The Scripture Doctrine of Materialism

A facsimile of the original main text is here.  A facsimile of the introductory material is here.

THE SCRIPTURE DOCTRINE OF MATERIALISM.

By THOMAS COOPER, M.D.
Philadelphia
1823

(This introductory material comes from the translation by Thomas Cooper, MD of the text: ON IRRITATION AND INSANITY by F.J.V. Broussais)

In the year 1787, (44 years ago) I published in England the first volume of Tracts, Ethical, Theological and Political; Warrington printed. Among these tracts was one containing a view in defense of the doctrine of Materialism, first read at the Manchester literary and philosophical Society; the same in all essential respects with that here presented, and which last, is in fact, abridged from my early publication. The addition of those tracts was well-received and soon sold off; but owing to other avocations I never republished or continued them.

In the year 1822, a clamor was raised in this state (South Carolina) among some well-meaning but not well informed people, against the heterodox opinions which it was supposed I entertained; as if it were not allowable in republican America for any man to entertain any opinions which on due consideration he conscientiously believed to be well-founded. The vague and general accusation preferred to the Legislature by two Grand Juries from a distant part of the state, instigated by some of the clergy, was referred to a committee of the House of Representatives who reported in substance that whatever opinions I was presumed to entertain now were well known before I was appointed to the Presidency of the College, and being deduced from the Christian Scriptures, ought to form no objection to me at this time. The report was adopted and the committee discharged.

In the recklessness of accusation at that time it was asserted in some of the newspapers of the state that Mr. Jefferson had been compelled to procure my dismissal from the honorable situation to which I had been appointed in the Virginia University (the joint professorships of Chemistry and Law). It became proper for me therefore to be prepared to show, if necessary, that my opinions on the subject alluded to were neither inconsistent with the Christian doctrines of the New Testament or with sound philosophy. In the year 1823, I drew up the tracts here published, and sent them to Philadelphia as the place to most likely to afford their confirmation or confutation; and I published them anonymously that they might stand or fall by the intrinsic merit or demerit of the arguments employed.

I adopted this course also from a disinclination to publish anything of a theological character in this state. I have from the time I came here to the present moment conscientiously abstained from the expression of any theological opinion whatever, before or in the presence of any student of this college: my deliberate advice and direction having always been, and now is, that they ought to adopt and profess the religious creed of their parents till the laws of the land set them free from parental control. It will be time enough then for them to investigate the subjects if they shall be inclined to do so. Young as they are, and while students, they have not the preliminary requisites to do so fully, finally, and beneficially. For this reason, I shall send the present translation of Broussais to a distance, nor shall I publish it in South Carolina.

I cannot help thinking it a great disgrace to the country that any objection should be made to the publication and free discussion of any opinion whatever; for I know of no means of settling truth on a firm basis but the perfect freedom allowed to every body of presenting to the public every view that can be taken of a controverted doctrine. Surely we cannot see the clearer for allowing one of our eyes to be closed, or be the wiser for looking at one side only of a disputed question and obstinately refusing to consider any other. When the gentlemen of the clerical profession show such morbid irritability at the discussion of metaphysical or theological doctrines which they would fain persuade us are too sacred to be disputed, they give rise by so doing to the strong suspicion that they themselves are not fully persuaded that the doctrines they inculcate are clear of all doubt and liable to no overthrow. Else why this irritation when some orthodox tenets is modestly doubted? Why not confute their opponents instead of abusing them, and exhibit to the world their own superiority by the mildness and calmness of their conduct and manner and the temperate force of their arguments?

But I fear this is not to be expected from men who regard a doubt of their doctrines as an attack upon themselves. A priesthood, claiming to be a separate and sacred order of men, hired and paid to teach and preach certain doctrines and opinions, and adopting this mode of life as a trade — a profession — as the sure road to comfort and consideration, if not affluence, and strictly imbued with the esprit de corps, the corporation spirit of the clerical order, cannot be expected to come into the field of argument without a strong bias in favor of the tenets by which they obtained their living, or without irritation and anger against those people who in any manner oppose their influence over the people. If truth interferes with their interest, they can hardly be expected to look at it but with a jealous eye. This will happen even to wise, learned, and well disposed men, as many of them really are, when thus placed and situated: and the objection lays, not against the individual, but the order to which he belongs, and the trade by which he gets his living; often forced upon him by circumstances over which he has had little or no control.

Hence has arisen the mischievous interference of the clergy in astronomy, geology, zoology, physiology, and medicine; and the check constantly pressing upon the friends of truth, who would willingly discuss all the questions connected with these branches of knowledge fully, freely, and fairly. Bigotry is a continual spy upon science, and restrains that perfect freedom of discussion which the cause of truth and the good of the public absolutely requires upon every contested question.

As to the doctrine of Materialism, I run no risk in prophesying that twenty years hence it will be the prevailing doctrine among Physiologists and Physicians, not only in Europe but in this country. The views of the question taken by Priestley, Cabanis, Gall, Lawrence, and Broussais, I consider as pregnant with arguments impossible to be confuted: if they can be successfully opposed, it is high time the attempt should be made by the advocates of ancient opinions. Men of science begin now to revolt at the fetters which their clerical guides would willingly fix upon them; and something more is required by public opinion than outcries of heterodoxy and infidelity and dread lest the enormous influence of the clergy should be exposed to danger. By what ever opprobrious terms truth may be designated, those gentlemen may rely on it that error is no longer sacred, and if they wish to preserve a reasonable influence upon men of sense, they must resort more to argument and less to abuse.

Being in the habit of transmitting to Mr. Jefferson my publications, I sent him the two tracts that follow: and I think my readers will not be displeased to peruse his opinion respecting them which I have accordingly subjoined.

T.C.

Letter of Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Cooper, December 11, 1823.

TO DR. THOMAS COOPER
MONTECELLO, DEC. 11, 1823.

DEAR SIR:

I duly received your favor of the 23rd old ult. as also the two pamphlets you were so kind as to send me. That on the tariff, I observed, was soon reprinted in Ritchie’s Enquirer. I was only sorry he did not postpone it to the meeting of Congress, when it would have got into the hands of all the members, and could not fail to have great effect, perhaps a decisive one. It is really an extraordinary proposition that the agricultural, mercantile, and navigating classes should be taxed to maintain that of manufacturers.

