By Frédéric Louis Godet
THE PLAN OF THE DEVELOPMENT OF LIFE ON OUR EARTH.
Life . . . who understands it? Who has seen it? It is like the goddess Isis, whose veil may never be lifted by mortal hand. We take life as a fact; we ascertain its beginning, development, end; but we cannot explain it. In treating of Life we can make history, not theory.
But what a history is that of Life! how unbounded is the wealth of the manifestations of this principle which everywhere shews itself and everywhere conceals itself from sight. To attempt to give an account of life, is it not to pretend to gauge the Infinite? All the elements—air, water, earth, are saturated with life. Throw a plumb-line into the ocean; before it has reached a depth of 230 fathoms, it will have passed through eight different fauna. Climb the heights of Java; six times in a few hours will the flora be changed as by magic before your eyes. Crumble a piece of white chalk of a pound weight; the dust in your hand will contain the remains of 10,000,000 creatures. Place a drop of stagnant water under your microscope; you will soon have discovered in it a population of infusoria of which the number equals that of the human creatures who move upon the earth. But if we confine ourselves to man, what varied systems of life do we find in this one creature! what a complication of activities of all kinds in the same individual; the life of the senses, the life of the intellect, the life of the affections and desires, of the heart and of the will! Pass on from the individual to the family, to society,—new flames issue from the central Are of life; industrial and commercial life, the life of politics, of art, of science, of morals, of religion! How shall we discover order in the manifestations of all these forms of life P How discern a plan amidst this infinite multiplicity? How measure what seems to set all measure at defiance?
I see a way;—it is to try to take as our standard the being who is the most complete epitome of life as we know it up to this time, in whom we behold the result of all former developments, the centre of all its present, and the probable starting-point of all its future manifestations—man.
There is a saying of a Greek philosopher, "Man is the measure of all things." Is not that the same as if he had said: If you wish to discover the secret of the development of life, study man; for life in general is only the expansion of that which is to be found in germ, or in compendium, in man. Let us, as an experiment, set out with this thought of Protagoras. Œdipus found in man the solution of the riddle of the sphinx; let us endeavour to find in him the key to the problem of life. Let us examine his internal constitution, and see if from this preliminary study there will not spring forth a ray of light to elucidate the process of the development of life on the earth, in nature and in history.
"What is man?
According to the title of this essay, our course in the study of this question is marked out for us hy Nature. We have to enquire, first, what man is according to the Bible, secondly, what he is according to our own observations. Once in possession of the results of this two-fold enquiry, we shall be able to enter upon the solution of the great question which we have proposed to ourselves. Perhaps we may thus discover a thread to guide us through the infinite labyrinth of Life.
From the point of view of Holy Scripture, man is a composite being made up of two elements of opposite nature and origin. He is, as to his body, formed out of the dust of the earth; but in this body there exists a breath of life due to the inspiration of God Himself. "God," says the ancient book Genesis, "formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life1." The nature of the being which resulted from the combination of these two elements is described by the expression "a living soul;" and thus, continues Genesis, "man became a living soul"—words which were reproduced by S. Paul almost literally2. We see that this expression "living soul" is not applied to the breath of God considered in itself and as separate from the body, but that it describes man in his entirety, as the result of the union of the two contrasted elements. If Holy Scripture, speaking of the soul, undeniably puts it in more direct relation with the breath of God than with the body, it is none the less true that it only gives the name Soul to the first of these elements when looked at as the principle of life, and as the animating principle of the body (anima, âme). When that which was breathed into us is considered in itself and apart from the body, it takes the name of spirit (rouach, pneuma) Thus it is said in Ecclesiastes: "the dust shall return to the earth as it was, and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it." And Jesus said, after the resurrection, "a spirit (pneuma) hath not flesh and bones3." The spirit then, in the Bible, means the breath of God considered as independent of the body; the soul is the same breath, in so far as it gives life to the body.
By this we may understand how it comes to pass that notwithstanding the essential duality of the nature of man, the soul, in Scripture, is often distinguished from the spirit4; and even how it is that when S. Paul wishes to describe the complete constitution of the human being, he places side by side these three words—body, soul, and spirit: "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ5."
This is what Scripture teaches us about the internal organisation of our being. What does observation teach us on the same subject? What do I find in myself and in my fellow-beings?
First, something which is seen by others, that is, the body; secondly, something which sees others, which even does more than see them,—looks, and then reflects upon what it has seen, something to which the bodily eye acts but as a window through which it looks, while itself invisible, and behind which it meditates,—the soul. Lastly, I find in myself something of higher nature still, an instrument by the help of which my being, penetrating beyond the veil of all that either sees or can be seen, can put itself into direct contact with the infinite Author of so many marvels,—the organ of adoration which is in me, the sense of the Divine, the spirit6.
