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“And he saith unto him—Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”—John i, 31.
With a singular felicity and power of statement, Mr. Coleridge gives it for his doctrine of scripture inspiration—“In the Bible there is more that finds me, than I have experienced in all other books put together; the words of the Bible find me at greater depths of my being; and whatever finds me brings with it an irresistible evidence of its having proceeded from the Holy Spirit.” God only can be so far privy, that is, to the soul, as to make it answer thus, all through, in its deepest and most hidden parts, to his words. Whatever may be thought of his doctrine, as a complete and sufficient solution of the question, it is certainly good, and even powerfully good, as far as it goes. And it has a beautiful coincidence, which he probably had never observed, with the very simple and truly natural sentiment of Christ’s interview with Nathanael.
Fig-trees make a very dense covering of leaves and sometimes drop their boughs very low. Nathanael had lately retired into the cabin of thick foliage thus provided 435 by some tree of his garden, and closeted there with God, was opening his heart, in regard to some particular difficulty, or enemy, or question of duty, or promise of a Messiah to come, in a manner only the more guileless, that he felt himself to be so entirely removed from human observation. Shortly after, probably on that same day, being notified by Philip, he comes to see Jesus, who is even thought to be the great Messiah himself. Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him and saith of him—“Behold an Israelite indeed in whom is no guile!” Nathanael saith unto him—“Whence knowest thou me?” Jesus answered and said unto him—“Before Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig-tree, I saw thee.” Nathanael saith unto him” Rabbi, thou art the Son of God, thou art the king of Israel.” Jesus answered and said unto him—“Because I saw thee under the fig-tree believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these.” And he saith unto him—“Verily, verily I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
The two main points of the dialogue are, first, that Nathanael was so impressed by the finding of Christ, or the privity of Christ’s knowledge of him, under the fig-tree, that he at once declared his belief in him as the Messiah; and secondly, that Christ immediately proclaims a deeper finding, and a more convincing privity of knowledge, that shall, in, due time, be shown or proved, by the opening, within his own bosom, of a supernatural, sense and the discovery to him thus of 436 supernatural beings, the passing and repassing, the flow and reflow of their blessed society. According to the description given, it will be as if that isthmus barrier between the two great oceans of the world were cloven down, for the oscillating tides to begin their coming and returning flow; when also the ships of the nations, wafted convergently thither, shall be sailing freely through, burdened with the fruits and golden riches of all climes and shores.
Now this opening of heaven, which is to be our subject, is presented by the Saviour in terms that may seem to be a little enigmatical. We shall conceive his meaning perhaps more sufficiently, if we note three principal views of the heavenly state that occur in the scripture. First, there is the local objective view, that conceives it as a place somewhere in the upper worlds of heaven or the sky. Secondly, there is the terrestrial objective view, where the New Jerusalem descending from God out of heaven and refitting our world itself to be the abode of God with men, makes it a province, in that manner, of the other. Thirdly, the subjective view, which has nothing to do with place or locality, but conceives the heavenly state simply as a state of spiritual beholding and social commerce opened in the soul itself. There is no necessary contradiction or disagreement between the three conceptions stated; they are all true, though probably in different senses, and may be taken as complementary, in fact, to each other. The first is more impressive and popular and more commonly used; the second, as being more geographical, is more closely 437 connected with our mundane prospects and affairs; the third is more entirely moral and rational, being simply the condition of character. All are to be used with entire freedom, and without any attempt to maintain one against the others; the presumption being that a state. so transcendent will be only feebly conceived, when they are all brought in, to intensify and qualify, or complement, each other.
In the conversation with Nathanael, the Saviour appears to be speaking in the subjective way, as of a heaven to be opened in the soul itself. In his terms of description, he refers, apparently, to Jacob’s dream, where that patriarch beholds, not without, but in the chamber of his own brain, in a dream of the night when the senses are fast locked in sleep, a ladder set up and the angels of God coursing up and down upon it; only what transpired subjectively in his brain he naturally associated with the place, conceiving also that the sky above was somehow specially set open there, saying—“how dreadful is this place,” and calling it “the gate of heaven.” So the Saviour says, “ascending and descending,” putting the ascending first; as if the metropolis or point or departure, in the commerce begun, were to be from within the soul itself. There lives the Son of Man, reigning in his heavenly kingdom at the soul’s own center, and from him go up couriers and ministers of glory, descending also back upon him there. The precise point made, in this manner, with Nathanael is, that as he was discovered under the fig-tree, so he shall be discovered, as regards the immense 438 upper world of the soul, existing unsuspected in him hitherto, but now set open. These two propositions cover the ground of the subject stated, and these I shall endeavor to substantiate.
