Read A Man's Value to Society Online

Authors: Newell Dwight Hillis

A Man's Value to Society (7 page)

BOOK: A Man's Value to Society
12.01Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

In this new view of the human body, science not only exhibits the growth and perfection of man as the goal toward which God has been moving from the first, but also throws light upon the sinfulness of man and the conflicts that rage within the soul. Man is seen to be a double creature. The spirit man rides a man of flesh and is often thrown thereby and trampled under foot. There is a lower animal nature having all the appetites and passions that sustain the physical organization; but super-imposed thereon, is a spiritual man, with reason and moral sentiment, with affection and faith. The union of the two means strife and conflict; the doing what one would not do and the leaving undone what one would do. The poet describes the condition by saying: "The devil squatted early on human territory, and God sent an angel to dispossess him." The animal nature foams out all manner of passions and lusts. From thence issue also lurid lights and murky streams. But the under man is not the true man. The soldier rides the horse, but is himself other than his beast. Man uses an animal at the bottom, but man is what he is at the top. Sin is the struggle for supremacy between the animal forces and the higher spiritual powers. The passions downstairs must be subordinated to the people upstairs. In some men the animal impulses predominate with terrible force, and their control is not easy. It is as if a child should try to drive a chariot drawn by forty steeds of the sun. When a man finds that he can not dam back the mountain stream, nor stop up its springs, he learns to use the stream by building a mill, and controlling the pressure of the flood for grinding his corn. Similarly, the problem of life is for the upper man to educate, control, and transmute the lower forces into sympathy and service. The combative powers once turned against his fellows must be turned against nature and used for hewing down the forests, bridging rivers, piercing mountains. Thus every animal force and passion becomes sacred through consecration to mental and spiritual ends and aims.

Sin therefore ceases to be philosophy or mediƦvalism; it becomes a concrete personal fact. Daily each one comes under its rule and sway. The mind loves truth, and the body tempts man to break truth. The soul loves honor, and passion tempts it to deflect its pathway. Man goes forth in the morning with all the springs of generosity open; but before night selfishness has dammed up the hidden springs. In the morning man goes out with love irradiating his face; he comes back at night sullen and black with hatred and enmity. In the morning the soul is like a young soldier, parading in stainless white; at night his garments are begrimed and soiled with self-indulgence and sin. As there is a line along the tropics where two zones meet and breed perpetual storm, so there is a middle line in man where the animal man meets the spiritual man, and there is perpetual storm. There clouds never pass away, and the thunder never dies out of the horizon of time.[3] This view, appealing to universal reason, appeals also to divine help. In his daily strife man needs the brooding presence and constant stimulus of the divine being. Man waits for God's stimulus as the frozen roots wait the drawing near of God's sun. The soul looks ever unto the hills whence cometh its help. In the morning, at noon, and at night, man longs for a deliverer. God is the pledge of the soul's victory over the body. For men floundering in the slough of sin and despond these words, "Ye may, ye must be born again," are sweeter than angel songs falling from the hills of Paradise.

Consider the uses of the body. It is God's schoolmaster teaching industry, compelling economy and thrift, and promoting all the basal moralities. It contains the springs of all material civilization. If we go back to the dawn of history we find that hunger and the desires, associated with the body, have been the chief stimulants toward industrial progress. Indolence is stagnation. Savages in the tropics are torpid and without progress. Hunger compels men to ask what food is in the river, what roots are in the ground, what fruits are on the trees, what forces are in the air. The body is peremptory in its demands. Hunger carries a stinging scourge. Necessity drives out the evil spirits of indolence and torpidity. The early man threading the thickets in search of food chanced upon a sweet plum, and because the bush grew a long way from his lodge he transplanted the root to a vale near his home. Thence came all man's orchards and vineyards. Shivering with cold, man sought out some sheltered cave or hollow tree. But soon the body asked him to hew out a second cave in addition to the one nature had provided. Fulfilling its requests, man went on in the interests of his body to pile stone on stone, and lift up carved pillars and groined arches. Thence came all homes. For the body the sower goes forth to sow, and the harvester looks forward to the time of sheaves and shoutings. For strengthening the body the shepherd leads forth his flocks and herds, and for its raiment the weaver makes the looms and spindles fly. For the body all the trains go speeding in and out, bringing fruits from the sunny south, and furs from the frozen north. All the lower virtues and integrities spring from its desires. As an engine, lying loose in a great ship, would have no value, but, fastened down with bolts, drives the great hull through the water, so the body fastens and bolts the spirit to field, forest, and city, and makes it useful and productive. Material life and civilization may be said to literally rest upon man's bones and sinews.

