SPIRITUAL LAW IN
THE NATURAL WORLD:
THAT in her great typical system, numbers have a place
will be acknowledged by every student of Scripture. How far, however, both
types and numbers pervade the whole is little understood, and will by many be
with difficulty credited. It would lead us a long way round to try and prove it
here, even though, I doubt not, the proof is most important.* We must content
ourselves here with the proof of that which lies directly before us - the
meaning of the numerals; and even here be briefer than we would, content to
know that the best proof of a key is, that it unlocks the door, the best proof
of a light, that it gives light. Our proof, after all, will be that the
meanings of the numerals gathered from Scripture, and of course illustrating
Scripture-truth, will yet be found to throw a new light upon Nature.
*For the proof in brief, I would refer my readers to The Numerical Structure of Scripture, published by Loizeaux Bros, 63 Fourth A Venue, New York; for the proof at large, to The Numerical Bible, publishing quarterly by the same.
It should be no abatement of the value of this process if Nature be found by it to speak Scripture-truth, and the result should be in some sense the opposite of that which (by an opposite process) Prof. Drummond seems to have reached; so that I may transfer a page of his preface to my own book, and appropriate it, only making Science and Religion to change places. Let us see how it would look.
"They lay at opposite poles of thought; and for a time I succeeded in keeping the Science and the Religion shut off from one another In two separate compartments of my mind. But gradually the wall of partition showed symptoms of giving way. The two fountains of knowledge also slowly began to overflow, and finally their waters met and mingled. The great change was in the compartment that held the [Science]. It was not that the well there was dried; still less that the fermenting waters were washed away by the flood of [Scripture]. The actual contents remained the same. But the crystals of former doctrine were dissolved; and as they precipitated themselves once more in definite forms, I observed that the Crystalline System was changed. . . . In other words, the subject-matter [Science] had taken on the method of expression of [Scripture], and I discovered myself enunciating [Natural] Law in the exact terms of [Inspiration] - and [Revealed Truth].
"Now this was not simply a [scriptural] colouring given to [Nature] - a mere freshening of the [scientific] air with [spiritual] facts and illustrations. It was an entire recasting of truth. And when I came seriously to consider what it involved, I saw, or seemed to see, that it meant essentially the introduction of [Spiritual] Law into the [Natural] World."
I trust Prof. Drummond will forgive the changes I have made in his statements here. I am sure that they are serious; I only would that he might yet be able to adopt them for his own. Christians may well long for him that he may find spiritual truth conveyed in more "exact terms" by Paul and Peter than by Spencer and Huxley; and natural truth also sweeter from the lips of one with whom God spake face to face, than from his with whom the only knowledge of Him is that He is unknowable. Let us take up our numerals, then. Scientists have told us that they pervade nature: surely we need not wonder if they have an important place in Scripture, or that being there they should speak there. Surely it is not unreasonable that the use of them should have its reason, - that He who has forbidden idle words should Himself not speak one!
The great proof in an explanation, as I have said, is, that it explains. And yet there is that which, in the Scripture-meaning of numbers, commends itself to us at the outset, and that is, that it is natural. The God of nature uses things according to their nature, He does not use water to regenerate a soul. He does not change bread into something that to look and touch and taste remains the same but is not. And so the spiritual meaning of the numerals also has its roots in nature. This rule observed helps greatly to restrain the mere lawlessness of the imagination, of which we do well to be afraid. We can hardly go astray when all meanings of the number I must come under its cardinal form as unity, or under its ordinal, as primacy. Yet this number has the widest range of meaning of any. No doubt, it is also the simplest; but in each, some natural thought governs or leads to the spiritual, - already a hint as to nature-teaching; for the natural is no more alien to the spiritual than the body to the soul which it enshrines and expresses.
The numerical series is also a very brief one. As in music seven notes in their combinations furnish all our wealth of harmony, so seven numbers give the whole range of choral anthem which all nature sends up to God. These added to or multiplying one another can produce all else. And that the series really ends with this, Scripture makes plain by its use of 7 always for that which is in some sense perfect, though it may be evil as well as good.
