2 Timothy 1:10
But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death…
I say discovery, not because a future life was wholly unknown before Christ, but because it was so revealed by Him as to become, to a considerable extent, new doctrine. Before Christ, immortality was a conjecture or a vague hope. Jesus, by His teaching and resurrection has made it a certainty. Again, before Christ, a future life lent little aid to virtue. It was seized upon by the imagination and passions, and so perverted by them as often to minister to vice. In Christianity this doctrine is wholly turned to a moral use; and the future is revealed only to give motives, resolution, force to self-conflict and to ,-. holy life. My aim, in this discourse, is to strengthen, if I may, your conviction of immortality; and I have thought that I may do this by showing that this great truth is also a dictate of nature; that reason, though unable to establish it, yet accords with and adopts it, that it is written alike in God's Word and in the soul. It is plainly rational to expect that, if man was made for immortality, the marks of this destination will be found in his very constitution, and that these marks will grow stronger in proportion to the unfolding of his faculties. I would show that this expectation proves just that the teaching of revelation, in regard to a future life, finds a strong response in our own nature. This topic is the more important, because to some men there seem to be appearances in nature unfavourable to immortality. To many, the constant operation of decay in all the works of creation, the dissolution of all the forms of animal and vegetable nature, gives a feeling, as if destruction were the law to which we and all beings are subjected. It has often been said by the sceptic, that the races or classes of being are alone perpetual, that all the individuals which compose them are doomed to perish. Now I affirm that the more we know of the mind the more we see reason to distinguish it from the animal and vegetable races which grow and decay around us; and that in its very nature we see reason for exempting it from the universal law of destruction. When we look around us on the earth we do indeed see everything changing, decaying, passing away; and so inclined are we to reason from analogy or resemblance, that it is not wonderful that the dissolution of all the organised forms of matter should seem to us to announce our own destruction. But we overlook the distinctions between matter and mind; and these are so immense as to justify the directly opposite conclusion. Let me point out some of these distinctions.
1. When we look at the organised productions of nature we see that they require only a limited time, and most of them a very short time, to reach their perfection, and accomplish their end. Take, e.g., that noble production, a tree. Having reached a certain height, and borne leaves, flowers, and fruit, it has nothing more to do. Its powers are fully developed; it has no hidden capacities, of which its buds and fruit are only the beginnings and pledges. Its design is fulfilled; the principle of life within it can effect no more. Not so the mind. We can never say of this, as of a full-grown tree in autumn, it has answered its end, it has done its work, its capacity is exhausted. The mind, by going forward, does not reach insurmountable prison-walls, but learns more and more the boundlessness of its powers, and of the range for which it was created.
2. I now add, that the system of nature to which the tree belongs requires that it should stop where it does. Were it to grow for ever it would be an infinite mischief. But the indefinite expansion of the mind, instead of warring with and counteracting the system of creation, harmonises with and perfects it. One tree, should it grow for ever, would exclude other forms of vegetable life. One mind, in proportion to its expansion, awakens and, in a sense, creates, other minds. It is an ever-enlarging source of thought and love.
3. Another distinction between material forms and the mind is, that to the former destruction is no loss. They exist for others wholly, in no degree for themselves; and others only can sorrow for their fall. The mind, on the contrary, has a deep interest in its own existence. In this respect, indeed, it is distinguished from the animal as well as the vegetable. An improved mind understands the greatness of its own nature, and the worth of existence, as these cannot be understood by the unimproved. The thought of its own destruction suggests to it an extent of ruin which the latter cannot comprehend. The thought of such faculties as reason, conscience and moral will, being extinguished — of powers akin to the Divine energy, being annihilated by their Author — of truth and virtue, those images of God, being blotted out — of progress towards perfection, being broken off almost at its beginning — this is a thought fitted to overwhelm a mind in which the consciousness of its spiritual nature is in a good degree unfolded, In other words, the more the mind is true to itself and to God, the more it clings to existence, the more it shrinks from extinction as an infinite loss. Would not its destruction, then, be a very different thing from the destruction of material beings, and does the latter furnish an analogy or presumption in support of the former? To me, the undoubted fact that the mind thirsts for continued being, just in proportion as it obeys the will of its Maker, is a proof, next to irresistible, of its being destined by Him for immortality.
4. Let me add one more distinction between the mind and material forms. I return to the tree. We speak of the tree as destroyed. We say that destruction is the order of nature, and some say that man must not hope to escape the universal law. Now we deceive ourselves in this use of words. There is in reality no destruction in the material world. True, the tree is resolved into its elements; but its elements survive, and still more, they survive to fulfil the same end which they before accomplished. Not a power of nature is lost. The particles of the decayed tree are only left at liberty to form new, perhaps more beautiful and useful combinations. They may shoot up into more luxuriant foliage, or enter into the structure of the highest animals. But were mind to perish, there would be absolute, irretrievable destruction; for mind, from its nature, is something individual, an uncompounded essence, which cannot be broken into parts and enter into union with other minds. I am myself, and can become no other being. My experience, my history, cannot become my neighbour's. My consciousness, my memory, my interest in my past life, my affections, cannot be transferred. If in any instance I have withstood temptation, and through such resistance have acquired power over myself and a claim to the approbation of my fellow-beings, this resistance, this power, this claim, are my own; I cannot make them another's. I can give away my property, my limbs; but that which makes myself, in other words, my consciousness, my recollections, my feelings, my hopes, these can never become parts of another mind. In the extinction of a thinking, moral being, who has gained truth and virtue, there would be an absolute destruction.
(W. E. Channing, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel: