Page images

progress, and prevent their being scattered very far from their native soil. Some of them are enclosed in elastic capsules, which, at certain periods, burst open, and shoot out their contents. And there are trees which owe their origin to the birds of the air: oaks have been known to spring up from the care of raveus; it is supposed that, led by instinct, they make holes in the earth with their beak and deposit the acorns, which they cover over with earth and moss, as a supply of food when other sources fail. Many seeds after being swallowed by birds remain unin. jured, and through their medium become plants, thrive, blossom, and produce new seed. If to the care of man alone the fields were destined to receive their beauty, and the forests their verdure; if no seeds were to take root in the earth but those coming from the hand of man; how desolate would be our meadows, and desert our groves ! But at the return of spring the soil again waves, and the odour of a thousand flowers scents the air, without the assistance of man. Yet these are not all the wonders which the consideration of seeds presents to us ; the whole plant is contained in one little seed : within the narrow compass of the acorn are concealed all the rudiments of the oak, the mo. narch of the fields and the pride of nations. And we farther trace the wisdom of the Creator in the admirable structure of the seed, upon the preservation of which must ulti. mately depend the existence of the vegetable world.

How carefully, and with what precaution, are the blossoms and seeds of those plants which continue all the year in the earth enclosed in and defended during the winter by strong tunics of a curious texture! And plants which cannot bear the cold of winter are preserved beneath the surface of the earth in the form of roots, till the vernal sun causes them again to germinate, and flourish with renewed charms. Some seeds are placed in the middle of the fruit, others enclosed in capsules and sheaths, each being defended and protected in a most beautiful manner, at once displaying the power and the mercy of the Creator, whose hand is seen in every thing. The least of nature's works manifests his wisdom and goodness. And now whilst the busy husband. man deposits the different seeds in the earth, may I be seriously occupied with my God, who alone can sow the seed of righteousness, and bring forth fruit,


Grandeur and Distance of the Sun. If we have dever properly considered the narrow compass of our earth, or are too ignorant to perceive our own insignificance, we may perhaps be benefited by considering that immense body which communicates light and heat, not to our world only, but to many others. The sun, nearly in the centre of all the planets and comets, may be regarded as the monarch of many worlds, to which he imparts light, heat, and motion. This alone would lead us to conclude that his size is prodigious, and this opinion is confirmed by his apparent magnitude, notwithstanding his immense distance from us. But the calculations of astronomers have certified us of this beyond the possibility of doubt. From them it appears that the diameter of the sun is about 100 times greater than that of the earth, and consequently he is a million times larger than the whole earth. .

Astronomers have differed respecting his distance; the truest calculation makes it about 82 millions of miles. Some planets move in their orbits much nearer to the sun, and others at a greater distance, than does our earth; but though, if formed like our globe, in the one case they perhaps might be consumed by the heat, in the other wrapped in cold and darkness, we have reason to believe that those spheres which move round the sun, whether nearer to him or more remote than our earth, are so coustituted, that neither the globe itself, nor its inhabitants, suffer from their situation.

Perhaps it will be urged, that what we have stated respecting the magnitude and distance of the sun is exaggerated ; for we can discover nothing so great as the earth which we inhabit, and with which we compare the sun, which is a million times greater. This luminary from its prodigious distance appearing so small, ignorant people are disposed rather to believe that which they can see with their own eyes, than give credit to calculations which their rea. son cannot comprehend. But had we been placed on a planet whose magnitude bore the same proportion to the earth as the earth now does to the sun, we should have been equally increduious as to the dimensions of this earth, com. pared with that we then inhabited. It is far from being strange then, that we should be astonished when we are told of the distance and vast magnitude of the sun.

This admiration ought to make us ascend to that Being which is its Creator, Director, and Conservator; compared with which, the grandeur and brilliancy of the sun are as nothing: consider the glory of him who created it, and you will find infinitely more incomprehensibilities than when you only reflect upon the grandeur of the sun. If the earth, compared with the sun, is so small, what must be the littleness of man compared with his Creator ! If the space between the earth and the sun is found to be so immense, what an inconceivable distance is there between man and the infinite God!

