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The inwardness of Salvation and Judgment. We come now to the consideration of a group of subjects which are usually treated in quite separate categories. I mean the punishment of sin, the nature and scope of Salvation, Resurrection and Ascension, Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell. The reason why I feel that these subjects ought not to be treated in separate categories is because they are all descriptions of states of the soul and imply each other; they are inward, not outward, experiences. This statement will, I trust, become clearer as we proceed.

So far we have examined pretty thoroughly the nature of sin and its effects in the world, but have said very little as to its penal consequences, and yet the consideration of these consequences has been the determining factor in most of the theories of Atonement, ancient or modern, which have occupied the field of human thought. It is true, as I have said, that the idea of Atonement is not necessarily associated with that of sin, and actually precedes it both historically and psychologically, but it cannot be gainsaid that in Christian thought the desirability of finding some means of escaping or minimising the punishment of sin has tended to overshadow everything else in popular presentations of the Atonement. But what is the punishment of sin, and who administers it? What is the Judgment and when does it take effect? How does Salvation stand related to punishment and judgment? What has Death to do with the matter? What are we to understand by Heaven and Hell, and what is the bearing of either upon Salvation and Judgment? Everyone knows how popular evangelical theology would answer these questions. Sin, we are told, will be punished in a future life by the committal of the impenitent soul to everlasting torment. Salvation is primarily a means of escaping this, and secondarily being conformed gradually to the moral likeness of the Saviour. Judgment is a grand assize, which will take place when the material world comes to an end; Jesus Christ will be the Judge, and will apportion everlasting weal or woe, according as the soul has or has not claimed the benefit of His redeeming work in time to profit by it. Death is the dividing line beyond which the destiny is fixed eternally whether we die old or young. Heaven is the place into which the redeemed enter whether after death or after judgment has never been clearly settled there to praise God eternally in perfect happiness; Hell is the place of never ending torment to which unbelievers are to be consigned.

Now it does not require a very profound intelligence to see that popular theology is a mass of contradictions in regard to these things. By eternal the ordinary Christian usually means everlasting; why should punishment be everlasting? The worst sin that was ever sinned does not deserve everlasting punishment, and I have never yet met the Christian who would really and truly be willing to see a fellow-creature undergo it. There is no understandable sense in which justice could demand such a terrible sentence, even if it involved no more than everlasting unhappiness; how much more unthinkable it becomes if the punishment is to be everlasting, fiendish torment! If Salvation is first and foremost deliverance from this punishment, how is it that it does not take effect immediately? Justice would suggest that it ought to do so, for some sinners live a merry life until the eleventh hour, and then give God “the last snuff of the candle” as Father Taylor put it, whereas others repent early but never manage, all through a long life, to escape the suffering caused by their own deeds in youth. In some cases, at any rate, on this side of the grave, Salvation does not involve the least remission of penalty, while in others apparently no penalty will ever be endured either on this side of death or on the other. The poor drunkard who repents does not find that repentance gives him back his wrecked constitution, but the selfish, grasping, cruel-hearted wrecker of homes and lives may just be in time with his trust in the “finished work,” and go right home to glory while his victims struggle and suffer on amid the conditions he has made for them on earth. Curious justice this!

Christian thought never quite consistent about Death and after. There is no need to labour the point; popular evangelical views of the punishment of sin are incredible when looked at in a common-sense way. But they are even more chaotic on the subject of death and whatever follows death. It does not seem to be generally recognised that Christian thought has never been really clear concerning the Resurrection, especially in relation to future judgment. One view has been that the deceased saint lies sleeping in the grave until the archangel’s trump shall sound and bid all mankind awake for the great assize. Anyone who reads the New Testament without prejudice will see that this was Paul’s earlier view, although later on he changed it for another. There is a good deal of our current, everyday religious phraseology which presumes it still

“Father, in thy gracious keeping
Leave we now thy servant sleeping.”

