in the universe, of which this world is a part, we should always be witnesses of more or fewer actions, objects and occurrences similar to these in kind. Here too then we may see evidence of means and measures provided and adopted for our future moral culture. Our natures therefore are capable of being eternally carried nearer and nearer to perfection solely by the power of causes, which we see to be already in operation. The inquiry therefore is a natural one-what means this seeming arrangement? Does it all mean nothing? Is a scheme capable of such an issue as our creation appears to be, and for the prosecution of which every thing seems prepared and designed, likely to be abandoned, by its author, as its commencement? If not, then is the evidence reasonable, that man lives hereafter.
This evidence too is direct; it applies clearly to the case; it is based on unequivocal facts, such as have been named; it is not secondary; it does not, like that on which Christians rely, depend upon the truth of something else which is doubtful.
An argument against the probability that this theory of Gods intention to carry men on in an intellectual and moral progress, will be executed in relation to alt mankind, has been drawn from the fact that many appear to have chosen, in this world, a path opposite to "this bright one towards perfection ;" and it is said to be reasonable to suppose that they will always continue in that opposite course. Answer-There is, in every rational being, a moral sense, or reverence for right. This seminal principle of an exalted character never, in this world, becomes extinct; it survives through vice, degradation and crime: it sometimes seems almost to have been conquered, but it never dies ; and often, even in this world, like a phenix from her ashes, it lifts itself from the degradation of sensual pollution under which it was buried, and assumes a beauty and a power before unknown. How many, whose virtuous principles had been apparently subdued by temptation, appetite and passion, have suddenly risen with an energy worthy an immortal spirit, shaken off the influences that were degrading them, resisted and overcome the power that was prostrating them, become more resolutely virtuous than ever, and had their determination made strong by a recurrence to the scenes they had passed. This has happened in multitudes of instances in this world.
It should be remembered that nearly or entirely all our errors and wanderings from virtue here, proceed from the temptations offered to our appetites and passions by the things and circumstances of this world. The sensual indulgences, which follow these temptations, at length acquire over many a power, which, while exposed to those temptations, they would probably never shake off. But here we see the beneficent interference of our Creator, for when we are removed from this world, we are removed also from the influence of those particular temptations, which have here mastered us. We have then (without supposing any thing unnatural or improbable) apparently an opportunity to set out on a new existence--released from those seductions, which had before proved too strong for our principles-having also the benefit of past experience to warn us against the temptations which may then be around us, and inspired by a more clear developement of the glorious destiny ordained to us.
If many have chosen and resolutely entered upon a course of virtue while in this world, and while exposed to all the temptations which had once acquired a power over them, is it not natural to suppose that the opportunity offered to men by an exchange of worlds, will be embraced by all whose experience shall have shewn them the weakness, unhappiness and degradation of a course opposite to that of virtue?
But since many are removed from this life before their moral purposes are decided by their observation and experience of evil, may we not suppose, that, to effect that object in such, and to strengthen those purposes in all, enticements and temptations will be around us in the next stage of our existence ? And who knows whether, if those temptations should ever become too strong for our virtue, the same measure of removal may not be repeated again and again in our progress-at each advance, a new and wider horizon of God's works, and a more extensive developement of his plans, opening before, and corresponding to, our enlarged and growing faculties-our intellectual and moral powers nourished and expanded by such new exhibitions of his wisdom, benevolence and power, as shall excite new inquiries into the principles, measures and objects of his moral government, and call forth higher admiration, and purer adoration, of his greatness and goodness? Was ever a thought more full of sublimity ? A thought representing all rational beings as possessing the elements of great and noble natures, capable of being, and destined to be, developed without limit-- a thought representing Deity, in the far future, as presiding over, not merely an universe of matter, or such limited intellects as ours are at their departure from this world ; but as ruling over, occupying the thoughts, and inspiring the homage, of a universe of intelligences intellectually and morally exalted, and constantly being exalted, towards a state high and perfect beyond our present powers of conception.
Compared with these views and prospects, how puerile is the heaven of Christians--how enervating to the mind their languishing and dreamy longings after a monotonous and unnatural bliss. Many of them do indeed believe in the eternal progress of the soul-but they obtain not this belief from the Bible. It was the much scoffed at theology of reason and nature, that taught to them this doctrine, which is, above all others connected with the future, valuable to man while here, and honorable to Deity.
The impression, made by the representations of the Bible, is, that men are removed from this world to a state, in which their intellectual faculties will always remain the same as they were immediately after their entrance thither. They are there represented as eternally praising Deity for a single act, viz.. their redemption--an act, which, if it could be real, could have been performed only in favor of a part of the human race, and which could, neither from any extraordinary condescension, benevolence or greatness in the act, entitle Deity to an homage in any degree proportionate to what he would be entitled to, if the theology of reason, on this point, instead of the theology of Christianity, be true.
How absurd too is it to suppose that Deity, who must be supposed to have willed the existence of our homage towards him, should will only that which should spring from so scanty a knowledge of his designs, and which should be offered by intellects so incapable of appreciating his character, as Christianity contemplates.
Finally the Christian's heaven is an impracticable one, unless God shall perform an eternal miracle to make it otherwise. The nature of our minds is such that they cannot always dwell upon, and take pleasure in, the same thought or object, however glorious or delightful it may be in itself.--There is in them an ever-restless desire of change, and of new objects of investigation and contemplation, and it is by the operation of this principle that our eternal intellectual advancement is to be carried on. But Christianity offers to us, in its promised heaven, one prominent subject only of reflection and interest--a subject, which, if it were real, although calculated perhaps to excite gratitude for a time, could never, without the aid of a miracle, operate upon our present natures so as to produce an eternal delight.
But it will probably be said that our natures will be so changed, as to be fitted to forever receive pleasure from the same source. Answer 1st. Such a change would be a degradation of our present natures, and that we cannot believe that Deity would ever cause. Answer 2d. If our natures are to be so essentially changed as always to rest satisfied with one subject of contemplation, to always receive their highest and constant pleasure from one fountain, and to have their intellectual thirst forever quenched, we should not then be the same beings that we were. Answer 3d. Such a change in, or rather annihilation of our mental appetites, is inconsistent with our further progress, because the principle, which is to urge us on, will then be removed-therefore a belief in the Christian's heaven is inconsistent with a belief in the eternal progress of the soul.
The theory of successive existences is rendered probable, by the obvious necessity of having our situations, and the objects of investigation and reflection, by which we are to be surrounded, correspond to the state of our capacities. The same condition, which, like this world, is stilted to the infancy of our being, would not be best adapted to the improvement of one who had existed for a series of ages.
Further--it is difficult to account for the temporary character of our present existence, otherwise than by supposing it the first of a series of existences. The idea that it was intended as a state of probation is one of the most absurd that ever entered the brains of men. It is absurd, in the first place, because the fact, that so large a portion of mankind are removed from it before their characters have been deter-mined by influences calculated to try them, is direct evidence from Deity himself that he did not intend it for that purpose; and, in the second place, it is absurd, because the utility of a state of probation is not the most obvious thing in the world, when it is considered that the consequence of one is admitted to be, that a part of mankind become eternally miserable and wicked, whereas, without one, it must be admitted that all might become such beings as I have previously supposed them designed to be.