Our journey towards The Perfect Life continues today with William Ellery Channing's description of our spiritual nature and its importance in determining...
"THE TRUE END OF LIFE.
John ix. 4 : " I must work the works of Him that sent me, while it is day."
"THE END for which a being is made, must be determined by its Nature" In proportion as we know the powers, properties, structure of the various orders of Creation, we are prepared to comprehend the Good for which they are severally designed....
I.—How then shall we determine the End of the Human Being ? Why was he made—this mysterious creature,—driven by so many impulses, gifted with such diverse powers, and free to turn them in such countless directions ? I have said that the End of a being is manifested in his Nature. And what does Man's Nature teach ?...[WEC then proceeds to describe the "animal nature" of man before coming to...]
II.—From this survey of man's animal nature I have shown that the End of Life is not mere activity upon the outward world. As a necessary consequence, I proceed to observe, that the great Work of Life is an inward one. This is our next position. Man's true Vocation may be defined to be Spiritual, as distinguished from a merely animal one.
1. Man has a Spiritual Nature. The Soul is created to look beyond and above all material things. I begin with an obvious, yet all-convincing confirmation of this truth. In the Soul we find principles which enable us, and we might say compel us, to discover within Matter itself, the signs of an infinitely Higher Being. Is Matter a barrier which the Spirit cannot pass, beyond which all is darkness ? How easily it scales this wall. In Nature everywhere it beholds witnesses of Supernatural Power. God ! God! is the glorious Idea, that beams in splendour from all creation. In the heavens the Soul beholds an emblem of His Infinity. In the connexion and harmony of Nature it recognizes the type of His Unity. The Universe, vast, beautiful, magnificent as it is, cannot content the Soul, but rouses it to more majestic thoughts. The wider view it takes of what is material, the more impatient it becomes of all material bonds. The sublimer the prospects which are opened by the Universe, the more the Spirit is impelled to ascend to a still Sublimer Being. For ever it aspires towards an Infinite and Immutable One, as the ground of all finite and mutable existences. It can rest in His Omnipotence alone as the source, centre, sustainer, determiner of all forces.
How signally has God imprinted on us the End of our being in giving us this central impulse towards Himself?Why is it that this grandest thought in the Universe, that the Idea of this Perfect Being, dawns on the human mind ? If Man were made to find his chief good within the compass of material nature, why does the Infinite Spirit shine upon us throughout all Nature ? The Idea of God ! Pause for a moment, and apprehend its grandeur. All other science fades into insignificance before its majesty. The treasures of all worlds are poor in contrast. This Idea, brightened and unfolded till it becomes real to us, is as a new Sun kindled within. From it a new Light streams over and through the Universe. By. the. transforming power of this one Idea, all things become new. The Idea of God! It is an exhaustless spring of energy against weakness, of peace amid vicissitude, of courage to do and suffer, of undying hope, of immortal life. The cynic may speak contemptuously of Human Nature; and the contemptible character of the world's ordinary principles, maxims, and feelings cannot well be exaggerated. But a being who can think the Thought of God, be he ever so fallen, is by that single power exalted to a Good, beyond all natural good. Plainly such an Idea cannot have been given for no End. It is the seal of a Heavenly Destiny. It is the authentic handwriting of God upon the Soul, revealing that man's true End is a growing likeness in Spirit to Himself."