Puslapio vaizdai

Nothing is more conducive to our happiness and welfare than a just sense of our native dignity; but this is not to be obtained without reflection, without adverting to the qualities of our fellow creatures, who seem in so many respects beneath us, or without attention to the more magnificent operations of Nature, where our ideas are tolt in wonder. When we regard only our inferiors, we seem almost divinities; when we inveftigate the ftupendous displays of power discovered by obfervation, we seem less than nothing, and vanity! brn oldéu fom II The progrefs of thofe LECTURES, to which this is intre ductory, will occafionally requeft your attention LabIES? and GENTLEMEN, to both thefe extremes. The prodi-s giously extenfive magnitude of fome fubjects, their furprif: ing properties, their astonishing effects, furpass the powerss of language:-let me, on fuch inftances, befpeak your! candid indulgence; where genius, and learning, and philo fophy themselves fail, let a humble follower of them expect: fuccefs with diffidence. Nor is it lefs difficult to do juftice. to other articles whofe extreme minutene fs conceals many of their peculiar wonders; but, if an earnest defire for your: information and entertainment, may be thought, in. any degree to counterbalance thefe impediments, I flatter myselfwe fhall have no just reafon to regret the time spent in thefe difcourfes.


Is it neceffary. I fhould enlarge on the benefits of ac quaintance with natural knowledge, or point out the?


[ocr errors]

advantages derived from infpection of natural objects ? Shall I tell you, this distinguishes polite life from favage barbarity that, to be ignorant, is perpetual childhood; that the faculties of the mind are not only matured, buti enlarged by reflection; that to remain below thofe attain-t ments, to which we are competent, is injuftice to our? talents, and to our enjoyments? or shall I expatiate on the entertainment, the delight of knowledge, and the pleasures! arifing from elegant fudy? You will readily own, that there is in the human mind a conflant thirst after novelty, an ardent desire of further acquifitions; never fatisfied with its actual poffeffions, never contented with its present ftores, it rufhes after propofed benefits, and explores with unwearied affiduity every quarter in which it fufpects new or unnoticed information 1.09 Tu eldrol In fact, this difpofition of the mind is notorious; nor is it unaccompanied by hazard and rifk: not a few have to regret that their rapacity for knowledge was not moderated, I many respects, and, on many occafions, not a few may juflly envy a happy ignorance, of much, whofe acquainte ance has coft them dear: thefe, while they are inftances of a general defire of knowledge, are alfo proofs of the neceffity that it fhould be directed by. fagacity and virtue that it is not the quantity, but the quality of information which renders it valuable, Knowledge, is a remedynfor.. difcafes of the mind; but who takes remedies indiscrimi, I nately? Knowledge is like decoration,-in its juft place, in its proper time, in its happy application,elegant, but dif



B 2


gusting, if composed of shreds and patches, if polluted by filth, or contaminated by infection.

Not to knowledge contaminated by infection, or polluted by filth, are you now invited; not to an entertainment of flattering but poisoned viands; not to prefent pleasure, fucceeded by future woe: I moft willingly hope your fatisfaction will be COMPLETE; that while I speak, you will be entertained; that on recollection, you will be benefited; that no figh at time loft, no regret at learning-to be unlearned, will ever fucceed the attention you are pleased to bestow on the subjects I fhall offer to your notice.

Nor do I think, that merely to do no harm, to diffeminate no evil, to propagate no injurious principles, that negative virtue only should content those who defire to poffefs valuable information. It seems to be our duty to unite moral improvement to natural fcience. Is it not defirable, to become better as we become wifer? Methinks I would willingly learn more than one leffon; and while, by confideration and ftudy I improve my understanding, why not also amend my heart? If I learn greater complacency of mind, greater equanimity of conduct, greater serenity of temper, greater humanity of deportment, greater benevolence toward man, greater piety toward God, the acquifition is important, and the occafion of it happy. If, when I fee the general care of Providence over its works, how it has fitted them to their stations, and their stations to them, how it preferves and maintains them throughout innumerable revolutions, how it continues their order,



suffers no chaẩm, no extinction, no deficiency,-If, when I remark this, I become more refigned, more contented, more humble, who will deny my advantage? If, when I reflect how ferocious animals are banifhed to arid defarts and to fultry waftes, I learn to moderate every ferocity in my own breast, am I not improved? I will avoid the hifs of the ferpent, left I be thought to poffefs his venom; I will fan no one to fleep while I fuck his blood, fo does the noxious bat; I will couch for no one, and then spring on my prey; it marks the cruel tyger: rather, while I livebe my labours of service, like those of the generous horse, or the patient ox; when I die-be they useful as the fleece bequeathed by the uncomplaining sheep.

If there be any person so profoundly ignorant, or fo wantonly malevolent, as to deny the moral advantages arifing from natural science, yet let fuch an one acknowledge that he is daily beholden to his acquaintance with it for innumerable benefits. By what are we informed of the proper periods of rest and repofe? who appoints the returns of feed-time and harvest? what harbinger relates the expected changes from heat to cold, from cold to heat? who regulates the returning tide? who measures the lapfe of time? I confefs, the ruftic may enjoy effects, without understanding their causes; the failor may tide down his paffage, without perceiving the origin of the rifing flood: Yet, to these very persons a knowledge of the principles connected with the element they manage, could do no harm,

might prove extremely useful, and must be a fource of con stant pleasure.



But to thofe whofe circumstances in life permit as amusement, that they may employ their time in elegant. ftudies, or to those whose occupations require entertaining intervals, nothing can be more fuitable than fuch SURVEYS of NATURE as I mean, in the progrefs of this undertaking, to offer for your reflections; and, perhaps, the time may come, when the recollection of a hint now delivered, may afford fignal benefit to fome of my auditory: It may, perhaps, afsist in diftrefs of body, or exigence of mind; may contribute to freedom from disease, or deliverance from superstition..



[ocr errors]

How often have I pitied thofe days of ignorance, when credulity was impofed upon by pretended magic! when natural science seemed productive of effects beyond human fkill! when the enamel fwan followed the magnetic knife which offered bread,-this way-that way, as if fenfible of the food, and folicitous to peck at it. I conceive, with a mixture of pity and regret, the exclamations and furprise. of the beholders: but pity and regret increase, when we confider to how many illufions fuch knowledge has given fupport, what advantages have been taken by predicted eclipfes, by ignited vapours, by: oracular spectra; and these too, in all ages and parts of the world, not confined to the facred oak, or to the founding ftatue of Memnon.

Happily thefe days of obfcurity are (to us) ceafed; we do not take upon trust the blood of Adonis (or "Thammuz


« AnkstesnisTęsti »