But alongside this view another which is a flagrant contradiction of it has come down to us, namely, that immediately after death the soul goes straight to heaven or hell, as the case may be, without waiting for the archangel’s trump and the grand assize. On the whole this is the dominant theory of the situation in Protestant circles, and is much less reasonable than the Catholic doctrine of purgatory, however much the latter may have been abused. But under this view what is the exact significance of the Judgment Day and the physical Resurrection? One would think they might be accounted superfluous. What is the good of tormenting a soul in hell for ages and then whirling it back to the body in order to rise again and receive a solemn public condemnation? Better leave it in the Inferno and save trouble, especially as the solemn trial is meaningless, seeing that a part of the sentence has already been undergone, and that there is no hope that any portion of it will ever be remitted. Truly the tender mercies with which theologians have credited the Almighty are cruel indeed! It is difficult to speak with patience of the solemn, non-committal way in which many present-day theological writers discuss everlasting punishment. Many of them have an “open mind” on the subject, whatever that may be, and warn the rest of us not to dogmatise on the great mystery. It does not seem to occur to them that the Christian fundamental of the love of God renders the dogma of everlasting punishment impossible, for it implies that God will do the most for the being that needs the most, and surely that must be the most unhappy sinner. Others speak of a “larger hope,” a second opportunity for accepting divine grace, and so on. But these theories do not meet the case at all. While sin remains in the universe, God is defeated; everlasting punishment involves His everlasting failure. How often we bear preachers speaking about the obdurate human will, which to all eternity may go on resisting good. There are not a few who defend the abstract possibility of everlasting punishment by insisting that it is impossible to coerce the will, and therefore that to endless ages a soul may go on choosing evil and rejecting good. But this is an entirely new argument; it implies that a sinner might choose the good on the other side of death, and that if he does not he continues eternally to pass sentence upon himself, God being helpless in the matter. This is not the way in which advocates of everlasting punishment used to talk. It is a little more hopeful than the conventional dogma, for it makes the sinner to some extent his own judge and executioner, and places stress on the undoubted truth that if a man keeps on doing wrong things he becomes hardened. I have heard this view defended in private by a bishop, who apparently never saw that in adopting it he had given up entirely the orthodox Protestant view that there is no chance for a man after death, and that the thing which determines our post-mortem destiny is not our conduct, but our belief. Repentance at the eleventh hour, however bad the previous life may have been, is, according to the theology of this particular bishop, enough to secure admission to heaven. If, therefore, a power of eternally choosing evil remains on the further side of the great change, surely there is some hope that that power might not continue to be exercised. But if not, what becomes of the whole fabric of popular Protestant theology concerning the plan of salvation, the Judgment Day, and the atoning merits of the Redeemer?

No, this kind of incoherent theologising will not do. No one really believes it, and the churches will have to give up professing to believe it. In our ordinary everyday concerns we take quite a different view for granted all the time, the view that “Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap.” The harvest may be long in coming, but it comes at last. Neither do we choose our friends on account of their chances of heaven or hell. We like or dislike a man because he deserves to be liked or disliked, and not because he believes something that will get him into heaven. Neither, thank God, do we want to see even the wicked left to the consequences of their wickedness; we want to see them helped to live differently, and it is hardly probable that this impulse of our better humanity will change after death. Love cannot be false to itself; in the presence of need it must of necessity keep on giving itself until the need is satisfied and the victory won.

But if popular theology concerning the last things is untrue, or at least misleading and inadequate, what is the truth? Do we want a different set of terms or not? I think not, but we want a different perspective. These terms ought to be construed as states of the soul, rather than as external conditions. Let me try to explain what I mean.

The true Salvation. In the first place if sin is selfishness, salvation must consist in ceasing to be selfish, that is, it represents the victory of love in the human heart. This may be represented as the uprising of the deeper self, the true man, the Christ man in the experience of the penitent. We may even go so far as to say that this can come about, and does come about, without any strongly marked feelings of contrition or sudden change of attitude. Wherever you see a man trying to do something for the common good, you see the uprising of the spirit of Christ; what he is doing is a part of the Atonement. In church or out of church, with or without a formal creed, this is the true way in which the redemption of the world is proceeding. Every man who is trying to live so as to make his life a blessing to the world is being saved himself in the process, saved by becoming a saviour. Ordinary observation ought to tell us that untold thousands of our fellow-beings, even among those who never dream of going to church, are being saved in this way. This is the true way to look at the matter. The Christ, the true Christ who was and is Jesus, but who is also the deeper self of every human being, is saving individuals by filling them with the unselfish desire to save the race. It is this unselfish desire to minister to the common good which is the true salvation. I do not mind what name is given to it so long as it is recognised for what it really is; there is no stopping-place between sinner and saviour. This is the way in which men like Robert Blatchford of the Clarion are being saved while trying to save. Conceive how differently such a man might have lived his life. He might have lived it so as to be of no use to anyone, or indeed in such a way as to be a hindrance rather than a help to poor overburdened humanity. It matters comparatively little that this man should think he is destroying supernaturalism and scoffs at the possibility of a future life. His moral earnestness is a mark of his Christhood and his work a part of the Atonement. Not another Christ than Jesus, mind! The very same. Mr. Blatchford may laugh at this and call his moral aspirations by quite a different name. Well, let him; but I know the thing when I see it. This is Salvation.

