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Here and Hereafter

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    2. — FROM WHENCE COMES THE SPIRIT?

    Another text claimed to be positive proof that man has a spirit which is above and beyond the power of death, is Zechariah 12:1: “The burden of the word of the Lord for Israel, saith the Lord, which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundations of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him.”HHMLD 75.1

    As to the nature of this “spirit” which God forms in man, its characteristics and attributes, this text affirms nothing. Above all, respecting the main inquiry, Is this spirit immortal? the text is entirely silent. Why, then, is it introduced? — Because it contains the word “spirit.” But, as has been shown, nothing is proved by the mere use of the words “soul” and “spirit,” till some affirmation can be found in the Scriptures that these terms signify an independent entity, which has the power of uninterrupted consciousness, and the endowment of immortality. For men to take these terms, and give them definitions, and clothe them with attributes which are the offspring of pagan philosophy, or figments of their own imagination, and then claim that because the Bible uses these terms, it sustains their views, is, to say the least, a very unworthy display of logic. But, from the persistency with which this course is followed by those of the so-called orthodox view, one might conclude that it is the only way they have of sustaining their position.HHMLD 75.2

    God “formeth the spirit of man within him.” So the text asserts. The word “form” is from the Hebrew (yatsar), which means “to form, to fashion,” and the participle (yotsar) is used to signify a “molder, potter.” The Septuagint translates it by the word (plasso). The definition of this word, as given by Liddell and Scott, is, “To form, mold, shape, Latin fingere, strictly used of the artist who works in soft substances, such as earth, clay, wax.” The word, then, signifies giving shape and form to something already in existence; for the artist does not create his clay, wax, etc., but only changes its form. The second definition seems, however, to be more applicable to the case in hand. Thus, “II. Generally, to bring into shape or form,,, to mold and form the mind or body by care, diet, and exercise.” Thus God makes man the crown of creation by forming in him (through a superior organization of the brain) an intellectual and moral nature; and we can still further form or mold it by care and cultivation. There is nothing here to favor the idea of the creation of a separate, immaterial, and immortal entity, and its introduction from without into the human frame.HHMLD 75.3

    This text is illustrated by Job 32:8: “But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding;” not “giveth it [the spirit] understanding” as it is often quoted. That is, men are endowed with a superior mental organization; and by means of that, God gives them understanding.HHMLD 76.1

    Since, however, Zechariah 12:1 is used by immaterialists to prove that souls are specially created, it raises the question, which may as well be considered in this connection as any other, whence the spirit, whatever it is, is derived. In the text under consideration, the present tense is evidently used for the past; and hence it might be read, “The burden of the word of the Lord..which stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundations of earth, and formed the spirit of man within him.” If now this means the creation of an immortal entity to be added to man, called his spirit, it applies only to the first man, the man formed at creation of the world. The question then remains, How do all succeeding members of the human race get an immortal spirit? Is it by a special act of creation on the part of God, or is it by generation from father to son? Has God, for every member of the human race since Adam, by special act created a soul or spirit? They who say he has, contradict Genesis 2:2, which declares that all God’s work of creation, so far as it pertains to this world, was finished in the first week of time. Surely that work was not finished if it is certain that God has been at work ever since, creating human souls as fast as bodies were brought into existence to need them, the greater part of the time thousands of them every day.HHMLD 76.2

    Has God thus made himself the servant of the human race, to wait upon their will, caprice, and passions? for how many of the inhabitants of this earth are the offspring of the foulest iniquity and the most unbridled lust! Does God hold himself in readiness to create souls which must come from his hand immaculate and pure, to be thrust into such vile tenements at the bidding of godless lust? The reader will pardon the irreverence of the question, for the sake of an exposure of the absurdity of that theory which necessitates it. Again, who stands ready to thrust the soul into the new body just in the nick of time?HHMLD 77.1

    But if we say that the soul is transmitted in the natural process of generation with the body, then what becomes of its incorruptibility and immortality? for “that which is born of the flesh is flesh.” John 3:6. And Peter says (1 Peter 1:23-25): “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever. For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: but the word of the Lord endureth forever.”HHMLD 77.2

