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who make life to consist in an essence or principle anterior to and irrespective of those actions and motions appropriate to the being in which they are found.'
When Paul speaks of man as compounded of "body, soul (or life) and spirit,"' we can very well understand his expressions without supposing that he meant to teach us, that life is an essence, and exists in man distinct from those actions and motions which are appropriate to the great design of God in his construction. Universally, mankind instinctively conceive the idea of death, and that imme. diately when absolute quiescence takes place in any organical existence. Syncope, and hybernation, and some other affections of animal existence, may cause an approximation. to a state of absolute quiescence, and that so near as to render it difficult, by mere inspection, to ascertain whether all the processes or motions in which consists the life of the animal have absolutely ceased or not, but physiological researches have proved that they do not. Paul, whatever may be said about his Grecian philosophy, appropriately distinguishes between the body," or the bone and membrane which form as it were the vegetable basis of our being, the ("soul”') or life, all that relates to spontaneous motion or sensation, which is properly our animal existence, and the "spirit," the deathless soul, which is the intelligent percipient nature superadded. There is nothing
1 “When all the circumstances attending this fluid,” says Dr. Hunter, "are fully considered, the idea that it has life within itself may not appear so difficult to comprehend; and, indeed, when once considered, I do not see how it is possible we should think it to be otherwise; when we consider, that every part is formed from the blood, that we grow out of it, and if it has not life previous to this operation, it must then acquire it in the act of forming; for we all give our assent to the existence of life in the parts when once forned. Our ideas of life have been so much connected with organic bodies, and principally those endowed with visible action, that it requires a new bent to the mind, to make it conceive that these circumstances are not inseparable.--Hunter on the Blood, part 1, c. 6, p. 58.
2 1 Thes. v. 23.
in the phraseology of scripture to sanction the idea, that life is a principle of itself, if the phrase is to be literally understood, and is not metaphorically used. God is said to have life in Himself, yet we cannot think there is in Him a vital principle distinguishable from His own holy volitions and actions, nor can we admit it, in reference to the human soul, and we see no reason why we must believe it to be a substance or essence in the human body distinguishable from the actions that are appropriate in it. The Stahlian doctrine, which makes the rational soul the vital principle in the human body, renders the language of scripture unmeaning and tautological, as well as introduces confusion into the whole subject of vitality.
We are therefore compelled to adopt the last supposition which indeed is most accordant with the common-sense, and the ordinary parlance, of men, that life consists in a series of actions and motions, appropriate to the design of the Creator in the formation of the individual being in which they are found. It is unnecessary for us to apply the definition, in any minute details, in order to ascertain its truth. But we would simply inquire, when we say a tree has died, in ,what consisted its death? Not in the destruction of the essential substance of the tree, nor in the absence of all motion whatever in it, for there takes place the process of putrefaction or decay; but simply, that there is the cessation of the circulating and assimilating processes necessary for the sustenance and growth of the tree. Does not its life then consist in that series of relative actions and motions appropriate to the design of the Creator in making it? In what, we would inquire, consists animal death? It is not in the destruction of the essence of the animal frame, nor in the cessation of all action and motion, for the process of decomposition is carried on in it. But the sensations and spontaneous motions appropriate to the design of the Creator in the formation of the animal, have ceased. And hence our idea of its life is easily inferred.
As to the life of the intellectual man—the life of the thinking and percipient spirit, the reader will have discov. ered that we understand it to consist in those actions appropriate to the design of the Creator in its original constitution. We reserve for another place the illustration and confirmation of this view of its nature.
THE CHARACTER OF THE SPIRIT'S
Whether the Spirit's agency in the production of life is immediate and con
tinuous, or consists in the establishment of certain laws–Gen. ï. 1, 2: Psalm cü. 21.—The creating and preserving agency of God not identical-Quotation from Boston_False assumption-Human language incapable of representing the precise character of the divine agencyExamples in illustration taken from the laws of nature-Re-production attributable to the Spirit's agency rather than to fixed laws—the infidel objection against particular providence-Common sense of more value in understanding this subject than atheistical philosophy—The false assumption of the objection—Testimonies from scripture-Uses to be made of the great truth confirmed in this chapter—To beware of impertinently prying into the mysteries of the Spirit's agency—To learn how rich a zest it gives to the providence of God-How it illustrates the fact of election–And reminds us of the uncertainty of life, &c.
Perhaps it will be admitted, by some of our readers, that life flows from the Holy Spirit's agency, while it is affirmed that His agency is not immediate; but only exerted in the establishment of certain laws according to which it is preserved and propagated. This starts a question which has been ably handled by metaphysical writers. Whether conservation be a continual creation, was the form in which the question was once stated, it being contended, on the one hand, that the same agency of God which originally produced the material universe is necessary every moment for its preservation, so that if for one instant it should be withheld, the whole creation must relapse into its primitive non-entity:-while, on the other hand,
this was denied, by those who seemed to think that God, when he originally created matter, endowed it with certain properties or powers which enabled it to preserve itself. We can see no reason for supposing that the one or the other must necessarily be the fact.
The sacred scriptures certainly represent God as having ceased at the close of the sixth day to exert his creative power. “ Thus the heavens and the earth were finished and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made." And the Psalmist says, “Of old hast thou laid the foundations of the earth.”2 The great reason or recommendation of the observance of the Sabbath, is represented to consist in the divine example in the work of creation-God operating six days and then ceasing to operate, or resting, on the seventh. We certainly, from these facts, must conclude that the agency of God in creating, during those six days, was different from that which he exerted on the seventh. Yet, it is most true that God has an agency, in preserving and supporting all things which He has made. It does not however follow that the agency is of the same character. It is the agency of the same Being, we admit, but differently exerted; for we do not concede, that the agency of God can only be exerted in positive creative acts, which we must believe if we identify creation and conservation.
In one of the posthumous works of that excellent divine, Mr. Thos. Boston, he has undertaken to shew that these things are the same, and by the following mode of reasoning: “There is no necessary connection betwixt the creature's moments of duration: Ergo, &c. It follows not because I am this moment, therefore I shall be the next, for so I should be an eternal necessary Being, which is proper to God.” But although we admit his first position it does not follow that every successive act of God in sus
1. Gen, Ü 1, 2
2. Psalms cii. 26.