Torah concerns physical life only, not spiritual life nor afterlife

The Christians offer an objection against the divine law, by stating that the Mosaic code gave no promise to the faithful of bliss in a future state, but limited all reward and punishment solely to our existence here below. They refer us to the 26th chapter of Leviticus, and maintain that on this account no mention is made in the law or in the prophetic writings concerning the condition of the soul in a future state, and that all predictions relate only to worldly prosperity.

Refutation.—The divine law dwells in many passages on our reward in this world, man being a compound of matter and spirit; and agreeably to this division the divine commandments are likewise of a double character, some calling on our physical, others on our intellectual powers. Now, the fulfillment of our duties depends on the co-operation of body with mind. Our material state is open and manifest to all, while our spiritual condition remains imperceptible. On this account, Holy Writ treats with clearness and precision on the dispensations affecting our material condition, and touches but lightly upon those affecting the soul in a future state. We must here call attention to the forcible truth, that the uninterrupted enjoyment of peace and prosperity of our corporeal existence must ever be the prime object of our wishes, and the benevolent design of the Almighty. It is only in the tranquil untroubled state of the body that man has an opportunity to devote himself fully and entirely to the faithful performance of the divine behests. When struggling with malady, or suffering from hunger, or laboring under any bodily affliction, it becomes impossible for us to fulfill many of our religious duties. The law, therefore, holds out the reward to its pious followers, that their bodies shall be free from trouble and disease, so that they may be enabled to conform to the Holy Will of the Almighty, and thereby prepare the soul for eternal bliss. We see clearly in Leviticus (26:11 and 12), that the law, after promising temporal happiness, adds also the boon of spiritual welfare. See ibid., "And I shall place my residence among you; and my soul shall not abhor you, and I shall walk among you, and I will be your God, and you shall be unto me a people." Thus was also promised to Abraham and his posterity worldly success for the performance of the covenant. Spiritual reward is indicated by the following passage in Genesis 17:7, "I will be unto thee a God, and to thy seed after thee." In the same chapter (verse 8) the gracious addition is made, "And I shall be unto them a God." The patriarch Jacob, too, when concluding his vow by saying (Genesis 28:21), "And the Lord will be unto me a God," alluding to spiritual welfare, as every thinking man must acknowledge. Not in this portion alone, but throughout the whole law, we meet with a variety of passages bearing reference to the ultimate destination of man, especially where God’s immediate influence and supervision over the conduct are expressed.

The very ceremonial observances ordered in the law, and the whole temple service had no other purpose than to bring the worshipper near the Throne of Mercy, and to purify and to prepare the soul for a more exalted state. The closeness with which God, by His covenant, has bound unto himself the people of Israel, is the reason He called them "His first-born son," "His chosen one," "His friend," "His beloved," "His holy one," "His portion," and "The bond of His heritage." The epithet, ???????? (Segulah), commonly rendered "peculiar people," has occasionally the signification of any object peculiarly precious and valuable. This interpretation of the foregoing Hebrew word is confirmed in Ecclesiastes 2:8. The announcement of Divine Grace, or favor, our lawgiver, Moses, communicated to Israel by denominating them "Children of the Almighty," who are beloved by their Father in Heaven, attached to Him in their present state, and not separated from Him in the life to come. We refer the reader to Deuteronomy 14:1-2, "Ye are the children of the Lord your God; ye shall not cut yourselves nor make any baldness between your eyes for the dead. For thou art a holy people unto the Lord thy God, and the Lord has chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto Himself above all the nations that are upon the earth."

The tendency of these passages, is to teach that it is unbecoming to indulge in excess of grief on account of the death of the body, since it is declared that Israel is a nation holy to the Lord and chosen by Him. By the word chosen, we understand that the soul is destined to adhere to Him and to enjoy His presence for ever. If earthly distinctions were intended to be the sole purport of human existence, death would be a more severe visitation on the rich than on the poor. Another allusion to a future state, we must refer to Leviticus 18:5, "Ye shall, therefore, keep my statutes and my judgments, which if a man do he shall live in them, I am the Lord." It cannot be imagined that this relates to longevity on earth, for we do not find that the pious, who observe the divine law, prolong their existence here below, beyond those who transgress; the passage, therefore, necessarily refers to immortal life.

