Heredity

 Lecture IV

Heredity

He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.” Rev. xxi. 7

The fact that man was created to be the Lord’s heir and to inherit His love and wisdom, His power and riches and glory, is clearly declared in the Sacred Scriptures. But not only is the Divine intention clearly revealed, the means by which man is to enter into his possession, or forfeit all possibility of gaining it, are repeatedly stated. The title to our Divine and heavenly inheritance is not merely a legal one depending on arbitrary will it grows out of the inherent and essential relations between the Lord and His children. Man’s inheritance falls to him by an immutable law which has its origin in the Divine nature, and is enacted in every organic form in the creation. That law is called in modern science the law of Heredity. The principle of the law is : like always tends to produce like. It needs no argument to certify it. We see the evidences of it everywhere around us, and we constantly act on our implicit confidence in it. The seed produces a plant similar to the one that bore it. What a man sows he reaps. Every animal begets its own kind. The offspring of plants, animals, and men inherit the qualities of their parents.

Mr. Herbert Spencer has used this law with great effect in establishing the modern theory of creation by heredity and environment in opposition to that of special creation. According to this theory, all. improvement in plants, animals, and in the human race, has been evolved from protoplasm, or the first living substance, and the lowest forms of life. Whatever any individual in this vast chain of being had gained by the influences of its environment, its own action and relations to other forces and beings, was incorporated into its nature and transmitted to its offspring. By this process through many ages there has been a gradual improvement in the forms and qualities of matter. Dead matter has become organized and gained sensation, -consciousness, and the power of locomotion. The senses have been formed, instinct has been acquired, and finally all the intellectual and moral faculties and qualities of men and women have been gained.

There is much truth in this theory. It is true that everything was created out of protoplasm, or a first substance. But we must go back much farther into the past eternity than the common nettle, or the elements of matter, for the substance which contains within itself the promise and potency of every form of life. I believe as heartily as Mr. Spencer that there is such a substance, such a protoplasm. I believe there is a first substance which embodies infinite power, which contains within it life itself, love itself, form itself, all possibilities of intelligence and all modes of motion, sensation, affection, and delight. That substance is the First Cause; it is the Creator; it is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the ending, the First and the Last. From this substance all substances are derived; from this infinite fountain all things proceed; from this source all forms and qualities of created being inherit every faculty and power which they possess.

I ask your attention to some instances of -this law of Heredity from this point of view. I think we shall find it to be much wider in scope and more specific in application than Mr. Spencer or any of the evolutionists suppose, and that in no case do we claim an effect without a sufficient cause. It may be regarded as an assumption, if any one pleases so to consider it. Every evolutionist begins with an assumption. I think it will be found to account for all the facts. I do not, however, regard it as a theory, or a hypothesis; but as a distinct and emphatic declaration of Him who is the Fountain of life and the First Cause of all existence. The doctrine is this : Every substance, form, quality, motion, and sensation is derived from. the Lord, and, in its measure and degree, inherits from Him all that can be predicated of it.

In the process of creation the first step necessarily consists in providing the materials of which it is to be made. God is substance itself in its purest and perfect form. He could not, therefore, create the material universe directly from that substance in its intense and inconceivable activities. It must become modified; it must part with much of its power and life. The necessity for this change is perfectly exemplified by one grand step in the creation which is apparent to our senses. The earth is composed of substances which existed in intense activity in the sun. But it is not taken directly as a solid body from the bosom of the sun. The sun’s heat and light, which are its substances in intense action, lose their power as they recede from it. They become less active, more concrete, and finally they rest in solid forms, in rock and earth, which can become the basis on which a new and higher creation, as that of plants and animals, can rest.

Now, it is evident that a tree or an animal could not be created directly from the substances of the sun. Their intense activity would not admit of it. If they could be created in any other way, and conveyed to the sun, they would be instantly consumed in his intense heat. The creation of organized forms requires rest as well as motion; it requires a substance devoid of life, as well as the plastic forces of life. The first step in the creation of conscious and intelligent beings, therefore, was necessarily the pro. vision of substances sufficiently at rest to remain passive under the action of the creative forces, and permanently retain the forms given to them. A cup cannot be made out of water, an engine cannot be formed out of steam or gas. Matter must become solid, tenacious; its particles must be firmly knit together before it can be moulded into instruments of permanent use to men according to the purposes of their affections and the forms of their ideas. The Lord was under the necessity, therefore, of creating substances and solidifying them, by depriving them of motion which is a form of life, before He could create a man. His action and ours does not differ in principle. When we desire to make anything we must select our materials. But there were none for the Lord to select. He must create them. That He created those which would be exactly adapted to the purposes of His Divine love and wisdom it is impossible to doubt.

