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The Manner of Understanding
Indeed very near,
Printed by H. WOODFALL;
(Price I s. 6 d.)
T is impossible to view the immensity, the variety, the harmony, and the beauty of the Universe, without con. cluding it to be the workmanship of a Being infiniccly powerful, wife, and good.
It is impossible to examine the structure of the most inconsiderable plant or animal, without being surpriz'd with such admirable contrivance, as pronounces the author infinitely intelligent, and excludes all suspicion, that it ow'd its origin to blind chance.
The vegetable world is adjusted with such amazing skill, that each plant, perfect in its own kind, is supported, and propagated, mecha. nically, by the unorring action of the sun, the air, and the earth where it grows; irs seeds, by that mechanism, produce new plants of the same kind; and the herb, that perishes with the season, clothes the fields with the same livery against the next : that brute matter, inert, and infensible, should be framed so as to perform such wonders, shews wisdom, and power, far beyond the comprehension of the most per. fect man. The a&tion of the material powers in this system upon
orga. nized body of a plant preserves, and propagates it; its roots shoot out into the soil where it grows, there it finds abundant aliment for perfe&ting its trunk, and preparing its feeds, and those seeds are dropped where they meet the like encouragement: but it is not so with animals; the niost perfect of the kind, left to the diredion of material, and mechanical powers only, must perilh without rearing any fuc. ceflion.
Vegetables and animals are so far similar, that both require constant supplies of fresh juices; but in this they differ, that nature mechani-, cally reaches to the one the supply it wants, whereas the other must, by Tome act of its own, find and fetch it; and therefore in aniinals,
(4) besides matter and mechanisms, there is an a&ive principle; somewhat, of which we have no conception or knowledge but by its effects, that finds, prepares, and takes in proper nourishment, and determines to the propagation, and preservation of its own species.
By what lort of mechanism this principle ads on, or is affected by, the meer matter to which it is joind, we cannor at all conceive; but this we see, that it calls all the brute animal creation to those acts that are nccellary for self preservation, and propagating the species; each class of animals is highly induftrious to compass these ends; and, if we inay judge by what we feel transacting in the brute part of our selves, there is in them a strong desire to do those acts that are neceffary for the support of themselves, and a very sensible pleasure attend. ing the gratification of that desire.
It does not appear to us that plants are sensible of pleasure or pain, whereas animals we know are affected by both. To a plant it is indifferent whether it is supported or not, but to an animal it is not so; it taftes felicity in receiving the neceffary supplies, and languishes under want; the pleasure it receives in feeding is the motive to look for food, and it is bribed to support itself by the happinels it meets with in taking in its nourichment; what the plant does neceffarily, the ani. mal does from choice, and is highly rewarded, by the pleasure it re. ceives, for every act of its duty in preserving itself, and propagating.
Who can give attention to thisæconomy, and at the same time refleet on the profute supply that nature every where affords, for the support of aheinfinite numbers of animals of different kinds that swarm upon this Globe, without concluding, that overflowing goodness and benevolence is an attribute of the infinitely wise, and powerful Author of Nature?
*In looking over the whole animal creation one sees infinite varie. ty of inftin&s, and talents, fome approaching nearer, some more remote from, those dispositions that are to be met with in man, but all tending to the preservation of the creature poflest of them; but it does not appear to us that the fagacity, or discerning, of the Brute gues any further than to its own immediate preservation, and promoting what its inftin& leads it to; in this consists the brute's felicity, it seems to be the measure of its understanding, from which it never swerves.
When Man turns his eyes inwards, upon himself, he sees in him. self the brute in great perfection, similar calls to preserve life, and to propagate the species, and similar gratifications for obeying those calls; but then he feels somewhat in himself more noble; somewhat that diftinguishes him from all the rest of the animal creation, that falls within his knowledge; he is conscious of reflection, he can compli. care Ideas, and compare them together ; he can discover the relations of things; he can perceive the bcauty, the order, the harmony of the creation; he can, in the creatures, see the power, the wisdom, and the goodness of the Creator; he finds in himself an unsatiable thirst after fomewhat that has no connection with the body, after know,
(5) ledge; a strong desire to contemplate, a disposition to admire, and to imitate perfection; a natural propensity to gratitude, and thankful. ness for favours; and, when he carries his thoughts to the fountain of all wisdom, power, and goodness, the Author of the creation, a fulness of heart that breaks out in gladness, and adoration.
When Man considers that he alone, of all the animal creation, has gor eyes to see the beauty, and excellency of the Universe ; that he alone has got an understanding to discover the perfection of the Creator in his works; that he alone has got a soul fitted to admire, to adore, and to rejoice in the goodness, and perfection of his Maker, talents unnecessary for preserving his life, or propagating the species, but talents that qualify him for enjoying a much more permanent, and: exalted kind of felicity than the other animals seem capable of relishing: Can he doubt that those eyes, this understanding, and that disposition of mind, was given him to fit him for seeing, admiring, and adoring the fountain of all goodness and being? Can he question that the doing so is indispensably his duty, as it would be his felicity and can he imagine he answers the End of his creation, if, negle&ting this care of thote talents, he give himfelf wholly up to pursue those plea. sures that are common to him with the brutes.
The brutal appetites, and enjoyments, are nicely proportioned to their ends, the preservation, and propagation of the animal; the appetites call regularly for what is necessary, and are fierce, in proportion as the want is great; when the want is supplied, the desire ceases; excess satiates, palls the appetite, and disorders the Machine.
It is not so with the mental pursuits, and pleasures; the mind is abe solutely insatiable; the more it knows, the keener it thirsts after knowledge; its defires are endlels, and the object infinite.
Besides the power of thinking, Man has the faculty of communicating by speech, and recording his thoughts. The observation of each individual, and within the compass of a short life, could not go very far in science; but we are so made, that each may be helped by the discoveries of each other; the desire of communicating knowledge is almost as strong as the desire to know; and, as the end of the capacity to know is manifestly to discover the excellency of the Creator in his works, that the Man may be filled with admiration, and acknowledgment, it is impossible to doubt that the end of the faculty of fpeech is to express, and communicate to each other what we several. ly discover, to enlarge our ideas of the divine perfections, and to join in expressions of acknowledgement, and praise.
It is not so with the Brute; that is made to Thew; and not to know, the excellency of the Creator.
One difference there is, highly remarkable, between the meer animal, and the rational creature ; Nature produces, spontaneous, all that is necesary for the brute; whereas some art, besides industry, is necessary to make what nature furnishes useful, and comfortable to man.