Page images
PDF
EPUB

ship to each other; and that the process of freezing and rising in vapor are constant appearances, when they are combined in these proportions, other conditions being the same.

8. The ideas to be chiefly kept in view are, First, That all substances and beings have received a definite, natural constitution; Secondly, That every mode of action, which is said to take place according to a natural law, is inherent in the constitution of the substance or being and, Thirdly, That the mode of action described is universal and invariable, wherever and whenever the substances or beings are found in the same condition. For example, water, at the level of the sea, freezes and boils at the same temperature, in China, in France, in Peru, and in England; and there is no exception in the regu. larity with which it exhibits these appearances, when all its other conditions are ne same.

9. There are no exceptions to the laws of nature ; for the Creator is too wise and too powerful to make imperfect or inconsistent arrangements. The error is in the human mind inferring the law to be, that water boils at 212° in every altitude; when the real law is only that it boils at that temperature, at the level of the sea, in all countries,--and that it boils at a lower temperature the higher it is carried, because then the pressure of the atmosphere is less.

10. Intelligent beings are capable of observing nature and of modifying their actions. By means of their faculties, the laws impressed by their Creator on physical substances become known to them; and, when perceived, constitute laws to them, by which to regulate their conduct. For example, it is a physical law, that boiling water destroys the muscular and nervous systems of man. This is the result purely of the constitution of the body, and the relation between it and heat; and man can not alter or suspend the law. But whenever the relation,

8. What principles are to be kept in view ? What are the effects, as they appear to our minds, when the conditions under which these laws act are changed ? Give examples of the action of a law of nature as applied to water.

9. Are there any exceptions to the laws of nature ? What sometimes causes apparent exceptions ? 10. Can man find cut the laws which govern nature ?

How? What effect should a knowledge of these laws have on the conduct of man ?

and the consequences of disregarding it, are perceived, the mind is prompted to avoid infringement, in order to shun the torture attached by the Creator to the decomposition of the human body by heat.

11. If, then, the reader keep in view that God is the creator; that nature, in the general sense, means the world which He has made,—and in a more limited sense, the particular constitution which He has bestowed on any special object, of which we may be treating ;—and that a law of nature means the established mode in which the actions and phenomena of any creature or object exhibit themselves, and the obligation thereby imposed on intelligent beings to attend to it,—he will be in no danger of misunderstanding my meaning.

12. Every natural object has received a definite constitution, in virtue of which it acts in a particular way. There must, therefore, be as many natural laws as there are distinct modes of action of substances and beings viewed by themselves.

But substances and beings stand in certain relations to each other, and modify each other's action in an established and definite manner, according to that relationship; altitude, for instance, modifies the effect of heat upon water. There must, therefore, be also as many laws of nature as there are relations between different substances and beings.

13. I shall therefore confine myself to the physical laws, the organic laws, and the laws which characterize intelligent beings.

The physical laws embrace all the phenomena of mere matter: a heavy body, for instance, when unsupported, falls to the ground with a certain accelerating force, in proportion to the distance which it falls, and its own density; and this motion is said to take place according to the law of gravitation. An acid applied to a vegetable blue color converts it into red, and this is said to take place according to a chemical law.

11. What does the author of this work wish the reader to keep in view ? What is the meaning of nature, in its general sense ? What does a law of nature mean?

12. Are there many natural laws ? How many are there?

13. To what does the author confine himself? What do physical laws em. brace ?

14. Organized substances and beings stand higher in the scale of creation, and have properties peculiar to themselves. They act, and are acted upon, in conformity with their constitution, and are therefore said to be subject to a peculiar set of Jaws, termed the Organic. The distinguishing characteristic of this class of objects is, that the individuals of them derive their existence from other organized beings, are nourished by food, and go through a regular process of growth and decay. Vegetables and animals are the two great subdivisions of it. The organic laws are different from the merely physical : a stone, för example, does not spring from a parent stone ; it does not take food; it does not increase in vigor for a time, and then decay and suffer dissolution ; all which processes characterize vegetables and animals.

