On the progressive operation of the principle of life from God in the human soul or spirit: by virtue of which life man is not only gifted with corporeal, sensitive, and intelligent life, but also with spiritual and celestial life; and is thus exalted to the high honour and happiness of being regenerated in the image and likeness of his Great Creator, and finally of entering into eternal conjunction with Him.
My Dear Sir,
In my last letter I endeavoured to convince you that you are indebted to your Heavenly Father for all that you possess, whether of corporeal, of sensitive, or of intelligent life; since all these several principles are the gradual and successive results of the operation of His divine life, from the period of your first conception in the womb, through the several stages of birth, growth, the opening of the bodily senses, the acquirement of ideas, and of the final formation of what is commonly called the rational or intellectual mind.
You fancy, perhaps, that now when your body is grown to the usual standard height of five or six feet, by virtue of the free and full exercise of all its senses ; and when the rational or intellectual mind, at the same time, has been opened and formed by science, so as to be capable of presiding in that body, of guiding it by its counsels, of controlling it by its authority, and thus, of qualifying it for the discharge of all the social duties connected with its appointed station in this lower world; you perhaps fancy, I say, that in consequence of all these acquired excellencies, you are now become a man; and that having attained this distinguished appellation and character, you are arrived at the end of your creation ; so that nothing now remains to be accomplished, or even expected, in regard to any additional birth and growth, requisite for the happiness and perfection of your being. You conclude, therefore, of course, that you have now no other concern than to enjoy yourself, by drinking freely of the cup of natural and rational delights with which you are encompassed; by securing also a fair reputation amongst your fellow-men; and with this view, by conforming to those moral and civil regulations which you find established in the human society of which you are a member. Is not some imagination of this sort at work in your mind ? And let me ask further, is it not a common and prevailing imagination with the bulk of mankind; who conceive themselves to be complete and perfect men, for no other reason than because their bodies are grown to a full size, and their minds are saturated with a full measure of worldly science, prudence, and rationality ?
But will you or any other person, have the boldness to assert that any combination of flesh, of blood, of bone, and of what is commonly called human reason, is of itself sufficient to constitute that high-born and dignified being who is distinguished from all other animals by the sacred appellation of man ? For, let us inquire, for a moment, what is involved in this appellation ? Does it not imply that the subject of it is a religious, as well as a sensitive and rational being; and that, consequently, he is governed by religious principles; by virtue of which principles he acknowledges a Divine Creator, Preserver, and Saviour; and not only acknowledges, but holds converse with Him through the blessed spirit of love, wisdom, and adoration, which that Creator, Preserver, and Saviour continually inspires ? For, is it not a known fact that man is the only animal in the world capable of religion; in other words, capable of having his mind elevated to the knowledge and grateful acknowledgment of the Divine Father of his being ? Does not this fact, then, prove to a demonstration, that such knowledge and grateful acknowledgment are the proper distinguishing characteristics of man's nature; and that, consequently, he has no lawful claim to the high and honourable title of man, only so far as he is in possession of those characteristics ? It is not, therefore, any construction of bodily form, be it ever so excellent; neither is it any extent of scientific acquirements; nor yet even the splendid faculty of rational and intellectual investigation, which properly makes a man; since, if religious principle be wanting, all other qualifications are but the lifeless images of a man, and not the vital reality; thus, they are the shadows, but not the substance of that sacred, holy, and venerable principle called humanity.*
* In the Prophet Jeremiah, we find a remarkable confirmation of the truth of this sentiment respecting the principles which properly constitute a man or a human being; for thus he writes," Run ye to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and see now, and know, and seek in the broad places thereof, if ye can find a man, if there be any that executeth judgment, that seeketh the truth; and I will pardon it." (chap. v. 1.) From which words it is manifest, that, according to the Prophet's idea, to execute judgment, and to seek the truth, are the distinguished characteristics of humanity; and that, consequently, if these characteristics be wanting, no one has any pretensions to the high and holy title of man..