That the doctrine of Materialism was that of Jesus himself was a new idea to me. Yet it is proved unquestionably. We all know it was that of some of the early Fathers. I hope the physiological part will follow; in spite of the prevailing fanaticism, reason will make its way. I confess that its reign at present is appalling. General education is the true remedy, and that most happily is now generally encouraged. The story you mention as gotten up by your opponents, of my having advised the Trustees of our University to turn you out as Professor, is quite in their style of barefaced mendacity. They find it so easy to obliterate the reason of mankind that they think they may enterprise safely on his memory also; for it was the winter before the last only, that our annual report to the Legislature, printed in the newspapers, stated the precise ground on which we relinquished your engagement with our Central College. And, if my memory does not deceive me, it was own your own proposition, that the time of our setting into operation being postponed indefinitely, it was important to you not to lose an opportunity of fixing yourself permanently; and that they should father on me too, the motion for this dismission, than whom no man living cherishes a higher estimation of your worth, talents, and information. But so the world goes. Man is fed with fables through life, leaves it in the belief that he has known something of what has been passing, when in truth he has known nothing but what has passed under his own eye. And who are the great deceivers? Those who solemnly pretend to be the depositories of the sacred truths of God himself! I will not believe that the liberality of the State to which you are rendering services of science which no other man in the Union is qualified to render it will suffer you to be in danger from a set of conjurers.

I note what you say of Mr. Finch; but the moment of our Commencement is as indefinite as it ever was. Affectionately and respectfully,

Yours,

TH. JEFFERSON

 

THE SCRIPTURE DOCTRINE OF MATERIALISM.

By THOMAS COOPER, M.D.
Philadelphia
1823

Preface

There are only two doctrines of a religious nature that appear to me to have any bearing on the welfare of society; because they alone furnish a sanction and incitement to moral conduct:

(1) The belief in an all wise, good, and powerful Being, who superintends the moral government of the universe;

(2) the belief in a state of future existence after the death of the body, wherein every human creature shall be punished or rewarded according to his good or bad conduct and habits during the present life.

Whether we shall be punished or rewarded by means of the soul, or as in this life by means of our living bodies, seems to me to be a point of no practical consequence. The sanction — the incitement, consists in our persuasion of the reality of the punishment and of the reward; whether it be by the one means or by the other. Accordingly, there are good and wise men in abundance – pious and learned Christians, who are of the one opinion and of the other: nor all any good man to believe that his neighbor is the worse for adopting either.

Circumstances, unnecessary to be detailed, have induced me to draw up my own opinions on the subject, and the arguments on which I rely; the reader will judge for himself; I have no right to judge for him, or he for me.

A BRIEF ACCOUNT OF THE
SCRIPTURE DOCTRINE OF
MATERIALISM
******

Two opinions are entertained respecting thought, intelligence, and the phenomena termed mental, or intellectual. One is that they are to be ascribed to a being distinct from the body, having no property in common with matter (immaterial, spiritual) incapable of corruption like the matter of our bodies, and in consequence thereof, immortal. This being, naturally distinct from the body, is the human soul; united to the body during its life, set free from the body at death, and without whose union with the body there would be nothing like thought, volition, or action. As the soul alone can act and suffer, this opinion of its separate existence is essentially connected with the Christian doctrine of a future state. Such is the prevailing opinion adopted by all the clergy; and by them inculcated as an article of faith essential to Christianity.

The other is that all of the phenomenon termed mental or intellectual are to be ascribed not to any soul, distinct or separate from the body, but to the properties which God Almighty has been pleased to connect with the human frame — with the human system of organized matter. So that thought, volition, action, or the results of the circumstances to which God has been pleased that man, as an organized being, should be exposed during his continuance in this life. It is also said that there are manifest appearances of thought, volition, and, consequently, action, in brute animals; inferior greatly in complication and perfection to those that are observed in man, but not different in kind. The organization of brute animals being in many essential respects inferior to that of man.

According to the first doctrine, man is a compound animal consisting of a soul immaterial, immortal, invisible, and other body such as we see: this is Immaterialism. According to the second doctrine, man is not a compound animal, but consists merely of the parts and their properties, which are visible and apparent, and which can be made known to us by our senses: this is Materialism. According to the first doctrine, when the body dies the soul survives; according to the second doctrine, when the body dies, the whole man dies.

The present inquiry is, which of these two doctrines is most conformable to Christianity as delivered to us in the four Gospels that furnish the details of the life, death, and precepts of Jesus Christ. If it shall appear on the balance of evidence that Jesus Christ supported in precepts and in practice the one opinion or the other, then is it a Christian duty to embrace that opinion which has received his sanction.

I propose to show that the opinion denominated Materialism is — and the opinion denominated Immaterialism is not — consistent with Christianity.

It will be prudent at the outset to settle the question –

WHAT IS CHRISTIANITY?

The Christianity of the Romish church is one thing: of the Greek church another. The Christianity of an Athanasian, of a Sabellian, of an Arian, of a Socinian, of a Priestleyan, are all different: the variances relate to the essential points. The Christianity of Calvin and the Synod of Dort was one thing: the Christianity of James Harmens (Arminius) was another. The Christianity of George Whitfield, like the thirty-nine articles of the church of England, admits the doctrine of election and reprobation; and Whitfield held the final perseverance of the saints. The Christianity of John Wesley, and of the present church of England, from the bench and in the pulpit, excludes both the one and the other. The opinion of a Trinitarian appears to an Unitarian to be polytheism and idolatry. The opinion of an Unitarian seems to a Trinitarian; little, if anything, short of blasphemy.

To a rigid Calvinist, mere morality, and the slightest value or efficacy allowed to good works, is setting up the works of the law over the precepts of the Gospel, and the pretensions of good conduct and benevolent actions over faith in Christ, and redeeming grace. To a Calvinist, all good works proceeding merely from the voluntary disposition, the kind affections, the due regard for character, and sense of social duty in a person not yet called through grace, and justified in Jesus, “doubtless (in the language of the thirty-nine articles) have in them the nature of sin.” While to a man who professes to be governed in his conduct by a sense of moral rectitude, of obedience to the laws, and respect for his own standing in society, among the good and the wise with whom he lives, the Calvinistic decision of the quinquarticular controversy, or the five points, as they are called — the doctrine of final perseverance, election and reprobation, independent of moral conduct — and the efficacy of a deathbed repentance — assume the character of temptations and provocatives to all manner of crime, and are subversive (where they really operate) of all the bonds of civil and domestic society. That a life of crime may be fully expiated by few minutes of repentance may be Calvin’s religion, but it is not a tenet that society ought to encourage. Amid the dissonance of opinion, where are the genuine doctrines of Christianity to be found? In the Bible? Alas! All sects and all parties appeal indiscriminately to the Bible. Each constitutes himself sole authorized interpreter for, and infallible judge of his neighbor; and sets up the paling of exclusive salvation within the narrow limits of his own creed.

