Chapter 04 – What Is Man? What Is His Destiny and Relationship to God? – The Government of God
Having shewn in the foregoing chapters, that the rule of God is perfect where he governs alone, that the rule of man is imperfect, and has introduced confusion and misery, and that the plans of men are not competent to restore the world to happiness, and the fulfilment of the object for which it was created; it now devolves upon us to investigate the way that this thing can, and will be accomplished; for there is a time spoken of in the Scriptures, when there will be a reign of righteousness.
First, then, we will enquire who and what is man? and what is his destiny, and what his relationship to God? For before we can define government correctly, it will be necessary to find out the nature of the being that has to be governed.
What, then, is man? Is he a being temporal and earthly alone, and when he dies, does he sink into forgetfulness? Is he annihilated? or has he a spirit as well as a body? If the first be the case, he alone has a right to regulate his own affairs, to frame his own government, and to pursue that course which to him seems good; if not, the case is different. I do not here wish to enter into a philosophical disquisition on the subject, but, as I am writing at present to believers in the Bible, I shall confine myself more to that. I will state, that man is an eternal being, composed of body and spirit: his spirit existed before he came here; his body exists with the spirit in time, and after death the spirit exists without the body. In the resurrection, both body and spirit will finally be reunited; and it requires both body and spirit to make a perfect man, whether in time, or eternity.
I know there are those who suppose that the spirit of man comes into existence with his body, and that intelligence and spirit are organized with the body; but we read, that when God made man, he made him of the dust of the earth; he made him in his own likeness. Man was then a lifeless body; He afterwards “breathed into him the breath of life, and man became a living soul.”
Before that spirit was given, he was dead, lifeless; and when that spirit is taken away, he is again lifeless; and let not any one say that the body is perfect without the spirit; for the moment the spirit leaves the body, no matter how perfect its organization may be, the man is inanimate, and destitute of intelligence and feeling: “it is the spirit that gives life.” Hence we find that when Jarius’s daughter was dead, his servant came and told him, saying, “Thy daughter is dead, trouble not the master;” but when she was restored, it is said “her spirit came again, and she arose straightway.” (Luke viii. 55.) When her spirit was absent, the body was dead; when it returned, the body lived. “Moses spake unto the Lord, and said, let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation.” (Num. xxvii. 16.) Again, the Lord in speaking to Jeremiah, said, “Before I formed thee in the belly, I knew thee,” (i. 5.) I would ask, What part of Jeremiah did he know? It could not be his body, for it was not in existence; but he knew his spirit, for “he was the father of his spirit.” The Lord speaks to Job and says, “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare if thou hast understanding, who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it. Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof? when the morning stars sung together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” (xxxviii. 4, 6.) Again, John says, “They that dwell on the earth, shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world.” (Rev. xvii. 8.)
This spirit proceeds forth from God, and is eternal; hence Solomon says, in speaking of death, “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was, and the spirit unto God who gave it.” (Eccles. xii. 7.) That the spirit is eternal, is very evident, from the Scriptures; Jesus prayed to his father, and said, “O Father, glorify thou me, with thine own self, with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” (John xvii. 5.) Here Jesus speaks of an existence before he came here, of a glory he had with his Father before the world was. Christ, then, existed before he came here and took a body. Again Jesus says, “I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me.” (John xvii. 6.)
Let us see what the Apostle Paul says on the subject: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings, in heavenly places, in Christ; according as he hath chosen us in him, before the foundation of the world.” (Ephes. i, 3, 4.) Christ, then, existed with his Father before the world was, and the Saints existed in, or with him. What part? their bodies? no, their spirits. Again, man exists after he leaves here. It is unnecessary to say anything about the life of the spirit, after the death of the body, or of the resurrection, as the subjects are so generally known and believed. Paul says, “If in this life only, we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. … The trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed; for this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.” (1 Cor. xv. 19-21, 52-54.)
