By Horace Bushnell
THE SPIRIT IN MAN.
IT is something great in man, as the speaker, Elihu, conceives, that he is spirit, and, as being such, is capable of being inspired. For he is not, as some commentators appear to suppose, re-publishing here, the historical fact, that the Almighty breathed into man, at the first, a living understanding soul; but, speaking in the present tense, he magnifies man as being able to be inspired, because he is spirit, and God that he inspires him.
I undertake to enlist you here in a range of contemplation exceedingly remote from the apprehension of most persons in our time. So completely occupied are they with the humanitarian, world-ward relations of life, that the God-ward relations pass unheeded, and, for the most part, unrecognized. Or, if they sometimes think of such relations, it is only in the sense that we are responsible to God, as we are to any human government, for what we do as men, not in the sense that our very nature has itself a God-ward side, being related constitutionally to him, as plants are to the sun, or living bodies to the air they breathe. That we may duly apprehend a truth so far out of the way of our times, and yet so necessary to any fit conceptions of our nature and life, let me bespeak, on your part, even a voluntary and compelled attention.
My subject is, the spirit in man; or what is the same, the fact that we are, as being spirit, permeable and inspirable by the Almighty.
The word "spirit," means literally, breath, and it is applied to the soul, not merely because of its immateriality, but for the additional reason that the Almighty can breathe himself into it and through it. The word "inspiration," as here used, denotes this act of inbreathing, and it will serve the convenience of my subject to use it in this meaning in my discourse; though it is not exactly coincident with the more common meaning attached to it, when we speak of the inspiration of the writers of Scripture. I certainly need not apologize for the use of a term, in, at least, one of its Scripture meanings. I only notify you that any one is inspired, as I shall here speak, who is breathed in, visited internally, and so, all infallibility apart, raised in intelligence, guided in choice, convinced of sin, upheld in suffering, empowered to victory. In this more general sense, Bezaleel was inspired when he "was filled with the Spirit of God, in wisdom and in understanding, to devise cunning works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, and in cutting of stones, to set them, and in carving of timber." Any one is inspired, as we now speak, just as far as he is raised internally, in thought, feeling, perception, or action, by a Divine movement within. In the capacity of this, he is called an inspirable creature, and has this for one of his highest distinctions. What higher distinction can he have, than a capacity for God; to let in the Divine nature, to entertain the eternal spirit witnessing with his spirit, to be gifted thus with understanding, ennobled in impulse, raised in power, and this, without any retrenchment of his personal freedom, but so as even to intensify his proper individuality.
Just as it is the distinction of a crystal, that it is transparent, able to let the light into and through its close flinty body, and be irradiated by it in the whole mass of its substance, without being at all more or less distinctly a crystal, so it is the grand distinction of humanity, that it is made permeable by the divine nature, prepared in that manner to receive and entemple the Infinite Spirit; to be energized by him and filled with his glory, in every faculty, feeling and power. Our accepted doctrine of the Holy Spirit really implies just this, that we are made capable of this interior presence of the divine nature; that, as matter is open to the free access and unimpeded passage of the electric flash, so is the soul open to the subtle motions of the Eternal Spirit, and ready, as it were, to be the vehicle of God's thought and action; so of his character and joy.
As to the manner of this divine presence, or working, we, of course, know nothing. We only know, reverting to comparisons just given, that, as matter conducts electricity, so the human soul becomes a conductor of the divine will, and sentiments. Or as we can not see how the crystal receives the light, or how, being a perfectly opaque body in itself, it becomes luminous without the least change in its own organization, so here we can understand that the human soul, or spirit, is made capable of the divine spirit, without any loss of its own human individuality; but, the manner of the fact is, in both cases, uninvestigable and mysterious.
