Page images

to perceive that the operation of the same causes might perpetuate the regular motions of the planetary system? Why do we note facts with accuracy, or collect them with diligence? why do we interrogate nature by experiment? Is it not because we wish to prove some of our own opinions to be true, or the opposing opinions of others to be false? or, because we wish to enlarge the boundaries of science in a direction in which we think they admit of extension? What induces one person to prohibit another from theorizing? Is it not because he has himself attempted it in vain, and therefore deems the attempt unavailing?

Feelings and opinions are the chief sources of all our intellectual conduct: we ought therefore to cultivate good and honorable feelings, and to scrutinize opinions, with a view to entertain none but those that appear correct; and such an examination, to which I now invite you, must be allowed to be a proper exercise of intellect.

Since thinking is inevitable, our chief

enquiry should be how we ought to

think or theorize; and on this point Newton himself has condescended to instruct us. Our theories, hypotheses, or opinions, for to me all these words seem to refer to one and the same act of the mind—should be verifiable or probable, and should rationally, account for all the known phaenomena of the subject they pretend to ex- plain; under which circumstances it is allowable to maintain them as good, until others more satisfactory be discovered. No man who, thus theorizes need feel shame in this employment of his intellec tual powers; no man can feel arrogance, for it is acknowledged that his theory is but a probable and rational conjecture.

Besides, we never can be sure, that the series of facts belonging to any subject is full or complete; new ones may be discovered, that would overturn our best established theories.

Upon the foregoing terms alone do I wish to uphold Mr. Hunter's theory of life; and I do soon the present occasion, because it seems highly probable, it was his think

ing in the manner he was known to do, that

caused him to survey all the facts connected

with the subject of life in general with so much accuracy, as well as to note its disordered states and sympathies in a manner which has so greatly contributed to increase our practical knowledge. It is highly probable that it was his hypothesis respecting life which incited him to enquiries by which he has been able to supply the deficient facts, so as to es:

tablish his conjectures, or convert his hy

pothesis into a theory.

Mr. Hunter seems to have put us into a right path, and every step we take our prospects become more enlarged and distinct, and we evidently approximate to the ultimate object which we have in view.

[ocr errors]

Whoever duly reflects on the extent of human knowledge and power, cannot but feel an interest in anatomical enquiries; since he must perceive that it is by means of the organization of the body, the mind acquires all its information, and executes all its purposes. When, however, we engage in anatomical enquiries, we find so great a diversity of structure in the different parts of the body; so great a variety of expedients for effecting certain purposes, all so simple in their nature, yet so adequate to their intended design, that anatomy becomes highly interesting from the curiosity it excites, the knowledge it im

parts, and the food for meditation it affords. - -:

When also in the prosecution of our anatomical enquiries, we as it were analyze the body, or reduce it to its elementary parts; when we find that every organ, and every portion of it, is composed of a few and simple vessels, a few

and simple fibres; that by these it is - originally formed, kept in constant repair, endowed with animation, sensation, and motion ; we become lost in astonishment that such important ends can be effected by apparently such simple means.

On reflecting how I might best accomplish the duty which devolves to me, of giving anatomical lectures in a place by no means suited to anatomical demonstrations, I thought I could not do better than speak of the structure and

--- - - ---- ---------------4------ ***

« PreviousContinue »