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when we lay before him his earthly prospects as a reasonable creature ; so we cultivate the faculties of his spirit, when we teach him whose he is, and for what end beyond this earth he was brought into the world ; and when we open to him the Gospel of Christ, and tell him by whose love he is continually surrounded, who so loved him that He laid down His life for his sake, and who is watching over his every childish
prayer and thought of good which He has Himself inspired, to bless it, and to make it bring forth more fruit. But if it happens, and how often does it so happen! that while the body and the soul are carefully attended to, the spirit is entirely neglected ; if that whose feelings and desires are by nature the weakest be left most completely to itself; how can we expect that it will not be quite overgrown in after life by those other two plants, which not only strike more naturally in the soil, but on which so much more care and labour have been bestowed? And then men speak slightingly of spiritual motives, of the force of love of Christ, and of the hope of Heaven, when they see them overwhelmed by so many disadvantages ; not cultivated by early habit, but supplanted by other and far more easily awakened motives, till the body and soul have perhaps had twenty years or more to grow and improve in, before the spirit receive any care at all. But where the spirit is early cultivated, and its desires and affections are raised to their proper place in our nature, the government of our whole lives ; then how beautiful is the sight to behold the spirit, and soul, and body, each strong and vigorous, and each working in its proper order ;
, the soul and body being the ready and able ministers to the spirit; and the strong and temperate pulse, the active limbs, the rich imagination, the keen and deep understanding and the clear and true judgment, all serving to the purposes of our immortal life, by helping our spirits to do our Master's work on earth; all working healthfully and with pleasure, yet none presuming above their place, nor thinking that the object of man's life is to perfect them only or chiefly. That object is to perfect our spirits, our desires after perfect happiness, our love to God, and to men as the children of God; to perfect in us that part of our being, which alone is remote from selfishness; or to which rather, by the perfect constitution and ordinance of our Maker, its own happiness follows, certainly yet unconsciously, in proportion as it more entirely loses sight of itself, and advances further and further in the love of others, in the bond of perfectness, which is Charity.
II CORINTHIANS v. 4.
For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being bur
dened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.
In a former sermon I spoke of the threefold distinction in our nature; the body, the soul, and the spirit: I said that the body and the soul which were in general by far the most carefully cultivated, were in fact of much less value than the spirit, and that their greatest perfection was when they were the active servants of the spirit, but still no more than its servants; and that the order of our natures was ruined when they aspired or were suffered to be masters. More, however, I think remains to be said on the subject; and particularly with respect to that large class of persons whom bodily weakness, or poverty, or a deficiency in the
powers of the understanding, deprives of all hope of bringing their bodies or minds to a vigorous and healthy state; and who would therefore be in a very helpless condition if they
were not able to improve and perfect their spirits.
I said before, that the great mass of mankind attended to their bodies much more than to their souls, or to their spirits: and therefore that their lives were neither those of reasonable, nor of immortal creatures: not so much worthy of men or of Christians, as of beasts. On the other hand, there have been those again in former times, who seemed to think that they could not cultivate their spirits without lowering and weakening their body. They fasted, they wore coarse clothing; sometimes they gave up all cleanliness, because they thought that that was too great a pampering to their body: and going on further, they deprived themselves of sleep, they wore shirts of horsehair, and scourged themselves; all with the view of keeping their flesh in subjection to their spirit. In some, these notions went to such a length, that they could not bear the thought of a resurrection, which would restore them to their bodies once more, but rather fancied that their spirits would then only be properly purified when they were released from their prison of the flesh. It is in answer to such opinions that St. Paul declares, that “ Bodily exercise" or discipline,“ profiteth little ;" that it is not
the lowering of the body which is needed; but the raising of the spirit: and again, in the words of the text, he says, that he does not wish to be unclothed ; that is to get rid of his body; but to be clothed upon : that is, to have something higher and better added to it; that mortality might be swallowed up of life. But it still has very generally happened, that persons have either thought only of their bodies, or have neglected them, and foolishly weakened them ; few have tried to make them useful servants to their spirits; but have either served them as masters, or have oppressed and misused them as enemies. We are told, however, to glorify God in our body, as well as in our spirit; and certainly we are so framed, that each part of our nature would be benefited by the good and sound state of the other parts, if each were properly cultivated ; if one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. This view of what our body requires of us, would lead us in the first place to temperance in eating and drinking; to avoid indolence, and yet at the same time not to weaken the faculties by denying ourselves proper rest : in short, to preserve that general health and hardiness which shall be at all times fit to serve