GOD saith, The heavens, the earth, and all that is between them, we created not in sport; — and again he saith, Then think ye we have created ye in jest, and that ye are not to return to us? From the light thrown by these two important passages on each other, it is clearly evident to the eye of investiga­tion, that all the particles of being, all the essences of this existent world, which have been wooed and won from infinite nothing to the consummation of sensible presence, and ushered into the state of being in all the glitter of God’s own baptism, (and who is better to baptize us than God, whose servitors we are?) have each and all (agreeably to the text, I gave every thing its nature, and direction more­over,) an end as regards others, and an interest as regards themselves, which may be considered as their respective fruit. For the act of absolute good­ness, and all justifiable acts, though not perhaps resting upon any design, are yet never void of influences, advantages, ends, fruits: both which propositions are established in the science of divinity* by proofs of definite nature and arguments of wide application.

Now the proper end of man,* who is the abstract of all things, the model of models, and the quintessence of the world, is the vice-regence of God, as is clear from the text, Verily I am about to place a vice-regent upon the earth; and again, He it is who placed ye as vice-regents upon earth; and that noble passage, We offered our trust to the heavens, the earth, and the mountains; but they were loth to undertake it, and sought to be excused: man under­took it, and now hath he become ignorant and unjust. This trust if we impute to man’s reason or exer­tions, (as we find in the received commentaries,) let it be considered, as to the first, that both genii* and angels partake in reason with mankind; and as to the second, that the genii may vie with men in labour likewise: so that this undertaking would not be peculiar to mankind; whereas from the tenour of the passage we perceive such peculiarity to be intended. We must impute it then to its con­nexion* with the vice-regence of God, the diffi­culties of which none but weak man was fitted to support:

“The love of life my heart could never prove,
Till further burden’d with the life of love;
That faith which yonder heavens declined to bear,
Fell to the portion of an idiot’s care.”

Now man’s title to the office of this vice-regence lies in his entire capacity for supporting contrary qualities, in such wise as to represent the contrary* designations of God, and embody the twofold struc­ture of this figural and intellectual world. As to the angels, although on the side of spirituality and its concomitants, the intuitions of knowledge, and all to which these lead, they are physically suscep­tible of the delights of reason; yet on the side of coporeality and solidity of substance they are entirely unprovided.* The heavenly orbs again, although according to the principles of philosophy they possess a reasonable mind,* still the virtues of such their minds are constitutional and innate, and their bodies exempt from conflicting conditions and differing propensities; so that they enjoy not that fluctuating movement through various steps and in divergent directions, that circum-lation* through all the limits of imperfection, that shifting with the revolution of all things, so as to master the whole mass of reality in all its ramifications, which forms the essential peculiarity of human nature. In the outset of existence, advancing from the state of concretion to the stage of growth, and from growth to the state of animation,* it passes on to consum­mation in the rank of humanity. Here, when graced with equability of temperament and the due adjust­ment of bodily and spiritual powers, he becomes like to the celestial orbs as touching both spirit and body; for to be intermediate between opposites is to be void of them.* In the course of such his purification, his mind becomes figured with the pictures of past and coming events in their frag­mentary aspects, even as are the spirits of the orbs: and this either* from insight exercised into the world of patterns (for this world, in the opinion of the chief philosophers, may be perceived as well as conceived), or else from a retroversion of these pure pictures or ideas continually thrown off by the reasonable soul to illuminate the conception; after the fashion (as many philosophers think) of man’s bodily make, which rests on a principle of detrusion and propensity to revert. Advancing from this stage he practises a mental negation of all being but God’s — gains admittance to the transcendent rank of seeing unity* and nothing else — and is classed with the angels of the presence, nay, in a higher order even than they; and this withal, not confined or limited to a single spot, but empowered to pitch his tent and carry on his inquiries in any quarter he may choose.

“My heart pursues it, lead where’er it may,
Where the deer wanders or the beadsmen pray:
Too poor to satisfy my Maker’s claim,
I walk in bondage,* and renounce my name.”