We have seen that the Lord created the material universe out of substances derived from Himself; that these substances continued to part with life as they receded from Him, until they became inert and capable of being organized into plants and animals and human beings who could receive life in conscious forms in ever-increasing fullness and excellence. Now let us consider the bearing of this origin of substance upon the doctrine of Heredity. As all substances are derived from life they are capable of being moulded into the forms of life. It is native to them. They are of a homogeneous nature; they yield to the forces of life, and can be employed as the means of embodying and expressing the qualities of love. Look at this fact a moment in familiar things. Take a field of wheat or corn, an orchard of peaches, pears, or apples. The substances in the ground, and those which come from the sun in the forms of heat and light, are of such a nature that they can be evolved into these beautiful and useful forms. The forces from the sun and the matter upon which they act are perfectly adjusted to each other, and they can co-operate with each other to effect this beneficent end. The end is a Divine one. It is a specific provision of the Divine love for the wants of man. It is a provision of the Lord to minister to the wants and delights of His children. All material substances derive or inherit from Him qualities which He can organize into plants, animals, and men. These qualities are of indefinite variety, and every one is of some use. The hardness and immobility of the rock is just as essential to His purpose as the finest vegetable and animal substances. They inherit these qualities from the Lord. They embody and express the principles of His nature. For this reason He is called a rock, a vine, a tree of life, a lion and a lamb. He is the substance and basis of the universe, and of all the dead and living forms of which the universe is composed. But He gives to the rock, the grass, the tree, to every insect, worm, and animal the power to become the basis and support of something else. Here is an’ important respect in which the lowest forms of the creation perform the use of the Lord Himself.

Again, God is infinite. Does the creation which is finite inherit this quality in any degree from Him? Let us see. What is the infinite? It is simply that which has no limit. It does not mean limitless in size or extent or duration. The infinite may be comprised in the smallest space. By the infinite is meant that which has no limit to the power it can exert, the forms and qualities which it can assume. Now look at the material creation and see if you cannot find a hint at least of the infinite in it. Is it possible to assign any limit to the number or varieties of vegetable or animal life? Can we say that only a certain number of human beings can be created, and when that number is reached, the Lord must cease to create? There are no two things exactly alike in all respects in the universe. The Lord never repeats Himself; He never duplicates anything. Neither can man. Take the human face as an example. It is small in extent, and there are but few distinct features in it. But how widely they differ in form and expression! Will the limit of variety ever be reached? That is impossible in the nature of things, because new influences are constantly operating upon men, which must change the qualities of character and consequently the form of the face. Here, then, we see the nature of the in. finite in one direction, and can understand it as well as we can anything else.

People often mystify themselves upon this subject. They think the infinite is incomprehensible because they cannot see its boundaries. But how can they see its limits when it has none? Scientists declare that a knowledge of God is impossible, because, if there be a God, He must be infinite. But that is absurd. If we cannot know anything about a stone, or a sheep, or a woman because we cannot know everything about them, we might in truth de-. dare ourselves to be agnostics in every respect, and take our place with stones and dust. But we can know something about every object or principle, and there are no limits to the truths to be learned even about a stone. We find, therefore, in the least and lowest, as well as in the greatest and highest, a hint and a tendency to the infinite, and it is inherited from Him who contains the infinite within Himself, and has impressed it upon all the works of His hands.

As another instance in which even the material universe inherits from God, let us take power. God is power in itself. Everything in the creation is the subject of His power and inherits some measure of it from Him. The wind and the wave have power. The earth has power to draw all bodies to herself. Suns and planets stretch out their mighty arms and hold each other in their embrace. The plant has a wonderful power to select from the ground the specific substances necessary to build up its organs and reproduce itself in seeds. The infinitesimal forms of life have power to act in the circuit of their nature. So has every animal. Man has powers not accorded to the lower orders of creation. He has mental and spiritual power capable of unlimited extension. The universe is penetrated and imbued with it, and men and animals can use it as their own. But it is not their own in the sense of being inherent and underived. It is a constant inheritance; it comes in a constant stream from the Almighty.

