The Spiritual World
The World of Life and Cause
James Speirs London 36 Bloomsbury Street1878
The Spiritual World,
The World of Life and Cause.
In this address we purpose showing that all things in the world of matter derive their existence and subsistence from the world of spirit. For the better elucidation and comprehension of the subject, we shall first show that a man has not life in or from himself, but that he receives it from the Creator, who alone is the source of all life; and next, we shall proceed to prove that all things in outward nature exist in matter, because they first exist in spirit; in other words, that the material creation is the body of an inner spiritual world or soul, that world being the abode of men when they depart from this.
First, then, let us endeavour to show that man's existence is derived, and God's underived, that man is the recipient, and God the fountain of life.
Now, if we reflect for a moment, our experience will tell us that we, either as to our souls or as to our bodies, have not existence in or from ourselves; but that we depend for life, every moment of our being, on our connection with the worlds of mind and matter. We assert that our life is neither self-derived nor self-support- page 4 ing; and to prove this let us look at ourselves first in reference to our physical nature. We came into the world, not from our own power, but through the instrumentality of our parents, while they again did the same through the instrumentality of their parents; so that if we go back and back we must of necessity come to a time when there were some first parents. You may take the Mosaic account, and call them Adam and Eve, or not; but of this we are certain, reasoning from effect to cause, or from son to parent, that there must have been a time when man had a beginning. Man, therefore, did not create himself. That is a fact so plain that no one we think will venture to dispute it; and that is the first point we wish to establish.
Now, when we are born into the world, we find ourselves possessed of eyes to see, ears to hear, a tongue to taste, hands to feel, and a nose to smell; and in order to the full use and enjoyment of all these senses, we require to have connection with the five different spheres or worlds around us, namely, beauty and colour, music and sound, taste, touch, and fragrance; and you will notice that the senses in us are so perfectly adapted for the worlds out of us, that they are far more perfectly made to fit each other than the glove is made to fit the hand; so that in the adaptation of man for the outer world, and the outer world for man, you have a striking instance of that love and wisdom, that goodness and providence which first created and afterwards sustains him. For the full use and enjoyment, then, of all our different faculties, we require to have connection with the various spheres around us; and the page 5 five senses form so many different avenues through which the spiritual being within enters into and dwells in the material universe; and if we destroy the connection between the two, we immediately destroy the pleasures of our existence. Looking at ourselves, then, in this respect, we can plainly see that we are not independent, but dependent beings.
But let us look at the subject from another point of view, for there are many ways by which we can trace it, and all leading to the same conclusion. First, for instance, we possess lungs wonderfully adapted for breathing—exhaling and inhaling; but what a helpless being does man become when the common air is cut off from him, as the accidents in our coal mines too often terribly exemplify—he immediately gasps and dies! Again, we find ourselves possessed of heart, stomach, and teeth; but of what possible use could these organs be to us did we not receive from the world without a plentiful supply of good wholesome food and drink?
Now the same facts are as true of man as a spiritual or intellectual being, as they are true of him as a physical one. Just let us briefly examine this part of the subject. We possess a soul or spirit as well as a body. We know that we ourselves did not create that spirit; consequently for it to continue to exist it requires to have connection with the source of life from whence it originally came. This fact must be evident to any rational being, to any person gifted with the smallest modicum of common sense; and the teachings of nature fully confirm this spiritual truth.page 6
The rivulet depends for its existence on its mountain springs, and the river on its source; cut them off and they immediately cease to flow. Or look at the beautiful sunlight, and you will find it conveys the same simple practical truth. The golden rays that dance around shed light and warmth wherever they fall; but where would they be were it not for their connection with their inexhaustible source, the sun? And exactly so is it with man as to his mental nature. Truly speaking, he is a most helpless, dependent being. Every moment he breathes he depends for his life in having connection with the world of spirit for the support of his soul; and if we could destroy that connection we should immediately destroy our existence. We can realize some faint idea of this, for instance, if we cut ourselves off from society, deprive ourselves of all friendship, conversation, books, and intercourse with the outer world; in short, inflict upon ourselves the punishment of solitary confinement—our existence would become to us a most intolerable burden, one which, as maintained by some writers, is even worse than death itself. And why so? Because we are depriving our minds of that pure and healthy mental atmosphere and exercise which are as necessary to the wellbeing of the soul as the air of the atmosphere is requisite to the health of the body; in such a case we would be choking and stifling the very breath of our spirits: and it would indeed be a greater mercy to put an end to our existence at once than to keep our hand continually on our windpipe, grasping or relaxing .it at our own cruel pleasure. A man, therefore, is a dependent being. That page 7 is the second point we wish to establish. Now, keeping these facts and arguments fairly before us, remembering in the first place that man did not make himself, and in the second place that he does not sustain himself after he is made, we are led to the conclusion that there must be some first cause, call it what you will, that first created and afterwards sustains him. This first cause we call God.
