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Man’s Nature and Destiny

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    FINDING no immortality for man in the breath of life which God breathed into man’s nostrils at the commencement of his mysterious existence, it remains to inquire if it resides in the “living soul,” which man, as the result of that action, immediately became. “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul.” Genesis 2:7.MND 33.1

    On this point also it is proper to let the representatives of the popular view define their position. Prof. H. Mattison, on the verse just quoted, says:-MND 33.2

    “That this act was the infusion of a spiritual nature into the body of Adam, is evident from the following consideration: The Phrase, ‘breath of life,’ is rendered ‘breath of lives’ by all Hebrew scholars. Not only did animal life then begin, but another and higher life which constituted him not only a mere animal, but a ‘living soul.’ He was a body before, - he is now more than a body, - a soul and body united. If he was a ‘soul’ before, then how could he become such by the last act of creation? And if he was not a soul before, but now became one, then the soul must have been superadded to his former material nature.” - Discussion with Storrs, p.14.MND 33.3

    Dr. Clarke, on Genesis 2:7, says:-MND 34.1

    “In the most distinct manner, God shows us that man is a compound being, having a body and soul distinctly and separately created, the body out of the dust of the earth, the soul immediately breathed from God himself.”MND 34.2

    To the same end see the reasonings of Landis, Clark (D. W.), and others. Aware of the importance to their system of maintaining this interpretation, they very consistently rally to its support the flower of their strength. It is the citadel of their works, and they cannot be blamed for being unwilling to surrender it without a decisive struggle. For if there is nothing in the inspired record of the formation of man - that record which undertakes to give us a correct view of his nature - to show that he is endowed with immortality, their system is not only shaken to its foundation, but even the foundation itself is swept entirely away.MND 34.3

    The vital point, to which they bend all their energies, is somehow to show that a distinct entity, an intelligent part, an immortal soul, was brought near to that body as it lay there perfect in its organization, and thrust therein, and then immediately began through the eyes of that body to see, through its ears to hear, through its nerves to feel. Query: Was this soul capable of performing all these functions before it entered the body? If it was, why thrust it within this prison house? If it was not, will it be capable of performing them after it leaves the body?MND 34.4

    Heavy drafts are made on rhetoric in favor of this superadded soul. Figures of beauty are summoned to lend to the argument their aid. An avalanche of flowers is thrown upon it, to adorn its strength, or perchance to hide its weakness. But when we search for the logic, we find it a chain of sand. Right at the critical point, the argument fails to connect; and so, after all their expenditure of effort, after all their lofty flights and sweating toil, their conclusion comes out - blank assumption. Why? - Because they are endeavoring to reach a result which they are dependent upon the text to establish, but which the text directly contradicts. The record does not say that God formed a body, and put therein a superadded soul, to use that body as an instrument; but he formed man of the dust. That which was formed of the dust was the man himself, not simply an instrument for the man to use when he should be put therein. Adam was just as essentially a man before the breath of life was imparted, as after that event. This was the difference: before, he was a lifeless man; afterward, a living one. The organs were all there ready for their proper action. It only needed the vitalizing principle of the breath of life to set them in motion. That came, and the lungs began to expand, the heart to beat, the blood to flow, and the limbs to move; then was exhibited all the phenomena of vital physical action; then, too, the brain began to act, and there was exhibited all the phenomena of mental action, perception, thought, memory, will, etc.MND 35.1

    The engine is an engine before the motive power is applied. The bolts, bars, cylinders, pistons, pitmans, cranks, shafts, and wheels are all there. The parts designed to move are ready for action. But all is silent and still. Apply the steam, and it springs, as it were, into a thing of life, and gives forth all its marvelous exhibitions of velocity and power.MND 35.2

