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Creator; who to every plant, as to every man, divideth severally as he will ?
It seems essential to trees, that they should be fixed in the earth, and draw their nourishment from it; but some will have no cominunication with the earth; affixing themselves in a strange manner to the wood of other trees, and subsisting upon their juices; yet preserving their own peculiar nature and complexion.
Flowers are commonly expanded by the heat of the an; but some are opened in the evening when others are closed ; and break forth at midnight; particularly one, which is the the glory of the vegetable creation; like the nightingale, which delights the ear of men, and displays its skill without a rival, while other birds are silent and at rest.
When we survey the plants of the sea, how discernible is that wisdom which hath provided for their subsistence and safety in that element ! Such as have broad leaves, and would be forced from their station by tides or storms, if their roots were fixed into an earthy bottom, are fastened by the root to weighty stones and pebbles; where instead of being driven about at random by the agitations of the water, they lie safe at, anchor. That they may not be bruised by lying prostrate on the ground, they arn rendered powerfully buoyaut, and kept, in an trect position, by means of large vesicles of air, variously disposed about their leaves or their stalks, as the difference of their forın and structure may require. A similar provision for their preservation is observable in many of the plants which grow upon the land. Such as are tender and flexible, and apt to trail upon the ground, are furnished with spiral téndrils, or other like means, by which they lay hold of such other plants as are firm and up• right. What an useful lesson is this to human society!
where, according to the analogy of nature, the strong ought to support the weak, and the defenceless should rest securely upon the powerful. How different a place would the world be, if this example were religiously followed !
And now if there are so many effects of the divine wisdom visible to us who are confined in a climate remote from the sun ; what opportunities must they have, what wonders of the Lord must they see, who go down to the sea in ships, and make their observations in happier regions; where the sun, the soil, the air, all things being different, vegetation is on a much larger scale, and presents many grand and glorious objects which can never come to our sight!
In speaking of the growth of plants, which is the second thing to be considered, I must forbear to attempt a theory. The first particular which meets us is that spoken of in the text; that herbs and trees carry their seeds in themselves : from whence it seems deducible, that the primeval tree or plant, which was contemporary with the first father of mankind, included all the trees that should proceed from it to the end of time; so that the seed which is growing into an herb at this day is but an evolution of something which subsisted in the first plant at the creation. How to get clear of this consequence we do not see; and to pursue it we are not able; our imagination is bewildered and lost in the idea of such a succession; the rudiments of a fus ture forest included in a single acorn!
It is not so far beyond us to observe, how the elements in their several capacities are made subservient to the life and increase of plants. The soil on which they grow contains a mixture of principles, wiselý tempered together, which supply vegetables with matter for their nourishment; and their root with its fibres and lacteals, which takes in this nourishinent, answers the same purpose as the stomach in animals. Water is the vehicle which conveys this nourishment into their vessels : while the sun and air, expanding and contracting, keep up an oscillatory motion analogous to that of respiration.
It is now allowed, that there is both a vital circulation of the juices in vegetables, and a large perspiration from their pores : which latter is become a subject of great curiosity and importance, from the successful labours of those who have cultivated this part of natural philosophy. The circulation in plants is strong in the spring, and languid in the winter ; in some it is so forcible and abundant, that if their vessels are opened at an improper season, they will bleed to death, as when an artery is divided in the human body. If the finer spirit evaporates from a plant, and it has no fresh supply, it becomes instantly flaccid and fading, as an animal body dies with the departure of its breath.
The process of vegetation is forwarded in a wonderful manner by the vicissitude of day and night, and the changes of the weather. The heat of the sun raises a moist, elastic vapour, which fills and expands certain vessels in plants, and so gradually enlarges their bulk; while the colder air of the night condenses and digests the matter which has been raised, and so confirms the work of the day. We complain of cold blasts and clouded skies, by the intervention of which vegetation rapidly advancing is suddenly stopped and seems stationary: but this may be wisely ordained by Providence; the growth of herbs may be too hasty ; they are weak in substance, if they are drawn forward too fast. A cold season prevents this too hasty growth; as in the moral world some seasonable disappointment may give a salutary check to an aspiring mind, and es
tablish it in wisdom and patience. Even the roughest motions of the elements have their use. Winds and storms, which agitate the body of trees and herbs, loosen the earth about their roots, and make way for their fibres to multiply, and to strike more kindly into the soil, to find new nourishment. Thus is nature more effectually progressive when it seems to be stationary or even retrograde; and all things work together for good; which they could never do but under the foresight and direction of an all-wise Providence,
But above all, the showers of heaven, concurring with the sun, promote the work of vegetation. They keep the matter of the soil soluble, and consequently moveable; for salts cannot act but in a state of solution; they furnish matter for an expansive vapour, which acts internally and externally; and, what is but little understood, though equally worthy of admiration, the rain brings down with it an invigorating ethereal spirit from the clouds, which gives it an efficacy far beyond all the waterings which human labour can administer. It is here in the kingdom of nature as in the kingdom of
grace; nothing can succeed without a blessing from heaven : Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights *. How commonly do we see, that some seeds which lie still in the ground, and cannot be made to stir by all the waterings of art, will suddenly start up to life as soon as they are touched by a watering from the heavens! Such is the difference between the gifts of God and the gifts of man.
But, thirdly, the goodness of God, as well as his power and wisdom, is displayed in the uses of plants; and it is rather a matter of duty than of curiosity to consider them attentively. It is the wisdom of man
James i. 17.
to learn the will of God from the state of nature, as well as from the pages of revelation; and it is his happiness to follow it when known. According to the state of nature, a preference seems to be given to vegetable diet.
For the useful and harmless cattle, which either feed man with their milk, or assist him in his labours, nothing is provided but a vegetable or farinaceous diet. Animal food is proper to wild beasts of fierce and savage natures; and the man who abuses it is too nearly allied to that class of animals. The beasts distinguished by the Levitical Law as proper and wholesome to man are very few. The inhabitants of the waters, which supply a more temperate diet, are administered to us in much greater variety : butthe luxuriance of nature is found in the vegetable kingdom; where the roots, leaves, fruits, and seeds of plants, afford all that is most tempting to the eye, grateful to the taste, and desirable to the appetite. The sweetest food in the world, which is honey, is a composition elaborated by the bee from the flowers of vegetables. The emblematical horn of plenty is not stored with beasts, fowls, and fishes, but with herbs and fruits for the sustenance and delight of man. The efficacy of a vegetable diet, for preserving the body in health, and the mind' in a clear and temperate state, hath in all ages been confirmed by the experience of the wise and good. The greatest 'instances of longevity, have been found among
the virtuous and the recluse, who feasted on the herbs and roots which their own hands had cultivated.
Of the goodness and wisdom of God we have farther evidence in the medicinal herbs. If men obtain the reputation of wisdom by a judicious application of them to the cure of diseases; what must that original wisdom be, which gave them their forins and their