15. The organic laws are superior to the merely physical. A living man, or animal, may be placed in an oven, along with the carcass of a dead animal, and remain exposed to a heat which will completely bake the dead flesh, and yet come out alive, and not seriously injured. The dead flesh is mere physical matter, and its decomposition by the heat instantly commences; but the living animal is able, by its organic qualities, to counteract and resist, to a certain extent, that influence. The organic laws, therefore, mean the established modes according to which all phenomena connected with the production, health, growth, decay, and death, of ve es and animals, take place. In the case of each animal or vegetable of the same kind, their action is always the same, in the same circumstances. Animals are the chief objects of my present observations.

16. Intelligent beings stand yet -higher in the scale than merely organized matter, and embrace all animals that have distinct consciousness, from the lowest of the inferior creatures

14. How do organic bodies differ from inorganic ? What bodies belong to the organic class ? Are the organic laws different from the physical ? Give some illustrations. 15. Which are superior, the organic or physical laws ?

What do organic laws menn? What are the chief objects of the author's present observations ?

16. Where are intelligent beings placed in the scale of being ? What dous this class embrace? What are the two great divisions of this class ?

up to man. The two great divisions of this class are, Intelligent and Animal, and Intelligent and Moral creatures. The dog, horse, and elephant, for instance, belong to the former class, because they possess some degree of intelligence, and certain animal propensities, but no moral feelings; man belongs to the second, because he possesses all the three.

CHAPTER II.

NATURAL LAWS CONTINUED.

1. SEVERAL important principles strike us very early in attending to the natural laws, viz., First, Their independence of each other; Secondly, That obedience to each of them is attended with its own reward, and disobedience with its own punishment; Thirdly, That they are universal, unbending, and invariable in their operation; Fourthly, That they are in harmony with the constitution of man.

2. The independence of the natural laws may be illustrated thus :—A ship floats because a part of it being immersed displaces a weight of water equal to its whole weight, leaving the remaining portion above the fluid. A ship, therefore, will float on the surface of the water as long as these physical conditions are observed; no matter although the men in it should infringe other natural laws—as for example, although they should rob, murder, blaspheme, and commit every species of debauchery; and it will sink whenever the physical conditions are subverted, however strictly the crew and passengers may obey the moral laws.

3. In like manner, a man who swallows poison, which destroys the stomach or intestines, will die, just because an organic law has been infringed, and because it acts independently of

1. When we investigate the natural laws, what important facts strike us first?

2. Can you illustrate the independence of natural laws ?
3. Can you give further examples of the independence of these laws ?

[ocr errors]

others, although he should have taken the drug by mistake, or have been the most pious and charitable individual on earth. Or, thirdly, a man may cheat, lie, steal, tyrannizo, and, in short, break a great variety of the moral laws, and nevertheless be fat and rubicund, if he sedulously observe the organic laws of temperance and exercise ; while, on the other hand, an individual who neglects these, may pine in disease, and be racked with torturing pains, although at the very moment he may be devoting his mind to the highest duties of humanity.

4. Obedience to each law is attended with ils own reward, and disobedience with its own punishment. Thus the mariners who preserve their ship in accordance with the physical laws, reap the reward of sailing in safety; and those who permit a departure from them, are punished by the ship sinking. People who obey the moral law, enjoy the intense internal delights that spring from active moral faculties; they render themselves, moreover, objects of affection and esteem to moral and intelligent beings, who, in consequence, confer on them many other gratifications.

5. Those who disobey that law, are tormented by insatiable desires, which, from the nature of things, can not be gratified. they are punished by the perpetual craving of whatever portion of moral sentiment they possess, for higher enjoyments, which are never attained; and they are objects of dislike and malevolence to other beings of similar dispositions with themselves, who inflict on them the evils dictated by their own provoked propensities. Those who obey the organic laws, reap the reward of health and vigor of body and buoyancy of mind; while those who break them are punished by sickness, feebleness, languor, and pain.

6. The natural laws are universal, invariable, and unbending. When the physical laws are infringed in China or Kamtschatka, there is no instance of a ship floating there more than in England; and, when they are observed, there is no instance of

4. What is said of obedience and disobedience of each law? What are the consequences of obeying the moral law ? 5. What follows from disobedience of the moral law ?

What are the consequences of obedience and disobedience of the organic laws?

6. What is characteristic of the natural laws ? Give some examples.

« PreviousContinue »