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and wheresoever there is rendered unto him the worship of humble and faithful hearts. "God is a Spirit."
Now this is the great truth unto which human reason seems never to have attained. It is a matter of the plainest and the most distinct revelation; and, moreover, it is a matter of the utmost importance to right worship. All idolatrics wheresoever they have appeared, amongst whatever people, and at whatever times, have been the consequences of low, and gross, and material notions of Deity; and, therefore, it is, that God in his own blessed word hath so continually guarded his people against any forms of image worship. You remember that warning, for instance, in the book of Deuteronomy: "Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves; for ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the Lord spake unto you in Horeb, out of the midst of the fire." Hence the injunction of the second commandment, which was not only directed to warn the people against the worship of false gods, but against the worship of the true God under an outward and visible emblem. "God is a Spirit," and he requires that the worship which is rendered to him should be akin and congenial to his own nature.
Now this is a subject which we feel to be of perpetual importance. In the handling of it we would take up these two points of consideration first, the signs and evils of an unspiritual condition; and, secondly, the remedy of such a condition.
As to the first head, then, of our present discourse: we have to speak to you concerning THE SIGNS AND THE EVILS OF AN UNSPIRITUAL CONDITION. Man, in the completeness of his original formation, consisteth of two separate, yet united, portions-the spiritual and the material. Now as long as he remained in the presence and in the favour of God, as long as he stood fast in his loyalty and obedience, there was preserved the rightness of his constitution: so that the spiritual did continually exercise and maintain lordship and sovereignty over the material part, and the body waited upon the soul, and was its handmaid, and did its bidding, and went upon its errands, and executed all its commands. Then the constitution of man was, according to the original decision of God; and then there was a harmony and a fitness in all that he did, and in all the tendencies and issues of his being. But the fall produced a most dismal change in these respects, so that the loftier and the better part was brought into subjection and subserviency to the lower and the baser: and if we wanted to express in a very few
words the evil which the original transgression hath wrought upon man's nature, we would say it consisted in this-that it elevated the lower part, and advanced it unto the place of headship; and it brought down that which was heavenly, and ethereal, and immortal, and bound it down to drudge for the low and the carnal portion: so that henceforth there was not presented to the view of the admiring universe, the spectacle of a creature guided in all his decisions, and directed and kept in all his doings, by that which was akin to Deity itself; but the mournful and the lamentable spectacle of all that was great, and noble, and God-like, bound and bent to the earth, and made to labour for very vanity.
Yet though the fall had introduced such sad corruption into man's nature, and such fearful disorder into his complex constitution, yet there remaineth all the nobleness, and all the superiority of his better part; it hath yet its noble endowments; it hath yet such faculties as may well cause the marvel of all intelligent creatures as they think upon them. Faculties doth the soul yet possess whereby it can rise to the contemplation of God himself, and can feed, and feast, and delight itself in all the attributes of the Deity. And it hath an endurance, too, so that when all these fair forms of material subsistence have mouldered and decayed, and gone down to the sepulchre of all things, when worlds, and statesmen, and all the nobles of this external creation have perished, when the heavens and the earth have been folded up like a worn-out garment, the soul of every man shall still subsist; and far beyond the wreck of the material, it shall have its undecayed, and unchangeable, and incorruptible being. And the soul of man, bound in, and fettered, and burdened as it is, hath a kindred and a brotherhood with every spirit; so that in the greatness of its relationship, it can rise above the things that we see, and touch, and lay hold upon, and are conversant with the soul can rise above them all, and can claim kindred, and brotherhood, and relationship with the loftiest archangel before the throne of God.
And think ye, too, of the destiny of the spirit of this immortal, incorruptible being, which God hath formed for himself for ever. When all present things are departed, when the place of our present habitation hath sunk into nothing, then all the mighty multitude that have ever peopled this world will live on, either in happiness with God and his saints, or outcasts and in torments for ever and for ever. And then, think you, what inconceivable importance do these considerations stamp upon the soul of man. It must subsist for ever;
it must be in happiness unchangeable, or in misery unspeakable. And yet we do verily believe, that the main evil of the present time, the giant danger wherewith we are all afflicted is, the unspirituality of the condition in which men are living; the forgetfulness of that immortal and incorruptible tenant which is imprisoned now in the tabernacle of the flesh, and whom our desires and our baser appetites are so conspiring together to chain and to keep down and withdraw from its supremacy.
Now this is plain enough in respect of the way of life and the condition of some classes: we can understand it perfectly well in respect of the poor people. When we see them go into those places of base and brutal drunkenness, and see them come forth, having put away the form and aspect of manhood, and having taken to themselves the likeness, the odious and the disgusting likeness, of the beasts that perish; we can see well enough that there is nothing of spirituality of such a condition. But we are little enough inclined to press hardly upon the state and condition of the poor, and to spare the rich for we think there is just as much of this low and debasing aspect to be found in well-furnished dining-rooms, and well-appointed tables, where men and women do, with infinite thoughtlessness, congregate themselves, and so convert their houses into one great human sty. For whether it wear a coarser, or whether it wear a more refined aspect, just so long as the mortal part hath the dominancy, just so long as the one object is to gratify the sensual part, we are departing from the loftiness for which we were made, and we are descending to something inconceivably below our destiny.