I have searched so much, so long, so ardently, so anxiously to arrive at truth on these subjects that I am sensibly alive to all the difficulties that surround it; to the dangers of discussing it; and a certain punishment that awaits every man who opposes predominant opinions. Hence I do not pretend that my opinions are true; I can only say that I believe they are. Hence I have full charity for all seekers after truth who differ from me in opinion. Let them hold their opinions; they have as much right to them as I have to mine; their belief is as obligatory upon them as mine on me.

But I hope I ask not too much if I require that the toleration shall be mutual. Whatever my own opinions may be, they have been the result of laborious inquiry — they have never conduced to my interests, but far otherwise — I have never taken them up as a trade — I have no motive of interest to adopt or avow them — I do not get my living by professing them. In saying this, I blame not those who do, but it manifestly furnishes a drawback from their authority. Hence I object to the interference, and much more to the decision of men, who being hired and paid to propagate certain opinions, will of course maintain the doctrines by which they live and thrive.

The motto of a hired and paid priesthood is in all ages and in all countries the same: “Great is Dianna of the Ephesians!” and the worldly-minded among them will hoot out of society if they can all those who interfere with their trade. I know many worthy men of the clerical order to whom this will not apply; men whose sound learning, good sense, and kind dispositions, make them estimable exceptions to a general rule. But the general rule is as I have stated it; and my reader knows it is so.

If I state this strongly, it is because I have felt it deeply. Suppose an architect, a painter, a physician, called upon in a court of justice to give his professional opinion upon a professional point in litigation: suppose it should appear on the cross examination that he was hired and paid for giving currency to the opinions he had advanced before the court — would do the jury believe him? Would the court allow any weight to his testimony? But the clergy consider this objection almost as blasphemy: for they have always and everywhere arrogated exclusive privileges that their fellow citizens dare not claim.

In answering the question “What is Christianity?” I presume not therefore to do more than submit to the reader my own opinion, with the reasons on which it is founded; leaving him to judge of the one and of the other. Requesting only, that until he can discover a probable and reasonable motive why I, a layman, should embrace opinions so unpopular, unless it be the truth of them according to the lights I possess, he will impute to me error of the understanding only; and to this I shall willingly submit. It is with great reluctance I engage in this controversy, but the events of my neighborhood have rendered it a measure of defense.

I lay it down as a known and acknowledged rule of evidence that in ascertaining any fact we are to require and resort to the highest and best evidence that the nature of the case will admit. We are not allowed to proceed upon hearsay testimony, where the original witness can be produced; we must not produce a copy of the deed, when the deed itself is at our command; we must not aver against a record; we must not bring the fleeting recollection of verbal assertion in opposition to declarations deliberately written and acknowledged; and so on.

I lay down also as known and acknowledged rules of evidence:

That we cannot contradict or modify superior evidence by inferior. If the testimony of B depend upon the evidence of A, it can neither add to nor detract from the value of A’s evidence.

That we need not resort to inferior evidence if the superior be adequate to our purposes.

That we are to rest our fact and all our conclusions from it on the best evidence that can be produced to establish it, and on no other.

That if the evidence thus admitted he clear in the main, and ambiguous in some parts, we are to construe the parts that seem ambiguous in conformity with the main object and intention about which there is no ambiguity.

Lastly, that Christianity, being intended for all mankind, must necessarily consist of few propositions, and those plain and intelligible to any man of common learning and common understanding.

And now to the application:

Christianity is to be found in the doctrines and facts promulgated in the New Testament.

The New Testament consists of the doctrines and facts of Christ’s ministry contained in the four Gospels; and of the doctrines and facts related of the apostles after his resurrection.

The doctrines and facts related to Christ himself, as delivered to us by the four evangelists, are the highest and best evidence we possess of what Christianity is.

1. Because Jesus Christ was the founder of Christianity. It rests upon what he said and did.

2. Because all Christians acknowledge that Jesus Christ could not be deceived. He was not fallible like common men.

3. Because his apostles, deriving all their knowledge from him, can neither add to, or diminish the authority of his doctrines.

Hence, I hold that no comments, apostolic or other, upon the doctrines of Jesus are in themselves obligatory on his disciples. I rest exclusively on the best evidence the nature of the case will admit — on what Jesus Christ said and did; — and I seek for Christianity in the four evangelists, and in them only. A Christian is bound by all the precepts and doctrines of Christ Jesus; he acknowledges no other master and needs no other teacher.

The reader is acquainted with the four Gospels of the evangelists; appealing then to the reader I say that the only doctrines of Christianity plainly and clearly delivered by Christ himself, and which his apostles were enjoyed to propagate, are these:

1. The doctrine of one God; God the father as the only object of adoration, and is the only creator, preserver, and moral Governor of the universe; in opposition to the absurd notions of polytheism prevalent all over the world when Christ appeared.

2. The resurrection from the dead, and a state of future rewards and punishments distributed according to the past conduct, habits, and dispositions of the dead person who shall for this purpose be called up before the judgment seat at the great day.

This doctrine is rendered necessary to complete the plan of the moral government of the universe; and to rectify the apparent inequalities of good and evil in the present life by the distributive justice of a future state of existence. This doctrine was not prevalent among the learned of the heathen world; and it renders Christianity of unspeakable value to a Christian, because it puts a doctrine of the very highest importance and of the most salutary influence upon sure and certain foundations, resting upon evidence nowhere to be found but in the Christian scriptures.

3. That Jesus was a person sent of God, divinely commissioned to teach these most salutary doctrines, to confirm them by miracles while living, and by his own predicted resurrection after death: and he did so.

Thus far all sects and orders of Christians agree: and I defy the reader to show me any other opinion delivered in the four Gospels in which Christians do so agree. Surely those doctrines which large portions of good and wise and pious and learned men differ about, after eighteen centuries of laborious discussion, may well be considered as dubious.

Do they agree in the nature and character of Christ himself whether he was equal with the father or inferior — co-eternal or of subsequent production? Are the doctrines of transubstantiation, of the immaculate conception, of original sin, of collection and reprobation, of vicarious suffering, clearly and explicitly taught in language plain and free from the figurative ambiguity of Eastern metaphor? Are any of the five points so laboriously and abstrusely handled at the Synod of Dort clearly and explicitly laid down in the holy Gospels? No! They are not.

It is notorious that they are even at this day, as in former days, disputed in every part of Christendom by learned and grave men. As I consider the Christian dispensation intended for the benefit of no part of mankind exclusively, but introduced for the present and eternal welfare of the poor, the meek, the unlettered, at least as much as for the learned and the wise; I cannot consider any doctrine essential to Christianity that is not clear and intelligible to an unlearned man of common understanding. Hence I throw out of the catalog of Christian doctrines all those abstruse points that occupied the pens of learned theologians of the present day.

