I. New.-Test. Usage of the Word. — In Jas 1:23; Jas 3:6, the Greek is γένεσις,-έως; elsewhere, as Ro 1:26, φύσις. It is variously used for,
1. the laws of the natural or moral world (Ro 1:26; Ro 2:14; Ro 11:21,24).
2. Birth, origin, or natural descent: "Jews by nature" (Ga 2:15; Ro 2:27); "Which by nature are no gods" (Ga 4:8).
3. Genus, kind: "For every kind (marg. 'nature') of beasts," etc., "is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind" (marg. "nature of nman" [Jas 3:4]).
4. The native mode of thinking, feeling, acting, as unenlightened and unsanctified by the, Holy Spirit: "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God" (1Co 2:14; comp. Eph 2:3).
5. Nature also denotes a customary sense of propriety: "Doth not nature itself teach you that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?" (1Co 11:14). It was the national custom among both the Hebrews and Greeks for men to wear the hair short.
II. Philosophical Import of the Word. — "The term nature is used sometimes in a wider, sometimes in a narrower extension. When employed in its most.extensive meaning, it embraces the two worlds of mind and matter. When employed in its more restricted signification, it is a synonvme for the latter only, and is then used in contradistinction to the former. In the Greek philosophy, the word φύσις was general in its meaning; and the great branch of philosophy, styled 'physical or physiological,' included under it not only the sciences of matter, but also those of mind. With us, the term nature is more vaguely extensive than the terms physics, physical, physiology, physiological or even than the adjective natural; whereas, in the philosophy of Germany, natur and its correlatives, whether of Greek or Latin derivation, are in general expressive of the world of matter in contrast to the world of intelligence" (Sir W. Hamilton. Reid's Works, page 216, note).
"The word nature has been used in two senses, viz., actively and passively; energetic (=forma formans), and material (=forma formata). In the first it signifies the inward principle of whatever is requisite for the reality of a thing as existent; while the essence, or essential property, signifies the inner principle of all that appertains to the possibility of a thing. Hence, in accurate language, we say the essence of a mathematical circle or geometrical figure, not the nature, because in the conception of forms, purely geometrical, there is no expression or implication of their real existence. In the second or material sense of the word nature, we mean by it the sum total of all things, as far as they are objects of our senses, and consequently of possible experience — the aggregate of phenomena, whether existing'for our outer senses or for our inner sense. The doctrine concerning nature would therefore (the word physiology being both ambiguous in itself, and already otherwise appropriated) be more properly entitled phenomenology, distinguished into its two grand divisions, somatology and psychology" (Coleridge, Friend, page 410).