    So with man. When the breath of life was imparted, which, as we have seen was given in common to all the animal creation, that simply was applied which set the machine in motion. No separate and independent organization was added, but a change took place in the man himself. The man became something, or reached a condition which before he had not attained. The verb “became” is defined by Webster, “to pass from one state to another; to enter into some state or condition, or by assuming or receiving new properties or qualities, additional matter or a new character.” And Genesis 2:7 is then cited as an illustration of this definition. But it will be seen that none of these will fit the popular idea of the superadded soul; for that is not held to be simply a change in Adam’s condition, or a new property or quality of his being, or an addition of matter, or a new character; but a separate and independent entity, capable, without the body, of a higher existence than with it. The boy becomes a man; the acorn, an oak; the egg, an eagle; the chrysalis, a butterfly: but the capabilities of the change all inhere in the object which experiences it. A superadded, independent soul could not have been put into man, and he be said to have become that soul. Yet it is said of Adam, that he, on receiving the breath of life, became a living soul. An engine is put into a ship, and by its power propels it over the face of the deep; but the ship, by receiving the engine, does not “become” the engine, nor the engine the ship. No sophistry, even from the darkest depths of its alchemy, can bring up and attach to the word “become” a definition which will made it mean, as applied to any body, the addition of a distinct and separate organization to that body.MND 36.1

    To the inquiry of Prof. Mattison, “If he was ‘a soul’ before, then how could he become such by the last act of creation?” it may be replied, The antithesis is not based upon the word “soul,” but upon the word “living.” This will become evident by trying to read the passage without this word: “And the Lord God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a soul.” That is not it. He became a living soul. He was a soul before, but not a living soul. To thus speak of a lifeless soul, may provoke from some a sneer; nevertheless, the Hebrews so used the terms. See Numbers 6:6: “Dead body,” nephesh math, “dead soul” (Cruden). The same in Leviticus 21:11; Numbers 19:13; Haggai 2:13.MND 37.1

    Kitto, in his Religious Encyclopedia, under the term Adam, says:-MND 37.2

    “And Jehovah God formed the man (Heb., the Adam) dust from the ground, and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living animal. Some of our readers may be surprised at our having translated nephesh chaiyah by living animal. There are good interpreters and preachers, who, confiding in the common translation, ‘living soul,’ have maintained that here is intimated a distinctive pre-eminence above the inferior animals, as possessed of an immaterial and immortal spirit. But, however true that distinction is, and supported by abundant argument from both philosophy and the Scriptures, we should be acting unfaithfully if we were to assume its being contained or implied in this passage.”MND 37.3

    The “abundant argument from both philosophy and the Scriptures” for man’s immortal spirit, may be more difficult to find than many suppose. But this admission, that nothing of the kind is implied in this passage, is a gratifying triumph of fair and candid criticism over what has been almost universally believed and taught.MND 37.4

    But we are not left to our own reasoning on this point; for inspiration itself has given us a comment upon the passage in question; and certainly it is safe to let one inspired writer explain the words of another.MND 38.1

    Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15:44 and onward, is contrasting the first Adam with the second, and our present state with the future. He says: “There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, The first Adam was made a living soul, the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.” Here Paul refers directly to the facts recorded in Genesis 2:7. In verse 47 he tells us the nature of this man that was made a living soul: “The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven.” In verse 49 he says, “And as we have borne the image of the earthy,” have been, like Adam, living souls, “we shall also bear the image of the heavenly,” when our bodies are fashioned like unto his glorious body. Philippians 3:21. In verses 50 and 53 he tells us why it is necessary that this should be done, and how it will be accomplished: “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.”MND 38.2

    Putting these declarations all together, what do we have? - We have a very explicit statement that this first man, this living soul which Adam was made, was of the earth, earthy, did not bear the image of the heavenly in its freedom from a decaying nature, did not possess that incorruption without which we cannot inherit the kingdom of God, but was wholly mortal and corruptible. Would people allow these plain and weighty words of the apostle their true meaning upon this question, it would not only summarily arrest all controversy over the particular text under consideration, but leave small ground, at least from the teachings of the Scriptures, to argue for the natural immortality of man.MND 38.3

    But the term “living soul,” like “the breath of life,” is applied to all orders of the animate creation, to beasts and reptiles, as well as to man. The Hebrew words are nephesh hhayäh 1This work follows Green’s method of transliteration. ; and these words are in the very first chapter of Genesis four times applied to the lower orders of animals: Genesis 1:20, 21, 24, 30. On Genesis 1:21, Dr. A. Clarke offers this comment:-MND 39.1