    There could hardly be a plainer testimony that man as a whole is mortal and perishable. He is born of “corruptible” seed. But more than this, it is added, “All flesh is as grass.” Should it be said that this means simply the body, we reply that the term “flesh” is frequently used in the New Testament to signify the whole man. Thus, Romans 3:20: “By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified.” Paul does not here talk about the justification of bones, sinews, nerves, and muscles; he refers to the whole responsible man. In the same sense the term is used in many other passages. But Peter himself, in the passage just quoted, cuts off its application exclusively to the body; for after saying that “all flesh is as grass,” he continues, “and all the glory of man as the flower of grass.” The glory of man must include all that is noble and exalted about his nature. If the soul is the highest and most godlike part of man, it is included in this glory; but lo! it is all like the flower of the grass, — transitory and perishable.HHMLD 77.3

    The word “mortal,” which means “liable to death,” occurs five times in our English version; and in every instance it is used to describe the nature of the real man. Romans 6:12; 8:11; 1 Corinthians 15:53, 54; 2 Corinthians 4:11. It occurs in the original in one other instance (2 Corinthians 5:4), where it is rendered “mortality.”HHMLD 78.1

    The tests usually relied upon to prove that souls are immediately created, are Ecclesiastes 12:7 Isaiah 57:16; Zechariah 12:1. The first of these was examined in the last chapter. The word translated “form” in the last of these passages, as shown in this present chapter, is not a word that signifies “to create,” but only to put into form, mold, and fashion. Isaiah 57:16 speaks of the souls which God has “made.” But there are numerous other texts, as Job 10:8-11; Isaiah 44:2; 64:8; Jeremiah 1:5, etc., which speak in the same manner of the body. But if such expressions can be used with respect to the body, produced by the natural process of generation, the same expression with reference to the soul contains no proof that that is not also transmitted with the body.HHMLD 78.2

    God said to our first parents, and the commission was repeated to Noah after the flood, “Be fruitful and multiply.” Multiply what? — Themselves, of course. Did that mean that they should multiply bodies, and God would multiply souls to fit them? — Nothing of the kind; but they were to multiply beings having all the characteristics, endowments, and attributes of themselves. So Adam (Genesis 5:3) “begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth.” This son was like Adam in all respects, having all the natures that Adam possessed, and that which was begotten by Adam was called Seth. But according to the doctrine of creationism, Adam begat only a body, and God created a soul, which is the real man, and called his name Seth, and put it into that body. Neither this text nor any other gives countenance to any such absurdity. If the soul is the seat of a person’s mental and moral qualities, and is a separate creation from the body, how does it happen that children resemble their parents so much in these particulars? On the ground of creation, it would not be so.HHMLD 79.1

    Some prominent theologians, both ancient and modern, have adopted the doctrine of traduction, that is, that the soul, like the body, is the product of natural generation as opposed to that of creationism, believing the latter to be contrary to philosophy and revelation, but the former to be in harmony with both. In “Wesley’s Journal,” vol. v, p. 10, is found the following entry:—HHMLD 79.2

    “I read and abridged an old work on the origin of the soul. I never before saw anything on the subject so satisfactory. I think the author proves to a demonstration that God has enabled man, as all other creatures, to propagate his whole species, consisting of soul and body.”HHMLD 79.3

    The testimony of Richard Watson (“Institutes,” pp. 362, 363) is equally explicit. He says:—HHMLD 80.1

    “A question as to the transmission of this corruption of nature from parents to children has been debated among those who, nevertheless, admit the fact; some contending that the soul is ex traduce; others that it is by immediate creation. It is certain that, as to the metaphysical part of this question, we can come to no satisfactory conclusion. The Scriptures, however, appear to be more in favor of traduction. ‘Adam begat a son in his own likeness.’ ‘That which is born of the flesh is flesh,’ which refers certainly to the soul as well as to the body.... The tenet of the soul’s descent appears to have most countenance from the language of Scripture; and it is no small confirmation of it that when God designed to incarnate his own Son, he stepped out of the ordinary course, and formed a sinless human nature immediately by the power of the Holy Ghost.”HHMLD 80.2

    The evidence is thus rendered conclusive from both reason and Scripture, that the soul is transmitted through the process of generation with the body. What then, we ask again, becomes of its immortality? For “that which is born of the flesh is flesh,” and mortality cannot generate itself to a higher plane, and beget immortality. This is not saying that mind is matter; for the results of organization are not to be confounded with the matter of which the organization is composed.HHMLD 80.3

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