And hence the fathers of our Catholic* persuasion, whose powers were equal to any discussion, are unanimous in determining that the best of men are superior to the best of angels:

“If thou art good enough to be a man,
Thou’rt too good for an angel; Adam’s race
Of whiten’d dust are shrines that angels worship.”*

As to ordinary men compared with ordinary angels, they give it the other way; as we find in the most popular treatises, though some have pro­nounced differently. At any rate, that the best of angels are superior to ordinary men, is not to be questioned. There is a saying of his reverence Aly the accepted (who may be considered as a gate in the city of knowledge, and a gate to which the aspirants after certainty should particularly resort — blessings and peace be with him!) that the Almighty had given to angels reason without desire and anger; to brutes desire and anger without reason; and to mankind gave both: so that if a man make desire and anger subject and obedient to reason, so as to reconcile them with reasoning perfection, he will rank above the angels: for into their perfection no inclination enters — nay, no choice; while men* attain to it in spite of difficulties, and at the expense of labour and exertion. But if he allows his reason to be vanquished by desire and anger, he degrades himself beneath the brutes: for these in their fail­ings are excused by the absence of an intellect to restrain them; which excuse men have not.

“Adam’s race are thrifty gleaning
Brute and angel join to leaven;
Less than brute if earthward leaning,
More than angel if toward heaven.”

That contradiction which philosophers have acknowledged in the preference of men to angels, the author of Súfy* idioms has shown us how to remove by adopting a middle course in this wise. Eminence differs from perfection; being determined by proximity on the chain of being to the common source — by the prevalence of spirituality and the purity attending it; whereas perfection depends on mastery. Although, therefore, being less subject to interpositions and more governed by severalty, the angel may be the more eminent being, man, by rea­son of his mastery and comprehensiveness, is the more excellent and perfect one. Thus, on bringing together the opinions on both sides, opposition is turned into harmony, and difference removed; Grace is from the Most High.

Now for men to realize this vice-regency, two things are necessary. 1. Mature wisdom, which is a term for perfection in knowledge. 2. Eminent ability, which is a term for perfection in practice. This position, however, is good only in case of their defining wisdom to be simply acquaintance with the condition of things; the nature of action taking it out of the class of things wherewith wis­dom is concerned. In case of their defining it to be the arrival of the soul at the utmost perfection attainable by it in the direction both of knowledge and practice, there would be no occasion for the last term. The vice-regence would then be accomplished by wisdom only,* inasmuch as practice is included in it; which second definition is indeed the prefer­able one, because more agreeable to the original meaning: for wisdom, in its philological sense, would reside in the use of right language and right acts. That text likewise, Whoso gaineth wisdom, verily he gaineth great things, is more consonant to this latter explanation. Then, under the first defi­nition, such expressions as, Verily thou art the knower and the wise, would belong to the class of largesse in consecutive terms: now surely it were better to take the collocation for an expansion rather than a repetition of the sense. That eulogy, too, which ancient philosophers used in respect of phi­losophy, that, as far as might be, it was an imita­tion of God,* comes likewise under the second meaning: for a complete imitation can only be effected by adopting all the properties of the divine nature; whereas it is clear that man by mere knowledge without practice* reaches not the height of that perfection: indeed we are told as much by that prophetical tradition, Knowledge without practice is a burden, and practice without knowledge a mischief. His holiness, the refuge of revelation,* prays God to save him from knowledge without practice when he says, Deliver me, O God, from knowledge that availeth not. Moreover, the meaning of that knowledge referred to in this inter­pretation of wisdom, is not the mastery of universal and received propositions, but an ascertainment of the ends of wisdom; whether acquired by expe­rience and demonstration, as with the observative school, whom we call men of science, or by means of purifying and perfecting self, as practised by the school of self-denial,* whom we call men of attain­ment and merit. Both these classes are equally entitled to the appellation of wise; or rather the latter is the most eminent and exalted class; inas­much as their advance on the steps of perfection is entirely due to divine favour — a graduation in that highest of schools, We made him learned, in learning from ourself, that approaches nearest to the inheri­tance of the Prophets, who embody the purity of all creation. In the latter path the thorns of doubt and the pitfalls of suspicion are less plentifully scattered; yet do both reunite in the termination at which they arrive, neither can any discrepance prevail between the professors of the two.