Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

of fire into a fluid, and filling the space in which we live and move with a degree of illumination admirably tempered to the sensibility of the most delicate of all our organs. Thus we perceive an indissoluble connexion between the atmosphere, the ear, the eye, and all the conveniences and refinements which, through the ministry of sound and light, society enjoys. Relations such as these, perfected by machinery the most simple, are so manifestly the results of an intelligent and beneficent power, that we must shut our ears to sound and our eyes to light, before we can doubt that such a power is, and is divme.

How various are the climates of the earth, and yet how uniform is each climate in its temperature, notwithstanding the fact that we traverse annually a circle in space whose diameter extends over one hundred and ninety millions of miles! In each particular climate we behold races of animals and plants, many of which would not prosper elsewhere. Though apparently rains, and winds, and frosts, are very irregular, yet we find a remarkable constancy in the average weather and seasons of each place. Very hot summers, or very cold winters, have little effect in raising or depressing the mean annual temperature of any one climate above or below its general standard. We must be convinced, from observation, that the structure of plants and the nature of many animals are specially adapted to the climate in which they are located. A vegetable, for example, which flourishes where the mean temperature is fifty-five degrees, would perish where the average is only fifty. If our mean temperature were raised or lowered by five degrees, our vegetable world would be destroyed, until a new species suited to the altered climate should be substituted for that which we possess at present. An inhabitant of the equatorial regions, whose mean temperature is eighty, would hardly believe that vegetable life could exist in such a climate as ours. We have the same opinion of the arctic regions. But both are equally mistaken: the care of a presiding Providence is limited to no climate; it

'Lives through all space, extends through all extent,
Spreads undivided, operates unspent.'

'At the equator we find the natives of the Spice Islands, the clove and nutmeg trees, pepper, and mace. Cinnamon bushes clothe the surface of Ceylon; the odoriferous sandal-wood, the ebony-tree, the teak-tree, the banyan, grow in the East Indies. In the same latitudes, in Arabia the Happy, we find balm, frankincense, and myrrh, the coffee-tree and the tamarind. But in those countries, at least in the plains, the trees and shrubs which decorate our more northerly climes are wanting. And as we go northwards, at every step we change the vegetable group, both in addition and by subtraction. In the

thickets thickets to the west of the Caspian Sea we have the apricot, citron, peach, walnut. In the same latitude, in Spain, Sicily, and Italy, we find the dwarf plum, the cypress, the chestnut, the cork-tree; the orange and lemon tree perfume the air with their blossoms; the myrtle and pomegranate grow wild among the rocks. We cross the Alps, and we find the vegetation which belongs to northern Europe, of which England is an instance. The oak, the beech, and the elm are natives of Great Britain; the elm-tree seen in Scotland and the north of England is the wych elm. As we travel still farther to the north, the forests again change their character. In the northern provinces of the Russian empire are found forests of the various species of firs; the Scotch and spruce fir, and the larch. In the Orkney Islands no tree is found but the hazel, which occurs again on the northern shores of the Baltic. As we proceed into colder regions we still find species which appear to have been made for these situations. The hoary or cold elder makes its appearance north of Stockholm; the sycamore and mountain-ash accompany us to the head of the Gulf of Bothnia; and as we leave this and traverse the Dophrian range, we pass in succession the boundary-lines of the spruce fir, the Scotch fir, and those minute shrubs which botanists distinguish as the dwarf birch and the dwarf willow. Here, near to or within the arctic circle, we yet find wild flowers of great beauty, the mezereum, the yellow and white water-lily, and the European globe-flower. And when these fail us, the reindeer moss still makes the country habitable for animals and man.'—Whewell, pp. 64—66.

So also there are boundaries to the growth of com, the vine, and the olive. Wheat extends over certain tracts from England to Thibet; it does not flourish in the Polar regions, nor within the tropics, except in situations considerably raised above the level of the sea. The temperature required for the successful cultivation of the vine must not be under fifty, nor much above sixty-three degrees; though in the warm climates elevation of situation will correct the excess of heat. Maize and olives have their favourite regions in France, Italy, and Spain. We first meet with rice west of Milan; it extends over the northern provinces of Persia, and over all the southern districts of Asia where there are facilities for irrigation. Millet is one of the principal grains of Africa. Cotton is cultivated in the uew world no higher than latitude 40°; in the old, it extends to latitude 46°, being found in Astrachan. Exceptions, indeed, occur with respect to the sugar-cane, the indigo-tree, the plantain, and the mulberry, all natives of India and China; for these productions have found a genial climate in the West Indies and South America. The genuine tea-tree seems indisposed to flourish out of China, though the South American Indians have something like it. The Cassava yams, the bread-fruit-tree the sago palm, and the cabbage-tree, are all apparently special provisions for the islands in which they are peculiarly found to flourish. It is impossible, we think, to reflect upon all this variety of natural wealth, and upon the adaptation of each species to the climate in which it is found, without perceiving that the distribution of those productions—no one climate yielding a perfect substitute, generally speaking, for that of another—was originally designed to prompt and to continue throughout human existence that commercial and friendly intercourse which has been long since established between the inhabitants of countries the most remote from each other.

