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Revelation, have chosen to conduct their inquiries independently of it. Such are the men who prefer to wander in the barren deserts of speculation, and to bewilder themselves with the mirages of their own imagination, than to draw water from the Fountain of Truth, or to sit beneath the shade and take of the fruit of the Tree of Life. Philosophy, eagle-eyed, has never, unaided, been able to solve the far-reaching mysteries that center in our nature. What a mystery is man!
“I tremble at myself,
I remember to have stood once, in the evening twilight, upon the edge of a towering precipice, from whose base the boundless ocean stretched away in solemn grandeur. What sublime emotions, what burnings of insatiable curiosity thrilled the soul, deepening and still deepening as Night was gradually drawing her sable curtain over the scene! Just then a solitary star, rising in the east, sent streaming up through the surrounding darkness its pencil of light. From its distant home in the heavens it seemed
"Mortal man, beyond the narrow bounds of thy vision, beyond the gloom and darkness that envelop thee, there is a world of light, a creation of glory.” So often do we, in imagination, stand upon the outer verge of mortal life and send our anxious thought into the dark future! What yearning desire takes hold upon us to solve its problem! What restless anxiety to break over and go beyond the narrow limit that bounds our horizon! Happy he upon whose longing, weary soul breaks the rising star of heaven's own most glorious truth, bringing "life and immortality to light!" To this light the soul instinctively responds, recognizing the glorious truth that “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” In this revelation the great problem
of human life, the nature and destination of man, is solved. It is presented, not in the form of mere hypothesis, not in abstruse, metaphysical theories, but in the clear and broad statement of immutable truth—MAN ALL IMMORTAL.
Let us begin with the first elements of this discussion, that we may follow it step by step to the grand conclusion. At the very outset, then, we find the DOUBLE NATURE OF MAN asserted; for, while it was said that man's body was formed of the dust of the ground, it is also said that the Lord God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul. It is also declared that there is a spirit in man, and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding. Man, then, is an embodied spirit. When the Almighty had molded the dust into a form of beauty and majesty fit to become the abode of, and to be animated by, a spirit, it was not left inanimate and dead. A mysterious and sublime emanation from himself was infused into the molded dust while as yet it was lifeless as the clod—a principle of feeling, of thought, and of action, a germ of immortality—and then man became a living soul. The union of these two elements constitutes the sublime mystery of humanity. How body and spirit may cohere; how they are made to blend together, to act in unison, and to depend upon each other, we shall not undertake to explain. We shall confine ourselves to the fact of such relationship, which is the only really-essential question in the case.
The fact is approachable, demonstrable; but its mysteries branch off and spread out into the illimitable and eternal.
I. MAN POSSESSES A PHYSICAL NATURE.
Both science and Revelation combine to assure us that the entire created universe of God is composed of two distinct and independent substances; namely, matter and spirit.
Each of these possesses peculiar and striking characteristics, which distinguish it from the other.
If it is asked what is meant by matter, or what matter is, we must confess that we know not what constitutes its es
In this respect its ontology is beyond our reach; and the only advance we find it possible to make is to point out some of the properties of matter as discerned by our senses, and to exhibit some of the laws by which it is gov. erned. Thus we say it possesses extension, impenetrability, inertia, and form, and that it is subject to the laws of gravitation and cohesive attraction. Behind these properties we can not go to explore the essence of that in which they inhere; for these properties, as addressed to the senses, are the only media through which we become acquainted with its existence.
Matter, thus defined and thus made known, makes up the material universe. And the human body itself, though curiously and wonderfully made, is only one of the modifications under which matter exists. The spirit may claim affinity with the skies, but the body, though its form be erect and stately, its front bold and daring, may say “to corruption, thou art my father; to the worm, thou art my mother and sister;" for the grave is its home and its bed is made in darkness. The gross earth upon
which we tread is the first or primal form of matter. The rank luxuriance of vegetation, which clothes the earth with new and living beauty, presents only a modification of the form under which matter exists. And, if we advance still further and observe those bodies which are endowed with the peculiar honor of being the abodes of animal and sentient life—whether it be the body of man or beast-still it is matter, changed in form and relations and not in nature. It is matter still, only existing under a new and greatly-modified form. Nor can
matter, by any possible transformation, be made to lose its distinctive characteristics, and assume the higher prerogatives of spirit. Change it as you may; condense, attenuate, or refine it as you please, it will be matter still. The essential properties of matter will still remain, while the higher indications of intellect will no where appear.
Man, then, possesses a body composed of matter under the various modifications of bones, flesh, and blood. The limestone that forms his bony substance is not different from that which is found in the mountain ridges of the earth and in the coral beds of the ocean. Then, too, what are the softer elements of the body but a combination of oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, and carbonic acid, with a little sulphur, iron, and quartz? From these are formed the fibrin of the muscles, the albumen of the brain and nerves, the gelatinous substances and the fat of the body, and even the blood that circulates in the veins and arteries. Indeed, such are the materials entering into the composition of the human body, and such the proportions in which those materials are combined, that of the whole weight, when its parts are separated, three-fourths are water. But, again, what is this wonderful structure, the human body, but a mechanical instrument? The bones are levers, the bloodvessels are hydraulic tubes, and the muscles are the connecting links through which motive power is applied, and even the nerves are only the unconscious wires of telegraphic communication.
Then, too, in his mere physical organization man has little advantage over the brute creation. His symmetry of conformation is no more perfect than that of many species in the animal kingdom. His
organs are not better adapted to their ends; his joints have no finer articulation, nor his sinews any firmer texture. Nay, even the organs of sense are often less delicate and acute in
man than in the brute. A modern writer puts this point in a very forcible light: “The body of man lacks the massy strength of the elephant and the whale; it can not rival the muscles of the lion; the antelope and the grayhound are far more graceful; man has no pinions to mount on high; he can not live in the deep; the falcon has a keener eye, the grouse a quicker ear, the dog a more discerning smell, and the bat more susceptible touch; and of all the beasts the most hideous is that which most resembles him in form, gestures, and visage."*
Nor is the body of man any more guarded against liabilities to accident and change. In none of these respects
we claim any advantage for poor human nature. The beasts of the field perish, and so does man. Indeed, in whatever form matter exists it is liable to change. Even the granite bulwarks of the everlasting hills crumble away in the lapse of time. Can it then be wonderful that the fine and delicate workmanship of the human frame should wear out by the common friction of use? or, when long exposed to the action of the elements, should fall into decay? How little honor, then, is to be attached to the mere material organic body! This is not the man.
Did we stop here, much as we might admire the beautiful organism of our bodies, interested as we might be in our investigation of its complicated machinery, and important as might be the scientific theories evolved, still it would be but a sad account we could give of the nature and destination of man. The purposes of his animal existence here may be accomplished in a few years, and then the worn-out machinery is laid aside and forgotten; it wastes away in the charnel-house of the dead. “I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they
* Burgess's Last Enemy, p. 10.