Page images

from any part of the world. Professors and pupils met in his rooins, to listen with instruction and delight to his , conversation; for he was accessible to all. Although com pelled to be a very rigid economist of his time, he was so good-natured and considerate, that if any person who had business to transact with him, called at an unexpected hour, he never sent him away, saying that one who lived so far off had no right to deny himself.

But I advance to the closing scene, which in all probability was accelerated by the withering influence of secret grief for Clementine's death, which though diverted by private study and public busivess, could not be suppressed. The best account of his death is found in Baron Pasquier's Eloge. “On the 18th of May, he opened, in the College of France, the course which he continued for three years with so much success, on the history of the natural sciences. Those who were present at the last lecture of this great master, retain an impression which can never be imparted to such as have not experienced it, and of which I can convey but a very feeble notion. Seldom had he risen to such an elevation; but his auditors were particularly struck with the last phrase which he used, to express his intention of taking a view of the actual state of the study of creation--that sublime study, which, while it enlightens and strengthens the human mind, ought to preserve it from the deceptive habit of regarding things apart from their relation to each other, and distorting them that they may be subjected to the laws of a system ; which, ought, in short, to lead the thoughts incessantly to that Supreme Intelligence, who governs, enlightens, and vivifies all—who reveals all things, and whom all things reveal.

“ At this part of his lecture he displayed a calmness and justness of perception, combined with a depth and seriousness of thought, which led his auditors to think of that Book which speaks of the creation to all mankind. This was the result of his ideas rather than his expressions, for every thing in the free exposition which he made, breathed the feeling of the omnipotence of a supreme Cause, and of an infinite wisdom. He seemed, as it were, by the examination of the visible world, to be led to the precincts of that which is invisible, and the examination of the creature evoked the Creator. At last these words fell from him, in which it is easy to see a presentiment :- Such, gentlemen, will be the object of our investigation, if time, my own strength, and the state of my health, permit me to continue and finish them.' The closing scene of M. Cuvier's life as a public teacher appears to me to

have been impressed with peculiar beauty. Who could fail to be deeply affected at the last accents of so pure an intelligence, disengaged from the vanities and the interests of systems ? Who could remain cold and insensible before the last look thrown on creation by him who had revealed so many of its mysteries ? Who could resist the feeling excited by the view of science revealing eternal wisdom? How noble, how affecting, and how prophetic! So soon to appear before the supreme tribunal, what conviction could he express, what words could he pronounce which would have formed a more suitable preparation ? After this lecture, the first symptoms appeared of the disorder which in less than eight days brought him to the grave. He presided notwithstanding on the following day at the Committee of the Interior. Soon however, paralysis of a peculiar kind, destroyed in succession the nerves that produce voluntary motion, leaving uninjured those which form the seat of sensation; the members affected thus became completely inert, and yet retained their sensibility. All the assistance of art, lavished upon him by men of the greatest skill, was ineffectual, and it soon became apparent that his end was drawing near.

Every one knew with what courage and serenity he saw it approach. The unremitting care and attention which were bestowed on him affected him deeply, but did not diminish his courage. Even to the last he permitted those to approach who had been on terms of intimacy with him, and it was thus that I was a witness of his dying moments. Four hours before his death, I was in that memorable cabinet, where the happiest hours of his life had been spent, and where I had seen him surrounded with so much homage, enjoying his well-merited success; he caused himself to be carried thither, and wished that his last breath should be drawn there. His countenance was in a state of perfect repose, and never did his noble head appear to me more beautiful or worthy of admiration. No alteration of a too sensible or painful kind had yet taken place --only a little weakness and difficulty in supporting himself were observable.

" I held the hand which he had extended to me, while he said in a voice scarcely articulate, - You see what a difference there is between the man of Tuesday, (we had met on that day,) and the man of Sunday; yet so many things remain to be done! Three important works to be published, the materials of which are prepared, and nothing remains for me but to write them.' I made an effort to find some words to express to him the general interest which he excited

• I love to believe it,' he replied ; ' I have long endeavoured to render myself worthy of it.'

" It will be seen that his last thoughts were towards the future, and aspiring after glory-a noble desire of immortality! At nine o'clock of the evening of the 13th of May, he had ceased to live, having reached only the age of sixtytwo, although belonging to a family remarkable for longevity.

“ At his own desire, Cuvier was buried in the Cemetery of Père la Chaise, beneath the tombstone which covered the remains of his daughter. His funeral obsequies were attended by men of all ranks and opinions, who even in the midst of a raging pestilence (the cholera) were eager to offer on his tomb their last tribute of affection and admiration."

Affecting exclamation ! So many things remain to be done! And they were of course left undone. The stern messenger of heaven had received his commission to arrest the philosopher, and was allowed no discretion in executing it ; turning a deaf ear therefore to the wishes of Cuvier for å respite, seconded though they were by those of the whole scientific world, he carried off his illustrious victim to the tomb. O what a comment upon the words of the wisest of men! • Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might ; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave whither thou goest." Eccles. ix. 10. Reader, when death comes, may this not be your exclamation in reference to the great work, the work of your salvation. Yet how common a case is this! What multitudes are surprised by the last enemy, with not only many works of time unfinished, but the work for eternity not even begun ! How many when the hand of death has been suddenly laid upon them, have started with amazement and horror from their neglect of salvation, only to be convinced that it was too late then to attempt it, and that they had made a mistake" at once infinite and irreparable ; and had been guilty of an infatuation, which it will require eternity to deplore, and eternity to comprehend."

What Baron Cuvier's precise sentiments were on the subject of revealed religion, does not appear from any thing I have read. Whether he contented hiinself with those ministrations which he performed with such ability at the altar of natural religion, and thus added one more to the highly gifted minds, who are content with worshipping God the Creator, without doing homage to God the Saviour and the Sanctifier; or whether he paid a sincere homage to the Redeemer of the world, I pretend not to determine. Certain,


however, it is, that in his last moments, so far as the account of his friend extends, there were no expressions of a faith; first looking for comfort and peace to the cross of Christ, then penetrating the veil, and ranging through the regions of immortality; no lively hopes of an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away: no desire to depart and be with Christ ; no felt attractions of the presence of God in heaven. His admiring eulogist tells us of his longings after immortality, but Pasquier evidently meant the immortality which is bounded by earth and time, not that which is enjoyed beyond the grave, in heaven. I do not pretend to say or insinuate there were none of these views and feelings ; his admirers may have suppressed them, as if the rays of the excellent glory falling upon the dying philosopher would bedim the lustre of his countenance, and render him less worthy of admiration, when beheld, catching the first beams of heavenly light, into the full blaze of which he was about to ascend. All I say is, that we have no account of his dying testimony to the truth and excellence, the power and hopes of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Reader, begin at once and without delay to attend to the just and paramount claims of religion. Make it your next, as well as your great business. Time is short-life is uncertain-death is at hand-judgment is approaching-and eternity is to follow. If you are impressed by reading this memoir; if a serious thoughtfulness comes over you, and you feel inclined to give to religion the attention it deserves and demands, cherish such emotions : they form a crisis in your moral history; they are the disturbance of a dangerous slumber, and will issue either in your awakening to the pursuit of salvation, or in your settling down again to a deeper sleep of death. It is a dangerous thing to neglect such admonitions, and to extinguish convictions. " Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. Isaiah lv. 7.



J. & W. Rider, Printers, Bartholomew Close, London.


« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »