“I will recall the difference between us,” said Ben-Hur, with deference. “You were of opinion that he would be a king, but not as Caesar is; you thought his sovereignty would be spiritual, not of the world.”
“Oh yes,” the Egyptian answered; “and I am of the same opinion now. I see the divergence in our faith. You are going to meet a king of men, I a Saviour of Souls.”
He paused with the look often seen when people are struggling, with introverted effort, to disentangle a thought which is either too high for quick discernment or too subtle for simple expression.
“Let me try, O son of Hur,” he said, directly, “and help you to a clear understanding of my belief; then it may be, seeing how the spiritual kingdom I expect him to set up can be more excellent in every sense than anything of mere Caesarean splendour, you will better understand the reason of the interest I take in the mysterious person we are going to welcome.
“I cannot tell you when the idea of a Soul in every man had its origin. Most likely the first parents brought it with them out of the garden in which they had their first dwelling. We all do know, however, that it has never perished entirely out of mind. By some peoples it was lost, but not by all; in some ages it dulled and faded; in others it was overwhelmed with doubts; but, in great goodness, God kept sending us at intervals mighty intellects to argue it back to faith and hope.
“Why should there be a Soul in every man? Look, O son of Hur- for one moment look at the necessity of such a device. To lie down and die, and be no more- no more forever- time never was when man wished for such an end; nor has the man ever been who did not in his heart promise himself something better. The monuments of the nations are all protests against nothingness after death; so are statues and inscriptions; so is history. The greatest of our Egyptian kings had his effigy cut out of a hill of solid rock. Day after day he went with a host in chariots to see the work; at last it was finished, never effigy so grand, so enduring: it looked like him- the features were his, faithful even in expression. Now may we not think of him saying in that moment of pride, ‘Let Death come; there is an after-life for me!’ He had his wish. The statue is there yet.
“But what is the after-life he thus secured? Only a recollection by men- a glory unsubstantial as moonshine on the brow of the great bust: a story in stone- nothing more. Meantime, what has become of the king? There is an embalmed body up in the royal tombs which once was his- an effigy not so fair to look at as the other out in the desert. But where, O son of Hur, where is the king himself? Is he fallen into nothingness? Two thousand years have gone since he was a man alive as you and I are. Was his last breath the end of him? “To say yes would be to accuse God; let us rather accept his better plan of attaining life after death for us- actual life, I mean- the something more than a place in mortal memory; life with going and coming, with sensation, with knowledge, with power, and all appreciation; life eternal in term, though it may be with changes of condition.