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all seasons, in storms and in calms, in the rain and in the snow, equally as in the finest weather, thou art still my Father, Preserver, and Benefactor.
State of certain Birds and Animals during the Winter. Ar present we do not see any of those insects and birds which, during the summer, float by millions in the air and in the water, or rest upon the earth and among the groves. Of the birds, some species at the approach of winter disappear, and retire to climes of a higher temperature, where they can find shelter and nourishment. The first stormy day is the signal for departure; when, quitting their abodes, they assemble, and prepare to wing their flight to far distant countries. Nor do those that remain behind perish; they continue through the rigours of the season. The bodies of some animals are so formed, that the same causes which deprive them of their food occasion such a change in their system, that they do not require any aliment: the cold affects them to such a degree that they become torpid, and seem as if wrapped in the profoundest sleep, which continues till returning warmth opens the earth, and it again brings forth fruits; when they awaken from their slumbers, and, as the spring advances, leave their retreats in the sands, in holes of the earth, the hollow trunks of trees, marshes, and various other places that have sheltered and protected them in their death-like state during the winter.
How admirable is the wisdom of God, whose tender cares extend to the least of his creatures! He has endowed each of them with an astonishing instinct, which enables them to continue and to preserve their existence; teaches them the day when they are to abandon their summer abodes, and pass the time of our winter in more genial climes; and directs them in their dangerous flight. To others it points out the places where they may pass their time of torpescence in safety; and when the warm beams of the sun descend with sufficient force, they come forth unhurt.
Each time that I reflect upon these changes, I am induced to think of what will happen to myself at the hour of death; when in that solemn moment I shall leave my habitation, my dearest friends, and all my pleasures, to pass into another state of existence. The changes that these animals undergo offer me another edifying reflection. I see how God watches over the smallest link in the vast catenation of beings; I see with what paternal care he provides for the support and preservation of the weakest and most insignificant creatures and would it not be inconsistent with my ideas of his wisdom and bounty to imagine that he would have less regard and solicitude for my welfare and conservation, whom he had been pleased to create so much superior? Surely that God which clothes and nourishes the insects and the birds, which provides them with retreats and places of repose in the holes of the earth and in the clefts of rocks, and guides their course to distant countries, will never abandon me in the time of want and of danger, nor forsake me in the hour of my affliction and distress.
Winds and Tempests.
How violently the air is agitated! Hark, how the wind whistles above, and now swells in a louder blast! See, how the dark clouds gather, and then whirl along with fearful swiftness! The uplifted oaks strew the ground, which shakes as they fall; and see those wretched huts borne aloft by the blast, their scattered fragments tossing in giddy eddies! The clouds open, and deluge the earth with the descending torrent. Perhaps at this moment some luckless bark is riding in the storm at the mercy of the winds: above, the loud blast roars, and all around is darkness; the waves now meet the clouds, then roll back, and discover the gulf threatening instant destruction. The fear-struck mariners have now no hopes; they think of their far-distant homes, and with wild horror view the wave, in which, as it rolls on like a vast mountain, they read their final doom. But why does the beneficent Creator thus permit the winds to track
their course over the seas and the earth with desolation and destruction? Mad question! Who has the temerity and the arrogance to dare to censure and pronounce judgment upon the Almighty, or to question his proceedings? Let us rather consider his ways in silence, and feel persuaded, from what we know of him, that they are always beneficial.
Though the tempest and the whirlwind often speak in terror, and shake the earth; though they cause devastation, and make the ships on the seas to be splintered against the rocks or entombed in the deep; though houses are overthrown, and men and animals are swept away: still we have no right to arraign the decrees of Providence, which are written in wisdom and uttered in mercy. These storms and tempests are to answer great and important purposes in nature. At the return of spring, a humid and mild air softens the earth, which, during the winter, had remained hardened. By this change of temperature the atmosphere often becomes charged with noxious vapours, and plagues and contagion might destroy men and animals, if these violent agitations of the air did not render it more pure and salubrious.