If man, then, is an eternal being, came from God, exists here for a short time, and will return, it is necessary that he know something about God, and his government. For he has to do with him not only in time, but in eternity, and whatever man may be disposed to do, or however he may vaunt himself of his own abilities, there are some things he has no control over. He came into the world without his agency, he will have to leave it, whether he desires it or not; and he will also have to appear in another world. He is destined, if he improves his opportunities, to higher and greater blessings and glory than are associated with this earth in its present state: and hence the necessity of the guidance of a superior power, and intelligence, that he may not act the part of a fool here, and jeopardize his eternal interests; but that his intelligence may be commensurate with his position; that his actions here may have a bearing upon his future destiny; that he may not sink into the slough of iniquity and degradation, and contaminate himself with corruption; that he may stand pure, virtuous, intelligent, and honourable, as a son of God, and seek for, and be guided and governed by his Father’s counsels. Having said so much on this subject, we will continue our investigation still further, and enquire next, What is our relationship to God? In answering this, I would briefly remark, that the position that we stand in to him, is that of a son. Adam is the father of our bodies, and God is the father of our spirits. I know that some are in the habit of looking upon God, as a monster only to be dreaded, known only in the earthquake, the tempest, the thunder, and the storm, and that there is something gloomy and dismal attached to his service. If there is, it is the appendage of man, and not of God. Is there anything gloomy in the works that God has made? Turn where we will, we see harmony, loveliness, cheerfulness, and beauty.
The blessings of providence were made for man, and his enjoyment; he is placed as head of creation. For him the earth teems with the richest profusion; the golden grain, the luscious fruit, the choicest vines; for him, the herbs, and flowers, bedeck the earth, shed their odoriferous perfumes, and display their gorgeous beauty; for him, the proud horse yields his back, the cow gives her milk, and the bee its honey; for him, the sheep yields its fleece, the cotton-tree its down, and the worm its silk. For him, the shrub and vine bloom and blossom, and nature clothes herself in her richest attire; the rippling stream, the pure fountain, the crystal river flow for him, all nature spreads her richest charms, and invites him to partake of her joyousness, beauty, and innocence, and to worship her God.
Talk about melancholy, in the fear of God, and in his service! It is the corruption of the world, that has made men unhappy; and the corruption of religion that has made it gloomy: these are the miseries entailed by men, not the blessings of God. Talk about gloom! is there gloom in the warbling of the birds, in the prancing of the horse, in the playfulness of the lamb, or kid; in the beauty of flowers, in any of Nature’s gifts, or rich attire, or in God, that made them, or in his service?
There are others, again, who would place the Lord at an immense distance, and render our approach to him almost impossible; but this is a superstitious idea, for our Father listens to the cries of his children, numbers the hairs of their heads; and the Scriptures say, “a sparrow cannot fall to the ground, without his notice.” He speaks to his elect, and says, “He that toucheth you, toucheth the apple of his eye.” (Zech. ii. 8.) He is our Father; and hence the Scriptures tell us to pray, “Our Father, who art in heaven.” Paul says, “We have had fathers of our flesh, which corrected us, and we gave them reverence; shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?” (Heb. xii. 9.) We have, then, both a temporal and a spiritual Father; and hence his solicitude for our welfare, and his desire for our happiness. Says Jesus, “If a son ask bread, will he for bread give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent. If ye, then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven, give good things to them that ask him.”
What a delightful reflection for his servants, to draw nigh to their Father, as to an endearing parent, and ask for blessings, as a son would ask for bread, and be confident of receiving. Hence the faithful in the Apostles’ days received a spirit, whereby they could say, “Abba, Father,” or Father, Father. What an endearing relationship! and if the world could comprehend, how gladly would they throw themselves upon his guardianship, seek his wisdom and government, and claim a father’s benediction; but Satan has blinded the eyes of the world, and they know not the things which make for their peace.
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Source: Chapter 4 of the The Government of God, by John Taylor (1852)