I. That there is a supernatural sense, now slumbering or closed up in souls, by which they might perceive, or cognize, supernatural beings and things, even as they cognize material beings and things by the natural sense. And
II. That Christ undertakes to open this supernatural sense, and make it the organ or inlet of universal society.
I. There is a supernatural sense now closed up, or existing under a state of suppression.
We encounter a difficulty here, in attempting to prove the existence of faculties and powers that are shut in, or suppressed in their action. And yet even our natural faculties are very nearly in that condition at the first—no man knowing, or conceiving, what is in him, till it is brought forth. We also know that all finest qualities and highest powers are stifled, for the time, or even permanently, by wrongs and vices. What we here suppose to be true is, that in the original and properly normal state, souls were open to God, and a full, free commerce with his upright society. Being made in God’s image, they were to be children with God their Father, living in society with him, having him to know, enjoy, and love, and having all their desires freely met and satisfied by the open ministry of his friendship. He was, and, with all his glorious company, was eternally 439 to be, revealed in them, as in a heaven of present bliss, and immediately conscious communion of life.
But this original and properly normal state was necessarily broken up and brought to a full end, by their fall into sin. They now become afraid of him and hide themselves instinctively from him. No longer can he be revealed to their immediate knowledge, because the personal affinities through which he was to be revealed are closed up in them. They fall off thus into their senses, and become occupied with the objects of the senses; having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that is in them. So they live as under heavy storm-clouds in the night; the. lightning flashes in sharp gleams across the clouds, or glares in red anger fits from within their body, but there is no opening through, to let in the light of the stars. Heaven is gone out to them in the same manner; God is hid, and they know not where they can find Him; spirit and spiritual being and spiritual society with his great family is so far a lost possibility, that, if they think it, they can not give it reality. There is something too in guilt, or the state of guiltiness, that amounts to a virtual shutting up, or suppression, of all affinities with supernatural being. It freezes in perception. It condenses all the Godward and pure aspirations and gathers them in, by the dreadful recoil it makes on the soul’s own center. It pronounces a damnation too upon itself, and by its own remorseful severities makes the sentence good. Falling away thus from God, and closing itself up as regards all 440 supernatural relations and perceptions, it becomes self-centered, isolated, a worm in the ground, having its belongings there and not in the element of day.
Is there now any such supernatural sense existing under suppression in the soul, as the statement I have made supposes? The question is a very great, and is getting to be the almost only, question for our day.
To go over the evidence briefly, there is obviously nothing impossible in the fact of such a sense. There may as well be a power to cognize immaterial, supernatural being, as material.
Neither is it any thing, that our philosophers recognize no such higher ranges of faculty. No faculty is ever recognized, save as it comes into consciousness by use. That which is shut up, therefore, can be nothing to philosophy. When the lantern of a light-house has no light burning within, it will be an opaque body at the top, as it is in the base below—even the transparency will be opaque.
But we can affirm, I think, with confidence, for one distinct argument, that there ought to be just this upper world of supernatural insight in souls. As they are related to God, there ought to be a power of immediate knowledge, in which he is revealed—they require, in fact, to be as truly conscious of God as of themselves; for God is the complement of their being, and without him they only half exist. Again, as they are related to eternal society with all good beings, they ought also to have powers of discerning that may apprehend them. In this manner, as they are not made to be mere 441 plodders, however intelligent, or scientific in distinguishing the laws and causes of things, but to have their summits and supreme destinies of life, in their commerce with God, and the supernatural society of his realm, their fit equipment requires, obviously enough, a higher sense opening towards the supernatural. How can the understanding, operating on the subject matter of sense, discover, or attain, by mere inference, to what is not in the premises of sense, but in a totally different range? Whoever then adheres to immortality and religion, and denies the credibility of what is supernatural, confesses, at once, that he wants the commerce of God’s universal society, and cuts off the possibility of finding it.
