Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

tablish it in wisdom and patience. Even the roughest motions of the elements have their use. Winds and storms, which agitate the body of trees and herbs, loosen the earth about their roots, and make way for their fibres to multiply, and to strike more kindly into the soil, to find new nourishment. Thus is nature more effectually progressive when it seems to be stationary or even retrograde; and all things work together for good; which they could never do but. under the foresight and direction of an all-wise Providence.

But above all, the showers of heaven, concurring with the sun, promote the work of vegetation. They keep the matter of the soil soluble, and consequently moveable; for salts cannot act but in a state of solution; they furnish matter for an expansive vapour, which acts internally and externally; and, whatisbutlittle understood, though equally worthy of admiration, the rain brings down with it an invigorating ethereal spirit from the clouds, which gives it an efficacy far beyond all the waterings which human labour can administer. It is here in the kingdom of nature as in the kingdom of grace; nothing can succeed without a blessing from heaven: Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above,and cometh down from the Father of lights *. How commonly do we see, that some seeds which lie still in the ground, and cannot be made to stir by all the waterings of art, will suddenly start up to life as soon as they are touched by a watering from the heavens! Such is the difference between the gifts of God and the gifts of man.

But, thirdly, the goodness of God, as well as his power and wisdom, is displayed in the uses of plants; and it is rather a matter of duty than of curiosity to consider them attentively. It is the wisdom of man

• James i. XJ.

to. learn the will of God from the state of nature, as well as from the pages of revelation; and it is his happiness to follow it when known. According to the state of nature, a preference seems to be given to vegetable diet. For the useful and harmless cattle, which either feed man with their milk, or assist him in his labours, nothing is provided but a vegetable or farinaceous diet. Animal food is proper to wild beasts of fierce and savage natures; and the man who abuses it is too nearly allied to that class of animals. The beasts distinguished by the Levitical Law as proper and wholesome to man are very few. The inhabitants of the waters, which supply a more temperate diet, are administered to us in much greater variety: but the luxuriance of nature is found in the vegetable kingdom; where the roots, leaves, fruits, and seeds of plants, afford all that is most tempting to the eye, gratefulto the taste, and desirable to the appetite. The sweetest food in the world, which is honey, is a composition elaborated by the bee from the flowers of vegetables. The emblematical horn of plenty is not stored with beasts, fowls, and fishes, but with herbs and fruits for the sustenance and delight of man. The efficacy of a vegetable diet, for preserving the body in health, and the mind in a clear and temperate state, hath in all ages been confirmed by the experience-of the wise and good. The greatest instances of longevity have been found among the virtuous and the recluse, who feasted on the herbs and roots which their own hands had cultivated.

.Of the goodness and wisdom of God we have farther evidence in the medicinal herbs. If men obtain the reputation of wisdom by a judicious application of them to the cure of diseases; what must that original wisdom be, which gave them their forms and their faculties! The Lord, saith the son of Sirach, hath created medicines out of the earth, and he that is wise will not despise them*. When he considers who is the author of them, he will be persuaded, that, if understood, they must be found more safe in their use, than the preparations of human art; he will therefore respect their virtues, and give them the preference which is due to them. There is certainly a* momentum in mineral preparations, which produces' sudden and great effects; but their power approaches too near to violence: while the vegetable medicines, ordained to be such by the Creator, are-more congenial to the human constitution ; and thus a reasonable alliance is preserved between the medicine of man and the diet of man; but we never eat minerals, though we use them in medicine: often with some good, and' also with the danger of some bad effect. The mineral materials of a volcano will warm us, as the fuel of any other fire; but at the same time they may suffocate us, or send down ruin upon our heads.

[graphic]

What possible modification of minerals can chemistry exhibit, which will quiet a distempered agitation of the nerves, and lessen the sensation of pain, which would otherwise be insupportable? But this desirable effect is wonderfully produced by the medicinal juice of the poppy, The learned know that there are several effects in medicine, which are never to be obtained but from vegetables; and so persuaded are they of a, specific, salutary power in them, that they apply for help even to such plants as are poisonous. That the poisonous plants have their use, we must presume, because they have the same divine Author with the rest E/cevy Creature of God is good in its proper capacity; but if we. mistake its capacity, we shall abuse it Poi*

• *-Ec?lu8. xxxviii. 4.

sonous herbs, from their great power, may do service internally, in very small quantities; but we should rather suppose, from what we have heard and seen, that they were intended chiefly for external application; in which they can perform wonders; and medicine might perhaps be improved, if more experiments were made in this way. But, it is not my province to enlarge here, and I have nothing but a good meaning to plead for proceeding thus far.

It is now to be observed, lastly, that the same wisdom, which ordained the vegetable creation for the natural use of.feeding and healing the body, hath applied.it also to a moral or intellectual use, for the enlarging of our ideas, and the enlightening of our understandings. It joins its voice in the universal chorus of all created things, and to the ear of reason celebrates the wisdom of the Almighty Creator. As the heavens, from day unto day, and from-night unto night, declare the. glory of God, so do the productions of the earth, all trees and herbs, in their places and seasons speak the same language; from the climates of the north to the torrid regions of the south, and from the winter to the spring and the harvest.

The Holy Scripture hath many wise, and some beautiful allusions to the vegetable creation, for moral and religious instruction. The most ancient piece of this sort is the parable of Jot ham in the book of Judges; •where the dispositions and humours of men, and their effects in society, are illustrated by the different natures of trees. On occasion of Abimelech's treachery, Jotham tells the people, under the form of a fable, that the trees went forth to anoint them a king; and when all the good and honourable, as the olive, the fig-tree, and the vine, declined the trouble of ruling in society, the bramble offered his services, and invited them to trust in his shadow*. Thus it happened in the case of Abimekch: and doth not experience shew us at this day, that the moral is still good? that the worst, and most worthless, are always the most forward to thrust themselves into power, and promise great things; how safe and happy we should be under their shadow! As if brambles, of a nature to tear the skin, and draw blood from every part of the body, and fit for nothing but to be burned out of the way, could form an agreeable shade for the people to sit under. The good and the virtuous, who are fruitful and happy in themselves, would be deprived of their internal comforts by the hurry and danger which attend the possession of power: but bad men who have no source of content and enjoyment within themselves are always so forward to seek it without themselves, and would turn the world upside down, or tear its inhabitants to pieces, to satisfy their own ambition. When circumstances conspire to bring those into action who are most Worthy of power, then people sit under the vine, and under the fig-tree, in the enjoyment of peace and plenty.

Our blessed Saviour, with a like allusion, hath referred us to the natural state and condition of plants and flowers; thence to learn the unprofitableness of that anxiety and distrust, with which we seek after the things of this world. Consider the lilies, how they growIf so God clothe, the grass of the field, shall he not much more clothe you\? As if he had said: "You admire the beautiful clothing of a flower ; and indeed it is worthy of all admiration; the God on whom you depend is the author of its wonderful contexture; whence you ought to learn, that if he hath bestowed this rich attire upon the inferior part of the creation, * See Judges ix. 8, Sec. f Matt. vi. 22.

« AnteriorContinuar »