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CHAPTER XVII.


Unities and Diversities.


1.—It is not to be supposed, that all diversities are disunities. On the contrary, unity in diversity, a central and life-giving principle with variations in manifestation, is a great philosophical announcement; and justly regarded as one among the most interesting which have been propounded for consideration. There are many rivers, but they flow to one ocean; many planets, but one central sun; many nerves, but having their source in the central brain; many pulsations, but they come from one heart. Everywhere, but oftentimes with comparative subordinations and in separate cycles of existence and movement, we find this great fact of a central unity, with its out-going but correlated diversities. Writers on aesthetics, for instance, teach us, that amid all the varieties of outward form and beauty, which manifest themselves in the different schools of architecture and painting, there are certain common principles which underlie them all; and which secures in different and distant ages and countries, the permanency of their power over the human mind. Applying the great principle before us to our moral and religious nature, and with the object of briefly noticing its connection with a living Christianity, and also some of its bearings on nations, we proceed now to remark, that there may be diversities which characterize the intellectual action, and which attach especially to that part of the mind; but which, nevertheless, will be found to be consistent with a high degree of unity in the more interior and affectional nature. In other words, there may be differences and conflicts of the intellect combined with unity of the heart.

2.—The statement just made seems to us to be justified by a correct knowledge of our mental constitution. It is generally conceded, that our comparative views or knowledge of things, are determined in part by the comparative strength of our intellectual powers; and in part also by the stand point or intellectual position, in which we happen to be when those powers are exercised. In regard to most objects of knowledge, especially objects of outward knowledge, it is well understood that every one, saying nothing of the amount or specific character of his perceptive power, holds a position different in some respects from every other person; and that this circumstance alone, without taking the interior causes of differences into account, must necessarily lay the foundation of very different results. If two men, for instance, placed in quite different positions, are looking at a building of varied architectural proportions and beauty, it is found impossible for them, even if they have the same powers of perception, to take the same view. To each of the two, the view which he takes is a true one, considered relatively to the extent of his own faculties and the position from which he exercises them; but it is more or less different from that of the other. Such is the intellectual law in the case.

3.—Upon this general basis of the laws of knowledge, without going into more specific statements and limitations, which a full discussion might call for, we propose to make a few practical remarks. And the first is, that there is a philosophical as well as a Scriptural foundation for the great idea, which awaits a wider development than it has hitherto known of
Christian unity. It is important to us as Christians, aiming at the highest results of Christianity, to understand and remember, that the principle, which applies in so many other cases, has a specific application to ourselves; and that intellectual differences, in being to some extent a necessity, do not and cannot in themselves considered, and to the extent at least of their necessary existence, furnish a justifiable obstacle to love. Indeed, looking at the matter philosophically, have we not some reason for saying that differences are the foundation of love? If we were all formed alike, and looked alike and were alike in all other respects, the many would be merged in one; everything would be identical; and the fact of loving would cease because there would be no opportunity of loving. But without pressing this point, let us remember that God, in the most true and important sense, loves all beings and seeks the good of all, notwithstanding the amazing diversities which exist. And if God thus throws the arms of his affections around those, who are constituted with intellectual differences and who, by the necessities of their position, exercise these differences in different ways and with different results, then those, who are born into the true and full life of God, and who love as God loves, may be expected to have power to surmount these differences also, and to harmonize the conflicts and antagonisms of thought by means of the more interior unities of affection. And hence it is, that the Apostle Paul, in connection with that unity of heart which binds the soul to Christ and which consolidates the great Christian brotherhood into the same unity of life, argues with a sublimity of thought as sound in philosophy as it is true in religion, that the outward distinctions of bond and free, of Greek and Jew, of male and female, of circumcision and uncircumcision, of Barbarian and Scythian, all involving more or less the intellectual and incidental differences of thought and culture and practical life, are merged and lost sight of in that grand and essential unity. Galatians 3:28. Colossians 3:11. And hence it happened, after the great day of Pentecost, that Parthians and Medes and Elamites and Phrygians and Egyptians and Lybians and Cretans and Arabians, all uttering the discordancies of different languages, and all modified intellectually by great differences of thought, and by the training of their different situations, were nevertheless in their more interior nature baptized into one spirit.

