Stacks Image 905




CHAPTER III.


God as Life.


1.—In subjecting the doctrines of Religion to the estimate of the Absolute, and in thus bringing them to the test of fundamental reason, so that the religious announcement or doctrine, whatever it may be, shall be found identical with the eternal truth or otherwise, it will be necessary to say something of life as an ultimate and necessary principle, and to affirm and verify its identity with God. Every one knows how common a thing it is to speak of God, not only as great and independent in himself, but as sustaining a causative relation, and as being the primal source and living principle or life of all things. But God could not be the source or life of other things without having life in himself. God is Life.

And the question naturally arises in the inquiring mind what Life is? In answering this question, it is admitted that we may not be able, in consequence of its ultimate and primary position, to say what life is,
in itself considered: but it will aid much in giving clearness to our conceptions, if we proceed to give concisely but distinctly some of its marks or characteristics.

1.—One of the marks or characteristics of Life, in its primary or ultimate sense, in distinction from anything of a subordinate or secondary nature which may sometimes bear that name, is, that it is without beginning. If the Life, meaning by the term what may be conveniently designated as the true or essential Life, could not be said to exist without a beginning, then it would be true, that there was a time, (namely, the time antecedent to its beginning,) when it had no existence: a doctrine, which would leave the universe for unnumbered ages without any life-giving principle. It is hardly necessary to say that this is a view which is inadmissible. And besides, if there was a time when the Essential Life did not exist, and afterwards a time when it began to exist, then, inasmuch as not having existed at first it could not have created itself, it must have been brought into being by another Life antecedent to it in existence. And if there was another principle of Life antecedent to it in existence, which was without beginning and had also by means of its higher and broader nature the power of developing existence in other forms, then that antecedent life was, and is, the Essential Life. Therefore it is reasonable to say that one of the marks or characteristics of Life, in the true and higher sense of that term, is, that it is
without beginning.

2.—Another mark or characteristic of Life, in the higher or essential sense, is, that it is eternal. Eternity, which has reference to termination as well as commencement, and excludes both, is without beginning and also without end. The Essential Life is eternal. And it is so because it is without beginning. That which exists without beginning to exist, has the reason or ground of existence in itself; and, therefore, having life in itself and of itself, there is no reason why it should die. The fact of existence, with no reason of existence but what is found in itself, obviously involves the idea of eternity of existence. Being what it is, and with adequate reasons for thus being, and without any dependence for its existence on any thing outside of itself, it necessarily continues to be what it is. Continuance is the opposite of cessation. The Essential Life, therefore is eternal.

3.—Another and third characteristic of the great living principle which we are considering, is that it is universal. If the principle of Life is limited, then, place the limitation wherever you may, the great universe of things, in comparison with which the restricted or limited universe is as nothing, is beyond this limit; reaching out in all directions in immensity which is boundless; and this infinitely wider or true universe is a universe without life, which is inconceivable. The fixed and necessary conceptions of the human intellect require life, wherever there is a capacity of life. A universe without life is nothing more or less than universal death. The doctrine of a universe without life is just as contradictory to the conceptions of the intuitive or suggestional intellect of man, (that department of our nature which gives us all our primary or elementary ideas,) as would be the doctrine of a universe without the attendant conceptions and facts of space and time. It is on such grounds, stated as briefly as possible, that we are justified in the assertion, that the Essential Life is universal.

4.—A fourth mark or characteristic is, that it is a life which in its own interior nature is without change. Changes spring out of it, since it is that essential unity of existence out of which comes all variety. But in itself it is unchangeable. And it is so, because it is eternal and universal. Being eternal, it cannot limit itself in time; and being universal, it cannot limit itself in place. And being thus commensurate with all place and time, meeting the wants of every moment of time and of every condition of things, a change in its own nature, whatever may be true of change in its varied manifestations, becomes an impossibility. It is life now; and it is life always. And it is the same life, the same in its nature and extent, to-day, yesterday, and forever.

5.—Another characteristic of the Essential Life is, that it never ceases in its action. Activity is a part of its nature; it is a principle, which ever goes out of its subject to its object, and finds the necessary nourishment of its own life in the good it does to another. To cease to act, therefore, would be to cease to live. It is true, that it changes its modes of action; and this change of mode in action may be regarded as furnishing the compensation of rest; but still, there is properly speaking, no cessation of activity. And accordingly, in being a perpetual life, it is also a perpetual development. Always one, and yet exhaustless and countless in its diversity; the endless out-going of the central infinite in the multiplied and constantly varied manifestations of the finite.

6.—It is, then, a life which is endless, boundless, changeless, ceaseless; the source of all other life, because it is itself the true life; and the source also, in an important sense of all knowledge, because knowledge is inseparable from Life in its highest form; and yet, Life in its own nature, in many respects, is necessarily and forever unknown.

And now comes a remarkable fact. Such characteristics as have now been described, will apply equally well to God, and to God only. The characteristics of Life are equally the characteristics of God. And they justify us in saying, that God has the true life in himself; that God is not only the great causative and living principle of all things, but more concisely and yet truly, that God is Life.