What! Shall a doctrine be deemed essential that has been a subject of controversy for near 2000 years and not yet settled? What! Shall a doctrine be deemed essential which none but learned men are capable of discussing? God forbid. Jesus Christ loved little children, he comforted the poor in spirit and the brokenhearted, he honored the widows mite. Would he mock his followers with doctrines too abstruse for the comprehension of the great mass of mankind — of the very class he was accustomed to address?

Moreover I consider no tenet as essential that does not bear directly on our moral conduct; that does not make us better men; that does not furnish a motive and a sanction to abstain from evil and do good; that does not tend to make each member of society more valuable to each other. The doctrines of one supreme God, the moral Governor of the universe and a state of future rewards and punishments in another life, according to our conduct and acquired habits in the present, have manifestly this good tendency. To Christians, there is no sufficient evidence of a future state out of the Christian scriptures and independent of Jesus Christ ,who brought life and immortality to light. The Christian therefore rests upon the Gospel facts with peculiar satisfaction. But what direct bearing on morality can we find in such questions asked — whether the three persons of the Trinity be three separate persons, distinct intelligent agents, or three modes wherein the supreme being exhibits his power and characters; — whether the generation of the Son be eternal or not; — whether the Holy Ghost be a person or an attribute; — whether the Holy Ghost proceeded from the father only or from the father and the son; — whether the son be omoousion or omoioision (of the same or similar substance) with the father; — whether all mankind deserved to be consigned to eternal torments because Eve tempted Adam to eat the forbidden fruit; — whether we are to bear the pains and penalties of our own misconduct, or whether Christ bore them for us;** — whether the terms of redemption are unfailing for the benefit of all men, or for the benefit of the elect only; — whether the electorate were chosen because God foreknew how they would act, or whether their actions are guided and determined by God’s predetermination; — whether, in the quaint phraseology of Gale, God predetermined man’s volition or gave only “his predeterminate concurse to the entitative act?’ — whether a saint may fall from grace not only foully but finally; — whether good actions, performed before a sinner be called through saving grace to repentance, have in them the nature of sin, etc. etc. I ask, “Is the great cause of morality furthered by these questions?”  [**Footnote:  Dr. Magee, of Trinity College, Dublin, has published a thick octavo in defence of the orthodox doctrine of vicarious suffering and atonement, crowded with learned references and quotations. If such a book be necessary to prove the doctrines, then the Scriptures are insufficient for the purpose, and the doctrine is not worth the pains taken with it. Besides, can a doctrine be essential, which after near two thousand years of discussion, requires at this day learned volumes to establish it? The modern doctrine of atonement and vicarious suffering succeeded after and in place of the Roman Catholic doctrine of indulgencies.  Moreoever, no doctrine can be essential, of which the clergy would prohibit the discussion; nor is it likely than an opinion is well founded, when then denounce those who controvert it. Like other men, they are timid whenever their cause is weak: and when they want to scare away discussion, it is a sure sign that they dread it.]

I acknowledge therefore no disputations or disputable Christianity. I know nothing beyond the points I have mentioned as essential to the belief of a Christian. I see that all sects acknowledge these doctrines so far as they are here laid down; and as I know of no other theological opinion undisputed among Christians, I adhere to these and these only.

If then it be asked, is Christ equal with God, or coeval with God, or inferior to him in power, was his generation from eternity or in time; is he an object of adoration equally with the father; is he omoousion or omoioision? I cannot tell; none of these points seem to be settled by an uniform series of plain and unconflicting texts that leave no room for hesitation. I content myself therefore with what is plain, clear, and indisputable. Jesus Christ was divinely commissioned for the duties he fulfilled on earth, or he could not have worked miracles in proof of his doctrine. I understand this far, and there I stop.

Well, but the resurrection from the dead: this is not so plain as to be free from doubts and difficulties even to a materialist. What kind of body is it that will rise? The corrupted and corruptible mass of matter thrown into the grave? Or some body more fit for the enjoyment of immortality? To all this I reply that Jesus Christ having preached the resurrection of the body, I take it as he preached it.

If I cannot explain all the difficulties that attend this opinion and resolve all the curious questions that can be raised on it, I am content. I am content to believe Jesus Christ on his own terms, and after his own fashion, and no other. Had all these curious questions required explanation, he would have given it: if he has not given it, we need it not.  Such is my notion of Christianity. If I think that others believe too much, and if they think I believe too little, I cannot help it. By the use we have made of the lights that have been afforded us, must we stand or fall; and may God forgive, as I hope and believe he will, the involuntary errors on the one side and the other of those who seek after the truth.

I shall now attempt to show that

THE SCRIPTURE DOCTRINE OF THE RESURRECTION IS WHAT IS NOW CALLED MATERIALISM, AND THAT IT IS INCONSISTENT WITH THE NOTION OF A SEPARATE, IMMATERIAL, AND IMMORTAL SOUL.

The plainest account of the resurrection seems to be that delivered by Jesus Christ in the fifth chapter of John, 24, etc. “Verily, verily I say unto you, he that heareth my word and believe on him that sent me have everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life. Verily, verily I say unto you, that the hour is coming and now is when the dead shall hear the voice of the son of God, and they that hear shall live. For as the father hath life in himself, so has he given to the son to have life in himself; and had given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the son of man. Marvel not at this, for the hour cometh in which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and come forth; they that have done good to the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil to the resurrection of damnation” (condemnation).

The resurrection of the Gospels, whether of Christ or others, is always spoken of as a resurrection of the dead: Luke 24:46, “this it behoved Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day.” John 20:9, that he must rise from the dead, and so on. I need not multiply passages on this point, which cannot be disputed.

But on the modern hypothesis of an immaterial soul that survives the body and never dies — which is to be the future object of reward and punishment — the resurrection of the dead is not merely an absurdity, but a falsehood.

Again, if this supposed seat of thought, intelligence, volition, of all the passions and affections, do really exist as is supposed, then is a resurrection useless and unnecessary. That being needs not be revived from the dead which never dies.

An immaterialist — a deist, needs not this manifestation of divine justice first revealed by Jesus Christ. Our body (they may say) is the passive instrument of the soul which is confined to it during this life; it is meant to serve the purposes of this life only: when the body dies, then is our nobler and most essential part set at liberty; and exerts its powers, free and untrammeled by the fleshy load to which it was conjoined. As it is of itself, and essentially immaterial and immortal, no future resurrection is necessary to its future existence.

These are the fair and inevitable conclusions from what it pleases the priesthood to call orthodoxy.

