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This grand result, overwhelming the spirit by its vastness, is yet arrived at by the strictest process, by the closest and most severe analysis. I do not now speak of any imperial highway which Revelation offers to us. This is a straitened and toilsome way, but each step of it is upon imperishable rock. Descartes trod it until it widened to an Appian road. Yet it is no new path. It was opened, for all the loyal to pure reason, more than twenty centuries ago, by Plato. In every age, rejoicing pilgrims have passed over it. It has its origin in the noble and permanent Platonic Theory of the Ideas.
Here, at last, is one human spirit whose guidance we may safely follow. Not in a dumb submission to authority, since in philosophy there is no authority. But as a teacher of clear and regal insight, whose commission to instruct all men appears at every word. He stands upon no ecclesiastical consecration, nor monkish favor. But from a score of dividing centuries, one voice of the old Masters speaks truly to us! One name is an eternal one! One soul is deathless! That voice, that name, that soul, are Plato's.
C. H. FR.
VARIETY is one of the leading features of God's works. It appears equally in the animal, vegetable, and mineral worlds; in the physical, intellectual, and moral. And he who diligently considers this, will be moved with wonder and admiration at the infinite resources of the Divine Mind, as displayed in the diversified forms and dispositions of matter, the ever differing capacities and gifts of the intellect, and the endless combinations and directions of the human affections, pursuits and aims.
Look at the earth's surface; the far stretching pampas and prairies of America, the wide sand wastes of Africa, the steppes of Asia ; contrasted with the Alps, the Andes
and the Himmalayas, lifting their heads above the cloud and the storm into the eternal sunshine. And then, between these extremes, what boundless variety of hill and valley, the flaming volcano, the green isle sleeping on the sea, the far spreading forest, the dark ravine, the frowning precipice, the mammoth caves, with their vast halls, and losty domes, and endless corridors and chambers.
And in the dispositions of the water: the broad ocean, begirting the earth with its mighty floods; the Missouri and the Amazon sweeping across thousands of miles of the earth's area; the great lakes of the North ; the rushing cataract, the murmuring brook, and the sweet spring that trickles from the hillside, or gurgles up pleasantly through the sand-in all these the law of variety prevails.
So in the vegetable creation, from the lofty oak and the giant cedar of Lebanon down to the violet or the microscopic flower; and in the animal creation, from the huge leviathan to the animalcule—what variety in never ending circles. How numberless the plants and flowers, the shrubs and trees, the buds and blossoms and leaves, all differing in shape, size and structure. And the birds and beasts of the earth, and the fish of the sea and lakehow various in form and look, in habit and appetite, in adaptation to place and condition.
And if we turn from the earth to the heavens, we have the same variety and diversity. “There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; and one star differeth from another star in glory." What variety in the planetary bodies of our own system; each differing from all the rest in size, in magnificence, in the measure of its orbit, in the time of its revolutions, in the number of its moons, &c. And then what countless suns and worlds throng all the abysses of space, of every degree of magnitude and beauty, single and binary, in groups and clusters, in constellations whose accumulated splendors exhaust all descriptive terms ere the half is told.
And passing from these wonders to man, we find the same universal law of variety prevailing. Contrast the rapid maturity, the effeminate constitutions, the luxurious habits of the Asiatic, with the hardy Laplander, and the diminutive, but tough and enduring Esquimaux. And in
the intellectual endowments of man, what a striking difference of capacity between a Bushman of South Africa, and a Newton, Abelard, Kepler. I do not speak of the differences resulting from study or acquirements, but simply of the original difference of mental power and force given by the Creator. In this direction there is every degree of dissimilitude, all possible shades and varieties lying between the loftiest mind that sways the destinies of nations, or grasps at the stars; and the feeble, and scarcely recognizable intellect, which falters and stumbles beneath its first efforts at thought.
And then what variety of impulses, inclinations, tastes and choice among those of equal original calibre or power. The poet and the mathematician, the philosopher and the mechanic, the farmer and the astronomer, the physician and the theologian, the seaman, the lawyer, the politician, every trade, and profession, and pursuit, and pleasure, illustrate the all prevailing law of variety ; and reveal also the resources of the Creator, since of the millions of minds that exist, and have existed, not one is, in all respects, like another.