Oh, stop a bit, says the atheist; don't come to that conclusion too fast. You say a man requires a maker; and I say with equal reason that God also requires a maker.
Granting the atheist his position, what does it lead to? Cannot you see that it involves him in this difficulty, that he makes Creation spring from a succession of causes, and which in reality means that everything comes out of nothing. This conclusion has within it the very essence of absurdity; for you cannot get anything out of nothing, far less everything, so that atheist and deist are alike compelled to admit that the being who created man must of necessity be self-existent, uncreated, and underived.
But further, it is a truth which cannot be disputed, "You cannot get out of a thing that which the thing itself does not contain." Now let us look for a moment at ourselves, and what do we find? We find we are possessed of the faculties and powers of thinking, willing, reasoning, reflecting, forming opinions, and drawing conclusions; in short, that we are possessed of all the varied powers of love and wisdom, developed in ten thousand different ways and forms, so that it was no exaggeration when the Psalmist declared, "Man was created only a page 8 little lower than the angels." We know that we did not create these faculties and powers. We also know that we did not receive them from nature; for we cannot get love and affection, thought and reason, out of trees and stones, nor do we get them from the animal world. True, animals are possessed of instinct in some cases to all appearance very nearly allied to human reason; but the mental powers of animals differ both in quality and degree from those of men. We have never yet heard of an animal versed in science, politics, and literature, and capable of composing an orthodox sermon, or writing an epic poem. When such a wonderful specimen of a four-legged divine and poet is discovered, I would propose that he be presented to Professor Darwin to be by him duly examined and reported on. Possibly that grave and learned doctor may find in this still graver animal the missing link connecting the lower with the higher creation, and of which he has been so long in search. Well, then, as we do not get these powers and faculties from nature, where do they come from? Where? But from Him who created us. We have them because He has them; and since He possesses them, therefore we most reasonably conclude that our Creator must be a living, wise, and intelligent being; and as man the creature is finite in his love, wisdom, and intelligence, so God the Creator must be infinite in all His glorious powers and attributes; in other words, man is human, God divine; the truth of which conclusion receives additional confirmation from the fact that God has created, not one single human being only, but millions, and that in all page 9 probability other earths of the universe, like our own, are all teeming with human beings, every one of whom, like each ray of the sun, depending for existence on the great first Cause.
"Nature is but a name for an effect
Whose cause is God,"
and he that worships nature worships the effect, and not its cause, and a thing as incapable of hearing and answering prayer as the wooden idol of the most benighted heathen.
Now when we speak of a man as a human being, we do not understand him to be a formless essence, a being "without body, parts, or passions;" but we think of him as we ought to think of him, as a human form, containing within itself love, intelligence, and power. That is the true and proper idea to entertain of a man; and the moment we surrender it, and begin to think of the human attributes separated from their subject, and to call them the man, then we only involve ourselves in confusion. Love, intelligence, and power have no real existence, and are mere abstractions unless embodied in a subject or entity. When, therefore, we think of the human attributes, never let us lose sight of the form that contains them.
Again, when we think and speak of the angelic attributes, we do not, nay, we cannot, conceive of them, save as existing in and coming forth from the form or spiritual organization of the angel.
And in like manner, when we think and speak of the Divine attributes, we ought to concentrate our thoughts page 11 on the Divine Personality, as containing within itself all those glorious powers and perfections which the man and the angel contain within themselves, only with this vast difference, and, as before stated, in the man and the angel they are human and finite, in God they are divine and infinite. True, the divine influence which proceeds from God extends throughout all space, and is to be found wherever creation exists; but this influence, emanation, or spirit is one thing, and the Divine Personality or form another, just as the rays of the sun of the material creation are one thing, and the sun itself another.
