THE following letter demands respectful consideration because of its candid tone:—
EDITORS AMERICAN SENTINEL:—In an editorial of July 5th, under the above title, you have—unconsciously no doubt—laid yourself liable to the criticisms of many thoughtful readers. In attributing the murder and suicide referred to, to the “orthodoxy” of the demented father, you certainly forgot that a very prominent article in the creed of “orthodoxy” is that “No murderer hath eternal life abiding in him,” so that true “orthodoxy,” had he possessed it,—or rather, had it possessed him, would have prevented the shocking tragedy you mention.
Your quotations from Ecclesiastes—“The dead know not anything,” and from Job—“His sons come to honor and he knoweth it not,” and from the Psalms—“In that very day his thoughts perish,” come far short of teaching the unconscious condition of man after the body crumbles back to its native dust, even if there were not numerous declarations of the Scriptures positively teaching the opposite view, as Ecclesiastes 12:7—“Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was, and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.”—Before you reply that the term “spirit” means nothing but the mere “breath” or air that, in one sense keeps man alive, please examine Job 15th chapter and 13th verse, compared with the latter part of the 25th verse of the same chapter, where it is plain the speaker refers to the spirit of man as meaning man himself, instead of his “breath.” Let us read: “Thou turnest thy spirit against God, and lettest such words go out of thy mouth,” verse 13. And in verse 25—“He stretcheth out his hand against God, and strengtheneth himself against the Almighty.” Here there can be no question as to the identity of “spirit” with man himself. Again, Isaiah 57:15, “I dwell … with him that is of an humble and contrite spirit.” Is it possible for mere “air” or the “breath” of men to be spoken of as having humility and contrition? If your view is tenable, it must be so.
In Proverbs 16th chapter, 18th verse, and in Psalm 32:2, and in 51:10, as well as in many other parts of the Word, the “spirit” of man is spoken of in such a manner as to make it absolutely impossible to understand the meaning as limited to the narrow bounds contended for by you. Take any Concordance, and look over the various passages referred to under “spirit,” and you will see at a glance that very few, if any of them can be properly interpreted as you and your writers are in the habit of doing.
And now as to the meaning of the passages you quoted as to the dead not “knowing anything,” etc., I think a careful examination of the several contexts will satisfy any ordinary read (who is not committed to, and influenced by, some special theory), that the passages in question simply teach this and nothing more, that after death men are so separated from their former surroundings and associations in this life as to know nothing concerning the things with which they were once interested, as in Job: “His sons come to honor, and he knoweth it not.” C. W. SWARTZ.
It is true, as Mr. Swartz says, that so-called orthodoxy teaches not only the immortality of the soul, but also that “no murderer hath eternal life abiding him.” But this is nullified very largely by the definition given to the term “eternal life.” Life and death are not by “orthodoxy” permitted to have their natural and obvious meaning, but are made to mean misery and happiness. In this fact lurks the evil. Clothe a man with eternal life and he will readily take the chances on his condition in eternity. This argument prevailed with our first parents. It was when assured by the serpent that they should not surely die, but should be as gods that they took the forbidden fruit. The Lord says (Ezekiel 13:22): “With lies ye have made the heart of the righteous sad, whom I have not made sad; and strengthened the hands of the wicked, that he should not turn from his wickedness, by promising him life.” ‘Orthodoxy” departs from the truth far enough to accept as one of its tenets Satan’s first great lie. Is it strange that many who accept this tenet go one step further and imagine that life a happy one?
We do not claim that in the Scriptures the term “spirit” always means “breath or air.” It sometimes means life; but it does not follow that consciousness attaches to that life. Life—animal life—is often present when there is no consciousness, as in sound sleep, injury to the brain, etc.
When God created man he “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul.” There was life, or spirit, if you please, in that breath; but the same thing was given to the lower animals for we read in Genesis 7:21, 22: “And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of beast, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man: all in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died.”
Just what this life is nobody knows, but when it leaves the body, whether of men or of beast, it returns to God who gave it. That this is so will appear from a comparison of Psalm 104:24-29 and Job 34:14. The first of these texts asserts what occurs when God gathers to himself the breath of the beast; the second asserts substantially the same thing of man. While Ecclesiastes 3:19 says plainly: “For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as as [sic.] the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity.” And in the twenty-first verse the question is asked: “Who knoweth if the spirit of the children of Adam ascend upward, and if the spirit of the beasts descend downward?” (Douay Version.)
Our correspondent is clearly wrong in asserting that “spirit” sometimes means man himself; this is true of soul, but not of spirit. Nor do the verses to which he refers prove that the spirit is man himself any more than they prove that the “hand” is man himself. It is clear that in this case spirit means disposition or will; and  that this is so is evident, for by substituting either of these words the sense is perfectly preserved. God dwells with the man who is of a humble disposition, a submissive will. There is in Isaiah 57:15 not the least evidence of immortality. Our correspondent is here beating the air. He has set up a man of straw which he very valiantly knocks down.
The Bible says that “the dead know not anything.” Our correspondent says that they “know nothing concerning the things with which they were once interested.” We may be excused for believing the words of God rather than our correspondent’s interpretation of those words. “The dead know not anything;” for, as the same Word declares (1 Timothy 6:16), God “only hath immortality.” We know this because God says so, and we believe his word.