The Signs of the Times, vol. 11
The Signs of the Times, Vol. 11
January 1, 1885
“The Support of the Doctrine of the Immortality of the Soul” The Signs of the Times 11, 1, p. 2.
IN commending Joseph Cook’s lecture, “Does Death End All?” Dr. Gibson, of San Francisco, said: “I have been so convinced of the truth under that lecture that it made me feel a great deal larger than I am;” and also that he had heard others express themselves in the same way. We have not the least doubt of it. As the whole aim of that lecture is to support the immortality of the soul, the natural result is to make men think themselves a great deal larger than they are. Vanity, pride, and self-conceit, are both the root and the fruit of the doctrine of the immortality of the soul. This was the incentive presented in the first mention of the subject presented in the first mention of the subject that was ever made to human beings. Genesis 3:4: “And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die; ... ye shall be as gods.” In other words, they should be made to think themselves a good deal larger than they really were. SITI January 1, 1885, page 2.1
It was this same idea that led the Greek philosophers in their search into the nature of man. This is well expressed by Gibbon. “It must be confessed, that, in the sublime inquiry [with regard to the immortality of the soul], their reason had been often guided by their imagination, and that their imagination had been prompted by their vanity. When they viewed with complacency the extent of their own mental powers, when they exercised the various faculties of memory, of fancy, and of judgment, in the most profound speculations, or the most important labors, and when they reflected on the desire of fame, which transported them into future ages, far beyond the bounds of death and of the grave; they were unwilling to confound themselves with the beasts of the field, or to suppose, that a being, for whose dignity they entertained the most sincere admiration, could be limited to a spot of earth, and to a few years of duration. With this favorable prepossession they summoned to their aid the science, or rather the language of metaphysics.” In looking at themselves they became filled so full of admiration of themselves that they could only decide that they were immortal, and then, having rendered that important decision, they admired themselves more than ever, and this again more thoroughly convinced them of their essential immortality; which again increased their vanity, and so on ad infinitum. SITI January 1, 1885, page 2.2
And those of modern times who make much of this doctrine are in this in no way different from the ancients. They cannot be, and believe the doctrine, for this is a property which is inherent in the doctrine itself. A property not simply retroactive, but doubly so; a kind of double-back-action property, as it were. And by it thousands have built themselves up so high in their own estimation that they can see no possible use, much less any need, of a Saviour. Other thousands do not deny that men will be saved, yet admit it only on the ground that they are so great that the Lord is obliged to save them or else lose his credit as being God. While there are yet others who will allow that they must be saved, yet it appears to be a great condescension on their part to consent to it. SITI January 1, 1885, page 2.3
The most artless confession that we remember ever to have seen on the subject of the immortality of the soul we find in McClintock and Strong’s encyclopedia; it is extracted from an article in the Bibliotheca Sacra, and is as follows: “It is said that much of the reasoning employed by pagan writers to prove the immortality of the soul is unsound. This is a fact, and yet by no means invalidates their right to believe in the conclusion which they deduced illogically. Believing a proposition firmly, we are satisfied with the mere pretense of an argument for its support; and searching in the distance for proofs which can only be found in immediate contact with us, we discover reasons for the belief which, long before we had discovered them, was yet fully established in our own ninds; and yet we deem these reasons sufficient to uphold the doctrine, although, in point of fact, the doctrine does not make trial of their strength by resting upon them. If they were the props on which our belief was in reality founded, their weakness would be obvious at once; but as they have nothing to sustain, their insufficiency is the less apparent; our belief continues, notwithstanding the frailness of the arguments which make a show of upholding it, and thus the very defects of the proof illustrate the strength of the conclusion, which remains firm in spite of them. SITI January 1, 1885, page 2.4
Let us look this over again. 1. It is a fact that the reasoning employed by the pagan writers to prove the immortality of the soul, is unsound, is illogical. Yet this “by no means invalidates their right to believe the conclusion.” That is, a conclusion is sound which is reached by unsound reasoning! A logical conclusion can be reached by illogical arguments! 2. “Believing a proposition firmly, we are satisfied with the mere pretense of an argument for its support.” It is said that “an open confession is good for the soul.” We believe this to be an open confession, and we believe it is prevalent for the immortality of the soul; and we are glad to be able to publish the confession of its most earnest advocates that those who believe the immortality of the soul, are satisfied with the “mere pretense of an argument” for its support. 3. “Yet we deem these reasons sufficient to uphold the doctrine. Although in point of fact the doctrine does not make trial of their strength by resting upon them.” That is, reasons that are “a mere pretense” are sufficient to uphold the doctrine; while it is a “fact” that it does not rest upon them. In other words the doctrine is held up by something that does not hold it up at all! A wonderful structure that. 4. “If they [these pretenses that don’t hold it up] were the props on which our belief was in reality founded, their weakness would be obvious at once; but as they have nothing to sustain, their insufficiency is the less apparent.” That is, these pretenses are sufficient to uphold the doctrine, but it does not rest upon them, and if it did they would not uphold it. Yet we are satisfied with their strength, because as they have nothing to sustain, we do not know how weak they are. And then he presents this astonishing deduction: “The very defects of the proof illustrate the strength of the conclusion.” SITI January 1, 1885, page 2.5
Now let us get at the gist of the whole argument as contained in the above quotation. We will let him state the premises and we will draw the conclusions. SITI January 1, 1885, page 2.6
Major premise: The “mere pretense of an argument” sustains the immortality of the soul. SITI January 1, 1885, page 2.7
Minor premise: “This pretense sustains nothing.” SITI January 1, 1885, page 2.8
Conclusion: Therefore the immortality of the soul is nothing. SITI January 1, 1885, page 2.9
Major premise: The immortality of the soul is “supported by mere pretense of an argument.” SITI January 1, 1885, page 2.10
Minor premise: Pretense, is “unreal,” is nothing. SITI January 1, 1885, page 2.11
Conclusion: Therefore the immortality of the soul is supported by nothing. SITI January 1, 1885, page 2.12
Out of these two conclusions we form a SITI January 1, 1885, page 2.13
Major premise: The immortality of the soul is supported by nothing. SITI January 1, 1885, page 2.14
Minor premise: The immortality of the soul is nothing. SITI January 1, 1885, page 2.15
Conclusion: Therefore the doctrine of the immortality of the soul is that wherein nothing supports nothing, and nothing is supported by nothing, and that is NOTHING. SITI January 1, 1885, page 2.16
And this is what we have for a long while believed on the subject. SITI January 1, 1885, page 2.17
ALONZO T. JONES.
