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The general ORDER, since the whole began,
EVERY, the humblest, student of the sublime economy of our being, must acknowledge the fidelity of Hamlet's eloquent apostrophe
What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason ! how infinite in faculties! in form and moving how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals!
In that lofty sentiment is embodied the choicest truth which can grace the page of natural humanity!
The circumstances of Time and of Eternity—the one with its busy, brisk, anxieties,—its pleasures, its pains, its origin, and end; the other with its dread responsibility, and its infinite duration-remind us how importantly we are related to the objects of Earth, and yet admonish us how soon that relation may be extinct.
It is thus that the best subject for our contemplation is ourselves. By how much the more we conduct such study aright, by so much the more we convert the Mortal into the Oracle. We solve the great problem of existence, and interpret the dark enigma of the grave; we learn how best to live, and from such lesson become wiser and better men. We mark the frailty of human hopes, and the instability of human happiness; we see “men going to their graves like flowers” -to-day the ancient, to-morrow the infant of a span long-in Death we discover Life's second childhood—we return to it as to the breast whence we came, and are weaned !
We acknowledge another and yet happier truth—that we are all formed from the same clay and gifted by the same God; and that in the solemn equality of the grave, the feverish fretful distinctions of society are at rest. There, in their last sleep, mouldering and mingling into one shapeless dust, alike food for the worm that lives on death, lie the victor and the vanquished; the peasant and the prince; the old man and the child of yesterday; the philosopher and the babbling idiot; the “wicked" with their “troubling," and the “weary" of this life—their triumph and tribulation over, the common tomb receives them, and an epitaph is all their fame.
Were it permitted unto us to call the FUTURE from its cradle and the Past out of its grave, we should be told this strange tale of humiliation—that the body we now inhabit had lived aforetime, briefly tenanted by another soul; that it had flourished, prodigal of its beauty and its strength; that it had withered, died, and rotted in the earth; that the mould into which it turned was trodden underfoot of some, whom, as a living thing it once companioned; that it was again organized, and endowed with vitality, to “move and have a being;” and that in its state of resurrection it constitutes ourselves! We should be further told that this, our present materiality, having served as a medium of thought, and will, and action, for the soul during its worldly sojourn, will again become the habitation of worms, perish for a season, and revive into active agency for another generation.
And so, from hour to hour, we ripe and ripe,
* To treat the subject more specifically-death is followed by decomposition, whereby the materials which chiefly constitute our organism, viz, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, and carbon, are liberated as ases, either in a free state, or in various forms of combination. These gases are, some of them, directly appropriated to nutrition by the human organization ; others of them intermediately nutrify us through the vegetable world, of which they first compose a part.
Præterea, cunctas itidem res vortere sese:
LUCRETIUS DE RER. Nat. 2. 873.
Thus all things change to all things : foliage, fruits,
Thus Pope, and DARWIN
See dying vegetables life sustain,
ESSAY ON MAX.
Organic forms with chemic changes strive,
TEMPLE OF NATURE, 2. 48.
Not only does the study of ourselves tell us in that VOICE OF WARNING, heard in the calm of thought, “whence we came and whither we are hastening;" but it reveals to us in that VOICE OF WISDOM, with which all Nature is eloquent, the beauty and harmony of the universe. We shall learn from it the mutual relation and dependence of things—of the insect that glitters in the sunbeam, and the luminary that warms it-of the atoms that float through space, and the orbs peopled with busy multitudes—of the microcosm or world
and the macrocosm by which we are surrounded. We shall trace the unvarying action of the laws which govern matter-pure after the lapse of ages, as in their primitive operation—the same at this moment, as when in our world's infancy, the morning stars in their grand chorus “shouted together for joy," and the Author of Creation saw that the latest of His works was “good.”
SECTS.-MATERIALISTS AND SPIRITUALISTS.
The study of the human economy in its physical and intellectual entities and relations, has ever distinguished two classes of philosophers—Materialists and Spiritualists. The former deny the separate existence of mind, and avow the entire sufficiency of matter, for the manifestation of all intellectual phenomena; the latter declare the incompetency
“ The germinal power of the plant transmutes the fixed air and the elementary base of water into grass or leaves ; and on these the organific principle of the ox or the elephant exercises an alchemy still more stupendous. As the unseen agency weaves its magic eddies, the foliage becomes indifferently the bone and its marrow, the pulpy brain, or the solid ivory."-COLERIDGE.
of matter to exhibit organic or animal activity without the agency of some presiding force, which they believe to be immaterial,* intangible, and immortal. It has been variously denominated aveŪua, tuxò, anima, † spiritus, the “breath of life.” It is the Archæus of Paracelsus and Van Helmont; the Anima, or rational soul, of Stahl; the Vis conservatrix, and Vis Medicatrix Naturæ, of Hoffman and Cullen; and the Vital Principle of some modern physiologists. By the Spiritualists generally, this immaterial entity is believed to be a something specially designed to impart vital energy and activity to matter; but by others of them it is supposed to be a part of Deity Himself, a divinæ particula aure. This doctrine is traceable to Plato and Pythagoras ; it is intimately connected with the fanciful notion of metempsychosis; and
* By some of the ancient philosophers, Pythagoras who originated the theory, and Plato and Aristotle who followed him, the soul was imagined to consist of an immaterial mind and a sensitive matter—the former, immortal, was denominated oprin—the latter, perishable with the body, was termed ovpòsThe Oprily or immaterial mind was supposed to be incapable of a separate existence, and after having quitted the body, to be surrounded by an ox nude or vehicle of material ether, until some other body was prepared to receive it.
+ The feminine term anima was generally used to signify the source or cause of physical life, or life itself; but its masculine animus, was employed to designate mind only. The distinction is well preserved in Juvenal
In particular I may mention one, who upon subjects of science seldom fails to write like a wise man, and upon subjects of morality never fails to write like a good one, Professor Alison, my late esteemed Preceptor in the University of Edinburgh. Though differing from him in opinion upon a much disputed question in Physiology, I cannot here withold a voluntary tribute to his excellence, in the expression of a belief that, many a pilgrim in the of fame, will pause over his memory with the tribute of a tear and a sigh, in that period of hereafter, when all of us are mute, and most of us forgotten.