Again: If it were true that the human being consisted of a material body incapable of thought, volition, feeling, intelligence — and of an immaterial and immortal soul conjoined to it during life, and set free from it at death — and if this were one of the essential doctrines of the Christian religion, then would the declaration of Jesus Christ to this purpose have been plain, unambiguous, and explicit: but we have no such description of human nature laid down by Christ. He has nowhere adopted or declared this opinion; he has nowhere described us as consisting of an immortal soul conjoined to a mortal body, or inculcated any thing like it as an article of faith. He has uniformly declared that the resurrection he preached was the resurrection, not of the compound creature man, consisting of body and soul — not of the human soul which is described as immortal — but of the human body which died and was buried. I hope the expressions of Jesus Christ will be accepted as good authority for what is Christianity on this point; I have no better to offer.

I repeat that when Jesus Christ talks of the resurrection of the dead, it must be the resurrection of that which is liable to death; and it cannot mean the resurrection of that which is not liable to death, but being immortal, never dies. Matthew 22:23; Mark 12:18; Luke 20:33. The Sadducees put to him a question of matrimony under the Jewish law. They asked, “therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife shalt she be of the seven?” Here was a fair opportunity for Jesus Christ to have explained the modern doctrine of immaterialism, and to have shown that the institution of marriage was a corporeal rite and had reference to the body only, and that the marriage of two immaterial souls was an absurdity and an impossibility. But he gives no hint whatever of the soul; only that, at the resurrection of the dead, there is neither marrying or giving in marriage.

Luke 24:46: And he said unto them, thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead on the third day.

John 20:9: For as yet they knew not the Scriptures, that he must rise again from the dead.

John 2:21: But he spake of the temple of his body.

When Jesus had risen, the women who went to search for his body found it not in the sepulchre, for the body had risen from the dead. Luke 24:6, Why seek you the living among the dead? He is not here but is risen.

When Christ died upon the cross, many bodies of saints that slept arose. Matthew 27:52. Is it not strange that in none of these passages relating to the resurrection from the dead have we any reference to the soul?

Again: The resurrection from the dead promise by Jesus was exemplified by his own death, burial, and resurrection, such as was his resurrection, such will be ours; or he died to no purpose. If his personal exemplification of the resurrection from the dead, to which he appealed, was different in its kind and nature from that which mankind are to undergo, it becomes no longer a type, an exemplification, and a proof of our resurrection. He arose expressly after predicting that he would do so to make manifest and illustrate by fact the doctrine he had been preaching. Let us then consider the Scripture account of Christ’s own resurrection.

John 20:24: But Thomas (one of the twelve), called Didymus, was not with him when Jesus came. The other disciples said unto him, we have seen the Lord: but he said unto them, except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my fingers into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe. And after eight days again, the disciples were within, and Thomas was with them. Then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, peace be unto you. Then saith he to Thomas, reach hither thy finger and to hold my hands; and reach hither thy hand and thrust it into my side; and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered in saith unto him my Lord and my God! Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed; Blessed are they who have not seen me, and yet have believed.

Other circumstances are mentioned by Luke 24:38, in giving an account of Jesus appearing to disciples after his resurrection. “And he said unto them, why are you troubled, and why do thoughts arise in your hearts. The hold my hands and my feet, that it is I, myself: handle me and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as you see me have. And when he had just spoken, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they believed not for joy, but wondered, he said unto them, have ye here any meat? And they gave him a piece of broiled fish and a honeycomb, and he took it, and did eat before them.” See the parallel passages, Matthew 28; Mark 16; Luke 24:39.

This is the only account the Scriptures give us of the great and important proof, and manifestation of the resurrection of the dead, produced by Christ himself, as an example of that future miraculous destination of the human kind.

If the belief in the separate existence of a soul which dies not with the body, and its liability to reward and punishment at the great day, be an article of Christianity, was not this the proper, the last, the only occasion to explain it?

Is there one word of the human soul in this account?

And when Christ appeals to his disciples, and describes what constitutes himself; does he not appeal to his visible, tangible body, and to that only; does he mention or allude to the soul?

Does this account furnish a proof of any resurrection but the resurrection of the body and the body only?

Does not Christ in effect negative the existence of any separate soul when, exhibiting his body, he says, here, “this is I, myself”?

Is anyone required to believe in the existence of a separate soul, when it is no more noticed on this solemn occasion than if it did not exist at all?
And why is it not noticed? Because it does not exist. Would such an occasion of explaining and inculcating the doctrine have been passed by?

Again: Matthew 27:53 “And the graves were opened, and many bodies of saints that slept arose, and came out of their graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.” This is again a type and an exemplar of man’s resurrection: but not one word of the soul.

How is it, some may ask, that this corrupt, mortal, and putrefying body can be the object of the resurrection and inherit immortality? I answer that in Luke 22:36 Christ says, “the dead who are raised shall die no more.” Of course some change will take place after the resurrection to fit them for immortality. What change, or how it is to be affected, as Christ has not explained, neither do I; and with the promise as he has made it a Christian should be content.

The only passage in the Gospels from which the existence of a separate an immortal soul can apparently be inferred is Matthew 10:28, which in the translation runs thus: “fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” To this I reply that the word here translated soul (a) is translated in very many other places indiscriminately, “life” and “soul.” Meaning always the life of the body, and never exclusively the soul. Thus, a little way before in Matthew 6:25, it is translated life: “to take no more thought for your life.” To the same purpose, Luke 12:22. So in Mark 3:4: “To save life or to kill.” So in Luke 12:23 “the life more than raiment.” Matthew 6:23; Matthew 10:39; Matthew 6:27; Mark 8:36,37, and in upwards of twenty passages more. In all of these passages, the word translated indiscriminately “soul” and “life” is one and the same word. So in Revelation 16:3, “and every living soul died in the sea.”

The meaning of the passage is therefore that Christ, who was appointed to teach and to preach the resurrection unto life, says, “fear not them who can kill the body, but him who cannot annihilate life itself, and is short all your hopes of resurrection and a future existence.”

I do not know any other passage in the Gospels that can be plausibly dragged in aid of the immaterial hypothesis; and I will venture to say there is not one passage in the Bible so strongly in favor of that opinion as the passage I have just considered: which is manifestly a translation, made by men whose heads were full of the doctrines of the soul, and made with a view to that very opinion.

Again: The following passages all tend to show that there shall be no resurrection whatever, but it is a miraculous interposition of God Almighty, through Jesus Christ, who shall call the dead from their graves, at his own appointed time; until when there shall be no day of judgment: and of course that without the promise of Christian resurrection, the dead would forever remain dead. This is utterly inconsistent with the notion of the most essential and active part of man, immortal in itself, subsisting in a state of superior intelligence and activity when free from the burden and clog of the human body. When freed from the prison of the body, why, by miraculous interposition, raise up the body to imprison it again? Matthew 13:30-49; Matthew 26:27; Matthew 19:28; Matthew 24:31,32; Mark 13:26,27; John 6:40,44,54; John 26:22. I could add many more passages from the acts and epistles, but I purposely confine myself to the Evangelists.

