Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

tered son of Zebedee, were we to leave the fact of inspiration out of the question; and a critic would, from internal evidence merely, at once decide that the book of Revelation and the gospel of St. John could not have been written by the same hand.

This diversity of style, however, which is the main argument against an identity of authorship, may, perhaps, be sufficiently accounted for by the fact, that the writer of the Revelation was, as himself informs us, "in the Spirit ;" that he relates merely what he saw; and tells what he was told in the same language in which he heard it. John, while writing the gospel which bears his name, was doubtless inspired, so far as to be enabled to relate facts correctly in his own style. The language of the apocalypse is, on the other hand, the language of the Holy Ghost; the writer, HIS amanuensis.

""

For ourselves we love, in idea, to identify the disciple who leaned on the bosom of the incarnate Saviour with him who "wept much, because no man was found worthy to open, and to read the book; neither to look thereon." There seems, to us, a moral fitness in the selection of the meek and modest John for the organ of a revelation, the most sublime and momentous : "He that humbleth himself shall be exalted."

In the preceding chapters we have the dark and mysterious events of futurity unfolded; symbolical representations of which were shown to the writer by him whose "voice was, as it were, of a trumpet talk. ing with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will show thee things which must be hereafter."

It is far from being an objection to, indeed it is an argument in favor of, the divinity of the Revelation, that finite minds have differed greatly in their interpretation of the mysterious vision which John saw. The critical sagacity that has been evoked; the numerical calculations that have been made; the hypotheses, more or less plausible, in which ingenious men have indulged with reference to the Revelation, have been, to say the least, labor lost. Time alone, as it rolls onward, can unravel its mysteries; and as the events therein predicted are developed, each, in succession, will be an attestation of its authenticity and inspiration, till time itself shall be no longer. Man, not knowing the events alluded to and foretold, can neither hasten nor retard them. "It is not for you to know the times or the seasons which the Father hath put in his own power."

After enumerating and dwelling upon previous paramount occur rences and events, continuing down to the final scene of time's great drama, "I saw," says the revelator, "the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books."

It is generally conceded, (and it would be extremely difficult to find another interpretation having the appearance of plausibility,) that the passage before us refers to the day of final retribution; and that the purpose for which the dead stand before God is the apportionment of their endless destiny. We assume, therefore, that for this purpose the books are opened; and the dead are judged out of the things written in the books.

The subject of inquiry we have proposed to ourselves is, What is to be understood by the books which were (will be) opened; and the things written therein which will form the criterion of judgment?

That these expressions are not to be understood literally, may be argued from the general tenor of the whole Revelation; the language of which is figurative throughout.

The idea of a recording angel, whose peculiar province it may be to enter the thoughts, words, and actions of mankind in books prepared for that purpose, is fanciful. It were an unpleasant task for a holy being; and beyond the ability of a finite creature. God alone can read the thoughts of the heart.

That there is, however, a perfectly correct register preparing for that day, and what that register is, will be seen in the evolution of the arguments which follow.

1. Personal identity lies at the foundation of a future judgment. The individuals who are to be judged, and upon whom sentence of condemnation or approval is to be pronounced, must be identical with those whose accounts are written in the books. The dead who are to be judged must be identified with the living whose acts are recorded; and this, no matter what, or how great the changes and transformations through which they may have passed in the interim, between the date of the record and the opening of the books. Nor does it matter how long that interim may have been; one day, or a myriad of ages. I do not ask this as a postulate preparatory to the development of the argument; nor does the position itself need argu. ments to sustain it. With those who think, it will have, as well as several that follow, the force and intuition of an axiom.

2. Personal identity implies an individual knowledge of that identity. I mean, with reference to the identity essential for a future judgment. It is possible to conceive an individual deprived of this knowledge: to imagine man in a state in which he shall be unable to identify himself with what he was and has been. But the moment we do this, we divest him of accountability. He is no longer a rational creature, a moral agent, a man: for these terms, if not synonymous, are essentially confluent; and either one implies the other too. Such a creature would not be considered amenable to an earthly tribunal, much less can we believe it consonant with the attributes of Jehovah, that an individual, unconscious of his own personal identity, is a proper subject to stand before His bar.