Again, there not only ought to be aspirations in the soul, and powers of sensing for the supernatural, but we can see, by many signs, more or less definite, that there are. Sometimes a groping will signify as much as an open discovery, and what has the race been doing, in all the past ages and everywhere, but groping after gods, and demons, and populating even the earth and the sky with mythologic creations. It is as if some divine phrenzy were in them, goading them on after what they so mightily want. Little, indeed, do they discover of what is real and true; they only go a marveling, as the phrenologists would say, carried off from the mere plane of reason, by they know not what. They grope with their eyes shut, and their groping signifies more than their discoveries. I think also that we can find, every one of us, in ourselves, dim yearnings, imaginations 442 coasting round unknown realms, guesses asking after the commerce of good and great beings, that put us in profound sympathy with them. Nothing will account for what we find thus in ourselves and the world, but the fact of supernatural longings and perceptions, existing in us under suppression. Indeed, I think we should very nearly suffocate, all of us, including even the infidel deniers, shut down close under nature and her causes. After all, we do think higher things, and there is more comfort in it than perhaps we know.
We are able, again, to conceive certain things about this supernatural sense, taking in supernatural things and beings, which makes it seem less extravagant. To say that we can sense, or could, other ranges of being, and have them in the open heaven of the soul, appears to be violent, or extravagant. Just as violent is it still to say, that we do take in the world of matter by the natural senses, and have it in us, even from the sky downward. We do not go to things in our perception of them, neither do they come locally to us; the latitudes, and longitudes, and altitudes, are still there; we do not spread ourselves in presence upon them; and yet we somehow have them in us, and subjectively possess them. Besides, in the relation of spirits and beings supernatural, we know not by what presences and revelations they may come within the precincts of knowledge; as little by what fences they are kept asunder. Place in this matter may be nothing, congenialities every thing. It does not surprise us that the bad should somehow come upon the bad; as little should 443 it that the good have a way of social presence with the good. Perhaps, too, it will relieve the aspect of extravagance here, if I say, that faith is nothing but the opening of the supernatural sense of the soul on the supernatural being to be apprehended. It opens, in other words, the heaven of the mind, and God, and Christ, and the good supernatural society press in to fill it. Faith is the evidence, ill this manner, even as the scriptures declare, of things not seen, and the substance, or substantiation, of things hoped for. There is even a kind of faith in the sensing of sight, turning mere images, in the eye, to things, and making them real. That there is a higher sense, realizing beings supernatural, is a fact every way correspondent.
Furthermore it is a fact well attested, in all ages, and proved by manifold experience, that minds do consciously approximate God and the heavenly society, accordingly as they are turned away from evil and set open to good. They feel a certain nearness to beings and words supernatural, that amounts to society begun. And then how very often, as their affinities are more completely fined and set open, do they, in their last hours, hail the Saviour present, and good angels revealed, and departed friends whom they salute by name, waiting to receive them. Doubtless all such things will be set down as the illusions of their wandering faculty, but what if they should happen to be true—even the truest truths ever beheld by them, and most profoundly wanted by us all?
I will only add that the scriptures constantly assume, 444 and in many ways assert, the fact of a supernatural sense in souls, that is shut up and requires to be opened. Christ declares this truth again and again, as, for instance, when he says, “For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed, lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart.” He does not say this of the natural senses and judgments, but of the higher perceptions of the heart, or the religious and spiritual man. The same thing also is very deliberately and carefully put by the apostle, when he says—“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things.” There is, in other words, a natural man and a spiritual, a lower range of perception and a higher; and by this latter only, set open to the light, can the spiritual and supernatural. things of God be discerned and judged. And this is the supernatural sense of which I have been speaking, the upper range of faculty that belongs to religion, prepared for a seeing of the invisible. By this it was that Christ expected to be in the soul’s inward beholding, as when he said—“but ye see me.” By this it was that a whole heaven of being and society is conceived to reveal itself to souls, when they are converted and set open to God—“But ye are come unto mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, and to the general assembly and church of the first-born which are written in 445 heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect.” And so glorious and clear was their inward beholding, at times, that one disciple seemed to be caught up into some “third heaven” by it, though the heaven, as he well understood, was within. Another also declared, as in vision, “I see heaven opened,” and though he “looked steadfastly up” at the time, it was only that altitude is the natural language, or line of direction, in such inward exaltations. So intensely perceptive, according to the scripture view, may a human soul become, when awakened inwardly, and drawn out in its higher apprehensions, after those invisible, supernatural, associations for which it is created.
Assuming now the fact of a supernatural sense in souls, that it is shut up by sin, we are next to consider—
II. How Christ, as he declares to Nathanael, will open this suppressed faculty, and make it the organ, or inlet, of universal society.