Thus we find the Almighty, whether he visits us in tempests, or smiles upon us in serenity, is alike the Father and Benefactor of the creation; and every time we hear the winds blow over our heads let us acknowledge his goodness, and reflect with gratitude on the wisdom of his government. The Lord taketh the winds from the four corners of Heaven, and bringeth them from the extremities of the earth; he marketh out the paths through which they should proceed, regulates their boundaries, and bids them to cease when they have fulfilled his purpose. Why then should we fear or be troubled when his messengers execute his commands? Though the tempest should howl around me, the earth tremble, the rocks be rent in twain, and darkness obscure the face of nature, I will not be disturbed, neither will I be terrified; but I will put my trust in the Lord, and rest my cares upon the bosom of Him who rules and governs the universe, who directeth the winds, and pointeth out to the stars their course.
SOMETIMES in winter, and towards the vernal equinox, we observe in the heavens a sort of transparent, luminous, and diversely coloured clouds. A brilliant light appears from the north, which is gradually communicated to the other clouds, till at length rays of pale light shoot from these northern clouds towards the zenith. This aerial phenomenon, called Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, may be classed amongst those natural effects the true cause of which we do not exactly know. Some naturalists have supposed it to be a magnetic matter, which, accumulating towards the north, becomes luminous. Others with greater probability, suppose it to be occasioned by the rays of light falling on clouds or mist, and thence reflected.
The uncertainty in which we are with respect to the cause of this phenomenon may be made useful to us. How many things do we not see in the heavens and on the earth which the greatest philosophers cannot explain? This ought to render us humble, and check that pride which is continually raising us in our own estimation, and teach us that many very inconsiderable things often confound the wisest amongst us in their investigations, and elude their most attentive research. There are innumerable objects that we acknowledge are arranged with wisdom, and perform the most useful offices, with whose true principles, end, and catenation with the material world, we are unacquainted. Happily this ignorance does not always affect our happiness; for though we cannot exactly determine the cause of the Aurora Borealis, our peace of mind is not therefore destroyed, nor our comforts diminished. And however ignorant we may be of that and much more, we are yet so far favoured as to know that all the phenomena of the physical as well as of the intellectual world proceed from an all-ruling Providence, which governs the universe with wisdom, and directs it with harmony and love. Those who rightly feel this truth will have sufficient cause to bless and to adore the Almighty, as well as objects enough to engage their attention and exercise their faculties during their short passage through this life.
Let us be moreover thankful that we were not born in those ages when ignorance ruled and superstition triumphed; when, upon the appearance of such a phenomenon as we have just described, whole nations trembled and were thrown into consternation. This beautiful spectacle presented to their troubled imagination armies opposed to each other, and dreadful battles fought in the air; whence they prognosticated the greatest evils. The Aurora Borealis was to them the evil genius which proclaimed war, famine, and pestilence; and terror and dismay spread through the country.
Power of God displayed in the minutest Objects.
THE azure vault of heaven, the immensurability of space, the constellations in the firmament, the variety of creatures which inhabit the earth and fill the air and the waters, all display the glory and announce the infinite power of Almighty God. But it is not alone in the great objects of nature that we trace the wisdom of the Creator; it is equally conspicuous in the least of his works. A single grain of sand viewed through a glass which magnifies a million of times will excite the greatest astonishment; and who would not be surprised to discover that an insect lives within it Even in our own body we can discover objects inconceiv ably small and well deserving observation; every where on the surface of the body are innumerable pores, a very small part of which can be discovered by the naked eye. The epidermis resembles the scales of a fish, and it is calculated that a grain of sand will cover 250 of these scales, and that one of these scales, can cover 500 of the interstices or pores through which the insensible perspiration passes.
Have you ever considered the wonderful structure of the
The author very gravely asserts, that if you examine a crumb of mouldy bread through a glass which magnifies some millions of times, you will discover a thick, forest of fruit-bearing trees, whose branches, leaves, and fruit, may be easily distinguished!'E.