The Scriptures use a great variety of figures to represent this truth, and gives us a vivid practical sense of it but they do not undertake to show us the manner. They compare it to the wind that bloweth where it listeth--thou canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth. They speak of it as teaching--he shall teach you all things. Drawing,--except the Father which hath sent me draw him. Quickening--it is the spirit that quickeneth. Begetting anew,--born of water and of the spirit. Sealing,--sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise. Dwelling in the soul,--the Spirit of God dwelleth in you. Walking in it,--I will walk in them. Leading,--led of the Spirit. Strengthening,--strengthened with might by thy Spirit. Witnessing reciprocally with us,--bearing witness with our spirit. By reason of a certain analogy that pertains between the works of the Spirit in lost man, and the working of the life principle in bodies, it is also called, comprehensively, "the spirit of life." In which, however, nothing is explained to us respecting the manner; for we do not know, at all, how the life-principle works, we only know its effects; that it quickens the dead matter, organizes, vivifies and conserves it by its presence, and that, somehow, the matter, without ceasing at all to be matter, obeys it.
Let us now consider what and how much it signifies that we are spirit; capable, in this manner, of the divine concourse. In this point of view it is, that we are raised most distinctly above all other forms of existence known co us. When it is declared in the scripture, that the Spirit of God moved upon the waters of chaos, it is not meant that he was inspiring chaos, but only that he was acting creatively in it. So it is not understood, when all the host of heaven are said to be created by the breath of the Almighty, that the stars are inspired creatures; much less, that the brute animals are inspired, because they are said to live, when the Almighty sendeth forth his Spirit. The will, or force of God, can act omnipotently on all created things, as things. He can penetrate all central fires and dissolve, or annihilate, every most secret atom of the worlds, but it can not be said that these things receive him. Nothing can truly receive him but spirit. He may pass through things and have them pliant everywhere to his touch, but they derive nothing from him that is personal to him. No creature can truly receive him, save one that is constitutionally related to him in terms that permit correspondence; there must be intelligence offered to his intelligence, sentiments to his sentiments, reason to his reason, will to his will, personality to his person. To speak of an inspired mountain, or planet, or breeze of air, an inspired block, or an inspired brute, has even a sound of irreverence. Not so to speak of an inspired man; for man is spirit, a nature configured to God, and therefore able to receive him. And by this, he is separated from, and set above all other of God's creatures, and shown to be scarcely less different from them in kind than the Creator himself. True, he is a creature, but a creature how gloriously distinguished; one that can partake the Infinite Creator himself, and come up thus into the range of his principles, motives, thoughts and powers. Not even the obedient worlds of heaven can so receive him. Following in the track of his will, and filling even immensity with their stupendous frame of order, they yet have nothing fellow to God in their substance, and can not, therefore do what the humblest soul is able; can not receive the communication of God. They can be shaken, melted, exploded, annihilated by his will, but they are not vast enough, or high enough in quality to be inspired by him Spirit only can be inspired.
We sometimes undertake to magnify the dignity cf man by dwelling on the wonderful achievements of his intelligence. He creates and uses language, makes records oI the past, enacts laws, builds institutions, climbs the heavens, searching out their times and orbits, penetrates the secret affinities and counts the atoms of matter, bridges the sea by his inventions, commands the lightning itself to think his thoughts and run upon his errands in the ends of the world,--none but a stupendous creature, we suppose, and rightly, can be manifested in acts of intelligence like these. And yet, to be penetrated and lighted up from within by the mind of God, to have the understanding of things unseen by the inspiration of the Almighty, in one word, to be spirit, and have the consciousness even of God, as being irradiated and filled with his divine fullness; this, after all, is the distinction that makes any mere show of intelligence quite insignificant.
