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The Besetting God.

The Besetting God.

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Published by glennpease

Psalm cxxxix. 5.

thou nast beset me behind and before, and laid thine
hand upon me.

Psalm cxxxix. 5.

thou nast beset me behind and before, and laid thine
hand upon me.

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Published by: glennpease on Nov 15, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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THE BESETTIG GOD. BY JAMES MARTIEAU. Psalm cxxxix. 5. thou nast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me. Perhaps it is impossible for us to represent God to our minds under any greater Physical image, than that of his diffused presence through every region of space. Certainly, to feel that He lives, as the preci- pient and determining agent, throughout the universe, conscious of all things actual or possible from the vivid centre to the desert margin of its sphere, exclu- ded from neither air, nor earth, nor sea, nor souls, but clad with them as a vestment, and gathering up their laws within his being, is a sublimer, and therefore a truer mode of thought, than the conception of a remote and retired mechanician, inspecting from without the engine of creation to see how it per- forms. Indeed this mechanical metaphor, so skilfully elaborated by Paley, appears to be of all representa- tions of the divine nature the least religious ; its very clearness proclaiming its insufRciency for those affec- tions which seek, not the finite, but the infinite ; its coldness repelling all emotions, and reducing them to physiological admiration : and its scientific procedure presenting the Creator to us in a relation quite too mean, as one of the causes in creation, to whom a THE BESETTIG GOD. 39 chapter might be devoted in any treatise on dyna- mics ; and on evidence quite below the real, as a highly probable God. The true natural language of
devotion speaks out rather in the poetry of the Psalmist and the prayers of Christ ; declares the living contact of the Divine Spirit with the human, the mystic implication of his nature with ours, and ours with his ; his serenity amid our griefs, his sanc- tity amid our guilt, his wakefulness in our sleep, his life through our death, his silence amid our stormy force ; and refers to him as the Absolute basis of all relative existence ; all else being in comparison but phantasm and shadow, and He alone the real and Essential Life. Were we to insist on philosophical correctness of speech in matters transcending all our modes of defi- nition, we should reject, as irrational and in truth unmeaning, the question respecting any Spiritual being, 'ivh ere is he?^ Local position, physical pres- ence, is a relation of material things, and cannot be affirmed of Mind, without confounding it with the body. Thought, will, love, which have no size and take up no space, can be in no spot, and move to none ; and to the souls of which these are attributes we can ascribe neither habitation nor locomotion. It is only the bodily effects, and outward manifestations of mental force, — the gestures of the visible frame and the actions of the solid limbs, — to which place can be assigned ; and when we say, that we are here and not there, it is to this organic system connected with our spiritual nature, and to this alone, that we refer. Were we to press the notion further, and en- deavor to settle the question, where our minds are, the intrinsic impropriety of the question would leave 40 THE BESETTIG GOD. US altogether at a loss. There would be no more reason to attribute to the soul a residence within the body, than in the remotest station of the universe ;
for God could as well establish a constant relation between the mind and the organism on which it was to act, at a distance thus vast, as in the nearest prox- imity ; and there would be no more wonder in the movement of my arm on earth complying with my will at the confines of the solar system, than in the constant rush of our world on its career, in obedience to a sun separated by distance so immense. It may be, after all, but figuratively that we speak of any migration of the soul in death. When the body appropriated to it as its instrument and expression falls, we cannot say that the mind is here ; we dream of what we know not, if we fancy it to re- quire removal in order to present itself manifestly in a higher region. One order of physical relations being dropped here, another may on the instant be assumed elsewhere, revealing the spirit to a new society, and giving it the apparition of fresh worlds. If we are unable to speak, otherwise than in figures, of the place of our minds, it is not surprising that God's presence is quite ineffable, and that we bow with reverent assent to the poet's admission, ' such knowledsfe is too wonderful for me.' But the confession of our ignorance once made, we may pro- ceed to use such poor thought and language as we find least unsuitable to so high a matter ; for it is the essence and beginning of religion to feel, that all our belief and speech respecting God is untrue, yet infinitely truer than any non-belief and silence. In whatever sense then, and on whatever grounds, we affirm the tenancy of our own frame by the soul THE BESETTIIS'G GOD. 41 that governs it, must we fill the universe with the everlasting Spirit of whose thought it is the develop- ment. His agency is all-comprehending ; and de-

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