On the high worth and value of the human soul, as resulting from the consideration of its distinguished and eminent capacity to receive, and to bring into useful operation and effect, the life of God.
My Dear Sir,
I need not remind you, because I am persuaded you have long ago reflected on the subject with a discriminating judgment and profound attention, that the value of all property amongst men, or the estimation in which it is held, is twofold, viz., apparent and real; and that natural men, or those who have not suffered their eyes to be opened by the light of Revelation, make their decision according to the former estimation; whilst spiritual men, or those who have had the advantage of that glorious light, make theirs according to the latter. It is equally needless to remind you, and for the reason above stated, that property itself, as well as its estimation, is of two kinds, viz., temporal and eternal; and that natural men, as such, always feel themselves most interested in the former kind, viz., temporal property ; whilst spiritual men never fail to set the highest value on the latter, viz., eternal property.
But, what shall we say is the just and true meaning of our English term, property ? Is it consistent either with reason or common sense, to call that property which may be taken away from us at any moment; and which, at best, is ours only during our short abode in the present world of shadows and uncertainties ? Can a man's body, therefore, or his estate, or any other earthly and temporal possession, be rationally regarded as property, when it is evident, to demonstration, that its tenure must terminate at the hour of death, or at that awful period which is to separate the soul from all the mere terrestrial objects of its affections and pursuits? I would extend the inquiry, also, to every natural mental excellence and endowment ; thus, to those natural talents, acquirements, and perfections, whether in the way of learning, of art, of dignity, or of accomplishment, which their possessors, in many cases, estimate as the most durable and valuable of all property; and I would again ask, Can the term property be fitly applied to such things so long as they remain merely natural; in other words, so long as they are possessed and enjoyed in a state of separation from their Divine original, and are thus vilely prostituted to the service and nourishment of a defiled self-love, instead of being offered up in sacrifice to the Giver of all good, by the devout and grateful acknowledgment that they are His merciful gifts ?
It is evident, then, that the soul of man is the only property which can, in any correct sense, be said truly and really to belong to him; since his soul is the only property which he can carry with him beyond that grave which is so soon to swallow up and annihilate every thing else that he calls property. But, what shall we say is this substance to which we give the name of soul? It has already been shown, in a former letter, that the soul of man is a spiritual form, created to receive life from God, and that thus it is to be regarded in a twofold view; first, as a recipient form; and secondly, as to the life which it receives: in other words, first, as a passive subject, or as a mere form, in itself destitute of life; and secondly, as an active subject, by virtue of the life which it continually derives from a Divine fountain. To gain a true idea, then, of the immense value of the human soul, we must learn to consider it according to these several views, not only as constituting the all of human property, but also as connected with the Divine source of all life; by virtue of which connexion it is at once both a passive and an active subject, and in this its double character is gifted with the most astonishing capacities, particularly with the capacity of "inheriting all things (Rev. xxi. 7.) thus of extending its property beyond any given or assignable limit.
I am well aware that this estimate of the human soul will appear to the mere natural man to be extravagant and overcharged ; because the mere natural man, in consequence of not suffering his intellectual eyes to be opened by the light of Divine Revelation, discerns in the soul no higher capacity than what enables it to imbibe human science, to penetrate into the arcana of nature, to exercise and improve the powers of reasoning, and thus to acquire temporal distinction by an application of its faculties to mere temporal ends and purposes. But, my dear sir, I address you on the present occasion, not as a mere natural man, who has never raised his views of things above the contemplation of nature, nor his affections above the perishable gain and glory of the present life; but I address you as a spiritual man, or as one whose mental eye is opened to receive the light of truth, which is the light of heaven, and whose heart begins to be affected by the grand and everlasting objects made manifest by that light. I am persuaded, therefore, you will agree with me in the sentiment, that before we can become acquainted with the real value of any thing, we must acquire a just and true knowledge of it; and this knowledge must extend, not only to the external aspect or appearance of the thing, but to its internal qualities, capacities, and powers. Thus, in making an estimate of the value of natural things, such as a diamond, a piece of metal, or a grain of corn, we form our judgment, not from the outsides of those substances, that is to say, from the matrix of the diamond, from the ore of the metal, or from the coat or outward covering of the grain of corn, because such judgment, we are well aware, must of necessity be erroneous; but we suffer our decision to be directed by what the knowledge of experience teaches respecting the inside of each substance when divested of its outside; thus by the brilliancy of the first when separated from its matrix; by the use of the second when separated from its ore; and by the nutritious juice of the third when separated from its chaff.