From these considerations, then, I am persuaded you will see clearly, whensoever you make them the subject of serious reflection, that your being is altogether incomplete; and, consequently, the great end of your creation is unaccomplished, until your mind be opened to the reception and operation of religious principle, elevating you to the noble privilege of holding converse and maintaining communication with the Divine Parent of Life, through the exercise of those blessed faculties of love, of wisdom, and of obedient operation which that Parent inspires. You will observe that I here connect incompleteness of being with the non-accomplishment of the end of your creation; inasmuch as they ought not to be separated. For, if you stop short in the career of your creation, by supposing yourself a perfect man, whilst you are yet lacking in the one thing needful to constitute such a man, viz., in religious principle, how plain is it to see that, by the same inconsideration, you stop short also in the accomplishment of the great end of creation! For what, let me ask, is that end ? Is it that mankind should solace themselves for a few years, in this lower world, with the pleasures of sense, with the delights of science, with the intoxications of vain glory and ambition ? Is it that they should riot in the luxury of superfluous health or wealth, and in the no less fascinating enjoyment of superior talents and mental accomplishments ? Is it even that they should become useful members of temporal society, by improving its morals, by encouraging its arts, by checking its disorders, and by thus adding to the store of its rational and innocent gratifications ? Or, is it not, rather, that they should acquaint themselves with the God Who made them and redeemed them; that they should study and exalt His perfections; that they should grow wise by His wisdom, and enter into the consolations of His love; that by renouncing themselves and all that they call themselves, they should put off every form of disorder and death, and put on every opposite form of that blessed order and life which flow perpetually from their Divine source: that they should thus, in short, become the children of a Heavenly Father, the sharers of His mercy, the images of His excellencies, and the eternal inheritors of His glory: or, (to express myself in the words of a pious and learned writer,) "that their minds, being at length made intelligent and innocent, may constitute a spiritual heaven, a kingdom of God, or a holy society, in which the end of creation may be respected by God, and from which God may be respected as the end of ends"?
Yet, in pointing out to you this great end of your creation, which may not improperly be called its final end, let me not be mistaken as if I meant to annihilate, or even to object to, its proximate and more remote ends; such as are the accomplishments of mind and body, the cultivation of arts and sciences, the improvement of morals, and the benefits thus conferred on temporal society. My real meaning is, to guard you against the danger of exalting these proximate and more remote ends above the final end of your creation; and by this caution to lead you to perfect your human character by the combination of all these ends in yourself. And since this combination cannot possibly be effected unless the final end be allowed the preeminence ; in other words, unless your growth in the wisdom and love of your Heavenly Father be seen to be of primary importance, whilst every other growth is regarded as merely secondary; therefore, my further meaning is, to conduct you to the blessed discovery, that in God alone is to be found the soul and quintessence of your proper human character; whilst all other things, be they ever so splendid in their aspects, form only a sort of body and husk. I would also insist still further, that if the body and husk be exalted above the soul and quintessence, either by being regarded as of more importance, or by being consulted as of surer guidance ; in such case, a dreadful inversion of all order is the certain result; and the terrible consequence is, that the proper form of the man is as effectually destroyed as if in the natural body the feet should take the place of the head, and the head should be degraded to the station and office of the feet. Need I add, lastly, that if the body and husk be separated from the soul and quintessence, the human character must then also, of necessity, perish; so that the man, (as he is called,) howsoever distinguished he may be by his bodily form, or by the more alluring accomplishments of mental energy, becomes debased in rank, and sinks even below the brute creation.
Keeping now your mental eyes fixed on these premises, you will be enabled to see clearly the further progress of the operation of that life from God in the deep centre of your being, to which I am desirous to call your attention, as to the sole creative power from which you derive, not only the formation of your body, but the more astonishing formation of your mind; and not only the formation of your mind, but the birth and growth likewise of all those heavenly principles in your mind, which finally complete your creation, and stamp upon you the godlike character of manhood, or humanity, properly so called.
It has already been seen how the Almighty, by virtue of the principle of life perpetually flowing from His Divine fulness, commences His wonderful work of the creation of every individual human being in the mother's womb; and how He afterwards continues it so as to produce a full-grown sensitive body, vivified and controlled by a scientific and rational mind. At this period of creation, then, we behold what is commonly called a man, but what is, as yet, only the shadow of a man ; because, as yet, that substantial principle is wanting, viz., religious principle, which is the only proper characteristic of humanity; and without which, therefore, the end of man's creation is incomplete: so that the man himself, in such case, may be compared to an image consisting of feet, legs, arms, and a trunk, but destitute of a head to guide and govern them.
