Page images

of his pleasures were innocent, that some of his pursuits were calm, that he was not wholly given up to sensuality. I should argue that there was a delicacy in his mind, that excess had not rooted out, that there was sacred principle in his heart, which survived amidst corruption; and I should go on to argue that this delicacy, that this principle, would be made to grow and thrive by study, by the direction of the thoughts to their culture, till, at last, the desert place would become a garden. But the study of nature has its religious, as well as its moral uses. I cannot say that all those who cultivate a taste for natural history, cultivate, in conjunction, religious affections and convictions. Men will sometimes perversely separate those things, which God intends to unite, and which always flourish better, when that intention is fulfilled. Nor do I mean to say that men cannot be religious and pious, unless they study nature, and natural history. — Piety has more sources and supports than one. If one source fails, piety does not necessarily dry up, because it is still fed from other fountains. If one support is deficient, yet piety may not fall, because there are other foundations to hold it up. Happy for us that it is so. It is nevertheless true, most true, that the study and contemplation of nature leads directly, and by an easy and excellent way, to the adoration and love of nature's God; that the examination of the living, varied and exquisite mechanism about us, constructed not by human hands, may be the daily means of our beholding and acknowledging the planning, ruling, forming hand of the AlmightyTestimony to this truth has been borne abundantly by the best and wisest of men; by poets, naturalists, philosophers. “To see all things in God,” say Kirby and Spence, in the preface to their valuable and delightful work on Entomology, “has been accounted one of the peculiar privileges


* of a future state; and in this present life, to see God in all things, in the mirror of creation, to behold and adore the reflected glory of the Creator, is no mean attainment; and it possesses this advantage, that thus we sanctify our pursuits, and instead of loving the creatures for themselves, are led by the survey of them, and their instincts, to the

love of Him, who made, and endowed them.” The poet of the Seasons has grown somewhat old fashioned, and though he still holds his rank among poets, is not often quoted. Let him however, be a witness here —

“And yet was every faltering tongue of man,
Almighty Father silent in thy praise,
Thy works themselves would raise a general voice,
E’en in the depth of solitary woods,
By human foot untrod; proclaim thy power,
And to the choir celestial Thee resound,
The eternal cause, support, and end of all.”

[ocr errors]

Natural History is divided into three branches, denominated the animal, mineral, and vegetable kingdoms. The study of each of them is in the highest degree useful and interesting. If we examine minerals with care, instead of finding them to consist of a confused mass of stones and earths, we shall discover in them the most astonishing system of regularity and arrangement. If we attend to plants and trees, we shall find them grouped into orders and classes, and amid an almost endless variety of hues and forms, shall yet perceive a wonderful degree of system and plan in their distribution and contrivance.

But the animal kingdom, denominated Zoology, affords a still more attractive subject of contemplation and investigation. The science is divided into several branches. At the head of the animal creation is man, who stands alone, there being no other of the species. In the next place comes the class of Quadrupeds; then Birds; then Fishes; then Reptiles and Serpents, and then Insects. We shall give some account of them in their order.

Q U A D R U P E D S.

If we descend by regular gradations, from man to those classes, which approach nearest to him in their nature and their habits, we must, on every account, assign the first rank to the quadruped part of creation; since whether we direct our attention to their form and structure, or to their manners and instincts, we shall find them more correspondent to our own than those of any other order of animated beings.

The general anatomy of the monkey tribe is so analagous to that of man, that it requires some skill in physiology to make the distinction; and even those quadrupeds that least resemble us, when they erect themselves in an upright position, still preserve striking marks of their af. finity. And if we go still farther, and compare their internal structure with our own, the likeness will be found still to increase, and we shall perceive many advantages they enjoy in common with us, over the lower tribes of nature.

Even in the passions of man, nay, in the most amiable of the passions, we find some species of this class, no contemptible rivals. What can equal the attachment of a dog to its master Even over the grave that contained his dust has this animal been known to breathe its last. With what fidelity does it accompany, with what constancy does it follow, with what attention does it defend its master! What eagerness to obtain his caresses : What docility in obeying him : What patience in suffering his bad humors, and his frequently unjust corrections ! What emotion,


what anxiety, what sorrow, when he is absent : What joy when he returns! From all these circumstances, is it possible not to distinguish friendship 2 Even among ourselves is it expressed with superior energy The forms and instincts of animals are adapted to their situations. However superficially man may suppose the sloth and mole to be wretched and helpless creatures, their life is probably a life of luxury to them, and if abridged in one pleasure, it may be doubled in those that remain. The heads of quadrupeds are in general calculated for their manner of living. In some, it is sharp, in order to enable the animal to turn up the earth in which its food lies. In some, it is long, in order to give room for the olfactory nerves, as in dogs, which hunt by the scent. In others it is short, as in the lion, to give the head greater strength, and fit it the better for combat. The teeth of animals are also fitted to the nature of their food. In those which live upon flesh, they are sharp, and fitted for holding and dividing; in those which subsist on vegetable diet, they are calculated for grinding or pounding their aliment. Their legs also are equally adapted to the life they are intended to lead. The feet of some that live upon fishing are webbed, and calculated for swimming. Animals of prey have their feet armed with claws, which some can sheathe and unsheathe at will. The stomach is generally proportioned to the quality of the food. In those that live upon flesh, it is small and glandular. On the contrary, animals that live upon vegetables have the stomach very large, and those which chew the cud, have no less than four stomachs, though in Africa, where the plants are soft and nutritious, some of this class have only two. The number of species, in the quadruped class, which may be said to have distinct marks or characters, is usually stated at two hundred; though late authors have enumerated two hundred and eighty, and even some minute philosophers have subdivided them into upwards of four hundred.

[ocr errors]

The structure of birds is, in most respects, entirely dissimilar both from that of man or of quadrupeds. One obvious distinction between this class of animals and the quadruped part of creation is, that instead of hair, birds are covered with feathers, and these appear to be nourished and kept in order in a different manner from the hair of animals. Lest the feathers should spoil by exposure to the air, the bird is furnished with a gland, containing a proper quantity

« PreviousContinue »