Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

This plainly appears to us in plants of all kinds, and in trees of all sorts and sizes, even excluding the consideration of warmer or colder, of drier or moister seasons, which only appear to have their share in this work. They frequently bear more blossoms and fruit in a bad, and less in a good season; nay, and that season which is favourable to one kind of vegetable, is prejudicial to another; which shews that every plant hath a specific vegetation of its own, and that there is something else concerned in the business, than mere warmth or moisture.

We may now proceed to lay it down for a rule, that the constitution of the year disposes the vegetative spirit, whether residing in the air, the earth, the water, or in all, to supply sometimes these, and sometimes those plants, with a greater or less proportion of aliment. By this means a greater quantity of that juice, which distinguishes the plant from all others, and enables it to feed its peculiar inhabitants, must necessarily be prepared, one year, than another; and, consequently, the eggs deposited in the cavities, or, perhaps, in the perspiratory pores of its bark, must be better cherished, and the worm more plentifully fed by the leaves, wbich, in such a year, contain greater abundance of the specific juice, and that too more perfectly elaborated. From hence it may be reasonable to rest in this conjecture, that the annual constitution being more indulgent to the vegetation of one plant than another, promotes the growth of this, which is of a similar, and checks the increase of that, which is of a dissimilar nature. The plants, thus differently supplied, supply their insects accordingly. Hence again it comes to pass, that, as many kinds of birds were almost totally destroyed by the great frost in 1739 and 1740, so, many species of insects, having been injured by some more delicate disposition of the air, or earth, which we can be no otherwise sensible of, seem almost extinct in one season, and swarm out again in another, as if there had been a new creation of them. One year the farmer complains of a worm, not known to him before, that destroys bis corn; and the gardener does the same, in respect to another, that falls greedily on his roots, as if they were then just brought into being, to plague him, and waste the fruit of his labour. The African locusts come some years into

Spain, in such swarms, that they cover the face of the earth, and when they have devoured the wbole herbage of the country, retire again to their own, or die, on a change of season, and do not revisit Spain, at least in such numbers, for many years. Not many years ago, a great part of Germany was afflicted with such clouds of these insects, coming from the east, as darkened the air, and devoured almost every thing that was green, Large orchards are, some years, suddenly stripped of all their leaves, by a prodigious increase of the apple-tree-worm; and whole groves of oaks have been served in the same manner, by the caterpillar peculiar to that tree.

If it be objected to this hypothesis of mine, that the tree ought to increase in size, and the insect in number, always at the same time, and in the same proportion, whereas the contrary is plain from experience, I readily confess, that the cornel trees have not yet recovered the check they received from the prodigious increase of their worms in 1737; but I do not think this fact bears upon my hypothesis. The prodigious number of eggs, hatched by the vegetative spirit of the tree, must have greatly exhausted that spirit; and then the worms coming out in the begin ning of May, before the year's growth was well begun, and devouring all its leaves, nay, and gnawing even the tender ends of the shoots, could not but greatly injure it, and check its growth, especially as it was at the expense of a second set of leaves, the same summer. Had it not been for this drawback, it may be not unreasonable to conclude, that the cornel might have made extraordinary advances that season.

: I have now finished what I had to say upon this surprising subject, at which some gentlemen, stupidly important, may laugh, as at an affair not worthy of so much notice, or so many words. But for my part, who admire not merely the bulk, but the excellence of an object, I can find sufficient reason, in this little worm, to adore the wisdom and power of that God, who hath displayed those attributes as gloriously in the minutest insects, as in the whale or elephant.

SOME

OBSERVATIONS

ON A LATE

RESIGNATION.

When in the year 1747 I carried over to London the Dialogues, which make the first volume in this edition of my works, I had inserted in the last a pretty large encomium on Mr. Whiston, then alive, as on an honest man, who had voluntarily given up his collegiate emoluments, not conscientiously tenable on the footing of subscriptions, and declarations, contrary to his afterward-adopted principles. With this encomium I had contrasted the conduct of those established clergymen, some of them then arrived to the highest preferments in the church by solemn subscriptions to her articles, and solemn declarations of their unfeigned assent and consent to all and every thing contained in the book of common prayer, repeated at every stage of their advancement; who nevertheless had, all along, laboured in conversation, in the pulpit, and through the press, not only to represent those subscriptions and declarations as an iniquitous and pernicious tyranny in the imposers, and as marks of slavery and servility in the subscribers; but had also done their utmost to persuade mankind, that the fundamental principles of religion, which they themselves had so often subscribed to, and declared for, were absurd and unscriptural doctrines.

had not, however, been many days in England, ere I was made sensible of my mistake, in regard to Mr. Whiston, who, I found, had been removed from his professorship, &c. by a university prosecution, after a very strenuous defence on his part, and the utmost struggle to retain his emoluments.

That, which I then intended, but could not executo, for

want of a single clergyman known in either England or Ireland, who was justly entitled to that particular honour, I wished to do to one who forfeits his bread for his conscience; the Reverend Mr. Robertson, by resigning his benefice of Rathvilly in the diocess of Leighlin and Ferns, hath furnished me with a fair occasion of doing.

That this gentleman is possessed of talents, equal to any of those who have hitherto declared for, and opposed, our articles and liturgy; nay, and that, in regard to fine conception and expression, he is much their superior, will, I think, hardly be questioned by a reader of taste and judgment. Strongly attached as I was to principles, the very reverse of his, and deeply as I abhorred the practice of subscribing, and writing against that very subscription; I was nevertheless charmed with the ingenuity of his Attempt, &c. a book, as agreeably written, as any thing on so dry a subject, and as judiciously, as any thing on his side of the question, can be. That his understanding hath outgone those of all the other clerical writers in the same cause, is now made too evident by his resiguation, to be at all questioned. They had sense enough to make objections, to nibble and double between their scruples and subscriptions ; but not one of them had the force of understanding to see as clearly, as he did, the extreme inconsistence between declaring an unfeigned assent to principles of religion, which their consciences kicked at with all the reluctance of such consciences.

The honesty of Mr. Robertson in his resignation, which we must ascribe to a sound conscience, and an ingenuous heart, governed by an uncommon understanding, (yet how minute is that understanding which cannot make an honest man!) ought indeed to be an object of love and esteem to every man, and must be, to every honest man. Having sacrificed his bread, and all the views of preferment, which a man of his extraordinary merit might have reasonably entertained, to his conscience; in what circumstances he is at present, I know not; but too much reason there is to fear, that he is not a little distressed. The clergy of his party before his resignation, so miserably attached to wealth, are not likely to support a man, who hath in the severest manner exposed their prevarication by his own

integrity. Of all the clergy, the orthodox alone, who are offended at bis book, are the only ecclesiàstics from whom an honorary contribution may be reasonably expected. Whether a mind, so high-pitched as Mr. Robertson's, would accept of aids in this channel, equivalent at least to the income of his late living, may be doubted; but sure I am it ought to be tried. Nothing could do us more honour, than an overture of this kind; and nothing is more agreeable to the principles we avow, if they are not, as our adversaries often loudly assert, a set of merely speculative principles. This paper will shew, that my heart in particular is as open to Mr. Robertson as to a beloved brother; and I am ready to prove by facts that my purse is equally open. As soon as I can learn his address, I shall make it my business to demonstrate both, in a more effectual way. But I am only one, and my finances are not great. It is for this reason, and to testify an ingenuous heart, that I thus call on my benevolent brethren to lend their assistance in an act of goodness, too apparent to require any farther enforcement.

As to Mr. Robertson's delicacy, it must be founded on as great a mistake, as some of his notions in matters of religion, if he thinks, a tribute, paid by the good sense and honesty of one man to the good sense and honesty of another, less honourable, than the revenues of the crown are to his majesty.

It is true, common honesty demands it of every man, circumstanced as Mr. Robertson was, to act as Mr. Robertson hath done ; but (pardon me, reader, if it seems a blunder) when I lament it, that common honesty is become an uncommon thing, indeed little short of a rarity; and if tried and proved as in this case, ought to be admired and rewarded, like a sort of heroism. Mr. Robertson thinks in a manner, different from us, as to matters of religion. And do not we think in a manner different from him? But Mr. Robertson is an honest man; hath proved his right to this appellation at the expense of all he bad, perhaps of all he hoped for some time ago in this life. He must therefore be applauded, beloved, and aided, by every one, conscious to himself of the like integrity. I know him not, but in his ingenious book, and in his more ingenuous resignation ;

« ZurückWeiter »