The number has thus its root-meaning in nature clearly, which Scripture only takes up and confirms. How plainly is it shown us, thus, that the whole series is a harmony, and that in it Nature finds her voice in praise! A good thought to begin with is it not? We find it confirmed in this, that the number 8 is always significant of a new start - a new beginning, as the eighth day is the beginning of a new week. 8 is the spiritual chord - the octave, just marking in its fresh commencement that the former series is complete.
Let us test these things by some examples. Seven times God pronounces His work at the beginning good; and on the seventh day He rests, and sanctifies it. Here is evidently the foundation of its meaning in Scripture. From this first week Israel derived her weeks of days and years, and weeks of weeks of years, or jubilee periods. The trumpet of the jubilee sounded in the seventh month of the year, upon the day of atonement. In Revelation, seven seals secure completely the book taken by the Lamb; seven candlesticks present the Church as the light of the world in the night of the Lords absence; seven lamps of fire burning before the throne picture, the "seven spirits of God" - the various energy of the one Spirit of God. Later, in the seven vials poured out upon the earth is "filled up the wrath of God."
The connection of the numbers 7 and 8 is illustrated by examples which depend for their force upon no recondite typical significance. Thus the Lord represents the unclean spirit who returns to the man out of whom he had gone, with seven other spirits more wicked than himself. But this makes eight and brings about the last state" which "is worse than the first." So the "ten horns" of Daniels fourth beast have three rooted up before the eleventh "little horn," and become, therefore, with this, eight; and then results the last state of the beast, in which judgment falls upon it. In Rev. xvii., where from another side the same things are seen, the eighth head gives to the beast its last blasphemous form, and "goeth into perdition."
The types of the Old Testament have many similar examples, which a very little examination will reveal to the inquirer. We need not perhaps produce more here. Another and very striking proof of the concord between nature and Scripture has now to be considered.
Scripture has its own methods of division of the numerals it employs, and the number 7 is no exception to this. As being a prime number, it cannot, of course, be subject to true division, but is well known by many to be divided in Scripture almost uniformly into 4+3. Thus in the sevenfold view of the kingdom of heaven in the thirteenth chapter of Matthew the first four parables are spoken to the multitude at large, the last three to the disciples in the house; and this corresponds to a real difference of application, - the first four giving the external view of the kingdom, patent to the world at large, while the last Three give the internal and divine view.
Again, in the opening of the seven seals in Revelation, the first four are introduced by the cry of the living creatures, "Come,"* and in each case a horseman answers to the call; the last three have no such introduction.
* The most approved reading. (But not the highly-approved KJV reading! - ED.)
In the trumpet-series, the last three are marked off from the first four as special "woes;" and the division is strongly emphasized.
In the addresses to the seven churches, the same division is found, but less manifest; and in Scripture generally there are numbers of similar septenary series divided after the same manner, the proof of which would require more space than is available for us now.
There is meaning, of course, in this division. We have assumed it at least as a principle, - the only one that could be at all fruitful in an inquiry like the present, that whatever is, whether in nature or the Word of God, has its raison dêtre, - can give some intelligible account of itself; otherwise, why look for it?. And it is just because things are so little sought for that they are so little found find the meaning here, we must anticipate, however, what has not yet been brought out, but what we shall have shortly to look at; so that it will be only slightly out of place to produce it here.
Four, then, we shall see shortly to be the world-number, or that which speaks of the creature; proof will be full as we advance; three is the number of manifestation, - that of the Trinity, in which God is alone fully manifest. The 4+3, then, into which a septenary series is so often divided, combining these meanings, speaks of the creature as that in His relation to which now God is manifested; and thus it completely answers to its end. God rests, therefore, in satisfaction with His work, on the seventh day. If clearness and consistency can avail to make it, this interpretation, then, may be allowed to stand. But we have now a strange, even startling, correspondence from the side of nature, which will develop more significance as we proceed. If the seven notes of music are the natural root of the Scripture meaning, it is to music we may look for any obtainable help further. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
How striking, then, is the division of these notes in music! Upon the key-board of a piano we find them arranged thus: -
The five black notes are grouped as 3 and 2: three black notes divide four white ones; and again, two black notes divide three white ones. The seven white notes accept the scriptural division into 4 and 3!
