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THE SUBSTANTIALITY OF THE HUMAX
✓ The human soul not a chain of exercises—The objection against its sub
stantiality drawn from the want of definite conception of its nature not valid—Frightful consequences resulting from the scheme of the exerci. sists-Destruction of personal identity_Scriptural facts-1. Appearance of Moses and Elias—2. The dying thief-3. Dives and Lazarus-4. Visions-Of Peter-Of Cornelius—5. Inspiration—6. Scriptural facts—7.. Scriptural assertions—Job, xxxiij. 18: Eccles. xii. 7: 2 Cor. v. 1: 2 Cor. v. 8: Heb. xii. 23: Mat. xxii. 22–32-Reflections—The common sense of mankind and the scriptures in accordance-What a noble and illustrious being must man originally have been.
THERE are others beside the materialist, whose views seem to militate against the doctrine for which we contend. With some it is a favorite idea, that the soul is a mere succession or chain of ideas and exercises.
The principal argument in support of this scheme is altogether fallacious. It is alleged, by its advocates, that we are, and can be, conscious only of our acts and exercises, and that, of any substance in which they are immanent, or by which they are originated, we can have neither knowledge nor conception. But, adinitting all this, it does not therefore follow, that there is not in reality some substance or base, appropriate to thought—some real existence the peculiar seat or subject of ideas and exercises. For, should we allow ourselves to pursue the assumption in the above objection or argument, viz., that nothing exists of which we have no conception, we should doubt, and disbelieve the existence of every cause, agent and substance whatever.
The advocates of this scheme, assuredly, do not mean to maintain the absurd and stale objection of the rationalists in religion, that what we cannot understand, does not exist-is not true. Their meaning must be, that they have no appropriate or sufficient evidence of the existence of any thing, beside their own ideas and exercises, inasmuch as they can form no conception of spirit abstracted from such ideas and exercises.? If so, then do we ask what evidence have they of the existence of God? Can they form any distinct conception of His Being? What evidence can they have of any of His attributes? Can they have more definite conceptions of these than of their own being?
Assuredly they do not conceive of God as a mere assemblage of ideas and exercises, but must attribute a unity to His Being. On this subject they cannot doubt. But in what does that evidence consist? By.no means in a distinct perception or conception of either His being or His attributes. Why then, if they can form no definite conceptior. of these things, and bow to the evidence of truth which demonstrates them, will they not admit the existence of a spirit, or soul, or immaterial substance in man, if equally appropriate evidence be adduced? Indeed, on this assumption, they must deny the existence of many other things which they nevertheless believe to be true. They must
1 Even the knowledge which we have of our own ideas through consciousness is not a direct purely intellectual apprehension of them. We can only speak of them as analogically known even after consciousness has reported them. “Nothing can be more absurd than for a being composed of spirit and body in strict intimate union, to imagine it can frame either merely sensitive or merely spiritual ideas of its thinking faculty or its acts: And if it Has not ideas of either sort separately, consequently it can have no direct and immediate knowledge of its own mind but by complex conceptions, formed from a consciousness of the operations themselves and ideas of sense taken together, and as necessarily mixed and blended in order to this knowledge of itself, as its own essence is in fact composed of matter and spirit.”-Div.
Fnal. p. 24.
deny the existence of matter too, for they can have no more distinct conception of its substance than of spirit. Yes, and they must deny their own material existence; for of what are we conscious? Not of flesh and blood, nor of the processes of circulation, and secretion, &c. that take place within us, but of our mental acts and our various emotions. Our ideas and feelings are the extent of our consciousness. Will the exercisist presume to rejcct all other evidence with regard to the structure of his frame than that of mere consciousness of acts, or operations? His knowledge of matter is a mere conception of its properties, but does he reject the evidence which proves that there must be some substance in which these properties reside? Yet should he, to act consistently, and thus, by pursuing the miserably fallacious principle on which his scheme is based, he will be found to deny the existence alike of matter and spirit, of God and His universe. Creation becomes a mere assemblage of qualities devoid of reality, and moral agents—the immortal spirits of men a mere concatenation of events!
We can scarcely bring our minds to dwell upon this scheme long enough to give it a dispassionate examination. It is at war with the common sense of mankind. They turn away disgusted with such reasonings; and well they may, for the scriptures call them all a vain philosophy. Every man as it were instinctively reasons, from the actions that he perceives, to the existence of some agent, or cause, or being producing them. Thus his mind becomes convinced of the existence of a God, and thus too he becomes convinced that he himself is something distinct and different from his acts. God has so constituted us. This is the law of our minds, and if we are led, invariably, in, fallibly, universally to the belief, or conclusion, that the thinking I myself is something different and distinct from thoughts and acts, is not God chargeable with the error, and His whole creation, so far as the operation of mind is concerned, a mere machinery for the production of falsehood! Yea, God Himself and all His works are a mere delusion.
Other consequences equally as absurd and monstrous flow from the same scheme. If there is no thinking substance in man-no spiritual conscious being in union with his animal frame, then what are ideas and exercises? They must be, either a new production or the operation of something already existent. If the former, will the advocates of this scheme say whether they are spirit or matter? They surely will not say the former, for that is to give up the point in dispute at once. It certainly would be better for them to admit the existence of a spiritual agent, capable of those acts which we denominate ideas and exercises, than to maintain a continued creating process of spiritual existences, which too, must, as continually, be subjected to an annihilating process or be combined for preservation! If the latter, we had better, at once, admit any of the theories we have already noticed, and maintain thought to be motion, or a secretion, or any thing else, since it must be material, According to the theory which we combat, we must either deny the real existence of man as a moral agent, and convert him into a mere piece of material mechanism, or we must maintain, that ideas and exercises are produced continually by the direct agency of God, and that given series of these creative acts of God constitutes the individual man, The former we have already disproved. The latter may require a moment's attention.
Who does not see that the consequences which flow from such a position affect alike the character of God and of His government, and the very identity of man. We say the character of God, for it makes Him the author of sin, since all the sintul thoughts, purposes and affections of man are but the effects of the divine power strung together in a given series—not the acts or production of a created voluntary agent. And if so, where is the use of maintaining the distinction between innocence and guilt, between virtue and vice, or how can we attribute to man the least accountability? The influence of motives and the sense of responsibility will be alike destroyed, and the whole government of God will be converted into a mere theatrical or other display. We know not well to what it might be compared, except to some of the splendid exhibitions of the pyrotechnical art, where there are quick and marvellous successions or series of different coloured flames, and scintellations, all the production of the great master of the ceremonies. And as to man himself, he is even reduced below the level of the dancing puppet, which, though all its motions are mechanical, nevertheless retains its identity, since upon this scheme man's identity is destroyed. For if to him is denied a thinking spiritual substance, conscious of its own acts, into what can identity be resolved? Ideas and exercises are mere occurrences or events produced by some cause sustaining a momentary being, and then perishing forever. The difference in point of time would destroy the identity of ideas, though there should be in every other respect entire resemblance. They could no more be called the same, than we can denominate the strokes of the bell which announce the hour of six this morning the very same with those of yesterday. And what is true in one case is true in all others.
There never can be sameness in man, on this scheme, but he is perpetually varying-ever and anon a new being, as he passes from one point of time to another. His iden tity is destroyed, and no proof of it whatever can be cited. For to infer it merely from his consciousness, is to infer what does not exist by the very terms of the supposition. And what is consciousness itself? It too is but an act. But of what? Of ideas? Or ideas of it? Are ideas conscious each of itself, and one of another? Surely the act or event.