We sometimes dwell on the fact of the moral nature in man, conceiving that in this, he is seen to be, most of all, exalted. And our impression is right, if by the moral we understand, also, the spiritual and religious nature, as we often do. But, in strict propriety, the moral nature is quite another and vastly inferior thing, as respects the scale of its dignity. The spiritual is even as much higher than the moral, as the moral is higher than the animal. To be a moral being is to have a sense of duty and a power of choice that supports and justifies responsibility. It is that in us which recognizes the supremacy of moral ideas or abstract notions, and acknowledges their binding force, as laws or principles. Animals, for example, have a certain power of intelligence, but they have no sense of duty, or law; that is a point quite above their tier of existence. But to be raised in this manner above them, as being simply a moral creature, is by no means any principal distinction. An atheist can have moral ideas, and, acting on the plane of the world as a member of human society, can feel and can personally honor the obligations of principle. But, to be spirit, or to have a spiritual nature, is to be practically related to a being in us and about us, who is above all mere abstractions, or principles: viz., to the person of God Himself. It is to be capable, not of duty only, or of sentiments of duty, but of receiving God, of knowing Him within, of being permeated, filled, ennobled, glorified, by his infinite Spirit. Ideas can not walk in us, or witness, or beget anew, or seal; but, the living God, communicating Himself to souls, can do this and more--can raise them to his own plane of existence, and make them partakers with him, even in his character itself. And here it is that humanity culminates, or reveals the summit of its dignity; it is, in being spirit, and, as such, open to the visitation and the. indwelling power of God. This it is, and this only, that makes us properly religious beings. Angelic nature can not, in this view, be higher. No creature being can excel in order a soul so configured to God as to be inspirable by him; able to receive his impulse, fall into his movement, rest in his ends, and be finally perfected in the eternity of his joys.
It is also in virtue of this distinction between a merely moral nature and spirit, that redemption, or the restoration from evil is possible; for that we are down, under evil, can not be denied. Were there no other way for us, but to act on ourselves, and bring ourselves out of our disorder into the abstractions of law and duty, our case were utterly hopeless. As certainly as sin exists, we are in it forever. Were there no divine access to us, no capacity of inspiration in us, the body of a common rock could as well light itself up by the sun, as we come into the light again of true virtue, assisted only by the abstract principles, or light of duty. There is no possibility of redemption, or spiritual restoration for us, save that, as being open to the inbreathing of God, we may so be impregnated with a new power of life, and, by force of a divine visitation within, be regenerated in the holiness of God. All which is described in the scripture as being born of God. And what a height of almost divinity do we look upon in such a truth as that! What man will not even tremble, as in awe of himself, when he contemplates, in this word of scripture, the eternal Spirit of God coursing through the secret cells and chambers of his feeling, turning him about in his motions, breathing in his thoughts, and calling back his wild affections to a common center with His own.
Glance a moment also, at this point, on the origin and constituted relation of our human nature, as spirit, with it? author and creator. In the original scheme of existence, it was planned that man should be complete, and, as it were, infinite in God, by reason of his continual participation of God. And this is the true normal state of man. In which normal state he was to be a continually inspired creature, conscious always of God as of himself, actuated by the divine character, exalted by the divine beatitude. This, accordingly, is the true idea of the fall. It is not that man fell away from certain moral notions, or laws, but it is that he fell away from the personal inhabitation of God, lost inspiration, and so became a dark, enslaved creature,--alienated, as the apostle says, from the life of of God. Still, his capacity of inspiration is not absolutely gone, or closed up, and God is striving ever in the gospel, to regain his dominion over him, again to fill him as a renewed creature with his Spirit. And when he is truly yielded up again to the inspiration of God, when he is born of the Spirit, then he is so far restored to the normal state from which he fell; made conscious again of God, knowing God as revealed in his inmost life, by a knowledge that is immediate; filled with joy and peace, fortified in strength, guided by the motions of eternal wisdom. This is the real significance, as we just now saw, of Christian regeneration. It is not that the subject is set in a new relation to certain abstract laws, tests, obligations, but it is that he is brought back into his true normal relation to the Eternal Spirit of God, and begins to live, as he was made to live, an inspired life,--led of the Spirit, dwelt in, walked in by the Spirit, made to be a temple for the inhabitation of God, as he was originally designed to be. Sanctification, properly regarded, is, accordingly, nothing but a completed inspiration; a bringing of every thought into captivity to the divine movement. And then, if we look at the attributes of character perfected, how superlative, how evidently divine they are--the self-renunciation, the patience, the fortitude in suffering, the courage superior to death and all torments of persecution, the repose, the joy, the abounding beneficence, the forgiveness of enemies, the fidelity to God, that dies sooner than renounce Him--these are the results and characters, by which the inspired life is distinguished. Meantime the subject of this grace is no way taken off from his proper individuality, by the state of inspired impulse into which he is come, but he appears rather to others, and also seems to himself, to have risen to a more complete and potent individuality than he ever knew before. It is as if he had just here discovered him. self and awakened to the consciousness of his sovereignty over all things round him. Knowing that God worketh in him to will and to do, his willing and doing are just so much the more energetic, because he is raised in such a degree, by the new flood of movement upon which he is now embarked. He governs himself the more sublimely, and, as it were, imperially, that he is crowned as a king by the inspiration he feels. He subdues the body, tramples pain and scorn, rides over death, and takes a reigning attitude in all things with his master; simply because the individuality of his nature, never before developed under the bondage of his fallen state, is now developed by his inspiration. As being spirit, he could never be developed, save in the divine atmosphere, and, therefore, being now at home in God again, he discovers at once what it is to be a man.
