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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VIII. The Age of Dryden.

XI. Platonists and Latitudinarians

§ 15. John Smith and Henry More Contrasted

As Smith, like More, wrote on the immortality of the soul, their merits, as authors, admit of a certain comparison, although the former, when he wrote, was not yet thirty, and directs his argument mainly against the scepticism of the ancients, such as Epicurus and Lucretius, while the latter was in his fifty-fifth year and concerns himself mainly with the philosophy of Hobbes. Notwithstanding, however, the ingenuity of More’s speculations and the remarkable range of reading displayed throughout his pages, his readers can hardly fail to experience a certain disappointment at finding that, after a variety of questions have been mooted, with rather vague conclusions, the author is firm in his opinion that the belief in the soul’s immortality necessarily involves a recognition of the existence of ghosts, and that all that can with certainty be predicated respecting its condition in a future state is that it will be an entity not needing food and not casting a shadow.

Very different is the impression left upon the mind by John Smith’s less discursive treatment of his subject and skilful compression of his well reasoned generalisations. To him, it appears that the main argument in support of the soul’s immortality is that derived from the universality of the belief—a certain consensus gentium, discernible throughout pagan times, fondly cherished by the multitude, and no less firmly maintained by philosophers such as Plotinus, Proclus and Aristotle. And this belief, he points out, is, in turn, clearly involved in a yet grander conception, revealing itself to the sanctified human intellect as an inevitable corollary from the belief in the Divine beneficence. Over and above “the Epicurean herd,” he distinguishes four grades of spiritual existence on earth, of which the [char], the true metaphysical and contemplative man, represents the final and the highest—in whom the soul has already attained to communion with the Divine Nature, and regards its confinement in this material body as but the period of its infancy.