As has been said by a Christian philosopher: "Through my body I am put into relation with nature below me; through my soul with men, my equals, around me; through the spirit, with God above me7." Body, soul, and spirit,—three systems of life, and nevertheless but one person,—this is man. The ego may be compared to a charioteer having three horses abreast to drive; not, however, that he is equally related to the three elements of which our complex nature is made up. During this terrestrial existence, which is the only one known to us by actual experience, it is to the soul that the feeling of personal identity seems to attach itself in man. It is in it that the ego dwells; consequently it is it that occupies the central position in the life of man. The two other elements seem to be its organs, intended to connect it with two worlds, one above, the other below it. By means of the body, the soul holds communion with material and terrestrial nature; through the spirit it comes into contact with the higher and divine world. At the same time that it receives the influences of these two spheres, of the one through the channel of the sensations, of the other through that of inspirations, it re-acts freely upon them; on the former by means of physical labour, on the latter through the no less energetic and efficacious labour of prayer. The passage which we have quoted from Ecclesiastes is not applicable only to the last moment of human life. The body of man is at every instant in process of returning to the earth from which it was taken, to seek in it the nourishment of its forces and the materials of its activity; and equally at every instant the spirit returns to God who gave it, in order to unite itself to Him by deep inward aspirations, to which Divine communications are the response. Hovering between these two worlds, by the help of these two organs, through which it stands related to them, the human soul is evidently so constituted as to establish between them a system of exchanges, and thus to labour at the realisation of heaven upon earth, or (which comes to the same thing) at the transformation of earth into heaven.
Observation and Holy Scripture agree then in this, —that they teach us to see in man a spirit united to a body, and which has become, by means of this union, a soul which is the centre of three kinds of life; that of a person, free and intelligent, the life of the soul, or psychical life; that of the sensations and of the organic activities, or physical life; and that of the aspirations and of heavenly communion, or spiritual life.
From the moment of his birth, man possesses the principle, or, at least, the potentiality of these three kinds of life. But they only make their appearance in him successively. First, the bodily life, the eating, drinking, and sleeping of little children. Then, after some weeks of this existence, which, looked at superficially, might appear purely animal, there shines forth one day on the face of the infant that first smile of heavenly sweetness, which reveals to the mother, as she leans over him, the soul which has by degrees been awakened by contact with her own. From the beginning that soul was there, but latent; it has only just begun to enter upon active existence, and all the richness of its future development is wrapped up in this first manifestation of its presence. At last, after an interval it may be of many years, when already the lamp of intelligence has^ been lit and has been casting bright beams—when the spring of the will has set itself in action with an energy which increases day by day,—one evening, after a day of happiness, or an hour of awakened affection on his mother's knees, at the moment of resigning himself to sleep, the child feels his heart opening to a love richer and purer than that with which he embraces all beings known to him, even his parents themselves. Above the father who has but just pressed him to his heart, and the mother who is even then giving him her last kiss, his eyes seek the Father of his father, the unseen Friend of his mother. And, closing his eyes, he murmurs, "I thank Thee, my God! " It is the spiritual life which has just been awakened. The organ of the Divine, which belongs to the essence of the soul, has found its object. If, in the future, its action is not restrained, and the spirit so grows in strength as to control the life of the soul which has already begun; if the soul, in its turn, succeeds in taking the government over the bodily life which is still further developed, the true hierarchy will then have established itself, and Divine order reign in the life of man.
This spectacle has been seen but once on earth, in the life of that Child of whom it was said, "And the Child grew and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him8." He increased in stature; that refers to the body. He was filled with wisdom,—the knowledge of, and the will to do, right,—that is the soul. He was open to all the influences of Divine grace; there was the spirit. In this normal subordination of the body to the soul, and of the soul to the spirit, consists the harmony, the strength, the health, the well-being, the plenitude, the perfection, the verity of human existence.
The life of each of these three elements has its peculiar characteristics, by which it can be easily distinguished from the two others. The body is; it is born, grows, decays, without the will having any share, properly speaking, in this progress. Physical life does not control its own actions; it pours itself forth without being its own master. It is a capital which awaits its proprietor.
This expected propitiator is the soul. The distinctive characteristic of the soul, as compared with the body, is its consciousness, and its self-government by means of the intelligence and the free will with which it is endowed. However much the soul may be solicited by sensual instincts and blind appetites, it is not governed by these lower principles, except so far as it is its will to give way to them. It can, when it chooses, resist and conquer them in the name of a higher law. We cannot say of the soul simply that it is^ but that it is what it wills to be; it becomes that which it decides for itself to become. But if it is thus its own master, this privilege is not granted to it in order that it may alienate its own rights by self-indulgence and weakness, nor yet that it may keep itself to itself in the narrowness and stiffness of egotism, but that it may give itself up by the free and deliberate impulse of Love. Now this, its highest act, can only be accomplished by the help of the spirit.
