|Vol. VII, No. 5
Ab 5609, August 1849
The Proposed Assembly.
On the Formation of The Union of the Congregations of Israelites in the United States.
(Exposition of the Diving Plan for the Government of Man, Continued.)
Were it believed that all souls, after separation from the body, will live in consciousness of the life held on earth, and that, according to some, they will have to appear before the great Judge, and from Him receive reward or punishment, according to their deeds in the flesh: an opinion at variance with scriptural authority, and with the attribute of divine justice, a great difficulty would at once arise, for properly comprehending the divine economy.
For, though God has declared that He reserves to himself “to be gracious to whom He will be gracious, and to show mercy on whom He will show mercy,”* we yet cannot reconcile, with the notions imbibed of his revealed attributes, that He would punish eternally the multitudes of human beings that, while living in the flesh, and having no knowledge of Him or of his laws, were in the habit of constantly committing acts contrary to the tenor of those laws, all the time believing they were guilty of no wrong in so doing! or, that He would reward others who, though guilty of no actual breach of his laws, had never in this life performed a single, act that, to human comprehension, entitled them to it.
Conscience could not guide benighted creatures; for conscience must have for a basis some correct standard of right and wrong, by which man might be able, internally, to judge the nature of his thoughts and actions.
The conscience of beings uninstructed in the correct standard supplied by God, would not accuse them for doing that which, to the better taught sons of Adam, would at once be felt as most reprehensible.
Though we keep in mind “that the secret things belong unto the Lord Our God; but those things which are revealed belong unto us, and to our children for ever,”† still, we are encouraged to believe the <<259>>views we are taking of this very difficult question are correct, and supported by the revelation vouchsafed to Daniel upon the very point: “And many of then that sleep in the dust shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt; and they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.”‡ By which, we are informed, that not all, but many only of those that sleep in the dust shall be called to render an account, in another world, for their deeds in this.
Physiologists will have it, that the principle by which all animals, man included, think and move, is merely material; and that, on the death of the body, there is no longer any means for producing those effects; whence, they conclude, the principle dissolves with the body.
If this be granted, as respects the principle common to all animals, that is to say, the faculty of thinking to a certain extent, and of self movement: yet as, when the body is resolved into its constituent elements, there is no loss or waste of a single atom or particle, it may be inferred, likewise, that neither is there is any waste or loss of the principle in question, matter though it be, but which, being of a purer texture than matter in a grosser state, enables animals to set their bodies in motion, to obey their instincts in supplying their wants, and even to evince, in some kinds, a faculty approaching to reason, but as far below that principle understood to be the soul of man, as matter is conceived to be inferior to spirit.
But that consciousness of identity and of pre-existence which constitute a being capable of existing in a spiritual world, would, with the body’s dissolution, be lost by man’s own indifference to its value; or it might not be attainable by beings who, uninformed in a correct standard of right and wrong, might not be amenable for acts performed in the body, and, consequently, subjected to neither punishment nor reward in an after state; while the souls of those having cognizance of God’s laws, and even of those who, through the witnesses alone borne by the works of the creation to the existence of a God, have acquired a kind of instinctive though imperfect sense of those principles that constitute conscience, are not suffered to escape, but will, hereafter, be called upon to render an account of their conduct here, when according to its tenor, reward or punishment will be dispensed to them.
Adam’s disobedience probably placed him among those of the first category; it may, therefore, be permitted to interpret the warning, that <<260>>on the day he eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, “Dying he should die,” as meant to inform him, that, unless by repentance he procured remission of that penalty, the day of the dissolution of his body would be that of his spiritual existence also; which we think is implied in his subsequent sentence, “In the sweat of thy face, shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken; for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” (Gen. iii. 19.)
Matter, when unconnected with the living principle, common to all animals, is totally unconscious, and that principle which constitutes animal life, if understood or admitted to be material, possesses consciousness to a certain extent, only while united to the body, and is lost on the body’s dying. But widely different is that other and far superior principle understood as the living spirit or soul of man.