So far as the plain fact, universal experience, and the declarations of the Scriptures will bear us out, there is no pleasure and no suffering independent of the animated body, either in this life or in the life to come. Animation ceases when the body dies; and it will be restored when the body is called up from the grave at the great day in conformity with the promises made to us in the Gospels of Christ. Without those promises, confined to the human race — as a beast dieth so dieth man; without further hope of sentient existence. At least, the arguments for a future state are barely probable, independent of the Gospel, and Christ’s example. So that to a materialist, the value of a Christian Gospel is unspeakable; to the immaterialist it is superfluous and even contradictory.

One other argument I will urge that seems to me to have great weight. The Jews were divided into two sects; the Sadducees who taught that there would be no resurrection and the Pharisees, who held that there would be one. The inculpations and objectives of Christ against the Pharisees are vehement, and frequent. Not so against the Sadducees. Among the various conversations and disputes he had with the Sadducees on the subject of the resurrection from the dead, he not only never makes any use of the argument from the immaterial and immortal nature of the human soul, but he never introduces it at all — not a word is to be found on the subject: its existence is not hinted at.

After this, can it be said that the separate existence of an immortal soul is the doctrine of Christ? I am lost in utter astonishment at the presumptuous hardihood that can state this doctrine as an essential article of the Christian faith! — at the impudent intolerance that can cry down a man’s character and standing in society — can interdict him like the banished of old, from fire, water, and shelter — because examining Scripture for himself, he cannot conscientiously accept as divine truth the metaphysical reveries of Calvinistic theology!

The doctrine of a future state stands on a much firmer basis on the supposition of the resurrection of the body, and the body only, then on the resurrection of the soul (if indeed this last be not, as I take it to be, a manifest contradiction in terms.) That being whom it shall please God, through Jesus Christ to raise from the dead — from the grave — will be the object of future rewards and punishments in another life for its deeds or misdeeds transacted in this life. I know of no Christian materialist who denies this, and I believe it is considered a doctrine probable, but not certain, independent of Scripture, from considerations connected with the moral government of the universe but rendered certain by the Christian scriptures only. To a materialist, the Scripture doctrine of the resurrection is superfluous; for his man is essentially immortal in his immortal soul! To a materialist, is everything; for it contains the only sure and certain proof of the resurrection that is to be found within the compass of human knowledge.

And here I take my stand. I hold it useless to urge any further argument. It would be an anticlimax in ratiocination. That which is not Jesus Christ’s Christianity is not my Christianity. The opinions of the apostles, of the fathers of the Church, of grave and learned divines, can add no force to Gospel authority. You cannot fortify stronger evidence by weaker. If you say it may explain or illustrate what is dubious, I deny that any of the essential articles of Christianity that I have stated are dubious. You may dispute as much as you please about the human soul, which is not mentioned once in the Gospels, but you cannot deny the resurrection of the body. You may dispute about the nature and grade of Christ’s character, but you cannot as a Christian dispute his divine mission. I require no other proof that any doctrine is unessential to Christianity than that it is dubious. Jesus Christ does not require us on pain of eternal damnation to believe on doubtful evidence — although the priesthood does. Could the unlettered audience present at the sermon on the Mount have understood a sentence of the Assembly’s Catechism?

The sum and substance of my argument is this:

(a) All that is essential to Christianity is contained in the four Gospels that give us an account of what Jesus taught and did; who certainly would omit nothing essential to his own plan. The doctrine of an immaterial, immortal soul is nowhere to be found promulgated, explained, or hinted at, in any part of the four Gospels, except in one solitary text where the ambiguity arises from the translation.

(b) The resurrection everywhere spoken of is the resurrection of the dead — the resurrection of the body, not of the soul.

(c) This avoiding any notice of the doctorate in question is more extraordinary as frequent opportunities and occasions occurred that seem to have required, if this doctrine were true, that it should be enforced and explained.

(d) This doctrine of a separate and immortal soul renders unnecessary any miraculous interposition to produce the resurrection of the dead for the purpose of future reward and punishment; inasmuch as the soul never dies. It may therefore be a very good tenet for a Deist, but not for a Christian.

(e) This doctrine of an immaterial immortal soul is to the doctrine of the resurrection a positive and unequivocal denial; for there can be no resurrection of that which never dies.

(f) The example and illustration presented to us by Christ’s own resurrection is a resurrection of the body only: not a syllable is said about the soul.

Here ends my argument: but for the sake of those who have a higher opinion of human comments on the doctrines of Christ than I have, I had the following brief observations, tending to show:

1. That the doctrine of materialism is the doctrine of the apostles.

2. That the doctrine of materialism was the doctrine of the fathers of the Christian Church during four hundred years until the time of St. Augustine.

3. That it is yet considered as a dubious point in the Church of England among the dignitaries eminent for learning in that church.

4. That the doctrine of a separate soul has given rise to great errors and deplorable abuses.

If I should find it necessary (which I hope will not be the case) to come out again on the subject, I will treat these points more at large; at present, my object is condensation and brevity.

Let us now see what the Apostles say:

Acts 33:6, Paul cried out, Of the hope and resurrection of the dead am I called in question.

Acts 24:15. That there shall be a resurrection of the dead both of the just and unjust.

2 Cor 1:9, But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raiseth the dead. If any declaration can be adverse to the existence of a separate soul, this is.

2 Cor. 4:10. Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.

v. 14. Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise us up also by Jesus. This implies similarity in the general resurrection of the human race, and that of our Lord.

So in 1 Peter 1 1-5, Blessed be God, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, that fadeth not away.

Romans 4:17, God who quickeneth the dead, and called those things that be not, as though they were.

1 Corinthians 25:42, So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption – it is raised in incorruption. What died? The Soul? No: the body died. What then is raised? The Soul? No: that which died, the body. When the body being raised from the dead is endowed with incorruptibility, to fit it for its new state of being, it still remains the same body, only no longer subject to death. St. Paul calls the body thus changed a heavenly body, a spiritual body: still it is the body; and all essential respects, the very body that died; for no other is ever spoken of.

2 Corinthians 10 (a) for we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that everyone may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done whether good or bad. The literal and true version of this passage is “may receive bodily” (ta dia tou somatos.) Hence, it is the body that is to receive reward or punishment, according to what the body hath deserved while alive. Not a word of soul.

Ephesians 23, Christ is the savior of the body.

Philip. 3:21, who shall change our vile body (vile as being mortal incorruptible) and fashioned like unto his glorious body. Not a word of the soul: all relates to the body.

I have looked into the original Greek of all the passages translated soul, from acts to revelations, inclusively, and I find the word is psyche. In most of these passages, it necessarily means life; except, as some may think, in 1 Thessalonians 23, “that your whole spirit, and soul, and body may be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord.”