This, then, we humbly, but confidently, submit to be an intelligent and rational conception of God; and this idea is just the one presented in and confirmed by Divine Revelation. It tells us, as you will read in John (i. 3), "All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made." Now, who or what is meant by the "Him" that made "all things"? Are we to understand the "Him" to be, as the Article declares, a being "without body, parts, or passions," or as the Pantheist asserts, a formless essence diffused throughout all space? Most assuredly not. The "Him" there declared to be the Creator of all things, is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ, the one and only Divine Man; in whose glorious form resides all the powers and perfections of Deity, or as He is described in another part of His Divine Word," the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last, the Almighty." Unlike the god of the pantheist and the heathen, He can hear and answer prayer; because He, and He only, is the one living personal God.page 12
Viewing the subject, then, in this light, we can see that God is the beginning of all things, and man the effect. It is said in the Gospel of John (iii. 27), "A man can receive nothing unless it be given him from above;" and again our Lord declares, as you will read in John (xv. 5), "Without Me ye can do nothing." And what is the meaning of these words? They evidently teach that all pure and heavenly principles and power descend from God like the rays from the sun, passing through the angelic heavens until they reach the minds of men on earth. Now the mind of man is a spiritual organ or receptacle of life from heaven; and if the mind is good the heavenly influx will be reflected in all the works the man performs. If, on the contrary, the mind is in an evil state, the divine influx will be perverted. We can thus see that both good and evil men, both angels and devils, derive their life from the selfsame source, just as the rose and the thorn, the flower and the poisonous weed, the diamond and the charcoal, derive their life and colour from the selfsame sun. The same influx enters both classes of existences; but in both it is differently manifested, by reason of the difference in the receptacle. So in the one class of minds the divine influx is used and applied to proper purposes; in the other it is abused and perverted.
And here allow me to touch on the nature of Spirit and Matter. How often are we told that Matter is everything and Spirit nothing; that Matter is all substantial, and Spirit non-substantial. So reasoned the serpent principle in the golden age; so reasoned the page 13 infallible doctors of Rome on Galileo's discovery; and they proved their fallibility by declaring that the earth was an immovable flat plane, round which revolved the sun, moon, and all the starry heavens; and so reasons the materialist at this day; for, judging everything by the corporeal senses, he has to his own satisfaction reasoned God out of existence, and a future state out of existence, and were it not for the flesh and blood that hang about him, he would reason away his own existence too. But all this is only reasoning from appearances, and appearances are very apt to mislead. The reverse is the true state of the case; for Spirit is prior, and therefore superior, to Matter; and the closer we examine this part of the subject we shall find that Spirit is by far the more substantial, though the less tangible, of the two.
The sculptor, for instance, determines to produce a work of art, it may be a Hercules reflecting the mightiest of human strength, or a Ganymede expressing all that is beautiful in the feminine form. But before the figure can be chiselled it has first to be conceived in the sculptor's mind. It, therefore, exists in mind before it exists in matter; and in the mind it becomes a real, substantial, though spiritual entity; while the statue in marble or stone is only the reflection, and sometimes a very imperfect reflection, of the mental creation within. If you had no conception, you could have had no statue. The conception, then, is the cause, and the statue the effect. And which is the greater—the cause or the effect?page 14
"Oh! but," says the materialist,1 "the mind of the sculptor consists of the finest, the subtlest, and minutest parts of the material body; these act upon the grosser parts and organs, and thus produce the form in the stone."
