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THOUGHTS ON THE SOUL.
"that pure breath of life, the spirit of man, Which God inspired, cannot together perish With this corporeal clod." Par. Lost, Book 10.
Ir is a remarkable fact, that in almost every age the immateriality and immortality of the soul have been disputed, and yet, notwithstanding this repeated opposition, they have ever remained unerased articles in the creed of the great mass of the human race. Man, with all his frailty, has, in every age, and under every circumstance, generally clung to the hope of immortality. The knowledge of an only God has occasionally disappeared, and idolatry and superstition have taken its place. The glory of the Eternal One, with his purity, wisdom, and justice, had been obliterated from the heart by its depravity; and yet, as Massillon observes, "let us go back to the origin of ages; let us read the history of kingdoms and empires; let us hearken to those who return from the most distant isles; the immortality of the soul always has been, and still is, the belief of all the nations of the universe. The knowledge of one only God may have been lost in the world; his glory, power, and immensity, may have been annihilated in the hearts and minds of men; even whole nations of barbarians may continue to live without any kind of worship, religion, or God, in the world, yet they all expect a futurity; the belief of the soul's immortality has never been effaced from their minds, but they have all imagined a region that our souls will inhabit after death; so that, in the forgetfulness of God, they have still retained a consciousness of their own nature."
In every system of theology, a future state has held an important place; poets and historians, the civilized and the barbarian, have cherished the same idea. In proving the immateriality of the soul, or its immortality, we are not then endea vouring to establish new theories; and, as in a preceding essay, p. 254, we endeavoured to shew the authority of the scriptures, we shall not hesitate to bring forward proofs from them to support our arguments. Man consists of three distinct parts, viz. the body, animal life, and the mind; the two last of which, united, constitute what we call the soul. These parts are distinct, and by no means necessarily connected with each other. United, they are a beautiful grade from insensible yet exquisitely organized matter to the noblest stage of existence. Separated in themselves, but linked together in man, they prove, that,
though an incomprehensible fact, it is no absurdity, to believe in a triune being. Whether by the "image of Elohim," we are to understand man in his intellectual and moral capacity, in his superiority as lord of the creation, or in the threefold union displayed in his existence, we will not pretend to determine, but may observe, that we carry within us a forcible argument of the mysterious capability of a Trinity in Unity.
In reading an account of the creation as recorded in the scriptures, we find that it is no where mentioned, that the infusion of life in the various classes of animals was the immediate act of God: it is merely observed that they were made. But with respect to man, after his formation, it is distinctly stated, that he received a living soul from the breath of God. The wisest of men, an inspired writer, speaking of the dissolution of the human frame, and the decay of mortality, makes use of these remarkable words, "Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was; and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it."
Passing over other scripture testimonies, these must be sufficient to satisfy the most unthinking mind. First, man is formed "of the dust of the ground;" this is the material part of his existence; then he receives the gift of a soul from God himself, and this is the immaterial part. The expression made use of is very remarkable, since nothing is said respecting the life imparted to the fowls of the air, the creatures of the deep, or the beasts of the field. Again, we have it plainly stated in the other text, that the dust, or material part of man, out of which he was created, shall return to its original earth; and the spirit, or immortal part of his existence, said to be derived immediately from God, shall return unto him who gave it.
By those who have observed the delicate texture of the brain, it has been supposed that the mind arises from the attenuation of matter, and the seat of the mind has been resolved into the mind itself. But if we pay any deference to the writings of Moses, we cannot reconcile it with the passage which declares the soul to be an after-gift of God. It is the same error that supposes the sun to be light itself, rather than the receptacle of light. We are accustomed to look upon this luminous globe as the necessary source of light, without which darkness must inevitably exist; and, in common reasoning take it for granted that it is so. Yet, according to Moses, light was created the first day, and the earth was without a sun or moon till the fourth
THOUGHTS ON THE SOUL.
day, evidencing that the sun was merely formed as a receptacle for light. So, with man; he was first made, and then endowed with a soul. The brain was constituted a receptacle of his intellectual faculties, but not the faculties themselves.