Just as self-government is the characteristic of the soul's life, so is self-surrender that of the life of the spirit. Under the dominion of the Holy Spirit, of that breath from on high which comes to unite itself to the spirit in man, and which secures him the mastery over the soul, and through the soul over the body, there comes a time when we cry: "O God, Thou hast made me free. I can either live to myself, or give myself up to some base master. I will do neither the one nor the other. I offer myself to Thee who art better than myself, who excellest all things. Accept henceforth of my free-will as an instrument of Thine. A sacred fire of love makes me Thy servant, and, for Thy sake, the servant of all my brethren." From this moment spiritual life not only exists, but reigns supreme, in man.
Existence, liberty, holy love, these are the characteristics of the three kinds of life which are ours either actually or potentially, and whose growth and development make up the whole sum of the life of man.
Having said this, is it possible to conceive of anything higher? Apparently not. Above simple existence there is free existence; above freedom, there is the life which, having reached the entire disposal of itself, sacrifices itself for love. Above this third form of existence we can conceive nothing,—we dare to say there is nothing, for God is Love.
Through the possession of these three kinds of life, of which the first is in contact with the lowest steps in the scale of being, the last is an emanation from the Divine essence, and the second forms the link between the two others, must not man be the summary and compendium of life in the universe? And, while discovering in ourselves these three forms of life, have we not, without suspecting it, hit upon the secret of the development of life on this our planet?
1. Just as in man physical life is the starting-point, and constitutes the medium in which the awakening of the faculties of the soul takes place, so on our earth an immense and luxuriant development of organic life, vegetal and animal, preceded the appearance of the human soul, and prepared for the advent of the moral life.
Organic life has not existed from eternity on our planet. Geology determines for us in some measure the date of its beginning. Above certain ancient strata, which contain absolutely no vestige either of vegetable or animal life, we come suddenly, in certain rocks which crop out in different parts of the globe, upon the first remains of organised beings; these are algae or crustaceans, and among the latter there ia a kind bearing some resemblance to our modern woodlouse. As has been observed, the inauguration of life upon this world's stage took place in the most modest manner. To these first efforts of organised life succeeded the grand development of vegetal life, of which the carboniferous strata have preserved the remains; rich stores which, after so many millions of centuries, still supply materials to our industry. During this period, in which vegetal organisation so preponderated, animal life was slowly carrying on its upward movement. But it remained in the second rank; its true time had not yet arrived. It was only after the disappearance of this great vegetal creation that animal life developed itself, in its turn, with a marvellous power. This it did in two successive creations. The most ancient is that of which the strata of the Jurassic epoch contain the remains. The principal inhabitants of the globe in this age were amphibious monsters, such as the plesiosaurus, the ichthyosaurus, the megalosaurus; then appeared other kinds no less strange, such as the pterodactyl. To this first great creation, which may be called the age of the saurian dynasties, soon succeeded another, of a character altogether different, of which the most distinctive representatives are the gigantic mammals of the tertiary period, such as the mammoths and the mastodons, those colossal creatures, of whom the last survivors seem to have been contemporaneous with the first men.
During these thousands of thousands of centuries occupied by the development of all life anterior to man, what do we find on our globe? Nothing, answers Science, but the unconscious growth of the plant, the blind appetites of the animal, and the unbridled reign of sensual life; nothing but physical birth, life, and death. Not one creature conscious of the object of its existence, or in any degree responsible for its actions. The world is still closed to moral life.
Nevertheless, we must not suppose that no law presided over the apparent irregularities of this gigantic work. A progress may be discerned in the succession of these animal forms. They approximate, step by step, to those of the present age, and especially to the human type, which is the ideal, ruling as it were, though invisibly, all this mysterious evolution. This long poem of the creation which modem science reconstructs verse by verse, canto upon canto, obeys one single idea,—that of aspiration after man. Not one of these formations, not one of these strange creatures, but makes a step in advance towards this goal aimed at from the very beginning. Just that which in our individual life is the time passed in the womb, that process of formation during which, first as a molluscous, then an amphibious, then a vertebrate creature, our physical being works out for itself the final organisation with which it is to see the light of life, such in the great work of nature has been that succession of animal forms, through which physical life has reached, by a long circuitous course, from its starting point, the first bivalve, to its goal—man.
2. But just as in the human creature there suddenly appears, in the midst of the functions of instinctive and bodily life, as it were a ray issuing from a higher sphere, the first indication of the presence of the intelligent and free soul; so on our planet, after the long-continued labour of vegetal and animal life, the being at last makes his appearance, who, coming from another sphere, is to develope, in the midst of nature, a life independent of nature.
Man is the true Janus, the god looking two ways. On one side, he is closely connected with nature by his body. He is its compendium; for as we have just noticed, in his embryonic state he passes through all its phases. He is its goal; for we cannot find any new creation in the vegetal or animal world subsequent to the appearance of man. Finally, he is its crown; for he is its chef-d' œuvre. There are, no doubt, animals stronger than man, or in which some particular organ is brought to greater perfection than the corresponding organ in man. But in no animal are all the senses taken together so harmoniously developed, and all the proportions of the organism so admirably adjusted and combined as in him. We feel that the object of past efforts has now been reached to such a degree, that all the progress of animal life hitherto, seems to have had for its highest end the elaboration of this human body, which it was nature's mission to offer, as a perfect servant, to the free and conscious soul, its future sovereign.