God is infinite; but it is of His nature to finite and make everything distinct in form and quality from every other thing. “In Him,” says Swedenborg, “infinite things are distinctly one.” The Lord gives to every substance, every plant and animal, a form of its own. He gives it the power to be itself and not another. He individualizes. The perfection of every plant and animal and of every human being consists in its becoming more fully and distinctly itself. Grass is not evolved into wheat and forest– trees. Its perfection consists in preserving its own form and improving its qualities. The perfection of a grape does not consist in becoming a peach, but a better grape. Its evolution does not consist in becoming something ‘else, but in the perfection of its own qualities. The same law holds with regard to the kingdoms of nature. A plant is not improved by becoming an animal, or an animal by being evolved into a man, if that were possible. The perfection of the vegetable kingdom consists in its being vegetable. The perfection of an animal is attained by the development of those qualities which constitute the animal nature and limit it to the circle of animal life. Man has an animal nature, but his perfection does not consist in the evolution of that nature into something else. On the contrary, those qualities which constitute his human nature can only be gained by means of his physical nature, and by keeping it in subordination to his spiritual nature. By evolution or development man cannot become Divine. He cannot be evolved into a god. In every step of his progress the lines between him and his Creator become more sharply and distinctly drawn. He sees more clearly that he is only a form capable of receiving life from the Lord, and that his perfectibility consists in the development of his spiritual organism to become a larger recipient of a more
excellent form of life.

This tendency which we see in everything in the creation to become its own form and more distinctly itself, has a most important bearing upon the common doctrine of evolution. According to that theory, everything must be on its way to become something else than itself. Dead matter must be looking up to become living matter. The plant must be working to become an animal, and animals must be struggling to become men. If this is a fact, we ought to see some evidence of this movement. We ought to see some change going on by which lower things are rising to higher forms and uses. As a plant is perfected it ought to be more like an animal. As the breed of sheep, or cows, or horses is improved, they ought, by the theory, to be becoming more like human beings. But this is not so. By development a sheep bears finer wool or becomes better mutton; a cow gives more milk of a richer quality; a horse becomes swifter of foot and stronger of muscle, and more beautified as a horse.

Here we see the limits as well as the action of the law of heredity. It is given to every plant and animal to produce its own kind. But it cannot produce anything else. If any species of plant or animal gains any increase in excellence of organizes Con or form, it communicates it to its offspring; but the result is a better plant or animal of its own kind, and not of another species. But so far as I am able to learn, neither plants nor animals do tend to improvement of themselves. How are tulips, chrysanthemums, roses, peaches, strawberries, grapes, and fruits of all kinds improved? Is it by the action alone of any inherent power in themselves? Is it by the power of any “natural selection” of their own providing? How is the breed of animals improved? Is it by any thought or provision of their own? On the contrary, is it not by the supervision of man, who is endowed with the power of seeing the relation of means to ends, and is able to provide means suitable to secure these ends? Does instinct ever provide means for the improvement of its species? It requires but little observation and knowledge of natural history to see that evolution is effected by intelligence; by the operation of mind upon matter; by spiritual, not by natural selection. Matter does not effect it. Intelligence causes it by means of matter. Matter is the clay, and mind or spirit is the potter.

There is a power manifested here which both matter and spirit inherit from the Supreme Intelligence that is worthy of notice. There is no limit to the possibilities of development of a spiritual form. Every vegetable and every animal has a soul which is spiritual in its origin. There is a constant effort in these souls, from the Lord, to perfect themselves, and wherever the conditions are favorable, they do it. When a plant or an animal is supplied With better and more abundant food, or is placed in a climate more favorable to its growth, there is a fuller and finer development of its form; and whatever is gained tends to perpetuate itself. But in all cases it is the evolution of its own form, and not a change of that form into something else. The perfection of the universe consists in the number, beauty, and excellence of the variety of objects which compose it, and not in the predominance of one form or one quality, however excellent it may be in itself.