The general meaning of the word here translated spirit, when applied to man, his disposition, inclination: thus,

Matthew 26:41. The spirit truly is willing, but the flesh is weak. That is they have a desire to keep awake, but they are overcome with fatigue.

Luke 6:55. Her spirit came again, and she arose straightway. That is, her life.

John 4:23. Shall worship the father in spirit and in truth. That is, in reality, with willingness and unfeignedly.

John 11:33. He groaned in spirit: John 13:21, he was troubled in spirit.

Frequently it is put for beings intermediate between men and angels that only appear occasionally, that being a popular opinion of the day: as when the disciples said he had seen a spirit were an angel – the Sadducees say there is no angel or spirit — and the Spirit said unto Philip, go near and join.

It is sometimes put for the power and operation of God.

So the word translated “soul” is far more frequently translated “life” which is its true meaning.

Hence, the meaning would be, God preserve your disposition, your life, and your body to the time of his coming. That is, I hope you will not change your character or quit this life till the coming of our Lord Jesus; which some of the apostles mistakenly expected to be very soon. But holding myself down by the highest authority, I am bound by that only. Nor is the main doctrine of Christ in the Gospels to be shaken by a few figurative or pleonastic forms of expression among his disciples. The question is not, is there any text of the Bible that seems to countenance the notion of a soul (for the Bible was translated by persons who took that doctrine for granted) — the question is, what is the general tenor of the doctrine on the subject laid down by Jesus Christ: does he countenance it? The apostles wrote and spoke very figuratively, and frequently in conformity and allusion to the previous notions of those they were addressing. To establish the doctrine of the soul as a Christian doctrine, do not refer me to a few texts that seem to countenance it; you must show at me plainly, clearly, and undoubtedly laid down, explained, and urged by Christ himself: and that I am sure cannot be done from the Evangelists. All else is evidence so inferior as to have little weight on the question.

All persons conversant with the Scripture know that the various and discordant tenets of metaphysical Christianity are founded, assorted, and denied on the license of figurative expression used by the apostles, and principally St. Paul. In this war of words I desire to take no part, and I therefore appeal exclusively to the Gospels.

OF THE OPINIONS OF THE ANCIENT FATHERS

I am not yet possessed of the means of examining and referring to the original works of the fathers, as they are called. I must therefore be content with referring to some summary. Such a one Dr. Priestley has given, but I am aware his authority may be objected to. Lewis Ellis Dupin, and Lardner have not attended to this subject as a separate question, and Lardner’s quotations are very partial. The only author of repute who has examined all the writings of the Christian fathers with this view is Beausobre, in his history of Manicheism; an author universally regarded as among the fairest and best qualified of modern days. He too is cited by Priestley, by Rees, and others.

To avoid all reasonable objection I referred to the article “Immaterialism” in the larger French Encyclopedia, manifestly written by one who is not a materialist. I translate briefly from that article; stating however, that his representation will coincide with that of M. Beausobre.

“Some moderns suspect that as Anathagoras admitted a spirit in the formation of the universe, he was acquainted with spirituality, and did not admit a corporeal deity, like almost all the other philosophers. But by the word spirit (pneuma) the Greek and Romans equally understood a subtle matter , extremely dilated, intelligent indeed, but extended, and consisting of parts. In effect, how can they believe that the Greek philosophers had any idea of a substance purely spiritual, when it is clear that all primitive fathers of the Church made even God Almighty corporeal; and their doctrine was perpetuated in the Greek church even to later times, and was never renounced by the Roman Church till the time of St. Augustine” (about six hundred years after Christ).

The author of the article proceeds, by means of quotations from their works, to show that the following fathers were materialists, viz; Origen, whom Jerome reproaches for his notion that God himself was material; Tertullian, who wrote a book De Anima expressly to prove the mortality and materiality of the human soul; Arnobius; St. Justin; Tatian; St. Clement of Alexandria; Lactantius; St. Hilarius; St. Gregory Nazianzenus; St. Gregory Nyssenus; St. Ambrose; Cassian; and finally John of Thessalonica, who, at the Seventh Council, pronounced it as an opinion traditionally delivered by St. Anathansius, St. Basil, and St. Methodius, that neither angels, demons, nor human souls were disengaged from matter. The writer forgot Melito, bishop of Sardis; but here the list is quite long enough. It proves nothing except that in the early ages of the Christian Church, and for near 600 years, Materialism was not heresy, but quite otherwise. Indeed St. Austin says that he himself was for a long time of this opinion; owing to his difficulty of conceiving the pure spirituality of God himself — Are these metaphysics of any use or value to a Christian on the one side or the other? I consider them as vain speculations, unproductive of practical benefit.

The Apostles’ Creed, of uncertain composition, but ancient, requires us to hold as an essential article of the Christian faith, What? The resurrection of the soul? No, “the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.” Amen.

THAT THE DOCTRINE OF THE NON-EXISTENCE OF A SEPARATE IMMATERIAL SOUL, DISTINCT FROM THE HUMAN BODY, AND DISJOINED FROM IT AT DEATH, IS A DOCTRINE PUBLISHED AND AVOWED BY DIGNITARIES OF THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND.

I apply this to the well meaning, but not well instructed portion of my fellow citizens. I am not about to prove my point by an appeal to the bench of bishops. But I say that the doctrine is not Atheism, Deism, or Infidelity, which some of the bench of bishops avow, which others doubt about, and which none complain of as heretical or dangerous.

Dr. Edmund Law, Arch Deacon of Carlisle, Master of Peter’s College in the University of Cambridge (a seminary for finishing the education of young men) wrote a treatise on the nature and end of death. To the third edition of this work, now before me, published in 1775, he added an appendix on the meaning of the original words translated soul and spirit in the holy Scripture; showing that no part of the Bible gave countenance to the doctrine of a separate soul, or of an intermediate state of being between death and judgment. He refers to Bishop Sherlock, the Rev. Mr. Taylor of Norwich, and Mr. Hallet, in the following passage closing that appendix.

Extract from the Appendix to Considerations on the Theory of Religion. By Edmund Law, D.D. Archdeacon of Carlisle, and Master of St. Peter’s College, Cambridge, third edition, 1755 – with an appendix concerning the use of the word SOUL in the Holy Scripture, and the state of death there described.