Observe also, in some particulars, what takes place in the human soul, as an inspirable nature, when it is practically filled and operated by the Spirit of God. It has now that higher Spirit witnessing with itself. "Witnessing with,"--there is a glorious and blessed concomitancy in the subject, a kind of double sense in which he takes note, both of God and of himself together, and is, at one and the same moment, conscious of both. He is no longer a simple feather of humanity, driven about by the fickle winds of this world's changes, but, in the new sense he has of a composite life, in which God Himself is a pre siding force, he is raised into a glorious equilibrium above himself, and set in rest upon the rock of God's eternity. His strength is immovable; indeed he is, in a sense, impassible. All his powers and talents are quickened to a glow. His perceptions are cleared, his imagination exalted, and his whole horizon within is gloriously luminous.
See how it is in examples; what a man is before the holy visitation, and what he becomes in it. The man Enoch, walked in the deep mires of this world, as little superior to them, or as little raised above them, as other men of his ungodly times. But, when the testimony came that he pleased God, when the internal witness of God's love was unfolded in his consciousness, his affinities were changed, even to such a degree that the earth could hold him down no longer. Joseph, as Joseph, is the favored son of his father, distinguished by a certain natural grace, and the wearing of a particular coat. But he begins to have dreams, and then a power to interpret dreams, and God is with him in both, leading him on to a great and splendid future, and finishing a glorious beauty in his character, so that even we can see it as confidently as he knows it himself. Moses passes through the preparations of the scholar, then becomes! a refugee tending sheep on the backside of Horeb; a man scarcely more, to us, than if he had been kept, till this time, in his mother's basket among the rushes of the Nile. But the call overtakes him and the spirit now of God's own might enters into him. He becomes, at once, a prophet and a commander, the Liberator and Leader and Law-giver of his people, and the founder, in that manner, of a history that foreshadows, and even prepares a language for, the doctrines of Christ and the great mystery of salvation to be revealed in Christ, after fifteen centuries have passed away. Peter, again, the companion of Jesus and the hearer of his word, knew less, in Fact, of Christ, and the real import of his mission, than Moses was able to represent, or anticipate, in the forms of his ritual. He even seemed to imagine, down to the day of Pentecost itself, that the kingdom of Christ was exploded in his death. But when his dull humanity was lighted up by the advent of the Spirit on that day, a marvelous insight takes him, and he preaches Christ and the saving wonder of his death to three thousand men, as strangely overtaken with another sense of the glorious crucified as he. That was Peter as a man; this is Peter the rock, on whom God is building his Church. So the man Paul is going to Damascus, full of learning, and exceedingly mad with Pharisaic sanctity, there to exterminate the hated sect of Jesus. But this Paul is spirit, and behold a power breaks into him, on his way, and a voice internal calls to him, by which he is immediately become another; himself, yet still another; an apostle whose inspiration is Christ and for whom he is ready to die. Then how little, how mad with a man's animosities; now how lofty in his repose, how mighty in his action, how nearly divine in his character. When John, the apostle, lands, or is landed at Patmos, it does not appear that he carried to it thoughts or perceptions that were higher, or more far-reaching than many others might carry. But he is in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heaven is opened within, discovering to him, in scenes and images how sublime, the successive chapters of all the future ages of the kingdom. So there have, in all ages, been prophetic gifts, intimations, premonitions, dreams, visions, powers of healing, gifts of understanding, discernings of spirits, whenever the eternal Spirit. in souls, lifts them above their merely human range, and becomes the inhabiting grace of their personality. He enriches them with wisdom, fills them with a supernatural confidence, opens resources of character, and shows them to the world in the grand koinonia or fellowship of his own majestic life. We see them girded thus, and going forth to subdue kingdoms and conquer the world to Christ; and we discover, in what they show of heavenly fire and brightness, how much it signifies that God comes into men, or can. in the communication of himself. Apart from God, they are low, short-sighted, earthly and weak; but, being spirit, no sooner does the inspiration of the Almighty breathe into them, than they become powerful, and see afar, and shine with a dignity that is visibly divine.