Now, supposing in answer to this that the sculptor, in a moment of generous enthusiasm for the conversion of the materialist, were to submit his body to the dissecting knife, do you think you could find the form there? You might examine the brains, the heart, the lungs, the liver, and the spleen, or the bones, the flesh, the muscles, the sinews, and the nerves even to their finest tissues, but your search will be all in vain. And yet you are certain that the form was in the artist, for the most certain of all reasons, because it came out of him. But now comes the question—In what part of him? In his body? Most certainly not. In his spirit? Most certainly yes. While the sculptor stood erect before you the glorious conception of his work existed in all its beauty and perfection in his mind; but when his body lies prostrate in death, the conception has vanished, as if unable to outlive the spirit that gave it birth. The spirit departs, and so do its beautiful ideas. And what is the conclusion, the only conclusion one can draw from this fact? Is it not that the ideas and conceptions of the mind belong to the spirit; are mental, not material; and that when the spirit quits the body, it takes its ideas with it? And is page 15 not this simple fact a clear convincing proof that the spirit, although united to the physical frame in the closest and most wonderful manner, is nevertheless a substance separate and distinct from the body, having a form and organization of its own, with laws peculiar to itself?
Now, the conclusions to which we have just arrived, are strengthened and confirmed when we come to examine other parts of man's mental nature. Take, for instance, that of the Memory. The Memory is indeed a most marvellous faculty. By it, old age can recall to life scenes and circumstances which have occurred in early youth. Time may perhaps have dimmed the eye, and whitened the hair, and rendered the step slow and tottering, but the spirit within is above and beyond the touch of "decay's effacing fingers." The forms of the departed will oftentimes come trooping up and pass in review before us. Some there are, like old Marley's ghost, that haunted the flint-hearted Scrooge, whom we would gladly be without; others, again, whose faces are ever fresh and green in our recollections, and on whose memories we delight to dwell. Now mark this. These circumstances are not impressed on the material body. You cannot find the faintest trace of them in the flesh, blood, or bones, but they are written with a point keener than the pen of iron on the spirit within; and thus, again, you have evidence that the spirit, though not material, is nevertheless most really substantial.
But, perhaps, the materialist will ask us to define "spirit." Well, we answer by asking him to define page 16 "matter." He tells us that it is a thing which he can see, feel, touch, weigh, and measure. That is his definition of matter. Very good. Well, our definition of spirit is, that it is the thing by which we are enabled to see, to feel, to touch, to weigh, and to measure; for, deprive the body of its life or spirit, and where will be your sense of seeing, feeling, touching, and your power of weighing and measuring? Spirit, then, is the active, matter the passive, substance; because the one is living, and the other dead.
Again, the body cannot think, reason, or will. It cannot reflect, draw conclusions, and form opinions. And why not? Because these are operations of a spiritual nature, and can only be performed by a spiritual subject. The body which clothes our spirits, or to speak more correctly, with which our spirit clothes itself, is made up of the common articles of food, such as bread and butter, beef and mutton, these, converted by the most wonderful chemistry, into flesh and blood, skin and bone, and they are, per se, no more capable of thinking, willing, reasoning, and acting after their transformation into head and trunk, arms and legs, than they were .when lying on the dinner-table. When, therefore, physical science tells us that "the actions of men, so far as they are recognisable by science, are the results of molecular changes in the matter of which they (the men) are composed," it tells us, what must be evident to all, a plain, palpable, naked absurdity. But we do not believe that physical science tells us anything of the kind. On the contrary, we have the strongest hope that when man's physical organization is examined and understood in connection with the true page 17 nature of his spiritual being, then will it be seen that the teachings of physical science are in harmony with those of revealed religion.
But supposing that the materialist is unable to give a satisfactory solution of the essence of matter, and that we are equally unable to solve the nature of spirit, does it therefore follow that neither matter nor spirit has any real existence? Most certainly not. Scientific men cannot agree as to the essence of the sun, and they do not quite understand the nature of electricity; does it therefore follow that there is no sun or no electricity? Besides, we are not bound to prove the existence of a thing by defining its essence. Science cannot define the essence of heat and light; but it fully acknowledges their existence from the many evidences it has of their effects. Science cannot define the essence of magnetism; yet it fully admits its existence from the fact that by it this planet of ours, weighing millions of tons of solid matter, is held in its own proper orbit, revolving silently and swiftly through boundless space. We cannot weigh, measure, and grasp this unseen power; but it most assuredly exists; and the deeper you examine this part of the subject, you will find that the farther you depart from dead, gross, inert matter, and the nearer you approach the confines of the invisible world, the less material substances become the most powerful and life-giving, until you arrive at that which has nothing in common with matter, namely spirit, the most wonderful and powerful of all.