Let us turn our eyes now to the Worker of Wonders, and note, with due astonishment and adoration, the tender mercy which inclines Him to finish His work, together with the various and stupendous means which that mercy employs to effect its gracious and Divine purpose the implantation of religious principle.
This principle, it has been shewn, implies the knowledge and love of the Father of Being in close, indissoluble conjunction; since knowledge without love is like light without heat, which dazzles indeed by its splendor, but is altogether unproductive and fruitless. Love, again, when separate from light, is like a dark room, in which all things are seen indistinctly and confusedly, so that it is impossible to discover the quality of its furniture, whether it be worthy or unworthy of its owner.
Turn your eyes, now, to your Bible, and behold in that most wonderful of all books, the grand, inexhaustible storehouse of religious principle, brought down from heaven for the express purpose of elevating man to his Maker, by replenishing him with the Divine love and wisdom of which it is the sacred repository; and by thus conducting him to glory and immortality! In every page of this book, then, you see a transcript of the Divine mind; you hold converse with the God who made you ; you are made sensible, too, of a mighty power, not only enlightening your understanding with the bright beams of the Supreme Truth, but enkindling in your will the love and delight of the Supreme Good ! You want, therefore, no longer any evidence to convince you of the Divine authority of these sacred records, because you feel a testimony in your own mind, confirming to you at once their high origin and heavenly import, by the purification and elevation which they give to your affections and thoughts; by the new world of holiness and of bliss to which they introduce you; and above all, by the humiliation, the self-abasement, the contrition, which they inspire; whilst they present to your view the Divine Father of your being thus condescending to invite you to His bosom, to promise the forgiveness of all your offences, and finally to purify you from all iniquity, by giving you power to become His child, the receiver of His bounty, and the inheritor of His kingdom!
But how, now, will you account for these extraordinary effects ? Will you say that, of yourself, or by any faculty properly your own, thus separate from that principle of life from God which is the subject of our present discussion, you are qualified to understand the counsels of the Almighty; to enter into His presence; to take your seat at His right hand; and to rejoice in the participation of His mercy and loving-kindness ? Alas! this would be talking as irrationally and inconsistently, as if you should assert that your body was formed of itself; and that by some power properly its own, it was introduced into this lower world, and placed in the exercise and enjoyment of all its senses! Both rationality, then, and consistency require that you should refer to God the blessed faculty by which you are enabled both to understand His holy Word, and to rejoice in all the consolations which the knowledge and love of the eternal truth never fail to impart to the penitent and the humble.
Behold here, then, a further accumulation of that immense debt which you owe to your Great Creator ; and which can only be discharged by the grateful acknowledgment of its immensity, and by the humble confession, at the same time, of your utter inability to discharge it fully! For it is at this period, now, when your natural and rational mind has been formed and opened to the contemplation and enjoyment of this lower world, that your Heavenly Father is eager to convince you that another mind still remains to be formed and opened; by virtue of which you may have access to Himself, and to all the blessings of His eternal kingdom, and may thus be taught that that eternal kingdom, and not this lower world, is the inheritance which properly belongs to you, and is thus the final end both of your creation, and of that of all other intelligent beings.
