Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

beasts fitted to range over the surface of the earth, reptiles to burrow in its bowels, fish to replenish the waters, fowls and insects to occupy the air. Every plant, every substance capable of ministering to animal existence has its appropriate inhabitants. Does goodness impart, or improve and augment the power of enjoying happiness? No animated being is devoid of that power, and the circumstances in which those are placed to whom an increase of it might be desirable, either tend to augment it, or at least afford them facilities for improving it. Even instinct, though merely a blind impulse, is closely connected with sensations of pleasure. This we know from experience, and may therefore conclude, that the animals who are wholly governed by it are not exiled from the pleasures of existence. It despoils them of none of their senses ; it rather provides for the proper gratification of these, and unerringly directs to the best means of attaining the object. If again it belong to wisdom that the vital motions should not be dependant on the will of the animal, it no less belongs to goodness that such an incumbrance as the care of these motions would have been, interfering with every species of enjoyment, is thus happily removed. Strong too as the muscular action is in some of these motions, it requires no effort, it is not accompanied with pain, nor even with the least sense of instinctive exertion. Positive pleasure, indeed, is not connected with it ; but this perhaps was impossible without the alternative of liability to pain, and at any rate would rather have been a disadvantage than a benefit upon grounds similar to those formerly mentioned. To show how varied the susceptibilities of happiness are, must surely be unnecessary; we therefore remark that goodness would not only impart the capacity, but also furnish the sources. And on this head, nature accommodates herself to more than the wants of animal existence. None of the beings inferior to man feel any defect, except such as may occasionally arise from the derangement already hinted and to be afterwards considered. Are they formed for particular climates? they may suffer by transportation to others, but their native climate will be found every way favourable to their health and support. Are they dependant, like the swallow, on some species of food which must fail with the season? their instinct prompts them to migrate to the regions where it abounds. It will be for man to consider whether he has not reason to be persuaded, on the very principle of analogy, that sufficient resources for all his intellectual and moral capacities of enjoyment originally existed, and whether, suppos

a

a

ing the derangement, which will thus be rendered not only probable but certain, something adapted to his present condition in these respects be not provided,—something corresponding to the known results of goodness when it operates in the form of mercy and compassion. The inquiry is deeply interesting. But not to anticipate, the atheist must necessarily deprive himself of one eminent source of happiness, the grateful recognisance of our high elevation in the scale of being, our numerous physical capacities, and all their correlate means of gratification. The facts in our natural history, though we had nothing else to appeal to, suggest the idea of munificence, the most certain as well as the most captivating indication of goodness.

Man cannot contemplate the vegetable world without being regaled with a thousand delights, of which other animals are wholly insensible. “ The perfume of the rose, the brilliancy of the lily, the sweetness of the violet, the stately magnificence of the forest, successively catch his attention, and delight him. What other animal feels these agreeable sensations ? None. Man alone is alike susceptible of the charms of beauty, the pleasures of harmony, and the luxury of perfumes. Many other animals possess the senses of seeing, hearing, and smelling, perhaps in much greater perfection than man, yet they are all incapable of those delicate sensations which are conveyed to his mind through organs of similar destination with theirs. Man feels that two distinct sensations are conveyed to his mind by means of the same organ, one of which may be called the mere animal, the other the harmonic sensation."* The first alone belongs to inferior beings, for even the notes of singing birds seem to be mere instinctive sounds, pleasing perhaps to those of the same species, though more probably intended to convey some kind of information either useful or necessary. The crowing of the cock must be ranked with the song of the lark, in regard to the purpose to be served to the species. At any rate, no bird save one seems to feel delight in listening to or copying the song of another; and although by dint of repe

• Perhaps the distinction may not be accurate. It serves, however, to render the idea apprebensible by the lowest capacity, that man has a perception of much more than the inferior animals. The patriotic and very useful author from whom the extract is given, illustrates by observing, “ that though both these sensations are experienced by most men, some individuals have been found who are susceptible of the one (the animal) and not of the other (the barmonic,)”—as if these had been designed to show to the rest of man. kind that the privilege is no necessary result of their physical constitution, but an arbitrary favour demonstrative of the goodness that would bless its objects beyond the mere exigencies of their state.

tition (or from the social principle) one bird may borrow the notes of another, it gives no indication of being gratified thereby, more than the parrot by the excellence of human speech which it may be brought to imitate. “ The scream of the peacock and the song of the thrush, are to every appearance equally disregarded by the linnet or the wren ; and the harsh notes of the raven are pleasing to the birds of the same kind, as the

song of the nightingale to those of its kind. It is the human mind alone that is capable of being affected universally by melodious or discordant sounds howsoever produced.” The former cheer the rational being in the season of his labours, and seem to invite him to praise; the latter either warn him of danger, or answer other valuable purposes.* Sounds productive of alarm are indeed to a certain degree understood by the inferior animals, such as the cries of the birds of prey, the roaring of the lion, the explosion of distant thunder. They feel nothing of the sublime in these sounds ; they are warned however to flee to some covert for shelter,—and ought not this to be ascribed to benevolence as truly as the high susceptibilities of pleasure in the human race ?

