Page images

never found reason to deviate from the religious principles which he had laid down in this his earliest publication.


It may be necessary likewise to premise, ere I commence my extracts, that I have not taken them in the regular order of the book; but have selected and classed them in the manner which I have deemed best calculated for the purposes of perspicuity; with this limitation, however, that as the work is divided into two parts, the first including the subject of faith, and the second, that of charity, I have carefully avoided, by an arrangement appropriated to each department, all intermixture of the two topics.

From this first part, therefore, as devoted to the consideration of faith, I now proceed to form my quotations, commencing with those supremely awful and sublime subjects, the Creation of Man and the Providence of God.

"The whole Creation," observes my author, speaking of the operations of the Deity, "is a mystery, and particularly that of man; at the

* Vide Memoirs of Browne, by Mr. John Whitefoot, prefixed to his Antiquities of Norwich.

blast of his mouth were the rest of the creatures made; and at his bare word they started out of nothing but in the frame of man (as the text describes it), he played the sensible operator, and seemed not so much to create as to make him. When he had separated the materials of other creatures, there consequently resulted a form and soul; but having raised the walls of man, he was driven to a second and harder creation, of a substance like himself, an incorruptible and immortal soul.

"In our study of anatomy, there is a mass of mysterious philosophy, and such as reduced the very heathens to divinity; yet, amongst all those rare discoveries, and curious pieces, which I find in the fabric of man, I do not so much content myself, as in that which I find not; for in the brain, which we term the seat of reason, there is not any thing of moment more than I can discover in the cranium of a beast; and this is a sensible and no inconsiderable argument of the inorganity of the soul; at least, in that sense, we usually so receive it. Thus, we are men, and we know not how; there is something in us, that can be without us, and will be after us.

"I believe, that the whole frame of a beast doth perish, and is left in the same state after death, as before it was materialled unto life; that the souls of men know neither contrary nor corruption; that they subsist beyond the body, and outlive death by the privilege of their proper natures, and without a miracle; and that the souls of the faithful, as they leave earth, take possession of Heaven.

[ocr errors]

-There are two books from whence I collect my divinity; besides that written one of God, another of his servant Nature, that universal and public manuscript, that lies expanded unto the eyes of all; those that never saw him in the one, have discovered him in the other. Nor do I so forget God, as to adore the name of Nature; which I define not with the schools, the principle of motion and rest, but that straight and regular line, that settled and constant course the wisdom of God hath ordained the actions of his creatures, according to their several kinds. To make a revolution every day, is the Nature of the sun, because that necessary course which God hath ordained it, from which it cannot swerve, by a faculty from that voice which first

did give it motion. Now this course of nature God seldom alters or perverts; but, like an excellent artist, hath so contrived his work, that with the selfsame instrument, without a new creation, he may effect his obscurest designs. Yet, this rule of his he doth sometimes pervert, to acquaint the world with his prerogative, lest the arrogancy of our reason should question his power, and conclude he could not: and thus I call the effects of nature the works of God, whose hand and instrument she only is; and, therefore, to ascribe his actions unto her, is to devolve the honour of the principal agent upon the instrument; which if with reason we may do, then let our hammers rise up and boast they have built our houses, and our pens receive the honour of our writing."

What a contrast do these admirable quotations form, when opposed to the scepticism of the present day, to the doctrines of the physiological materialists of the school of Bichat! A system of philosophy, if so it can be called, which, should it ever unhappily prevail in the medical world, would render the often-repeated, though hitherto ill-founded, sarcasm against the

profession of ubi tres medici, duo Athei, no longer a matter of calumny.

It is, however, with pride and pleasure that, at a period when scepticism has been obtruded upon us as a topic of distinction and triumph, and even taught in our public schools, we can point to a roll of illustrious names, the most consummate for their talent among those who have made the study of life, and health and disease their peculiar profession, who have publicly borne testimony to their firm belief in the existence of their God, and in the immortality of the human soul. When Galen, meditating on the structure and functions of the body, broke forth into that celebrated declaration, Compono hic profecto Canticum in creatoris nostri laudem*, he but led the way to similar but still more important avowals from the mighty names of Boerhaave and of Haller +, of Sydenham and

* Vide Galen. lib. iii. De Usu Partium.

† Of Haller, the greatest physician and physiologist perhaps that ever lived, and who was, at the same time, the best poet and philosopher of his age, it has been justly said, that, "persuaded of a future life, he waited with confidence for that consummation which shall dissipate the mists of human wisdom, and display to us the universe such as it actually is, by

« PreviousContinue »