Here is a clue which we must follow; but we are not ready to do so yet. We shall have first to inquire as to the meaning of the other numbers, which it is plain we can now arrange upon the key-board without difficulty. As yet, indeed, they do not speak; but they have at least approached articulate utterance. They seem already to intimate their accord with Scripture when it tells us that in relation to the creature God shall be manifested. Will they do more than this? We will go on and see, at least.
IT has been said that the first number has really but two thoughts fundamental to it. As a cardinal number, it speaks of unity; as an ordinal, of primacy. No proof is needed that of these it does speak.
But the application of these thoughts may be wide, and far-reaching. With regard to unity, this may exclude a second, or exclude simply difference; .and the latter may be either external or internal "The Lord our God is one Lord" excludes absolutely another Lord; and this implies on His part sufficiency which needs no other, and independency which admits no other. And these, again, imply His eternity.
Or it may exclude external difference; and speak thus of identity, identification; or simply of peace.
Or it may exclude internal difference, as where Joseph says, "The dream is one." It may thus speak of harmony of parts or attributes, - of consistency, congruity. Or else of individuality, - in the highest way, personality; in the lowest, perhaps, of life, which is the basis of all true individuality. Integrity, again, is "wholeness," oneness.
Now, as an ordinal number, the first, the beginning: He who is in true active energy the beginning, is Creator, Life-giver, Father; counsel and election connect with it; and sovereignty is implied in all of this.
The number 2 is the contradiction of the first number: there is now another. In a good sense, it speaks of addition, increase, growth; and so of help, confirmation, fellowship. Our word "seconding" expresses these latter thoughts. (Comp. Eccles. iv. 9-12.) Here we have, -
1. Confirmation in the way of testimony: "The testimony of two men is true." And we have seen that the power of this confirmation depends much on the diversity of the witnesses (2 being the expression of difference).
2. Salvation, help.
3. Dependence, humiliation, service: "seconding" again assists the thought.
Notice, now, that in Christ, the second Person of the Godhead, all these thoughts unite. Twofold in nature, who can unite in one person such diversity as He? He is the Second Man. He is the true Witness and the Word of God. He is the Saviour. He was the dependent, lowly Man, humbling Himself even to death for our salvation. This whole meaning, thus far, attaches to, and holds forth to us, Christ.
But on the other side, as the number of difference, and the first number that divides, the number 2 speaks of contrast, contradiction, conflict, enmity, - of separation, death, which is that and the "last enemy." Yet here again, as if Christ must be everywhere Master, the cross, in which the conflict between good and evil, the enmity of mans heart, the power of the enemy, death in its most awful form, are found, - is once again salvation. Nowhere is the contrast so great, the contradiction so extreme, as in the cross.
Two is naturally also womans number, and she illustrates it well. Full again of contradictions, - dependent on man, yet his helpmeet; and yet again the one through whom the breach came; the type of increase, yet through whom came death, and then once more, through her victorious "Seed," salvation. Surely these numbers speak!
We come now to 3: and for what does 3 stand? Plainly it is the symbol of cubic measure - solid Measure - the measure of content. "Take any two dimensions, and multiply them together: what have you? A measure of surface merely. Take a third dimension; now you have more than surface: this third dimension strikes in deep below the surface, and gives you a measure of solidity. 3 stands, then, for what is solid, real, substantial. What are length and breadth without thickness? A line that you can draw upon paper is more than that."
Three is the number of Persons in the Godhead, - of the divine fullness, therefore, - and until we reach this, God is not fully manifested. It is evidently the number of actualization, realization, manifestation. It is the number of the Spirit, who realizes in the creature the counsels of God.