And exactly so it is with the existence of spirit and of the spirit world. Although we cannot define their essence, page 18 we have nevertheless many conclusive evidences around us of their existence from their effects. Let the materialist, for instance, look into the face of a good man, and then into the face of a bad man, and there will he discover evidence of the existence and power of spirit. For what is it that gives to the good man the noble look, the genial smile, the clear, honest, penetrating eye? What, but the spirit within? Such a one has allowed his mind to be formed by true and noble principles; and these have had the powerful effect of even moulding the very matter to their own expression. On the other hand, look upon the face of the man that has become a slave to his own evil passions, who has reveled in debauchery and vice, and there you will have a faithful picture of the inner spirit. You see the very devil peering through his eyes, those "windows of the soul." The spirit in this case has been its own artist. True to life, it has made an excellent photograph, and produced a striking likeness. Or take the case of an infant, warm from its mother's breast, and wrapped in its peaceful slumbers, before it has yet reached the age when the hereditary propensities of evil in its nature are developed, and in that little sleeping face you will see heaven's influence reflected in its dimpling smiles. The chords of that infantile spirit, like the strings of some heavenly Æolian harp, though untouched by human hands, are nevertheless moved and vibrated by the gentle breathings and whisperings of the angelic world.
And why is there so great a difference in the features in all three cases? Because the spirit is different in each one.
We have thus seen that man's life is derived and God's page 19 underived; and we have dwelt thus far on the substantiality of spirit, in order that we may be the more fully prepared to understand the second part of our subject, namely, that all things in outward nature exist on earth because they first exist in the spiritual world; in other words, that the material creation is the body of an inner spiritual creation or soul, and into which world the spirit of man passes immediately on the death of his body. And here, I know, it will excite the surprise, if not the contradiction, of some, when we assert that the soul has a form as well as the body, and that things in heaven have forms as well as things on earth. Of those who object to this, however, allow me to ask, You say the soul exists while in the body, and exists still after the death of the body. Well, then, if it exists, it must of necessity have a form, otherwise it can have no existence. Existence implies form; for a thing that has no form is not anything: it is nothing. To admit the existence of the soul is to admit its form also; and to deny its having a form is in reality to deny its existence. There is no escape from either of these two conclusions. If you say the soul exists, then you admit its having a form. Or if you say it has no form, then you deny its existence.
And what form is it likely to have? or what shape is most suitable and most becoming for it, but its own shape, the shape it gives to the body, the human form. The form of humanity is of all forms the most beautiful, noble, and godlike. Search creation through from the starry expanse above to the earth beneath, and the waters under the earth, through the mineral, vegetable, and animal page 20 kingdoms, and you will find no form to rival it. It is the most perfect, and most marvellously constructed of all forms, and man being the highest and most perfect of all the Creator's works, therefore he, and he alone, possesses it.
But perhaps it will be asked, Why does the body take this form and no other?
The body, as we all know, is composed of the various articles of food and drink, why then do these not assume a different shape? Why? Because it is the spirit that moulds and fashions them, and not they the spirit. Do not for one moment suppose that the food we eat can of its own unaided power convert itself into bright intelligent eyes, sweet lips, and smiling faces. To believe so would be as erroneous as to suppose that the stones and mortar can of their own power, without the aid of the architect and builder, raise themselves into the form of a noble building, or that the paint can of itself convey to the canvas all the beautiful touches of the picture without the aid of the artist. Our food is to our spirit what the stones and mortar are to the builder, what the paint and canvas are to the artist, what the clay is in the hands of the potter. It is fashioned, moulded, and built up in the human form, because the spirit pervades every part of the body, appropriates sustenance to every part, and thus our flesh and blood take the human form, because the spirit imparts to them the form peculiar to itself.
Now the same law that gives form and beauty to the human body operates also on all things in the material universe. Outward nature, such as the trees and flowers, page 21 the hills and dales, woods and forests, and everything around us, animate and inanimate, are the outward covering or body of a beautiful, unseen, spiritual soul within. It may reasonably be asked, But where is the spiritual world? We cannot see it. Where is it? We answer, It is here. It is within the material world, just as our souls are within our bodies; thus there are spiritual forces within every created thing. This truth is finely expressed by the poet Cowper when he says—
"There is a soul in all things, and that soul is God.
