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faculties! The Lord, saith the son of Sirach, hath created medicines out of the earth, and he that is wise will not despise them*. When he considers who is the author of them, he will be persuaded, that, if understood, they must be found more safe in their use, than the preparations of hunan art; he will therefore respect their virtues, and give them the preference which is due to them. There is certainly a momentum in mineral preparations, which produces sudden and great effects; but their power approaches too near to violence: while the vegetable medicines, ordained to be such by the Creator, are more congenial to the human constitution; and thus a reasonable alliance is preserved between the medicine of man and the diet of man; but we never eat minerals, though we use them in medicine: often with some good, and also with the danger of some bad effect. The mineral materials of a volcano will warm us, as the fuel of any other fire; but at the same time they may suffocate us, or send down ruin upon our heads.
What possible modification of minerals can chemistry exhibit, which will quiet a distempered agitation of the nerves, and lessen the sensation of pain, which would otherwise be insupportable? But this desirable effect is wonderfully produced by the medicinal juice of the poppy, The learned know that there are several effects in medicine, which are never to be obtained but from vegetables; and so persuaded are they of a specific, salutary power in them, that they apply for help even to such plants as are poisonous. That the poisonous plants have their use, we must presume, because they have the same divine Author with the rest. Every Creature of God is good in its proper capacity; but if we mistake its capacity, we shall abuse it. Poi Ecclus. xxxviii. 4.
sonous herbs, from their great power, may do service internally, in very small quantities; but we should rather suppose, from what we have heard and seen, that they were intended chiefly for external application; in which they can perform wonders; and medicine might perhaps be improved, if more experiments. were made in this way. But, it is not my province to enlarge here, and I have nothing but a good meaning to plead for proceeding thus far.
It is now to be observed, lastly, that the same wisdom, which ordained the vegetable creation for the natural use of feeding and healing the body, hath applied.it also to a moral or intellectual use, for the enlarging of our ideas, and the enlightening of our understandings. It joins its voice in the universal chorus of all created things, and to the ear of reason celebrates the wisdom of the Almighty Creator. As the heavens, from day unto day, and from night unto night, declare the glory of God, so do the productions of the earth, all trees and herbs, in their places and seasons speak the same language; from the climates of the north to the torrid regions of the south, and from the winter to the spring and the harvest.
The Holy Scripture hath many wise, and some beautiful allusions to the vegetable creation, for moral and religious instruction. The most ancient piece of this sort is the parable of Jotham in the book of Judges ; where the dispositions and humours of men, and their effects in society, are illustrated by the different natures of trees. On occasion of Abimelech's treachery, Jotham tells the people, under the form of a fable, that the trees went forth to anoint them a king; and when all the good and honourable, as the olive, the fig-tree, and the vine, declined the trouble of ruling in society, the bramble offered his services, and invited
them to trust in his shadow*. Thus it happened in the case of Abimelech: and doth not experience shew us at this day, that the moral is still good? that the worst, and most worthless, are always the most forward to thrust themselves into power, and promise great things; how safe and happy we should be under their shadow! As if brambles, of a nature to tear the skin, and draw blood from every part of the body, and fit for nothing but to be burned out of the way, could form an agreeable shade for the people to sit under. The good and the virtuous, who are fruitful and happy in themselves, would be deprived of their internal comforts by the hurry and danger which attend the possession of power: but bad men who have no source of content and enjoyment within themselves, are always so forward to seek it without themselves, and would turn the world upside down, or tear its inhabitants to picces, to satisfy their own ambition. When circumstances conspire to bring those into action who are most worthy of power, then people sit under the vine, and under the fig-tree, in the enjoyment of peace and plenty.
Our blessed Saviour, with a like allusion, hath referred us to the natural state and condition of plants and flowers; thence to learn the unprofitableness of that anxiety and distrust, with which we seek after the things of this world. Consider the lilies, how they grow-If so God clothe the grass of the field, shall he not much more clothe you†? As if he had said: "You admire the beautiful clothing of a flower; and indeed it is worthy of all admiration; the God on whom you depend is the author of its wonderful contexture; whence you ought to learn, that if he hath bestowed this rich attire upon the inferior part of the creation, See Judges ix. 8, &c. + Matt. vi. 22.
the grass of the field, so fading and transient, he will never leave you unprovided who are made for eternity."
The accidents to which plants are expored in their growth, afford matter for the beautiful and instructive parable of the sower, which conveys as much in a few plain words, as a volume could do in any other form*. The seed of God's word, when it is sown by a preacher, may fall into an honest and good heart, as the seed of the sower into a happy, fruitful soil; or it may light among the thorns of worldly cares, and the rank weeds of worldly pleasures, which, springing up with it, will choke it, and render it unfruitful; or it may fall into an hasty, impatient mind, like seed upon á shallow, rocky soil, where it hath no depth of earth, and so cannot endure when the heat of the sun dries it. Other minds are open to the ways of the world in public or fashionable life, and unguarded against the dangers of sin; so are exposed to the depredations of evil spirits, which rob them of what they had heard ; as birds of the air pick up without fear or molestation the seeds which are scattered by the side of a public road.
The transient nature of plants and flowers has given occasion to many striking representations of the brevity and vanity of this mortal life. "As the leaves “wither and fall away from the trees, "ceed, so," saith an ancient poet, "rations of men t."
and others sucare the gene
*Matt. xiii. 3, &c.
* Οι περ φύλλων γενεή, τοιηδὲ και ανδρών.
Hom. II. . 146.
Like leaves on trees the race of man is found,
How sublime and affecting is that reflection in the book of Job-" Man that is born of a woman hath but a short time to live, and is full of misery; he cometh up like a flower, and is cut down*:" In the same figurative language doth the Psalmist speak of the flourishing state of inan in youth, and his decay in the time of age; "In the morning they are like the grass which groweth up, in the morning it flourisheth and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down and withered." To cure us of our confidence in the wealth and prosperity of this world, and make way for the serious temper of the Gospel, nothing can be more expressive and rhetorical than that sentence of St. James: "Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted; but the rich in that he is made low; because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away: for the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth; so shall the rich man fade away in his ways:" that is he shall decay in his prosperity, as the flower fades the sooner for the enjoyment of the sun-shine.
The reviving of seeds and roots buried in the earth, though so common a fact, is yet so wonderful, that it is more than a figure, it is a pledge and assurance that the dead shall rise again. In every spring nature presents us with a general resurrection in the vegetable world, after a temporary death and burial in the winter. The root that lies dormant under the ground. is a prisoner of hope, and waits for the return of the vernal sun. If it could speak, it might repeat (and to the ear of faith it does repeat) those words of the apostle:-O grave where is thy victory? So plainly doth vegetable nature preach this doctrine of the resurrec
⚫ Joh. xiv. 2.