Loyal Wirt

There Is a Spiritual Self (Easter Sunday)

Pastor Clarence Reidenbach, PhD., D.D.

Easter Sunday | March 8, 1937

Scriptures for today:  I Corinthians 15:44

Other Sermons from Pastor Clarence Reidenbach, PhD., D.D.

February 8, 1970 The Place of Strength and Gladness Centennial Sermon
March 3, 1957 The Great Spirit
March 8, 1937 There is a Spiritual Self

There Is a Spiritual Self

I Corinthians 15:44

When Paul came to talk about immortality, he made the plain assertion that there is a spiritual body. Now, what can that mean, and how can a man say that the spirit is a body? We know what the material body is. Is there any other? When we speak of the body, we mean the flesh. But Paul did not say that there is a spiritual flesh. By the body he meant a developed individual. He meant that just as man´s natural body is an individual being organized out of what can be found in the earth, so also is his spiritual being a real individual person organized out of that which can not be found in the earth. Man is a bodily individual, but he is just as truly a spiritual person. Man is spirit; more than that, he is a spirit, and this spirit. has a life of its own. There is, said Paul, a spiritual self. It is a fact, and man´s destiny depends upon the fact.

It is an idea that is belittled today. It is belittled in theory. There is a type of psychology that dismisses a belief in the soul as impossibly naive. I heard a psychiatrist say that he had to treat his patients as physical and mechanical, and that he could not do his work in any other way. We are familiar with the doctrine of behaviorism. Some wag has said of it that first the psychologists lost their soul, then they lost their mind, and that now all they had left was some behavior, much of that bad. A well-known teacher told his students that they might park their souls outside; they would have no need for them in his classes.

The interest in the spiritual life 1S also belittled in practice. Our interests are too largely sunk in things. We act as though we believed just the opposite of what Jesus taught, and that our life did consist in the abundance of the things that we might possess. Rufus Jones said in his recent Earl lectures that we had overstuffed furniture and under stuffed heads. We are preoccupied with what can be weighed and measured, and sold by the yard or the pound. A feature writer from Washington a few days ago began his column as follows: “A matter of greatest importance to an individual or a government is income. Life depends very much on the size of the old weekly pay check. That decides nearly everything.” The last two_ sentences from that quotation express a widely influential philosophy. Clarence Day, the man who wrote_ “Living With Father,” wrote a book called “This Simian World,” in which he indulged in ironical speculations as to what society might have been,_ if we had been descended from other animals or insects rather than the monkeys. One chapter is about the ants, and they, he says, “…live by instinct and routine. They have no inner life. They have a highly organized society, but they are engaged simply in the routines of working, fighting and acquiring property. One could be a perfectly good ant on nothing more than that. But he could not be a perfectly good man.”

We know that in ourselves we have inner lives. That is one thing on which we have inside information. We know our own names, and we have knowledge of our own selves. Every man knoweth his own heart and his own thoughts. There is nothing that we know more surely that we think and therefore are. Personality comes from the inside out. We have our inner spiritual worlds, some of them quite rich, filled with lands unbounded by horizons, seas upon which one may sail to infinity, mountains that hold heavens upon their heads, and skies that house a God. Robert Louis Stevenson lived in a world created by the power of thought. Paul dwelt in a world not made with hands. Jesus carried a kingdom of God within.

Philosophy and the sciences testify to the reality of the spirit. Philosophy began with the effort to explain the world by water, air, fire, or some other physical element, but the effort was a failure. The very necessities of the effort to understand led up to mind. It has been so again and again. It will always be so. There would be no thought, knowledge, philosophy, or science without mind. If one psychiatrist says that men are physical and mechanical, another, like Adler, says that he must treat them through their minds. The latter day science of physics has made matter immaterial. Haldane, one of the greatest of the biologists, declares his faith in the spirit. Dr. Carrel has written impressively about the reality and vastness of the spiritual. In “Man, The Unknown,” he makes it clear that much of the unknown in man that is most awe—inspiring is his spiritual powers.

