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Matthew Arnold, expresses this fancy in a very beau
tiful and touching manner :—
'Children dear, was it yesterday
(Call once more) that she went away?
Once she sate with you and me
On a red gold throne in the heart of the sea,
And the youngest sate on her knee.
She comb'd its bright hair, and she tended it well,
When down swung the sound of the far-off bell.
She sigh'd, she look'd up through the clear green sɛa;
And I lose my poor soul, Merman, here with thee."
186. A conception, in some respects analogous to that now mentioned, but in other respects very different from it, is that which attributes a soul to the universe; and it has even been imagined that the whole visible universe forms, as it were, one gigantic brain.
Others again appear inclined to believe that there may be many cosmical intelligences, each embracing the whole universe, and therefore interpenetrating one another, and at the same time taking part in its government by means of such processes of delicacy as those we have mentioned.
187. Now, before proceeding further in the discussion of these speculations, let us here state more definitely than we have yet done what is the real point in question.
It is not so much the possibility of the delicate processes of nature being directed by an intelligent
agency; this is in reality a different question, and one which will be discussed in our concluding chapter. But the question now before us is, whether any such agency may be said to belong to the present visible universe?
To make our meaning clear: we know that we ourselves belong to the present visible universe. Again, there are many of us who believe that angelic intelligences are the ministers of God's providence. Now, whether this doctrine be true or not (and we are not now concerned about its truth), it is evident that such intelligences cannot be said to belong to the present physical universe. The organisation which they possess, and without which (Art. 61) we cannot imagine a finite intelligence to exist, is most assuredly nothing that can be perceived by our bodily senses, nor can we imagine that their existence is at all dependent on the fate of the visible universe; in fine, they do not belong to it.
Our present question, therefore, is whether we can associate the delicate cosmical processes of the visible universe with the operations of intelligences residing in this universe and belonging to it, and to this question we must assuredly give a negative reply.
188. We entertain no doubt that man and beings at least analogous to man represent the highest order of living things connected with the present visible universe.
For, in the first place, although there is abundant evidence of delicacy of construction in the cosmical processes of this universe, there is no evidence of an organisation such as that which observation leads us to associate with the presence of life.
In the next place, whatever view we may entertain of the Darwinian hypothesis and the relation of man to the lower animals, there can be no doubt that they are all of a similar physical construction. What physiologists term the matter of life is very much the same in all, so that the body of any one animal may in general afford food for any other. Now, is it likely that there are two living systems, absolutely distinct and as different from one another as we can well imagine, both connected with the visible universe?
We think this view would imply such a want of unity in the plan of development as to be absolutely fatal to its reception, even as a working hypothesis. On these accounts, therefore, we do not hesitate to dismiss the conception of a superior order of beings connected with the present physical universe as one which is altogether untenable.
189. If we now turn from the verdict of science to the sacred writings of the Jews, we find that one grand idea which pervades the whole of the Old Testament is man's absolute superiority and practical sovereignty over all created beings whom he can perceive otherwise than with the mind's eye.
He is supreme, or it is part of his work on earth to become supreme, over all that can be perceived by his senses, i.e. all the visible and tangible world. Thus we read in Gen. i. 28: 'And God blessed them: and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.'
Again, we read (Psalm viii. 5, 6): 'For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet.' [It appears that the correct reading of the first part of this is, 'Thou hast made him little less than divine,' etc.]
190. It is worthy of note that the same idea is still more fully developed in the New Testament, where it is confessed that, in one very important respect, this superiority of man is seen to fail.
He has greatly enlarged his powers over nature, and has by these means much ameliorated the condition of his race; yet death overtakes him just as remorselessly and as ruthlessly as if he were a savage of no account. He may meet death fearlessly, conscious that he has at least done something for the good of his fellows. But what does it all amount to? Death will ultimately overtake the race just as remorselessly as the individual. Now it is this fearful enemy, this terrible exception to the domination of man, which Christ, as the Son and type of man, is commissioned to destroy. Thus we read (1 Cor. xv. 25): 'For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For he hath put all things under his feet.' And presently (verse 54) the apostle breaks forth into the following triumphant and beautiful language:— 'So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.' Again we read (Heb. ii. 8): 'For in that he put all in subjection
under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him: but we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.' [Here again it appears that instead of the phrase 'made a little lower than the angels,' we should read, 'made for a little time lower than the angels'—i.e. an idea identical in meaning with the phrase 'made under the law,' the Old Testament law being viewed as administered by angels. From this dispensation, in which cosmical powers come between man and God, Christ frees us, by himself for a little time entering into it, and even under it meeting death.]
191. From all this we may conclude that both science and religion tell us the same tale. They inform us that man, and beings similar to man, are at the head of the visible universe. No doubt religion informs us, in addition to this, that there are other beings above man, but these do not live in the visible universe, but in that which is unseen and eternal.