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Systematic Theology - Volume II
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§ 1. Preliminary Remarks.

1. The most mysterious and the most familiar fact of consciousness and experience is the union of soul and body in the constitution of our nature. According to the common faith of mankind and of the Church, man consists of two distinct substances, soul and body. By substance is meant that which is. It is the entity in which properties, attributes, and qualities inhere, and of which they are the manifestations. It is therefore something more than mere force. It is something more than a collective name for a certain number of properties which appear in combination. It is that which continues, and remains unchanged under all the varying phenomena of which it may be the subject. The substance which we designate the soul, is immaterial, that is, it has none of the properties of matter. It is spiritual, i.e., it has all the properties of a spirit. It is a self-conscious, intelligent, voluntary agent. The substance which we call the body, on the other hand, is material. That is, it has all the properties of matter and none of the properties of mind or spirit. This is the first fact universally admitted concerning the constitution of our nature.

2. The second fact concerns the nature of the union between the soul and body. It is, (a.) A personal union. Soul and body constitute one individual man, or human person. There is but one consciousness. It is the man or person who is conscious of sensations and of thoughts, of affections of the body and of the acts of the mind. (b.) It is a union without mixture or confusion. The soul remains spirit, and the body remains matter. Copper and zinc combined form brass. The constituent elements lose their distinctive characteristics, and produce a third substance. There is no such mixture in the union of the soul and body. The two remain distinct. Neither is there a transfer of any of the properties of the one to the other. No property of the mind is transferred to the body; and no property of the body is transferred to the mind. (c.) Nevertheless the union is not a mere inhabitation, a union of contact or in space. The soul does not dwell in the body as a man dwells in a house or in his garments. The body is part of himself, and is necessary to his completeness as a man. He is in every part of it, and is conscious of the slightest change in the state of even the least important of its members.

3. Thirdly, the consequences of this union of the soul and body are, (a.) A κοινωνία ἰδιωμάτων, or communion of attributes. That is, the person is the possessor of all the attributes both of the soul and of the body. We may predicate of the man whatever may be predicated of his body; and we may predicate of him whatever may be predicated of his soul. We say of the man that he is tall or short; that he is sick or well; that he is handsome or deformed. In like manner, we may say that he is judicious, wise, good, benevolent, or learned. Whatever is true of either element of his constitution is true of the man. What is true of the one, however, is not true of the other. When the body is wounded or burnt it is not the soul that is the subject of these accidents; and when the soul is penitent or believing, or enlightened and informed, the body is not the subject spoken of. Each has its properties and changes, but the person or man is the subject of them all. (b.) Hence, inconsistent, or apparently contradictory affirmations may be made of the same person. We may say that he is weak and that he is strong; that he is mortal and immortal; that he is a spirit, and that he is dust and ashes. (c.) We may designate the man from one element of his nature when what we predicate of him is true only of the other element. We may call him a spirit and yet say that he hungers and thirsts. We may call him a worm of the dust when we speak of him as the subject of regeneration. That is, the person may be designated from either nature when the predicate belongs to the other. (d.) As in virtue of the personal union of the soul and body all the properties of either are properties of the man, so all the acts of either are the acts of the man. Some of our acts are purely mental, as thinking, repenting, and believing; some are purely bodily, as the processes of digestion, assimilation, and the circulation of the blood; some are mixed, as all voluntary acts, as walking, speaking, and writing. In these there is a direct concurrence or cooperation of the mind and body. These several classes of acts are acts of the man. It is the man who thinks; it is the man who speaks and writes; and the man who digests and assimilates his food. (e.) A fifth consequence of this hypostatic union is the exaltation of the body. The reason why the body of a man and its life are so immeasurably exalted above those of a brute is that it is in personal union with a rational and immortal soul. It is this also which gives the body its dignity and beauty. The gorgeous plumage of the bird, or the graceful symmetry of the antelope, are as nothing compared to the erect figure and intellectual beauty of man. The mind irradiates the body, and imparts to it a dignity and value which no configuration of mere matter could possess. At the same time the soul is not degraded by its union with the body. It was so arrayed before the fall, and is to be clothed with a body in its glorified state in heaven.

The union of soul and body in the constitution of man is the analogue of the union of the divine and human natures in the person of Christ. No analogy is expected to answer in all points. There is in this case enough of resemblance to sustain faith and rebuke unbelief. There is nothing in the one more mysterious or inscrutable than in the other. And as the difficulties to the understanding in the union of two distinct substances, matter and mind, in the person of man have induced many to deny the plainest facts of consciousness, so the difficulties of the same kind attending the doctrine of the union of two natures, the one human and the other divine in the person of Christ, have led many to reject the plainest facts of Scripture.

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