We have so far considered the universality of the law of heredity in the lower forms of the creation, and we find some of the Divine attributes faintly shadowed forth in all things. Even the rock and the ground have inherited some qualities which exist in their infinite perfections in the Lord. They have not inherited life, but their substances are of such a nature that life can use them to organize forms in which it can dwell, and by means of which it can manifest some of its more excellent qualities. Life can extract from dead matter substances and imbue them with qualities which will sustain higher and more precious fors of life. Plants contain the same elements as minerals, and yet animals cannot live on minerals. Life gives to dead elements some quality, imbues them with its own substance, or by some alchemy unknown to man fits them to become the basis and instruments of a higher degree of life. They can be endowed with sensation, gifted with consciousness, and become the instruments of thought and affection. We are now prepared to consider the principle of heredity in man.

God is love. Man inherits the power of loving, or that quality of his mind which we call love or affection from Him. This faculty was not evolved from the animal; it does not come froth below him it comes from above him. Love in its essential nature is life; and it is a higher form of life and possesses finer qualities than can be bestowed upon matter. It is of the same nature as the Divine life. It is power, and it is in the constant effort to communicate itself and to set .all things in concordant motion. It is attractive : it tends to draw all beings into conjunction and communion with itself. It contains, as a quality of its substance, the capacity of communicating the most exquisite sensations of delight, joy, happiness. It is in its nature creative: it tends to draw all substances and forces into its service, and organize them into faculties which it can employ to communicate itself to others. We all know how an intense love moves us to speech; to look around us to find means for its transmission to others. This faculty does not come to us from the ground. It is not evolved from matter, from plant or animal. It is an inheritance from the Lord.

God is intelligence, and His intelligence is the form of His love and the means of communicating it. Man inherits this quality of the Divine nature from the Lord. It has the same relation to human love that omniscience has to the Divine love. It is of the same nature as the Divine love, as the fine globule of mist is of the same nature as the ocean. It is feeble, but it inherits the capacity of indefinite increase in power and excellence. Love and intelligence constitute the Divine wisdom. They also constitute human wisdom. Love alone is not wisdom; truth alone is not wisdom. It is their union which constitutes wisdom. Therefore love seeks knowledge, woos it, and constantly strives to become married to it. These two faculties are the image and the likeness of God in man; and in the degree that man becomes them he is a child of God, and inherits the nature of his Divine. Parent, and becomes the heir of all the riches and power and glory and blessedness he is capable of receiving. He does not inherit these supreme human qualities from his animal nature. They are not a quality of that nature. The natural mind was made to be the servant of these pure human faculties, and to find its happiness and perfection in serving them.

I ask your attention to only one more quality of life which man inherits from the Lord. He, as I have stated, is life in Himself. It comes from no source without Him. He is substance, power, consciousness, intelligence, love. It is, therefore, of their nature to carry with them the power of giving to every human being the feeling that they are his own; that they originate within him, and belong to him. So complete is this impression that we have no conscious knowledge that our life is derived from any source outside of ourselves. We are as unconscious of it from any sensation as the machine is that its power of motion -is constantly derived from steam. We seem to ourselves, therefore, to be independent beings, though every particle of life is constantly derived from the Lord. We gain our moral and spiritual freedom from this quality of life to give itself wholly away to those who receive it, though we are dependent upon it for every faculty we possess. We gain our personality from this quality of life. We are not emerged into other beings. We are not an unconscious part of God though we live and move and have our being in Him. We are personalities distinct from God, and from every other form of being. Such being the nature of life, the more largely we become the recipients of it, and the more perfect the qualities of the life we receive, the more distinctly will be our personality. In this way we inherit from the nature of God the grandest of all our faculties, the power of becoming, in ever-increasing fullness and distinctness, personal beings.

I have endeavored to show that the law of heredity is universal in every plane of the creation; that it originates in the Divine nature, and plays a most important part in all the Lord’s operations. Let us, in conclusion, briefly notice some of the more important uses of heredity in giving unity in variety in the creation of intelligent beings.