Conversion. But in the history of mankind the change from selfishness to love, from darkness to light, from death to life, has often meant something much more pronounced than this. A man may have been living a bad life, and become suddenly impressed by some appeal to his better nature made in the name of God. He may have felt humiliated and distressed by his new-found consciousness of sin. He may have prayed earnestly for forgiveness, and felt that forgiveness has come and that the peace of God has entered into and possessed his soul. He has deliberately and solemnly consecrated his life to Jesus and feels that henceforth he is, as it were, in a new world. This change is rightly termed conversion, a turning round and going right. Such a man may be able to say with St. Paul, “To me to live is Christ,” and the words would be literally and grandly true. After this he may go on believing all kinds of things about verbal inspiration, the precious blood, the fate of the impenitent, and I know not what else, but the quality of the new life is always the same; it is dominated by the spirit of love instead of the spirit of selfishness; it is harmony with God. Often this change is very complete and beautiful, but in every case it involves a long and slow ascent to the stature of the perfect man in Christ Jesus. It is no delusion, either, that in the endeavour to live the new life divine help is forthcoming. The Holy Spirit of truth and love is ever present with a child of God to guide him to higher and ever higher heights of spiritual attainment. Without this blessed religious experience, the experience of those who are “called to be saints,” this world would be a poor place to live in. I may perhaps be pardoned for adding that in my judgment even the earnest redemptive endeavours of men like the editor of the Clarion have indirectly been made possible by it. Take out of the world what Christian saints have owed to their fellowship with Jesus, and there would be very little of hope and inspiration left. Still, what I want to emphasise here is the fact that, however crude the various theologies may have been in which this experience has clothed itself, it is always the same; it represents the victory of love in the human heart.

Salvation and penalty. But does this kind of salvation do away with the penal consequences of past sin? If not, what is its relation to them? To answer these questions we must look a little more closely into the nature of such penal consequences. Perhaps it would help to clear up the subject if I were to say frankly before going any farther that there is no such thing as punishment, no far-off Judgment Day, no great white throne, and no Judge external to ourselves. I say there is no punishment of sin in the sense in which the word “punishment” is usually employed. We are accustomed to think of punishment as a sentence imposed by some authority from without and containing within itself some element of vengeance for wrong-doing. But in the divine dealings with men such punishment has never existed and never will. What has already been said in a previous chapter on the subject of pain should help to make this statement plain. We have seen that pain is life pressing upon death and death resisting life. If there were no life, there would be no pain. We may say therefore that pain is life, or some finite expression of the universal life, seeking to burst through something that fetters and hinders it. Apply this to the region of morals and let us see how it works out. If a man has been living for self, he has been making a mistake and preparing for himself a harvest of pain, for sooner or later the divine life within him, the truer, deeper self, will assert itself against the decisive efforts of sin. It is just as impossible for a man to go on eternally living apart from the universal life as it is for a sand castle to shut out the ocean; the returning tide would break down the puny barriers and destroy everything that tends to separate between the soul and God. For, after all, what is our life but God’s? To try to keep it for ourselves is like trying to catch and imprison a sun ray by drawing the blinds. To save the self we must serve the All. When, therefore, we remember that the spirit of man and the spirit of God are one, we know of a surety that the infinite life behind the human spirit will assert itself irresistibly against the endeavours of sin to enclose that spirit within finite conditions. The essence of sin is the declaration, “Mine is not thine, and I shall live for mine alone.” This is trying to live for the finite; it is enclosing the soul within barriers; those barriers must be broken if the soul is to be saved, and broken they will be just because the deeper self of every man is already one with God. In the stable-yard of my house there was at one time a tree, which was cut down and the place where it grew covered with flagstones and a wall built round it. But the roots of the tree were not removed, and so that buried life has reasserted itself, the flagstones have been shattered, and now the wall is coming down. Here is a figure of our moral experience. A man may go on living for self all through a long career; he may bury his better nature deep underneath the hard shell of materialism and self-indulgence, but it is all in vain; sooner or later, on this side of death or on the other, that buried life shall rise in power and all barriers be swept away. This uprising of the Christ in the individual soul, for such it is, must inevitably mean pain to the man whose true life has been entombed in selfishness. The pain may begin here or on the farther side of the change called death, but it is itself not a mark of death, but of life. The fact that a soul can suffer proves its salvability beyond dispute. An everlasting hell is in the nature of things a contradiction, for the finite cannot eternally bar the way of the infinite reality whose uprising is the cause of its pain; if it could, it would itself be infinite, which is absurd. Sin is essentially the endeavour to live for the finite, the separative, the divisive, as opposed to the infinite, the whole-ward, the All. Which will win in this encounter?