The beauties of the wilderness are His,
That make so gay the solitary place
Where no eye sees them, and the fairer forms
That cultivation glories in are His.
Not a flower
But shows some touch or freckle, streak or stain,
Of His unrivalled pencil. He inspires
Their balmy odours, and imparts their hues,
And bathes their eyes with nectar, and includes,
In grains as countless as the seaside sands,
The forms with which He sprinkles all the earth."
What the poet here expresses are really sound philosophical facts clothed in the language of poetry. Just let us look at the subject a little closer, and we shall find that it really is so.
The material world is continually changing. Winter is succeeded by spring, and spring again by summer, and summer followed by autumn, each season bringing with it its own particular fruits, and displaying its own peculiar charms. From whence, then, .proceed all the beautiful varieties of nature in the four seasons? Are they pro- page 22 duced by the earth itself? No, because matter of itself is inert and dead. Are they produced by the sun? No, because material heat and light cannot create form. It is true the seasons are in a limited sense produced by the position of the sun to the earth. Its presence or absence produces a certain state in outward nature which we call summer and winter; and influences from the spiritual world being always and everywhere present, and pressing into and upon the material creation, mould outward nature into such forms as it is at the moment best capable of receiving. A simple comparison will here explain what we mean. If we take a piece of wax and apply heat to it, it becomes soft and plastic, and capable of receiving and showing the impression stamped upon it. You will notice the impression is not produced by the heat. All that the heat can do is simply to melt the wax, and render it capable of receiving the impression. The heat cannot form the wax into a flower, any more than it can give to it the impress of the coin of the realm. And exactly so is it with the forms impressed on outward nature. The earth is as the wax, the sun as the heat, and the unseen spiritual forces within nature are the stamp. When the gentle rains of heaven descend to moisten the soils and clods, and the sun pours upon them its warm and genial rays, then these unseen forces from the spiritual world flow in, and stamp upon outward creation all those varied beauties of flower and tree, of bud and blossom, of garden and landscape, which we see around us. And if earth, the shadow and rough and faint reflection, is so beautiful when thus arrayed in all the page 23 loveliness of summer's fairest charms, what must heaven, the cause and substance, be?
We assert, then, that heaven must of necessity contain, even in a greater degree, and to a much fuller development and perfection, all those things which charm the soul, and delight and gratify the senses of man on earth, only they are spiritual not material. There shall we find beautiful flowers, gardens, groves, landscapes, rivers, and lakes. These things exist here, because they exist there. Many people treat heaven as they treat the soul. They admit its existence, but deny its form. If you ask them, Has the soul any form? they answer, "Oh, no." Have things in heaven any form? "Oh, no." So, then, there are no beautiful landscapes to please the eye, no delicious fruits to delight the taste, no music to charm the ear? "No, nothing whatever." Well, then, if heaven has none of these, what has it? "It has nothing." So that those who profess to believe in heaven, the soul, and a future state, when you come to probe them a little deeply, do not believe in anything; or if they do, their notion of a future life amounts to this: the soul is a spark, or shadow, or airy nothing, and after death it goes to a world something like itself. That is what they call a future existence and glorious immortality. Why, you might just as well put the man into a large glass globe, and ask him to be happy there, as to place an immortal being into such an empty heaven as that. You may call it a state of heavenly bliss; but after a very short experience of his new abode, he will beg to differ from you, and be as glad to return to earth again as you perhaps are desirous of going to heaven. page 24 Such a belief in a future state is very nearly allied to infidelity. It is very like the sceptic's unbelief. When probed, examined, and placed side by side, they are as like as two peas and resemble each other so closely, that we can fairly pronounce the belief to be the parent of the unbelief.
But such crude notions of heaven and the immortal nature of man, are altogether unworthy of the subject; and they are still more so when we remember that we are not left destitute of information on those momentous questions. We have the light of Reason and Nature to illumine our darkened path; and what is of far higher importance still, we have the light of Divine Revelation, which, if properly read and understood, will guide us to sounder views and more glorious perceptions of the life after death. In a former part of our remarks, we pointed out, that when the spirit leaves the body it takes its senses, ideas, and memory with it; and if it takes all these with it, the presumption is that it also takes its powers of willing, thinking, and reasoning; consequently the spirit retaining all these, though out of the body, must be still a man, the only loss it has suffered by death, if indeed a loss it can be called, being the loss of the material body. The death of the body, however, is not the death of the man. The body is simply the instrument of the unseen, but living, thinking, and immortal being within; and we are men by virtue of our spirits, and not by virtue of our bodies.