At the same time that man in the phenomenon of his body closes the whole preceding work of creation, he inaugurates, by the higher life with which he is endowed, a new chapter. With the appearance of man upon the stage of the world, Nature reaches her resting-point, History begins. The violent crises which had preceded his arrival cease by degrees. The presence of this creature of a higher world seems to have the effect of bringing peace into the theatre in which he is called to play his part. Some partial convulsions, such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and a crisis of a unique nature, the deluge, alone recal the revolutions through which life had up to this time made its way. In the midst of a Nature, the forces of which are henceforth under discipline, man begins his proper work. He contemplates the world; he feels himself distinct from it; he asserts his claims as the heir of this beautiful domain, and endeavours to take possession of it by the twofold labour of knowledge and action; he ''dresses the garden," according to the Scriptural expression; he distinguishes between different objects, and exercises his powers in giving them names; he sets before himself aims, and finds means for their attainment; he modifies things in conformity with his wishes and his needs; he developes the inexhaustible resources of his intelligence and his will,—those twin-sisters, the loyal agents of all our activity. At the same time his feelings awake; his heart opens to the sweet affections of family life, and to the pure enjoyments of nature. It is the drama of the soul's life which is now beginning. What will be its end? Nature was ever aspiring after man, the free being; man aspires after a perfect existence, after God. In his intelligence he possesses an instrument capable of appropriating the secrets of universal knowledge; in his free-will, the power of being holy as God is holy, and of becoming, by that means, the agent of His omnipotent will. But this aim, so far above him, is still for him lost in the dim distance. In order to reach it, it is necessary that man should surrender himself; and in order to surrender himself, he must be his own master, and, first of all, he must conquer himself. But what is the enemy he has to conquer? The common notion is, that the obstacle in the way of our self-government is the authority of a master who imposes his laws upon us; and that is why man makes efforts to get rid of, or at all events to draw his attention away from, the thought of God. This is the deepest of delusions. The danger which threatens our liberty is much more truly the power of our lower nature, of our sensual appetites, of our instinctive tastes. Here is the true enemy of our liberty, which we must overcome for ourselves by a series of victories, of which each one is an act of self-denial. Let the natural inclination cause the spring of the will to give way for a moment under its pressure, and there is an end of liberty; man is no longer his own master, he becomes, like an animal, the slave of nature. There remains but this alternative, to be assimilated either to the gentle sheep, if his instincts are benevolent, or to the voracious saurian, if they are cruel. Created free, potentially, we ought to become so actually, by repeated victories of conscious will over blind instinct. In order to win this victory, our will needs a support, which it can only find in a law superior to that of the appetites—in the sense of duty. A state of conflict between what is right and what is agreeable is then the situation, at once dangerous and glorious, in which man must be placed if he is to become in fact what he is by destination—a being morally free. "Without this actual conflict between moral obligation and nature, man would, without even suspecting the injury he was doing himself, give way innocently to his natural inclinations, and his liberty would be for ever confiscated. If there is to be an education of the human race, one of the first acts of the Divine Educator will be, to provoke a struggle between duty and pleasure, between conscious will and blind instinct. This is the meaning of that primeval trial to which man was subjected. The divine command, "Thou shalt not eat," was a protecting fence erected by a Father's hand to keep off instinct, and withstand its invasions. It was the safeguard of our free-will. What a crisis was here! If the conscious will, supported by the sense of duty, triumphed over natural inclination, then, set free thereby from the dominion of instinct, it would see opening before it a career of new conflicts and more glorious victories. But if, on the contrary, inclination triumphed, man's will was reduced to slavery; and, deprived, by this subjection, of the free disposal of himself, he would, under the dominion of the flesh, fall lower and lower. This crisis was then at once inevitable and decisive. It was for man, whatever might happen, the transition from a mere natural life to historic development.
If the Bible record, which alone has preserved for us the memory of the 6xst temptation, had not told ns what have been its consequences, the grievous experience which every man undergoes of the condition of moral slavery into which we are plunged, would bring us to the knowledge of it. "Which of us has not many a time made an effort to shake off the chains of egotism and self-love in which his free will is bound, with no other effect than to make him more clearly realise their weight? Which of us has not often heard the confession of S. Paul, "I am carnal, sold under sin; . . . the good that I would I do not, but the evil which I would not, that I do," breaking forth from the depths of his broken heart? Who has not uttered the sigh with which this lamentable description of the Apostle's life, before he was made free, concludes: "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death9?" This universal experience indicates clearly what was the result of that great ordeal with which the drama of human history opened: inclination triumphed over duty, and the will of man became its slave.