3. Every man is conscious of his own identity. There may be no direct argument by which to establish this truth; nor is any necessary. I am conscious of my own; you, of yours: nor has either of us ever met with an individual in his senses who doubted the fact, however much philosophers may dispute the question, in what does that iden. tity consist. Transition from infancy to youth, manhood, old age, does not affect it. Removal from one region to another; alteration in outward circumstances, as a change from competence to poverty, or the reverse; prosperity, adversity; health, sickness; none of these affect it.

4. Nor does it depend on any thing external. The loss of a limb, of all the limbs, of any part of the body, so long as the vital spark is not extinguished, has no effect in impairing this identity and man's consciousness of it. The particles of matter of which the body is composed, are constantly changing. The body, after the lapse of a few years, is, in fact, another body, so far as relates to its component parts; but the man's identity is not impaired, and cannot be ques

tioned. He whose hair is now silvered by age; hearing not the sounds of gladness that are around him; tottering upon his crutch; led by the hand of another, because "those that look out of the window be darkened," is identically the same individual who was once dandled upon the mother's knee; helpless in unconscious infancy.

5. Nor is it an identity of intellectual power. The powers of the mind, like those of the body, are susceptible of increase and diminu. tion. They are perpetually expanding and contracting around us. The mind that is now busied in tracing the revolutions of the planets; or in unfolding to the admiring gaze of his fellows the mysteries of nature; that is now listening, delighted, to the music of the spheres; or amusing itself with the arcana of the most abstruse sciences,—was, and but a little while since, perplexed in the extreme with the strange conformation of those symbols of science, the letters of the alphabet ; 'pleased with a rattle, tickled with a straw."

66

So, again, on the other hand, it is no argument against this identity, and man's consciousness of it, to point us to the individual who, from any cause, is now unable to trace the steps by which he once reasoned; or to comprehend the arguments of his own philosophy. Though the days have come in which he has no pleasure in them; when all his associates around him may say, and himself may feel, Quanto mutatus ab illo! yet has not that change at all affected his personal identity, or induced him to question it for a moment.

6. The knowledge of this identity cannot be destroyed or obliterated. We have seen that the things of time and sense are incompetent to produce this effect. There is no ground to suppose, no argument to justify the conclusion, that the realities of another world have any tendency to accomplish it. Will death destroy it? Independent of every returning day's experience, we should have as much reason to suppose that its destruction would be effected by a night's slumber, as by the sleep of death.

The rich man, of whom the Saviour tells us, when he lifted up his eyes in torment, was identical with him who once fared sumptuously, and clothed himself in purple and fine linen. He was still brother to the five he had left at his father's house. He is still the same, and equally well assured of his identity, now that centuries have elapsed since first his unavailing cry went up to heaven.

Admit, for a moment, the possibility of destroying, or obliterating this consciousness of personal identity. Suppose the effect produced. Does it not follow that futurity can neither reward nor punish? Nay, with reference to man, futurity is not; man is annihilated.

7. The question, How is man assured of his own identity? is a most interesting one. Locke's assertion, "Consciousness makes personal identity," amounts to nothing. We might with equal truth, and with as much philosophical acumen, transpose the sentence, and say-personal identity makes consciousness. The question still recurs-How do I acquire and retain a consciousness of my own identity; a consciousness, as we have seen, that will abide with me for ever? Do I obtain it by any process of reasoning? Evidently not. If by any mode of argument, I was enabled yesterday to satisfy myself of my identity, it would require the same process to-day, and every succeed. ing day and hour of my existence. I am not conscious of any such process. Nay, I positively know that none such takes place. Farther, there are multitudes of my fellow-men, who, from want of intellectual VOL. IX.-April, 1838. 22

culture, are incapable of such metaphysical subtleties; and they, I have every reason to believe, are as well assured of their own identity as the proudest philosopher.

There results, then, that the faculty by which man has a knowledge of his identity must be universal; i. e., possessed by all men; and that it must be indestructible.

8. That faculty is memory. I am Abercrombie for instance, and Locke mory a distinct faculty of the mind. remembers. It seems, however, a needless refinement. memory, stands for some idea; or it does not. If the latter, there is no use for the word, and it means nothing. The phrase, "storehouse of the mind," frequently used by the last-named writer, is but a periphrasis, and the use of it by so concise and close a reasoner shows the indispensable necessity of at least conceiving the memory to be a distinct faculty.

aware that some philosophers, before him, scruple to call meThey prefer to say-the mind The word

That all men are endowed with memory, or, if it suit better, and which I conceive a tantamount expression, that all have the faculty of remembering, will not, I presume, be questioned.