Education, art, culture and civilization are expressions of the spirit. The way a child's apprehension grows by leaps and bounds is a sign of the life within. Dramatists, like Shakespeare, become great by their understanding of the soul. Artists paint pictures that by insight are more than photographs. Culture and civilization arise by spiritual refinement. So also is religion an activity of the spirit. The Russians are reported as complaining that they have lost two millions of the five millions of members that they had in their anti-God society. The spirit is real, and it asserts itself.

The spiritual life is important in this present world. The dignity, worth, and freedom of human beings depend upon it. If man_ is to be more than what H. G. Wells called a stir in the mud, he must be more than of the earth, earthy; he must be a living soul. He must be more than what Paul called the natural body, a term that could be and was used of animals; he must be a spiritual self. He must be spiritual, if he is to be a man. Humanism has protested against the mechanization of man. The Greeks long ago said that the glory of man consisted in living according to that nature which lifted him above animals, and made him a human being. The mechanistic view of existence does not stop at getting rid of religion: it also eliminates human freedom and selfhood. We are no better than ignorant slaves, if we live only in and for the flesh. Where the spirit is, there is liberty. If we have this liberty, then _by it let us walk. Flesh and blood do not inherit the kingdom of God. Religion is the great defender of human freedom and Worth. If it be so that our bodies are created in the image of apes, it is still true that man´s soul is created in the image of God.

The moral life is spiritual. It is an expression of spiritual beings. It is above what we ordinarily call nature, and can truly be said to be supernatural. It consists in part in subjugating things to spirit. It is to treat others not as things but as spiritual persons worthy of one´s reverence. It is expedient, honesty is the best policy, but it transcends expediency. It is to do only what is worthy of man as man, a spiritual being. “Its quality is to be tested,” as Jesus said, “by the motives of the heart”. Much of the significance of Jesus lies in his spiritual interpretation of the moral life. The religious impulse has quickened the good life. Religion has done services to morals that the moralists have not been able to do. There is such a thing as a good moral life, and there is such a thing as a glorious moral life. In morals, as well as elsewhere, the spirit giveth life. Paul was helpless under the law, and that included the moral law. He had his ideals, but what he would, that he could not do. What saved him? On the Damascus road, he fell on his face, and was lifted to his feet both literally and spiritually. The living Christ passed into him. To be possessed by the power of Christ did for him what he had never been able to do before. The good life became a glad and glorious adventure.

The things of the spirit create the greatest interests for living. The very fact of avocations testifies to that. We are not satisfied merely to gain our bread and butter. We do not confine our reading to trade journals. We are not content to walk; we want to fly. Socrates was noted for the ugliness of his face and the beauty of his thoughts. Rembrandt was born poor and died poor, but he has enriched the world. Schubert too was poor, was lacking in outward grace, and died young, but he lives in immortal song, I have Just heard of an uneducated meatcutter, who secured a copy of Hamlet, read it, went to see it played, and has been enjoying it ever since. Dr. Osler, a great physician, became president of the society_ in England devoted to the study of the humanities, and lent his authority to the search for a broad culture. Professor Joad tells of the many men who come to him wanting to write out their philosophies of life. Religion is the farthest reach of these spiritual interests. Men will turn aside where there is a burning bush to see what it is. They will go into the temple, if haply they may hear the cherubim sing and behold the glory of God. They become lifted in spirit until they cannot tell whether they are in the body or out of the body. They will listen to Jesus bringing “authentic tidings of invisible things,” and stand looking into the heavens to see him come again.