Humanity having thus fallen at the beginning of its course, and missed its proper destination, God might have extinguished it. But that would have been to retreat in presence of the enemy. God is raised too high above sin to fear entering into conflict with it. He has opened to man in his fallen state, as He would have done to man victorious, a pathway of development for his various faculties. He has Himself called into action the powers of the human soul in all directions. Man was to learn to know himself, and to dispose of himself, in the vitiated atmosphere of sin, just as he would have had to do in the pure atmosphere of virtue. For his intelligence, though obscured, was nevertheless not annihilated; and his liberty, though fettered, was not entirely lost. The noble calling of primitive man has remained in this respect that of fallen man also. Humanity seeking itself: this would have been, without the fall, and this has been, notwithstanding the fall, the inner meaning of human history since the time of Adam. The cynic philosopher looking for man in broad daylight with his lantern, is but the grotesque symbol of this sublime reality.
In Ancient History men often see nothing, and point out nothing, but a succession of monarchies mutually overturning one another; nothing but a series of bloody wars, leaving behind them cities in ruin and nations crushed or carried into captivity. Behind these mighty convulsions of the ancient world, men do not discern the real history,—that of humanity labouring at the work of laying hold of, and understanding itself, and travailing in birth of man,—the true man. As in the epochs anterior to man, behind the gigantic ferns, the voracious amphibians, and the monstrous quadrupeds, we recognise fundamentally one thing only: nature working its way up to man; so in the colossal monarchies which one after another, in the ages before Christ, filled the stage of history,—in the Assyrian-Babylonish world with its crushing military power,—in the Medo-Persian kingdom with its strong administrative organisation,—n the Greek race with its incomparable artistic and scientific genius,—in the Roman empire with its powerful political centralisation,—the true historian recognises one thing: humanity striving after the full development of its manifold faculties, the complete mastery of itself and of the world, man labouring to get full possession of himself, in prospect of a destiny which he does not yet clearly comprehend, that of voluntary self-surrender.
Certainly it cannot be said that four thousand years was too long for such a work. The human soul is a deep well; to sound its depths requires time. Reading Plato or Sophocles shews us how energetically the consciousness of man gave itself to this task; and when one thinks it well over, even setting aside the great confusion and entanglements brought in by sin, we shall not be astonished at this space of forty centuries granted to psychical mankind for learning to understand, and to gain the mastery over itself. But sin made this long period of preparation still more necessary. It was important that fallen man should undergo completely the humiliating experience of his condition of moral misery, and that he should learn in this severe school to recognise a twofold inability which he finds in himself: namely, first, to transform, in his own strength and without a fresh gift from God, his psychical into spiritual life, even when the former is pure; secondly, to restore his natural life to its original purity, when once it had been vitiated by sin.
But, just as in the young man who exerts in all directions the forces of his natural life, there is to be found in the deepest parts of his being a spiritual sense which aspires after a higher existence, an organ of his nature intended for intercourse with God; so amongst mankind in the ancient world there was one nation which, while all the rest were exerting the faculties of their souls, and giving themselves assiduously to the cultivation of the earth, received the higher mission of developing the spiritual aspirations which raise man above himself and the world. "While the great nations of the East are giving themselves to the cruel pleasure of conquest, while the Phoenicians, governed by the sense of the useful, cultivate industry and commerce, while the Greeks are seeking to realise in their artistic and literary masterpieces the ideal of the beautiful and the true, while, finally, the Romans, following the guidance of their natural gift of practical wisdom, formulate wisely for centuries to come the idea of right, one nation is distinguished from all this psychical humanity by a religious tendency, which makes it as it were a stranger in the earth. Its chief concern is neither conquest nor industry, neither science nor the arts, no, nor even righteousness, in the purely human sense of that word. That which occupies its life is worship; it is God's claim upon man; it is the coming order of things, in which this claim of God shall he realised in the Earth; it is Jehovah Who is, and "Who is coming; it is His kingdom, holy and glorious, and His awful judgment. The wise men of this nation are prophets, its artists are psalmists, its heroes labour as agents of the Most High. Raised up from time to time to re-awaken in the heart of the nation that Heaven-sent longing which is the central force of its life, but which without their help would soon die away within it, these divine messengers are for Israel just what Israel himself is commissioned to be for the rest of mankind,—the embodiment, in the midst of the psychical life of the ancient world, of the religious faculty inherent in the human soul; of the spirit in man longing to fill itself with the spirit of God. So that while God "suffered all other nations to walk in their own ways10," to make them learn by experience their own inability to reach the absolute Good, He places Israel under the yoke of an education at once gentle and strong, in order to preserve it from complete subjection to the flesh. While prophecy is for this nation like the spur which makes the spirited war-horse spring forward, the law is as the bridle which teaches him to restrain his impetuous movements in view of the circumstances of the present. Heathen nations have, it is true, something analogous to this. Conscience is with them "a law written in their heart11," and from the midst of them, as well as from the heart of creation in general, there springs a sigh after that state of perfect liberty, for which man feels himself to have been made. But outside of Israel these are but spontaneous and ineffectual reactions of the moral nature of man; whilst the corresponding forces in Israel, the Law and Prophecy, are the results of a Divine education, actual and reaching its object. It is the same difference as that between an invalid under medical treatment, and one uncared for. Israel is the organ which God Himself trained for the exercise of the spiritual sense in ancient humanity; this constitutes the direct preparation for the future advent of the spiritual life; while the heathen, left to themselves, are but a negative and indirect preparation for it.
