A belief in immortality not only consoles the individual, but it exerts a powerful influence in promoting justice between individuals. If one actually thinks that man dies as the brute dies, he will yield more easily to the temptation to do injustice to his neighbour when the circumstances are such as to promise security from detection. But if one really expects to meet again, and live eternally with those whom he knows to-day, he is restrained from evil deeds by the fear of endless remorse even when not actuated by higher motives. We do not know what rewards are in store for us or what punishments may be reserved, but if there were no other it would be no light punishment for one who deliberately wrongs another to have to live forever in the company of the person wronged and have his littleness and selfishness laid bare.
The Creator has not left us in doubt on the subject of immortality. He has given to every created thing a tongue that proclaims a life beyond the grave.
If the Father deigns to touch with divine power the cold and pulseless heart of the buried acorn and to make it burst forth from its prison walls, will He leave neglected in the earth the soul of man, made in the image of his Creator? If He stoops to give to the rose-bush, whose withered blossoms float upon the autumn breeze, the sweet assurance of another springtime, will He refuse the words of hope to the sons of men when the frosts of winter come? If matter, mute and inanimate, though changed by the forces of nature into a multitude of forms, can never die, will the imperial spirit of man suffer annihilation when it has paid a brief visit like a royal guest to this tenement of clay? No, He who, notwithstanding His apparent prodigality, created nothing without a purpose, and wasted not a single atom in all His creation, has made provision for a future life in which man’s universal longing for immortality will find its realization. I am as sure that we shall live again as I am sure that we live to-day.
In Cairo, I secured a few grains of wheat that had slumbered for more than thirty centuries in an Egyptian tomb. As I looked at them this thought came into my mind: If one of those grains had been planted on the banks of the Nile the year after it grew, and all its lineal descendants had been planted and replanted from that time until now, its progeny would to-day be sufficiently numerous to feed the teeming millions of the world. An unbroken chain of life connects the earliest grains of wheat with the grains that we sow and reap. There is in the grain of wheat an invisible something which has power to discard the body that we see, and from earth and air fashion a new body so much like the old one that we cannot tell the one from the other. If this invisible germ of life in the grain of wheat can thus pass unimpaired through three thousand resurrections, I shall not doubt that my soul has power to clothe itself with a body suited to its new existence, when this earthly frame has crumbled into dust.