The body is also the channel of all the knowledges. How scant is the child's understanding of the world-house in which he lives! There are shelves enough, but they are all empty. In the interest of intelligence his mind is sheathed in this sensitive body and the world forces without report themselves to this sensitive nerve mechanism. Fire comes in to burn man's fingers and teach him how to make the fire smite vapor from water. Cold comes in to nip his ears and pinch his cheeks until he learns the economy of ice, snow and rain. Steel cuts his fingers and the blood oozes out. Thenceforth he turns the axe toward the trees and the scythe toward the standing grain. The stone falling bruises him, compelling a knowledge of gravity and the use of trip-hammer, weights and pulleys. Looking downward the eye discerns the handwriting on the rocks and the mind reads earth's romantic story. Looking upward, the vision runs along the milky way for measuring the starry masses and searching out their movements. The ear strains out sweet sounds, and St. Cecilia hears melodies from the sky. Bending over the cradle, the parent marvels at God's bounty in the face of a babe. When the little one goes away the parent copies its face in rude colors, or carves its form in marble. Thus all the arts, sciences and inventions are gifts of the body to man's mental and moral life.

There is a beautiful story of a company of celestial beings, who, in disguise, entered an ancient city upon a mission of mercy. Departing hurriedly, in some way a fair young child was left behind and lost. In the morning when men came upon the streets they found a sweet boy with sunny hair sitting upon the steps of the temple. Language had he none. He answered questions with streaming eyes and frightened face. While men wondered a slave drew near, carrying a harp. Then the heavenly child signaled for the instrument, for this language he could speak. He threw his arms about the harp as the child about its mother's neck. He touched one string. Upon the hushed air there stole out a note pure, clear, and sweet as though amethysts and pearls were melted into liquid melodies. It was music, but not such music as mortals give to mortals. It was such a song as spirit would sing to spirit, signaling across the streets of heaven. It was a hymn to the mother whom he had loved and lost. With tearful eye and smiling face the little stranger and the harp together wept, and laughed, and sobbed out their grief and song. It was the speech of a child homesick for heaven. What that harp was to the silent boy, the human body is to man's soul within. The soul teemed with thoughts. Fancies surged and thronged within. Then God gave the soul a body, as a harp of many strings. Through it the soul finds voice and pours forth its rich thoughts and varied emotions.

Consider, also, how nature has ordained the body as a system of moral registration. Nature has a record of all men's deeds, keeping her accounts on fleshly tablets. The mind may forget, the body never. The brain sees to it that the thoughts within do immediately dispose of facial tissue without. Mental brightness gives facial illumination. The right act or true thought sets its stamp of beauty in the features; the wrong act or foul thought sets its seal of distortion. Moral purity and sweetness refine and beautify the countenance. The body is a show window, advertising and exhibiting the soul's stock of goods. Nature condenses bough, bud and shrub into black coal; compacts the rich forces of air and sun and soil into peach and pear. In the kingdom of morals, there are people who seem to be of virtue, truth and goodness all compact. Contrariwise, every day you will meet men upon our streets who are solid bestiality and villainy done up in flesh and skin. Each feature is as eloquent of rascality as an ape's of idiocy. Experts skilled in physiognomy need no confession from impish lips, but read the life-history from page to page written on features "dimmed by sensuality, convulsed by passion, branded by remorse; the body consumed with sloth and dishonored with selfish uses; the bones full of the sins of youth, the face hideous with secret vices, the roots dried up beneath and the branches cut off above." It is as natural and necessary for hidden thoughts and deeds to reveal themselves through cuticle as for root or bud in spring to unroll themselves into sight and observation. Here and now everything tends to obscure nature's handwriting and to veil it in mist and disguise. But the body is God's canvas, and nature's handwriting goes ever on. Each faculty is a brush, and with it reason thinks out the portrait. Even the wolf may give something to the features, and also the snake and scorpion. Soon will come an hour when men will hear not the voice of the sirens singing praises in the ear, nor the plaudits of men of low deeds and conscience, but an hour when men shall stand in the presence of the all-revealing light and see themselves as they are and review the life they have embodied and emportraited. Happy, thrice happy, those who have traversed all life's pathway and come at last to the hour when they stand face to face with themselves, then to find therein a divine image like unto the comeliness and completion of Him whose face was transfigured and shone as the light.

At length has dawned the day when science strengthens the argument for immortality. The dream of the prophet and seer is confirmed in the light of modern knowledge. "Each new discovery," says John Fiske, "but places man upon a higher pinnacle than ever, and lights the future with the radiant color of hope." Leaving his body behind, man journeys on toward an immortal destiny. Science has emptied a thousand new meanings into the words of Socrates: "The destruction of the harp does not argue the death of the harpist." Nature decrees that the flower must fall when the fruit swells. If the winged creature is to come forth and increase, the chrysalis must perish and decrease. When the long journey is over it is natural that the box in which the richly carved and precious statue is packed should be tossed aside. Swiftly youth goes on toward maturity, age toward old age, and the scythe awaits all. But sickness and trouble can do nothing more than dim the eye, dull the ear, weaken the hand. Dying and death avail not for injuring reason, affection, or hope, or love.

At the close of a long and arduous career the famous Lyman Beecher passed under a mental cloud. The great man became as a little child. One day after his son, Henry Ward, had preached a striking sermon, his father entered the pulpit and beginning to speak wandered in his words. With great tenderness the preacher laid his hand upon his father's shoulder and said to the audience: "My father is like a man who, having long dwelt in an old house, has made preparations for entering a new and larger home. Anticipating a speedy removal, he sent on beforehand much of his soul-furniture. When later the day of removal was postponed the interval seemed so brief as to render it unnecessary to bring back his mental goods." Oh, beautiful words describing those whose strength is declining, whose spirit is ebbing and senses failing, because God is packing up their soul-furniture that they may be ready for the long journey that awaits us all. But man's journey is not unto the grave. Dying is transmutation. Dying is not folding of the wings; but pluming the pinions for new and larger flight. Dying is not striking an unseen rock, but a speedy entrance into an open harbor. Death is no enemy, letting the arrow fly toward one who sits at life's banquet-table. Death is a friend coming on an errand of release and divine convoy. For God's children "to be death-called is to be God-called; to be God-called is to be Christ-found; to be Christ-found is hope and home and heaven."


[3] See Symposium on Evolution, Homiletic Review, May, 1894.


"All ye who possess the power of thought, prize it well! Remember that its flight is infinite; it winds about over so many mountain tops, and so runs from poetry to eloquence, it so flies from star to star, it so dreams, so loves, so aspires, so hangs both over mystery and fact, that we may well call it the effort of man to explore the home, the infinite palace of his heavenly Father."--

"Men with empires in their brains."--

"'Tis the mind that makes the body rich."--
Taming of the Shrew.

"Like thoughts whose very sweetness yieldeth proof That they were born for immortality."--

"Neither years nor books have yet availed to extirpate a prejudice then rooted in me that a scholar is the favorite of heaven and earth, the excellency of his country, the happiest of men."--

"Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, for the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold."--



With fine imagery the seer of old likened the mind unto a tree. The tree shakes down its fruits, and the mind sheds forth its thoughts. The boughs of the one will cover the land with forests; the faculties of the other will sow the world with harvests that blight or harvests that bless. The measure of personal worth, therefore, is the number and quality of thoughts issuing from man's mind. For all the doing called commerce, and all the speaking called conversation and books, begin with the thinking called ideas. Each thing was first a thought. A loom is Arkwright's thought dressed up in iron clothes. Books are the scholar's thoughts caught and fastened upon the white page. As our planet and the harvests that cover it are the thoughts of God rushing into visible expression, so all houses and ships, all cities and institutions, are man's inner thoughts, taking on outer and material embodiment.

BOOK: A Man's Value to Society
12.01Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

Coconut by Kopano Matlwa
The First by Jason Mott
Sunbird by Wilbur Smith
Teaching Bailey by Smith, Crystal G.
Naturally Naughty by Morganna Williams
The Siege by Nick Brown