<< GOD AND MAN. >>
"So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God created he him."
— Genesis i. 27.
THERE are two vital questions which lie at the foundation of every religion and give quality to it. These questions are, first, Who is God, and how shall we think of Him ? Second, What is man, and how are God and man related to each other ? Neither of these questions can be understood without some knowledge of the other. They are reciprocally and intimately related. It is impossible to gain a true idea of God without some true knowledge of man, and it is impossible to gain an adequate conception of man's nature without some correct knowledge of God. Man was created in the image of God. We must, therefore, look to man to get our first hints of the form and nature of God. I propose to state, as far as I can in limited space, what the New Church teaches upon this subject.
The doctrines of the New Church are Unitarian in the assertion that there is one and only one Supreme Being. They are Trinitarian in teaching the Divinity of Jesus Christ. They differ essentially from both in showing that the whole Trinity is embodied in the one person of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and that these three essentials of His nature constitute His Divine personality. This is in accordance with all that He says about Himself in the whole of Scripture when rightly understood. The apostle declares it in the plainest manner when he says, " In him," that is in Jesus Christ, "dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily." The Lord Jesus Christ affirms it when He says, " The Father dwelleth in me." "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father. " " The Father is in me, and I in him." By this He means that there is a reciprocal and organic union between them, like that which exists between man's soul or mind and his body. The Father is the Divine nature as it is in its uncreated and infinite essence ; the Son is the human nature, glorified and made Divine, both united in one person, one being, and making one God, as man's spiritual nature and his physical are united in one human being and make one man. The Father, called in the Old Testament Jehovah and God, is within the Son, as man's mind is in his body. The Divine and the human natures are distinct and yet so closely knit together that they form one person, one being. This union is not one of sentiment, or agreement in character or purpose, like that which may exist between two men who desire to accomplish the same purpose and agree in the means of doing it. It is an organic union ; it is of the same nature as that which exists between the mind and the body, between will and act. Such being the intimate, organic, perfect union between the Father and the Son, we do not divide them in thought or affection. When we think of the Son we think of the Father, as we think of the whole man when we think of his body. We think of Him in the human form, and we have a distinct object of thought. When we love the Son we love the Father, and we have a distinct object in our minds for our affections to rest upon. They are not divided between two. They are centred in one. Only one person can be supremely loved.
Having gained a distinct conception of the personal unity of God, we can see that the Divine attributes cannot be divided between two persons. They must all be combined in one person, in the one person of our Lord Jesus Christ. Mercy and truth meet together in Him. Righteousness and peace kiss each other in Him. Mercy and justice join hearts and hands in His Divine person. This new doctrine solves the problem of the unity of person and the trinity in the Divine Being. It harmonizes all the Divine attributes, and presents to us one Divine Being in the human form, animated with human love and doing all things for human good. We may no longer pray to one Divine person to grant us favors for the sake of another, for there is only one Divine person. We no longer fear the wrath of an angry God, for there is no angry God. Jesus Christ is Immanuel, God manifest in the flesh, and He is not angry. His infinite heart is full of love for men. We only fear to sin against such infinite wisdom and unchanging love. Every one must be able to see that such a clear, distinct, harmonious, rational knowledge of God and His Divine attributes must clear the mind of its doubts and conflicting opinions, must quiet its groundless fears, and tend to bring it into harmonious, orderly, and more intimate relations with Him whom to know aright is life everlasting. The New Church gives us new, rational, and satisfactory knowledge concerning man as a spiritual being and his relations to the Lord, who is his Creator, Redeemer, Saviour, and the constant source of all his power and life.
The human spirit has generally been regarded in the Christian world as a force, as an unorganized, unsubstantial, formless essence, as a breath, an influence, bearing somewhat the same relation to the man himself that steam bears to the engine. All conceptions of it have been vague and unsatisfactory. There has been but little advance beyond the mere affirmation of its existence. Consequently all ideas about its nature and modes of operation have been vague, indistinct, and unreal.