With these preparatory observations, we come to the point which it is the purpose of this article to discuss. It may be presented in the following questions:
If this variety form so marked a feature of the Divine arrangements in this life, why not in the next? If there are degrees of intellectual power and development, if there are grades and ranks of spiritual being among men here, why not there?
Surely we have no reason for believing that the variety of this world is to be reduced to a dead level of equality in the next. The great doctrine of the resurrection, as set forth by Jesus and Paul, does not imply this. The beautiful and welcome truth of the perfect happiness of all souls in the life to come, does not require this. For all may be perfectly happy, without being made equal in this sense.
Perfect happiness, which is but a relative phrase, does not rest on perfect equality of mental, or even moral, gifts and capacities. That the expression is relative, and not absolute, in its sense, is manifest enough, in its use,-as when we say, “God is perfectly happy ; “ The angels are perfectly happy;" “ 'The good child is
perfectly happy.” It is obvious enough that the phrase, though the same in words, and relatively in fact, is yet employed to express degrees of happiness very far removed from each other. And at the same time it connects with the infinitely different degrees of capacity for happiness, or different measures of spiritual being, between God and the good child. The two extremes scarcely admit of comparison; and yet to express the degrees of happiness resting on these, we use the same phraseology in both cases.
The apostle, (1 Cor. xv.) evidently had in mind the idea of degrees of spiritual life, and grades of condition. We know the criticisms on the passage, but we believe this was his thought, nevertheless. “ There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; and even one star differeth from another star in glory." He had previously stated that there was one glory of the terrestial, and another of celestial bodies; and then he states the additional fact, that the celestial bodies have different degrees of glory, or of brightness. It is true when he comes to apply the illustration to the resurrection, he omits the application, or, in other words, does not carry out this part of the figure in detail. But admitting this, it is scarcely possible to mistake the idea with which he started.
Different measures of natural power, or mental faculty, and different degrees of knowledge, and advancement as a consequence, seem to be as much in harmony with the laws of our being in one world as in the other, so far as we have any data for judgment. There are surely ranks and orders of spirits, if there is any meaning to the words angels, archangels, seraphim, cherubim, &c. And the idea of inequality in spiritual capacity and development among human souls in the future life, leading to jealousy, envy, or unholy strife, is no more reasonable than that such difference should lead to such results among the angels.
“But," says one,“ if I dot no know as much as Newton, if I do not stand as high as Fenelon or Paul, in the next world, I shall not be happy. My inferiority will pain and annoy me."
To such it might be replied, if it will trouble you to know that others are superior to you, then you can
not be happy with angels and seraphim : or, even if equal in all things to these, Christ and God will still be superior to you.
And if your fears are well grounded, if you carry the jealousy and envy of the present life into the future, we may some day see you playing the part of Milton's Satan!
But such speech and thought are founded on a total disregard of the fact already alluded to—that two beings may be perfectly happy, each in himself, without implying that they enjoy the same degree, or even the same kind of happiness. And, moreover, allowing that the degrees of knowledge and condition always involve discontent and envy in this world, (which, however, we are very far from allowing,) the inference that the same consequences will follow in the future world, implies that we go into that world without change, with all the imperfections and weaknesses of this which also we are far from allowing. The immense and indescribable change of condition, circumstances and influences, which will meet the soul on its entrance into the resurrection life, ought to satisfy any one how futile all such reasoning must necessarily be, how little confidence we can have in any calculations or speculations of this sort.
But without this variety of intellectual and spiritual capacity, what an unbroken sameness of being and action must the future life present. All souls measured by the same rule, run in the same spiritual mould; and, if the argument is followed to its necessary results, all thinking the same thoughts, experiencing the same emotions, and moving in precisely the same direction, with precisely the same degree of speed! How monotonous, how tedious almost, compared with the endless variety of character and action, and the ever changing combinations and movements, which we might expect from a God who has impressed these features, in so remarkable a manner, on all his other works and arrangements! It would be like, but immeasurably worse than, reducing suddenly the surface of our rounded earth to one dead unbroken level, without mountain or rock, river or forest, to relieve the eye or break the oppressive sameness of the scene.
And why should God depart in this particular from a rule which in all things else he has followed; and which