Page images



The subject of the chapter-The importance of accurate knowledge with

regard to it—Psalm xxx. 5-The life of the rational soul does not consist in the mere circumstance of its perpetuity-No more reason to infer any thing as to the life of the soul from its perpetuity than as to the life of the body, from the permanent existence of the elementary particles which enter into its composition-The life of the soul does not consist in its spirituality-But in those actions which are appropriate to its capacities-What those capacities in general are--Col. ii. 10: Eph. iv. 24—A description of the condition of our first parent, as originally created in knowledge-righteousness—and holiness—The loss of life consequent on the first act of rebellion-Regeneration defined-Contrast between sensual and spiritual men—The scriptural phraseology on the subject Not metaphorical-A caution.

It has been shewn that man is a complex being, and unites, in himself, the three orders of life-vegetative, animal, and intellectual or spiritual:--that he is possessed of a rational soul, which is immaterial in its substance, and not necessarily dependent on organization, nor a mere chain of ideas and exercises, but is capable of existence in a separate state, and is the immediate author of thought and volition, and the subject of consciousness. The nature of life too has been illustrated, and a definition given which it is intended shall be applied to the elucidation of the leading subject of this treatise. These things, it is expected, will be kept in view by the reader, while we proceed to inquire, in this chapter, in what consists the life of the immortal spirit.

The language of the Psalmist is ordinarily quoted on this subject, and it is apprehended by many, that when he says, in reference to God, “In His favour is life," there is a sufficient explanation given of spiritual life. But, though the heart, which has had experience of the divine favour, may practically, and sufficiently for all the purposes of a walk with God, know something of the life that is “hid with Christ in God;" yet it is desirable to have, as far as possible, clear ideas on a subject of such deep and eternal interest.

It is highly probable, that the sentiment of the Psalmist, as expressed in the terms quoted above, was widely different from that which they are commonly employed by Christians to represent. The inspired writer had been greatly beset, and persecuted by enemies. His very life had been in danger from their malice and menaces. Their opposition and power, their provocations and prevalence against him, he had interpreted, as proof of the displeasure of God who had permitted him, in His holy providence, thus to be afflicted and assailed: and in this belief, he would not fail to be confirmed by the proverb of his day, and no doubt applicable still, that “when a man's ways please the Lord He maketheven his enemies to be at peace with him”? A change however had taken place in this respect, in the Psalmist's circumstances. The Lord had rescued him from the hands of his foes, and as his heart overflowed with gratitude for such deliverance, he exclaimed “I will extol thee, O Lord, for thou hast lifted me up, and hast not made my foes to rejoice over me." This interposition of providence on his behalf, he felt to be an immense favour. He attributed it entirely to the grace of God, and felt that to it he was indebted for the preservation of his life. Such we apprehend to be the original, and legitimate import of the Psalmist's words.

But, although they primarily direct our attention to the

[ocr errors]

1. Psalm xxx. 5.

2. Pidy. xvi. 7.

3. Psalm xxx. 1.

mortal life of believers, as protected and preserved by the gracious providence of God, yet we think, that the language does as appropriately intimate the general nature of that life which is peculiar to the immortal soul, of which, the reader will judge, when he shall have carefully considered the remarks which follow.

1. The life of the rational soul does not consist in the mere circumstance of its immortality or indestructibility. Immortality is a quality attributed to the human soul in contradistinction from what eventuates in the perishable body, and it rather denotes the perpetuity of its existence than the nature of its life. The very phrase "immortal life,so commonly used, shews evidently a distinction between life and immortality. The body possesses an appropriate life, which does not consist in the presence of a spiritual principle in it, as we have already seen. The soul is not the life of the body. Its life is peculiar and distinct but of a temporary continuance and liable sooner or later to extinction by means of that process of dissolution which destroys the entire organization. Hence the life of the body is called a mortal life. But the soul is not liable to such a dissolution or separation of its parts. And being devoid of and unaffected by the properties of matter it is destined to continue to all eternity uninfluenced by decay. It is therefore said to be immortal.

We cannot indeed speak with the same precision, and certainty of the immortal spirit, that we do of the mortal body; for we do not and cannot know what is its essential nature, and whether there is any thing in it answerable to organization, or whether it is susceptible of variety in the modification of its essence, so that when we attribute perpetuity, and the absence of decay to it, we take it for granted that its essential being remains unaltered and unaffected.

For any thing we know to the contrary, the perpetuity of the human soul is as entirely distinct from,

and no more necessarily connected with, that in which consists its appropriate life, as is the existence of the material atoms which compose the human body with its appropriate life. These do not perish:-it is demonstrable, that not a particle of matter has been annihilated since the creation. Incessant changes and combinations are going on, but there is no such thing as the absolute destruction of the least portion of the Creator's works. Nature abhors annibilation. The particles which compose our bodies may indeed be separated, and resolved into their primary elements, and be assumed into new productions by entirely new combinations;-yea they may even enter into the composition of other living creatures, but they will not by such process be destroyed. And when death has deranged the entire organization of the human body; and in the ale mbic of the grave, it has been resolved into its simple elements, these elements still remain. There is, strictly speaking a perpetuity attributable to the body. The particles of which it is composed may lie dormant in the grave, or pass through a thousand successive changes, but shall be re-combined and rc-organized in all the bluom and beauty of immortal youth. Of this no one can doubt who admits the truth of the sacred record. That record is short and decisire. “The hour is coming in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth, they that have done good unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil to the resurrection of damnation." No one however thinks of identifying the essential existence of the elementary dust with the life of the body. Wherefore we conclude that as the life of the body consists in something distinct from the mere existence of the material particles of which it is composed; so the life of the soul does as certainly consist in something distinct froin the mere existence of its spiritual essence. It follows as a corollary from this 2. That the life of the soul does not consist in its spirit

1 Jolin, v. 29.

[ocr errors]

uality Spirit is but one mode of being, as matter is another; and with equal propriety might it be said, that the life of material beings consists in their material essence, as of spiritual beings in their spiritual essence. The life of the body we have already seen consists in its appropriate action. It is not now necessary to refer to the proof and illustrations by which we attempted to establish the correctness of this definition. Our business here is to apply it to the rational soul of man by which we shall obtain some definite ideas on a subject exceedingly intricate and perplexed. Wherefore we conclude that

V. TIE LIFE OF THE RATIONAL SOUL CONSISTS IN THE REGULAR SERIES OF THOSE ACTIONS WHICH ARE APPROPRIATE TO ITS SUSCEPTIBILITIES AND CAPACITIES. To understand this, it is necessary for us to inquire what actions are appropriate; and this can best be done by a reference to the primitive constitution of man. It cannot be expected however, nor is it at all necessary that we shuuld undertake any minute analysis of the capacities of the human soul, which fit it for various action. It will be enough for us to adopt some general classification, as suggested by the character of the actions themselves.

It is said that man was created in the image of God, and whatever may be our opinion as to that image's being the V combination in man of the different orders of life, thus consti

tuting a trinity in unity, certain it is that a resemblance may be traced in the moral qualities of his rational soul to perfections of the divine nature. These may be all classed under the three following heads, which it is not a little remarkable are designated as the perfections more especially manifested by the three persons of the Godhead, viz., knowledge corresponding with the purposes, and plans, and revelations especially attributable to the Father, who is the great source of all :-Righteousness corresponding with the peculiar perfection of the Son, who is denominated the

« PreviousContinue »