Page images

and feeling. Here, on the one hand, and on the other, is the ultimate boundary of our information—a boundary more impenetrable than the mountains of ice that surround the poles of the earth, and bid defiance to the mariner's approach. With regard to the peculiarity which distinguishes the intimate structure of these two substances—matter and mind—we are, and must always be, so long as we continue in the present state, entirely ignorant. It will be perceived, therefore, that the knowledge which we have acquired in respect to the existence and properties of matter, is not more certain and complete, than that which we have acquired in respect to the existence and properties of mind. We know full as much of the latter, as we do of the former-and, perhaps, more. And yet strange to say-the theories of the materialists have always proceeded on the erroneous supposition, that we are better acquainted with inatter, than with mind. Who, then, can wonder, that such speculators, having entered on their researches with views so radically unphilosophical, should have arrived at a false result?

Now, the qualities of matter, and those of mind, are utterly and entirely different. We might even say, that they are opposite. What resemblance have solidity and extension to thought and feeling? Where is the analogy between divisibility and volition? There is surely no resemblance-there is no analogy. We are, therefore, under the necessity of concedios, that matter is one thing, and mind another thing. It is an abuse of language, as well as a violation of the principles of true science, to apply the same name to two substances, whose properties—by which only we know either of them

are so strikingly dissimilar. We wish, that the materialist would inquire how broad is a remembrance; and into how many parts he supposes, that the emotion of joy, operated on by proper instruments, might be divided. It would likewise be worthy of his investigation, to determine which is the larger, and in what precise ratio, a hope or a fear. There are, besides, many curious questions which he might resolve, concerning the bulk, weight, and other physical properties of an imagination. Let no one conceive, that these remarks are irrelevant. They bear most directly on the real merits of the point at issue; for, as has been well observed, “in saying of mind, that it is matter, we must mean, if we mean any thing, that the principle which thinks, is extended, hard and divisible.” Such, in a single word, is the true purport of the materialist's doctrine.

But we shall not pursue an argument which we feel is not very well adapted to the pulpit. Enough has been said, it is presumed, to convince you, that Solomon expressed himself with the accuracy of a just philosopher, when he called the soul of man a spirit. He regarded it as something entirely distinct from the dust of which the body is composed, and on this ground rested, in part, his belief of its continued existence after the dissolution of the latter. And here, brethren, let us tell you, that the immateriality of the human mind affords one of the strongest evidences of its immortality. We are entitled to believe, that the same causes which produce decay in substances endued with extension and divisi. bility, can have no such effect on those endued with thought and volition. The dissolution of matter is occasioned by the separation of its component parts. But spirit, which is not made up of parts, would seem to be naturally indestructible. We know it has been said, that material and immaterial substances are alike dependent, for the continuance of their being, on the will of the Creator, and that he can render the one immortal, quite as readily as the other. While we admit, that there is truth in this suggestion, we cannot retract what we have asserted, that the spirituality of the soul is the best evidence which reason furnishes, that it is destined to survive the ravages of death. To the nature of the mind, as something essentially distinct from the body, we appeal, for the clearest and most satisfactory proof, independently of revelation, that it shall never perish. Nor do we at all believe, that the doctrine of the soul's immortality has been, in the least, injured, as materialists have often alleged, by those who have argued for it chiefly from the immateriality of the thinking principle.

We bave said, that the spirituality of the human mind was regarded by Solomon as an evidence of its immortality. And yet the inference has been hastily drawn from some detached passages of his works, that he was not himself a believer in the future existence of the soul. Thus, in one place, he exclaims, “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 them. selves are beasts. For that which befalleth the sons of men, befalleth the beasts; even one thing befalleth them : as the one dieth, so dieth the other, yea, they have all one breath : so that a man hath no pre-eminence above a beast; for all is vanity. All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.” Now, we shall not deny, that this passage, taken by itself, might induce a reader to suspect, that the writer did not believe in the future existence of man. But we contend, that, when fairly construed agreeably to the general tenour of the production in which it is found, its import must be seen,

even on a casual glance, to be very different. Solomon's object, in these words, is merely to illustrate the vanity of human life, by showing how similar, in many respects, is its termination to the death of the irrational animals. He refers, throughout the comparison, only to the body, and not to the soul, as appears sufficiently from the sentence immediately succeeding the verses just quoted, where he says, “Who knoweth the spirit of a man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward?" There is no ambiguity here. A distinction is drawn in the clearest and most decided terms, between the ulterior destination of man, and that of other living creatures. But further remark would be superfluous. The verse of which our present text is a part, must certainly satisfy every candid reader, that the immortality of the soul was an article of Solomon's creed. Does he not say, in this verse, that while the dust shall return to the earth as it was, the spirit is destined to ascend to Him who gave it? What language, we should like to know, can be more explicit than this ? Indeed, it would almost seem as if the wise man, in anticipation of the unjust inference which some might endeavour to draw from previous passages of his writings, had resolved to deliver himself, in such a manner, in the conclusion of his last work, as might obviate all misconception in respect to his real sentiments.

The immateriality of the mind has been alleged as one main argument in support of the position, that the spirit returns, on the dissolution of the body, to God who gave it; or, in other words, that the thinking principle continues in being after death. A second argument nearly allied to this, in behalf of the same momentous truth, might be drawn from the transcendent faculties with wbich the Creator has replenished the human understanding. When we contemplate these faculties-Reason, Judgment, Memory, Imagination; or, rather, when we survey the various operations of which the one indivisible principle of mind is capable,—we come almost irresistibly to the conclusion, that a substance so richly endowed must be immortal. When we open the records of science, and examine the actual achievements of intellect, we recoil from the thought, that it is fated to perish by the same ignoble stroke that prostrates the body. Besides, we behold in the soul an illimitable capacity for the ingress of ideas; a desire for the reception of knowledge, which is never saturated ; a susceptibility of improvement which time, instead of exhausting, serves only to increase. Life is much too short to enable the mind of man to attain to that high proficiency, to which it ardently aspires, and for which it would seem to be ultimately destined. Must we, then, suppose that the human being is cut down in the very infancy of his career? That his meutal faculties, so replete with promise, are all suddenly arrested and annihilated in the very inception of their development? Is there not something in our present circumstances and condition, which proclaims intelligibly and emphatically, that a future and a nobler theatre for exertion and improvement, is in reserve for us beyond the grave? In short, it has been forcibly remarked, that to presume, that man has been gifted with such powers as we have mentioned, and rendered capable of indefinite progression in knowledge, and all in reference to no higher sphere of action than “ this dim spot called earth” -is as preposterous as it were to imagine, that an individual should be clothed in scarlet, and decorated with diamonds, for the business of the plough, or instructed in


« PreviousContinue »