The Hebrew text distinguishes these principles by two distinctly different words; one signifying the principle by which all animals breathe, live, and move, which, with the dissolution of the body, ceases to act; the other, signifying the spirit, or living soul imparted to man only.
But God has proclaimed that “He is merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,” (Exodus xxxiv. 6.) Therefore, as Adam lived many years after his act of disobedience, repentance, and perseverance in a right course, subsequently, may have procured him remission of the penalty, and forgiveness of his sin. A good and merciful Creator abandons not his children on a first offence, delights not in the death of sinners, but affords ample time for repentance and amendment. In proof of this being the beneficent nature of his plan for the government of man, many instances from the Scriptures might be adduced, as well as from the experience of many an erring soul at this day; but we consider it sufficient, on the present occasion, to refer to the whole of the eighteenth chapter of Ezekiel, which not only sets forth God’s merciful dispensation, but, likewise, affords additional and convincing proofs that the expression “Dying thou shalt die” is meant to inform man, that in his sin, on the day the body dies, the soul, united to it, shalt likewise cease to live, or live in a state of “shame and everlasting contempt.” (Daniel xii. 12.)
In the explanation now about to be given of their meaning, we shall continue to treat the sentences pronounced upon the guilty pair and their deluder, as lessons, clothed in allegory, to warn not only Adam and his partner, but their posterity likewise, of the dire consequences that inevitably follow, even in this world, the want of faith in the wisdom and goodness of God, and of its still more fatal effect in causing spiritual death.
Such was the case with Eve, whose subtle mode of reasoning, ascribed to the serpent, and aptly represented by the naturally tortuous course of that reptile, was resorted to by her to gratify an improper curiosity or unlawful appetite, in the course of which, she presumptuously questions the justice and wisdom of her Maker.
The figure is still kept in the curse pronounced upon the serpent, as showing the evil consequences attending man’s departure from a straight-forward course. Hence all the real evils that afflict the human race! Hence the growth of unrighteousness of all shapes and hues! Hence the mistaking or willfully misinterpreting the divine attributes! Hence, at length, the resorting to the worship of human beings as gods and goddesses. Of all descriptions of animals, and even of stocks and stones!!
Such are the effects represented by the most appropriate figures in which the curse pronounced on the serpent is recorded.
“And the Lord God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field: upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life.”*
Which may be thus interpreted: upon man’s presumptuously reasoning against his Maker’s acts and commands, such consequences will ensue as will degrade him below every other living thing. For, sin will be sure to enter where faith is wanting, so debasing man that, while under its influence, he cannot be said to walk erect, but will resemble the serpent, a reptile, crawling on this earth, the vilest instead of the noblest of God’s creatures.
Sin produces no aliment for the soul; it is as dust, affording no nourishment to a spiritual nature, but rather kills it; and so long as man is under its influence so long does he feed on dust. “Dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life.”—Sin is here addressed.
How truly is it seen, that sin and wickedness are continually waging war with man’s better feelings; for, through the constant care of his Maker to keep alive within him the seeds of virtue, he acquires an instinctive distaste for vice, though too often betrayed into its snares by his passions and appetites;—constantly quarrelling with himself for wrongdoing;—ever proposing to amend, and ever relapsing into wrong, until, through the very reason whose perverted use will have wrought infinite mischiefs, the folly of persevering in so unprofitable a course will have been perceived as well as felt. When man abandons vice and unrighteousness, and returns penitent to his God, who will heal his wounded spirit, and confirm him in his virtuous resolves, virtue will have triumphed over vice, and the head of the serpent will leave been bruised: though, until then, sin and its baneful effects, represented by the figure of the serpent wounding the heel, will have impeded, or caused man to make slow progress towards attaining the perfection of his nature here.
We are the more confirmed in the correctness of the interpretation given of the sentence pronounced on the serpent, because it is in perfect keeping with the whole teaching of the Scriptures;—with the facts disclosed in the history of man, sacred and profane;—and with the predictions, through the prophets, that a propitious day awaits man, when coming to the conviction that his happiness here, and his aspirations for a happier hereafter, can be realized only through a perfect faith in his Maker, an ardent love and proper fear of Him, he will no more deviate from the course laid down for him.