The opinion of the opponents of Judaism is that the first man, through his rebellion against the word of God, was condemned to spiritual death. They rest their argument on the passage in Genesis 2:17, "For on the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die," which death they deem to be that of the soul. Now, by comparing this passage with the preceding quotation, we cannot avoid the conclusion that the curse of Adam will have no effect on those who faithfully obey the divine ordinances set forth in the Mosaic law. We refer the reader, also, to the 5th chapter of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, which forcibly corroborates our argument; a careful perusal of the following words, from Deuteronomy 32:46-47, will likewise justify the view here taken: "Set your hearts unto all the words which I testify among you this day, which ye shall command your children to observe, to do all the words of this law, for it is not a vain thing for you, because it is for your life; and through this thing you shall prolong your days on the earth," etc. Here, two different rewards obtainable through observance of the Divine Law are held out to man. There is a spiritual reward and a temporal reward. Concerning the spiritual, Scripture says, "For it is your life;" and concerning the temporal reward, we read, "And through this thing you shall prolong your days on the earth." The welfare of the soul, on account of its surpassing value, is mentioned first, though in reality it is the last lot of man. Another allusion to the reward of eternal life is made in Deuteronomy 33:29, in the very last words recorded in the speech of Moses, "Happy art thou, O Israel, who is like unto thee a people saved by the Lord?" This verse conveys the idea that worldly acquisitions, such as dominion, power, conquest and increased wealth do not constitute true happiness, because they can be shared by nations who do not acknowledge God; for true happiness is spiritual salvation, of which no people have been declared worthy excepting the people of Israel, as we perceive in the words, "Happy art thou, O Israel; who is like unto thee, a people saved by the Lord?" A truth confirmed in the words which follow, He is "the shield of thy help," seem to convey the idea, that the boon of spiritual blessings does not exclude temporal happiness; and that those who devote themselves to the Lord, find also their protection in Him in the time of need. The same idea is expressed in the words of the Psalmist "Trust in the Lord, He is your salvation and shield." The divine interposition is further illustrated in the sequel of the verse under consideration (viz. Deuteronomy 33:29), where we see "The shield of thy help," and "Who is the sword of thy glory;" showing, as the Psalmist says, "That not by their own swords they inherited the land."

A reference to the punishment of the soul is made in Leviticus 22:3; "Say unto them according to your generations, every man of your seed who shall approach to the sanctuary which the Children of Israel shall sanctify unto the Lord while his impurity is upon him, that soul shall be cut off from before me; I am the Lord." The words "from before me" relate to the soul which originates from a holy source, and to which it will return if found worthy. A similar allusion to the soul is made, ibid. 23:29; "For whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted on the self-same day shall be cut off from her people;" and again, "and every soul which shall do any work on the self-same day, that soul shall I cause to be lost in the midst of her people;" that is to say: she shall not be gathered to the souls of the pious who are denominated "her people." Thus, we find in Genesis 25:8, "And he was gathered unto his people;" that is to say: he was gathered to, and associated with the spirits of pious and Godly men. We will give a further proof that scripture does not treat here on the mere body; for in Deuteronomy 32:50, we read, "And thou shalt be gathered unto thy people, as Aaron thy brother died in the mountain Hor, and was gathered unto his people." Thus, we see that the term gathering applies exclusively to the soul. In like manner, Isaiah 58:8, "The glory of the Lord gathereth thee in." Balaam, though a Gentile prophet, perceiving by the power of his vision that the Israelites not only stood in this world under the special supervision of the Almighty, but had also a blissful end and rich hope after their death; he therefore prayed for himself to be deemed worthy of participating in their spiritual bliss in a future state. See Numbers 23:10, "May I die the death of the righteous, and my last end be as his."

