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tion of one still greater, we should at length feel ourselves absorbed in the inconceivable magnitude of matter, as it had eluded our pursuit by its minuteness. So incomplete are our ideas even of matter. And if so, then,
(2) How much more imperfect still is our knowledge of what relates to mind! Who ever presumed to unfold all that a spirit is capable of? Who has ever determined the connection which subsists within us, between the faculty which feels, and that which reflects? Who has ever discovered the manner in which one spirit is enabled to communicate its feelings and reflections to another? Who has formed a conception of the means by which a spirit becomes capable of acting upon a body, and a body upon a spirit? It is to me, then, demonstrably certain, that we know but in an imperfect manner, the very things of which we have any ideas at all.
The blessed in heaven have complete ideas of these; they penetrate into the minutest particles of matter; they discern all the wonders, all the latent springs, all the subtility of the smallest parts of body, which contain worlds in miniature, an epitome of the great universe, and not less calculated to excite admiration of the wisdom of the Creator; they traverse that immensity of space, those celestial globes, those immeasurable spheres, the existence of which it is impossible for us to call in question, but whose enormous mass and countless multitude, confound and overwhelm us. The blessed in heaven know the nature of spirits, their faculties, their relations, their intercourse, their laws. But all this is inexplicable. Is any one capable of changing our senses? Is any one capable of giving a more extensive range to our imagina
tion? Is it possible to remove the barriers which limit thought?
While we are on the earth, we discern but very imperfectly the relations which subsist even between the things which we do know. Contracted, incomplete as our ideas are, we should, nevertheless, make some progress in our researches after truth, had we the power of reflecting, of recollection, of fixing our attention to a certain degree, of comparing beings with each other, and thus advancing from those which we already know, to those with which we are hitherto unacquainted. Men are more or less intelligent, according as they are in the habit of being more or less attentive. A man brought up in the midst of noise, in tumult; a man whom tumult and noise pursue wherever he goes, is incapable of composed recollection, because, carrying always in himself a source of distraction, he becomes incapable of profound reflection upon any one object abstracted from, and unconnected with matter. But a philosopher accustomed to meditate, is able to follow up a principle to a degree totally inaccessible to the other. Nevertheless, whatever a man's attainments may be in the art of attention, it must always be contracted within very narrow limits; because we still consist, in part, of body; because this body is ever exciting sensations in the soul; because the soul is continually distracted by these sensations; because that, in order to meditate, there is occasion for a great concourse of the spirits necessary to the support of the body, so that attention wearied out, exhausted, does violence to that body; to such a degree, that if, by the aid of an extraordinary concourse of spirits, we should be disposed to exert the brain beyond a certain pitch, the effort would prove fatal to us,
The blessed in heaven are not liable to have their attention disturbed by the action of the senses. St. Paul, by means of a supernatural interposition, had his soul, if not separated from the body, (for he himself knows not whether his rapture were in the body, or out of the body,) at least emancipated from that continual distraction to which it is subject, in virtue of its union with matter. He could be self-collected, attentive, absorbed of the objects which God presented to his mind. He could discern the mutual relation of the designs of eternal wisdom, the harmony of the works of God, the concatenation of his purposes, the combination of his attributes; sublime objects which he could not possibly display to men incapable of that degree of attention, without which no conception can be formed of those objects.
Does not this first reason, my beloved brethren, of our apostle's silence, on the subject of the heavenly felicity, already produce on your souls the effect at which this discourse is principally aiming? Has it not already kindled within you an ardent desire to attain that felicity? Soul of man, susceptible of so many ideas, of such enlarged knowledge, of illumination so unbounded, is it possible for thee to sojourn, without reluctance, in a body which narrows thy sphere, and cramps thy nobler faculties? Philosopher, who are straining every nerve, who givest thyself no rest, to attain a degree of knowledge incompatible with the condition of humanity: Geometrician, who, after an incredible expence of thought, of meditation, of reflection, art able to attain, at most, the knowledge of the relations of a circle, or of a triangle: Theologian, who, after so many days of labor, and nights of watching, hast scarcely arrived at the capacity of explaining a few passages of holy writ, of
correcting, by an effort, some silly prejudice: wretched mortals, how much are you to be pitied! how impotent and ineffectual are all exertions to acquire real knowledge! I think I am beholding one of those animals, the thickness of whose blood, the grossness of whose humors, the incumbrance of that house with which nature loads them, preventing them from moving with facility; I think I am beholding one of those animals, striving to move over an immense space in a little, little hour. He strains, he bustles, he toils, he flatters himself with having made a mighty progress, he exults in the thought of attaining the end which he had proposed. The hour elapses, and the progress which he has made is a mere nothing, compared with the immensity of the space still untrodden.
Thus, loaded with a body replenished with gross humors, retarded by matter, we are able, in the course of the longest life, to acquire but a very slender and imperfect degree of knowledge. This body must drop: this spirit must disengage itself, before it can become capable of soaring unincumbered, of penetrating into futurity, and of attaining that height and depth of knowledge which the blessed in heaven possess.
Not only from revelation do we derive these ideas; not even from reason, in its present high state of improvement: they were entertained in the ancient Pagan world. We find this subject profoundly investigated, I had almost said exhausted, in, the Phædon of Plato. Socrates considers his body as the greatest obstacle in the way of seeking after truth. And this brings to my recollection the beautiful expression of a certain Anchorite, to the same purpose: extenuated, infirm, sinking under a load of years, on the point of expiring, he breaks out into singing. He is asked
Wherefore singest thou? "Ah! I sing," says he, " because I see that wall tumbling down which hinders me from beholding the face of God." Yes, this body is a wall which prevents our seeing God. Fall down, fall down, interposing, invidious wall; fall down, impenetrable wall, and then we shall see God. But to man in his present state, to man loaded with a body like this, the illumination of the blessed in heaven, is among the things which are unspeakable.
2. The blessed in heaven are prompted by inclinations the most noble and refined: a defect of taste prevents our adopting and enjoying the same inclinations.
All tastes are not similar. Men agree tolerably well in the vague notions of honor, of pleasure, of generosity, of nobility. But that which appears pleasure to one, is insupportable to another : that which appears noble, generous to one, appears mean, grovelling, comtemptible to another. that the idea which you might suggest to your neighbor, of a pleasant and desirable mode of living, might, in all probability, convey to him ideas of life the most odious and disgusting.
Who is able to make a man plunged in business to comprehend, that there is pleasure inexpressible in studying truth, in making additions to a stock of knowledge, in diving into mysteries? Who is able to persuade a miser, that there is a delight which nothing can equal, in relieving the miserable, in ministering to their necessities, in sharing fortunes with them, and thus, to use the expression of scripture, to draw nigh to a man's own flesh : Isa. lviii. 7.? Who is able to convince a grovelling and dastardly soul, that there is joy to be found in pursuing glory through clouds of smoke and showers of iron, in braving instant and certain dangers,