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giving? Why should this be the case even with those who reject religion, and whose good and evil deeds, if they do not affect them in this life, cannot affect a future in which they professedly do not believe ?
It is a fact, however, that all races of mankind, including the most savage and barbarous, have had a belief in some form of future existence; and it is impossible to account for the universality of such a belief unless, like conscience, it is a natural and inherent conviction of the human mind. Matter may be dissolved into its elements, but it is never destroyed, and the spirit and consciousness of man is a unity, the disintegration of which is unthinkable ; nor can any arguments persuade a person whose judgment is unclouded by the subtleties of philosophy, falsely so called, that the mind which can watch and reflect on the body with which it is associated, in the same way as it can watch and perceive the form and actions of other bodies, is itself that body. If, then, the spirit and consciousness is not the body, and cannot partake of the dissolution of the body, it must still exist after death; and it is the strong, but innate, and often unconfessed conviction that it does not cease to exist after death, that clothes the future of the least reflective of mankind with the responsibility of the actions of this life, and occasions in all whose moral perceptions are not destroyed, those hopes and fears connected with deeds good and evil, in spite of their rejection of all revealed religion.
Let a man perish in accomplishing some deed of unqualified good, and although, instead of approving friends, enemies seeking his death and filled with malice at his success may encompass him, and although no thought of God and a future may cross his mind, intensely occupied by the all-absorbing moments of the present, yet, as the death-stroke falls at the moment of success, a strange exulting calm fills his soul, and he dies with a smile of triumph on his face. He has done that which is good, he has cast in his lot with righteousness, he has followed the higher law of his being, he is on the side of good, and that good he instinctively knows is something which is not only in itself eternal, but an all-powerful, essential, and immutable law, which has a future significance to himself.
But let such a man, tempted by lust or hate, do some irremediable evil. The deed is done, and the intense and absorbing desire which tortured his soul is satiated; the law of the flesh has been obeyed, and its hunger calmed. But lo, instead of satisfaction and contentment, he is filled with unrest, fearfulness, and anxiety, starting and trembling at every sound, and betraying a causeless dread of the most insignificant things ; and yet as time goes on, and all chance of discovery has passed away, the remembrance of the wrong rises before him in the watches of the night and the solitudes of the day, and he is ever haunted by the spectre of his evil deed, poisoning every pleasure, deepening every pain, ever followed by the same 'deep and shuddering chill' and unrest which possessed him from the moment he had satisfied his evil desire. What is this shuddering chill, in which so often no thought, or knowledge of God, or of the future may be present? Is it not the consciousness that he has cast in his lot with evil and cut himself off from good, and that therefore he is an outcast, without the pale of that almighty and eternal law of righteousness, without its protection, naked, and exposed to a future power of evil ? .
Similar feelings may be also recognised in the minor details of daily life, and no arguments can overthrow the fact that a sense of satisfaction and rest follows every good action, and dissatisfaction and unrest every evil action, irrespective of any thought of God, or of human approval or disapproval. For however little a person may believe
in God and in a future, yet if that person, far removed from the rest of his fellow-men, does some act of kindness or generosity to a dying enemy, the remembrance of that act will always bring a sense of peace and satisfaction ; while the remembrance of a malignant and dastardly act, done under similar circumstances, will ever bring a sense of unrest and disquietude, which he will in vain endeavour to forget and dismiss from his mind.
That there are many who seem to be without conscience, and callous to the dictates of pity and generosity and truth, and who can do evil without fear or remorse, is true. This is the case with some savages, whose training and education have made evil appear good ; but, even amongst them, there are few who are not capable of perceiving that righteousness is good and wickedness evil, when that good and evil are fairly placed before them; and when this is the case, they come to regard those things in which they once delighted with horror and repulsion, and to love the virtues which they once despised. Let them only have placed fairly before them in their own experience, or let them witness in others, the beauty and good of generosity, compassion, and unmerited kindness, and, as proved by many instances, they will often cling to and love, and ever after practise, those virtues with an earnestness which puts to shame more enlightened races. Their case, in fact, more nearly resembles that of the child, who, before his moral faculties are awakened and developed, may often evince a similar callousness to evil, but who is singularly susceptible to moral teaching. The existence of the dormant conscience, which when awakened may raise even the savage to the same moral level as the best of the human race, shows it is something essential to the nature of man, the impress of the image of God, who is the Source of all good, showing that man has in him a capacity for righteousness; which righteousness, being in its nature
eternal and essential, links him to that which is eternal and essential, so long, at least, as conscience, or the moral perception of right and wrong, remains unseared and unperverted.
If there are those who know nothing of these fruits of good and evil deeds, they are hardly to be envied. Free they may be to pursue their own desires, untrammelled by misgiving and anxiety ; but if conscience is the reflection in man of eternal good, the image of the eternal God, linking man to Him; and if through conscience alone he can be redeemed from iniquity, then it would be better to suffer with those whose evil deeds have robbed them of all rest in this world, than to enjoy all the pleasures of sin with the unruffled minds of some who know no misgiving, because their consciences are dead.
Nevertheless, even those who take a delight in doing evil are forced to bow before the just man, whose aims are honest, unselfish, and generous; and thus wickedness, supported by material power, is often seen to quail for the moment before righteousness enshrined in weakness. So great, in fact, is the power of truth and righteousness on the minds of men, that the bold demeanour of only a few upright and just men is often sufficient to overthrow the influence of many wicked ; and when the latter triumph, it is constantly due to the timidity of the former, who do not recognise sufficiently the moral power of right over wrong.
In fact, a good and a just man, and a good and just cause are powerful in proportion as their goodness and justness are recognised ; and one just man, whose wisdom is able to discern and make apparent to others what is just and right, may sway the minds of a whole nation. It may be true that the unjust and selfish more often lead men; but this is because, while, on the one hand, they appeal to the selfish interests of their hearers, so, on the other hand, they dress that selfishness in the garb of righteousness.
Selfishness may indeed be sufficient of itself to decide the actions and opinions of some individuals and communities ; but with those who, under ordinary circumstances, acknowledge righteousness and justice, these latter will often overcome the strongest self-interest ; and the fact remains that the most evil acknowledge an occult power in righteousness, which, while it often rouses in them the bitterest hatred, produces at the same time a secret fear and misgiving. The wicked flee when no man pursueth, but the righteous is bold as a lion' (Prov. xxviii. 1). And this antithesis clearly illustrates the essential nature of the effects produced by each, for while the transgression of the moral law constantly produces fear and misgiving, single-minded men, on the other hand, conscious of the righteousness of their cause, have been able to face with calmness a hostile world.
Righteousness, in fact, is not obedience to the arbitrary commands of an Almighty Being, but an eternal and essential law, the root and principle of eternal happiness and power,-and the innate perception of this by man is conscience.'