But we do not really conceive the height of this subject, till we bring into view the place it holds in the economy of the heavenly state. All good angels and glorified men are distinguished by the fact that they are now filled with a complete inspiration from the fullness of God. It is their spiritual perfection that they are perfectly inspired, so that their whole action is in the divine impulse. All sin, all defect and spiritual distemper are drunk up or lost in the divine perfection. Their complete inspiration is their dignity, their strength, the spring of their swiftness and joy; and the Alleluia of their adoring eternity--the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth,--celebrates a reign not about them in things, nor in some third heaven above, but in them, in the more magnificent heaven of their own exalted powers and thoughts, and the glorified passions of their spirit. Inspiration is their heaven; the Lord God giveth them light. All that we mean by the heavenly joy and perfection is nothing but the restoration and the everlasting bloom of that high capacity for God, in which our normal state began, and of which that first state was only the germ, or prophecy. Man finds his paradise, when he is imparadised in God. It is not that he is squared to certain abstractions, or perfected in his moral conformity to certain impersonal laws; but it is that he is filled with the sublime personality of God, and forever exalted by his inspirations, moving in the divine movement, rested on the divine center, blessed in the divine beatitude.
On the other hand, what is called hell, in the scripture, is a world of misery, constituted by the complete absence of God. It is outer darkness, because it is that night of the mind, which overtakes it when it strays from God and his light. To be severed eternally from God's inspirations is enough, as we are constituted, to seal our complete misery. No matter whether it be that our capacity of inspiration is extinct, or whether it continues, gasping after the inspiring breath of God forever shut away. One is the misery of deformity and weakness; the other of exile and want. One is that of a soul halved in its capacity, which leaves the. other half unregulated and torn by disorders which it has no higher nature left to subordinate and quell; the other is that of a soul in full capacity, torn by disorders equally hopeless and struggling with immortal want beside.
I have endeavored, in this manner, to unfold, as I was able, the real import of the spirit in man, taken as a nature capable of receiving the inspiration of the Almighty. This, it can hardly be questioned, is the greatest of all distinctions,--superior to free will, to conscience, to reason, and to every other gift or faculty of human nature. An important light is shed by this great truth on many points that meet us in the facts of human life and religious experience.
1. It is a singular and somewhat curious confirmation of what I have been saying, that poets and orators have been so ready, in all ages of the world, to invoke inspirations. It is not a mere rhetorical flourish of trumpets as the critics appear to suppose. It is because they are made to be inspired. What they ask for, whether they know it or not, is suggested by native affinities that crave a state of inspiration. They really want to be exalted above themselves, and speak from a higher point as being divinely empowered. Hence their invocations of the Muses, and Apollo, and Mars, of seraphim and of Christ. They want some deific impulse. A something in their nature lifts them up to this. And the same is in us all. No man has any satisfaction in himself, simply as a person acting from his own center. He dwindles painfully in this manner and becomes a mere dry point, position without magnitude. We never come into the sense of magnitude till we receive God's measures in our feeling and rise to an attitude exalted by the consciousness of God.