Again matter cannot derive thought from attenuation, since it must still be constituted by atoms, and if atoms cannot in themselves think, neither can they do so under any state of organization. Even were a mind to be thus formed, it must inevitably follow, that its thoughts, knowledge, &c. must always remain the same. By an enlargement of ideas, and the increase of the faculties, we must necessarily, according to such a system, suppose, the material mind to grow, which is an absurdity that
one can believe. Neither would the absurdity be removed by supposing the amalgamation of mind and matter, since they must remain distinct in whatever situation they are placed.
There have likewise been some who have supposed, that the mind, though superior to matter, consists of a chain of ideas, which, by contingency, present themselves to each individual. Such reasoning of course refutes the moral responsibility of man for his thoughts or actions. By such a system, free will gives place to the most arbitrary necessity, and man becomes a mere passive instrument in creation, whom it would be cruel and unjust to punish for delinquencies which it was not in his power to avoid. Thus would the laws of society become useless, and its misery inevitable. Again, if the soul is a chain of ideas, that part which was in existence yesterday, ceases to exist to-day, since another set has taken its place. Now, according to philosophy, every particle of the human body in a certain course of time has given way to the particles which have taken their place; and if the same is asserted respecting the soul, all identity immediately ceases, and a future state of retribution would be unjust and cruel. Moreover, to those who have studied the mind and its properties, it must be obvious that ideas no more constitute a mind, than solidity or divisibility constitutes matter.
The evidence of reason upon the immateriality of the soul is important, but the testimony of the scriptures is decisive. There we see no creature on earth besides man endowed with moral responsibility; and those beings who alone, by the faculties of thinking, are allied to us, to be clearly immaterial, neither clothed in the gross properties or the attenuation of matter. But man, though formed of a material sub.
stance, possesses within him a mind that holds no necessary connection with matter. The heart, which is supposed to be the seat of animal life, as a communication between both, imparts to the one, joys and sorrows, hopes and fears, love and hatred, and to the other mobility. The mental powers are acted upon by the feelings, and the feelings in their turn by the mind. The body, the great engine of the soul, from being acted upon by physical depression or buoyancy, in its turn influences the passions, and these again operate upon the mind, the superior of both.
The body must die, but the soul, viz. the union of mind and life, will still retain its existence. It has indeed been supposed by many, that the part of our being, called vxn, or life, will dissolve into air, or, at least, hold no longer connection with the mind. But there appears to be some arguments against such a supposition. It is asserted in Genesis, that upon infusing the "breath of life," man became a living soul, identifying its existence, in point of time, with the infusion of life. Again, the mental faculties are distinct from what we call the passions or feelings. Now, moral responsibility lies in what we call the disposition of the heart, and not merely in the mind. That religion which rests only in the head, justly passes for nothing, neither does that which consists entirely of undefined feelings deserve much claim to the title. But true religion is founded on reason; it has its source first in a sense of duty and the nature of that duty, but it does not rest here. The disposition of the heart, its hopes and fears, complete what is called the soul, that part of man over which reason has control. Animal life is the source of the feelings or the passions; for though, in a lower gradation, we see them possessed by the brutes themselves, and, in philosophical as well as in simple reasoning, we say, that the mind and the passions are distinct, sometimes united with each other, and sometimes at variance; at one time reason having the ascendancy, and at another time the passions.
Now, let us separate the mind from the life, which has its seat in the heart, and we shall have an inactive principle—a principle totally unsusceptible of feeling. Besides, as one is connected with, and influenced by the other, in this state of existence, it would seem necessary that they should exist together hereafter, even for the sake of retribution. If then the life which was breathed into man has been the prompter of the mind, or its agent, if they are linked together in moral responsibility, the one by
capability of feeling, and the other by a sense of right and wrong, forming the soul, it does not seem improbable, according to our present notion of things, that these constituent parts will never be separated.