Recent geological researches have brought to light some extraordinary antediluvian deposits, which forcibly illustrate the order of creation on earth as narrated in Genesis. Among these relics of older time there has not been found, says Mr. Sedgwick,* ' a single trace of man, or of the work of his hands.' They consist principally of the remains of animals that now appear hideous to us, only because we are unaccustomed to see them, the species having been long since obliterated from nature. Some arc of the lizard kind, some combine the fish with the lizard. They are found sometimes imbedded in reeds and grasses of gigantic proportions, in company with shell-fish, as ammonites and nautili, of inordinate bulk as compared with those of the present day. It is necessary only to look at the specimens of these animals, of which there are some in excellent preservation in the museums of London, York, and Scarborough, to be convinced, with Mr. Lyell and Sir Charles Bell, that they must have inhabited 'shallow seas and estuaries, or great inland lakes; that the surface of the earth did not (in their time) rise up in peaks and mountains, or that perpendicular rocks bound in the seas; but that it was flat, slimy, and covered with a loaded and foggy atmosphere.' 'There is, indeed,' adds Bell, ' every reason to believe that the classes mammalia and birds were not then created.'

These inferences, justified as they are by the organic remains found in the antediluvian deposits, exactly coincide with the narrative of Genesis. The waters were first commanded to bring forth ' the moving creature that hath life.' Birds were next created, then the land animals, and finally man, who, it is agreed by all geologists, is, as compared with all other races of animated nature, but a recent sojourner on earth.

'We have already hinted,' observes Sir Charles Bell, ' that geologists have discovered, that in the stratified rocks there is proof of a regular succession of formations in the crust of the earth, and that animals of very different structure have been imbedded and are pre

* Address to the Geological Society, 1831, p. 34.

served served in them. In the earlier-formed strata animals are found which are low, as we choose to express it, in the chain of existence; in higher strata, oviparous animals of great bulk, and more complex structure, are discovered; above the strata containing these oviparous reptiles there are found mammalia; and in the looser and more superficial stratum are the bones of the mastodon, megatherium, rhinoceros, and elephant. Geologists agree that man has been created last of all.'—p. 34.

[graphic]

These facts entitle us to conclude, that the days of creation must have consisted of more than centuries of earth, or rather of epochs, each including perhaps more than a thousand years. The laws of matter, we cannot doubt, had been already pronounced, and applied to some at least of the other worlds with which the universe abounds. According to those laws it is perfectly consistent with unlimited creative power, that, as Moses writes, the earth in its first stage should have been' without form and void,' a chaos of elements which were subsequently blended together and shaped into a sphere by rotation and motion round the sun. Time elapsed in the preparation of the minerals, the precious metals, the coal, and other subterraneous treasures,—all of them useful, some absolutely necessary, to the purposes of Man. The earth appears, after its first dispositions were accomplished, to have been completely remoulded, before it was deemed fit to be his residence. The shallow seas, the slimy abodes of the ichthyosaurus, the rank grasses, the dense and unwholesome vapours, had disappeared. The mountains had raised their heads, and assisted to purify the atmosphere; the sea had been assigned its limits; the climates had been determined; and the woods and valleys, and green fields, with their garniture of bright streams, and birds, and flowers of a thousand hues, contributed all their charms to form that Paradise which received the first born of our kind.

In thus retracing the progressive steps of creation we cannot fail to see an Intelligent Power operating according to laws which are still discerned in action; and at the same time we receive exalted ideas of the dignity attached to Man by his Creator, who condescended to take so many ages in moulding and seasoning for him a habitation which, as the Omnipotent, he might have summoned to perfect existence by a breath.

Had Man been a mere animal machine, destitute of reason, he would have been the most defenceless creature on earth. The elephant possesses an instrument by which he can grasp his enemy, and an enormous weight by which he can trample him to death. The bear is endowed with a degree of muscular strength by which he can compress the human figure with as much facility as we

break break a nutshell. The lion and the tiger can spring upon their prey, and fix it by their claws to the earth until they satiate their hunger. But the infant, what a helpless being it is, and remains, long after it first sees the light! The idiot who never enjoyed reason, the melancholy maniac who has been deprived of it, how pitiably weak and dependent are they compared with the rhinoceros or the eagle! Nevertheless it has been given to man to subdue all the tribes of animated nature to his use, and he has fulfilled his destiny in that respect by means of his hand, the most perfect physical instrument with which we are acquainted. Not all the skill of man has yet been able to imitate the hand in its formation and functions, or to suggest an improvement in one of its joints or muscles. Galen's enthusiastic and eloquent description of it, which the reader will find translated in Dr. Kidd's volume, though unrivalled in ancient or modem literature, scarcely does justice to the flexibility, delicacy, and strength of this admirable instrument. But it is, after all, nothing more than an instrument: it would have been comparatively powerless had it not been moved to action by the rational faculty of which it is the immediate servant.

Yet, although it is by means of the hand that we operate upon external matter, we cannot perceive, as Sir Charles Bell justly remarks, any relation between that instrument and the mind. The hand is not more distinct from the rose which it is about to pluck, than the mind is from this organ of its volition. Indeed, we must all feel that the pulse which beats at the wrist has nothing whatever to do with our will. We may use the hand for our purposes, but its machinery, its vitality, do not in any way depend upon our dictates. The action of the heart, the circulation of the blood, are carried on by laws to which the mind is no party. Had it been otherwise, a single act of omission in ordering the requisite functions on our part might bring life to a premature termination. The fracture of a small filament in the admirable tracery of nervous cords which unites many organs in sympathy, would produce spasm, suffocation, and death. Thus then we have tw o principles of vitality in us—one, that of the mind—the other, that of the frame in which it is enveloped; each perfectly distinct, and manifestly the work of a superior Intelligence, who has given us a control over the operations of both, but has taught us the secret of immortality in the laws which disclose their separate existence. The planets move round the sun by his attraction; the blood circulates through our frame by no relation to the mind. The planets and the sun itself shall perish; the blood shall cease to circulate, and the fairest fabric of mortality shall moulder in the dust; but the mind lives independently of matter,

as

« ElőzőTovább »