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THE present treatise is the expansion of an essay written a few years ago. The author, however, has still aimed at brevity, without neglecting anything of moment connected with eschatology. Little is known of man's future, and little can be known now. We may draw imaginary pictures of it; but that is of little use. Our practical life is in the present, and the present shapes the future. Church creeds have been too dogmatic and definite about future things, on the ground of scattered passages in the Bible which refuse to be pressed within the bands of a system. If the sacred writers projected their ideas into the future in different ways, all implying deficient knowledge, the understanding should not be exercised in constructing a harmonious view out of elements that disagree. It is important to remember, that our condition in the next world depends upon character in this. Destiny is determined by the unison of our moral nature with the Divine will or the reverse. Happiness is the necessary consequence of goodness. If violence be done to the conscience, unhappiness follows. Moral is as immutable as physical law.
It is hoped that this endeavour of the author's to bring together the ideas which the Biblical writers express respecting man's future and to estimate their value, as also his comparison of them with the creeds of Churches, may be of interest to inquirers. He has not thought it necessary to give the opinions of the fathers at length, because of their small value and the differences among them. The theologians who make Christian antiquity the interpreter or auxiliary of the New Testament records to a large extent, spend their labour for nought. Some, however, love to burrow among the ancients, drawing dusty inspiration from dogmatic statements and metaphysical details, or from irrational superstitions and assertions which find a ready lodgment in the bosoms of fighters for a faith different from Christ's.
The human mind is prone to peer into the future, often for the very reason that the future is dark. If it can get but little light there, we may conclude that a veil has been wisely thrown over the whole, to nourish hope and strengthen faith, to further obedience to the voice of conscience; in short, to restore the harmony of the moral constitution; a result which Christianity seeks to produce.
New Testament passages are quoted from the author's translation of Von Tischendorf's Greek
text, second edition,