Let us suppose man to have been without sin; then the result of these four thousand years of preparation would have been a humanity so completely understanding and mastering itself, as to be able to surrender itself, and to cast at the feet of its God the crown of a liberty which has been acquired by holiness; and God would have immediately responded to this homage by the gift of His Spirit. Sin has not absolutely defeated this result, but it has profoundly altered the form under which it has been reached. Through a long experience of its sinfulness, humanity has understood its own inability to realise for itself its own intended destiny, namely, to find God, and unite itself to Him, But it has none the less sighed, in the persons of its noblest representatives, for this glorious consummation. It has implored, as it were, upon its knees, that Divine help of which it so profoundly felt its need. It cried by the mouth of Isaiah: "Oh that Thou wouldest rend the heavens and come down12." The Spirit did not present Himself to its imagination as a bridegroom imposed upon it by force, but as its betrothed, worthy of deepest love. And at the critical moment it found expression in those sublime words, in which the young Jewish heroine, as its representative, answered the Divine call: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to Thy word 13."
3. This intense longing, and this courageous self-surrender, fruit of the long - sustained working of God's Spirit upon Israel, were the seeds of the coming era—of the third phase in the history of life. The new fact which then made its appearance—the existence of the Church, indicated the advent of a new period, that of the life of the Spirit, on our earth.
S. Paul has called Jesus Christ the second Adam, and the last Adam14. There is a great wealth of thought for the heart and mind of the believer in these two epithets. As the first Adam had constituted the close here below of the development of physical life, and the opening of that of the life of the soul, so Jesus Christ, closes the development of psychical life, and inaugurates the advent of the life of the Spirit. Adam was a living soul, cast by God into the midst of the convulsions of nature, to bring into the physical creation, order, harmony, and peace. Jesus Christ the life-giving Spirit, comes from heaven to calm the tempests of the human soul; He brings order and harmony into the exercise of our faculties, and in our individual life, domestic and social. He makes the serenity of Divine order reign.
This second Adam is also the last Adam. There is, after Him, nothing higher to look for; "That eternal life which was with the Father, was manifested unto us15," says S. John. Jesus is the Divine life realised in man, and offering itself, in an accessible and tangible form, to be participated in by all that is called man; ^Hhe Word was made flesh16."To drink of this fountain is to partake of the Divine Life in the measure in which it is accessible to the creature.
How did this supreme Life make its appearance? How did it develope itself in a man? How did it communicate itself to mankind?
It was under the most modest forms, as we have seen, that physical life first made its appearance upon our planet. It was also under circumstances of the deepest humility that the advent of the life of the Spirit took place, in the Person of Jesus Christ. A manger received the little Child in "Whom that treasure was virtually contained; a carpenter's shop was the witness of the labours of the growing Boy; by Baptism, the symbol of impurity and death, He passed from youth into the stage of manhood, and that was also the means through which He entered upon the higher sphere which it was His mission to open to all others; an upper room, its doors shut for fear, was the centre whence the new life streamed, and whence it has been propagated since the day of Pentecost through generations and centuries.
This new life only grew by degrees even in Him who was the first depository of it, and who is for ever its eternal principle. Assuredly He was master of Himself at the moment when, by His incarnation, He gave us His Divine Person as a gift. This act of self-devotion, the type and source of all Christian self-devotion, was that of a free being. But, once a man, He was, like all other men, subject to the law of moral progress; and in order to gain self-mastery, even He had to begin by conquering Himself. This was His work during the thirty years He spent in the obscurity of Nazareth. He was searching into His own nature, and foreseeing what He should be. In the Holy Scriptures He saw prefigured His Person and His work; in them He traced the outlines of a mission which He perceived to be His own. It was as a sealed letter, an instruction drawn up beforehand by His Father, which was not to be opened till He was in open sea, in the midst of the struggles and storms of His earthly existence. Prom the part of His life which is known to us, it is easy to argue that the parts which are unknown were not free from painful trials. The prayer which ever accompanied the tears He shed for the sins of those around Him, was one of the principal commentaries which made Him by degrees understand those sacred books which were so full of Him.