And here it will be remembered, that angelic visitations had been coursing back and forth upon the world and through it, in all ages, both before Christ’s coming, and at his coming, and after. Moses had gone up into the mount and brought down tables lettered, as it were, in heaven. Fires had been kindled, from above, in sacrifices offered on rocks, and altars of turf. Two holy men had been visibly translated. And yet heaven still appears to be somehow shut. The angels—not ascending and descending but descending and ascending—are thought of only as having gone away, to some invisible 446 nowhere whence they came. The great public miracles only help the chosen people to believe in a kind of Jew-God reigning under limitations, and holding their little patch of territory for his field. Instead of catching the hint from so many wonders, and so many bright visitants, of a world above the world, waiting to receive them in eternal society, it even makes them angry to hear, that God will include, in one circle of being, all that come to him on earth. A holy few found real access to the king, led in, to his seat, by the teachings of their prophets and the more secret teachings of the Spirit. But it is a most singular fact that no one of these, no dying saint most enlightened by holy experience, speaks, in these former ages, of going to heaven, or even of there being a heavenly world where righteous souls are gathered; unless it be that one or two expressions of the prophets are to be taken in that sense. Many critics therefore have denied, that there is any revelation of immortality, or a second life, before Christ’s coming. And we know that, when he came, it was even an open question, whether any such being as “angel or spirit” really exists?
If now any one should ask what this means—how the world above seems to be already opened if it ever can be, and yet is shut?—the answer is, that all this apparitional machinery goes on without, before men’s eyes, while the heaven of the soul is shut; and that so many angels therefore, coming and going, are looked upon only as ghosts of the fancy, or at least mere outsiders and strangers. They do not stay to be citizens, they 447 are seen only as in transitu; they flit across the stage and are gone-gone, as many will think, to the same blind nowhere that receives all phantasms.
Here then is the deeper work Christ undertakes to do; viz., to open the heaven of the soul itself, or, what is nowise different, to waken in it that higher sense, by which it may discern the supernatural being and society of God’s realm. How he does it we shall hardly be at a loss to find.
First, he comes into the. world himself, not apparitionally, like an irruption of angels, but he comes up, so to speak, out of humanity, emerging into his visibly divine glory, through a glorious and perfect manhood. And so it comes to pass that, while they accomplish nothing by their character, and have, in fact, no character beyond what is implied in their message, he is bringing on his wonderful, visibly divine manhood, and becoming, by force of his mere supernatural character alone, the greatest miracle of time—with the advantage that, being self-evident, even as the sun, all other miracle is upheld by it. At first he appears to be only a man among men, the Son of Mary, growing up in the mold and mortal weakness of a man; but his life unfolds silently and imperceptibly, till the magnificent proportions of his Godhood begin to appear in his manhood, and the tremendous fact is revealed, that a being from above the world is living in it! Supernatural event and character are built in solidly thus, into the world’s history, to be an integral part of it. Mere nature is no longer all, and never can be again. The very world 448 has another world interfused and working jointly with it.
He comes too in no light figure, but in the heavy tread of one that bears eternal government upon his shoulder—comes to reconcile the world, to justify, and gather, and pacify, and save, the world; “For it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell, and having made peace by the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all unto himself, whether they be things in earth or things in heaven.” Everlasting order hangs tremulous in expectation round his cross, and eternity rings out from it, tolling in the world. As the veil of the temple is rent, so the way into the holiest opens. As the dead are shaken out their graves when he dies, so the souls shut up in death are loosened from the senses, to behold the new-sprung day. The middle wall is now broken down, the dividing isthmus cut through, and things in heaven, and things in earth, are set in a common headship in his person. Heaven is become an open door which no man shutteth, an abundant and free entrance is ministered, that we may enter with boldness into the holiest.
It is a great point also, as regards the impression effected, that every thing taught by him, in his doctrine, holds the footing of immortality and eternity, looking towards a higher and relatively supernatural state. Nothing is allowed to stop short, within the boundaries of time, as in the old religion. The very law of God is carried forward into spiritual applications; the temporal and outward sanctions are taken away, and 449 the inmost principle of duty under it is enforced by the tremendous allotments of a future, everlasting state. Outward sacrifices and remissions will not answer. There must be a sacrifice that purges even the conscience itself. There must be a righteousness found, that exceeds the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees—even the righteousness of God. Every thing in the doctrine out-reaches nature and time, piercing even to the dividing asunder, and stirring all the inmost senses, sentiments, and fears of the religious nature. Not that any mere standards, or sanctions, can force open the shut heaven of souls; but that, by these things, grinding hard upon the supernatural sense, it is made to feel a reverberative movement of the powers of the world to come, and look in, through the rifts that are opened in the stony casement that surrounds it.
