« AnteriorContinuar »
circulation. She combines and mixes her gifts as the physician does his medicinal ingredients. The
great and the small, the handsome and the ugly, - the old and new, combined and mixed with art,
form one whole equally useful and agreeable. Such are the inexhaustible riches provided by the great Creator. '1','
. . . Petrifactions. The transmutation of several substances from the animal and vegetable kingdom into the mineral, is a circumstance in natural history well worthy our attention. The first thing to remark in petrifactions is their exterior form, which shows that these fossils have undoubtedly belonged either to the animal or vegetable kingdom. It is very unusual to find human petrifactions or those of quadrupeds. The most extraordinary skeletons met with in the earth, are those of elephants, which are found even in many parts of Germany. Petrifactions of aquatic animals are frequently met with. Sometimes fish entirely whole and perfect, even to the smallest scales; and a number of shell-fish, and little worms, are found changed into stone in the bowels of the earth. Sea-petrifactions are found in great abundance all over the world. Some on the tops of mountains, and others in the earth, at different depths. All sorts of petrified plants, or pieces of plants, are met with in several beds of the earth; but there is often the impression only left, the bodies themselves being destroyed; and in some places whole trees are found buried more or less deep in the earth, and turned to stone. These do not appear to be old petrifactions. But how have all these petrified substances' got into the earth, and particularly how can they have got upon such high mountains? How have sea-animals been transported so far from their natural abode? Different causes may be assigned for this. Perhaps these petrifactions prove, that the greatest part of the earth was formerly covered with water. And indeed, as in every place where we search, from the top of the mountain to the greatest depth into the earth, all sorts of marine productions are found, it seems as if it could not be otherwise accounted for. We have hitherto but a very imperfect knowledge of the manner in which nature operates in these petrifactions. It is certain that nothing will petrify in the open air; for the bodies of animals or vegetables consume or corrupt in this element; so that air must be excluded, or at least not act, where petrifactions are formed. Neither has a barren, dry earth any petrifying quality. Running water may form a crust on particular bodies, but cannot turn them into stone: the very course of the water prevents it. It is probable, therefore, the petrifactions require soft, moist earth, mixed with dissolved stony particles. The stony juices penetrate into the cavities of the animal body, or the vegetable; they impregnate and unite with it in proportion as the parts of the body itself evaporate, or as they are absorbed by alkaline substances. We may draw some inferences from thence, which explain these phenomena of nature. All animals and vegetables are not equally capable of being turned to stone; for, in order to be so, they require à degree of hardness, to prevent them from corrupting before they have time to "petrify. · Petrifactions are generally formed in the earth, and require that the places where the bodies are placed should be neither too dry nor too wet. All sorts of stones which contain petrifactions are the work of time, and consequently they are every day still forming; such as chalks, clays, sands, the magnet, and others. The petrified bodies take
the nature of these stories, and become sometimes chalky, sometimes like slate, &c. If petrifactions were of no other use than to throw light upon the natural history of our globe, they would, from that circumstance alone, be worthy our attention; but we may also consider them as proofs of the operations and transmutations which nature produces in secret; and here again appears most wonderfully the power and wisdom of God.
LESSON CXVI. : Every thing in Nature is gradual. We may observe in nature an admirable gradation, or insensible progress, from a simple to a more compound perfection. There is no middle species which has not something of the nature of that which precedes or follows it. Dust and earth form the principal and the component matter of all solid bodies, they being found in all those which human art has analyzed. From the mixture of salts, oils, sulphur, &c. with the earth, there result different kinds of soil, more or less compound, light, or compact. This naturally leads us to minerals. The veriety of stones is very great; their form, colour, size, and hardness, are very different. All sorts of metallic and saline particles are found in them; and from hence proceed minerals and precious stones. In the last class of stones, there are some with fibres, and a sort of leaves; such as slate, tale, the lithophites, or marine stony plants, and the amianthus, or the stony flower of the mine; which leads us from the minerals to the vegetables. The plant which appears to be the lowest among the vegetables is the truffle. Next comes the numerous species of mushrooms and mosses : between which the hoar or mould seems to take its place. All theseplants are imperfect, and only form the limits of the vegetable world. The more perfect plants divide into three sorts, which are dispersed over the whole earth; grass, shrubs, and trees. The polypus seems to unite the vegetable to the animal race. From the outward appearance, this singular production would only be taken for a plant, if it was not known to perform real animal functions. This zoophyte forms the link between plants and animals. Worms are the lowest of the animals, and lead us to insects. Those worms which have their bodies enclosed in shells, seem to unite insects to shell-fish. Between them, or rather next to them, come reptiles; these, by means of the water-snake, are linked with the fish. The flying-fish leads us to the bird species. The ostrich, which has legs something like the goat's, and which rather runs than flies, seems to link the birds with the quadrupeds. The ape joins hands with man and beast. There are gradations also in human nature, as well as in every thing else.
What has been said is sufficient to show, that every thing in the universe is closely linked together. There is nothing without design; nothing which is not the immediate effect of something which preceded it, or which does not determine the existence of something which is to follow.', Nature goes by degrees, not suddenly, from the component to the compound, from the less to the more perfect, from the nearest to the more distant, from the inanimate to the animate, from bodily to spiritual perfection. From the grain of sand to the cherubim, every thing owes its existence and perfection to the great! Author of the universe orari nsson to AP, parla,
prej"?,111 e, sk. i .. ostro'y ontv to 10 milioane
*GYI 90s baig, il » Por 180 1999 od 1632 19. ar
me .. divine
Different Şorts of Earth.
We can only form conjectures of the inside of the earth. Those who work in the mines have never been able to go lower than 900 feet. If they altempted to go further, the too great pressure of the air would kill the men, supposing even they could protect themselves from the water, which fills more and more in proportion as they descend lower. The inside of the earth must consequently be in a great measure unknown to us. The labours of the miners have scarcely even reached below the first coat of it. All that we know is, that when they dig some hundreds of feet, this coat is found to be composed of several different layers or beds, placed one over another. These beds are much mixed; and their direction, substance, thickness, and respective positions, vary considerably from one league to another. Generally under the common earth in gardens they find white clay and rich earth; but sometimes the sand, clay, and marl mix by turns. In comparing the observations which have been made, the best account appears to be that which divides them into several sorts of earth.
Black earth is composed of putrid vegetable or animal substances; it contains salts and inflammable matter : this is, properly speaking, dung. White clay is more compact than the black earth, and retains water on its surface longer. Sandy ground is hard, light, and dry; it does not retain water, or dissolve in it. Marshy ground contains salt of vitriol, which is too sharp for the plants. Chalk is dry and hard: some plants, however, grow in it; and some even in stony ground. The smoothest stones, however bare