2. We discover in this subject what is the true ground and the rational significance of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, as advanced in the gospels. It is not simply that sin has made a necessity for the divine nature to do something new, but rather that sin had abolished something old, which needs to be restored. The doctrine of the Holy Spirit is grounded in the primordial nature of all spiritual beings. They are made, as we have said, to be divinely inhabited, made to live in eternal inspiration. The doctrine of the Holy Spirit pertains to all created spirit in all worlds, only with modifications adapted to their state. To be in the Spirit is their normal condition, their conserving law, their light, and strength, and glory. And therefore, when they sin, falling away from God's Spirit, and dropping into the darkness of mere self-hood, there can, of course, be no recovery, till the eternal Spirit is re-installed in their nature. They require to be regenerated, born of the Spirit, which only means that the lost inspiration is now restored. Accordingly, the question so often mooted, whether men have power to regenerate themselves, is seen to be idle and even senseless; for the plain reason that being regenerated is the same thing as having inspiration; that is, being in the divine impulse and order. The precise thing needed is to be raised out of the separated, self-centered, evil state into the inspired state, and the regulative order of God's own movement. Are we then going to regenerate ourselves, going to inspire ourselves? If it were a merely moral change, a change before the mind's own abstractions, ideas, or principles, it would not be plainly absurd to think it; but, when it is a renewal that even consists in the inbreathing of God's Spirit, and the being in his impulse, what Scougal appropriately calls "The Life of God in the Soul of Man," how shall it even be imagined that we can pass the change upon ourselves? And yet how simple it is! How much easier, in fact, than to drag ourselves into good of any kind. Open your whole nature to God, offer yourselves in the spirit of contrition and of a real, unquestioning faith, to the occupancy of God, and the light will not more certainly break into the sky, and fill the horizon with day, when the morning sun is risen. Ask, in one word, and ye shall receive, seek and ye shall find. This now is the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. It is not some new idea of the gospel. It is an advance of the Divine love to recover lost ground and bring back guilty souls among men, to that which is the original, everlasting bliss and beauty of all the created intelligences of God.
3. We discover, in our subject, what significance there is in the pride which looks on spiritual religion as a humiliation, or deems it even a mortification not to be endured. A mortification for this tiny speck of mortality not to stay by itself in its own littleness and frailty! A mortification to be brought up into the sense of God's own greatness! A mortification to be ennobled by the Spirit of God, to have all our experience modulated and glorified by him! A mortification to be in God's wisdom, to be established in the confidence of his infinite majesty, to think with him and from him, to move in the glorious order of his perfect mind, and be the embodiment eternally of his impulse! O, how petty and weak this pride how contemptible this contempt! And yet, to be a Christian, to be given up to the Spirit of God and carefully offered to his holy guidance,--how many look on it as a weakness, a loss of dignity, a thing which only the tamer and less manly souls can descend to. I know not any thing else that exhibits the folly and conceit of man like this pride. As if it were some loss or abatement to be set in a plane with God, to have the inspiration of the Almighty, to receive a higher nature and life in the Eternal Life and impulse of God. It is as if the world of matter were to be ashamed of the sun, and shrink with inward mortification from the state of day! What is God but our day, the sun of our eternity, the light of our light. Without whom, as the light of our seeing, the universe of nature were a mere phosphorescence of fate, unintelligent and cold, life a driblet of vanity, and eternity itself a protracted and amplified nothingness. O, my friends, this pride you have against religion will sometime be inverted, and you will be overwhelmed by the discovery of its true merit. You have read those powerful words, "shame and everlasting contempt." And what do you think is their meaning? It is to look on the saints in the glory of their resurrection, and see them visibly perfected and ennobled by the inhabitation of God, and remember that such was the honor you rejected: to wither and mentally die in the sense of your own little separated speck of vanity, when surrounded with holy myriads, gloriously transfigured by the light of God upon them,--this is shame and everlasting contempt. O, that I could help you to understand, as then you will, how great a thing it is to be established everlastingly in the inspired state. These are they who are made kings and priests unto God; the kinsmen of angels, the companions of seraphim, bright, and strong, and free, because the Eternal Spirit leads them, and shines forever, in glorious evidence, through them. The Lord God giveth them light. Despised of man, they are princes now at God's right hand. Wise, great, mighty and majestic, creatures in the range of divinity, you may see, in their glorious beauty and the royal confidence of their eternity, how much it signifies to be a spirit capable of God and the abiding grace of his presence.