The real judge. And who, pray, is the Judge? Who but yourself? The deeper self is the judge, the self who is eternally one with God. The pain caused by sin arises from the soul, which is potentially infinite and cannot have its true nature denied. If you go and live over a sewer, you will be ill. Why? Because you were never meant to live over a sewer. The evil therein attacks you, and the life within you fights to overcome it, and in the process you have to suffer. It is just the same with your spiritual nature. You cannot continue to live apart from the whole, for the real you is the whole, and, do what you will, it will overcome everything within you that makes for separateness, and in the process you will have to suffer. This is what the punishment of sin means. It is life battling with death, love striving against selfishness, the deeper soul with the surface soul. It is our own spiritual nature that compels us to suffer when we sin, and there is no escaping the sentence; if we sin we must suffer, for we are so constituted that what sin does, love with toil and pain must undo. No eleventh-hour repentance can evade this issue; in fact, it may be the beginning of it. If we have been treading a wrong road, repentance is turning round and taking the way back. If we have been living a false life, repentance is the beginning of the true, and just in proportion as the false has been accepted, so will the true find it difficult to destroy the lie. You are the judge; you in God. If you have failed to achieve that for which you are here, you will have to achieve it here or elsewhere, and the correction of your failure will inevitably mean pain.

“The tissues of the life to be,
We weave with colours all our own;
And in the field of destiny
We reap as we have sown.”

There is nothing horrific about this law of the spirit. In a true and real sense it is our own law; we make it. Being what we are, we cannot let ourselves off. Pain is at once the consequence of sin and the token of our divine lineage. But there is nothing individualistic about this sinning and suffering. All the love in the universe comes to the help of the soul that tries to rise. It will even enter the prison house along with it and accept the cross in the endeavour to hasten the emancipation of the sinbound soul. In fact, it must do so, for as long as there is any sin to be done away, love cannot have its perfect work. This it was which brought Jesus to earth, and this it is which turns every follower of Jesus into a saviour. Love must strive and suffer with sin until God is all in all.

The spiritual resurrection. It follows from this that the true resurrection is spiritual, not material, and this is the sense in which the word is most frequently employed in the New Testament. In the fourth gospel Jesus is represented as saying, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and he that liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” This is a great saying, and the writer of this particular gospel meant every word of it in the sense I have just indicated. He makes the eternal Christ the speaking terms of the earthly Jesus and tells us that the uprising of this eternal Christ within the soul of the penitent sinner is the real resurrection.

The resurrection of Jesus. But this subject of the resurrection demands a further examination. We have already seen how inconsistent popular Christian doctrine is about the matter, and yet Christianity started with the belief in a resurrection of our Lord, a belief which has continued down to the present day. What are we to say about this?

