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THINKING AND DOING,
" UNTO YOU IT IS GIVEN TO KNOW THE MYSTERY OF THE KINGDOM
OF GOD."-MARK iv. 11.
The works of the Creator are all important in themselves : he has nothing in his store that is not worth having. But to the greater part of these works their own importance is hidden, as the price of its jewels to a cabinet: one class only has the privilege to feel it, to desire its increase, to promote it by all means, and as “lively stones” (Pet. I. ii. 5) to work with the Builder of the world in its own structure and edification. These “are labourers together with God” (Cor. I. iii. 9): they not only have a feodal property in their own existence, like other animals, but are of a rank also to yield him a reasonable service; by which their importance is doubled, and they are elevated into an order above the rest, the service of which is either instinctive or mechanical. For all things serve Him: every created thing is subservient to the majesty of the Creator; things lifeless and mute, as well as living and intelligent. “The sun knoweth his going down", (Ps. civ. 19, “Yea, the stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times; and the turtle, and the crane, and the swallow observe the time of their coming.” (Jer. viii. 7). "The birds of the air, the beasts of the field, and the fishes of the sea; even that leviathan, whom he has made to take his pastime therein"
(Ps. civ.); these wait all upon Him. All nature acts and must act with nature's God as it is actuated by him. Action is life, and without action there is no describable existence : action is life, and in the height of action is the importance of being.
But there are two sorts of action, as there are two sorts of life; one desultory and quotidian, like the life of a beast; the other progressive and well defined, like that which a man ought to live. It would be straining the point, to aver that a man cannot live except he live in this manner; but this is how he ought to live: and the advantage of so living appears to be generally acknowledged among civilized nations by their devotion to every line of life that social dependence admits of, or human ingenuity can devise; insomuch that, when we consider the variety of occupations in full exercise among us at once and how they are all interwoven with each other, and all appear to lean on each other's support, we are at a loss which to admire, the spirit and resource of any particular class, in making itself necessary to so many others, or the effect of its wants and weakness in depending on so many more ; while, with respect to the wisdom of divine Providence in contriving, counterpoising, and directing so vast a system as appears in the aggregate of the moral department, we are not so much at a loss how to admire that, as how to admire it sufficiently.
For even among the savage tribes there is something like a regular part going on, though not so divided, nor consequently so well performed, nor of the same political importance, as that which is combined in a more perfect state of society. With them every man almost is a hunter and a warrior; a house and boat builder ; an armourer ; a furrier, and a cook: every one acts for himself, no one needs another's assistance. But from this individual ability there only results a general insignificance. The body is never so badly served as when the eye can say unto the hand, I have no need of thee; and again, the head to the feet, I have no need of you (Cor. I. xii. 21). For while every member of the community is all-sufficient, they all together are insufficient for the purposes of the community: so that the continuous life of a savage is but one remove from the desultory life of a brute; yet only by this one degree may be proved the advantage of such continuity ; since, by means hereof, through one thing and another, man is enabled, even in a savage state, to maintain his allotted superiority “over the fish of the sea and over the fowls of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth” (Gen.i. 28). In a civilized state, this advantage is further proved: when, leaving the competition with inferior animals to those next above them, man strives with man for superiority and precedence through a chain of internal relations. But the great proof of all, and the severest trial of human ability, or of that which God has ever conceded to mankind, is furnished from another quarter: the principal competition is not simply human, or between man and man only; nor yet in any common calling, whether civil, ecclesiastical, or military, that can be thought of, but in something more spiritual now to be communicated, if it please the Almighty Proposer. And although it may seem nugatory to communicate a thing that ceases to exist in one respect as soon as it is communicated; yet supposing it to fructify in ceasing, like grain upon sowing, the communication may be worth making. “Behold then I shew you a mystery" (Cor. I. xv. 51); as St. Paul says, and more particularly, as he also says,
“the mystery which was kept secret since the foundation of the world began : but now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets according to the commandment of the everlasting God made known to all nations for the obedience of faith” (Rom. xvi. 25, 26): that is, for moral conduct founded on a principle of obedience to the will of God.
For a mystery, as the expression is here understood and warranted to signify, will necessarily include practice with faith, or a superstructure as well as foundation; together, modes both of thinking and doing with the distinguishing circumstance of secrecy or peculiarity for its essential character or the boundary between this and other terms of similar import; as science, learning, information, &c., on the one hand; and art, craft, calling, profession, (considered as a livelihood or means of subsistence,) &c., on the other. Of the two parts, v. g. theory and practice or thinking and doing, of which it consists, a mystery will partake most in general of the latter; as appears by many valuable mysteries, which seem to be exercised not only without reflexion, but even without the presence of this faculty in their conductors or agents, as the mystery of building with superior symmetry and convenience by certain birds and quadrupeds, the wonderful mystery both of building such habitations for themselves and storing them richly too with inimitable food by bees and other insects, and the still more wonderful mystery of a symmetrical society and government both in wandering and abiding observed among various tribes of the brute creation; exemplifying altogether what we often find among human beings, theory without reflection; and shewing the possibility, if not the fact of almost every class of animals having its peculiar system or mystery. For although these animals have their eccentricities as well as we; yet are they so casual, that they seldom amount to a breach of the system which their instinct prescribes. And although likewise among civilized men even the thinking and doing of great numbers is systematically uncertain, being governed, as they say, by chance, but in fact by the lawless principle which is such an enemy to system, yet in almost every nation of the earth, whether civilized or not, there is something like a general system owned and asserted by the majority however it may be practised or observed, presenting in this case, what is not found in others, a variety of systems for one class of creatures. And these varying systems are usually denominated either from the individual
teachers by whom they were compounded, or from the gross communities by which they are practised or professed; as the Christian and Mosaic, the Jewish and heathen.
From what has just been observed it will appear, that the principal distinction of mysteries is into natural and moral: and among moral mysteries the mystery of a kingdom is one of the highest kind that can be mentioned, comprehending both the tbeory and practice of government, or a practical knowledge and enlightened practice of the same in whatever department it may be, and especially whether natural or moral, together with its relations or bearings, and the accidents also to which it is liable, and of which it is susceptible.
There is nothing in nature, or above, or besides, that was ever thought on, nor any thing that was ever deduced therefrom by art, but what belongs to theory, and may be a subject of practice. Even practice itself belongs to theory, and theory may be a subject of practice, as likewise practice itself; since it is the part of practice either to describe, try, consider and believe or confute the one, or to alter, improve, and encourage or discourage the other. Theory is practice superhuman extending to the works of man ; practice, the exercise of human faculties extending to the works of God. And thus it happens interchangeably, that as the works of art often have a tendency that is not within the control of the artist, but belongs to theory, or the practice of that pure Intelligence who has the supreme direction of cause and effect; who makes by seeing and creates by volition; so things which are not within the control of any artist, besides the tendency of his performance, as the immutable order of nature, for example, are still objects for practice in some shape or other: if we, subjects, cannot change their nature, we may their destination perhaps; or, if we cannot change their destination, we may comprehend; or if we cannot comprehend, we may consider it at any rate. And such