The New Church regards the spirit in an entirely new way. According to its doctrines the spirit is the man himself in the human form, and the seat of all his power and life. It is organized of spiritual substances, as the material body is organized of material substances, and possesses all the organs, external and internal, in general and particular, that compose the material body. It has a head, trunk, and limbs. It has eyes and ears, brain and face and vocal organs, heart and lungs, arteries and veins and nerves. The spiritual organs perform relatively the same functions that the material organs perform. Spiritual lungs breathe a spiritual atmosphere ; the heart propels a spiritual blood through arteries and veins ; the nerves give sensation and power ; the hands can grasp spiritual objects, and the feet can walk upon a spiritual earth ; the eye opens to the light which flows from the spiritual sun, and the ear vibrates in harmony with the modulations of the spiritual atmosphere.
As a whole and in each least part the spirit is in the human form. The common idea has been that the body was first formed and then the spirit was breathed into it, as men make an engine and then set it in motion by steam. The new doctrine teaches that the spirit itself moulds the body into its own form, weaves its fine and delicate textures in its own loom, and clothes itself in every least part with it, making it a medium of communication with the material world, the house in which it dwells, a complicated and miraculous instrument adjusted with infinite precision to all the forms and forces of matter, for the purpose of gaining natural ideas and delights to serve as materials for the development of the affections and the intellectual faculties.
But this is merely a temporary service. The material body renders the same service to the spirit that the husk does to the corn, the chaff to the wheat. The spirit is immortal. It was made, and by its very nature ordained, to dwell in a spiritual world corresponding to its own nature. But it must have a basis to rest upon. It must have vessels to hold its fine and fluent substances while they are being prepared for distinct and permanent existence. According to this idea the spirit is the real, substantial man and the seat of all human power. It is the spiritual eye that sees. The material eye only serves as an optical instrument to bring it into such relations to material light that images of material things can be formed on its delicate canvas. The material ear cannot hear. It is the spiritual ear within that becomes moved by its vibrations and perceives harmonious or discordant sounds. The same is true of all the senses. They are simply the material instruments which the spiritual senses use to gain entrance into the material world and accommodate themselves to its substances and forces.
Men have so long been accustomed to regard the spirit as a formless essence, a merely abstract entity, that it is difficult to disabuse their minds of the error and convince them that the spirit is organic and substantial. It is generally supposed that the way to gain any true conception of spirit is to deny it all the qualities of matter. It seems to be taken for granted that only matter possesses substance and form, and that when we attribute these properties to spirit we materialize it. But this is not so.
There are some attributes that are essential to existence. It is impossible to conceive of the existence of any object that is destitute of substance and form. The essential idea of existence is that of standing forth in substance and form. Every one will acknowledge that God is the most real and substantial being in the universe. He must be substance and form in their origin and essential qualities. There can be no power without some substance that embodies it. It inheres in the nature of things and in the nature of human conceptions, that if there is a Divine Being, there must be Divine substances ; if there are spiritual beings and a spiritual world, there must be spiritual substances and spiritual forms. To deny their existence is denial of God and of everything that is not material.
But we have ocular demonstration that spirit is substance and form and possesses power. This is a kind of testimony that men have often demanded. "Show me a spirit," they say ; "let me feel it. Let me see spirit exert itself and produce some sensible effect." The truth is, all that is done by the body is done by the spirit's power. There is no power in the material substances that compose the. material body to organize themselves into the human form and acquire the faculty of seeing, or hearing, or feeling. Do oxygen and hydrogen and carbon and the insensate, inorganic mould possess any such power in themselves ? The material body is continually wasting away, and if it were not supplied with new substances, it would soon become dissipated. What power and miraculous skill weaves the new substances into the old forms without any mistake, and preserves the body from annihilation ? Can the food we eat do it of itself?
But this is not all. When the spirit leaves the body, all power and consciousness cease. The eye may be as perfect in its organization as ever, but it cannot see. The ear and the other senses have lost all power of consciousness. Have lost it, do I say ? No, they have not lost it, for they never possessed it. The material eye never saw ; the material ear never heard ; the material hand never felt ; the material heart never beat, of themselves. If you were in a factory where all the wheels were humming with motion, would you not know that some power not in themselves was driving them ? And if they stopped, would you not know that the power had been withdrawn from them? Have we not just as certain evidence that the organs of the material body have no inherent, selfderived power in themselves to act ; that they must be moved by some spiritual force ; and when that force is withdrawn they must return to dust ? It seems strange that rational men will ask for evidence of the existence of spiritual substances and forces when they perceive them in constant operation within and around them.
