Page images

impracticable, commerce would cease; by which we should be deprived of many of the necessaries and comforts of life, besides losing that expansion of mind which arises from our

Inowledge of foreign countries, and an acquaintance with men and customs differing from our own. For it is an incontrovertible fact, that in proportion as the inhabitants of 3 country keep themselves confined within their own little territory, without any intercourse with foreign nations, they become contracted, prejudiced, and ignorant.

Let us then acknowledge, with gratitude, the wisdom of God in this beautiful arrangement of the universe; that the same medium through which we become acquainted with every part of the universe is the great source of all our treasures, whether in commerce or in agriculture, and supplies millions of people with their daily food and support.


Difference existing between Animals and Plants. The difference between animals and vegetables is so obvi. ous, that we can readily distinguish them by the slightest observation. The most striking distinction is the power which animals possess of moving from place to place, which vegetables do not enjoy. Another very essential distinc tion is the faculty of perception, which animals have in a greater or less degree, but which is not common to plants. A third difference is the manner in which they are nourished. Animals, by means of proper organs, have the power of selecting that kind of aliment which is adapted to their nature; whilst plants are obliged, without choice, to receive such as the earth and water offer them, or perish for want. By means of vessels they imbibe the succulent juices of the earth; and their leaves, likewise furnished with vessels, absorb the moisture of the atmosphere which circulates through their system. The variety of species is much greater in the animal than in the vegetable kingdom : amongst insects even, there are perhaps a greater number

of classes (including those distinguishable only by a mi. eroscope) than there are species of plants known on the surface of the globe. Animals have less conformity with each other than plants have, which renders them more difficult to classify.

Another distinguishing characteristic is the different mode in which animals and plants are propagated : and plants, whether they appear above the surface of the earth or are buried beneath, whether they float above water or are below it, have their roots fixed in the earth; whilst animals are found at large on every part of the earth, or they inhabit the air, or dwell in the waters; they are found every where throughout nature. And lastly, they differ from each other most materially in their form. Yet, notwithstanding these certain and obvious characteristics, we are far from having discovered the exact limits of these two kingdoms, or from knowing how to distinguish them in every instance; nature, in diversifying her works, makes use of shades almost imperceptible. In the great chain of beings the links are beautifully formed ; from the highest to the lowest the degree of perfection gradually falls ; but by such a gradation, that the most perfect differs but little from the one immediately next to it. We find some plants endowed with sensibility, and some animals that are nearly void of sensation. Corals formerly were thought to be marine plants; but subsequent observations prove them to belong to the animal kingdom : and there are many substances which naturalists are not yet determined under what class they should be arranged, so difficult is the task of assigning the precise limits to either kingdom; and the more our observations are multiplied, the more shall we be convinced of this difficulty, arising from the great resemblance between some of the inferior species of the animal kingdom with certain vegetable productions.

Our researches into nature are always attended with this happy effeot; that the more we see of her works, whether animate or inanimate, the more we are convinced that the world, with all the vast variety of beings which it contains, is the work of an infinite and all-powerful God. Such beauty, harmony, and variety, could not be self-created, but must proceed from an Almighty, Omniscient, and Infinito Being, whose power and goodness we trace through all

the varieties of animated beings, beginning with the meanest reptile that crawls on the earth, and proceeding from link to link till we arrive at man, the angels, and God himself, the great First Cause of all; or we may begin with the rudest species of matter, the stones upon which we tread, and mark the variations till we reach those luminaries that nightly present their revolving orbs to our astonished view. All speak the glory of God the Creator, and evince his protecting power and fatherly care: the rays of his perfection beam on all his works; his mercy and goodness are impartially diffused over the creation; and such men only meet with superior favour and divine regard, who act as becometh those who are conscious that all their deeds are known to a superintending Providence, which loves them as they love one another.