"When the deep lay over the waste and desolate earth, the Spirit of God brooded upon the face of the waters. When men are born again to God, the gospel comes to them, not in word only, but in power, and in the Holy Ghost. What is sanctification - the work of the Spirit - but that in which salvation is realized in the soul? Without the work of the Spirit, there is nothing but outside work: that which is born of the Spirit is spirit; this is that third dimension which every saint has."
Beautifully, therefore, - one of those deep harmonies of Scripture which, lying everywhere under the surface, give such full attestation of its truth, - the sanctuary in Israel, Gods dwelling-place among them, was a cube, - of ten cubits in the tabernacle, twenty in the temple; while the new Jerusalem, the final city of God, which the glory of God lightens, is a cube also: "the length and the breadth and the height of it are equal." Here all the counsels of God have realized themselves at last. Here the holiness long sought for from man is at last attained.
In the sanctuary God manifests Himself. Resurrection too, always connected in Scripture with the third day, is that in which, when all mere human hope is at an end, God manifests Himself. Christ was "declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by resurrection of the dead." (Rom. i. 4, R. V.)
Revival, restoration, recovery, connect themselves with this; and all this mans sanctification is. It is his resurrection out of that state of spiritual death in which naturally men are. Once again, let us note, how perfect are these harmonies! and how they attest the truth of that in which they are found! The underlying thought in sanctification is, a separation to; and so even Christ, going back to theFather, but as Man to take a new position for men with God, says, "And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth." So were the priests of old sanctified or set apart. to the work of the priesthood. And this thought of setting apart to some special office we shall find most important in the application of this number to natural things. For the present, we are confining ourselves to. Scripture, as that in which these numbers first find voice; we are learning the language of that which is then to be our interpreter in another sphere.
We come now to 4, a number in which we find the first that is capable of true division. It is a number, therefore, Which naturally suggests passivity and weakness; and as we have now got beyond the numbers which speak of Deity, we naturally connect this with the thought of the creature, - the material which submits itself to the, divine hand, and may (alas!) to another. Notice, again, that it is 2, the first number which divides, that divides it; and here . we have seen what speaks. often of the enemys work.
Scripture justifies this application fully. Four is recognized in Scripture as the world-number that of the "four corners" of the earth, of earthly completeness and universality, which has thus on it, however, the stamp of weakness, whatever man may boast. It is the number of the four winds of heaven, the various and opposing influences which show the divided, diverse conditions to which the earth is subject, and which make it the place of such various experience, and practical testing for man. And this, too, opens the way once more to the thought of failure. The fourth book of Moses - Numbers, as the history of Israels journey through the wilderness, type of our own world-warfare and pilgrimage, illustrates all these thoughts.
We shall find this number stamped upon nature in her four kingdoms, which a science based upon what is wholly material would reduce to three, thus taking away mans birthright, and sending him out, Nebuchadnezzarlike, among the beasts. But this in him was madness, and under divine judgment, - thank God, temporary also: Scripture and nature both, if they are listened to, will restore him to his place.
The next two numbers have more difficulty. Let us pause briefly to connect what we have ascertained as to the whole series, and to gather what hints we may as to what yet remains.
We have seen that the whole number is 7, the number of perfection; and that this number is composed of 4 and 3. These numbers also have been investigated, and their meaning read, if it be but partially. Four we have seen to be the number of the world, or of the creature, the first three numbers those which speak of God. It is striking here that in scripture, 4 is often thus divided in its peculiar way, and not by mere arithmetical rules, as 3 and 1. Take the four gospels as an example, where the first three have been called, from their accordant view, the synoptic gospels, while John's, in its many marked peculiarities, stands in a division apart. It is the divine nature of Christ upon which he characteristically dwells, as is evident, and this dominates and differentiates the whole book.
