PART 4

 

BEING DEAD HE YET SPEAKETH

 

CHAPTER 55

 

The Doctor’s Last Article; “What is Flesh?”

 

The article referred to in the letter of Sister Lasius, mentioned in Chapter 54 was in the form of a letter to Brother S. W. Coffman of Ogle County, who has been mentioned before in this narrative. It reads as follows: -

 

“What is Flesh?”

 

                “I would suggest that discussion of the very knotty and intricate subject of the quo modo of the manifestation of Deity in flesh be suspended among you, till each member of the ecclesia be furnished with a copy of my forthcoming Pictorial Illustration and explanatory Key. In the meantime it may not be amiss for our metaphysical friends to see if they can agree among themselves with regard to the more simple, proximate, and primary question, What is flesh? before they undertake to speculate dogmatically concerning the manifestation of Deity in flesh, who is spirit.”

 

                “You will excuse me, perhaps, just reminding you here that metaphysics are of a very unsubstantial and shadowy nature. As a system, it is a science so-called that treats of things immaterial, and, therefore, intangible and ethereal, or visionary; and which may be considered quite beyond the sphere of all profitable inquiry by plain, unphilosophical men, whose faith is based upon the revealed testimony of God, and not upon the modus in quo, or manner in which essences are generated; and how entities and quiddities are induced. We can believe the testimony of John, that Deity can of stones raise up children to Abraham, with a true and valid faith, which is not at all impaired by our metaphysical inability to explain the process by which He is able to arrive at such a result; for the faith which saves men is the belief of testimony divinely given, not a metaphysical or scientific comprehension of processes. Metaphysics are capital things for ‘doubtful disputation,’ and admirably adapted to the development of ‘sounding brass and tinkling cymbals.’ Let our friends, therefore, who would grow in the knowledge of God, and in His favour, eschew metaphysics, by which they can be neither enlightened nor improved; for, as they say in Scotland, which has been befuddled and befooled by the science falsely so-called—‘Metaphysics is when twa men talk thegither, and the ane who hears disna ken what the ither says; and the ane who speaks disna ken what he says himsel’.”

 

                “To give our friends a start, then, towards the solution of the primary and proximate question of What is flesh? they will, perhaps, allow me to direct their attention to what He who made all flesh says it is. The Spirit in David testifies, Psa. 78:39, that ‘flesh is spirit that passeth away, and cometh not again.’ The common version says ‘flesh’ is ‘a wind’; but in the Hebrew the word is ruach, which in Gen. 1:2, is translated spirit, as also in a multitude of other places. Flesh, then, is spirit, if we are to believe the word. Hence Peter, all of whose ideas that were really good, came from the Spirit, styles the dead antediluvians, who were flesh in common with ourselves, ‘spirits in prison.’ But if you and I, and all mankind, and other beasts in general, be spirit, what is the most obvious difference in view of the divine testimony, between men and angels, who are incorruptible and deathless? Men and angels are both spirit in a certain sense; for in Scripture they are both styled spirits; only the one class ‘a little lower than’ the other: what, then, is the most obvious or striking difference between the two kinds of spirit, or nature the human and angelic? It is this: human nature in general is ‘spirit that passeth away, and cometh not again’; while angelic, or divine nature or substance, is ‘Spirit that doth not pass away,’ and is therefore incorruptible and immortal.”

 

                “There is, of necessity, an essential difference between these two kinds of spirits, which constitutes the one kind transitory, and the other permanent. The difference is not obvious. It is beyond the ken of the generality. There is a constitutional difference made between them by the Creator, and upon such a basis that the one can readily and instantaneously be transformed or made to pass into the other. This is a question, not of essence, but of organization, which metaphysicians and theosophists have not been able to expound.”