If some animals surpass us in the delicate sensibility of their olfactory organs, as the raven who smells his prey from afar, and the spaniel who traces the game by scent, it is merely to ensure for them the proper supply of food, or render them subservient to man. Nature, we shall say, seems to have aimed at nothing more with regard to them than the useful; but with respect to man there is superadded a higher faculty of pleasure, with all its corresponding objects, simply for the sake of gratification. The “flowers that appear on the earth” are not clothed with beauty for their own sakes ; they are not “ arrayed in glory superior to that of Solomon ” for the sake of the inferior animals; for these animals, though they may perceive the colours of the flower, have no perception of the beauty with which it is adorned ; they feel no pleasure in gazing upon it. The fragrance of the strawberry allures them not to taste it, for only the humblest of reptiles, more guided by instinct, doubtless, than the perception of fragrance, seeks to participate with man in this delicious fare. The mere preservation of the seeds of various plants and trees was evidently not the design of the rich fruits and exhilarating juices in which these seeds are enveloped, for these very fruits and juices occa

[ocr errors]

See ANDERSON’s Recreations. Introduction to Natural History, p. 19–

24.

a

sion the destruction of millions of seeds, the number of which was nowise necessary to the existence of the species. The pulp of the peach and the nectarine were formed for regaling the palate of man, the juice of the vine for cheering his heart, the milk of the cocoa for quenching his thirst. The flowers which embellish the habitation of man are careful not to show themselves all in company or at once. Spring, summer, and autumn present each their appropriate beauties, and give him leisure to examine and enjoy them. To what physical necessity in the general process of vegetation can it be imputed that the snow-drop, the violet, the tulip, the rose, and the sunflower, should know their respective months, and each in its season be attended with a harmonizing sisterhood of beauties? It is evidently for the advantage of man that the fruits of the field, wheat, barley, and so on, should grow ripe at once,-and this is their nature; but the fruits and flowers of a garden come forth in succession. In some species the fruits even of the same tree do not ripen all at once, there being often an interval of ten days or a fortnight between the ripening of the first and the last peach or nectarine,--shall we not say, because these and similar delicious fruits are not suited for being laid up in store, but intended for the present gratification of man, which is thus protracted for a time?

The manifold utility of some trees, such as the palm and cocoa, and the adaptation of these and many others (such as the water-bearing reeds, the citron, the orange and the lemon) to the places where they grow, or the necessities of the climate in which they are produced, must be known to every reader of natural history and travels. The cocoa-tree, most useful to sailors, grows by the side of the seas that are most navigated in the east and the south. A ship is there built of the wood, sails are made of its leaves, the mast of its trunk, cordage of the fibrous mass that surrounds its fruit, and the vessel is loaded with the nuts. Is it not a wonder of nature that this fruit should grow full of milk on dry sand and by the side of salt-water? Yet it is only on the shore that the tree which bears it arrives at its full stature and beauty. There are few in interior parts.—The banana is given to Asia, Africa, and America; India is full of them. In the same fervid regions, which render cooling fruits so necessary to the health of man, the foliage of the trees is remarkable. The fan-palm spreads its shade, and presents often in a single leaf a natural umbrella sufficient to cover ten men.

The olive and the sheatree present themselves in those regions where a deficiency of

a

pasture renders their fruit a valuable succedaneum for butter. We might expatiate in this manner on the bread-fruit, the Fast multiplication of esculent roots, &c. We might ask, what necessary purpose in the mere vegetable economy could be answered by so richly loading the sugar-cane with its pleasant and nutritious juice But the induction of particulars would

? be limited only by the boundaries of nature itself.

To look into the treasures of the mineral kingdom, and much more to attempt a survey of the other superabundant provisions for the physical and even the intellectual and moral capacities of man, to whom all nature is subordinated, would detain us too long from winding up the argument. ceed, therefore, to our

We pros

II.- Proposition, THAT THESE PHENOMENA, OR FÅcts, WHICH SO MANIFESTLY CORRESPOND TO THE KNOWN RESULTS OF Power, WISDOM, AND GOODNESS, ARE SUFFICIENT, IF AN AGENT TO WHOM THEY MAY BE ASCRIBED BE DEMONSTRABLE, TO PROVE THAT AGENT DIVINE, OR such A BEING AS MUST BE GOD, ACCORDING TO THE IDEA WHICH RIGHT REASON FORMS OF A Deity.

This can require but little illustration. Nothing can be more evident than that the facts of which specimens have been given, are far beyond what we certainly know to be within the compass of power in human beings, that they include all the operations of physical laws, and that many of them lie also without the sphere of these. Besides man, whose structure, whose very vital motions and activities are comprehended in the facts, other intelligent agents are unknown to reason, and if we resort to Revelation, which admits the existence of such agents, it ascertains at the same time the extent of their powers by disclosing the province to which they are adapted,—but to this the atheist will not appeal, since the question must in that case be supposed to be decided, Revelation ever implying the existence of a Deity from whom it proceeds, and distinctly asserting his control over all the intelligences superior to man. The only point, therefore, to be determined is, whether the facts, supposing an agent to be found, would be sufficient to prove him Omnipotent. Now, to prove omnipotence, it cannot be requisite that an infinitude should exist either in magnitude or number of effects, for then the power must be supposed to have done its utmost, which (were the phrase intelligible or the idea conceivable) would imply a contradiction. It is enough, if the facts be such in number, variety, perfection, and stupendous

« AnteriorContinuar »