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immortality, his mission has proved the grandest success recorded in the history of missionary effort.
It must be remembered that when he came into the world the doctrine of immortal life held a very vague and uncertain place in the philosophy of civilized mankind. I do not say that the doctrine of immortal life was unknown, but it was undefined, and so tinctured with finite conceptions, and limited by the uncertain boundaries of a hundred different systems of fantastic philosophy, that it did not, and could not, form a basis of rational hope or intelligent promise.
m Thus, among the Chinese of that day (i), the doctrines of Confucius held the most prominent place. His was a system which might be called a parent-worship, in which virtue was rewarded and vice punished in the individuals, or in their posterity, on earth, no promise of immortality being held out. (2) The sect of Rationalists, founded by Lautsz in the sixth century before Christ, taught the emanation of all good beings from the Bosom of Reason, and their absorption thither for an eternal existence, while the bad were doomed to successive births and many sorrows. (3) Another sect held that the principle of all things is but a vacuum, nothing, from which all things have sprung, and to which all must return.
The Hindoo doctrine was substantially the same as it is now; and it is so well known as not to require a particular statement, further than to say that its disciples believe in successive incarnations of the soul, and its final absorption into the incorporeal nature of Brahm.
The Persians believed in the doctrine of hell for the wicked, and of paradise for the good; but held that all the wicked would eventually be purified by fire. It was thought that the fires were hot enough to purify the most abominable soul in about three days.
Herodotus tells us that the Egyptians were the first to defend the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, and he says that they believed in its transmigration through various animal bodies for a period of three thousand years before its return to a human body