« AnteriorContinuar »
their first origin; in other words, visible nature must have a spiritual and moral side.”
This doctrine is abstruse, and though the images of “garment," "scoriæ,” “mirror,” &c., may stimulate the fancy, we must summon the aid of subtler and more vital expositors to make it plain. “Every scripture is to be interpreted by the same spirit which gave it forth,” — is the fundamental law of criticism. A life in harmony with nature, the love of truth and of virtue, will purge the eyes to understand her text. By degrees we may come to know the primitive sense of the permanent objects of nature, so that the world shall be to us an open book, and every form significant of its hidden life and final cause.
A new interest surprises us, whilst, under the view now suggested, we contemplate the fearful extent and multitude of objects; since “ every object rightly seen, unlocks a new faculty of the soul.” That which was unconscious truth, becomes, when interpreted and defined in an object, A part of the domain of knowledge, - a new weapon in the magazine of power.
In view of the significance of nature, we arrive at once at a new fact, that nature is a discipline. This use of the world includes the preceding uses, as parts of itself.
Space, time, society, labor, climate, food, locomotion, the animals, the mechanical forces, give us sincerest lessons, day by day, whose meaning is unlimited. They educate both the Understanding and the Reason. Every property of matter is a school for the understanding, - its solidity or resistance, its inertia, its extension, its figure, its divisibility. The understanding adds, divides, combines, measures, and finds nutriment and room for its activity in this worthy scene. Meantime, Reason transfers all these lessons into its own world of thought, by perceiving the analogy that marries Matter and Mind.
1. Nature is a discipline of the understanding in intellectual truths. Our dealing with sensible objects is a constant exercise in the necessary lessons of difference, of likeness, of order, of being and seeming, of progressive arrangement; of assent from particular to general; of combination to one end of manifold forces. Proportioned to the importance of the organ to be formed, is the extreme care with which its tuition is provided, — a care pretermitted in no single case. What tedious training, day after day, year after year, never ending, to form the common sense; what continual reproduction of annoyances, inconveniences, dilemmas; what rejoicing over us of little men ; what disputing of prices, what reckonings of interest, — and all to form the Hand of the mind; – to instruct us that “good thoughts are no better than good dreams, unless they be executed!”
The same good office is performed by Pro perty and its filial systems of debt and credit Debt, grinding debt, whose iron face the widow, the orphan, and the sons of genius fear and hate; — debt, which consumes so much time, which so cripples and disheartens a great spirit with cares that seem so base, is a preceptor whose lessons cannot be forgone, and is needed most by those who suffer from it most. More-V. over, property, which has been well compared to snow,—“ if it fall level to-day, it will be blown into drifts to-morrow," — is the surface action of internal machinery, like the index on the face of
a clock. Whilst now it is the gymnastics of th. understanding, it is having in the foresight of the spirit, experience in profounder laws.
The whole character and fortune of the indi vidual are affected by the least inequalities is the culture of the understanding; for example in the perception of differences. Therefore is Space, and therefore Time, that man may know that things are not huddled and lumped but sundered and individual. A bell and a plough have each their use, and neither can do the office of the other. Water is good to drink, coal to burn, wool to wear; but wool cannot be drunk, nor water spun, nor coal eaten. The wiso man shows his wisdom in separation, in gradation, and his scale of creatures and of merits is as wide as nature. The foolish have no range in their scale, but suppose every man is as every other man. What is not good they call the worst, and what is not hateful, they call the best.
In like manner, what good heed nature forms in us! She pardons no mistakes. Her yea is yea, and her nay, nay.
The first steps in Agriculture, Astronomy. Zoölogy, (those first steps which the farmer, tha hunter, and the sailor take,) teach that nature's dice are always loaded; that in her heaps and rubbish are concealed sure and useful results.
How calmly and genially the mind apprehends one after another the laws of physics! What noble emotions dilate the mortal aş he enters into the counsels of the creation, and feels by knowledge the privilege to Be! His insight refines him. · The beauty of nature shines in his own breast. Man is greater than he can see this, and the universe less, because Time and Space. relations vanish as laws are known.
Here again we are impressed and even daunted by the immense Universe to be explored. 6 What we know, is a point to what we do not know.” Open any recent journal of science, and weigh the problems suggested concerning Light, Heat, Electricity, Magnetism, Physiology, Geology, and judge whether the interest of natural science is likely to be soon exhausted. ..
Passing by many particulars of the discipline of nature, we must not omit to specify two.
The exercise of the Will or the lesson of power is taught in every event. From the child's successive possession of his several senses up to the hour when he saith, “ Thy will be done !” he is learning the secret, that he can reduce under his will, not only particular events, but great classes, nay the whole series of events, and so conform all facts to his character. Nature is thoroughly mediate. It is made to serve. It