But this 3 and 1 have again their meaning, and, as combining in 4, speak of the creature as manifesting (3) the Creator (1). And this is evidently what - at least according to Scripture - creation does. This the numbers as a whole suggest. The 4 + 3 which make up 7 we have already interpreted almost similarly. What is, in fact, the difference? If these meanings and distinctions of meaning be indeed of God, they will sustain the fullest investigation, and be helped by it: what difference, then, do these numbers naturally suggest? Is it not this, that in the one case (as 3 + 1 =4) the manifestation of God is in the creature; while in 4+3, the fuller numbers, and the way in which they appear side by side, suggest the whole relationship of God to the creature as that which manifests Him? *
*This view is only suggested as a deduction from the numbers themselves. The testing of it by Scripture involves more research than I have yet been able to give; and only the confidence gained from an acquaintance of years with this method and its results could embolden me to offer it.
At any rate, it seems evident, from this division of the whole series into 4 and 3, that we are now to take this 4 as a whole number - that of the creature, to which, to make up the last three, we are to add once more the divine ones. Five will be thus a 4 + 1; 6, a 4 + 2; and 7, what we have seen it to be. Nature, as we have seen also, in the last case justifies this thought: what will it do as to the preceding numbers?
Now the most familiar 5 that occurs to me is found in the human hand. How striking, then, to find, at the first glance here, the division into 4 and -1! Look narrowly, - the more narrowly the better. These four fingers, how clearly in themselves they imply weakness! Think what these fingers would be without the thumb! And then this opposing thumb itself, strong and single, as if it would represent the help of the one God ministered to the weakness of His creatures, - may it not remind us that this human capacity of which the hand speaks is just weakness itself except the power of God go with it? Are these things mere imaginings, morbid broodings of the theological mind? Why, then, do they seem so singularly to unite together? Why are the dreams so consistent?
But the measure of capacity is the measure of responsibility, and here the 4 + 1 once more speak of the creature in relation to the Creator, - of the government of God as approached from the creature-side. And the throne of God thus approached is encompassed with clouds and darkness. The divine ways with him give him constant and needed exercise, though the throne is there, steadfast and towering above the clouds. Five will be found [in Scripture] constantly associated with this thought of exercise under responsibility; but also with the kindred one that, under God, the way, according to its character, leads to a corresponding end. This whole lesson Deuteronomy, the fifth book of Scripture, enforces throughout."
Thus far, then, the meaning which has been suggested as to these last three numbers is confirmed by the present one: "the creature in relation to .the almighty Creator" seems its fundamental thought.
Six is another number which seems to speak of relation to God, but a very different relation. It is the number of the days of mans work-day week, the appointed term of his labour, type of his life-labour, his "few and evil days," limited because of sin. It is the second number which is not a prime. Divided as 4 and 2, it is the creature in relation to him who has wrought in it disaster and ruin, but on the other hand to Him who is the Deliverer from it. Thus it is the number which shows the creature as a fallen creature, and Gods victory over the evil, by which He is gloriously displayed.
In its use in Scripture it implies sin in its full development, limited and controlled by God, who thus glorifies Himself in the issue of it. The number of the beast in Revelation is a striking and well-known instance of the use of this number, 666, - evil in fullest activity, yet its feebleness ever apparent, and Gods hand imposing its limit. Its number is the number of its name - stamps it, that is, as what it is, and is only "the number of a man," though vainly and impiously aspiring to be as God.
In the field which we propose to traverse, we shall find little of this number; and that, I think, for obvious reasons, which only confirm the meaning of it; but on that account it need be the less dwelt on now. Here, then, our brief glance at the numbers ends; for of 7 all is probably said that need be. We have therefore now our vocabulary ready, which is to be employed in the translation of language still more hidden. Nature keeps well her secrets, and yet keeps them after all to reward the diligent: as the wise man says, "It is the glory of God to conceal a thing, but the honour of kings to search out a matter." (Prov. xxv. 2.) And "through wisdom is a house builded, and by understanding it is established; and by knowledge shall the chambers be filled with all precious and pleasant riches." (Chap. xxiv. 3, 4.)
Go To Chapter Six
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