Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

tuous soul is formed by the rules of wisdom, and its ornament is innocence. The perfume of good works is spread around wherever it exists, and it will, one day, be transplanted into the garden of Paradise. One observation which the history of plants affords us, is, that the more beautiful a flower is, the sooner it fades. In a short time, nothing of that blooming tulip will remain but a withered stalk. Its life and beauty last but for a few weeks; age destroys its charms, its leaves fall, and its colours fade. What a useful lesson is this for us. Let us remember how uncertain and frail is beauty, and rest our hopes of distinction upon the more solid basis of intellectual attainments.

LESSON LIII.

The Language of Animals. Man, properly speaking, is the only animal who can be said to have language; and it is particularly by this circumstance, that he shows his superiority over all other animated beings. It is by means of speech that he extends his empire over all nature, that he rises towards his Divine Author; contemplates, adores, and obeys him. It is by this faculty that he learns to know himself and all the creatures around him, and to make them serve for his use. Every animal but man is deprived of this faculty, because they are void of reason; and it is reason which capacitates us to learn languages, and the use of speech. But as animals make their wants and feelings known by natural signs: as they utter certain sounds, which express the sentiments that affect them, one may so far allow they have a sort of

language. The variety of these tones, their number, their use, and the order in which they follow one another, form the essential parts of their language. To form a just idea of this, it is not necessary to have recourse to deep researches: it is enough to observe the animals daily before our eyes, and with which we have a sort of intimate connexion. Examine the ben with her chicks : if she finds any food, she calls and invites them to it. They understand her, and come instantly. If they have lost sight of this tender mother, their plaintive cries express their anguish and desire to see her again. Attend to the different cries of the cock, when a stranger or a dog comes into the poultry-yard, when a kite, or any other enemy appears, and when he calls or answers his hens. How lamentable are the cries of the turkey, when she sees a bird of prey hovering over her and her brood, while the young ones lie as if lifeless until the danger be passed and the bird disappears. There is much variety in the language of the dog. Who can be insensible to the joy that this faithful servant shows at the return of his master? He jumps, he dances, he runs here and there, turns quick and lightly round his master, stops all at once; fixes his eyes on him with the greatest tenderness; draws near him, and licks and caresses him repeatedly. Then beginning his play again, he puts himself into all sorts of attitudes; barks, tells every body how happy he is, and shows his joy in many ways. But how different are these sounds, from those noises he makes at the sound of a robber, or on seeing a wolf. If we follow a dog in the chase, we see how he makes himself understood, by all his motions. How well adapted his signs are to the discoveries he wishes to make! This affords us an opportunity to admire the wisdom and goodness of the Supreme Being. What beneficent attention has he shown towards animals, in granting them the power to express by 'sounds their wants and feelings. From their organ

ization, and the nature of their souls, it was impossible they should speak the human language; but they would have been much more to be pitied, and less useful to us, if the Creator had entirely dea prived them of the power of making themselves understood. To compensate them for the want of speech, he endowed them with the address to communicate, by various little ways, their feelings to one another, as well as to mankind. He has given them organs, proper to produce and vary a certain number of sounds; and their make is such, that each species has particular and distinct sounds, by which they make themselves understood. In a word, the Creator has given as much force to the language of animals, as their nature would admit of, and all that the end for which they were created required. But as for us, we possess faculties in all respects much superior. We can rise to general notions, and separate the object from the qualities which distinguish it. We can, by means of an infinity of sounds, express all our conceptions.

O thou, the great Creator! what gratitude do we not therefore owe unto thee! Grant that we may never forget this important part of thy blessings; but, on the contrary, that each time we make use of speech, we may reflect on the excellence of our pri. vileges, and the greatness of thy wisdom and goodness.

LESSON LIV.

*Complaints of Mankind relative to certain In

conveniences in the Laws of Nature.

“ Why is the human body, from its constitution, liable to many infirmities and accidents ?" Whoever asks this question, should consider how impossible it would be to form one's self a body, which would unite more advantages in itself, than that which we have received from our Creator. It was incompatible with nature, and the chain of things in this world, that man should have an invulnerable body. If one of our fellow-creatures be, deformed, another lame, a third deaf or dumb, is it a reason for us to murmur against God? Are those defects so common as to give us reason to complain? If, after these questions, any should still think they have reason for discontent, let them reflect, that it is of use to men, in general, - that they may not want examples of the defects to which the human body is liable. For, when a person, perfect and well made, compares himself with one that is crooked and deformed, he is sensible of all the advantages of well-formed limbs; he learns to value properly a gift till then unthought of, and take more care to preserve it. How valuable is each eye, each ear, each organ of sense, each joint, each limb, if we only observe the condition of the few people who are deprived of them! Would any of us part with a limb in exchange for the greatest treasure? Are not our bodies more beautiful and regular than the finest building, or the most curious machine? And, though the latter are very inferior to it, we are far from attributing the assemblage of their parts to chance. • Why are the countries of the earth so different from one another, sometimes cold, sometimes damp, sometimes low, and sometimes high?” But, О man, if thou hadst the power to form a globe, wherein every thing was to be for the advantage of men and animals, would thy understanding furnish a plan better than this? The countries of the earth, by means of their difference, produce variety of exhalations and winds, which occasion that mixed air, wherein, experience tells us, men and animals live healthy and contented in most places, and wherein plants also grow and increase. “It is, however, allowed, that the variation in weather is not beneficial to all men, or to all countries." But, has not the preceding weather influenced the following, as the climate of one country often influences another. Are we capable of judging of the whole? Must a number of farmers sigh in vain for rain, because dry weather would suit the private convenience of one family! A certain temperature of the air may occasion, here and there, a transient barrenness; but, can it be called an evil, if it was necessary in order to hinder the air from corrupting? Is it reasonable, when we cannot take in the whole, to find fault with a part? " Why are there so many hurtful animals?” Would it then be better to have no beasts of prey, small or large, upon the earth? They put a stop to the number of animals that would otherwise overpower us; and, it is because many animals serve for food to beasts of prey, that the number of living creatures increases every year. If these beasts of prey did not exist, the carcasses of the animals on which they feed, would not only be useless to living creatures, but would be hurtful. Every year, animals thus devoured, are replaced by others; and, in most cases, population depends on the quantity of sustenance. Thus gnats, and other insects, would soon want food, if the animals whose prey they are, did not prevent them from multiplying too fast. “ Why has the Creator regulated the course of nature by such invariable laws.” It is in consequence of such regulation, that man's experience and

2

« AnteriorContinuar »