The Kingdoms of Nature
We have as yet, however, not entered upon the field of science proper. We are about to do so, and to inquire what help may be gained from Scripture for the detailed study of nature. In this numerical system, of which both Scripture and nature are immensely fuller than has been thought, we ought to find a wonderful help, if it be (as we have essayed to show,) the same system that pervades both. Of this too, all future applications will be a continual test. Thus every real discovery will be verified as it is made, in complete accordance with the not unreasonable demand of Mr. Huxley. Nay, it may be justly doubted whether he can produce, for a large number of what he accepts as scientific verities, any verification so complete. That it comes to him from Scripture ought not to prejudice it in his eyes; nor can the refusal of it for this reason be justified in the least degree under the warrant of science.
And out of how many sloughs is he saved at once who can accept Scripture as the interpreter of nature! What light is poured in there where the mere naturalist has to own that there is none; and how this heavenly ray irradiates all nature! How grand a thing for the man of science to be able to stand at the beginning of things with God, and to see, if it be "through a glass darkly," the birth of all that exists around us! What a new and • vast field of research opens before him in Scripture itself, so little explored in this way as it has been, even to the present time: a field in which induction is as fully in place as any where, and where microscope and telescope will open up new worlds, as in nature! Standing, as I do, but at the threshold of all this, or given to enter but a little way, I dare predict to him who shall bring together, as in a stereoscopic picture, the two worlds of Science and of Scripture into the unity which they really have, that he shall achieve for himself a triumph and a joy beyond utterance. For me even to lisp but a few things is yet much; and I do it in the hope that others with better knowledge will utter them plainly.
A general view of nature is in some sense the easiest to accomplish; just because broad features are more easily read than minute ones. And my hope is in this chapter to look at the kingdoms of nature, and to define them, or rather to show how Scripture defines them; a work which may seem quite superfluous. But it is important to begin at the beginning; and if some have no need, we believe there is need for many.
Classification, if it be a true one, must be of the greatest importance in order to knowledge; if false, it must be correspondingly injurious. As putting things in their place, and exhibiting their difference from, and their relation to, one another, a true and all-embracing classification would be indeed, what one has called it, "a summation of knowledge."
Even in the large and general way in which alone we can speak of it here, it is important to know what is the truth. Where, for instance, shall we assign man his place?
"The question of questions for mankind," says Prof. Huxley, "the problem which underlies all others, and is more deeply interesting than any other, — is the ascertainment of the place which man occupies in nature and of his relation to the universe of things."
There are in reality two questions here instead of one; but the second answer he takes evidently, and with some reason, to be involved in the first. And this is shown in his conclusion: —
"The structural differences between Man and the manlike Apes certainly justify our regarding him as constituting a family apart from them though inasmuch as he differs less from them than they do from other families of the same order, there can be no justification for placing him in a distinct order It is as if nature herself had foreseen the arrogance of man, and with Roman severity had provided that his intellect, by its very triumphs, should call into prominence the slaves, admonishing the conqueror that he is but dust.
"The facts, I believe, cannot be disputed and if so, the conclusion appears to me to be inevitable.
"But if Man be separated by no greater structural barrier from the brutes than they are from one another — then it seems to follow that if any process of physical causation can be discovered by which the genera and families of ordinary animals have been produced, that process of causation is amply sufficient to account for the origin of man."
And, accordingly, evolution accounts for him. "Man's place in nature" is thus in the order Primates, sub-order, Anthropoidea, and family, Anthropidae, next above (and not very far off) the apes proper and this position of his means blood-relationship with the beasts that perish, and the extinction of every hope of immortality that cannot be shared with them.
If the body be all, it is impossible to dissent from these conclusions. But although it be admitted that the body is not all, and that psychical phenomena, as sensation, affection, intelligence, are not the products of organization merely, still it is in dispute as to the real difference in this respect between man and the beast. Even De Quatrefages, who claims on behalf of man (as he says, with continually growing conviction) that he must be referred to a human kingdom, bases this entirely on the ground of his moral and religious faculties. On the other hand, many now see in this respect also no difference save of degree between them. It cannot but be of importance, then, to have the testimony of another witness, and to see what Scripture — and with what grounds in nature — affirms as to this.