With respect to the immortality of the soul, little need be said. If the soul can be proved to be immaterial, the same arguments shew that it is immortal. If it is immaterial, it necessarily possesses a deathless principle, over which the dissolution of matter can have no effect. Again, believing in the goodness and benevolence of God, in his overruling providence, in his hatred of sin, his ability and determination to punish it, we see it necessary there should be a retributive state of being, in which the good may be rewarded, and the wicked punished. This world, according to the reasoning of ancient and modern philosophy, and to the express assertion of revelation, is but a state of probation. They who love and obey their Maker, have often repined when they have seen those "spreading themselves like a green bay-tree," whose hearts are not right in the sight of God; but when they have thought of a future world, where sorrow and sighing shall pass away, and they shall ascend to
"heaven's unfading bowers, To strike a golden harp wreathed by immortal flowers,"
then their murmurs have given place to joy.
The hope of a happy immortality brightens the path of a good man, alleviates this world's misery, and makes death itself desirable. Yet should such a reasonable hope after all be but a dream, in the beautiful words of Mackenzie, we would say, "Tell us not that it will end in the gulf of eternal dissolution, or break off in some wild, which fancy may fill up as she pleases, but reason is unable to delineate; quench not that beam, which, amidst the night of this evil world, has cheered the despondency of ill-requited worth, and illumined the darkness of suffering virtue." But this is no dream; reason and revelation sufficiently impress our minds with the reality, and if we dream, it is in sleeping through time, when we should be awake for eternity," for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed."
With respect to the resurrection, it does indeed seem to require inconceivable power to raise man again to his original existence, when he has become dust, and is spread over the earth. But we believe in the omnipotence of God. The body of man is not annihilated by death; it merely returns to dust, not an atom of which can ever be destroyed by the operations of
nature. It is then no impossibility for Him who created us from dust, again to revive us from those atoms which constitute our bodily existence. If man returns unto dust, and his soul unto God, there is no contradiction in supposing that the same dust may be re-organized, and tenanted by its original inhabitant. We merely speak of the possibility of these things, but do not pretend to fathom the mystery with which divine wisdom has invested futurity, and all the realities of an unseen world. We feel that we are merely obeying an impulse, woven with the existence of man, and echoed by tradition and reason, in believing the immateriality and immortality of the soul. We are at once supported by the wisest and most virtuous of the heathen philosophers, and by the infallible assertions of scripture, when, in addressing the soul, we make use of these words of Addison, "The stars shall fade away, the sun himself Grow dim with age, and nature sink in years; But thou shalt dourish in immortal youth, Unhurt, amidst the war of elements, The wreck of matter, and the crush of worlds." J. A. B.
CHARACTER OF THE REV. THOMAS ROBINSON, M.A., VICAR OF ST. MARY'S, LEICESTER, BY THE LATE REV. ROBERT HALL. THE REV. Mr. Robinson died March 24th, 1813, and, shortly after his decease, the following elegant and sublime delineation of his character was delivered before the Leicester Auxiliary Bible Society, by his since departed friend, the Rev. Robert Hall.
"We are awakened this day by the falling of a pious and a great man in Israel. In the formation of this society, our incomparable friend had a principal share; and through every stage, he gave it an unremitted attention, and watched over its interests with a parental solicitude. The idea of instituting an Auxiliary Society at Leicester was no sooner suggested to him than it engaged his most cordial good wishes: he lent to its support the vigour of his masculine understanding, the energies of his capacious heart; and to him, beyond every other individual, it is indebted for the unlimited patronage and the ripened maturity it has attained. He was, indeed, the father of this institution; but of what institution, formed for the promotion of the temporal and spiritual welfare of mankind in this place, was he not the father? We can look no where throughout this large and populous town without perceiving the vestiges of his unwearied solicitude for the advancement of the happiness of his fellow-crea
CHARACTER OF THE REV. THOMAS ROBINSON, A.M.
tures. He has inscribed his history in the numerous charitable and religious foundations which owe their existence or their prosperity to his influence. Our gaols, our hospitals, our schools, our churches, are replete with monuments of his worth, and with the effects of his energetic benevolence.