Do you experience, then, in the perusal of the sacred Scriptures or the Word of God, an illumination of your understanding; and, at the same time, an elevation of all your mental faculties to the contemplation and enjoyment of objects heretofore unknown, yet infinitely exceeding all others both in sublimity, in purity, and in duration ? Do you rise thus into a new world of never-fading realities, by the bright light of which you are enabled to make the grand discovery, that the present world which you inhabit is, comparatively, only a world of shadows ? Are you instructed, by this discovery, that in this world of shadows you are encompassed by apparent goods and evils, which you are in danger of mistaking for real ones; and that this danger is considerably increased by the necessary law of your existence, that your life should appear to be your own ? Do you, therefore, begin to see it to be a duty of the first importance, to fight against these appearances, that so the love of God and of your neighbour, that only real and permanent good, may be exalted above all inferior and seeming goods; yet not to annihilate, but rather to impart to them also a measure of its own purity, stability, and use ? Do you thus finally learn, that the wisdom of all wisdom, the good of all goods, the happiness of all happinesses, is to renounce yourself, by putting your whole trust in that Divine Being who is so infinitely above yourself; yet, in renouncing yourself, to exert freely all your faculties, as if they were your own, and to execute freely every useful purpose, as if you possessed an independent power to do so ? Do you, I say, in perusing the sacred book of Revelation, experience all or any of the above blessed effects ? You have, then, a most unequivocal and indisputable proof that, in the deep centre of your being, there is a latent principle of life from God, ever in operation to promote and perfect the grand end of your existence, by replenishing you with angelic wisdom and love ; by endowing you thus with power to control all the disorders of mere animal and natural life; and by finally qualifying you for the enjoyment of that heavenly and eternal society, which alone can unravel the deep mystery of human sorrows, conflicts, and uncertainties.
For ask yourself, now, the important questions, Why cannot the inferior animals be affected, as you are, by the bright documents of the Eternal Truth ? And why cannot they elevate their minds accordingly, as you elevate yours, to the Divine Father of their being, and to His everlasting kingdom ? And you will find it impossible to give a satisfactory answer to these questions, but by appealing to the fact, that the inferior animals do not possess, as you do, a principle of life derived immediately from its Divine Source. If, then, this principle of life was to be removed from you, the certain but dreadful consequence would necessarily be, that you would be as incapable of comprehending the wisdom, and of being affected by the love, of the Great Father of the universe, as a horse or a cow: and, therefore, whenever you read the Word of God with delight, and suffer your mind to be enlightened and elevated by its sacred wisdom, you have an infallible proof, not only that you differ essentially from the brute creation, but that the proper characteristic of this difference is, that you possess a principle of life from God, which they do not possess.
I trust, then, that enough has been said to convince you, not only that you possess in the deep centre of your being, a principle of life from God, but that this principle is in perpetual operation; manifesting itself, in the first instance, by the formation and growth of your material sensitive body; and in the second, by the no less astonishing formation and growth of an intellectual and voluntary mind, together with the implantation, in that mind, of all heavenly principles of love and wisdom, as its qualifications for an eternal conjunction with its Divine Father in His everlasting kingdom.
But, what a prodigy is here presented to our view, whilst we behold a principle of life within ourselves continually derived from another, and yet apparently our own : and whilst we thus perceive further, that although, to all appearance, we see, and hear, and taste, and smell, and feel, and think, and reason, and will, and decide, &c., &c., as from ourselves, yet, in reality, we exercise all these powers and faculties from another, that is, from God ! And how is the wonder increased by the additional reflection, that unless the above appearance was impressed upon us we could not be men, neither could we attain the great end of our creation, when yet, at the same time, in the very appearance is involved our liability to all transgression; and, likewise, to all the trials, conflicts, and dangers to which we are exposed in our progress towards the perfection of our being and of our bliss ! How, then, shall we unravel all this seeming mystery so as to justify the mercy and wisdom of our Adorable Creator, and also to make plain the path of our own duty, by which we are to be conducted to an eternal and blessed conjunction with that mercy and wisdom ? These happy ends can only be accomplished by a deep and solid conviction on our parts, grounded both in reason and Revelation, that the only mischief of the above appearance results from its confirmation; and that, consequently, we have nothing to fear from it, but, on the contrary, every thing to hope, provided we do not confirm it: since, in such case, we shall be led gradually to establish in ourselves the blessed truth, and to rejoice in its establishment, that, notwithstanding all appearances to the contrary, our life is, in reality, the continual gift of the Most High, with a view to make us the everlasting inheritors of His kingdom, His power, and glory !
But, the further discussion of this interesting subject must be reserved to a future opportunity, when I shall be happy, through the Divine mercy, to resume it. In the mean time assure yourself of the sincere regard with which I subscribe myself,
Yours, &c. &c.