Nature of Man
by Rev. Roderick MacEachen
Man is composed of body and soul. The body is an animal organism. It is a material substance subject to the laws of growth and corruption. The human body receives its life from the soul. Whenever a human body is generated God creates a soul. At the very moment the body is generated the soul is united with it. It is then human life begins.
It is different with the brute. Both its body and its "animal soul" are generated simultaneously from the parent brute. The "animal soul" is nothing else than animal life. This animal life depends on the animal body for its existence. It perishes with the animal body.
The human body resembles the brute body in all its functions. Yet the principle of life is different. Man is more than a mere animal organism. He possesses both a material and a spiritual nature. He is a rational creature. The nobler part of his being is an immortal soul. The human soul is a reality in itself. Though it is naturally united with the body, it can exist of itself. In the present state, the soul operates through the medium of the body. However, its activity is more perfect when it is separated from the body after death.
The soul is a spirit. Its chief faculties are intellect and freewill. Herein chiefly consists the likeness of man to God. "God created man to his own image."
Man is the noblest creature of earth. He is the link between God and creation. How beautiful he was when he came from the hand of God! He was filled with grace of body and soul. His mind was aglow with the light of wisdom and knowledge. God himself often talked with him. Man conversed familiarly with his Creator. God, undoubtedly, revealed to him many mysteries of Heaven.
Man's abode was a paradise on earth. It was a place filled with delights and pleasure. It was a realm of enchantment. All nature brought joy to his heart. The animals were subject to him. He was king and master of all, "Lord of the fowl and the brute." The freshness of youth coursed in his veins; he was strong, agile and healthful. This was to be his lot for a few years on earth. Then, without passing through the agonies of death, he was to be transported to the realms of eternal bliss. There he would see God, face to face, and reign with Him forever.
Men sometimes deny the existence of the soul. They attribute our mental activities to a mere animal organism. Reason and will they consider as highly developed forms of animal instinct. They tell us that the material brain thinks.
The mind, indeed, gets all its impressions through the bodily senses. All our bodily sensations are transmitted to the brain. From the brain they are communicated in some mysterious manner, to the mind. The body is the instrument through which the soul acts. It were as reasonable to say that the telegraph instrument sent the message that has been flashed over the wires, as to say that the brain is the principle of thought.
Not only can we think of things that come within the sphere of our senses, but we can contemplate abstract ideas. We can ponder over such spiritual concepts as truth, justice, honor, pride and purity. Those ideas in themselves could not appeal to a mere material organism.
Man is conscious of himself. He is conscious that he is a unity. If he were a mere physical organism, his knowledge of himself would be confined to mere sense perceptions. His consciousness of self would not be the simple individual idea hat he now has. He would not then say: "I see, I smell, I hear." He would say: "My eyes see, my nose smells, my ears hear." Then his consciousness would change with the physical changes that take place within him. If he lost a hand or a foot, he could not be conscious of himself in the same manner as before. Science teaches that our bodies undergo a complete change every few years. So if man were conscious of himself merely through his physical being, he could not be conscious of his own identity throughout life. His identity would change every time his organism changed.
Man possesses freewill. He may choose or reject things at will. Yet if he possessed no soul, if he were a mere animal, he would, at least, not be able to control his animal desires. If there is nothing in him higher than animal nature, then he has no power to overcome the inclinations of animal nature. Yet no one will deny that man can control the demands of his body. The body craves for food, yet man can sit down and undergo a "hunger strike." Man can choose things that are repulsive to his bodily senses. He can deny himself things that are delightful to his senses. He can elect to do things that are harmful to his body. He can destroy his own body.
The brute an not commit suicide because it possesses no faculties that can control its physical desire to live.
The idea of morality exists in the world. There are laws. There are courts of justice. There are prisons. These all presuppose that man is responsible for his actions. If his actions were but the result of impressions in his physical organism, he would not be accountable for them. He is accountable because he is a free agent. He is a moral being because he possesses a freewill. If his mentality were mere cultivated brute instinct, he could never grasp the faintest idea of good and evil in the abstract. Good would mean those things that please his senses and evil would mean things that are distasteful to the senses.
There is a universal law of nature that is unanimously recognized by scientists. All the faculties of a being, whether it be a simple atom or an animal organism, exists solely for its own development and preservation and for the propagation of its own species. The vegetative and sensitive faculties of the animal all work merely for the development and preservation of animal life. Even instinct, the noblest faculty of the animal, never rises above its material wants. If man's higher faculties were material they would serve only for the wants of the body.
Intellect and will contribute little or nothing to the development of the human organism. We can not add one hair's breadth to the body by thinking. The will has no conscious control over the internal organs. The higher faculties have a noble sphere of activity than that of the material body. They are constantly striving after spiritual things. This could not be so if they were mere powers of the physical organs. According to the universal law of nature, they would merely tend to the perfection and conservation of the material organism to which they belong. No other reasonable explanation can be given for the existence of intellect and will than that they are faculties of a spiritual soul.