“The intent of this appendix, containing an examination of all the meanings of the words translated SOUL, in the Old or New Testament, appears to have, is to show that the doctrine of a separate, immaterial, immortal soul is not a Christian doctrine: that it is not fairly deducible from the Christian Scriptures; and is contrary to their general tenor.” Dr. Law, after this summary, goes on to say, page 398, “This may serve for a specimen of such texts as are usually alleged on the other side of the question; (viz. by the Immaterialists) all which will, I believe, appear, even from these short remarks upon them, to be either quite foreign to the point, or purely figurative; or lastly, capable of a clear and easy solution on the principles above-mentioned. Nor can such even fairly be opposed to the constant obvious tenor of the sacred writings, and that number of plain express passages already cited.” Page 400. — Give me leave, says Dr. Law, to subjoin the sentiments of a very pious and worthy person, eminently skilled in Scripture language, the Rev. Mr. Taylor of Norwich, who is pleased to write as follows: “ I have perused your papers, etc. They comprehend two points, one upon the nature of the human soul or spirit, so far as revelation give us any light; the other concerning the state to which death reduces us. From the collection of scriptures under the first of these points, I think it appears, that no man can prove from Scripture, that the human soul is a principle which lives, and acts, and thinks, independent of the body. Whatever the metaphysical nature, essence, or substance of the soul may be (which is altogether unknown to us) it is demonstratively certain that its existence, both in the manner and duration of it, must be wholly dependent on the will and pleasure of God. God must appoint its connection with, and dependence on any other substance, both in its operations, powers, and duration. All arguments, therefore, for the natural immortality of the soul, taken from the nature of its substance or essence, as if it must exist and act separate from the body, because it is of such a substance, etc. are manifestly vain. If indeed we do find anything in the faculties and operations of the mind to which we are conscious, that doth show it is the will of God we should exist in the future state, those arguments will stand good. But we can never prove that the soul of man is of such a nature that it can and must exist, live, think, act, and enjoy, etc. separate from and independent of the body. All our present experience shows the contrary. The operations of the mind depend constantly and invariably upon the state of the body, of the brain in particular. If some dying persons have a lively use of their rational faculties to the very last, it is because death has invaded some other part, and the brain remains a sound and vigorous. But what is the sense of REVELATION? You have given a noble collection of texts that show it very clearly. The subject yields many practical remarks, and the warmest and strongest incitements to piety.”

After this extract from Mr. Taylor’s letter, Dr. Law closes his appendix in these words: “but it might look like begging the question should I draw out all these in for together with the consequences of this doctrine in regard to either Papist or Deist, till the doctrine itself so long decried by the one, and so often disgraced by the other, shall appear free from the prejudices attending it, and be at last understood to have a fair foundation in Scripture, by which we Protestants profess to be determined: and when we have duly examined them, may possibly discern that the natural immortality of the human mind, is neither necessarily connected with, nor to a Christian any proper proof of, a future state of rewards and punishments.

After this, Dr. Law was raised to the See of Carlisle.

Dr. Watson, Bishop of Landaff, published a collection of tracts for the use of young clergyman. The following is an extract from his Preface.

Extract from the preface to a collection of Theological Tracts in six volumes. By Richard Watson, D. D. Bishop of Landaff, and Regius Professor of Divinity in the University of Cambridge, 1785. Dedicated to the Queen.

Page 14, 15 – “Want of genuine moderation towards those who differ from us and religious opinions seems to be the most unaccountable thing in the world. Any man who has any religion at all feels within himself stronger motives to judge right than you can possibly suggest to him; and if he judges wrong, what is that to you? To his own master he standeth or falleth: his wrong judgment, if it affect his own salvation, cannot affect yours! For in the words of Tertullian, nec alii obest aut prodest alterius religio. Still you will probably rejoin, there must be many truths in the Christian religion, concerning which no one ought to hesitate, and this much is without a belief in them, he cannot be reputed a Christian — reputed! By whom? By Jesus Christ his Lord and God, or by you? Rash expositors of points of doubtful disputation; intolerant fabricators of metaphysical creeds, and incongruous systems of Theology! Do you undertake to measure the extent of any man’s understanding except your own; to estimate the strength and origin of his habits of thinking; to appreciate his merit or demerit in the use of the talent that God has given him, so unerringly, as to pronounce that the belief of this or that doctrine is necessary to his salvation?”

Page 16 – “But there are subjects on which the academicorum epoche (a) may be admitted, I apprehend, without injuring the foundations of our religion. Such are the questions which relate to the power of evil spirits to suspend the laws of nature, or to actuate the minds of men; to the materiality or immateriality of the human soul; to the state of the dead before the general resurrection; the resurrection of the same body; the duration of future punishments; and many others of the same kind.

THAT THE DOCTRINE OF A SEPARATE SOUL HAS GIVEN RISE TO ERRORS AND ABUSES.

The vulgar notion of apparitions — the worship of Saints — the doctrine of purgatory until the day of judgment — prayers for the dead, etc. — Had the opinion been credited, that when the man dies, he will remain dead till it shall please God at the great day to reanimate him, none of these opinions could have prevailed, nor could any of the abuses founded upon them have existed.

I omit the many difficulties attending this opinion, as — how is an immaterial and immortal soul corporeally propagated; when did it begin to exist; how would you account for the undeniable marks of memory, intelligence, and volition, in dogs and other brute animals; have they souls also; how can the soul act upon matter if it have no property in common with matters; how does the soul differ from the life of the body; can you account for the life of a blade of grass by mere matter and motion, any more than the life or intellect of a human being; do not vegetable and animal life depend on organization; what real evidence can be had of a being, which is in no respect the object of any sense we possess, only known by metaphysical conjecture as an hypothesis to account for thought, etc.?

To all this the Immaterialists say that no mode or combination of matter and motion can produce thought: and this being impossible, there is an end of the question. But we see life connected with, and arising from a modification of matter and motion as in vegetables; what is life? We see life, sensation, thought, volition, arising from a combination of matter and motion as in elephants, dogs, horses, etc. If phenomena exactly the same kind require a soul in the animal man, so they do when observed in an inferior degree in inferior animals. Where will you stop? Will you assign a soul to an opossum or an oyster? To a mite or a flea? All this peremptory dictation of what can be or cannot be, with our limited knowledge, appears to me dreadful arrogance!

I call then upon my opponent and I ask him:

From what source of knowledge is it that you who know nothing about matter, but some of its properties, and nothing of its essence — that you, who gaining knowledge by your senses only, cannot possibly know anything of spirit which is not cognizable by the senses — presume to limit the independence of the Almighty and declare that he is not able to endow matter with the properties of thought?

Worm as you are, is Almighty power to be confined within the outline of your metaphysical creed? Are you possessed of infinite intelligence and entitled to say to the Creator of the universe, “thus far shall now go and no further?”

Away with your arrogance, and your intolerance — with your cruel interdictions and denunciations; and permit a fellow creature to be humble with impunity, though you disdain to be so!

 

 

Published on September 19, 2018 at 1:22 am  Comments Off on The Scripture Doctrine of Materialism  
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