SPIRITUAL LAW IN
THE NATURAL WORLD:
ANIMAL AND HUMAN.
THE vegetable has life; and life is a mystery entirely
beyond us. Nothing has demonstrated this better than all the labour that has
been now for a good while bestowed upon it in the opposite interest. That it is
known only to proceed from life is now admitted even by those whose every hope
for their theory depends on the speculation that in another age of the world,
somewhere, somewhen, it may have been different. In our present inquiry, we are
happily delivered from the necessity of discussing such things. Scripture still
leaves it a mystery, and we must: no less real on that account than the
countless mysteries that everywhere surround us.
When we pass from the vegetable to the animal world, however, it is not with life alone that we have to do, but with that which is much more strange to our partial systems of natural science, - the living SOUL.
Here, indeed, theologians often themselves are in confusion, and have not given consistent testimony
to the Scripture doctrine. They have often made the possession of soul distinctive of man, or, confounding soul and spirit, have ascribed the latter to the beast. They have thus lost, on the one hand or the other, the simple distinguishing marks of the organic kingdoms. According to. Scripture, it is nevertheless as clear as need be, that in the vegetable we have life without soul; in the animal, life and soul; and in man, life, soul, and spirit.
Let us first get clearly hold of the Scripture doctrine.
In the first chapter of Genesis it will be noted that although we ordinarily speak of the six days of creation, the term. is only used in it in relation to three things. First, "in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." Secondly, on the fifth day, "God created every living soul that moveth". Thirdly, on the sixth day, "God created man in His own image."
Now, the meaning usually given to the word "created" has been questioned or denied; but here throughout it seems in contrast with mere making, and strictly to apply to the bringing into being of something not developed out of any thing preexisting. In the beginning, (if strictly that,) there was nothing pre-existing. The "living soul" was an entirely new existence, not a development out of matter or its forces. In man, there is spirit as well as soul: hence again a new existence, and that in the image of God.
Notice, that the living soul is in the thirtieth verse (margin) distinctly said to be in "every thing that moveth on the earth;" and that while the functions of nutrition, and reproduction are by physiologists styled "vegetative functions," the animal ones are those of sensation and voluntary motion. Both are indicated in the "living soul that moveth," with perfect accuracy.
The "soul" in Scripture* is the seat of the emotions, love, hate, pity, longing, lust, appetite, and of the life also of the body. It is the sensitive nature, including in man what we usually call the heart. If "knowledge" is also ascribed to it, we can readily understand this, speaking as we do also of knowledge of the heart: but the seat of true intellect is the spirit.
*Nephesh in the Old, peuche in the New Testament In the passage above, and often in our common version. "creature."
And this in man it is that shows him to be in the image of God. This has by some been referred to his position as His representative on earth, the head over all in it; but this is impossible as the true view, for in that case, he would not have been created in it. On the other hand, the parallel expression in the fifth chapter, where Adam is said to have begotten a son "after his image," may well explain the thought. We are thus "the offspring of God;" as the apostle quotes to the Athenians. In man there are "spirit, soul, and body" (1 Thess. v. 23), and God is the "Father of spirits" (Heb. xii. 9) Himself "Spirit." How clear this makes the statement in Genesis! Had it said "Father of souls," it would have made Him Father of the beasts.
So also is He the "God of the spirits of all flesh" (Num. xvi. 22), for the spirit is that alone by which we apprehend God, or (in that sense) have one. It is that by which we "know the things of a man" (1 Cor. ii. 11), and is rendered in our version in several passages "mind" or "understanding," which is plainly its true sense. To the beast it never is ascribed.* "All flesh" is commonly in Scripture limited to man: as where the Spirit is promised to be poured out on all flesh (Acts ii. 17), or all flesh is to see the salvation of God. (Luke iii. 6.)
*One passage only can with any plausibility be supposed to do this: Eccl. iii. 21. But it is merely the language of doubt from the standpoint of human knowledge: "who knoweth?" where ruach also may mean "breath" or "spirit," according to the context. See my "Facts and Theories as to a Future State," pp. 44-80, for the full argument as to Soul and Spirit.