“Notes on the International Lesson. Acts 20:28-38” The Signs of the Times 11, 1, p. 6.
JANUARY 11—Acts 20:28-38
“TAKE heed therefore unto yourselves.” This is the first duty that is presented in the Scriptures, for the consideration of those who are placed in authority in the church. And here in his final charge to the elders of the church at Ephesus Paul does not fail to set it before them. You, elders, are the guides. “Take heed therefore unto yourselves.” Jesus said: “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven; but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Those will not be called great in the kingdom of heaven who teach the commandments but do not do them. It is only those who do and teach them that shall be called great there. For it is only those who do them, whose teaching will be of any avail. SITI January 1, 1885, page 6.1
IT is so likewise with the elders of the churches. They are to be “ensamples to the flock;” they “must be blameless, sober, of good behavior,” &c. 1 Timothy 3:1, 2. He who will fulfill those scriptures which are given for the special guidance of the elders must take heed unto himself. So Paul again in writing to Timothy says: “Take heed unto thyself and to the doctrine.” One of the qualifications of an elder is that he shall be “apt to teach,” and that he shall hold “fast the faithful word, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.” Titus 1:9. Yet before any of these, comes the duty, “take heed unto thyself.” Then take heed unto the doctrine; “for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee.” 1 Timothy 4:16. The office of a bishop (elder) is indeed “a good work,” and he who will fulfill its obligations will thereby be a good man. And to fulfill those obligations he needs to study diligently the chart laid down in Timothy, Titus, and 1 Peter 5. SITI January 1, 1885, page 6.2
“TAKE heed to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers.” Watching for souls as they that “must give account.” Hebrews 13:17. Taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind, being ensamples to the flock. “And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.” 1 Peter 5:2-4. SITI January 1, 1885, page 6.3
TO “FEED the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” “Feed the flock of God.” “Thus saith the Lord God unto the shepherds: Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks? ... The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them. And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered. My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill; yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them.” Ezekiel 34:2-6. “He that entereth in by the door [Christ is the door. John 10:9] is the shepherd of the sheep, ... and the sheep hear his voice; and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him; for they know his voice.” John 10:2-4. Feed the flock of God. SITI January 1, 1885, page 6.4
“FOR I know this that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.” From Paul’s first letter to Timothy it seems that these grievous wolves were the Judaizing teachers, who made a great merit of long genealogies (1 Timothy 1:3, 4), and pretended to be apostles (Revelation 2:2). These were the greatest enemies of the church all through the apostolic age, at Ephesus and almost everywhere else, even following Paul from one place to another, stirring up the people against him, and making the brethren evil affected toward him. And it was only a manifestation of his faithfulness to the church when he gave this warning and charge to the elders; and afterward he left Timothy there specially to guard the church against these evil influences as well as against the other class mentioned. SITI January 1, 1885, page 7.1
“ALSO of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them.” Hymeneus and Alexander, mentioned in 1 Timothy 1:20, were of these, and made “shipwreck of faith,” and went so far as to “blaspheme,” and had to be delivered unto Satan. Hymeneus is again named in 2 Timothy 2:17, and with him another, Philetus, who had so far erred from the truth as to say that the resurrection was past already; and these were thus trying to “overthrow the faith of some.” Another one, Diotrephes, loved to have the “pre-eminence among them.” So much so, in fact, as to refuse to receive John, the beloved disciple, “prating” against him with malicious words, and not content with that he would not receive any of the ministering brethren, and still more, forbade others who were willing to entertain them, and if any did receive them he cast them out of the church. 3 John 9, 10. He not only would draw away disciples after him, but he was not willing that anybody but himself should have any disciples. SITI January 1, 1885, page 7.2
REMEMBER the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” It is true. How many believe it. SITI January 1, 1885, page 7.3
ALONZO T. JONES.