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AND GOD MADE THE BEAST OF THE EARTH AFTER HIS KIND, AND CATTLE. AFTER THEIR KIND, AND EVERY THING THAT CREEPETH UPON THE EARTH AFTER HIS KIND: AND GOD
SAW THAT IT WAS GOOD. GEN. 1. 25.
HEN the works of God were finished, his eye surveyed them, and saw that they were good; that they were perfect in their construction, and capable of answering all the ends to which they were appointed. As far as man can observe this goodness in the works of nature, and see the mind of the Creator in the creature, so far he sees things as God sees them, and becomes partaker of a divine pleasure.
On a former occasion, I endeavoured to point out some of that goodness which is
found in the vegetable kingdom*: from whence I shall now proceed to the animal, with a desire to trace the same goodness in the structure, qualities, and economy of living creatures but confining myself chiefly to those spoken of in the text, beasts and cattle.
When vegetable and animal life are compared, different things are to be admired, but nothing is to be preferred; for the wisdom of the Creator, being infinite, is every where equal to itself to its works nothing can be added with advantage, nothing can be taken. from them without loss. All things are perfect in their several kinds, and possessed of that goodness or sufficiency which must be found in every work of God.
Yet there is a visible series or scale in the natural creation; where those derivative powers which are in the creature, rise from the lower to the higher, and keep ascending regularly till we can follow them no farther. When we pass from a lower to an higher order of beings, some new faculty presents itself to our admiration. Thus, betwixt plants and animals there are essential differences, which
* See the preceding Sermon on the Religious Use of Botanical Philosophy.
immediately strike us. A plant is a system of life, but insensitive, and fixed to a certain spot. An animal hath voluntary motion, sense, or perception, and is capable of pain and pleasure. Yet in the construction of each there are some general principles which very obviously connect them. It is literally as well as metaphorically true, that trees have limbs, and an animal body branches. A vascular system is also common to both, in the channels of which life is maintained and circulated. When the trachea, with its branches in the lungs, or the veins and arteries, or the nerves, are separately represented, we have the figure of a tree. The leaves of trees have a fibrous and a fleshy part; their bark is a covering, which answers to the skin in animals. An active vapour pervades them both, and perspires from both, which is necessary to the preservation of health and vigour.
The parallel might be extended to their wounds and distempers: but we must not be too minute, when our purpose is rather to raise devotion than to satisfy curiosity. However, it ought not to be omitted, that the vis vitæ, or involuntary, mechanical force of animal life, is kept up by the same elements
which act upon plants for their growth and support.
The organs of respiration, acted upon by the air, are as the first wheel in a machine, which receives the moving power; heat preserves the fluidity of the blood and humours, and acts as an expanding force in the stomach, heart, and blood-vessels; which force is counteracted from without by the atmospherical pressure; for the want of which, the vessels would be ruptured by the prevailing of the force within.
The nerves form another distinct branch of the animal system, and are accommodated by the Creator to the action of that subtile, forcible fluid, which in its different capacities we sometimes call light, and sometimes ether. Late experiments have shewn us how little this acts on the blood-vessels, and how powerfully on the nerves and muscles, the functions of which it will therefore restore, and hath done in several cases, when they have been impaired by diseases or accidents.
The animal mechanism, and the forces of life, are things fearful and wonderful in themselves, and of such deep research, that I am afraid of venturing too far: but
thus far I
think we are safe, that animal life, considered only as motion, is maintained like the other motions of nature, by the action of contrary forces; in which there is this wonderful property, that neither appears to have the priority; and their joint effect is a motion, which in theory is perpetual. The flame of a candle cannot burn without fire, nor be lighted without air which of these is first we cannot say, for they seem co-instantaneous; and they continue to work together till the matter fails which they work upon.
Thus, when an animal is born into the world, and the candle of life is lighted up, it is hard to give any precedence to the elementary powers which support it. The weight of the atmosphere forces into the lungs, as soon as they are exposed to its action, that air which is the breath of life; but this could not happen, unless the more subtile element were to occasion a rarefaction within: and this reciprocation, once begun, is continued through life: though it will fail if either of the elements cease to act upon it. With extreme cold, the circulation of the blood will stop; and the want of air, or the admission of that which is improper, will extinguish the vital motion in the lungs. But here, But here, as the power