We may as well admit at the outset that the gospel accounts of the physical resurrection of Jesus are mutually inconsistent and that no amount of ingenuity can reconcile them. Matthew speaks of a Galilean appearance, and says nothing about the ascension. Luke says a great deal about the Jerusalem appearances, nothing about Galilee, and tells us that the ascension took place from Bethany. The end of St. Mark’s gospel has been lost, and the last few verses are a summary of the accounts in the other gospels concerning the post-resurrection appearances of the Lord. John’s version is, of course, less historical than the synoptists, and puts the last appearance at the sea of Tiberias. A minute discussion of the problem thus raised would be unprofitable for our present purpose, but I hope we can take for granted the broad fact that without a belief in a resurrection of some kind Christianity could not have made a start at all. It is almost indisputable that in some way or other the disciples must have become convinced that they had seen Jesus face to face after the world believed Him to be dead and buried. The earliest apostolic utterance on the subject in the New Testament is the familiar passage from 1 Cor. xv: “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen by Cephas, then of the twelve: After that he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.” This statement is clear enough and almost unquestionably authentic. It places beyond doubt what the apostolic church thought of the resurrection of Jesus. The little group of disciples must somehow have become convinced that their Master was not really dead, but alive and reigning in the world unseen, interested as much as ever in the work His followers were doing, and spiritually present with them in the doing of it. This conviction had immediate and important spiritual results. It gave these simple men a new and greater confidence in Jesus and in the power of the life He had lived. They saw that this life was, after all, the strongest thing in the universe. They realised that in the end nothing could stand against them; evil could do it no real harm, for God was behind it. Even before the crucifixion they had looked upon Jesus as the Son of God in a higher and more spiritual sense than that title had been used before, but now henceforth they thought of Him as such in a higher way still. According to Paul He was “declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead.” If we try to put ourselves in the place of these first Christians, we shall realise better the effect of the resurrection upon their feelings and behaviour. Let us suppose that we had known Jesus in the flesh, that we had learned to understand a little of the moral and spiritual beauty of the ideal revealed in His life, and that afterward we had seen Him die in blood and shame; I think it would have taken a good deal to convince us that evil had not gained the day. Now suppose after this we had absolute proof I will not say how that our Master was still alive, and that His spirit was with us and helping us, would it not make a very great difference to our outlook upon life and our confidence in God? We could not but feel the littleness of the power that had tried to destroy Jesus, and we should not be afraid of it any more. This is precisely what appears to have happened in the experience of these Galileans. Defeat and failure were somehow turned into victory and success; they had seen Jesus again.

Theories of resurrection. But how are we to account for this new-found confidence of theirs that they had really once more looked upon the face of Jesus? The subject has been discussed so exhaustively that no possible explanation of it has been left altogether untouched. Such a unique event as the raising of a physical body from death is one which the average western mind of the present day would reject as incredible if we had never heard it before, consequently there exists a widespread tendency among liberal Christians to try to account for primitive Christian belief in the resurrection of our Lord in some other way. Thus we have the hallucination theory, the apparition theory, the swoon theory, and others of a similar character. I should suppose that most thinkers who take the point of view of the New Theology would hold one or other of these explanations or some modification of them, but I confess I have never been able to do so. It seems to me that no such explanation of the universally held Christian conviction that the physical body of Jesus actually rose from the tomb is sufficient to account for it. The passage already quoted from 1 Cor. xv is alone enough to illustrate this statement. It is clear that the earliest Christians were absolutely certain that the body of Jesus after the resurrection was the body of Jesus as they had known it before, although apparently it possessed some new and mysterious attributes. In my judgment, also, insistence upon the impossibility of a physical resurrection presumes an essential distinction between matter and spirit which I cannot admit. The philosophy underlying the New Theology as I understand it is monistic idealism, and monistic idealism recognises no fundamental distinction between matter and spirit. The fundamental reality is consciousness. The so-called material world is the product of consciousness exercising itself along a certain limited plane; the next stage of consciousness above this is not an absolute break with it, although it is an expansion of experience or readjustment of focus. Admitting that individual self-consciousness persists beyond the change called death, it only means that such consciousness is being exercised along another plane; from a three-dimensional it has entered a four-dimensional world. This new world is no less and no more material than the present; it is all a question of the range of consciousness. It is this view, the view that matter exists only in and for mind, that leads me to believe that less than justice has been done by liberal thinkers to the theory of the physical resurrection of Jesus. What is the physical but the common denominator between one finite mind and another? It is a mode of language, an expression of thought as well as a condition of thought. Imagine a being free of a three-dimensional world trying to converse with a being still limited to a two-dimensional world, and we have a clew to what I think may have happened after the crucifixion of Jesus. The three-dimensional body would behave in a manner altogether unaccountable to the two-dimensional watcher. The latter, knowing only length and breadth, and nothing of up or down, would see his three-dimensional friend as a line only. The moment the three-dimensional solid rose above or sank below his line of vision, it would seem to have disappeared like an apparition, although as really present as before. To the two-dimensional mind it would seem as though the solid were a ghost. Does this throw any light upon the mysterious appearances and disappearances of the body of Jesus? The all-important thing after Calvary was to make the disciples aware, beyond all dispute, that Jesus was really alive, more alive than ever, and that His murderers had been helpless to destroy Him. When we remember that to the ordinary Jewish mind the thought of personal immortality was anything but clear, and that to many of them death was synonymous with annihilation, we can see how enormous was the change that had to be wrought in the mental attitude of those who had seen Jesus die a violent and bloody death. To see Him return triumphant was the one thing required to counteract their feeling that all was lost, and the best means of demonstrating this victory over death was to enable them to behold Him in the body with which they were already familiar and which they loved so well. For, after all, that body was but a thought-form, a kind of language, a mode of communication between mind and mind; it was no more and no less a thought-form than an apparition would have been, and, from the point of view of monistic idealism, it is no more difficult to believe in the reanimation of a physical body than in the use of any other thought-form to express a fact of consciousness. Here, then, we have a being whose consciousness belongs to the fourth-dimensional plane adjusting Himself to the capacity of those on a three-dimensional plane for the sake of proving to them beyond dispute that