“Endowed with a capacity for high attainments in science, and distinguished by the honours assigned to superior merit, he generously declined the pursuit of literary eminence, for the purpose of doing good. It is but few who are capable of adequately appreciating the magnitude of such a sacrifice. Dr. Paley was unquestionably one of those few; and I had it from the lips of our venerable friend, that in addicting himself to the duties of a parish priest, he had, in the opinion of that great man, chosen the better part; a choice which it is evident Heaven singularly sanctioned and approved. In affixing his system of life, he had unquestionably a view of a future account, and formed his determination on the assured persuasion of his appearing before the judgment-seat of Christ, where the salvation of one soul will cause a more glorious distinction than the greatest literary attainments; where all greatness of a merely intellectual nature will disappear, and nothing will endure the scrutiny but active and disinterested virtue.
"In the mean time, how narrow the bounds of his influence, how confined the ascendency of his character, had he been only the solitary student, instead of being the zealous and exemplary pastor, and the active citizen! On the former supposition, he had inscribed his memorial in books; on the present, he inscribed it on hearts; and instead of his being an object of admiration of the few, he was the man of the people.
"In separate parts of his character, it were not impossible to find some who equalled, and others who excelled him; but in that rare combination of qualities which fitted him for such extensive usefulness, he stands unrivalled. As a pastor and public instructor, it may be possible to meet with some who have attained an equal degree of eminence; as a public man, he may have been equalled; but where shall we look, in modern times, for an example of the union of the highest endowments, as a pastor and preacher, and of the qualifications adapted to the functions of civil life? It is this rare union which appears to me to give the character of our venerable friend its decided pre-eminence. It is not necessary to recall to your recollection the talents of Mr. Robin
son as a public instructor; you have most, if not all of you, witnessed his pulpit performances, on that spot where he was accustomed to retain a listening throng hanging upon his lips, awed, penetrated, delighted, and instructed by his manly unaffected eloquence. Whoever heard him without feeling a persuasion that it was the man of God who addressed him, or without being struck with the perspicuity of his statement, the solidity of his thoughts, and the rich unction of his spirit? It was the harp of David, which, struck with his powerful hands, sent forth more than mortal sounds; and produced an impression far more deep and permanent than the thunder of Demosthenes, or the splendid declamation of Cicero.
"The hearers of Mr. Robinson were too much occupied by the subjects he presented to their attention, to waste a thought on the speaker; this occupied a second place in the order of their reflections; but when it did occur, it assumed the character, not of superficial acknowledgments, but of profound veneration and attachment. Their feelings towards him were not those of persons gratified, but benefited; and they listened to his instructions, not as a source of amusement, but as a spring of living water. There never was a settled pastor, prohably, who had formed a juster conception of the true end of preaching, who pursued it more steadily, or attained it to a greater extent. He preached immortal truth with a most extraordinary simplicity, perspicuity, and energy, in a style adapted to all capacities, equally removed from vulgarity and affected refinement; and the tribute paid to his exertions consisted not in loud applauses; it was of a more appropriate nature, and higher order; it consisted of penitential sighs, holy resolutions, of a determination of the whole soul for God, and such impressions on the spirits of men as will form the line of separation betwixt the happy and the miserable to all eternity.
"In a word, by the manifestation of the truth he commended himself to every man's conscience in the sight of God; and the success which followed was such as might be expected from such efforts:-very numerous were the seals to his ministry. Through the protracted period of his labour, many thousands, there is reason to believe, obtained from his ministry the principle of a new life, who have now finished their course with joy.