Let us recur once more to our numbers, then, and ask ourselves what is the number of nature, or, as Scripture usually prefers to speak, of creation. Here there is not a moment's doubt: the number 4, as we have already seen, is the number of the creature.
We have, of course, no right to say, on this account, that there are four kingdoms in nature, instead of three, as nearly all the world says. We have no right to predict in these matters, but only to interpret. Yet, if there were four, we should have a right to take it as a new witness of the harmony between nature and the Scripture numbers.
Suppose, for a moment, there were four kingdoms; there could not be a doubt, of course, that to the Animal, Vegetable, and Mineral we must add the Human one.
We should have, then, three organic kingdoms and one inorganic.
But here at once we have another note of harmony. For the Scripture 4 divides commonly into 3 + 1, as we have seen, the numbers speaking of creation as manifesting the Creator. We are entitled to look further, then, with hope.
The fourth must stand here for the Mineral kingdom: has it the characteristics of that number? Assuredly, if weakness and passivity characterize this, it has these fully. The inertia of matter is a well-known attribute of it. And from matter, we call that which yields itself up to the hand that fashions it, "material."
These are strange coincidences, if they be no more than that. But are they no more? Let us us examine the organic kingdoms and the numbers attached, and see.
These three organic kingdoms, then, may be seen as one, in that they are pervaded by the common principle of life, and answer to the number 3, in that they are organic. Life is the basis of individuality in nature, as is evident. Every living thing is a unity in such sense as a stone or a rock is not. The rock can be divided, and is not altered, except in size. The living unit may recover itself after division, indeed but if it cannot do this, dies: it cannot be indifferent to it, as the rock is. Thus the four kingdoms of nature clearly fall into two divisions — the living and the non-living, which, according to the meaning of numbers, stand as 1 and 2. The living, though three, are one.
They are one also in that they are all organic. Yet this organization which characterizes them, while itself one in the harmony of its parts, is more than one in the fact that there are parts, organs, individual, though harmonious. Life implies activity, and in this way a various activity, a division of labor for the good of the whole. And this we shall find really coming under the number 3, according to the definition already given of that number.
Three is the number of sanctification; and the idea in sanctification is that of setting apart in some special place or to some specific office. When the Lord says, "For their sakes I sanctify Myself" (John 17:19), He is speaking of the place He is going to take as Man in heaven. So Jeremiah was sanctified to be the Lord's prophet, and Aaron and his sons to be His priests. All the vessels of the tabernacle and of the temple were thus set apart or sanctified to a special use in connection with the service of God. And here in nature, where all things serve Him, everything filling its place and doing its work, this specializing is but, so to speak, a natural sanctification. We shall find this thought in various modifications under this number, as we investigate the numerical series which are presented to us in nature.
The three organic kingdoms thus far fill their place, then. But we have to go much further. We have to find the place of each one as tested by the numerals also: where, if the mineral kingdom stands as 4, the human, animal, and vegetable kingdoms stand as respectively 1, 2, 3. Let us begin once more at the lowest, the —
How in this series does the number 3 specifically characterize the vegetable kingdom?
With regard to man and beast, the vegetable kingdom has an indispensable part to fulfill. Ultimately, it has to feed them both. For even the carnivorous animals are sustained by the herbivorous; and did the beasts prey simply upon each other, there would soon be of necessity an end of all. But this place filled by the vegetable depends upon this, that it alone has the power of taking up and transforming the inorganic material into organic upon which alone the higher organisms can subsist. It is the price they pay for their elevation in the scale of being, that they must be more dependent; and this is a constant law of nature.
The vegetable is in this way the great transforming agency in creation, — the producer, as the animal is the consumer. Every naturalist in the world will agree to this definition of it. And yet this, again, clearly lies within the compass of the number 3. The Spirit of God, whose number it is, is thus the Great Producer and the Great Transformer. Specialization implies transformation. Sanctification, when an inward work, is the same thing. The water, the type of the Spirit, is that which prepares the root for the soil and the soil for the root: without its mediation, no food could be got from the barren ground. Thus the number of its rank in this series fully characterizes the plant in the organic creation: its numerical stamp is completely justified.
Let us pass to the —
still with our guide, and see how the more complex nature of the higher being will submit itself to the simplicity of this arithmetical law.