“Life is ever lord of death,
And love can never love its own.”

This seems to me the most reasonable explanation of the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus, and the impression produced by them on the minds of His disciples. Most of my New Theology friends will probably reject it at first sight, but at least it is consistent with the philosophic position assumed throughout this book, and seems to me to present fewer difficulties than any other in face of the New Testament accounts. But no theory of the resurrection of Jesus is absolutely indispensable or of first-rate importance; the main thing to be agreed upon is that Christianity started with the belief that its Founder had risen from the dead in order to demonstrate that death has no power to destroy anything worthy of God. In consonance with this idealistic view of the subject the ascension becomes understandable; it simply means that when Jesus had done what He wanted, the body was dissipated. No doubt primitive Christian thought naively regarded heaven as a place above the sky to which the physical body actually went, and Hades, or the under-world, as the place from which the spirit of Jesus returned to reanimate it before ascending to the abode of the Father. Plainly enough this is what Paul thought about it, but such a conception is now impossible to anyone; it could only exist under a geocentric view of the universe which has long since passed away. But when Paul speaks even about the resurrection of the saints, this is what he means. All the good who have died are waiting in the under-world, the shadowy home of the departed, in a state of existence which is only a sort of dream or sleep compared with that which they have left. From this under-world Jesus returned, “the first-fruits of them that slept.” All who believe in Him will do the same sooner or later, will resume their physical bodies, and, like Him, ascend to the world above the sky. But seeing this geocentric cosmogony has been impossible for centuries past, why should we go on trying to squeeze Paul’s language so as to mean something else than what it meant at first? Granted that he was right in believing, in company with all the rest of the primitive church, that Jesus showed Himself to the disciples after His crucifixion, what more do we need? Paul’s theory as to the resurrection of every physical body is just nonsense in the light of our larger knowledge of the universe and its laws, and we may as well say so.

Paul’s mystical view of resurrection. But we should do Paul an injustice if we were to limit the value of his utterances by his views about the resurrection of the human body. I have already pointed out that Paul employs physical symbols in a mystical way, and in nothing was this more so than in his use of the idea of a resurrection. With him, as with the writer of the fourth gospel, the spiritual resurrection was the uprising, going-forward, issuing-forth, of the Christ or divine man within the soul. When he speaks in this way he allows the thought of a physical resurrection to drop out of sight. Thus he writes: “If we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection.” “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.” “If then ye be risen with Christ seek the things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.... For ye died, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” Even if this last sentence is not Paul’s own it has a distinctly Pauline ring. In his maturer thought the great apostle seems to have escaped the limitations of his early Pharisaism. He ceases to speak of the sleep or the under-world, and begins to think of death as the gateway to the immediate presence of his dearly loved Master. “For I long to depart and to be with Christ which is far better.” Here, surely, we are listening to the voice of Paul the aged.

