« AnteriorContinuar »
wrought the mass of dead matter, with the several relations that those bodies bear to one another; there is still, methinks, something more wonderful and surprising, in contemplations on the world of life; by which I understand, all those animals with which every part of the universe is furnished. The material world, is only the shell of the universe: the world of life are its inhabitants.
If we consider those parts of the material world, which lie the nearest to us, and are therefore subject to our observations and inquiries, it is amazing to con sider the infinity of animals with which they are stocked. Every part of matter is peopled; every green leaf swarms with inhabitants. There is scarcely a single humour in the body of a man, or of any other animal, in which our glasses do not discover myriads of living creatures. We find, even in the most solid bodies, as in marble itself, innumerable cells and cavities, which are crowded with imperceptible inhabitants, too little for the naked eye to discover. On the other hand, if we look into the more bulky parts of nature, we see the seas, lakes, and rivers, teeming with numberless kinds of living creatures. We find every mountain and marsh, wilderness and wood, plentifully stocked with birds and beasts; and every part of matter affording proper necessaries and conveniences, for the livelihood of multitudes which inhabit it.
The author of " the Plurality of Worlds," draws a very good argument from this consideration, for the peopling of every planet: as indeed it seems very probable, from the analogy of reason, that if no part of matter, with which we are acquainted, lies waste and useless, those great bodies, which are at such a distance from us, are not desert and unpeopled; but rather that they are furnished with beings adapted to their respective situations.
Existence is a blessing to those beings only which
are endowed with perception; and is in a manner thrown away upon dead matter, any farther than as it is subservient to beings which are conscious of their existence. Accordingly we find, from the bodies which lie under our observation, that matter is only made as the basis and support of animals; and that there is no more of the one than what is necessary for the existence of the other.
Infinite Goodness is of so communicative a nature, that it seems to delight in conferring existence upon every degree of perceptive being. As this is a speculation, which I have often pursued with great pleasure to myself, I shall enlarge farther upon it, by considering that part of the scale of beings, which comes within our knowledge.
There are some living creatures, which are raised but just above dead matter. To mention only that species of shell-fish, which is formed in the fashion of a cone; that grows to the surface of several rocks; and immediately dies, on being severed from the place where it grew. There are many other creatures but one remove from these, which have no other sense than that of feeling and taste. Others have still an additional one of hearing; others of smell; and others, of sight. It is wonderful to observe, by what a gradual progress the world of life advances, through a prodigious variety of species, before a creature is formed, that is complete in all its senses and even among these, there is such a different degree of excellence, in the sense which one animal enjoys beyond what appears in another, that though the sense in different animals is distinguished by the same common denomination, it seems almost of a different nature. If, after this, we took into the several inward perfections of cunning and sagacity, or what we generally call instinct, we find them rising, after the same manner, imperceptibly one above another; and receiving additional improvements, according to the species
in which they implanted. This progress in nature is so very gradual, that the most perfect of an inferior species, comes very near to the most imperfect of that which is immediately above it.
The exuberant and overflowing goodness of the Supreme Being, whose mercy extends to all his works, is plainly seen, as I have before hinted, in his having made so very little matter, at least what falls within our knowledge, that does not swarm with life. Nor is his goodness less seen in the diversity, than in the multitude of living creatures. Had he made but one species of animals, none of the rest would have enjoyed the happiness of existence: he has therefore, specified, in his creation, every degree of life, every capacity of being. The whole chasm of nature, from a plant to a man, is filled up with diverse kinds of creatures, rising one after another, by an ascent so gentle and easy, that the little transitions and deviations from one species to another, are almost insensible. This intermediate space is so well husbanded and managed, that there is scarcely a degree of perception, which does not appear in some one part of the world of life. Is the goodness, or the wisdom of the Divine Being, more manifested in this his proceeding?
There is a consequence, besides those I have already mentioned, which seems very naturally deducible from the foregoing considerations. If the scale of being ri ses by so regular a progress, so high as man, we may, by parity of reason, suppose, that it still proceeds gradually through those beings which are of a superior nature to him, since there is infinitely greater space and room for different degrees of perfection, between the Supreme Being and man, than between man and the most despicable insect.
In this great system of being, there is no creature so wonderful in its nature, and which so much deserves our particular attention, as man; who fills up
the middle space between the animal and the intellectual nature, the visible and the invisible world: and who is that link in the chain of being, which forms the connexion between both. So that he who, in one respect, is associated with angels and archangels, and may look upon a being of infinite perfection as his father, and the highest order of spirits as his brethren, may, in another respect, say to corruption, thou art my father, and to the worm, thou art my mother and my sister."
Trust in the care of Providence recommended.
MAN, considered in himself, is a very helpless, and a very wretched being. He is subject every moment to the greatest calamities and misfortunes. He is beset with dangers on all sides; and may become unhappy by numberless casualties, which he could not foresee, nor have prevented had he foreseen them.
It is our comfort, while we are obnoxious to so many accidents, that we are under the care one who directs contingencies, and has in his hands the management of every thing that is capable of annoying or offending us; who knows the assistance we stand in need of, and is always ready to bestow it on those who ask it of him.
The natural homage which such a creature owes to so infinitely wise and good a Being, is a firm reliance on him for the blessings and conveniences of life; and an habitual trust in him, for deliverance out of all such dangers and difficulties as may befall us.
The man who always lives in this disposition of mind, has not the same dark and melancholy views of human nature, as he who considers himself abstractedly from this relation to the Supreme Being. At the same time that he reflects upon his own weakness and
imperfection, he comforts himself with the contemplation of those divine attributes, which are employed for his safety and his welfare. He finds his want of foresight made up, by the omniscience of him who is his support. He is not sensible of his own want of strength, when he knows, that his helper is almighty. In short, the person who has a firm trust in the Su preme Being, is powerful in his power, wise by his wisdom, happy by his happiness. He reaps the benefit of every divine attribute; and loses his own insufficiency in the fulness of infinite perfection. To make our lives more easy to us, we are commanded to put our trust in him, who is thus able to relieve and succour us; the Divine Goodness having made such a reliance a duty, notwithstanding we should have been miserable, had it been forbidden us.
Among several motives which might be made use of to recommend this duty to us, I shall only take notice of those that follow.
The first and strongest is, that we are promised, he will not fail those that put their trust in him.
But, without considering the supernatural blessing which accompanies this duty, we may observe, that it has a natural tendency to its own reward; or, in other words, that this firm trust and confidence in the great Disposer of all things, contribute very much to the getting clear of any affliction, or to the bearing of it manfully. A person who believes he has his succour at hand, and that he acts in the sight of his friend, often exerts himself beyond his abilities; and does wonders that are not to be matched by one who is not animated with such a confidence of success. Trust in the assist. ance of an Almighty Being, naturally produces patience hope, cheerfulness, and all other dispositions of mind, which alleviate those calamities that we are not able to
The practice of this virtue administers great comfort to the mind of man, in times of poverty and-af.