The man loses nothing by death. He takes with him his real nature and self, and lives out to fuller perfection page 25 the life he had begun while here. Thus the next life is a continuation of the present, and death is but the passage from the one to the other. This sublime truth is beautifully expressed by the poet Longfellow in his poem on Resignation—
"There is no death! What seems so is transition.
This life of mortal breath
Is but a suburb of the life Elysian,
Whose portal we call death."
The poet does not use a mere figure of speech or metaphor when he says "there is no death." He announces a plain, simple, literal fact; for there is really no such thing as death as commonly understood. The body cannot die, for the simple reason that it never lives. It only appears to live, just as it appears to think and reason; but the real fact is, that the soul or spirit has all the life, and it gives to the body the life it appears to possess, and which afterwards it appears to lose. So that it is much more correct, when referring to those who have gone before us, to speak of them, not as being out of existence, but as having departed this life.
The body, then, is no more the man than the chrysalis-shell is the butterfly, or the husk is the ripe grain; and when death takes place, it is only putting off the frail tenement of clay, in order that the immortal spirit may enter that world of spirit to which it more properly belongs. At death, then, there is no cessation of life even for one moment, far less for hundreds and thousands of years. Let us once realize this great truth and the reality of the spirit world will follow as a matter of course.page 26
Now, just turn for a moment to the Divine Word, and you will see how fully this view is there corroborated. Take, for instance, the parable of Dives and Lazarus (Luke xvi. 27). It is there said, "The rich man died and was buried; and in hell he lifted up his eyes, and cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame." This language is not used of the rich man's body; for that evidently was mouldering in that earth on which his five brethren were then living, but of his spirit. He had eyes and a tongue, consequently he must have had a head. Lazarus had a finger, consequently he must have had a hand; and if a hand, an arm; and if both had arms, eyes, and heads, they must have had bodies: so that we are here informed that the spirit, though out of the material body, has nevertheless a real existence, and possesses a form, that form being the human form.
Again, when Moses and Elias appeared at the transfiguration, they were seen by the eyes, evidently of the spirits of the apostles, as "two men." And mark this very significant fact, they were recognised and addressed as "Moses" and "Elias," thus showing that they still retained their identity and individuality in the spiritual world, but which would have been impossible if they had only been mere sparks, or vapours, or airy nothings. Again, in every instance in the Divine Word, where angels or departed spirits were seen in heaven or appeared on earth, they were in every case, without exception, seen as men, that is, in the perfect human form. Now all this is page 27 related in order to convey to us this great lesson, that the soul, or spirit, or the man, lives after death in that form most appropriate to himself, namely, the human form. Now, if the man still retains his senses and faculties, and all those organs by which he is capable of realizing happiness or enduring misery, is it not evident that he must of necessity be in a world where his faculties can be used and gratified? For where would be the wisdom of the Creator in endowing the spirit with eyes if there was nothing to see, or ears if no music broke the stillness of the hour? hands, if nothing to touch? or a tongue, if no delicacies to delight the taste? or a nose, if no frag rance to gratify the smell? Is it not evident that if the angels and the "spirits of just men made perfect" have all their senses and faculties in the other life it must of necessity follow that the world in which they live must possess the means for their use and gratification? It would be folly to give the angels eyes if heaven is an eternal darkness; ears, if all is hushed in solemn silence; hands, if there is nothing to do, except hang dangling at their sides; nay, more, it would be a cruel mockery to endow them with such faculties and senses, and place them where they could never be gratified. But can you believe that the Creator has acted in such a cruel and extraordinary fashion? Just reflect for a moment, and see how He really acts in His creation. The little bird, for instance, when the proper season comes, bursts the walls of its prison shell, and issues forth into a world—of what? Of emptiness, or nothingness? Oh, no; but into a world of beauty, arrayed in all the loveliness of page 28 summer's fairest charms; and it there finds an atmosphere on which it can stretch its downy wings, and soar from branch to branch and tree to tree, warbling its simple note of joy and gratitude for its new-found home of light and liberty. While cooped up in its shell, the little bird never dreamt—if little birds ever dream—it was so near another world; and we, older and wiser birds, while cooped up in our bodies, as little dream of our having an even more glorious world within and around us.