 

                “Now, in illustration of this, let us consider the relations of steam power and the metal, iron. Look abroad, and behold the almost infinite diversity of results, operated by steam-power through iron. If the iron be in the state of ore, bar, or pig, steam power develops nothing; and for the obvious reason that the iron is in a raw, crude, and unorganised condition. But suppose that by the wisdom and science of the artificer, the iron is made to assume the form of the machinery of an ocean steamer, and steam power be applied, what then? The iron fabric is set in motion, and the vessel is propelled         by the steam power through the deep. Now, the steam power will spin and weave cotton, print newspapers, and grind corn; but will the steam power spin, weave, print, and grind, by setting in motion the machinery of a steamship? Why not; it is an iron machinery and steam power? True; but the artistic organization of the metal is not adapted to such results. Steam power and iron will spin, weave, print, grind, and do anything else, if the power be applied to iron properly and scientifically organised.”

 

                “Thus much by way of illustration. Now, for steam power, let us substitute divine creative power; and for iron ore, the dust of the ground. This abstract relation of the elements develops no spiritual or mental and physical phenomena. Why? There is the wisdom and power that can do all things, and there is the material for developments! True, but the dust of the ground is not organised. It must be artistically developed into diversities of machinery, that each diversity may give development to diversity of results. If the Creative Power, which is spirit, organise the dust of the ground into different kinds of living machines or organisms, these are spirit forms, which become capable of giving expression to an almost infinite variety of operations. These spirit forms are styled by Moses ‘the spirits of all flesh,’ to which Adam gave appropriate names, when the Creating Power, in whom they ‘lived and moved and had their being,’ caused them to pass in review before him. One of these spirits was a lion, another an elephant, a third a horse, and so forth. We all know what sort of spirit-manifestation can be displayed through the high-mettled spirit form conventionally termed horse; why cannot the same results be operated through a sloth or an elephant? It is the same power that works in them all to do or act. Because the animal machine termed elephant is a dust-of-the-ground organization of a peculiar contrivance, designed for elephantine and not equine manifestations. It is the Creator’s artistic organization of the dust of the ground that gives diversity of expression or manifestation to His power, on which account He is styled by Moses ‘the Elohim of the Spirits of all Flesh’.”

 

                “According to the constitution of the organism, so is the manifestation of results. Divine Power has made spirit out of the dust of the ground, and called it man. He has so made or organised it, that if not further interfered with by His power, it may pass away. This is called flesh, or spirit that passeth away; and, under ordinary conditions, cometh not again. The human organism is the most perfect of all animal machines; hence its mental or spiritual manifestations are of a higher and more perfect order than all the rest. His more perfect cerebral organization is the long sought for, but hitherto never found boundary line between instinct and reason. The transforming energy of divine power will convert spirit that passeth away into spirit that passeth not away. They who may be subject of this operation will be exalted to equality with the angels, whose substance doth not waste nor pass away . . .”

 

                Here, in the first edition of this biography, the author has these reflections: -

 

            And with this sentence, appropriate to be the last, the Doctor laid down his pen, to lift it no more in the arduous work in which he has spent his life, and spent it not in vain. For him, now that he is at rest, the suspension of his work is no calamity. There was little in the present state of things to gratify a mind so lofty as his. As he often remarked, “This is an evil world.” He has well spent the life allotted to him in it; and it is to him an unmixed good to close his eyes upon so troubled a scene, and have the interval that divided him from “the glory to be revealed” suddenly abridged. The interval in death is nothing to those who are dead. But to us who are still left to cope with this evil world, the interval exists, and the conflict continues, and in the absence of open vision and heavenly comfort, the blow is crushing which deprives us of so trusty a guide and counsellor in the things of the Spirit. The foregoing article shows that the Doctor’s marvellous intellect remained vigorous to the last. The reading of it naturally leads to the thought expressed by a dear friend who, on finishing the perusal of it said, “What a pity that so great a mind should cease to work,” at a time, too, when it is so much needed! But there are thoughts come on the back of this. How much better for us that the Doctor should fall asleep while yet in his vigour, than live to an age when the best of powers give way. Then it may be that he is less lost to us than if he had continued with us; for the things he has written—and they are many and beyond price—will be by all of us more read and prized now than they have ever been; and we shall feel to have so much the more an interest in the glorious dispensation that is coming, in that we shall never know the Doctor more till the great day of the Lord’s appearing, of which he has written and spoken so incessantly for nearly the last forty years.

 

 

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