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“ THERE IS A PHILOSOPHY WHICH NOBLY EXERCISES OUR REASONABLE FACULTIES, AND IS HIGHLY SERVICEABLE TO RELIGION :-SUCH A STUDY OF THE WORKS OF GOD, AS LEADS US TO THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD, AND CONFIRMS OUR FAITH IN HIM. BUT THERE IS A PHILOSOPHY WHICH IS VAIN AND DECEITFUL, WHICH SETS UP THE WISDOM OF MAN AGAINST THE WISDOM OF GOD, AND, WHILE IT PLEASES NEN'S FANCIES, HINDBRS THEIR FAITH.”—Davenant.
BY THE AMERICAN EDITOR.
It was after a due consideration of the merits and defects of the SACRED PHILOSOPHY OF THE SEASONS,' and in the expectation that the latter would be reduced in number and importance by a thorough revision, that the work was adopted by the Massachusetts Board of Education into The SchooL LIBRARY.'
Several of the defects of this work, seem to be incidental to its plan. Cursoriness, incompleteness, and inequality of execution might be looked for, from the great number and variety of topics introduced, and subjects discussed, in the course of the four volumes, and from the impossibility that an equal measure of attention and justice should be rendered to them all, by one individual writer. A glance at the Table of Contents, is sufficient to convince any reasonable
person, that a thorough treatment of the various questions of art and science there comprehended, in so small a work as the present, is wholly out of the question. Thoroughness is not, and could not have been a characteristic of these volumes. The Author makes no pretension to it. The reader should not demand it.
Nor is it to be expected that all the questions touched
upon in these volumes, should be handled with an equal degree of ability and satisfactoriness. A compiler, even as a compiler, will naturally speak best concerning the matter with which he is best acquainted. Knowledge and skill are required to compile well; and it may easily be ascertained, from the extracts which are made, and the character of the authors who are quoted from, whether he who employs the labors of others, is well or ill versed in the subject before him. The Sacred PHILOSOPHY OF THE Seasons' holds a higher rank than that of a mere compilation, because it contains much that is properly original but on many of the topics embraced in its wide
its Author relies wholly, and professedly, on the authority of other.writers, and adduces their very words ; and it is not difficult to discover to which of these topics he is himself most partial, and concerning which he knows how to collect the best information. Some of the subjects must necessarily suffer, and as the Editor can but partially remedy this want of exact justice, on account of his own preferences on the one hand and ignorances on the other, the defect of inequality of execution may be regarded as inherent in the nature of the work.
But some other defects were perceived, which, though not to be wondered at, were more remediable. In the Edinburgh edition, there were occasional repetitions and redundancies, which, in the present, have been curtailed. There were errors, some of them to be attributed, no doubt, to the printer, which in the present have been corrected. Not a few of these errors were of vital importance to the meaning of the passage in which they occurred. Such, for instance, was the reading Plantaria, which, in the nomenclature of some naturalists, stands for a section of quadrupeds, instead of Planaria, which is a tribe of flat-shaped aquatic worms. Names of individuals and of places were sometimes misspelt, and quotations from Scripture were incorrectly given. It is believed that not many errors, of the nature specified, have been suffered to escape the eyes of the Editor, and those who have assisted him.
Whatever were found to be the deficiencies of this work, its merits were deemed very greatly to outweigh them ; -merits which peculiarly adapt it for the service which the Board of Education has in view. The variety of knowledge which it embraces, is well calculated to awaken and gratify the curiosity of the young, while it is also interesting to maturer years. Though this variety is incompatible with thoroughness, it cannot justly be denominated superficial, because it is observant of correctness, and relies on the best authorities, which, in natural history and science especially, are the latest. This variety, also, it is to be noticed, offers to the mind of the reader a wide choice of subjects, suggesting thoughts and inquiries on all of them, which may be pursued at will ; and though he may be feebly interested by some of these subjects, he may be induced to follow up and investigate others, and consult the authors who are referred to and quoted, to his exceeding gratification and benefit. It is a work which instructs and informs by its multitude of observations and facts, and incites to reflection and further study, by its still greater multitude of suggestions.
Another merit of this work, is its religious character and tendency. It developes, and often very happily, the sacred philosophy of the Seasons. Its main object, never lost sight of, is to show that the operations of Nature are the work of God's hand, the intimations of his presence and agency, the proofs of his wisdom, the manifestations of his love. It aims at constructing no cunning argument, at weaving no newly-devised web of too ingenious thought, but steadily it points to some nice adaptation, some beautiful arrangement in this lower world, and then seriously up to the Great Designer. It produces the impression, accumulatively, page after page, that we live amid surrounding demonstrations of Supreme Intelligence, where every thing is ordered, and cared for, and adjusted, and nothing is left to chance. Its influence is to lead the mind to the religious contemplation and study of the exquisite and marvellous fabric on which we stand, and with which we are placed in mysterious contact. A happy and needed influ
We have, in this country, enterprise enough, and men of enterprise ; politics and politicians enough ; new ideas and theories in plenty ; sufficient agitation and sectarism. What we especially want, is more calmness, and contentment, and refinement, and more of that knowledge which tends to inspire them. We want more quiet students of God's works, earnest though quiet, who may diffuse abroad a portion of that peace with which their own hearts are imbued, and of that information which will insensibly but surely operate to correct the crudities, and soften down the rudeness, and put to silence the quackeries of the times. Such a work as the present, is well adapted