Let us not imagine now that, by any or all these things, the supernatural sense, or heaven of the soul, is really opened. These are preparations, all, including even the cross itself—powers that move on our consent, but without that consent accomplish no result. Nothing done will ever accomplish that result with many; they will go to their graves denying that any such upper world of faculty is in them. But with some it will be otherwise; they will respond, they will believe, and their faith will be the opening of heaven. In that faith the Son of Man will be revealed, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon him. But this faith, in still another view, is love, and here we have the grand finality. Christ and his cross are a movement on the 450 world’s love, and love itself is the higher sense, or apprehending power of the soul. Love is perceptive; whatever is loved is most really known, or discovered. He that loveth knoweth God, and, in that manner, he that loveth universal society knoweth universal society. Worlds above the world are present to the sense of love. All the immense longings of souls after universal society are consummated and crowned, when they are issued in love. And this is the opening of the soul, this the state and character which are its heaven—the kingdom of God within.
And what a finding of the soul will it be! what a sublime privity of knowledge will it reveal! when Christ, as in the promise made to Nathanael, shall have made it conscious eternally, in this manner, of the paradise hid in its own higher faculty, so long shut up and suppressed.
Some very important consequences follow, in the train of the subject thus presented, and with these I conclude.
1. The real merit of the issue made up between Christ and the naturalizing critics of his gospels is here distinctly shown. Professing much respect to his character, they are offended by the supernatural matters reported in his life, and set themselves at work to produce a new Christianity, without either miracle or mystery, or more than natural fact in it—and, of course, without even Christ himself, who is the greatest miracle of all. Christ, on the other hand, undertakes to give them, over and above the supernatural facts they reject, 451 supernatural evidences; viz., to set open a higher range of faculty in them related to himself and all supernatural beings, and so to find them at the point of deeper sentiments and apprehensions in their nature, than they are themselves aware of. They do not even imagine, that they have any thing included in their nature, above the mere basement story so much investigated and magnified by the philosophers; viz., reason, memory, imagination, affectional capacities and the like, including, perhaps, a merely moral, in distinction from a religious, conscience; practically ignoring, because they are shut, the sublime upper ranges of their spiritual nature—their transcendent affinities prepared for immense supernatural relations, their capacities to apprehend what is above the test of mere intellectual judgments, divine being, viz., arid concourse and the flow and reflow of God’s universal society. The heaven of their nature being shut, and the supernatural sense practically undiscovered, they proceed to bring the great questions of the gospels down for trial before the basement court of their criticism; where it results, that having made their souls small enough for their doctrine, they have no great difficulty in making their doctrine small enough for their souls.
They are men of high talent, if any talent is high in the lower ranges only of the nature, they are some of them scholars specially advanced in their culture, but talent and scholarship are, alas, how pitiably shriveled in their figure, when they undertake to handle the questions of religion, without so much as a conception 452 of the inherently supernatural relations and discerning powers of the religious mind. Why, the humble, guileless Nathanaels, who never had a speculation in their lives, but have the heaven of their faith set open, and have found the Son of Man deep set in the heart’s own center, have a better competence in the supernatural than Hennel, or Parker, or Strauss, or Renan, or than all these brilliant gospel extirpators together. No, gentlemen, Christ did not come to be approved before the tribunal of your mere logic, or lore, or critical acumen, but before a nobler and more competent, which, though it be in you, is yet hidden from you. Having a nature boundlessly related to the supernatural, flowering never, save in the knowledge and concourse of supernatural society, you put your critical extinguishers on it and stifle it, and then you can even triumph in the discovery that all you most sublimely want is incredible—scientifically impossible! Hardly could you make yourselves a more fit mark for Christian pity; for, with all your fine stores of learning, you are in fact the least knowing men of your day. Would that Christ might only find you, in that glorious opening of the nature of which he speaks; what a revelation would it be—and, first of all, because it would be a revelation so wonderful of yourselves!