I am persuaded, yet further, that you will allow with me, that no just and true knowledge of the human soul can possibly be acquired except from Revelation; and that, consequently, no correct estimate can be made of its high and infinite value but from the same heavenly source. The natural man, therefore, who forms his judgment, in this instance, from what he discovers in regard to the natural powers and capacities of the soul, must of necessity be totally in the dark as to its higher or spiritual excellencies. He may, indeed, so far separate it from its matrix, its ore, and its chaff, as to be able to recognise some of its interior wonderful qualities, whilst he observes it soaring, with a Milton, into the regions of poetical imagery, or diving, with a Bacon or a Newton, into the depths of philosophical research. But here his view terminates: nor is it possible for him to extend it without the aid of revealed wisdom. The faculty, therefore, with which the soul of every individual of the human race is gifted,of contemplating the bright light of the eternal truth, and submitting to its divine guidance; of acquiring thus a knowledge of its everlasting destination, and of forming its life accordingly; of exalting its affections from earthly things to heavenly, so as to give to these latter things the entire ascendancy over the former; of acquainting itself thus with its Great Creator, His will, His kingdom, His providence, and all His divine attributes; and by virtue of this acquaintance, of entering into an eternal conjunction of love and of life with Him:this faculty, I say, of becoming a child of God, and of thus acquiring a blessed immortality, by securing a happy abode hereafter amongst those holy beings, who are for ever singing the heavenly song, " Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing," (Rev. v. 12.) is a faculty of which the mere natural man can form no idea, still less can he feel interested in the sublime objects on which it is exercised.
How, then, are we bound to respect that Divine Revelation which alone makes us acquainted with ourselves, by separating from its matrix pearl of great price which lies stored up in the inmost chambers of our being, and by thus unveiling to our delighted view all its splendid and supernatural qualities, capacities, and powers! For, let us hear, now, what this Revelation teaches concerning the human soul. In the first place, we are instructed, as was shewn in a former letter, that the soul of every human being is a form and substance receptive of life from God ; for to this purpose we find it written, that God, in the beginning, "breathed into man's nostrils the breath of lives, and man became a living soul." (Gen. ii. 7.) In the second place, we learn, that by virtue of this inspired life, every human soul is the property of its Divine Creator ; for thus it is again written, " As I live, saith the Lord God, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine." (Ezek. xviii. 3,4.) Thirdly, we are taught, that the souls of men are objects of the tender love and regard of the Father of mercies; which love and regard have been manifested in all ages of the world, by the most affectionate solicitude to instruct them in Divine wisdom; to point out to them the path which leads to eternal life; to convert them thus from the darkness of sin to the light of righteousness; and finally, to redeem them from death and destruction, by replenishing them with all the fulness of the Divine presence, power, and benediction, through a living eternal conjunction with their Creating, Redeeming, and Regenerating God ; which conjunction is dignified by the sacred name of marriage. *
* See the testimony of Revelation throughout. See also Letter 8. of this work.
And what consideration now, let me ask, can so decidedly establish the value of the human soul, as the idea here presented to our view of the high estimation in which it is held by its great Creator ? For, doth this Creator humble Himself to teach, to lead, to convert, to purify, to redeem, to save, and finally, to dwell with the souls which He has made, by fixing in them His own eternal habitation of love and wisdom, of purity and peace, of power and benediction ? Is this great and holy God, also, most willing and eager to impart to these souls all that He hath; thus, all the riches and treasures, the graces and virtues, the blessings and securities of His own essential life, goodness, and truth ? Then, what eye cannot see, (unless it be darkened by the infidelity of sin) that the soul or spirit of every human being is a wonderful casket, intended by the Most High to receive and contain in it a still more wonderful jewel; even that pearl of great price for which the " wise merchantman selleth all that he hath, and buyeth it" ? (Matt. xiii. 45,46.) What eye, therefore, cannot further see, that on this casket is inscribed an intrinsic value, as far exceeding that of all other human property, as heaven is above earth, eternity above time, God above man, and an everlasting, universal possession above that which is transitory, partial, and perishable?
