|Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916.|
Vol. III. Seventeenth Century
|The Kingdom of Heaven|
|By Isaac Barrow (16301677)|
From Sermon On the Being of God proved from the Frame of the World
BUT especially (that which as reason enables us, so due gratitude obliges us, and prompts us especially to observe) there is an evident regard (so evident, that even Pliny, a professed Epicurean, could not forbear acknowledging it) which all things bear to man, the prince of creatures visible; they being all as on purpose ordered to yield tribute unto him; to supply his wants, to gratify his desires; with profit and pleasure to exercise his faculties; to content, as it were, even his humour and curiosity. All things about us do minister (or at least may do so, if we improve the natural instruments, and the opportunities afforded us) to our preservation, ease, or delight. The hidden bowels of the earth yield us treasures of metals and minerals, quarries of stone and coal, so necessary, so serviceable to divers good uses, that we could not commodiously be without them; the vilest and most common stones we tread on (even in that we tread on them) are useful, and serve to many good purposes beside: the surface of the earth how is it bespread all over, as a table well furnished, with variety of delicate fruits, herbs, and grains to nourish our bodies, to please our tastes, to cheer our spirits, to cure our diseases! how many fragrant and beautiful flowers offer themselves for the comfort of our smell and the delight of our sight! Neither can our ears complain, since every wood breeds a quire of natural musicians, ready to entertain them with easy and unaffected harmony. The woods, I say, which also adorned with stately trees afford us a pleasant view and a refreshing shade, shelter from weather and sun, fuel for our fires, materials for our houses and our shipping; with divers other needful utensils. Even the barren mountains send us down fresh streams of water, so necessary to the support of our lives, so profitable for the fructification of our grounds, so commodious for conveyance of our wares and maintaining intercourse among us. Yea the wide seas are not (altogether unprofitable) wastes; but freely yield us, without our tillage, many rich harvests, transmitting our commerce and traffic, furnishing our tables with stores of dainty fish, supplying the bottles of heaven with waters to refresh the earth, being inexhaustible cisterns, from whence our rivers and fountains are derived; the very rude and boisterous winds themselves fulfil Gods word (which once commanded all things to be good, and approved them to be so) by yielding manifold services to us; in brushing and cleansing the air for our health, in driving forward our ships (which without their friendly help could not stir) in gathering together, in scattering, in spreading abroad the clouds; the clouds, those paths of God which drop fatness upon our fields and pastures. As for our living subjects, all the inferior sorts of animals, it is hardly possible to reckon the manifold benefits we receive from them; how many ways they supply our needs with pleasant food and convenient clothing, how they ease our labour, how they promote even our recreation and sport. Thus have all things upon this earth (as is fit and seemly they should have) by the wise and gracious disposal of the great Creator, a reference to the benefit of its noblest inhabitant, most worthy and most able to use them: many of them have an immediate reference to man (as necessary to his being, or conducive to his well-being; being fitted thereto, to his hand, without his care, skill, or labour), others a reference to him, more mediate indeed, yet as reasonable to suppose; I mean such things, whose usefulness doth in part depend upon the exercise of our reason, and the instruments subservient thereto: for what is useful by the help of reason, doth as plainly refer to the benefit of a thing naturally endowed with that faculty, as what is agreeable to sense refers to a thing merely sensitive: we may therefore, for instance, as reasonably suppose, that iron was designed for our use, though first we be put to dig for it, then must employ many arts, and much pains before it become fit for our use; as that the stones were therefore made, which be open to our view; and which without any preparation we easily apply to the pavement of our streets, or the raising of our fences: also, the grain we sow in our grounds, or the trees which we plant in our orchards, we have reason to conceive as well provided for us, as those plants which grow wildly and spontaneously; for that sufficient means are bestowed on us of compassing such ends, and rendering those things useful to us (a reason able to contrive what is necessary in order thereto, and a hand ready to execute), it being also reasonable, that something should be left for the improvement of our reason, and employment of our industry, lest our noblest powers should languish and decay by sloth, or want of fit exercise.