We have the evidence of our own consciousness also of the substantial and permanent nature of the spirit. It is now a generally-accepted fact that thought and affection are indestructible. No one can divest himself of ideas or truths he has once gained. They may be forgotten, as we say, but they remain in the mind and can be recalled. If the mind or spirit were a mist or a formless essence, it could be dispersed like a vapor, and all the ideas and affections that were embodied in it would be dissipated. But they are not, and never can be. Amputate a limb and it ceases to be a part of the human body. But a thought or an affection cannot be amputated. Destroy the body and the spirit is not injured. The material body is evanescent ; it is constantly passing away like a flowing stream ; but the spirit remains untouched, substantial, immortal.
If the relation of the spirit to the body is such as I have represented it to be, the spirit must be the man himself. It must be in the human form, because the material body is cast into its mould. All the organs are woven into a garment to clothe the organs of the spirit. The spirit must therefore be composed of a series of organic forms or organs, which, combined into one, become the human form. What, then, is the spirit? It is a human being in a human form as a whole and in its least particulars. It is substantial, and the substances of which it is composed are untouched by the dissolution of the material body ; the human spirit endures forever. Having gained a clear and true idea of what the human spirit is, and of the distinction between the spiritual body and the material body, we have gained the point of view from which we can see the trinity and unity in man which are essential to personal beings, and from this we may see more clearly the nature of the Divine trinity in the one person of our Lord Jesus Christ.
We have good grounds for looking to man to find the trinity in God, because man was created in the image of God and after His likeness. If man was made in the image of God, we must find in him a likeness of God. God must be in the human form. The Divine nature must be composed of attributes corresponding to those which compose man. The Divine faculties must sustain the same relations to one another which human faculties sustain. If there is a trinity in God, there must be a trinity in man. If there is a trinity in man, there must be a trinity in God. If the trinity in man makes one person, one human being, the trinity in God must make one Divine Person, one Divine Being. If this trinity in God makes three persons, each composed of the same substance and possessing the same attributes, the trinity in man must make three persons, each composed of the same substance and possessing the same qualities. An image must have the same form as the original, and so far as it is an image it must be like it.
What are the three essential factors of a human being ? Are they not the soul or spirit, the body, and the power of the man reaching forth to affect objects and beings outside himself? These three are perfectly distinct. The spirit is not the body, and the body is not the spirit, and the influence or operation of the man is not the spirit or the body. But the three make one person, one man. If either were absent the other two would not be a man. We may regard the subject in another way. Man is essentially composed of love, intelligence, and the union of these factors in thought or deed. The love or will is not the intellect, and neither of them is thought or act. Love does not make a man ; action does not make aman. A human being is the product of the three. But the three do not make three persons. There is the same trinity of Divine love, Divine wisdom, and Divine operation in God.
To return to man, the image of God. The spirit or soul is the father of the body. It begat it and formed it and continually creates it. If the material body had consciousness and power of its own, it could truly say, I came out from the spirit. I can do nothing of myself. The spirit does the works. It could say everything that the Saviour says concerning His relations to the Father ; and yet the spirit and the body make one man, as the Father and Son make one God.
Look at, the subject in another way. The soul is in the body. Jesus Christ says, "The Father is in me." " No man cometh unto the Father but by me." There is no way in which we can get access to a man's mind or spirit but by his body. If the body could speak, it could say in truth. No one can come to the spirit but by me. I am the way, and the only way.