According to heredity every living organism tends to beget its kind and thus to preserve its special form of life, with such variations as are effected by changed conditions. In this way the Lord secures the perpetuity of distinct general forms with perpetual variety. Plants and animals may improve or deteriorate, but the general type remains the same, and there is such a relation between them that we are constantly impressed with the feeling that all things are governed according to universal laws, and by an intelligence which sees the end in the beginning, and directs all the means which are employed to effect it.

Heredity gives a sufficient degree of certainty to human employments. The husbandman knows that he will reap what he sows. If he plants corn he has an undoubting confidence that he will harvest corn. If he plants a vine he will gather grapes of the variety he planted. If he engages in sheep husbandry he is perfectly sure that the product of his flock will be sheep. This is the universal rule. But suppose it were not. Suppose there was no certainty about the product of any seed. Would it not destroy all confidence in nature and all motives to industry? Would it not paralyze the arm of labor? What motive would the farmer have to sow his field with wheat if oaks or some poisonous plant might spring from it? Suppose the product of the farmer’s flocks to be wolves; of his herd, lions; of his fowls, serpents. Would not this uncertainty destroy every human industry and make the provision of human wants impossible?

According to the same principle heredity is the basis of the family and of domestic life; The child inherits the natural qualities of the parents. There is, therefore, some similarity of nature between parent and child which is the ground of parental and filial affection. Parent and child are bound together by. innumerable ties which grow out of a common nature. They can give and receive affection; they can know and understand the same truths; there can be communion and mutual service between them. But suppose parents and children to possess different forms and entirely opposite natures. There could be no community of thought and feeling. They could render no mutual service. Suppose their natures to be repugnant to each other. They would be driven asunder, and the final results would be the termination of the human race. The same principle makes social and civil life possible.

Heredity secures the solidarity of the human race. It prevents it from degenerating into a merely animal condition, and it secures the means of combining individuals into a race. Every human being is something more than himself. He is a part of a larger being. There is a life common to a nation and to the race which differs from that of the individual, as the whole human body differs from any organ or part of an organ which composes it. This life is richer,’ fuller, more various, and is shared by all. There is no isolation in the universe. The individual, however free and independent he may seem to be, is but a filament in the thread of influence. We are all woven together in one web, and this web has an inner and invisible surface forming an organic part of the whole, composed of those who have thrown aside their material garments and have passed from our consciousness, but not from their power to influence us.

But this law, so grand and beneficent in its scope, and so essential to our progress in life, and even to the continuity of the human race, operates in a most fatal way when man becomes the organized form of evil. Then his posterity become the heirs of his sins. Every taint of evil leaves its stain, every perversion of heavenly order is transmitted, until posterity becomes the embodiment of the evil tendencies of former generations. This was the way man fell from his primitive perfection. The change was hardly perceptible at first. It was merely a tendency to turn from the path of heavenly order; a shadow too faint for recognition by any but an omniscient eye. But it grew darker from generation to generation. The tendency became a reality. So the terrible transformation went on until the glory and the beauty and the perfection of the Divine image which man inherited from God, was effaced, and the natural plane of man’s nature which he inherits from his ancestors became wholly perverted. I say the natural plane of his organization, for that only transmitted from parent to child. The higher degrees of his nature he inherits from the Lord. They never have been and never can be touched by a disturbing influence. The perversion and corruption of the natural mind only prevents their development.

Heredity is a universal law in the creation. It inheres in the nature of life and of all creative power. It is the method of infinite Wisdom, by which all things and all creatures bear some marks of their Divine origin, and the universe of being, however diversified in form and various in quality, is held in orderly connection, and becomes a unit. It necessitates the evolution of force and form and quality, according to immutable law. This law must be in the strictest and highest sense scientific, and when correctly understood, it will unlock many secrets and solve many problems which have resisted the power of the scientist and the theologian, and which cannot be solved from a natural point of view. All the facts which the scientist has accumulated with so much industry and patient observation testify to the existence of this law of heredity, and when rightly understood, confirm it. The principle accounts for all the facts; it embraces all spiritual and natural forces, and advances from step to step and link to link in the chain of being from the first to the last. It begins and ends in Him Who is in all and over all; from Whom all life and power issues, and to Whom it returns; Who is the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Almighty.

One thought on “Heredity

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