« ПретходнаНастави »
conquerors of Asia. I shall only venture to offer one remark, to confirm what I have said of the attention (not of implicit assent, except in religious subjects, but of the attention) which is due to what the inspired writers say upon any subject; which is this: The images of this text are not easy to be explained on any other supposition, than that the writer, or the Spirit which guided the writer, meant to allude to the circulation of the blood, and the structure of the principal parts by which it is carried on. And upon the supposition that such allusions were intended, no obscurity, I believe, will remain for the anatomist in the whole passage: At any rate, it is evident that the approaches of death are described in it as a marring of the machine of the body by the failure of its principal parts; and this amounts to an assumption of the mechanism of life, in that part which belongs to the body.
Thus revelation and philosophy agree, that human life, in the whole a compounded thing, in one of its constituent parts is merè mechanism.
But let the philosopher in his turn be cautious what conjectures he build upon this acknowledged truth. Since human life is undeniably a compound of the three principles of intelligence, perception, and vegetation, notwithstanding that the
vegetable life be in itself mechanical, it will by no means be a necessary conclusion, that a man must be truly and irrecoverably dead so soon as the signs of this vegetable life are no longer discernible in his body. Here Solomon's opinion demands great attention: He makes death consist in nothing less than the dissolution of that union of soul and body which Moses makes the principle of vitality; and he speaks of this disunion as a thing subsequent, in the natural and common course of things, to the cessation of the mechanical life of the body. Some space therefore may intervene, - what the utmost length of the interval in any case may be, is not determined, but some space of time, it seems, may intervene between the stopping of the clockwork of the body's life and the finished death of the man by the departure of the immortal spirit. Now, in all that
interval since the union of the spirit to the body first set the machine at work, if the stop proceed only from some external force, some restraint the motion of any principal part, without derangement, damage, or decay of the organization itself, the presence of the soul in the body will be a sufficient cause to restore the motion, if the impediment only can be removed.
Thus, by the united lights of revelation and philosophy, connecting what is clear and indisputable in each, separated from all conjecture and precarious inference, we have deduced a proof of those important truths to which the founders of this Society have been indeed the first to turn the attention of mankind, namely, that the vital principle may remain in a man for some time after all signs of the vegetable life disappear in his body; that what have hitherto passed, even among physicians, for certain signs of a complete death the rigid limb, the clay-cold skin, the silent pulse, the breathless lip, the livid cheek, the fallen jaw, the pinched nostril, the fixed staring eye-are uncertain and equi
vocal, insomuch that a human body, under all these appearances of death, is in many instances capable of resuscitation.
The truth of these principles, however contrary to received opinions and current prejudices, is now abundantly confirmed by the success with which Providence hath blessed the attempts of this Society for the space of fourteen years. It is universally confirmed by the equal success vouchsafed to the attempts of similar societies, formed after the example of this, in other parts of Great Britain, and in foreign countries. The benevolence of the institution speaks for itself. The founders of it are men whom it were injurious to suspect of being actuated in its first formation by the vain desire of attracting public notice by a singular undertaking. The plan of the Society is so adverse to any private interested views, that it acquits them of all sordid motives; for the medical practitioners accept no, pecuniary recompence for the time which they devote to a difficult and tedious process for the anxiety they feel while the event is doubtful- for
the mortification which they too often undergo, when death in spite of all their efforts at last carries off his prey - nor for the insults to which they willingly expose themselves from vulgar incredulity. Their
sole reward is in the holy joy of doing good. Of an institution thus free in its origin from the suspicion of ambitious views, and in its plan renouncing selfinterest in every shape, philanthropy must be the only basis. The good intention therefore of the Society is proved by its constitution; the wisdom and public utility of the undertaking are proved by its success. The good intention, the wisdom, and the public utility of the institution, give it no small claim upon the public for a liberal support. I must particularly mention, that the benefit of this Society is by no means confined to the two cases of drowning and suspension: Its timely succours have roused the lethargy of opium, taken in immoderate and repeated doses; they have rescued the wretched victims of intoxication-rekindled the life extinguished by the sudden stroke of lightning-recovered the apoplectic restored life to the infant that had lost it in