It will easily be inferred from what has preceded, that many have been saved, in this life, a world of evils, and gone to enjoy a blissful state in the realms above,—nor would such consist of those only who had received and obeyed the laws of God, but of the heathen and gentile likewise who, through our limited faculties, might have been deemed unworthy their Maker’s favour, but whom, notwithstanding, he may have been pleased to include in his gracious announcement, “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.”† Nor need it be repeated, that the whole <<263>>eighteenth chapter of Ezekiel goes clearly to prove, that the disobedience of the first pair entailed not sin on the whole human race, nor consequently that all are born under its penalty; for, by the express declaration of a just and merciful Creator, every man will have to answer for his own sin; nor is it in the power of any but Him to redeem or Save!*
The sentence pronounced upon Eve has fixed the destiny of her daughters. The lesson is most impressive, and cannot too early be instilled into the female mind.
“Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow shalt thou bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.”†
Before Eve’s transgression, a perfect equality of rule with her husband may have been her due, but which she forfeited by not alone transgressing, herself, a command of God, but inducing her husband to join in the act of disobedience.
Could Eve have foreseen the miseries to which her daughters would be subjected, by man’s deviation from the laws of God, far would she have been to set the first example for her sex’s tempting man to sin, for great are the sufferings of woman from man’s vices; still her desire to her husband has been made an instinct so utterly out of her power to counteract or control, that she is found submissively bending to the storms his brutality and recklessness often expose her to. In weal or in wo, she is constantly at his side. The whole world may condemn, abandon, and consign him over to an ignominious death; it is all one to her she never deserts, never accuses him. Treated well or ill by him, she still clings to, still worships the idol she has erected in her heart. With her flowing tresses she wipes away his scalding tears;—on her bosom she pillows his throbbing temples, and aching head, lulling him to sleep that he may, if only for a brief period, forget his sorrows or his shame.
Such are the affections and qualities given to woman, to redeem the fault of the first of the sex, and of some of her daughters likewise, who, forgetting their own and their sex’s interest, continue to tempt man from his allegiance to his Maker. But the instinct of self-preservation has been too strongly implanted by a beneficent Creator in the breast of by far the greater number of the sex, who instinctively know that their interest lies in the encouraging religious feelings and obedience to God’s laws in their husbands, and instilling the same into their offspring.
The depth of her sorrow at her privations proved but too well the truth of the prediction, “In sorrow shalt thou bring forth children,”† and was indicated by her exclaiming on bringing forth Seth, “God hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel whom Cain slew.”‡
Adam's sentence remains to be considered.
“And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; thorns, also, and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken; for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”§
Man, wanting faith, and presumptuously scanning his Maker’s acts and providence, loses himself in a thousand fantasies of his own, leading to innumerable mischiefs. Thus, the earth, destined originally to have been an extensive Eden, becomes disfigured and cursed by man’s wickedness, typified by thorns and thistles.
That the ground is cursed, may likewise mean that, in order to recall man to his duty, those visitations by drought, floods, earthquakes, and storms, to which the earth is now subjected, have been made more destructive and disastrous than would have been the case, had man’s course been more in accordance with what was intended.
These visitations and convulsions of nature may, then, be considered as beneficent provisions to humble and impress man with a sense of his dependence on a Supreme Being, through which he may be induced to return to his duty.
Though obliged to win his bread “in the sweat of his face,” his Creator has yet made that bread sweet which is gained by honest industry: while he is reminded of his inability to procure it, solely, by any labour or industry he might employ, if the countenance of his God is withdrawn and the showers of heaven are withheld from the earth.
In sorrow many do, indeed, eat of that bread, not through God’s <<265>>will, but through man’s own unrighteousness and wrong-doing towards his fellow-man, contrary to their Maker’s intention and express commandments.
Thus, it is not the Universal Father who afflicts us, but we who afflict ourselves and each other.