But take another instance of the Creator's wisdom. He wonderfully and wisely arranges that when the babe, the infant man, comes naked and helpless into the world, everything is provided to supply its wants and gratify its appetites. The little stranger requires milk for its sustenance; and the current of life flows not a moment too soon, nor a moment too late, from the mother's breast. It requires air for its delicate lungs to breathe; heat, and light, and clothing for the comfort of its little body; and all these are provided in the most wonderful and bountiful manner. Now, that is the mode in which the divine love and wisdom act when man comes into the world; and can we for one moment suppose that the Divine Unchangeable changes, and acts very differently when he goes out of it? Or can we believe that God would be so mindful of His creatures on this side the grave, and so forgetful of them on the other? Most assuredly we cannot. Such a belief would run counter to the clearest dictates of enlightened reason, and would be equally repugnant to the highest aspirations of our better nature. We feel certain, then, that the same divine care and provi- page 29 dence will still follow us when we quit this world below for the brighter and better world above. Well, then, we assert, and we have sound enlightened reason, the light of nature and divine revelation, to support the assertion, that the spiritual world is not a vague, shadowy, empty sort of place; but that it is a real world, everything existing there being as real, tangible, and useful to its inhabitants as the things of the material world are to us.
Such, then, is the teaching of the Gospels on this important subject, and it harmonizes with the dictates of clear rational thought. Turn, now, for a moment to the Apostolic writings, and you will there find the same doctrine taught. And the reason why it has been so long overlooked is, because men have lost sight of the fact, that while on earth they have not only a body of flesh and blood, but also a spiritual body, and that on the death of the one the other rises. The Apostle Paul teaches this very plainly. He says, as you will read in First Corinthians (xv. 40), "There are celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial;" and then he tells us, "There is a natural body, and there is"—mark the words and tense—not "there will be," but "there is," at this very moment, "a spiritual body;" and all through this remarkable chapter the Apostle strongly argues for its resurrection. He tells us (ver. 50) that "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, neither can corruption inherit incorruption." And why not? Because it is contrary to the laws of divine order for a material body to enter into and exist in a spirit world. Flesh and blood can no more be intromitted into page 30 that world than our bodies can be turned into our souls, our legs into our affections, or our arms into our thoughts. Matter cannot exist within spirit; but spirit can and does exist within matter.
Again the Apostle tells us that "it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body." It is commonly supposed that the sowing time here referred to is the time when the body is buried in the grave. That, however, is not St. Paul's idea. The seed when sown in the ground contains within it the germ of life from which another plant shoots forth; but not so the dead body. It contains no germ of life whatever. It is simply a dead and decaying mass of putrid matter. The sowing time meant by the Apostle is the period of our birth into this world. It is then that we are sown with an outward material or natural body, and within with the germ of a spiritual one, and which, like our physical part, is gradually developed as we advance in life. While in our probationary state here we are, by the affections we cherish and the life we lead, impressing on our spiritual bodies the image they will bear hereafter. For as each seed transmits to the plant that springs from it its own quality and species, so those who are here sowing righteousness and goodness are forming to themselves bodies of spiritual life and beauty, and those who are sowing the seeds of evil and wickedness the forms of spiritual death and ugliness. "They that have done good will come forth to the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil to the resurrection of damnation," and when at last the soul bursts its walls of clay, when it breaks the fetters which chained it to the page 31 earth, then man, clothed in his spiritual body, ascends into the eternal world, reflecting, as in a mirror, his own true character. "For we know," as the Apostle declares, "that if our earthly house of this tabernacle be dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
Muir and Paterson, Printers, Edinburgh.
1 "In the language of physical science, which by the nature of the case is materialistic, the actions of men, so far as they are recognisable by science, are the results of molecular changes in the matter of which they are composed."—Professor Huxley in Fortnightly Review.