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It converses with departed spirits; it is recalled only by the light of the morning chasing its visions. Whence is all this? These operations, from what source do they flow? This understanding—these passions—this memory—this imagination—these dreams—what is the spring of them all? “There is a spirit in man!” But when the body grows cold—and its members are stiff and motionless—the spirit is withdrawn. The clay tabernacle is reduced to its original dust: but respecting the mind a new question suggests itself— 3. WHAT is its separate state? While our dearest friends are dying around us, and we ourselves shiver on the brink of eternity, this is no unimportant inquiry. We understand, however, so little of spirit in its union with matter, that our researches into its state of separation must be very confined; and we are acquainted in so small a measure with its modes of existence in this world, that we are not to expect very extensive information of those in which it shall exist in futurity. We cannot doubt the fact that it can exist separate from the body, when we consider some phenomena in its present state. When the powers of the body are suspended in sleep, those of the mind are in action; and when the eye is closed, the spirit in dreams, sees without the aid of that organ. A separate state of existence for the spirit, when it has left the body, is not impossible; and it appears to us that the tenor of the scriptures is against the soul-sleeping scheme. In vain did Paul wish “to depart,” in order to “be with Christ,” if the soul sleep with the body till the resurrection of the dead; since he would not be nearer the accomplishment of his wish in dying, than he was while he yet lived: nor, if this hypothesis be true, is he nearer to it now, than he would have been, had he lived to the present hour. Neither indeed is he so near the attainment of his desire now, as he was during his life: for while he lived he enjoyed divine communications; but being dead, if the spirit sleep with the body, even those communications which he did enjoy are cut off—and all intercourse with the Deity is suspended in long oblivion till the morning of the resurrection. For Jesus says, “God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” Yet said he to Moses —“I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,”—three hundred years after their dust had been consigned to the cave of the field of Machpelah. The inference we deduce is, that their spirits exist in a separate state, while their bodies sleep in the grave. This state is revealed in the scriptures as a state of happiness or misery; and it is not impossible for the spirit to suffer and enjoy independently of the body; and by consequence in a state separate from it. Observe yonder man suffering even to agony. What horror is painted on his countenance! What distraction looks through his eye! What groans burst from his bosom! From what does his anguish arise? His body is in health: no disease wastes him; no illness shatters his frame. Ah! it is an inward sorrow that devours him—an inward sickness that consumes him! “The arrows of the Almighty are within him, the poison whereof drinketh up his spirit.” It is conscience that suffers: it is the spirit that is sick!—And oh, how sharper than all external calamity is this disease of the mind! “The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity: but a wounded spirit—who can bear?” He, who can thus afflict the spirit when the body is in health, and cause it to sufferindependently of the body—can fill it with unspeakable anguishin a state of separation from the body, and, by a parity of reasoning, cause it to enjoy the most exquisite happiness. The assertion of the text appears now to be established—“there is a spirit in man.” A spirit, such as we have described, must in the nature of things be immortal. And the happiness or misery of this spirit in a future state, one might rationally conclude, even did not the scriptures positively affirm it, must be commensurate with its existence. But what shall be the modes of its being in a separate and eternal state, as we are so partially acquainted with them in its present union with the body, we must die to learn. One thing is clear—man is “a living soul,” and the Bible furnishes us with the most rational and valuable account of his natural dignity—and of his future des
timation. By this Revelation we are made acquainted with
II. THE SOURCE OF HIS GREATNESS.
“The Lord God–breathed into lis nostrils the breath of life:” “the inspiration of the Almighty—giveth him understanding.” The amount of these declarations, and of the combined testimony of the scriptures, seems to be comprised in the following arrangement.
1. “IN HIM we Live, AND Move, AND HAve our BEING.” This is the leading sentiment of the Bible, and it is strictly reasonable. It was not more immediately the work of God to create the man at the first, than it is to give life to every individual that is born into the world. He organizes the human frame; and bestows the adaption of its several parts to the purposes for which they were designed. A wondrous piece of money secret in its most important oper. ations, and unsearchable in the finer parts of its construction! Internally, how complicated! how harmonious! A thousand springs act upon each other—a thousand fibres are necessary to life, which escape the eye of scrutiny. To guard these, what care, what wisdom, are displayed! In the whole machine, what compactness! what strength! Externally, what uniformity! and yet what variety! What grace, what beauty, what perfection! The spring of all this is life! The several parts of the machine we are able to take in pieces, and to comprehend their operations: but this secret spring—life—altogether escapes us. We see not the hand that takes it away; we know not the moment when it was first given. Watch as marrowly as you please, the precise instant of either will remain undiscovered. The child comes into the world posSessing this principle, and announcing its existence, and the sensibility connected with it, by tears! The last pulsation of the heart ceases, ere we are aware of the spirit's departure. The closest observer of the communication and of the cessation of life, can only say, in relation to the first, “It is there!”—to the last—“it is withdrawn!”—An invisible hand forms the body, animates it with spirit, expands the limbs, fixes the standard of stature, and sets bounds to the stream of human existence. He confines it now to eighty years, as formerly he extended it to nine centuries. Who will not say—“l will praise thee,” O God, “for I am fearfully and wonderfully made?—Marvellous are thy works, and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect, and in thy book all my members were written, which
in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them!” By the “inspiration of the Almighty” we are what we are, in relation to natural life, which is given, withheld, limited, and extinguished, at his pleasure. 2. “THE INspirATION of THE ALMIGHTY Giveth Us UNDERSTANDING.” The dawn of reason at the first is lighted up in the mind of a child by a Divine hand. He causes it to brighten, as the limbs enlarge their size, and acquire vigor. He leads the powers of the mind to perfection, and fixes their standard. He makes all the difference which we perceive subsisting between man and man. He distributes, according to his pleasure, to some one—to others, ten talents; and he proportions their responsibility to each respectively. The spirit which in this world seems unconfined, and which roves at large, with growing delight, through all the works of God; and that which is barely sufficient to carry its possessor through life, came from the same hand; and however different in their capacities, are equally immortal. Through a thousand invisible channels, the Father of Spirits visits our spirit; and it is in vain that we desire to trace the modes of his communications to his creatures, “God speaketh once, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed: then he openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction.” He touches the nerve of the brain, and the understanding seems to be lost. The spirit doubtless is perfect: but the instrument upon which she operated, the vehicle of her impulses, the fibre upon which she struck, is deranged and impaired. We are presented with that melancholy union, the stature of a man and the