MARCH XIV.. Uniformity and Diversity in the Works of Nature. The heavens above, and the earth beneath our feet, though they offer us at different times varied spectacles, and a diversity of beauty, still from year to year remain the same, and lose nothing during the lapse of ages. At one time the face of heaven is dark with clouds or obscured by mists; then again serene and of a pure azure, or streaked with the most beautiful colours. The midnight darkness yields to the silvery light of the moon, which in turn is lost in the glory of the morning sun. One while the vast expanse of the heavens displays nought but gloom ; at another, it is impossible to number the constellations that illumine the regions of space. If the heavens undergo various revolutions, the earth is not less subject to change. Within a very short period the severity of winter has withered its charms, and rendered it one immense field of uniform steri. lity. But soon the returning spring, succeeded by the warm summer, will restore its beauty, bring back its delights, and open out its treasures; and autumn will follow to mehow the fruits that required a long time to be matured. Again, what a varied aspect is presented by different countries

upon this globe! In one, we see plains whose utmost boundaries no eye can penetrate, whose beauties no tongue can describe : in others, mountains whose waving tops fan the breeze, and at whose base extend valleys, watered by the richest streams and laved by the purest rivers. Here gulfs yawn, and precipices threaten; there the high hill dances in the reflecting wave, and the calm lake gently washes the distant shores; whilst afar off is heard the rush of the torrent, and the impetuous roar of the cataract. Wherever the eye turns it meets with variety to interest; the mind is expanded, and joy and delight cheer the heart.

The same assemblage of uniformity and variety exists throughout the vegetable kingdom; the subjects of which all proceed from the same bountiful mother, and receive the same kind of nourishment: yet what an astonishing diversity in the different species, both as to form and proper ties! Thus we see the oak towering above the grass, and the elm looking down upon the humble primrose. All that bear a resemblance to each other in certain particulars are arranged under the same class. It is the same with regard to animals, which are likewise arranged under different classes according to their resemblances in certain points. And however man, by the superiority of his faculties, is raised above plants and animals, some things he enjoys in common with the meanest of them. Like them he requires nourishment, and like them cannot live without air, water, the earth, and the influence of the sun. Plants grow, ripen, increase, wither, and die ; and these laws of nature extend to man and the whole animal creation.

If we proceed to examine the varieties of the human species, what a wonderful mixture of conformity and diversity we meet with ! Human nature in all places is generally the same; and yet, through all the extent of the peopled world, we find that, in this multitude of men, each individual has a figure peculiar to himself, a physiognomy, and certain properties and qualities of mind and disposition, which form his character, and serve to distinguish him from all the rest of the species.

Naturalists, for the sake of accuracy and facilitating their researches, have formed three general heads or kingdoms; the animal, the vegetable, and the mineral, under which they arrange all the productions of nature : these again are subdivided into classes, genera, and species. Thus every substance in nature is arranged under one or other of these general heads; and by being acquainted with the characteristics of any particular class, when we meet with a new production, we know whether or not it is entitled to a place in this class.

From this assemblage of uniformity and diversity, which is infinitely extended, arise the order and beauty of the universe. The diversity of form and properties between the creatures of the earth displays the wisdom of God, who has designed each to hold a certain place and rank in the creation, to answer certain purposes; and he has so ordered, that no one can destroy the relations and oppositions he has established amongst them. He has founded bis government upon wisdom, and regulated every thing for the utility and enjoyment of his creatures. Confined as are the views of man, partial and contracted as are his thoughts, he yet is capable of knowing and feeling this truth; the slightest examination of the universe declares it to him; and the farther he penetrates, the more he regards God manifested in his works, the more his mental powers will increase, and the less will he be affected by the contaminating influence of a base and sordid world.


Of Seeds. VEGETABLES spring from seeds; but the greater part of them are not sown by man, and are even invisible to him : they are dispersed by the winds, fall upon different parts of the earth, take root, and spring up. For this purpose na: ture has furnished them with different means ; some she has provided with a light down, which renders them more capable of floating on the air, and being dispersed to different places; others are sufficiently heavy to fall immediately to the ground, and bury themselves in it without any assistance; and others, that are light enough to be borne along by the wind, are often provided with little hooks, which, laying hold of different substances in their way, arrest their

« PreviousContinue »