But to pass away from the sensuality of the great or the little vulgar (for they are by a very small limit indeed distinguished from each other) we will charge this unspirituality upon a larger class that promises fairer and better; men who are cultivating intelligence; men who will not suffer the fields of the mind to lie fallow, but send into it the plough of a most severe and pains-taking discipline: yet the soul may be starved all the while, and there may be an utter famine in the house of the heart. And it seemeth as if this were the special danger-and one unto which the young, and the ardent, and the aspiring, and the intellectual, are particularly exposedthat they should consecrate themselves, with whatever stores they have gained and laid up from other men's minds, or whatever they have achieved in the working out of their own minds, that they should consecrate it all to the present. And this seems to be the special danger of the period on which our lot is cast; and herein
seemeth mainly to consist the peril of an unspiritual state. Almost all the efforts, for instance, of men's minds at the present moment, are absorbed in physical science, or that which tends to the enlargement of present comfort, to the aggrandizement of present interests, to the adorning and decorating of life, and bringing its commodities down as low as we can within the different classes. Now we would not say one word against all this; yet we would contend, that, worthy as it may be, deserving of praise, and deserving of imitation and devotion of mind, yet still being of the intellect it is a lower part. Men are not very fond now to expatiate in regions of pure abstraction, and to deal with mental topics, which are away from all these present joys, which are separated from all these earthly interests. Poetry, that which hath to do with the imagination, and with the better and brighter form of things-how hath it become debased, and how is it of the earth, earthy! It seemeth to us as if the harp of David were silent long, and were hung upon the willows by the water-side, and as if poetry had come down from its regions of imagination just to open up to us a little more of the carnal and the worldly. And all this time there is a most lamentable departure from that which was our original destination.
But that which seems the most fatal symptom is this-that men who are living, in one way or another, for the present, having no thought beyond the circle of this world, will assume high ground, and will represent that theirs is the only fit business in which man's intelligence is to be engaged: and so with all smiling self-complacency, they turn human life into one great balance-sheet of profit and loss; and every question is to be carried into the court of human expediency, and argued out upon the score of present gainfulness; and thus the free spirit is bound down to the earth, and its soaring wing is stinted and fastened to earth; and man, formed for higher and better things, doth settle himself down in the present, and try to content himself in the little sphere of his present hopes and enjoyments. But it will not do: men may try to deceive themselves after they have deceived the world; and they may even carry it with a high hand, and they may tell you that all beyond these things which we have described are but a vain delusion, and that all which we tell them of religion and the Gospel and the concerns of the soul are just a matter of priestcraft, and fit for womanhood and the nursery. But yet they cannot always impose upon themselves; for there come the days of alarm; the day when the pestilence is abroad, and knocks at one door and another door; the day when their
strength faileth them; the day when, in the process of declining nature, death, and the grave, and eternity, come into view; and then they can play the cheat upon themselves no longer. Yes, and there are other times, too, we do verily believe, in the life of the basest of men, even of the most engrossed in this world's cares, when memory will carry him back to the days of his boyhood; and he remembereth the quiet times of family worship, and the seasons when the whiteheaded patriarch took his children along with him to the house of the Lord; and then, albeit the simple-minded village-boy hath been changed into a busy, careful, worldly man, he remembers that there was in former times something far better than all this, something so fair, and so holy, and so engaging to his better part, that he loveth to get away from all the din, and stir, and confusion of the Babel in which he liveth, and bethink him of his better part. And well for him if God doth so cause him to think of higher matters-truth, holiness, and the love of God-as that he shall be detached, ere it be too late, from the carnal and the earthly condition of life into which he hath fallen.
Now before we dispatch this part of the subject, we say one word concerning the unspiritualness which hath crept into the church. We use the term in no restrictive sense; we mean that which hath come upon the great body of the Lord's professing people. These are times, perhaps, when the science of theology is better understood than it ever hath been: these are times when there are put forth the most able defences, and the most correct systems of Christianity: and yet we are not-no, with all our flattery we cannot persuade ourselves, that we are the most spiritually-minded generation. For religion hath gone out of her secret closets, and out of her chambers of prayer, and hath flaunted it in the world, and hath been found in your religious meetings, in the crowd, and in the stir, and in the excitement of huge assemblies; but she hath suffered, we deliberately believe, she hath suffered enormous evil thereby: and there hath been an end of the quiet profitable Bible-reading; there hath been an end of the holy, heaven-ward prayers; there hath been an end of that calm, and quiet, and peaceful communing with ourselves and with God; and the devil, in all his subtilty, has gained his ends, and, by an exceeding craftiness, he hath made us to flow on in the stir and the bustle of a busy religion, until the heart and soul of spirituality hath been well-nigh plucked out of our own hearts.
Let me just remind you, as I have again and again tried faithfully