Thus by "spirit" man is in relationship to God, and thus also to eternity. If there are passages which may seem equivocal as to the soul, and the beasts that have soul are still "beasts that perish," (Ps. xlix. 20,) there is not in the Word of God a shadow upon the immortality of spirit from end to end. Nay, man who is in this life characterized as a "living soul," (Gen. ii. 7) as soon as he departs is no more this, but is a "spirit." He still has a soul, as "Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell" is proof; but all the more striking is it that soul has ceased to define him: "they thought that they had seen a spirit;" "a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see Me have." Indeed, our own use of language recognizes the same distinctions; for, while, we speak commonly, without the least materialistic meaning, of souls perishing by flood or plague, we never think of spirits doing so; and the departed man we still call a "ghost" or "spirit" - words equivalent in meaning.
But why, then, this use of the word "soul" for man in this life? which we find, moreover, just where naturally we should expect something else. For, when in Genesis we have seen his very body moulded out of the dust with special care, and then the breath of life inbreathed by God as if He would endow him with something from Himself which should bring him into a relationship with Himself known by no other being upon earth, it does seem disappointing all our expectations, just to say, "And man became" - not a spirit or the offspring of God, But - "a living soul:" after all, only what the beast is!
Look deeper, and the disappointment passes, and gives place to other feelings. Scripture is only more accurate, more scientific, than we are prepared for. In exact classification every one knows that we have genus and species, and that we have them in this order and distinct. The generic must not be mixed with the specific definition, nor must the specific precede the generic; otherwise we have real confusion, such as Scripture is never guilty of. In these two accounts of mans creation, in the first two chapters of Genesis, we have no confusion, and no meaningless repetition either. In the first, mans generic place is given, in contrast with the animals, where it is needed to distinguish him. Here it would not do to speak of him as a "living soul" - that would not distinguish. He is thus spoken of first as in the image of God, created in it, thus implying spirit, as we have seen. He belongs, then, to the genus "spirit," as do the angels, as do not the beasts: he belongs to the family of God. The second chapter does not repeat this: it gives his .specific distinction in this spiritual genus. Here to define him as spirit would not distinguish him: no; his distinction here, as from the angels, is evidently just what is given us, - his specific distinction - that he is a "living soul."
And what, then, does this imply? Is it not plainly that he is a spirit in disguise? Linked with a lower nature, which, while suited to the animal merely, to him becomes a yoke, a discipline, a humiliation, just because he is more? What helplessness is like the helplessness of a human babe? How long does it take to put man in possession of those faculties in him that transcend the beast!? Nay, more, in those which but equal him with the beast he is painfully deficient. The beasts instincts fit it from the start for the sphere in which it is to move. In man, they drudge but in service to a higher nature, more dependent because it is higher because in a world like this, built up from the bottom, as the first chapter of Genesis shows it, that which is higher is dependent upon all that is built up upon. Thus, as the soul leans upon the body, so the spirit upon the soul. The lowest faculties develop first, just because the others must by their means. The mind furnishes itself through the senses: the tangible, material things must supply the images of the unseen and spiritual: and of this, it is well known, the roots of all language are a perfect witness to us. Man is a spirit, but a spirit in humiliation "We see through a glass darkly" - "in a riddle," as the last word means, - groping in the twilight before we see; learning by putting together fragments of knowledge, by induction and deduction, by theorizing and verification, the painful labour of it all a constant lesson of lowliness, if we will learn it; if not, a constant witness against our pride. And is not this the need of it, and the moral justification of it all? If we will still listen to Scripture, it was through pride that Satan fell. (1 Tim. iii. 6.) Created after the angels fall, by and by to be tempted in the same direction ("Ye shall be as God ") and to yield, these limitations and dependences are not a needless humiliation for man, but the true and tender discipline of the "Father of spirits," who, necessarily, and for our profit, chasteneth every son whom He receiveth." Let us not fret under it, nor faint, nor be indifferent. Faith will turn it all to blessing; and faith here alone is reasonable; faith it is that finds verification from every whit of real knowledge.
But this, then, in brief, is man; and thus he is distinguished from the beast. His kingdom is that of spirit, while it is fully allowed that by. one side he is related to the beast. Granting this, it is yet only a partial and materialistic classification that can assign him his place in nature with the beast. He is a true microcosm, in whom all the elements of the world in which he is are assimilated into a perfect unity, which sin has indeed obscured, but not destroyed. Life is indeed, as has been already said, the basis of organic unity. Yet in the plant, the individual organism can be divided again and again, and multiplied by division. So in the lowest animals, as notably in the Hydræ, we find soul itself little jealous of a similar division. In the Zoophytes it is often hard to say what an individual really is; and thus we may suspect even in the higher animals that it is more the complexity of the organism than the nature of the soul that resists division. But in man with spirit we find personality, a unity which appears in consciousness, and asserts sovereignty over all the lower nature. Here is at last a being who can say "I," and despite the constant change in his material frame, affirms his own continuous identity. Thus in his sphere, small though it may be, he is truly in the image of. God, the unchangeable One, - His offspring, he is naturally also as a species one, although ere some would fain have had it otherwise. In his triune nature, spirit, soul, and body, representing severally the three organic kingdoms, he of necessity conforms as they do, to the numerical law.