Here is a larger and more important truth than may at first appear. By coming to the Father something more is meant than coming to Him in space, as one man approaches another. It means that we cannot come to Him in thought,—that is, we cannot think of Him truly in any other way than as He is manifested in Jesus Christ. How is He brought forth to view in Him ? In the human form, as a Divine Man. The agnostics are right when they say that God as an infinite and formless spirit, "without body, parts, or passions," is unthinkable. There is no image, no idea in the mind, no distinct subject for the thought to rest on. We can only think of things and beings that have substance and form. There are no beings or things destitute of these essentials of existence. If I should ask you to think of a tree or an animal or a man that had no substance and no form, you would say it was absurd, because you know it to be impossible. For the same reason we can only come to Jehovah, the Father, in thought as He appears in Jesus Christ ; and He appears in Him as a man, in the human form. "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." For the same reason we can come to Him in our affections in no other way than by Jesus Christ. No one can love a being of whom he can gain no conception. We cannot love a formless essence, an abstract virtue or power. Think of the absurdity of loving an abstract child, a woman or a man without substance or form ! It may be said that we do love an ideal person. There is some truth in that. But our ideal is the image we form in our minds. So, doubtless, every one has some conception in his mind of God. He makes an image of Him, even while denying that He has any form. But here the image is formed for us. The Word is made flesh, and dwells among men. "God manifest in the flesh." God manifest in the human form. God come down to men, associating with them, teaching them by word of mouth, by precept and example ; the tender, merciful God, healing their diseases, sympathizing with them in their sorrows and sufferings ; a kind, patient, pure, unselfish, noble, wise God.; and yet a man. He has a human heart ; He works in human ways ; He has human sympathies. This is the way He is revealed to us in Jesus Christ. He is revealed not merely by example and formal instruction, but He is embodied in the form of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is His form. His body, His love, His wisdom. His way of working among men and saving them. The love and wisdom of Jesus Christ are the Divine love and wisdom. God reveals Himself in Him even to the human senses, in a form comprehensible to the child. When we think of Jesus Christ we think of the Father ; when we love Jesus Christ we love the Father ; when we pray to Jesus Christ we pray to the Father ; when we worship Jesus Christ we worship the Father. We think of Him in the same way and in the same sense as, in thinking of the bodily form of a friend, we think of his mind ; when we speak to the body we speak to the soul.
According to this doctrine we have the whole Divine trinity in one personal Being, in Jesus Christ, as we have the whole human trinity in every man. We have the whole trinity united in the human form, of which we can gain a distinct idea. The mind is not confused and discouraged by trying to think the unthinkable ; it is not distracted by thinking that there are three Divine persons and saying that there is but one God. We do not pray to a being of whom we say we can form no conception— but to whom we speak and of whom we try to think—to grant us favors for the sake of or in the name of another Divine person. We go to Jesus Christ, who is God manifest in the flesh, as a little child goes to his father, in a plain and simple way, without trying to make any metaphysical distinctions, and ask Him to grant the help and blessing we need for His own love and mercy's sake. We can think of Him ; we can love Him ; we can trust Him. He is the way, the truth and the life. If Jesus Christ was really God Himself manifest in the flesh, and not merely an ambassador from God, or a distinct person standing between men and Him, you can see what an important bearing a true conception of His character and mission will have upon the conditions and means of human salvation. It places it on new grounds. It takes it out of all that is merely formal, legal, technical, and arbitrary, and demonstrates to our senses how the one and only Divine Being loves and pities His children, and what practical work He has done and is doing to save men from sin and misery and raise them up to holiness and eternal life. God has generally been represented as an austere, inexorable embodiment of that natural, mercantile form of justice which demands the full measure of punishment for every offence. But justice has a higher meaning than this. Divine justice is not vengeance ; it is Divine love directed by Divine wisdom to secure the highest good to men. There is an immense difference between sending some one to do a painful work and doing it yourself. If Jesus Christ wasGod Himself, clothed with a human nature and a material body, by means of which He came down to human comprehension, living, laboring, teaching, and dying as to His material body among men and for them, every one can see in what a beautiful and attractive form it presents the Divine character. We can know and love and delight to serve such a Being.
This is the light in which the doctrines of the New Church present the Divine character. They dispel the cloud of misconceptions which have obscured it. They bring the Lord down to men, and present Him in such simple and clear form that a child can understand something of Him and learn to know and love Him. They take nothing away from His sanctity. They do not destroy the law or the prophets ; they help men to understand them. They do not break the force and sanctity of the least of the commandments, or teach men to break them. On the contrary, they show that they are the immutable laws of the Divine order, and, consequently, that they cannot be broken without loss and suffering. Their whole scope and tendency is to assist men in solving the problems of life ; to make the way to the attainment of the highest good plain and easier to walk in ; to reveal the Lord to men in a clearer and more attractive light ; to give man a truer and nobler conception of himself and of the capacities of his own nature for happiness, and to show the means that lie within his reach to attain the highest good.
Author: Chauncey Giles, From Progress in Spiritual Knowledge, 1895