Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors][merged small]

Man is a complex being, τριμερης υποστασις, a tripartite person, or, a compound creature, made up of three distinct parts, vix, the body, which is the earthy or mortal part of him ; the soul, which is the animal or sensitive part; and the spirit, or mind, which is the rational and immortal part. Each of these three parts have their respective offices assigned them; and a man then acts becoming himself, when he keeps them duly employed in their proper functions, and preserves their natural subordination. But it is not enough to know this merely as a point of speculation; we must pursue and revolve the thought, and urge the consideration to all the purposes of a practical self-knowledge.

We are not all body, nor mere animal creatures. We find we have a more noble nature than the inanimate or brutal part of the creation. We can not only move and act freely, but we observe in ourselves a capacity of reflection, study, and forecast, and various mental operations, which irrational minds discover no symptoms of. Our souls, therefore, must be of a more excellent nature than theirs; and, from the power of thought with which they are endowed, they are proved to be immaterial substances, and consequently, in their own nature, capable of immortality. And that they are actually immortal, or will never die, the sacred Scriptures do abundantly testify. Let us, then, hereupon seriously recollect ourselves in the following soliloquy:

O my soul, look back but a few years, and thou wast nothing! And how didst thou spring out of that nothing ? Thou couldst not make thyself; that is quite impossible. Most certain it is, that that almighty, self-existent, and eternal Power which made the world, made thee also out of nothing,

called thee into being, when thou wast not; gave thee those reasoning and reflecting faculties, which thou art now employing in searching out the end and happiness of thy. nature. It was he, O my soul, that made thee intelligent and immortal. It was he that placed thee in this body, as in a prison; where thy capacities are cramped, thy desires debased, and thy liberty lost. It was he that sent thee into this world, which, by all circumstances, appears to be a state of short discipline and trial. And wherefore did he place thee here, when he might have made thee a more free, unconfined, and happy spirit? But check that thought; it looks like a too presumptuous curiosity. A more needful and important inquiry is, What did he place thee here for ? And what doth he expect from thee whilst thou art here? What part hath he allotted me to act on the stage of human life, where he, angels, and men, are spectators of my behaviour? The part he hath given me to act here is, doubtless, a very important one, because it is for eternity. And what is it, but to live up to the dignity of my rational and intellectual nature, and as becomes a creature born for immortality ?

“And tell me, O my soul (for as I am now about to cultivate a better acquaintance with thee, to whom I have been too long a stranger, I must try thee, and put many a close question to thee), tell me, I say, whilst thou confinest thy desires to sensual gratifications, wherein dost thou differ from the beasts that perish? Captivated by bodily appe. tites, dost thou not act beneath thyself ? Dost thou not put thyself upon a level with the lower class of beings, which were made to serve thee; offer an indignity to thyself, and despise the works of thy Maker's hands? O remember thy heavenly ex

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

tract; remember thou art a spirit! Check, then, the solicitations of the flesh; and dare to do nothing that may diminish thy native excellence, dishonour thy high original, or degrade thy noble nature, But let me still urge it. Consider (I say),

my soul, that thou art an immortal spirit. Thy body dies; but thou, thou must live for ever, and thine eternity must take its tincture from the manner of thy behaviour, and the habits thou contractest, during this thy short copartnership with flesh and blood. O! do nothing 'now, but what thou mayest, with pleasure, look back upon a million of

ages hence! For know, O my soul, that thy selfconsciousness and reflecting faculties will not leave thee with thy body; but will follow thee after death, and be the instrument of unspeakable pleasure or torment to thee in that separate state of existence.'

2. In order to a full acquaintance with ourselves, we must endeavour to know not only what

but what we shall be. And O! what different creatures shall we soon be, from what we now are! Let us look forward then, and frequently glance our thoughts towards death; though they cannot penetrate the darkness of that passage, or reach the state behind it. That lies veiled from the eyes of our mind; and the great God hath not thought fit to throw so much light upon it, as to satisfy the anxious and inquisitive desires the soul hath to know it. However, let us make the best use we can of that little light which Scripture and reason have let in upon this dark and important subject.

Compose thy thoughts, O my soul, and imagine how it will fare with thee, when thou goest a naked, unembodied spirit, into a world, an unknown world

we are,

[ocr errors]

of spirits, with all thy self-consciousness about thee, where no material object shall strike thine

eye,

and where thy dear partner and companion, the body, cannot come nigh thee; but where, without it, thou wilt be sensible of the most noble satisfactions, or the most exquisite pains. Embarked in death, thy passage will be dark; and the shore on which it will land thee, altogether strange and unknown. It doth not yet appear what we shall be.'

That revelation which God hath been pleased to make of his will to mankind, was designed rather to fit us for the future happiness, and direct our way to it, than open to us the particular glories of it, or distinctly shew us what it is. This it hath left still very much a mystery, to check our too curious inquiries into the nature of it, and to bend our thoughts more intently to that which more concerns us, viz. an habitual preparation for it. And what that is we cannot be ignorant, if we believe either our Bible or our reason : for both these assure us,

that that which makes us like to God, is the only thing that can fit us for the enjoyment of him. Here, then, let us hold. Let our great concern be, to be holy, as he is holy.' And then, and then only, are we sure to enjoy him, 'in whose light we shall see light.' And, be the future state of existence what it will, we shall some way be happy there, and much more happy than we can now conceive ; though in what particular manner we know not, because God hath not revealed it.

CHAP. III. The several relations in which we stand to God, to

Christ, and our fellow-creatures. II. · SELF-KNOWLEDGE requires us to be well acquainted with the various relations in which we stand to other beings, and the several duties that result from those relations. And,

1. “Our first and principal coneern is to consider the relation we stand in to him who gave us our being.'

We are the creatures of his hand, and the objects of his care.

His power upholds the being his goodness gave us; his bounty accommodates us with the blessings of this life; and his grace provides for us the happiness of a better. Nor are we merely his creatures, but his rational and intelligent creatures. It is the dignity of our natures, that we are capable of knowing and enjoying him that made us. And, as the rational creatures of God, there are two relations especially that we stand in to him; the frequent consideration of which is absolutely necessary to a right self-knowledge: for, as our Creator, he is our king and father; and, as his creatures, we are the subjects of his kingdom, and the children of his family.

1. We are the subjects of his kingdom.' And as such, we are bound,

(1.) To yield a faithful obedience to the laws of his kingdom. And the advantages by which these come to be recommended to us above all human laws are many. They are calculated for the private interest of every one, as well as that of the public; and are designed to promote our present, as well as our future happiness. They are plainly

« AnteriorContinuar »