And hence it happens also, as we learn from time to time, that modern missionaries in heathen lands, meeting together in the presence of great necessities which swell within them the tide of the soul’s Essential Life, find its increasing waves of holy love mounting upward and upward, and thus overflowing and sweeping away the divisive impulses of the intellect and the conventional lines of sectarian separation.

4.—Again, the doctrine of unity in diversity, when understood in the principles which lie at its foundation, helps us in the matter of forgiveness and
of love to our enemies. When persons are pressed on the subject of an inward holy life, and the example of the Elder Brother is set before them as an example to be followed in all respects, they frequently stumble at the requisition to love their enemies, and to do good to those who have done injury to themselves. But let them do what they ought to do, and be at once what Christ would have them to be; and they will not fail to see the truth and beauty of this great command. If, under the influences of the living truth, they boldly and fully follow Christ in the inward regeneration, it may always be said that their enemies smite them because they do not understand them. In other words, acting from the sphere of the intellect, and beholding things from the lower plane which constitutes their stand-point, they aim their blows at the creations of their own imagination. In their darkened vision, perverted by their own selfishness, or by the discordancies of a necessitated position, they mistake ministering angels who come with messages of love, for powers and principalities of evil who threaten them with harm. The Roman soldiers who thrust their spears at the “man of sorrows,” did not know the truth and purity and benevolence of Him whose blood they sought. And hence his glorious nature was both prompted by benevolence, and, in recognizing the laws of man’s mental constitution, harmonized with the philosophical truth of things, loyal alike and unchangeable to the justice of truth and the divinity of goodness, when He uttered that memorable saying: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

5.—And we may remark further, looking at the subject in its political and national relations, that we find in the principles which have been laid down, a philosophical foundation for the great political doctrine so long and warmly contested, of
a toleration of opinions, considered as a political and constitutional right. The human mind, if we have been correct in our positions, is so constituted and so situated in the circumstances of its action, that oftentimes it necessarily takes different views. If it so happens, therefore, at any time and under any circumstances, that we cannot make our neighbors understand things as we understand them, either through our incapacity to communicate or their incapacity to receive, we must calmly bear with it. They are not, on the ground of such incapacity, to be the subjects of sneers, of sarcasm, of unfeeling rebuke, of imprisonments, of tortures, of social ostracism, or of anything inconsistent with the forbearance and charity which such a state of things obviously requires. When men, therefore, fought for the toleration of religious opinions in the English Revolution of 1640 and in the American Revolution of 1776, and in other memorable historical periods, they fought for a great necessity of their nature. And accordingly it is well to understand and practically insist, that this great principle of toleration is not merely a truth of the sword which bloody battles have established, and which other battles might unsettle and abrogate; but a truth of the highest reason, and of perpetual obligation.

6.—And again, the principle under consideration has a connection with what has been called by a modern but expressive term,
the “solidarity” of nations. Whatever diversities may exist among nations politically or otherwise, the law of the universe which philosophers have denominated Unity in Diversity, which lies back of all diversities, and which in this particular case touches nations, because it touches individuals, requires that they must march in harmony with the unifying centre. Diversified as they may be by monarchies or senates, or by other civil and political variations, all nations have a “solidarity” or community of life, because a nation is a unified or consolidated man, and because all men who go to make the national or consolidated existence, are born alike in the image of God; and not only have certain inalienable rights, as Jefferson’s great declaration has affirmed, but are the subjects of inalienable obligations, and are bound together by inalienable ties. When the Roman audience loudly applauded the great sentiment, “Homo sum; humani nihil a me alienum puto,” their hearts vibrated to the pulsations of that common life, which under all its separations makes humanity one. Such is the foundation of the great law of solidarity, which, while it recognizes diversities, subordinates them to itself as the great central principle. It is under the promptings and influence of this beneficent principle, that nations, as if by a common impulse, are struggling to realize a community of interests in all cases where it is possible, and by all means which render it possible; such as a common system of weights and measures, a common coinage, a common postal system, the ocean telegraph, the removal of the passport system, the extinction of what remains of feudalism, the recognition of the rights of different races notwithstanding the diversities of color, the expansion of nationalities in harmony with the aspirations of a common name and history, the extension of the ballot, the revision of the doctrines of naturalization, international exhibitions of the arts, the settlement of national difficulties by means of Congresses of nations, the introduction of the principle of Arbitration into treaties, together with the hope ultimately, of a permanent international Congress and a Court of nations, and also of a universal language.