Personal power is in the spirit. People become tired or sick because they neglect their spiritual lives or because they become broken in spirit. In Streeter´s book on the “Spirit,” a whole section was given to Dr. Hadfield, who told how the spirit is the source of power. We seek for success and personality. Books are sold and cults are founded to give the secret. Personality flows from the spiritual self. Worship will help us find it. Great thoughts and experiences make great souls, and there is no experience greater than the experience of God. Courage also is spiritual. With most people, it is natural to be afraid. The conquest of fear is a conquest of the soul. Jesus surprised the authorities by the comparative quickness of his death. Perhaps his body was not strong. His strength was drawn from a higher source. To God belonged the kingdom, the power, and the glory. The book of Acts shows a group of ordinary men made strong because they had been with Jesus. Paul rejoiced.because his weakness was made strong by the might of God. He was indeed raised in power.

The spiritual life is important for the world to come. Immortality depends upon it. This was why_ in this scripture Paul was insisting upon the reality of the spiritual self. The body is not immortal. It is the soul that lives. “Dust thou art, to dust returnest, was not spoken of the soul.” One may go among the grave diggers, look upon Yorick´s skull, and spin his thoughts about it, but he will not have found all there was of Yorick. He must not seek the living among the dead. You might go to that tomb prepared by Joseph of Arimathea, and see all that was to be seen there, but you would find it empty of all that was the essential Jesus. The spirit cannot be confined in a tomb. There is a spiritual self, and that fact is a token of immortality. God is the eternal Spirit. We have something of the divine in us, and it is eternal. God is love. Like any parent, he loves his children, and he will not leave us in the dust. He wants us to live, and live with him. He gives immortal life to the soul. Christ is a living spirit. He is risen. If it is not so, then our hope is vain. If Christ be not risen, then there is indeed no hope for the rest of us. But he is a living spirit who may quicken the abundant and eternal life in us. The life of Christ in the soul of man is the best assurance of immortality.

The life to come is a motive for finer action here and now. Something did go out of the moving powers of human action when men ceased to have a fear of hell and a desire for heaven. But be not deceived. God is not mocked. Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. It is not true that all men will simply eat, drink and be merry, if they think that tomorrow they will die, but masses of them will do just that, and they are doing it. It is true, as Matthew Arnold said that if there is only this one life, we ought to pitch it high. But it is better to be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as we know that our labor is not in vain in the Lord. Eternity gives a wider_mean1ng to all that exists here. It gives one a chill to think, as Balfour put it, that man´s life is only a brief and discreditable episode on one of the minor planets. The frame of a picture has a lot to do with the way the picture looks. It makes a difference when we look at our life as being framed in eternity. We are subject to injustices, misunderstandings, and handicaps here. It is good to think of another world where these things may be adjusted. We have our failures and imperfections here. It will be good to have another chance. We endure hardships here. One admires Shel1ey´s Prometheus, who was tortured daily, and yet said, “Still, I endure,” but it is more helpful to- remember that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with that eternal weight of glory which shall be revealed to us. Where is there any such strength for the trials of life as in the Christian faith? Why could Paul be so confident though he fought with beasts at Ephesus and ‘died daily? It was because, as he said, Christ had appeared to him. What sustained Jesus on the cross? It was because when all was finished, into the hands of his Father, he could commend his spirit.

Immortality means deliverance from fear to hope. It is true that there are those who scorn to be concerned about death, even though they have no belief in a life beyond this one. But to most people, this world seems more cheerful when illumined by the light of heaven. There are many, too, who acutely resent the thought of death. They like this world, and do not wish to leave it.

We have surrounded death with fears that do not belong to it. The act of dying may be painful, but usually is not. God, through nature, has provided for that. The ordinary thing seems to be to sink into a coma. Most of us have probably suffered more pain already than we shall suffer in our dying. Where there is pain, death is often a release.

The life to come has been made to seem strange and other-worldly. If we go to live in it, it will be something that we can adapt ourselves to. Christ has said that he will prepare a place for us in the Father´s house; it will be a good place, if he prepares it. It will be better than what we have here. The possibilities for growth there will be boundless. Paul says that we shall be raised a new body; that certainly means something finer. The book of Revelation uses a rich Imagery to symbolize the future life. The first epistle of John says that now are we the sons of God, and that it doth not yet appear what we shall be. One of the most noble and beautiful of poems, Thanatopsis, was inspired by a consideration of death. It is possible to approach the grave “Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch about him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.”

