“Ask you what God’s plan is? The gift of a Soul to each of us at birth, with this simple law- there shall be no immortality except through the Soul. In that law see the necessity of which I spoke.

“Let us turn from the necessity now. A word as to the pleasure there is in the thought of a Soul in each of us. In the first place, it robs death of its terrors by making dying a change for the better, and burial but the planting of a seed from which there will spring a new life. In the next place, behold me as I am- weak, weary, old, shrunken in body, and graceless; look at my wrinkled face, think of my failing senses, listen to my shrilled voice. Ah! what happiness to me in the promise that when the tomb opens, as soon it will, to receive the worn-out husk I call myself, the now viewless doors of the universe, which is but the palace of God, will swing wide ajar to receive me, a liberated immortal Soul! “I would I could tell the ecstasy there must be in that life to come! Do not say I know nothing about it. This much I know, and it is enough for me- the being a Soul implies conditions of divine superiority. In such a being there is no dust, nor any gross thing; it must be finer than air, more impalpable than light, purer than essence- it is life in absolute purity.

“What now, O son of Hur? Knowing so much, shall I dispute with myself or you about the unnecessaries- about the form of my Soul? Or where it is to abide? Or whether it eats or drinks? Or is winged, or wears this or that? No. It is more becoming to trust in God. The beautiful in this world is all from his hand, declaring the perfection of taste; he is the author of all form; he clothes the lily, he colours the rose, he distils the dewdrop, he makes the music of nature; in a word, he organized us for this life, and imposed its conditions; and they are such guaranty to me that, trustful as a little child, I leave to him the organization of my Soul, and every arrangement for the life after death. I know he loves me.”

The good man stopped and drank, and the hand carrying the cup to his lips trembled; and both Iras and Ben-Hur shared his emotion and remained silent. Upon the latter a light was breaking. He was beginning to see, as never before, that there might be a spiritual kingdom of more import to men than any earthly empire; and that after all a Saviour would indeed be a more godly gift than the greatest king.

“I might ask you now,” said Balthasar, continuing, “whether this human life, so troubled and brief, is preferable to the perfect and everlasting life designed for the Soul? But take the question, and think of it for yourself, formulating thus: Supposing both to be equally happy, is one hour more desirable than one year? From that then advance to the final inquiry, what are threescore and ten years on earth to all eternity with God? By-and-by, son of Hur, thinking in such manner, you will be filled with the meaning of the fact I present you next, to me the most amazing of all events, and in its effects the most sorrowful; it is, that the very idea of life as a Soul is a light almost gone out in the world. Here and there, to be sure, a philosopher may be found who will talk to you of a Soul, likening it to a principle; but because philosophers take nothing upon faith, they will not go the length of admitting a Soul to be a being, and on that account its purpose is compressed darkness to them.