Thus did He reach the time of His moral maturity. During these first thirty years He had, as it were, recapitulated in Himself all the labour of human kind in the preceding ages. The moment when this work of preparation was completed was that in which the voice of John the Baptist called upon all the people to purify themselves by baptism, in order to prepare for the near approach of the kingdom of God. Jesus, by participating in this sacred rite with His people, brought into it what He had acquired, or rather what He had in His own Person become, through His whole preceding development; the psychical man complete, the pure and living temple for which the Holy Spirit was looking, that He might therein descend into humanity. If Jesus was in Himself the sum and crown of the whole preceding life of humanity, considered morally and intellectually, more especially was He the expression of the Jewish conscience, of that exquisite moral sense which was the fruit of the discipline of the Law, and of the ardent aspirations kindled in men by the word of prophecy. And when, at the moment when Jesus descended into the Jordan to receive, Himself, in His own way, His consecration to the kingdom of God, and the depths of His heart opened, and His prayer went up to heaven, heaven made answer; the Spirit of God descended without measure upon this unique Being, "Whose mission it was to communicate Him to mankind. That is a beautiful thought which is put by one of the apocryphal Gospels into the mouth of the Holy Spirit at this moment: "My Son, in all the prophets I have been looking for Thy coming, that in Thee I might find My rest; for Thou art My rest. Thou art My first-born Son who reignest for evermore17." Immediately, under the impulse of the Spirit, with Whom His own will had just identified itself, Jesus made Himself an offering, first to God, by His victory over the temptation in the wilderness; then to Israel, by His earthly ministry; lastly, to the world, by His expiatory sacrifice; realising thus the most generous and the most complete act of self-surrender ever accomplished by human being, or that can possibly be conceived. Absolute self-devotion to that which is greatest,—God; and at the same time to that which is meanest and most abject,—the worst of sinners; such is human life as we behold it in Jesus, and as by a Divine act He has been able to make it in His own Person. And this is indeed that spiritual life of which by nature the human soul possesses the capacity, the feeling, the presentiment, and instinct, but which it never succeeds in realising, except by that wedded union with the Holy Spirit which first consummated itself in the Christ.
After having realised this, the highest form of life, Jesus re-ascended into His glory, not to abandon humanity to itself, and [leave it nothing but the sweetest and purest of memories, but to labour at raising it to Himself, by pouring upon it, from out of His own glorified existence, that perfect life which He has Himself realised here below18. The scene of the effusion of this spiritual life is the Church, which is therefore called the Body of Christ19. The atonement completed by Christ gives to all a right to the Divine forgiveness; and the forgiveness thus obtained gives to each a new claim, the claim to the possession of the Spirit. Since the day of Pentecost Jesus has never ceased granting this highest favour to every one who can press his claim upon Him. After having expended upon us His earthly lifetime in the course of His ministry, shed for us His Blood in His death. He by His Spirit makes us sharers in His own glorified and living personality. The Holy Communion is the visible expression of this supreme gift. But the possession of the Spirit is so profoundly one with our own personal life, and presupposes so complete a surrender of our whole being, that it must imply an absolutely free act of our will. Accordingly, God, Who did not ask our consent when He was pleased to bestow upon us the life of our body and that of our soul, because these gifts were as yet only the vocation to the higher gift, acts with more reserve when about to bestow this last benefit. He limits Himself to offering it to us when the favourable moment has arrived; that is the object of the preaching of the Gospel, through the instrumentality of the Church and of the ministry which she nurtures in her bosom. If there be a Church constituted objectively, it is in order that the Spirit should be offered to all, while yet not forced upon any one. Each of us has received the gift of earthly life solely with a view to this higher destination—to receive through the Spirit the only life worthy of the name. If our souls are free and intelligent, it is that they may become voluntarily the abodes and agents of the Holy Spirit, and, through Him, of Jesus Christ glorified. If there be in us a man, it is in order that that man may manifest himself in the likeness of the Man-God20 To thrust away from us this life of the Heavenly Christ, in order to keep our own psychical life, amounts to this,—that when the doors of a palace are opening before us, we choose to shut ourselves up in a prison. Or rather, it is an act of suicide of the most senseless and cruel kind. To surrender ourselves to the Spirit is to find ourselves; but in His presence to keep ourselves for ourselves is to be lost. Jesus said this in those words often repeated by Him, which express the ultimate law of every life which is truly human: "Whosoever will save his life shall lose it, and whosoever will lose his life for My sake shall find it21
