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is in this part of his nature he has sustained the severest shock. Here too the ravages of death are most appalling; but here the energies of the Divine Spirit are exerted to impart the life of God. “That which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” Inasmuch therefore as regeneration is predicated particularly of the soul of man, and, as authorized by the language of the scriptures, it is contemplated as being the re-commencement of life in that soul, it becomes necessary to inquire as to what constitutes the peculiar appropriate life of the rational soul of man.
Here, however, as in every other case, when inquiring into the essence of a thing, we must confess our ignorance. We use the term soul or spirit, to denote an existence that is not material; but this is the chief account that we can give of its nature. Our blessed Lord himself has done no more. “A spirit,” said he to his disciples, “hath not ftesh and bones.” Whether He is here to be understood as declaring the immaterial nature of spirit, or merely citing the vulgar opinion on the subject of apparitions, it is of little consequence to determine ; for flesh and bones constitute the material part of man, and when to spirit they are denied, the presumption rises that it is immaterial. This however is a point which is much disputed.
If the soul be immaterial, perhaps it is asked, how can we ever have any knowledge of it?' We have no senses so delicately organized, as to be capable of perceiving spirit. Our senses were all made for the perception of a material world around us. How then can
we know that there is such a thing? And is it at all possible for us, to have any knowledge of it whatever?
In reply to such inquires, we might ask, whether the testimony of God is not as sufficient evidence as that of our senses, and if He has told us, that we have a soul, that there is such a thing as spirit-Is not that enough? And 1. John iii. 6.
2. Luke xxiv. 39.
as to our having any idea or notion of what cannot be perceived by means of our senses, we may ask whether much of our knowledge is not of this very character? What are all our abstract ideas and general truths? Are they not knowledge, which the mind itself has excogitated from, and by means of, the ideas originally derived through the medium of sense. ? What too is our knowledge of God? “No man hath seen God at any time;'" yet how few have reasoned themselves into a notion that there is not a God? Let the objector declare himself, and say whether God must be a material Being in order to our having any knowledge of Him. The scriptures say “God is a Spirit ?" How then is He known? It will not do to say that our knowledge of Him is intuitive, innate, and such like. Intuitive is a figurative expression, and as to innate, it is not necessary, at this late day, to expose such an absurd pretence, as that man is born into the world with the knowledge of God, or of any thing else.
The truth is, that all our knowledge of God is analogical. We employ our conceptions of things originally material, to represent in our minds God and divine things, in consequence, not of a mere apparent but true resemblance, in the nature of things. En like manner we talk of our own souls, and the operations of our own minds, although we have no direct or immediate perception of them. “We cannot” says a profound writer, “.with our utmost intention of thought, and greatest energy of abstraction form to ourselves any original and purely intellectual ideas of the workings of our own minds. And the reason of this is, because the most abstracted and exalted operations of the human mind are actions of both matter and spirit in essential union, and not particular to either alone. We have indeed an immediate consciousness of the operations themselves, without the intervention of any idea of them; but no perception of them by such abstract or separate 1. John i. 18.
2. John iv. 24.
idea of any
sort. It is by virtue of a real correspondence or true resemblance between some things in spirit, and what we discern in material things, that our ideas and language taken from the latter class, become certain and satisfactory representations of that, which in the former cannot be directly apprehended by mere intellect. Such is the mode of obtaining knowledge, which God has ora dained for us, while in our compound state uniting in our persons both matter and mind, and they mutually dependa ent.
That pure and disembodied spirit must have other modes of knowledge, we doubt not; but in our present state we know not what they are ; nor can we, while mind is made to depend on body. Paul "was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words which it is not lawful for a man to utter;" but whether he was in the body or out of the body," he could not tell. Yet his ignorance of the mode of his knowledge did not destroy his convictions of the truth and certainty of what he knew. When speaking even of that knowledge, communicated in some sublime mysterious way, he is compelled to make use of language borrowed from sensible things. HE HEARD UNSPEAKABLE WORDS. No man could make him doubt the reality of what he was made to know by other means than through the mind's sensible perceptions, and consequent and correspondent excogitations.
Why then should it be objected that we can have no knowledge of spirit, because we have no direct, immediate or purely intellectual perception of it? Is all our language, when we talk of perceiving, discerning, comparing, abstracting, comprehending, inventing, intending, &c., where the subject is not material a mere delusion? These expressions denote sensible acts, and are derived from sensible objects, but when employed to denote the acts and
1 Divine Analogy, p. 23.
2. Cor. xii. 4.
operations of the mind, are mere pictures, or shadows, or representations of something analogous, transacted by pure intellect or spirit. Is all this falsehood ? Has God formed us so as to be perpetually busied in framing and playing with the mere imagery in our own brains, while there is nothing at all in existence, correspondent with what we apprehend these images to represent ? He that denies the reality of spirit, and of a spiritual world, because his conceptions of them are only through the medium of sensible ideas, inust either deny that God exists, and has created us, orimpeach His character in a vital point, by asserting that He has so constituted us, as to be perpetually gathering, arranging, classifying, and acquiring ideas by which we apprehend as fact, things that never had an existence, or, in other words, that he has made us the mere sport of our self-deceivings. That be far from us. If God, who cannot deceive, has so created us, we rest as perfectly satisfied of the reality of what is thus indirectly and analogically, as of what is, directly and sensibly, perceived. It is no objection, therefore, against the immateriality of the human soul, that we have no direct immediate perception of its nature and operations. The very same objection would lead to the denial of our materiality ; for we have no more direct and immediate knowledge of the essence of matter, and its modus operandi, in any case, than we have of spirit.
But there are other grounds on which men have undertaken to deny the immateriality (and substantiality) of the human soul. It may be necessary therefore to advert to the principal opinions maintained in opposition to the doctrine, that the soul of man, or spirit, is a simple, immaterial, uncompounded substance, capable of very peculiar acts. They may be distributed into two different classes--the one class maintaining that man differs in nothing from material substance, but in his modification and its effects ihe other that his intellectuality consists in a mere succession of ideas and exercises. Of the former class some are wilful and obstinate infidels-who believe not the truth because they have pleasure in unrighteousness,” and who, to escape from the menaces of conscience as it forwarns of the wrath to come, persuade themselves that mind, conscience, body, all perish at death;---while others admit the immortality of the human soul, or perhaps more properly, the future existence of man, though they believe him to be altogether a material being.
Whatever may be the essence of the human soul, its properties are demonstrably not those of matter. These properties it is not of moment accurately to enumerate. We shall, for the sake of brevity, comprise them under that of thought. Thought is not a quality of simple matter. For atoms do not think, either in their original state, or in any accumulated mass, or in any organized combination, or in any attenuated substance. If therefore atoms, as such, do not think—and that they do not common sense and observation declare--then thought cannot be derived to them hy virtue of any aggregation, organization, attenuation, or other relative position whatever ;-for, ultimately, in all cases, the character and qualities of a body, depend on those of the original atoms combined in it.
In like manner we agree, that thought cannot result from any play of chemical affinities, for their entire operations may be resolved, ultimately, into a change of relative position, which can have no more efficacy in enabling matter to think, than the breaking of stones, or the melting of lead, or the burning of earth, can have.
Neither can motion, whether produced by chemical action, or mechanism, originate thought. Change of position we have seen cannot produce it, and into this is mechanical impulse, as well as chemical action, ultimately