Page images
PDF
EPUB

Rally the scattered causes; and that line
Which nature twists, be able to untwine;
It is thy Maker's will, for unto none,
But unto reason can he e'er be known.

The devils do know thee, but those damn'd meteors
Build not thy glory, but confound thy creatures.
Teach my endeavours so thy works to read,
That learning them in thee, I may proceed.
Give thou my reason that instructive flight,
Whose weary wings may on thy hands still light.
Teach me to soar aloft, yet ever so,

When near the sun to stoop again below.

Thus shall my humble feathers safely hover,

And though near earth, more than the heaven's dis

cover.

And then at last, when homeward I shall drive
Rich with the spoils of nature to my hive,
There will I sit, like that industrious fly,
Buzzing thy praises, which shall never die,
Till death abrupts them, and succeeding glory
Bid me go on in a more lasting story.

And this is almost all wherein a humble creature may endeavour to requite, and some way to retribute unto his Creator: for if not he that saith 'Lord, Lord, but he that doth the will of his Father, shall be saved;' certainly our wills must be our performances, and our intents make out our actions; otherwise our pious labours shall find anxiety in our graves, and our best endeavours not hope, but fear a resurrection.

There is but one first cause, and four second causes of all things; some are without efficient, as God; others without matter, as angels; some without form, as the first matter :(34) but every

(34) This specimen of scholastic nonsense has been admirably ridiculed by Butler:

essence, created or uncreated, hath its final cause, and some positive end both of its essence and operation; this is the cause I grope after in the works of nature; on this hangs the providence of God. To raise so beauteous a structure, as the world and the creatures thereof, was but his art; but their sundry and divided operations, with their predestinated ends, are from the treasure of his wisdom. In the causes, nature, and affections of the eclipses of the sun and moon, there is most excellent speculation; but to profound farther, and to contemplate a reason why his providence hath so disposed and ordered their motions in that vast circle, as to conjoin and obscure each other, is a sweeter piece of reason, and a diviner point of philosophy; therefore sometimes, and in some things, there appears to me as much divinity in Galen's books De Usu Partium, as in Suarez's Metaphysics: had Aristotle been as curious in the inquiry of this cause as he was of the other, he had not left behind him an imperfect piece of philosophy, but an absolute tract of divinity.

Natura nihil aget frustra, is the only indisputed axiom in philosophy; there are no grotesques in nature; not anything framed to fill up empty cantons, and unnecessary spaces: in the most imperfect creatures, and such as were not preserved in the ark, but having their seeds and principles

[blocks in formation]

in the womb of nature, are everywhere, where the power of the sun is, (3) in these is the wisdom of his hand discovered. Out of this rank Solomon chose the objects of admiration; indeed what reason may not go to school to the wisdom of bees, ants, and spiders? what wise hand teacheth them to do what reason cannot teach us? ruder heads stand amazed at those prodigious pieces of nature, whales, elephants, dromedaries, and camels; these I confess are the colossus and majestic pieces of her hand: but in these narrow engines there is more curious mathematics; and the civility of these little citizens, more neatly sets forth the wisdom of their Maker. Who admires not Regio Montanus's fly beyond his eagle, or wonders not more at the operation of two souls in those little bodies, than but one in the trunk of a cedar? I could never content my contemplation with those general pieces of wonder, the flux and reflux of the sea, the increase of Nile, the conversion of the needle to the north ; and have studied to match and parallel those in the more obvious and neglected pieces of nature, which without further travel I can do in the cosmography of myself. We carry with us the wonders we seek without us:(3) there is all Africa and her

(35) In fact the germs of insects appear to be diffused throughout every substance in nature, and in some cases to lie thousands of years undeveloped; which, if true, will account for the seeming production of organized life by the action of the voltaic battery, in our own days; that is, if there be no misapprehension on the part of the experimentalist.—ED.

(36) This is most true, as even the careless observer, without the aid of physiology, may discover. But when, through the

prodigies in us: we are that bold and adventurous piece of nature, which he that studies wisely learns in a compendium, what others labour at in a divided piece and endless volume.

Thus there are two books from whence I collect my divinity-besides that written one of God, another of his servant nature; that universal and public manuscript,(37) that lies expanded unto the eyes of all—those that never saw him in the one, have discovered him in the other. This was the scripture and theology of the heathens; the natural motion of the sun made them more admire him, than its supernatural station did the children of Israel; the ordinary effects of nature wrought more admiration in them than in the other all his miracles: surely the heathens knew better how to join and read these mystical letters, than we Christians, who cast a more care

avenues opened up to us by science, we penetrate into the far and secret recesses of our own nature, and behold the perfect animal arising out of substances apparently inorganized-when we perceive the almost invisible springs by which the first-fruit of animal nourishment is supplied-the apparatus of visionthe material instruments of thought-in short, the miraculous structure of our whole frame-we are disposed to exclaim with the prophet king, "O Lord! I am fearfully and wonderfully made!"-ED.

(37) There is a quaint sublimity in the above phrase, characteristic of the author. He is right, too, in his remarks on the effect of external nature on the civilized people of antiquity, who, by the contemplation of that alone, acquired very just notions of God. In fact, Ray, and Derham, and Paley, with many other theologians who have written elaborately on the proofs (shame they should ever be needed) of God's existence, have done, and could do, little more than amplify the arguments of pagan philosophers. To turn to no more recondite source

less eye on these common hieroglyphics, (3) and disdain to suck divinity from the flowers of nature. Nor do I so forget God as to adore the name of nature; which I define not with the schools, to be the principle of motion and rest, but that straight and regular line, that settled and constant course the wisdom of God hath ordained the actions of his creatures, according to their several kinds. To make a revolution every day, is the nature of the sun, because of that necessary course which God hath ordained it, from which it cannot swerve, by a faculty from that voice which first did give it motion.

than Xenophon, observe the pious and eloquent description which
Socrates gives of the sun's approach and retreat from the tem-
perate zone, ripening and corroborating certain productions,
parching up others, but taking care never to draw so near as to
render its rays pernicious. In the course of the discussion he in-
sists upon his gradual movements, which insensibly lead us
from one extreme to another. Upon which his opponent, in the
true spirit of a "minute philosopher," damps the piety of the
philosopher by the following sophism. "It would afford me
satisfaction to know," says he, "that all these contrivances were
intended for the benefit of mankind: but there is one objection;
which is, that the vicissitudes of the year bring the same advan-
tages to all other animals." "No doubt," replied Socrates; " but
then, these animals themselves are so many ingredients of hu-
man enjoyment."-Xenoph. Memor. IV. 2. 3. ff.
He might
have added, that the benefit to us is not the less because other
creatures also are benefited; and that it is an additional proof
of the Creator's wisdom, that while providing abundantly for the
happiness of the superior animal, he has rendered the self-same
means subservient to the wants of a thousand inferior species.—
ED.

(38) Compare what has been said above with the critique on Paley's Physical Theology in the Edinburgh Review.ED.

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »