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ignorance and weakness of mortal man; abashed still more at that rash conceit of his, which makes him fancy himself the measure of all things; and say with me: “Oh Lord, thy works are manifold; thy ways are very deep. In wisdom hast thou made them all, the earth is full of thy riches. Thou openest thy hand, and fillest all things living with plenteousness; they continue this day according to thine ordinance, for all things serve thee. Thou hast made them fast for ever and ever; thou hast given them a law which shall not be broken. Let them praise the name of the Lord ; for he spake the word and they were made, he commanded, and they were created.”
This I shall say, but little more than this, on the religious effect of the study of natural history. I do not wish to preach a sermon to you. I can trust God's world to bear better witness than I can, of the Loving Father who made it. I thank him from
my own experience for the testimony of His Creation, only next to the testimony of His Bible. I have watched scientific discoveries which were supposed in my boyhood to be contrary to revelation, found out one by one to confirm and explain revelation, as crude and hasty theories were corrected by more abundant facts, and men saw more clearly what both the Bible and Nature really did
and I can trust that the same process will go on for ever, and that God's earth and God's
, word will never contradict each other. I have found the average of scientific men, not less, but more, godly and righteous men than the average of their neighbours; and I can trust that this will be more and more the case as science deepens and widens. And therefore I can trust that every patient, truthful, and healthful mind will, the more it contemplates the works of God, re-echo St. Paul's great declaration that the Invisible things of God are clearly seen from the foundation of the world, being understood by the things which are made, even His eternal power and Godhead. And so trusting, I pass on to a lower view of the subject, and yet not an unnecessary one.
In an industrial country like this, the practical utility of any study must needs be always thrown into the scale ; and natural history seems at first sight somewhat unpractical. What money will it earn for a man in after life ?-is a question which will be asked ; and which it is folly to despise. For if the only answer be: "None at all," a man has a right to rejoin : “ Then let me take up some pursuit which will train and refresh my mind as much as this one, and yet be of pecuniary benefit to me some day.” can find such a study, by all means follow it: but I say that this study too may be of great practical benefit in after life. How much money have I, young as I am, seen wasted for want of a little knowledge of botany, geology, or chemistry. How many a clever man becomes the dupe of empirics for want of a little science. How many a mine is sought for where no mine could be; or crop attempted to be grown, where no such crop could grow. How
hidden treasure, on the other hand, do men walk over unheeding. How many a new material, how many an improved process in manufacture is possible, yet is passed over, for want of a little science. And for the man who emigrates, and comes in contact with rude nature teeming with unsuspected wealth, of what incalculable advantage to have if it be but the rudiments of those
sciences, which will tell him the properties, and therefore the value, of the plants, the animals, the minerals, the climates with which he meets ? True-homelearnt natural history will not altogether teach him about these things, because most of them must needs be new : but it will teach him to compare
and classify them as he finds them, and so by analogy with things already known to him, to discover their intrinsic worth.
For natural history stands to man's power over Nature, that is, to his power of being useful to himself and to mankind, in the same relation as do geography, grammar, arithmetic, geometry, political economy; none of them, perhaps, bearing directly on his future business in life; but all training his mind for his business, all giving him the rudiments of laws which he will hereafter work out and apply to his profession. And even at home, be sure that such studies will bear fruit in after life. The productive wealth of England is not exhausted, doubt it not; our grandchildren may find treasures in this our noble island of which we never dreamed, even as we have found things of which our forefathers dreamed not. Recollect always that a great market town like this is not merely a commercial centre; not perhaps even a commercial centre at all : but that she is an agricultural centre, and one of the most important in England ; that the increase of science here will be sure more or less to extend itself to the neighbourhood : and then lay to heart this one fact. A friend of mine, and one whom I am proud to call my friend, succeeding to an estate, thought good to cultivate it himself. And being a man of common sense, he thought good to know something of what he was doing. And he said to himself: The soil, and the rain, and the air are my raw materials. I ought surely then to find out what soil, and rain, and air are; so I must become a geologist and a meteorologist. Vegetable substances are what I am to make. And I ought surely to know what it is that I am making ; so I must become a botanist. The raw material does somehow or other become manufactured into the produce; the soil into the vegetable. I ought surely to know a little about the processes of my own manufacture ; so I must learn chemistry. Chance and blind custom are not enough for me. At best they can but leave me where they found me, at their mercy. Science I need; and science I will acquire. What was the result? After many a mistake and disappointment, he succeeded in discovering on his own estate a mine of unsuspected wealthnot of gold indeed, but of gold's worth—the elements of human food. He discovered why some parts of his estate were fertile, while others were barren ; and by applying the knowledge thus gained, he converted some of his most barren fields into his most fertile ones; he preserved again and again his crops from blight, while those of others perished all around him; he won for himself wealth, and the respect and honour of men of science; while those around him, slowly opening their eyes to his improvements, followed his lessons at secondhand, till the whole agriculture of an important district has become gradually but permanently improved, under the auspices of one patient and brave man, who
, knew that knowledge was power, and that only by obeying nature can man conquer her.
Bear in mind both these last great proverbs; and combine them in your mind. Remember that while England is, and ever will be, behindhand in metaphysical and scholastic science, she is the nation which above all others has conquered nature by obeying her; that as it pleased God that the author of that proverb, the father of inductive science, Bacon Lord Verulam, should have been an Englishman, so it has pleased Him that we, Lord Bacon's countrymen, should improve that precious heirloom of science, inventing, producing, exporting, importing, till it seems as if the whole human race, and every land from the equator to the pole must henceforth bear the indelible impress and sign manual of English science.
And bear in mind, as I said just now, that this study of natural history is the grammar of that very physical science which has enabled England thus to replenish the earth and subdue it. Do you not see, then, that by following these studies you are walking in the very path to which England owes her wealth ; that you are training in yourselves that habit of mind which God has approved as the one which He has ordained for Englishmen, and are doing what in you lies toward carrying out, in after life, the glorious work which God seems to have laid on the English race, to replenish the earth and subdue it?
One word more, and I have done. Unless you are already tired of hearing me, I would suggest a few practical hints before we part. The best way of learning these matters is by classes, in which men may combine and interchange their thoughts and observations. Thegreatest savants find this; and have their Microscopic Society, Linnæan, Royal, Geological Societies, British Associations, and what not, in which all may know what each