'Who is like unto thee, O Lord? What can be compared unto thee? Thy glory is exalted beyond the reach of praise, and thy grandeur above the comprehension of man. Glory, splendour, and majesty surround thee, the principle and source of life; and light encircles thee as a garment.' But whilst we admire the sun as he shines above the horizon, let us not forget our divine Redeemer, that sun of righteousness which visited us in our afflictions, and whose rays impart life, health, and eternal salvation; and without which, deprived of light, virtue, and consolation, we should still wander in darkness, ignorance, and the grossest sin !


MARCH XVII. Upon the imperfect Knowledge we have of Nature. Why has not the Creator given us the power of investigating and explaining all the phenomena of nature, for which purpose the limits of our understanding are too confined ? He wills that we should become acquainted with his perfections, that we might magnify his name. Would not then the most certain means of knowing and appreciating his attributes be, to have a more intimate acquaintance with the works of the creation? It seems to me as if I could much more admire the grandeur of the Supreme Being, and contribute much more to the exaltation of his holy name, if I was enabled to comprehend the whole, to know the per fections of each part, and to discover all the laws and springs of nature. If I now can admire the infinite great ness of God, when I only know a small part of his works, what would my sentiments be, how absorbed in the medi. tation of his glorious attributes, with what awe and veneration should I adore him, if I could fully penetrate into the wonders of nature, and explain with certainty the phenomena she brings forth !

But perhaps this mode of judging is erroneous; for since God has not thought fit to give us a more profound know. ledge of nature, we are to suppose he prefers the degree of adoration and glorification he now receives from our limited faculties, to that he would have, were we to enjoy a more perfect state. Have we any reason to be surprised that in our present condition we are ignorant of the first principles of nature ? Our senses are unable to penetrate into the essence of things, and we cannot form an idea of objects which our senses are incapable of observing. And there is an abundance of things which our senses cannot discern. If we wish to represent to our imagination any thing infinitely great, or infinitely small, they elude our grasp. If we reflect upon the rapidity with which the rays of light pass, we are incapable of following the velocity; and when we wish to conceive an idea of the vessels and circulation of blood in a creature a million times less than a grain of sand, we feel the inadequacy of our mental powers. Hence, as nature ascends from what is infinitely small to what is infinitely great, we shall not be surprised that we cannot penetrate its real principles.

Notwithstanding this imperfection in our abilities, we have no reason to complain that our knowledge of nature is so slight; we have always before us a vast field of improve. ment, in which we are incited to labour by every thing that can arouse and interest. Our faculties are so formed, that by cultivation they improve, and are capable of expanding to a greater degree than is generally supposed; we are continually adding new truths to former experience, and as we proceed we discover more to encourage our researches; and the more enlightened we become, the farther we penetrate into the mysteries of nature, the more we find to raise our ideas of the glory, the power, and the goodness of the Al. mighty Creator. May we always, O God! be favoured with the light of thy holy spirit, to guide us on our way; to enable us rightly to direct that knowledge we are enabled to acquire, and never to mistake or pervert those abilities with which we have been blessed, on the proper or improper use of which depends our future misery or felicity!


The Utility of the Vegetables.

If we consider the great number and diversified appear. ance of vegetables, we shall perceive, as in every thing else, the beneficent designs of the Creator. What other end could he have in view in covering the earth with so many different herbs, plants, and fruits, than the advantage and felicity of his creatures? Such is the number and variety of plants, that upwards of 30,000 species have already been enumerated; and every day more are added to the list. Their increase seems infinite : who, for example, is not astonished when he is told that one single grain of maize (Indian wheat) produces 2000 more; that one poppy-seed multiplies itself so, that, in two or three years, it produces sufficient to sow a large field ? Hence, no one can doubt the care of Providence, particularly when they consider the use that has been made of vegetables from the earliest ages.

Do not fruits and vegetables daily furnish us with the most salubrious and nourishing aliment? And are we not indebted to the vegetable kingdom for the greater part of our clothing, furniture, and habitations? Every part of a plant is of some utility. The roots afford us food, medicines, pitch, dyes, and various utensils. With the wood we construct our buildings, furniture, and different instruments, machines, &c.; it likewise serves us for fuel, and from it we procure charcoal and medicines. The bark is of particular use in tanning, as well as in the cure of some diseases, The ashes are useful in fertilizing and ameliorating the soil, bleaching cloth, and making saltpetre. The resin is used

« PreviousContinue »