The remaining portion of the sentence pronounced upon Adam,, having reference to a spiritual death, incurred by man’s shutting himself out from the only means by which his soul can be awakened here to life and saved from a life “of shame and everlasting contempt” in an after state, has been already fully treated.
The sending forth of Adam from the garden of Eden, requires to be more amply treated than it has yet been done.
“And the Lord God said, Behold the man has become as one of us to know good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: therefore, the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden to till the ground whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden the Cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way to keep the way of the tree of life.”*
As nothing unholy can enter the kingdom of heaven, man must here acquire the first elements of purity and holiness, to qualify him to be received there. The flaming sword placed to guard the way of the tree of life being taken figuratively, as implying that necessity.
In order to force man to have recourse to the only means by which he can acquire purity and holiness, he is sent out of Eden to experience, in a world beyond its bounds, the sufferings attending the want of faith in his God, and the consequent neglect and violation of his laws.
Such means for forcing man to return to sound principles could not be used within the bounds of Eden; because that was a place of heavenly peace, hallowed by the presence of Deity himself, into which sin, in no more extended sense than in the disobedience of the first pair, would be permitted to enter and pollute it.
Had man been allowed to remain in those sacred precincts, there would have been no opportunity for his becoming acquainted with the deformities of vice and the disorders it produces, in order that through their effects witnessed by him, and the contrast they present to the beauties of virtue, he might detest the first and love the latter.
By remaining in Eden he might overrate his powers, and even consider himself a god, and presumptuously argue upon good and evil <<266>>according to his limited perceptions of those principles by which he would be led to imagine he could have established a system void of all blemishes, constituted wholly of good with no admixture of evil.
It is easy to perceive how this would have operated to man’s never desiring to hold communion with his Maker, and precluded his ever acquiring those feelings towards Him that conduce to the awakening of the soul to life; though it would certainly cause him, while he continued in that state of blindness and separation from his God “to live for ever,” but it would be, as may be gathered from the figure used in the text, in error during his life here, producing spiritual death, however, on the body’s dissolution, contrary to the beneficent intention of his Creator.
Adam and his wife, on committing their trespass, became conscious that they were naked, the nakedness produced by sin; and, incapable to meet their Maker with the erect countenance of innocence, they laid themselves from his presence.*
Immediately after pronouncing sentence upon. them, it is said that “Unto Adam also and to his wife, did the Lord God make coats of skins and clothed them.”†
We take these passages to be beautiful illustrations of the effects of sin, which expose man to shame and cut him off from his Maker.
It has been wisely ordained that shame shall ever be the accompaniment of guilt, from the stings of which, a kind and loving Creator endeavours to save man; and the clothing of Adam and Eve with coats of skin may mean, that by constantly impressing man with virtuous and righteous principles, he would be clothed with the most effectual means of defence against the assaults of his own passions and appetites and the temptations of others, into that world into which he is sent as to a school, to learn, through the evils he would there experience and witness, to appreciate the peace and purity of the place out of which he was ejected.
Our exposition, thus far proceeded in, already discloses the principles upon which the divine plan for the government of man is founded. All that follows in the Scriptures are amplifications of the plan, and illustrations of its operation, to be given at some future, but not remote period, should we be spared, and the subject, treated as we are doing, prove acceptable to our co-religionists.
Through a circular, just come to hand, it appears that a material change has taken place in the original plan for the meeting proposed <<267>>by Dr. Wise, which is now to be constituted by delegates only from the congregations, by which arrangement we shall be precluded attending the meeting, as we purposed doing, in our private capacity, unshackled by any one; for we have neither expectation nor pretension to be appointed delegate by any congregation.
The circumstance, however, is quite unimportant, because, foreseeing that something might occur to prevent our attending the meeting, we responded to the call for ideas on the union, by submitting, through the Occident, our sentiments upon it in this series of letters.
Having endeavoured at perspicuity, we trust the views we have put forth will have been understood, that they may prove serviceable to the cause we have at heart, and, perhaps deemed worthy of attention at the meeting whenever it takes place.
A. A. LINDO.
Cincinnati, March 22, 5609.