You assume that you can settle questions of being, or not being—supernatural being, or not being—by logic, and criticism, and the processes of the head, even as you do questions of thought, or idea. Can you then reason a rock, as being or not being, in that manner? No, 453 you will answer; subjects of being can not, in the first instance, be thought or reasoned, they can only be cognized, or perceived, by the senses. And so it is of all supernatural being, God, angels, worlds above the world, universal society; they are known only as they are cognized, by the supernatural sensing of the spiritual man; or, what is nowise different, by faith. And when it is done, they are had in as complete evidence even as the solids of matter. I do not undertake to say what particular facts of the gospel will, or will not be proved in this manner, but only that nothing will be rejected, because it is supernatural. The soul will be going after things supernatural and the commerce of the supernatural society, because it is practically open to their concourse. Here then is Christ, on one side, contriving how to open this immense upper world of the soul, and you, on your side, protesting that there is not, and must not be, any such upper world in you. He would make the soul a sky-full of glorious and blessed concourse, and you set yourselves to it, as a problem worthy of your industry, to make it a cavern! His work may be a hard one, but yours will be much harder. The emptiness of your cavern will ring back answers, stronger to most men, after all, than your arguments. For heaven is as much a necessity to men as bread, and souls can no more live without the supernatural, than the senses without matters of sense. In the same way—
2. We have given back to us, here, the most solid, only sufficient, proof of our immortality. How often do we stagger at this point, even the best of us. All mere 454 rational arguments, here, fall quite short of the mark. They never established any body. And yet every man ought to know his immortality, even as he knows that he is alive. He is made, to have an immediate, self-asserting consciousness of immortality, and would never have a doubt of it, if he had not shut up and darkened the divine side of the soul. And for just the same reason, Christ, when he opens the soul, opens immortality also. What was so dimly revealed, under the old religion, stands out visible everywhere under the new. There is no room here for a Sadducee to live. The metropolis of the world is here in Christ’s person, and the visitants of all unknown spheres crowd about him, ascending and descending upon him. And they are all certified to our faith, by his supernatural character. We grow familiar thus with spirit, realize it, and know it in ourselves. Immortality! why the dead Christ proves it. And again the resurrection proves it; for what could such a being do but rise? It would even be a greater wonder if he did not. Away to their native abyss fly all our doubts—life and immortality are brought to light through the gospel! It only remains—
3. To note precisely, as we can at no other point of view, the meaning of salvation, or the saving of souls. Christ does not undertake to save them as they are only half existing in the plane of nature. Do we call it saving the hand, that we save it in all but the fingers? Is it saving an eye, that we save it in all but the sight? Do we save a tree, when we save the stump and the roots, and not the leafy crown of shade and flower? 455 No more is it saving a soul to save the economic under-work only of opinion, judgment, memory, and the like. These are not the soul, and if we take them to be, we only come as near saying, as possible, that the soul is gone already. And it is in just this condition that Christ finds us—O, that he might also find us in the deeper sense of his promise! He comes to the soul as having a whole heaven hid in its possibilities, which heaven is shut up, which possibilities are even ignored and hid. He finds it made little, a fire almost gone out. Related constitutionally to a vast supernatural society, and to ranges of life and knowledge, as much broader than all causes and laws of the world, as eternity is broader than time, he undertakes to open it again upon its true field, relieve the pinch of its compression, give it enlargement, and make it truly live. Whatever man of opinion, taking on the airs of science, tells him that his gospel is incredible because it is supernatural, will get no answer, but that his soul is very nearly gone out already, and is wanting simply salvation. And just here it is that the soul gets such an immense lifting of pitch, and outspreading of dimensions, when it comes to Christ. The coming unto Christ is, in another view, Christ coming unto it and being revealed in it. Even as the apostle says—“When it pleased God to reveal his Son in me.” And what a revelation was it to him!—as great proportionally to all who receive it. It is as if they had gotten a new soul, with a heaven-full of society gathered round the Son of Man there revealed. Therefore it is called “the new man;” not because it is 456 new, for it is older even than the old man put away, being the original, normal, man of Paradise, hitherto stifled and suppressed; still it is new, all things are new. The change is so great as to be sometimes even bewildering. It is as if some wondrous, unknown light had broken in; the whole sky is luminous. The soul is in day; for the day has dawned and the day-star is risen. God, eternity, immortality, universal love and society—into these broad ranges it has come, and in these it is free, having them all for its element and its conversation in them, as in heaven. The unknowing state, the old, blank ignorance that was, because of the blindness of the heart, is gone; and a wondrous knowledge opens because the heart can see. Before it was a doubter possibly, mighty in opinion, wise in the wisdom of this world, pleased with its own questions and reasons, now it has come up where the light is, and the old questions and reasons do not mean any thing—the judgments of moles, in matters of astronomy, are as good. O, what strength, and majesty, and general height of being, are felt in the new life begun! And this is salvation! great because it saves, not some small part of the soul, but because it saves and glorifies the sublime whole; restoring its integrity and proportion, and setting it complete in God’s own order, as in everlasting life. Who could wish it to do less? who could ask it do more?
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