صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

Shall we then, in concluding this treatise, simply admit the existence of that harmony, the illustration of which was its professed object; and in admitting that existence shall we at the same time express our gratitude to that Power, which has thus amply provided for the physical wants of man, and for the developement of his intellectual faculties? That indeed would have been incumbent on us under any circumstances; and without any qualification arising from the partial occurrence either of disease, or famine, or any other form of physical evil. But, since they, to whom this treatise is addressed, . are conscious that some ulterior cause exists for the adaptation of the external world to the nature of man, beyond the transient supply of his physical wants, or even the exercise of his intellectual faculties; to have exhibited the bare fact of that adaptation, without some reference to its final cause, would have been to leave the whole argument without its just conclusion. Avoiding however the presumption of speculating on the nature of a future state of existence, we may, without any impropriety, assert, on the authority of revelation, that the happiness or misery of that state will depend much on the use we have made of that external world which surrounds us; and will coincide with the prevailing character of those habits which we have contracted in this life. This then is the sum of the whole argument. The Creator has so adapted the external world to the moral as well as the physical condition of man, and those two conditions act so constantly and reciprocally on each other, that in a comprehensive view of the relation between the external world and man, we cannot easily lose sight of that most important connexion. And, if we extend our views to a future life, we are taught that the moral state, which has been induced by our prevailing animal or intellectual habits in this life, will be continued and perpetuated eternally in the next—“that in the place where the y

tree falleth, there it shall be"—that “it is appointed unto men once to die; but after this, the judgment.” Have we then, to refer first to our animal wants and desires, have we indulged without restraint in the pleasures of sense; shrinking from every breath of heaven, unless previously tempered with luxurious warmth, and impregnated with the perfumes of the east? Have we weakened our intellectual faculties, and brutalized our moral feelings, by habitual inebriation; abusing that gift of Heaven, which was intended as a restorative of exhausted nature ? Instead of simply satisfying the calls of hunger by plain and moderate diet, have we provoked and pampered the appetite by all the luxuries which the animal and vegetable kingdoms can supply, till at length all appetite has been destroyed; pain and disease have been induced; the human form and feature have been lost under a mass of loathsomeness and corruption; and death, long wished for, yet dreaded, has arrived at last? we shall awake hereafter in another world, but in unaltered misery; without the hope of any second offer of release from the impurity and everlasting punishment of sin. Or, to refer to the intellectual part of our nature, in contemplating for instance the starry firmament, and in calculating the unerring motions of the heavenly bodies, have we been content to characterize the certainty and regularity of those motions as the result of necessity, or of the laws of an undefined agent called nature? And in thus failing to acknowledge explicitly the Author of those laws, though not indeed formally denying his existence, have we, like the nations of old, worshipped the creature, rather than the Creator; and bowed down our knee, as it were, to the host of heaven?—we may in that case hereafter suffer the penalty of our intellectual pride, in a mode severely just. The mind, which in this life failed to exercise its highest functions by adoring the Deity in the contemplation of his works, may be forbidden to extend the exercise of those

functions in the next; and, while it looks back with unutterable torment to the forfeited pleasures of its former state, may be condemned, with torment infinitely increased, to expatiate eternally through new fields of knowledge, without the capability of even putting the sickle to the boundless harvest which they present. But if, happily, we have pursued a wiser course; if, with Newton, we have delighted to deduce from the contemplation of the mechanism of the heavenly bodies the power of him who made them, and who alone sustains and directs their motions; we may, and with faculties infinitely expanded, cultivate with him the same pure pleasures, which even on earth abstracted his desires from earthly wants; and, enraptured with the harmonious movements of those endless systems, which neither our present organs can see, nor our present faculties apprehend, we may continue to be constantly acquiring new knowledge, constantly absorbed in new wonder and adoration of that Power, from whom, both in this world, and in that which is to come, all knowledge, and every other good and perfect gift are alone derived.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][graphic]

A PPEND IX.

HAVING considered in the preceding pages the general opinions of Aristotle respecting the physiology and classification of animals, I propose in this Appendix to make a selection from his descriptions of some natural groups and individual species of animals, for the purpose of comparing them with the corresponding descriptions of Cuvier; confining myself, however, exclusively to the mammalia, which constitute the first class of vertebrated animals. . And, as an introduction to that selection, I shall prefix a comparative view of the observations of the same two authors on some points connected with the general physiology of animals; presenting the whole in the form of two parallel columns, as the most convenient mode of exhibiting the comparison. In each column I shall endeavour to give a #. but faithful translation of the original passages, followed by the original passages themselves.” owever extensive may have been the information of the ancients in that department of natural science which is now under consideration; and however capable a mind like that of Aristotle must have been of deducing general conclusions from a systematic examination of facts, sufficiently numerous and various, for the purpose of effecting a natural classification of animals, it could not reasonably be expected that, antecedently to the knowledge of the circulation of the blood, and of the true character of respiration, and also of the physiology of the absorbent and nervous systems, a natural classification could have been accomplished on principles so satisfactory as at the present day. And those individuals pay a very absurd homage to antiquity, who, on occasions like the present, would place the pretensions of the ancients upon an equality with those of the moderns: for the question does not regard the original powers of the mind, but the amount of accumulated knowledge on which those powers are to be exercised; and it would indeed be extraordinary, if, inverting the analogy of individuals, the world should not be wiser in its old age, than it was in its infancy. In comparing, then, the zoology of Aristotle with that of the

* In order to abridge as much as possible the number and length of the extracts, I have occasionally merely stated a conclusion drawn from several separate paragraphs. In such instances I must claim credit for having rightly understood, and fairly represented, the context.

« السابقةمتابعة »