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Nothing is more charming to the mind of man than the study of Nature. Religion, moderation and magnanimity have been made a part of his inner being through her teachings, and the soul has been rescued by her influence from obscurity. No longer doth man grovel in the dust, seeking, animal-like, the gratification of low and base desires, as was his wont, but on the wings of thought is enabled to soar to the very gates of Heaven and hold communion with God.
Though made "a little lower than the angels," yet, through the mighty play of forces that have been at work in the world, which we, in the latter half of this enlightened century, are just beginning to recognize and comprehend, he has been lifted from the mire of degradation and placed upon a higher social, intellectual, moral and spiritual level. Out of the animal, in the scheme of Deity, the spiritual system of things is to be elaborated, and not the animal out of the spiritual. This natural world, so to speak, is the raw material of the spiritual. Therefore, ere man can understand the spiritual, he must understand the natural. Though his knowledge was at first about material things, or such as pertained to natural phenomena, yet from this through the ages has been builded, little by little, that mountain-height of knowledge, intellectual and moral, which, if rightly directed, is to bring him into fellowship with Deity. “As we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly," or, Lord from heaven.
When is considered, therefore, the immense good which the study and investigation of nature have accomplished, it is not at all surprising that the literature on the subject should be markedly in the ascendant, Natural science bids fair to be in a preëminent degree the pursuit of the coming man. There is no end to the books that have been written upon the subject during the past few decades, if not by specialists, but by men and women who have been well informed and who have made themselves fully capable of contemplating understandingly the world which lies about them.
Our libraries are to-day quite affluent in books that are the handmaids of natural science. Michelet and Hugh Miller, in their day, opened glorious new worlds before a rising generation, and that generation is now doing excellent work under the inspiration of the impetus which it then received. Tait, Balfour Stewart, Dawson, Gray, McCook, Thompson, Scudder, Mrs. Treat, Olive Thorne Miller and others have done much to continue the interest, pleasure and enthusiasm awakened by those earlier writers, and even Darwin and Huxley themselves, in detailing their experiments, have not scorned to bring their thoughts within the range of narrower minds.
But in the popularization of natural science no man has done more than Rev. J. G. Wood in his numerous works. Not only have his writings created in thousands a taste for nature-studies, but they have been no less the means of cultivating the observation, awakening enthusiasm and directing effort in the lines of original research and discovery. Certainly no one, as his many writings so abundantly attest, possessed a larger fund of knowledge concerning the powers and capabilities of the lower animals than this author. Few knew our domestic animals better than he, and none was more capable of judging of the mental and moral status which they should occupy in the world of animals. It is true that men and women, eminent in theology, literature and science, had expressed a belief in the idea that the “latent powers and capacities” of the lower animals might be developed in a future life, but no one had felt secure enough in this belief to warrant more than a passing thought or two upon the subject.
Bishop Butler, in his "Analogy of Religion,” undoubtedly believed the lower animals capable of a future life. In speaking of them in this connection in the opening of his work, he says: “It is said these observations are equally applicable to brutes; and it is thought an insuperable difficulty that they should be immortal, and by consequence capable of everlasting happiness. And this manner of expression is both invidious and weak; but the thing intended by it is really no difficulty a: all, either in the way of natural or moral consideration." Referring then to the undeveloped powers and capacities of the socalled brutes, the Bishop could perceive no reason why they should not attain their development in an existence beyond the earth-life. It was in pursuance of this same train of thought that Rev. J. G. Wood was led to show in a work, entitled "Man and Beast Here and Hereafter," . that the lower animals do possess those mental and moral characteristics--the attributes of reason, language, memory, moral responsibility, unselfishness and love—which we admit in man as belonging to the immortal spirit, rather than to the perishable body. Having previously cleared away the difficulties which certain passages in the Old Testament seemingly interposed, and proved that the Scriptures do not deny futurity of life to lower animals, he very naturally concluded that as man expects to retain these qualities in the future life there is every reason to suppose that they may share his immortality in the Hereafter as in the Now they are partakers of his mortal nature.
Few minds, unswayed by thoughts materialistic, can study the living works of God, whether vegetal or animal, and fail to be convinced that they, as living exponents of Divine conceptions, are as needful in the world of spirit as in the world of matter. While many are disposed to believe that man will share the future life with beast, bird, insect and such like, yet but few, if any, can be found who believe that tree and shrub and flower will be there to continue the life begun on earth and reach out to higher and fuller development. In announcing this belief, the author but expresses a conviction as deep as any that could occupy a human mind. The possession of soul and spirit can be predicated no less of plants than of man and the lower animals. They have all one breath or life and one spirit, and as such are living souls, living, breathing frames or bodies of life. From being living, breathing frames, and endowed with the same life and spirit as man and the lower animals, they have all one destiny, for "all go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again." But of the new life which Christ came down to earth to proffer to man that he might inherit the kingdom of God. While to man it was only offered, and had for its purpose the uplifting and improvement of his earth-life by the promise of something higher and better to those who are accounted worthy, yet there can be no doubt that it was equally intended through
his uplifting to place all the creatures of the earth over which he was given dominion by God upon a more elevated and nobler plane, so that those which had been profited in the earth-life by his beneficent influence should become partakers with him in the new life, when Christ shall “transfigure the body of our humiliation, that it may become of like form with the body of His glory, by the power of that which enables Him even to subdue all things to Himself.” As all existence is a unit, which the author has taken especial pains through the body of this book to impress upon the minds of his readers, it can hardly be conceived that an all-wise God, who is infinite in love, mercy and justice, would look to the preservation in a future state of but a very small part of the life which He has been instrumental in placing upon this earth. It would be more consistent with His attributes, and with the scheme of development of life upon our planet, whereby life has been progressive, the fittest only being allowed to survive, to have provided in the grand plan of redemption, not merely the salvation of the highest of earth-life, but of all life, the purest and the best, that would represent in the heaven-life, in spiritualized form, the highest living exponents of Divine ideas. No other belief accords so well with the teachings of science and philosophy. In its acceptance, for it makes all life related to the Divine life, can there be any hope of escape from materialism, that curse of the age.
THOMAS G. GENTRY, Sc. D.
PHILADELPHIA, FEBRUARY 28, 1897.