But the animal kingdom requires further consideration. What does the number two indicate as to it? As we have already seen, that the soul is characteristic of the animal, it is in the soul that we must find, as it would seem, the number significant. It may not of course be confined to this, but at least here we should expect to find prominent the indications of the number. How, then, does the number. two characterize soul?
We have here a subject little explored, and upon which we can find little direct help from science. But the researches, which have of late been many, into the difference between man and beast, indirectly throw much light upon it.
Take the following from the Duke of Argyle: -
"It is often said we can never really know what unreasoning instinct is, because we can never enter into an animal mind, and see what is working there. Men are so apt to be arrogant in philosophy, that it seems almost wrong to deprecate even any semblance of the consciousness of ignorance. But it were much to be desired that the modesty of philosophers would come in the right place. I hold that we can know, and can almost thoroughly understand, the instincts of the lower animals; and this, for the best of all reasons, that we ourselves are animals, whatever more;- having, to a large extent, precisely the same instincts, with the additional power of looking down upon ourselves in this capacity from a higher elevation to which we can ascend at will.. . . In contemplating the phenomena of reasoning and of conscious deliberation, it really seems as if it were impossible to sever it from the idea of a double personality. Tennysons poem of the Two Voices is no poetic exaggeration of the duality of which we are conscious when we attend to the mental operations of our own most complex nature. It is as if there were within us one Being always receptive of suggestions, and always responding In the form of impulse - and another Being capable of passing these suggestions in review before it, and of allowing or disallowing the impulses to which they give rise. There is a profound difference between creatures in which one only of these voices speaks, and Man, whose ears are, as it were, open to them both. The things which we do in obedience to the lower and simpler voice are indeed many, various, and full of a true and wonderful significance. But the things which we do, and the affections which we cherish, in obedience to the higher voice, have a rank, a meaning, and a scope which is all their own. There is no indication in the lower animals of this double personality. There is no indication that they hear any voice but one; and there is every indication that in obeying it the whole law of their being is perfectly fulfilled. This it is which gives such restfulness to Nature, whose abodes are indeed what Wordsworth calls them -
Abodes where Self-disturbance hath no part "
This impulsive, instinctive life is evidently what according to what we have seen, the mere soul-life of the beast is, - in a relation of dependence to a Mind whose will it expresses, but of which it is unconscious, and which is not its own. Now, this is what the number two expresses, as has been already said; and what makes them fit to be the servants of man, under whom they were originally placed, and who may be to them thus, in such measure as he Practically fills the place allotted to him of God, the mind they lack. Abdicate the place too he may, and then those that should have been his servants only, become his enemies, and this is. what, since the fall, we experience in varying measure, though still enough evidence remains of what originally God designed.
This is from one side what the beast is; from another, he is the consumer of what the plant manufactures, the balance-wheel against over-production: and this too is very fully accordant with his numerical place. As the chemist puts it, he is the oxidizer, as the plant is the reducer, and between them the interplay of the vital forces is maintained.
Even in his body - and so in mans, which is still animal, - there is found, as I think, the stamp of his number, in that bilaterality which everywhere seems (in contrast with the plant) the stamp of the animal. As Prof. Clark has said -
"All animals are double, even man . . . . bilaterality is the basis upon which the animal structure is erected; and whatever modification there may be in this feature, this type of form, such a modification is subordinate in the type."
Thus it is not a feature of secondary importance that is marked by this number, but one of fundamental importance.
Has it to do with that voluntary movement which is part of the definition of the animal in the first chapter of Genesis, "the living soul that moveth"? In the higher orders, as the Articulates and Vertebrates, one might easily imagine so, even the brain (which is double) being largely occupied with the control of movement, as Ferrier and others since have fully shown. This is but a suggestion, though a reason for this peculiarity of structure there must be; and this, if it could be shown, would complete the harmony in this respect between nature and Scripture. At any rate, the living soul fills its place.
Go To Chapter Nine
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