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Evidence of Retribution Beyond the Grave.

Evidence of Retribution Beyond the Grave.

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Published by: glennpease on Jul 29, 2013
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EVIDENCE OF RETRIBUTION BEYOND THE GRAVE.BY JOSEPH AGAR BEETTO the results noted above, we must now add otherssimilar.We observe in our own hearts that disobedience to thedictates of the Moral Sense is always followed by moraldeterioration, by loss of moral strength, and consequentlyby loss of self-respect. This immediate result of wrongdoing awakens in us an irresistible apprehension thatfurther evil results will follow. We cannot shake off aconviction that exact RETRIBUTION awaits every man.The irresistible majesty of the Moral Law, which securesat once the reverence of whatever in us is noblest andbest, compels us to believe that it is able to vindicate itscommands by due punishment and reward ; that sin andsorrow, righteousness and well-being, are linked togetherby ties which none can break.This expectation of reward and punishment isstrengthened by our observation of various OUTWARDCONSEQUENCES which in the present life usually followright and wrong doing. The immediate inward degradation noted above finds its outward counterpart in the badeffects of sin on society around us, effects which often3LECT. IV.] RETRIBUTION. 31fall, sometimes with crushing force, by the outworking of influences which none can hinder, upon the head of thesinner. And this outward retribution is approved, andindeed demanded, by the Moral Sense. Where it is, wefeel that moral order is maintained : where it is not, thatorder seems to be disturbed.We notice however that in the present life retributionis IRREGULAR ; that, although the moral sense demandsin every case due reward and punishment, very frequentlythe wicked prosper, and that not unfrequently good menhave lost even life itself by doing right. The irregularityof retribution in the present life has in all ages puzzledthe wisest of men. And in all ages the same explana
tion of it has been given, viz., that the present life is notthe whole of man s existence, and that BEYOND THEGRAVE exact retribution awaits every one. This explanation is the only one which the felt majesty of the MoralLaw permits us to entertain. It forbids us to believeeven for a moment that any one can, in the long run, bea loser by doing right. Consequently, since some menhave, by losing life, lost all earthly good through uprightness, there must be a life beyond the grave in which theywill receive due recompense. Otherwise the Moral Lawwill be their debtor with a debt it can never pay : whichis inconceivable. Thus in all ages the death of therighteous has revealed to men a hope beyond the grave.To this widespread apprehension that punishmentwill inevitably follow sin and that retribution beyond thegrave awaits all men, the entire literature of the worldbears witness. In XENOPHON S Anabasis, bk. ii. 5. 7, 832 PRELIMINARIES. [PART I.a Greek commander says to a Persian general, evidentlyappealing to broad principles recognised by all men," First and chiefly, the oaths of the gods forbid us to behostile one to the other. And whoever is conscious of having disregarded these, that man I should never esteemhappy. For I know not with what kind of speed andwhither fleeing one would escape the hostility of the gods.For all things everywhere are subject to the gods, andeverywhere equally they are masters of all things."Notice here the superhuman source of this inevitablesequence of sin and punishmentStill more definite teaching is found in PLATO S Republic, bk. x. pp. 612-14. " The nature both of just andunjust is truly known to the gods ? Granted. And if they are both known to them, one must be the friendand the other the enemy of the gods, as we admitted atfirst ? True. And the friend of the gods may be supposed to receive from them every good, except only suchevil as is the necessary consequence of former sins ?Certainly. This then must be our notion of the just -man,that even when he is in poverty, or any seeming misfortune, all things will in the end work together for good tohim in life and death : for the gods have a care of anyone whose desire -is to become just and to be like God, asfar as man can attain the divine likeness, by the pursuit
of virtue ? Yes, he said ; if he is like God he will surelynot be neglected by him. . . . These then are the prizesand rewards and gifts which are bestowed upon the justby gods and men in this present life, in addition to othergood things which justice of herself provides. Yes, heLECT. IV.] RETRIBUTION. 33said ; and they are fair and lasting. And yet, I said, allthese things are as nothing either in number or greatnessin comparison with those other recompenses which awaitboth just and unjust after death." He then tells a storyof judgment beyond death in which all men receivetenfold good or bad in proportion to their actions onearth.Absolute retribution, beginning in this life and continuing beyond the grave, underlies the entire religiousthought of India, ancient and modern. The Dhamma-flada, a famous work of the Buddhist canon, begins : " Allthat we are is the result of what we have thought : it isfounded on our thoughts, it is made up of our thoughts.If a man speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain followshim, as the wheel follows the foot of the ox that drawsthe carriage. ... If a man speaks or acts with a purethought, happiness follows him like a shadow that neverleaves him. . . . The evil-doer suffers in this world, and hesuffers in the next ; he suffers in both. He suffers whenhe thinks of the evil he has done ; he suffers more whengoing on the evil path. The virtuous man is happy inthis world, and he is happy in the next."So strong is the conviction, in Indian thought, that sinand sorrow are linked together by an indissoluble tie that,in order to explain suffering inherited by birth or notmerited in the present life by the sufferer, the Hindu hasinvented a previous existence which has left no trace inthe memory of man. This strange belief, held to-dayby millions in India and China, bears strong witness toman s deep sense of the moral inequalities of the present334 PRELIMINARIES. [PART I.

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