4. During innumerable centuries, physical life had been freely displaying itself in Nature. In Adam "was formed a bridge between this first form of existence and one more excellent, that of the free soul. During forty centuries did this latter form carry on its evolution in mankind of old. Then at last came Jesus Christ, "Who effected the transition from the life of the soul to one more perfect still—that of the Divine Spirit in the human soul. For two thousand years, the flame of this spiritual life has been burning in the Church, propagating itself in every direction, wherever it finds in mankind the material needed for its support. Have we reached the end? Is possibility exhausted? It would seem so; for no higher form of life than that which Jesus realised in Himself, and which He communicates to us from heaven, is conceivable. And yet, if it were so, the cycle would not be closed. "No development whatsoever is completed until, having reached its closing stage, it takes up once more its beginning, in order to lift it to the same height. There is a profound saying, "The future is but a return to the past22." Arrived at the summit of spiritual life, it is with no look of disdain that man turns back to contemplate the lower stages of existence through which he has ascended. Even the mere physical life with which he began, inspires him with no feeling of shame. Does not that also bear the impress of a Divine wisdom? Contempt for the body is no sign of a true and healthy spirituality. Jesus, set free from His body by death, did not leave it forgotten behind Him. He reclaimed it from the sepulchre, and restored it to life by the Resurrection. Even at the Ascension, on re-entering His original life of Divinity, He did not depose, but transformed it, and fitted it to become the organ of Omnipotence, and of that Divine life into the possession of which He was about to re-enter; "in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily," says S. Paul23. Was it not one purpose of the transfiguration to give us a presentiment of this mystery of glory? If a grown man cannot contemplate unmoved the cradle in which his eyes first saw the light, the child of God, having reached the state of holiness, will not despise the body in which his soul first awoke to the light of individual consciousness, and in which, at a later period, his spirit became a partaker of the heavenly life. Even here below, when the Holy Spirit has made a temple of the human body, does He not ennoble its features? Does He not illumine its expression, renew its failing strength, and give support to its weakness? Now in the human body there is contained a germ, which begins to grow, through our union with the Holy Spirit, amidst the very dissolution of the body. So will that new organ of the spirit form itself, which S. Paul in his bold manner of speech calls the spiritual body. In the same way that our earthly body is here below the organ of the soul, which is the seat of our personality, so will the spiritual body be the organ of the spirit, when that shall have become our personal life. " There is," says S. Paul, " a natural body (alive with the life of a soul), and there is a spiritual body," (serving as an organ to the spirit24). Now if by His action on this mortal body, the Holy Spirit already at times works wonders even here on earth, what will He not make of the new body, His own creation. His master-piece? St. Paul compares our present body to a "bare grain," and the future body to the plant, perfect in form and colour, which springs from this imperfect germ dropped into the earth. How great, then, will be the splendour and the vitality of this spiritual body!
But this is not all. As in our present body we see the two systems, animal and vegetable, which are around us, converging, and in them Nature, as it is on earth, in its entirety; so will the future body be the centre of a nature renewed and glorified, freed from the law of vanity and death. The ideal after which are instinctively yearning, not men only, but, as S. Paul says, all creatures, will be realised. And physical existence, so coarse in appearance, which has been the spring and source of life on our planet, being taken up as its fellow-worker by the power of the Spirit, shall become the glorious theatre of the activity and of the virtues of its new master, the spiritual body.
Matter is not necessarily the imprisoner of the spirit, nor a hindrance to its operations. We see this in the supple, and, as we might say, omnipotent hands of the artist; we see it in the instrument by which he effects such marvellous results. Now art is but the prelude to that glory which is one day to become the crown and splendour of holiness.
To sum up what has been said. On the theatre of Nature, unconscious life has been exercised, a slave to the senses. On the stage of history, the human soul has displayed the riches of life self-conscious and free. In the Church (understanding this word in its most spiritual sense) there grew up, and has since developed itself, a new thing,— ^the life of holy love, realised in Jesus Christ, and by Him communicated to us. Finally, in that supreme abode which we call heaven, this perfect life, divine in its essence, human in its form, will expand and radiate through matter then glorified. Such is an outline of the development of life as we may conceive it, by adapting our own observation of facts to the scriptural revelations. How can we contemplate without admiration, this plan conceived before time was, and of which the magnificent result is to bring time back to eternity? How not recognise here the thought of Him who is "wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working25?" How resist crying out with the Psalmist, "Lord, how great are Thy works, Thy thoughts are very deep P" S. Paul has summed up this divine plan in those few words, the key to the riddle of man's history, and the text of all Christian philosophy26:
'FIRST THAT WHICH IS NATURAL;
1) Gen. ii 7.
2) "The first man Adam was made a living soul," 1 Cor. xv. 45.
3) Eccles. xii. 7; S. Luke xxiv. 89.
4) Thus, Heb. iv. 12: "The word of God is... sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow."
5) 1 These, v. 23.
6) "God whom I serve with my spirit in the Gospel of His Son."—Rom. i 9.
7) M. de Rougemont.
8) S. Luke ii. 40.
9) Rom. vii. 14, 19, 24.
10) Acts xiv. 16.
11) Rom. ii. 15.
12) Isa. lxiv. 1.
13) S. Luke i 38.
14) 1 Cor. xv. 46, 47,
15) 1 John i. 2.
16) S. John i. l4.
17) Gospel of the Nazarenes, quoted by Jerome.
18) S. John xvii. 2: "As Thou hast given Him power overall flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as Thou hast given Him."
19) Eph. i 23.
20) Rom. viii. 29: "conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren;" 17, "heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ."
21) S. Matt, xvi 25.
22) M. Charles Prince, Professor in Neufchâttel College.
23) Col. ii. 9.
24) 1 Cor. xv. 44.
25) Isa. xxviii. 29.
26) 1 Cor. xv. 46.