The soul does not need to grow old with the body. When John Quincy Adams was an old man, and people asked him how he was, he would reply that his body was very feeble, but that John Quincy Adams was quite all right. Longfellow read a poem at the fiftieth anniversary reunion of his college class. It was built around the old gladiator´s cry, “We who are about to die, salute you,” and in it he expressed his triumphant spirit. Paul was _an old man when he said, “I press on.” He flourished in immortal youth. In his last days, he could say, “I am ready to be offered, I have fought a good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” There are some for whom death will be like the crossing of the lake with Jesus: “And when even was come, he saith unto them, Let us go over unto the other side.”

The most spiritual fear death the least. Animals have a greater fear of death and fight more desperately for their lives than do men. The greater a man is in spirit, the more confidence he has in all things. Jesus was a young man. The record shows that he agonized in the garden and on the cross. It cost him to die. He wanted to be certain that his work was done. But through his ‘Father he put under his feet the last enemy death. There is a minister not far from here who is dying, and knows it, but he is passing his days in a normal state of mind. His heart is not troubled, because he believes in God, and believes also in Christ.

Immortality means comfort in bereavement. During and following the War, there was a flood of books on immortality. The parents of those hundreds of children killed recently in Texas need comfort. Every Easter finds people newly bereaved since the last Easter. Some of them are stirred so deeply emotionally that they find it hard to go to church. It ought to be a mighty comfort to them. There is nothing of so much comfort to the bereaved as faith in the life to come. There is beauty and pathos in Ingersoll´s speech at the funeral of his brother, but it cannot provide the help that is in the Christian hope. Lately I heard of a believing man who objected to having his dead son´s face half-covered with drapery in his coffin. He said: “Death is not anything that we cannot look at. I want to see him, and I want to see him as he is.” Milton wrote Lycidas in honor of his friend, Edward King, who was drowned. It has in it the symbol of the star.

“So sinks the day-star in the ocean bed, And yet anon repairs his drooping head, and tricks his beams, and with new-spangled ore Flames in the forehead of the morning sky: So Lycidas sunk low, but mounted high, Through the dear might of Him that walked the waves .......................”

It ends with the line,

“Tomorrow to fresh woods and pastures new.”

The nobly beautiful scripture beginning, “Let not your hearts be troubled” is Jesus´ word of comfort to his friends at his own death.

Those whom we call dead are not dead, and they are not far from us, meet people all the time who have a sense of living presences at their side. Belasco´s play, “The Return Of Peter Grimm,” has in it a very real truth. Belasco himself tells how it was written. His daughter was dying while he was working on it, and the play expresses his own faith. We shall not see ghosts, but there are living spirits walking with us that can warm us with a felling and guide us with a thought. Someone will want to know if they suffer with us. Yes, they do, just as God does, but they are not overcome by it, for they see everything from the eternal point of view.

“I tell you they have not died,
They live and breathe with you.
They walk now-here at your side,
They tell you things are true.
Why dream of poppied sod
When you can feel their breath,
When flower and soul and God
Know, There is no death?
I tell you they have not died.
Their hands clasp yours and mine.
They are now but glorified,
They have become divine;
They live, they know, they see,
They shout with every breath-—
All is Eternal Life,
There is no death.”

This faith is the Christian teaching. Jesus said, “I am, not I shall be, the resurrection and the life”. He said that “whosoever lived and believed in him should never die.” There is a host of heavenly witnesses holding us in full survey. Jesus appeared to Mary, and to the disciples on the road to Emmaus. The trouble was that it took them so long to know him. There was a man named Paul also who said, “He appeared to me.” If we can really become convinced that this Christian faith is true, we can understand how Paul could say, “O death, where is thy Victory? O death, Where is thy sting? The sting of death is sin; and the power of sin is the law: but thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The spiritual life is the abundant and the immortal life. We ought to make it our habit to begin and to continue living it now.