"His residence in Leicester forms a most important epoch in the religious history of this county. From that time must be dated, and to his agency, under Providence, must be ascribed, a decided improvement in the
moral and religious state of this town and its vicinity, an increase of religious light, together with the diffusion of a taste and relish for the pure word of God. It is only now and then, in an age, that an individual is permitted to confer such benefits on a town, as this ancient and respectable borough has derived from the labours of Mr. Robinson; and the revolution which Baxter accomplished at Kidderminster, our deceased friend effected at Leicester. It was the boast of Augustus that he found the city of Rome built with brick, and that he left it built with marble. Mr. Robinson might say without arrogance, that he had been the instrument of effecting a far more beneficial and momentous change. He came to this place while it was sunk in vice and irreligion; he left it eminently distinguished by sobriety of manners and the practice of warm, serious, and enlightened piety. He did not add aqueducts and palaces, nor increase the splendour of its public edifices; but he embellished it with undecaying ornaments; he renovated the minds of its inhabitants, and turned a large portion of them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God. He embellished it with living stones, and replenished it with numerous temples of the Holy Ghost. He enlarged its intercourse with heaven, and trained a great portion of its inhabitants for the enjoyment of celestial bliss. Of the number of the inhabitants who will devoutly acknowledge him as their spiritual father at the day of final audit, that day only can determine.
"Nor was his usefulness confined to the permanent inhabitants of this place; it was extended to the asylum of the sick, and to the cell of the criminal. The former found in him a physician of the soul; and returned to their homes, not only with recruited health, but with renovated minds; and the latter were, in many instances, by penitence and prayer, resigned to their awful destiny. Of him it may be said, unto an extent seldom equalled by a mere mortal, he went about doing good. When the eye saw him, it gave witness of him; when the ear heard him, it blessed him; for he helped the poor and the fatherless, and delivered them that were ready to perish.' In addition to these numerous avocations, he under. took the weekly instruction of an excellent and extensive school, which was formed in his own parish, under his auspices, to which he imparted the elements of religious knowledge with a parental tenderness and assiduity which will never be forgotten.
"There was scarcely a charitable institution set on foot, or a scheme of benevolence
devised, of which he did not form the principal spring. He was truly the centre about which every thing of public utility revolved; while his wisdom guided, his spirited and animated character impressed itself on useful public undertakings.
"Though he came to this place a stranger, without any of the means of acquiring adventitious distinction, it is not to be wondered at, that a man endued with such moral and intellectual qualities should gradually acquire distinguished ascendency. Obstructions and difficulties, indeed, he encountered at the outset of his career; but they gradually gave way to the energy of his character, and at length formed a vantage-ground, on which he stood more preeminent. By slow degrees, by a continual series of virtuous exertions, and by a patient and unremitted perseverance in well-doing, he acquired a degree of influence over all classes of society, which has been the lot of few individuals. Whatever was the subject of dispute, the eminence of Mr. Robinson's services was never called in question; and however discordant the sentiments and feelings of the public, they are entirely coalesced in the homage due to his worth. To the veneration in which he was so generally held, may be ascribed the principal part of that freedom from party animosities, and of that concord and harmony, which has for a long period so happily distinguished this town. The deference due to his opinion on all occasions of difficulty, the unbought, unbribed tribute of esteem and affection claimed by his worth, we delighted to pay. We felt gratified at finding such a rock on whom we could repose our confidence, such a great example of what is most dignified in human nature, on which we could fix our eyes. By a reflex act, the virtuous part of the community felt better pleased with themselves, in proportion as they felt themselves susceptible of love and admiration towards an object so fitted, on every principle of reason and religion, to command them.
"Though I have had the honour of a personal acquaintance with Mr. Robinson for upwards of thirty years, it is comparatively but of late, that I had an opportunity of contemplating him more nearly. While I was placed at a distance from him, I admired him as one of the remote luminaries which adorn the hemisphere; I certainly perceived him to be a star of the first magnitude; but no sooner did I arrive upon the spot, than I became sensible of the lustre of his beams, felt the force of his attraction, and recognized him to be the sun and centre of the system. His merit was not of