    Nephesh chaiyah: a general term to express all creatures endued with animal life, in any of its infinitely varied gradations, from the half-reasoning elephant down to the stupid potto, or lower still, to the polyp, which seems equally to share the vegetable and animal life.”MND 39.2

    This is a valuable comment on the meaning of these words. He would have greatly enhanced the utility of that information, if he had told us that the words “living soul” applied to man in Genesis 2:7, are the very same words.MND 39.3

    Prof. Bush, in his notes on this latter text, says:-MND 39.4

    “The phrase ‘living soul’ is in the foregoing narrative repeatedly applied to the inferior orders of animals, which are not considered to be possessed of a ‘soul’ in which that term is applied to man. It would seem to mean the same, therefore, when spoken of man, that it does when spoken of beasts; viz., an animated being, a creature possessed of life and sensation, and capable of performing all the physical functions by which animals are distinguished, as eating, drinking, walking, etc.... Indeed, it may be remarked that the Scriptures generally afford much less explicit evidence of the existence of a sentient, immaterial principle in man, capable of living and acting separate from the body, than is usually supposed.”MND 39.5

    And there is nothing in the term “living” to imply that the life with which Adam was then endowed would continue forever; for these living souls are said to die. Revelation 16:3: “And every living soul died in the sea.” Whether this means men navigating its surface, or the animals living in its waters, it is equally to the point as showing that that which is designated by the term “living soul,” whatever it is, is subject to death.MND 40.1

    Staggered by the fact (and unable to conceal it) that the term “living soul” is applied alike to all animals, the advocates of man’s immortality then undertake to make the word “became” the pivot of their argument. Man “became” a living soul, but it is not said of the beast that they became such; hence this must denote the addition of something to man which the animals did not receive. And in their anxiety to make this appear, they surreptitiously insert the idea that the animal life of man is derived from the dust of the ground, and that something of a higher nature was imparted to man by the breath of life which was breathed into him, and the living soul which he became.MND 40.2

    Thus Mr. Landis, in his work, “The Immortality of the Soul,” 1“The Immortality of the Soul and the Final Condition of the Wicked Carefully Considered. By Robert W. Landis. New York: Published by Carlton and Porter.” This is a work of 518 pages, and being issued under the patronage of the great Methodist Book Concern, we take it to be a representative work, and shall occasionally refer to its positions. p.141, says: “Hence something was to be added to the mere animal life derived from the dust of the ground.” Now Mr. L. ought to know, and knowing, ought to have the candor to admit, that no life at all is derived from the dust of the ground. All the life that Adam had was imparted by the breath of life which God breathed into his nostrils, which breath all breathing animals, no matter how they obtained it, possessed as well as he.MND 41.1

    No emphasis can be attached to the word “became;” for everything that is called a living soul must by some process have become such. “Whatever was or is, first became what it was or is.”MND 41.2

    Take the case of Eve. She was formed of a rib of Adam, made of pre-existent matter. It is not said of her that God breathed into her nostrils the breath of life, or that she became a living soul; yet no one claims that her nature was essentially different from that of Adam, with whom she was associated, as a fitting companion.MND 41.3

    And it will be further seen that this word “became” can have no value in the argument, unless the absurd principle be first set up as truth, that whatever becomes anything must forever remain what it has become. Remember that the question before us is, whether or not man’s soul is immortal, and will live forever despite all contingencies. He might reach a certain condition, and lose it again. The fact that he had reached it, would not prove that he would forever retain it. See the argument on the use of the word “image” in the New Testament presented in a preceding chapter. Now if it should be conceded (which it is not) that man, by becoming a “living soul,” became exempt from death so long as he retained that position, the real and vital question whether he must always remain so, would still be untouched.MND 41.4

    Defenders of the popular view, by such reasoning reduce their argument to the last degree of attenuation; but here its assumption becomes so transparent that it has no longer power to mislead, and needs no further reply.MND 42.1

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