That we are correct in attributing man's consciousness of identity to this faculty, may be seen, if we consider, (1.) The utter impossibility of realizing this identity back of the date to which memory extends. There was a time, in every man's existence, when this faculty first began to be developed; beyond that, knowledge of personal identity does not extend. (2.) And again,-The impossibility of identifying ourselves with ourselves in some past period of our existence of which we are unable to recall the occurrences or events; e. g., I may be assured, by persons whose veracity I have no reason to question, and cannot doubt, that at such a time, in infancy or childhood suppose, I performed certain acts. If I am unable, by the aid of memory, to recall the recollection of those events, I cannot be conscious that I am identical with the person who did thus and so. But let some train of thought be awakened which brings the events vividly before me; let memory, by any means, be aroused, and I am at once conscious that I am the identical individual who was engaged in those transactions.

9. Memory is indestructible. This, if the truth of the preceding section be admitted, is evident, at least so far as that the remembrance of some things, the things on which personal identity depends, must be co-existent with man himself. It will be objected, perhaps, that although the truth of our proposition, thus far understood, is incontrovertible, yet it will not follow that memory itself is indestructible, as that would imply that forgetfulness is impossible; and carrying out the idea would result in establishing the position, that the memory is equally capable of retaining one thing as another; and if so, there is no reason why one solitary event that has ever occurred in any individual's history, word spoken, thought conceived, or combination of thought in its wildest vagaries, should ever be absolutely and entirely forgotten.

To which we reply: the inference is correct. It becomes us to meet the objections that may be urged against it, prior to adducing the arguments in its favor.

(1.) The first objection I shall notice, is drawn from experience. There are many things, says the objector, which I once knew, that I

have now forgotten. Indeed, he continues, my memory is treacherous in the extreme; I cannot trust it with matters of the most trivial import. This objection appears plausible: but it will be seen, I think, on reflection, that it arises from the confounding of two things, in themselves totally distinct; to wit, recollection and memory. The one is a faculty of the mind; the other, the result of the exercise of that faculty. The former may be compared to a draft upon the latter, which, though it be sometimes dishonored, yet is not, to carry out the metaphor, for want of funds; but for some other reason. This is evidenced by the fact, that no man ever attempts to recollect or recall any event which never had a place in his memory.

Besides, the objection itself, admitted in its full force, merely proves that the memory may, for a time, be inactive; in a state of quiescence. We are free to admit-memory may sleep; our position isit never dies.

(2.) But some things are remembered with more facility than others; which would not be the case, continues the objector, were the inference under consideration correct. To which the answer is very simple. Some things, for instance, are more agreeable to the palate than others; upon verdant lawns and fertile valleys the eye rests with more pleasure than upon arid rocks and sterile plains. All things are not equally agreeable to my palate; nor do I view with the same delight all objects. But this is certainly no argument against the delicacy of my taste, or the correctness of my vision. It is, indeed, a direct argument to the contrary; seeing that if this were the case it would argue, if not the absence, at least the imperfection of those faculties. Indeed, the very enunciation of the above objection defeats the object for which it is brought; for to say that one thing is done more readily, or with more ease than another, what is it but to say that the thing which is done with the least ease, may nevertheless be done.

(3.) Very like this, and similar is the answer to, the objection drawn from the diversity of mankind with reference to the power of recollection. It is, indeed, most evident, that all men have not this faculty in the same degree. It is said of Pascal, that "he forgot nothing of what he had done, read, or thought in any part of his rational age." Here, on the other hand, is a man that has forgotten the commencement of the essay he is now finishing; or, if you please, the chapter of the Bible he selected and read at his family devotion this morning. But in either of these last supposed instances, or indeed in any others of similar import, we see no kind of evidence that any thing has been absolutely forgotten; but a remarkable illustration of that endless diversity that obtains throughout the creation of mind as well as matter. We know that no two individuals are precisely similar in their corporeal formation; we have never seen two eyes exactly alike, or two hands, or two ears, either in their peculiar conformation, or in their faculty of conveying emotions, pleasing or otherwise, to the mind. And it is as little to be wondered at; it is just what we might expect, that similar diversities should be found in the faculties of the soul.

Again: The question may be retorted upon the objector, whether in the instance of an individual, (Pascal, as above alluded to, for instance,) who has great readiness in recollecting past events, scenes, occurrences, he is enabled to do it by the exercise of memory, or in

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »