How important, then, it is that we should have a scriptural understanding of the constitution of man. If it should appear by an exposition of the truth, that there is no such kind of soul in the universe as that conceited by the pagan Greeks and Romans, and gentilized into the doctrine of the apostles by contemporary perverters* of the gospel, the faith and hope of which it hath ulcerously consumed — and handed down to us by “orthodox divines” — and fondled in these times as an essential ingredient of a true faith: — what becomes of the “cure of souls” by the dogmatical specifics of the day? They are resolved into theological empiricism, which is destined to recede like darkness before the orient brightness of the rising truth.
Let us then endeavour to understand ourselves as God has revealed our nature in His word. On the sixth day, the Elohim gave the word, saying,
“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness”.
“It was God. All things were made by it, and without it was not anything made that was made.” (John 1:1–5)**
Hence, says Elihu,
“the Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life”; (Job 33:4) ***
or, as Moses testifies,
“the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of lives; and man became a Living Soul”. (Genesis 2:7)****
Galatians 1:7–9 (ESV): 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.
John 1:1–5 (ESV): The Word Became Flesh
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Job 33:4 (ESV): 4 The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.
Genesis 2:7 (ESV): 7 then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.
– Thomas, D. J. Elpis Israel: an exposition of the Kingdom of God (electronic ed., p. 31). Birmingham, UK: The Christadelphian.
“Out of the ground wast thou taken; for dust thou art.”
That “the sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath”, is a truth of general application to all the institutions of God. Upon this principle, man was not made for religion, but religion was made for him. If this be true, then it follows that it was adapted to man as God had formed him. Hence, the institutions of religion, if it be of God, will always be found in harmony with his constitution and not at variance with it. They are devised as a remedy, for certain irregularities which have invaded his intellectual and moral nature; by which, phenomena have been superinduced which are destructive of his being. Now the exact adaptation of the Bible religion to the curative indications suggested by the intellectual, moral, and physical infirmities of human nature, which everyone who understands it cannot fail to perceive, proves that the mind which framed it is divine; and that the religion of the scriptures, and the constitution of man, are the work of one and the same Creator. God is truly the only wise physician, whose practice is based upon perfect knowledge; for He alone (and they to whom He hath revealed it) knows “what is in man”. [(John 2:24-25)]
Hence, no incongruities are discoverable in “His way” when His method of cure is understood.
In medicine, a scientific practice is directed, and founded, upon a knowledge of the structure or mechanism of the body, the motive power thereof, and of the functions which are manifested by the working of this power on its several parts. The absence of this knowledge in a professional, constitutes empiricism*; and is one cause of such vast multitudes “dying”, as it is said, “of the doctor”. Being ignorant of the motive power of the living creature, they are as unsuccessful in correcting its irregularities as a watchmaker, who was ignorant of the principles and laws by which a timepiece was moved, would be in rectifying its errors. Now this may be taken in illustration of the predicament of others who undertake the “cure of souls”. To treat these as “a work-man that needeth not to be ashamed”, a man should be acquainted with “souls” as God hath formed and constituted them. He should know what “a living soul” is; what its condition in a healthy state; what the peculiar morbid affection under which it languishes; what the nature of the cure indicated; and what the divinely appointed means by which the indications may be infallibly fulfilled. An attempt to “cure souls” without understanding the constitution of man as revealed by Him who created him, is mere theological experimentalism; and as bootless, and more fatally destructive than the empiricism of the most ignorant pretenders to the healing art. What! men undertake to “cure souls” and not to know what a soul is; or to imagine it a something, which it is admitted cannot be demonstrated by “the testimony of God”. This is like pretending to repair a timepiece without knowing what constitutes a watch or clock, or while imagining it to be a musical box, or any other conceivable thing.
Speculation has assumed that the soul is something in the human body capable of living out of the body, and of eating, drinking, feeling, tasting, smelling, thinking, singing, and so forth; and of the same essence as God Himself. In times past some have busied themselves in calculating how many such souls could stand on the point of a needle; a problem, however, which still remains unsolved. A vast deal is said in “sermons” and systems about this idea; about its supposed nature, its wonderful capacity, its infinite value, its immortality, and its destiny. I shall not, however, trouble the reader with it. We have to do with “the law and the testimony”; and as they are altogether silent about such a supposed existence, we shall not occupy our pages in superadding to the obsolete print concerning its attributes, which has already merged into the oblivion of the past. I allude to so much as this, because it is made the foundation corner-stone, as it were, of those experimental systems of spiritual cure, which are so popular with the world, and so utterly exclusive and proscriptive of the divine method.
Upon the supposition of the existence of this kind of a soul in the human body are based the current notions of heaven, hell, immortality, infant salvation, purgatory, saint-worship, Mariolatry, spiritual millenniumism, metempsychosis*, etc., etc. Its existence both in the body and out of the body being assumed, it is assumed also to be immortal. An immortal disembodied existence requires a dwelling place, because something must be somewhere; and, as it is said to be virtuous or vicious according to its supposed life in the body, and post mortem rewards and punishments are affirmed — this dwelling-place is exhibited as an elysium, or, as an orthodox poet sings, “a place of goblins damn’d”.
– Thomas, D. J. (1990). Elpis Israel: an exposition of the Kingdom of God (electronic ed., pp. 27–29). Birmingham, UK: The Christadelphian.
Empiricism: thedoctrinethatallallideasandcategories, knowledge of matters of factderivesfromexperienceandthatthemind is notfurnishedwith a set of concepts in advance of experience or thatknowledgecannotextendbeyondexperience,includingobservation,experiment,andinduction.Compareintuitionism, rationalism
Metempsychosis: [LateLatinmetempsȳchōsis, fromGreekmetempsūkhōsis, frommetempsūkhousthai, to transmigrate : meta-, meta- + empsūkhos, animate (en, in; seepsūkhē in Indo-European roots).] = themigration of a soulfromonebody to another or theentering of a soulafterdeathupon a newcycle of existence in a newbodyeither of human or animalform; thetransmigration of thesoul,esp.thepassage of thesoulafterdeathintothebody of anotherbeing; therebirth of thesoul at death in anotherbody,eitherhuman or animal.Cf.creationism. — metempsychic,metempsychosic,metempsychosical,adj.