The theme of beatitude of the soul is constantly reverted to by David in his Psalms, and is the incentive for keeping the commandments of the Divine law, and of pouring forth prayers for its attainment. See Psalm 19:8 [19:7], "The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul." Psalm 27:13, "Unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." Psalm 116:8-9, "For Thou saveth my soul from death, my eye from tears, my foot from stumbling; I shall walk before the Lord in the land of the living." Psalm 26:9, "Do not gather in my soul with the sinners." Psalm 16:10-11, "For Thou wilt not leave my soul in the grave; Thou wild not let thy pious men see corruption; Thou makest me know the path of life; fullness of joy is in thy countenance; delights are at thy right hand for ever." Psalm 49:16 [49:15], "But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave, for He will take me, Selah." Psalm 25:12-13, "Who is the man who feareth the Lord, him shall He teach in the way he should choose, his soul shall abide in bliss, and his seed shall inherit the earth." Psalm 31:20 [31:19], "How great is thy goodness which Thou hast preserved for those who fear Thee." Psalm 36:8-10 [36:7-9], "How precious is Thy mercy, O God, and the children of men shall be protected under the shadow of Thy wings; they shall be satisfied with the fatness of Thy house, and Thou shalt give them drink from the stream of Thy delights, for with Thee is the source of life; in Thy light we shall see light." Psalm 73:25, "Who will be for me in Heaven, if I delight not to be with Thee on earth?" And various other passages of like description occur throughout the Psalms. Solomon, the son of this sublime poet, has enlarged on the beautiful representation of the Heavenly fruit: he says in Ecclesiastes 3:21, "Who knoweth the spirit of man which rises on high?" and ibid. 12:7, "And the dust goeth to the earth as it was, and the spirit returneth to God who gave it:" and Proverbs 11:7, "When the wicked man dies, hope is lost, and the expectation of his exertions is lost." Ibid 14:32, "The wicked man is driven away by his own evil doings; but the righteous man confideth even in his death." And ibid 23:17-18, "Let thy heart not envy the sinner, but abide in the fear of the Lord the whole day; for surely there is a hereafter, and thy hope shall not be cut off." And ibid 24:14, "Know, then, that wisdom is equally good for thy soul if thou findest it; and there is a hereafter, and thy hope shall not be cut off." See also Isaiah 45:17, where he says: "Israel is saved by the Lord with an everlasting salvation," etc. A parallel phrase occurs in the words of Moses, Deuteronomy 33:29, viz.: "Happy art thou, O Israel, who is like unto thee?"

This implies that the spiritual salvation is not a transitory boon, but an everlasting benefit; therefore Isaiah says, in chapter 45:17, "Ye shall not be abashed and not be ashamed through eternity." Isaiah remarks, on the death of a penitent man (chapter 57:18) "I saw his ways and I healed him, and led him to his repose, and I bestowed comfort on him and on his mourners." The words, "And I saw his ways and I healed him," clearly indicate the spiritual healing, that is, the pardon for iniquity. To the same effect we read in Psalm 41:5 [41:4], "Heal my soul, for I have sinned unto Thee." Also in Isaiah 6:10, "And he shall return and be healed," (which means after the expiation of his sins). "I shall lead him to his destination, and thereby bestow comfort upon him, and also to his mourners," who will derive consolation from the knowledge that after his death he will partake of that happiness which is reserved for the pious in the world of souls. The grant of a glorious reward of the pious is alluded to in Isaiah 58:8, "Then thy light shall break forth like the morning dawn, and thy healing shall spring forth speedily, and thy righteousness shall go before thee, and the glory of thy God shall gather thee, viz., into the place of happiness where the souls of the righteous are received in the bond of endless life." The term light applies to the existence of the soul in the region of spirits, where it enjoys immortal bliss in the presence of the Lord. This is further illustrated by what Abigail said to David (1 Samuel 25:29), "And the soul of my lord shall be bound up in the bond of the living with the Lord thy God;" on the other hand she says, with regard to the spiritual punishment of the wicked, "And the soul of thine enemies He shall cast away as from a sling." And Ezekiel says (18:21), "The wicked man who turneth away from all his sins which he hath committed, and observeth all my statutes and does judgment and righteousness, he shall surely live;" and further, "When the wicked man returneth from the wickedness which he hath committed; and shall do judgment and righteousness, he shall live with his soul." "When he turneth from all his transgressions, he shall surely live and not die." And 20:11, "And I gave to them my statues, and my judgments are made known to them which if a man doeth he shall live in them." It is perfectly obvious that the prophet speaks of everlasting life wherein no death can occur, and which may justly be denominated true existence with regard to the future state. Elihu says (Job 33:30), "To bring back his soul from perdition to shine in the light of the living." The prophet, Zechariah speaks on that subject in chapter 3:7, "Thus saith the Lord of hosts, if thou wilt walk in my ways and keep my observances, and judge also my house and guard my court, I will give thee ingress among those who are standing here," (the ministering Angels.) This promise manifestly shows that the soul, after being freed from the body, obtains a blissful habitation in the world of spirits. We may also quote the words of Daniel 12:2, "And many of those who sleep in dust shall awake, some for eternal life and some to shame and everlasting contempt, and they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they who promote righteousness shall be as stars for ever and ever."

The above verses found in the law, in the Prophets and in the Hagiography form a sufficiency for our faith in spiritual rewards and punishments hereafter. There are many other passages to be met with in the Divine Law and the Prophets, affording additional evidence of the immorality of the soul.

Note: chapter and verse numbers in brackets [] are the numbers used in the English bible.

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