Finally, it remains to conduct you forward into that view of the great future of Christianity on earth, in which much of the practical interest of our subject lies. It is a great misfortune, as I view it, that we have brought down the word inspiration to a use so narrow and technical; asserting it only of prophecy and other scripture writings, and carefully excluding from it all participation, by ourselves, in whatever sense it might be taken. We cut ourselves off, in this manner, from any common terms with the anointed men of scripture and the scripture times. They belong to another tier of existence, with which we can not dare to claim affinity; and so we become a class unprivileged, shut down to a kind of second-hand life, feeding on their words. The result is that we are occupied almost wholly with second-hand relations to God. Our views of life are low and earthly, because our possibilities are low. And then we complain that Christian character grows worldly, and loses depth and tone, as if it were finally going to quite vanish out of the world; that religious convictions grow feeble; that the ministry and the preached word produce no longer the true apostolic effects. As if any thing apostolic in power could remain, when no apostolic faith or grace is left us; when, in fact, the apostles and all scripture writers are really set between us and God to fence us away, not before, as examples to help us on; for they, we are told, were inspired, which we, in no sense, can be. And so, being shut down to a meaner existence, there is no relief for us but in a recoil against inspiration itself, even that of the Holy Scriptures; for, who will believe, (how many are beginning to ask it,) that men were inspired long ages ago, when now any such thing is incredible?
There is yet to be a revision of this whole subject. Not that we are to assert or claim the same inspiration with the writers of scripture. God has a particular kind of inspiration for every man, just according to what he is and the uses he will make of him; for the tradesmen Bezaleel as truly as for Moses. He will dignify every right calling by being joined to us in it; for there is nothing given us to do, which he will not help us to do rightly and wisely, filling us with a lofty and fortified consciousness of his presence with us in it. It is not for us to say, beforehand, what gifts, or what kind of inspiration God will bestow Enough that he will take us into his own care, and work his own counsel in us. We have no lisp of authority for assuming that he never wants another book of scripture written, though probably enough he does not. He will take care of that: only let us set no limits to the Holy One of Israel, and be ready to admit his guidance, and wait to be his qualified instruments, whether in work or suffering, whether as tradesmen, or merchants, or teachers, or ministers, or prisoners, or domestics, or slaves.
I believe, furthermore, that there is going, finally, to be entered into the world a more general, systematic and soundly intellectual conviction respecting all these secret relations of souls to God. When we have been out into all the fields of science, and gotten our opinion of the scientific order by which God works in matter, and the laws immaterial by which all matter is swayed, I believe that we shall turn round God-ward, to consider what our relations may be on that side; and then we shall not only take up the doctrine of the Spirit and of holy inspiration, looking no more, as now, after some mere casual, fitful, partially fantastic, visitations of what we call the Spirit, but we shall discover in it the truth of a grand, universal, intelligent, systematic, abiding inspiration, and the whole human race, lifted by this discovery, will fall into this gift, knowing that in God is the only divine privilege of existence. To be in this inspiration will be nothing extraordinary now, any more than that men should be sober, which out of it they are not. Without something like this breaking into the world's mind, that kingdom which is righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost, and which it is promised shall finally fill the earth, can, manifestly, never come. These too, are the last days of the promise; days when the apostolic grace, instead of being confined to apostles, and shut away from the living, is to bathe, and fill, and glorify itself in all created minds on earth.
And the sooner, brethren and friends, we begin to look for this the better. And what shall we do sooner than prepare ourselves for the grace that is offered. First, believe that you may have it, and may live in this abiding witness and participation of God's Spirit. Sacrifice every thing cheerfully and calmly for this. Esteem it no forbid. ding sanctimony to be holy. Aspire to these majestic honors, by a life rationally set to do God's will and purified to receive it. Live as with God; and, whatever be your calling, pray for the gift that will perfectly qualify you in it. Let his tabernacle so be set up in you, and be a witness for him, in that manner, of the day, when it shall be said, in the fullness of his universal light, the tabernacle of God is with men.