As Zanchi develops the argument for natural revelation, he has moved from the physical, terrestrial creation to the heavenly sphere, and then to man himself. In both his physical make up and spiritual endowments, man himself egregie Deum docet.
Passing over the interesting parallel between the attributes of God and their analogue in the soul of man, I bring to your attention a more concrete image. Following Paul’s example in Acts 17, Zanchi quotes a pagan poet to support his claims about natural revelation. The point he is making, at this juncture of the argument, is the superiority of man to all other animals.
Cum enim animantia cætera ad pastum abiecisset, solum hominem apta & excelsa figura creavit, & ad cœli conspectum excitavit: Quod eleganter observavit Poeta:
Pronaque cum spectent animantia cætera terras,
Os homini sublime dedit, cœlumque tueri
Iussit, & erectos ad sidera tollere vultus.
“Since, then, he has abandoned other animals to the pasture, man alone has he created with an apt and excellent form, and induces him to gaze upon the heavens; which the poet has elegantly observed:
While other animals, prone, gaze at the earth,
An upturned face gave he man, unto heaven
he commanded him to look; walking erect, raising his face to the stars.”
My translation pales in comparison to the Latin verse. But I hope the ideas come through. These lines come from Book 1 of Ovid’s Metamorphoses; they describe the creation of man in comparison to other animals. Note, though, the emphasis on the physical makeup of man in distinction to the animals. Man walks on two legs; the beasts on four. The animals look downward; man’s face naturally inclines to the stars and the sky.
C. S. Lewis, in his preface to De Incarnatione by Athanasius, remarks that it is good to read old books because they give you perspective and help to pull you out of the myopia of the now. What Zanchi and Ovid point out, here, about man and his physical constitution, is an elegant example of this. They make much out of the physical constitution of man and derive an argument from it. This is one feature of natural revelation and natural theology that is missing from the conversations of today. Post Freud, most modern discussion of man is focused on his mental/spiritual aspect. It is easy to forget that man is an embodied soul, an “ensouled” body. Older writers were more comfortable making arguments and applications based on the physical constitution of man; we are losing this, or have already lost it, in our day. The familiar lines from Matthew Henry come to mind. He says of Eve that she was not taken from Adam’s head (to lord over him), nor from his feet (to be walked on by him), but from his side (to be his partner and helper). This may sound quaint, but I think Henry, along with Zanchi, is tapping into an important aspect of who we are as physical creatures.
Much hay could be made at this point relating to the gender-bending nonsense of today, but I wouldn’t want to anachronistically sully the beauty of Zanchi’s words here.
Note also the connection between the use of the physical side of man’s nature and poetry. These lines from Ovid are painfully beautiful, particularly the end, “…& erectos ad sidera tollere vultus.” Tolkien taps into this primal attraction that the stars hold for men. In the Simarilion, when the elves are first woken up, they gaze upon the stars and say, “Ea!” From that point forward, the elves are drawn to the stars. It was the light of a star that Galadriel gave to Frodo in her vial and it was looking to the stars in Mordor that encouraged Sam when all around him and Frodo were the darks and blacks of Sauron. If you have only seen the movies, most of the power of these images will be lost on you. Read the books and be bettered.
But, to return to Zanchi. The tangible and earthiness of the Medieval period is one of the beneficial fruits we can draw from it. The Reformed orthodox theologians were men of Medieval mind, as can be seen in Zanchi’s arguments here. Specifically, this appeal to the simple fact that man walks upright, on two legs, as a proof of his superiority to the animals and that he was made to look at the heavens and, subsequently, that he was made to fellowship with God.
“Itaque si resurrexistis cum Christo, superna quærite, ubi Christus eft ad dexteram Dei sedens. Superna curate, non terrestria. Nam mortui estis, vita vestra abscondita est cum Christo in Deo: Post quam autem Christus, vita illa nostra, manifestus factus fuerit, tum & vos cum eo parefietis gloriosi.”
Ad Colossenses, III:1-4.