The moment we succeed in disentangling ourselves from all literal and limiting New Testament statements about the connection between sin and physical death, the physical resurrection, the distant Judgment Day, and such-like, we find ourselves in a position to appreciate the beautiful spiritual experience in which these very terms become symbols of inner realities of the soul. Till we can do this, New Testament language is sure to be a hindrance to any true apprehension of the moral value of the gospel of Christ. The only salvation we need trouble about is the change from selfishness to love, “We know that we have passed from death unto life because we love.” This change is equivalent to a resurrection, the uprising of the eternal Christ within us. It is also an ascension, the uplifting and uniting of the soul to the eternal Father. But such a resurrection and ascension may be preceded by a great deal of pain when the soul is shedding the husk of selfishness. There is no dodging the consequences of sin; that is absolutely impossible. A saviour may suffer with and for the sinner, but the sinner must suffer too. The suffering is not a mark of God’s anger, but of his love; so far from salvation being a means of screening us from it, the pain is a means by which the salvation takes effect. It is the true self asserting its dominion over the false. Heaven and hell are states of the soul, and the latter implies the former. It is life that suffers, not death. When a guilty soul awakens to the truth, hell begins, but it is because heaven wants to break through. The aim and object of salvation are not the getting of a man into heaven, but the getting of heaven into him. There is nothing horrifying about the law of retribution, although it is inexorable in its operation. It is an evidence of our divine origin, our own true being asserting itself against the fetters of evil. But it is the Christ that saves us, not the retribution; the retribution only shows that the Christ is there, and that from the Calvary caused by sin, and from the tomb in which the true self lies buried, He will rise in glorious majesty in the soul and unite us in the bonds of love to the eternal divine humanity which is God.

Physical death of minor importance. It follows from what has now been said that all these familiar terms imply each other, and that death, judgment, heaven, and hell cannot properly be regarded as the “Last Things.” They are all here now, here within the soul, just as infinity and eternity are here now. It is not a matter of hither and yonder, but of higher and lower. Physical death is not the all-important event which theologians have usually made it out to be; it is only a bend in the road. My own impression is that when we individually pass through this crisis, we shall find the change to be very slight. It will mean the dropping of the scales from the eyes, and that is about all. The things we have been living for on this side will only profit us in so far as they have gone to the building up of a Christlike character. If a man has been living for false and unworthy ideals, he will quickly find it out; the only possession he can take to the other side of death is what he is. Belief in the atoning merits and the finished work of a Saviour will not compensate for wasted opportunities and selfish deeds; these latter will light the fires of retribution as the soul awakes to its true condition, and then, and not till then perhaps, will the indwelling Christ obtain His opportunity. Nor will the absence of a formal creed shut any good man out of heaven; it is impossible to shut a man out from what he is. What we sow we reap, and we do so just because of what we fundamentally are. Every road to evil ends in a cul-de-sac. Sooner or later every soul will have to learn that it is no use kicking against the pricks; we must learn by the consequences of our mistakes that, being what we are, the children of the Highest, we cannot permanently rest in anything less than the love of God. Salvation and Atonement are just as operative on the other side of death as on this. The blind soul goes on for a while in its blundering selfishness, and the Christ spirit, the spirit of universal love, goes on seeking to win it to the truth. In the end the truth must prevail if only because we shall have to learn that the lie is not worth while.

Evidence for immortality of the soul. No doubt there are some readers of these pages who profess themselves agnostic or indifferent with regard to the question of immortality, and I am not going to argue with them. It seems to me probable that before very long it will be impossible to deny it. The mass of evidence for the persistence of individual self-consciousness after death is increasing rapidly and is being subjected to the strictest scientific investigation. Men like Sir William Crookes and Sir Oliver Lodge, men whose words are entitled to respect from the point of view of modern science, have publicly admitted the importance of such evidence; before long the scientific world in general will have to take it into consideration. But to me such evidence does not greatly matter, and I know very little about it at first hand. I build my belief in immortality on the conviction that the fundamental reality of the universe is consciousness, and that no consciousness can ever be extinguished, for it belongs to the whole and must be fulfilled in the whole. The one unthinkable supposition from this point of view is that any kind of being which has ever become aware of itself, that is, has ever contained a ray of the eternal consciousness, can perish.