But, my dear sir, from this view of the incomparable value of the human soul, as estimated on the scale of Divine judgment, several interesting questions arise, which cannot be answered by the thoughtful mind without a sigh. For, it may be asked, Whence comes it to pass that, in despite of the above judgment, so many other objects have acquired, in the eyes of the great bulk of mankind, a value far superior to what is allotted to the spiritual and eternal object of which we are now speaking ? Whence comes it to pass, that even a material and perishable body is, in many instances, held in higher estimation than its immaterial and everlasting inhabitant; and that even a clod of earth, and a purse full of a yellow metal called gold, exercise such a fascinating influence on the minds of human beings, that the price of an immortal soul is entirely overlooked and annihilated when set in competition with those terrestrial vanities? Alas! we are forced to reply to these questions with tears; because no other satisfactory answer can be given to them than what has a tendency to prove the melancholy, humiliating truth, that whilst we hold the bible in our hands, and fill our heads with its speculations, we suffer the world to take possession of our hearts, and from our hearts to influence our judgments, until at length we call nothing truly valuable but what tends to promote our worldly and temporal interests! Thus we put out those spiritual eyes of our minds which were intended to take the exact measure, and to form the just estimate, of our true property, as consisting in a spiritual and immaterial substance, capable of apprehending the rich and boundless love of its Creator, and of attaching itself to Him by reciprocal love; whilst we open more widely our corporeal eyes to be deceived by the baubles of corporeal goods, which a delusive world is ever presenting to our mistaken view and our fatal acceptance!
I wish, however, to be understood, in making these observations, that I do not consider them as applying universally, because I am well persuaded in my own mind, that there are many interesting exceptions to their general import; and that thus, howsoever, in general, darkness may be upon the face of the deep, yet, through the influence of the Divine Spirit moving on the face of the waters, and saying, Let there be light, (Gen. i. 2,3.) the darkness is gradually removing; and, in consequence, the high and infinite value of the human soul or spirit is beginning to be seen in all the clearness and fulness of a noonday light. And will you not, my dear sir, unite your devout supplications with mine, that this noon-day light may extend itself through all the regions of this lower world; and that thus mankind may begin to know themselves, by discovering the high price of that inestimable jewel which they possess in the deep centre of their own being? Will you not, I say, pray earnestly with me, that the vanity of mere temporal property may no longer deceive, by putting out the eyes and stopping the ears of deluded mortals; but the real value of the soul be universally felt, through the opening of all eyes to behold the bright light, and of all ears to hear the glad sound, of that eternal wisdom which is ever desirous to unveil to man all its hidden treasures, and to convince him of its willingness to make those treasures his own ? Will you not, in short, present your continual intercessions at the throne of the Almighty, in favour of your fellow-creatures; beseeching Him, in His mercy, to disperse the darkness of sin and ignorance, by leading all mankind to see and discern clearly that their true valuables are to be found within and not out of themselves; and that thus, if they ever hope to find and possess those valuables, they must look within and not without ?
I fancy that I already see you prostrate before your Heavenly Father in this form of blessed intercession; and that with a view to give it the fuller effect, you are determined to make your own life an exemplification of that wisdom which you supplicate for others. I fancy, therefore, that I already see you opening all the doors of your mind to let in the King of glory, beginning with the first door the senses, and proceeding thence to the doors of reason, intelligence, and will, until you arrive at that inmost door which opens to the Divine presence, in the glorified or Divine humanity of the Great Saviour! Nor do you even stop at this bright eminence, for lo! from this exalted station you see it right to descend, that so you may fulfil the various duties which you owe to society; yet, in this descent, I see you careful to bring down, through every region of your mind and body, all the blessed influences of heavenly love and wisdom which you experienced in your ascent; that so the last may be first, and the first last; in other words, that your actions may partake of the purity of your principles, and that the purity of your principles may be fixed and confirmed by your actions!
And here I take my leave of you for the present; because here, I am persuaded, you will enjoy a fulness of peace which I will no longer disturb, only by the assurance how truly happy I shall be, at a future opportunity, to resume my subject, by endeavouring to point out to you the astonishing capacity with which the soul of every human being is gifted, by virtue of the life it receives from God, of ascending by degrees from the lowest delights of sense, through all the intermediate gratifications of science, of reason, and of intellect; until it reaches the supreme joy resulting from its reciprocal conjunction with the Most High, in the purity of His love, the brightness of His wisdom, and the power of His operation.
In the mean time, believe me to remain,
Sincerely and affectionately,
Yours, &c. &c.