An Antidote Against Atheism/Book II/Chapter VIII

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Chap. VIII.

1. The designed Usefulness of Animals for Man, as in particular of the Dog and the Sheep. 2. As also of the Oxe and other Animals. 3. Of Mans subduing the Creatures to himself. 4. Of those that are as yet untamed. 5. The excellent Usefulness of the Horse. 6. The Usefulness of some Animals that are Enemies to such Animals as are hatefull or noisome to Man.

1.We are now come to take a view of the nature of Animals: In the contemplation whereof we shall use much-what the same Method we did in that of Plants, for we shall consider in them also their Beauty, their Birth, their Make and Fabrick of body, and Usefulness to Mankind. And to dispatch this last first; It is wonderful easie and natural to conceive, that as almost all are made in some sort or other for humane uses, so some so notoriously and evidently, that without main violence done to our Faculties we can in no wise deny it. As to instance in those things that are most obvious and familiar; When we see in the solitary fields a Shepherd, his Flock and his Dog, how well they are fitted together, when we knock at a Farmer's door, and the first that answers shall be his vigilant Mastiff, whom from his use and office he ordinarily names Keeper; (and I remember, Theophrastus in his character Περὶ αγροικιας, tells us, that his Master when he has let the stranger in, ἐπὶλαβόμενος τοῦ ῥύγχους, taking his Dog by the snout, will relate long stories of his usefulness and his services he does to the house and them in it; Οὗτος φυλασσει τὸ χωρίον καὶ τοῖς οἰκίαν καὶ τοὺς ἔιδον, This is he that keeps the yard, the house and them within) lastly, when we view in the open Champain a brace of swift Grey-hounds coursing a good stout and well-breathed Hare, or a pack of well-tuned Hounds and Huntsmen on their horse-backs with pleasure and alacrity pursuing their game, or hear them winding their Horns near a wood side, so that the whole wood rings with the Echo of that Musick and chearful yelping of the eager Dogs; to say nothing of Duck-hunting, of Fox-hunting, of Otter-hunting, and a hundred more such like sports and pastimes, that are all performed by this one kind of Animal: I say, when we consider this so multifarious congruity and fitness of things in reference to our selves, how can we withhold from inferring, That that which made both Dogs and Ducks and Hares and Sheep, made them with a reference to us, and knew what it did when it made them? And though it be possible to be otherwise, yet it is highly improbable that the flesh of Sheep should not be designed for food for men; and that Dogs, that are such a familiar and domestick Creature to Man, amongst other pretty feats that they doe for him, should not be intended to supply the place of a Servitour too, and to take away the bones and scraps, that nothing might be lost. And unless we should expect that Nature should make Jerkins and Stockens grow out of the ground, what, could she doe better then afford us so fit materials for Cloathing as the Wooll of the Sheep, there being in Man Wit and Art to make use of it? To say nothing of the Silk-worm, that seems to come into the world for no other purpose then to furnish man with more costly cloathing, and to spin away her very entrails to make him fine without.

2. Again, When we view those large Bodies of Oxen, what can we better conceit them to be, then so many living and walking powdring-Tubs, and that they have animam pro Sale, as Philo speaks of Fishes, that their life is but for Salt, to keep them sweet till we shall have need to eat them? Besides, their Hides afford us Leather for Shoes and Boots, as the Skins of other Beasts also serve for other uses. And indeed Man seems to be brought into the world on purpose that the rest of the Creation might be improved to the utmost usefulness and advantage: For were it not better that the Hides of Beasts and their Flesh should be made so considerable use of as to feed and cloath Men, then that they should rot and stink upon the ground, and fall short of so noble an improvement as to be matter for the exercise of the Wit of Man, and to afford him the necessary conveniences of life? For if Man did not make use of them, they would either dye of Age, or be torn apieces by more cruel Masters. Wherefore we plainly see that it is an Act of Reason and Counsel to have made Man, that he might be a Lord over the rest of the Creation, and keep good quarter among them.

3. And being furnish'd with fit Materials to make himself Weapons, as well as with natural Wit and Valour, he did bid battel to the very fiercest of them, and either chased them away into solitudes and desarts, or else brought them under his subjection, and gave laws unto them; under which they live more peaceably and are better provided for (or at least might be, if Men were good) then they could be when they were left to the mercy of the Lion, Bear or Tiger. And what if he do occasionally and orderly kill some of them for food? their dispatch is quick, and so less dolorous then the paw of the Bear, or the teeth of the Lion, or tedious Melancholy and sadness of old Age, which would first torture them, and then kill them, and let them rot upon the ground stinking and useless.

Besides, all the wit and Philosophy in the world can never demonstrate, that the killing and slaughtering of a Beast is anymore then the striking of a Bush where a Bird's Nest is, where you fray away the Bird, and then seize upon the empty Nest. So that if we could pierce to the utmost Catastrophe of things, all might prove but a Tragick-Comedy.

4. But as for those Rebels that have fled into the Mountains and Desarts, they are to us a very pleasant subject of Natural History; besides, we serve our selves of them as much as is to our purpose: and they are not onely for Ornaments of the Universe, but a continual Exercise of Mans Wit and Valour when he pleases to encounter. But to expect and wish that there were nothing but such dull tame things in the world that will neither bite nor scratch, is as groundless and childish as to wish there were no Choler in the body, nor Fire in the universal compass of Nature.

5. I cannot insist upon the whole result of this war, nor must forget how that generous Animal the Horse had at last the wit to yield himself Up, to his own great advantage and ours. And verily he is so fitly made for us, that we might justly claim a peculiar right in him above all other Creatures. When we observe his patient service he does us at the Plough, Cart, or under the Pack-saddle, his speed upon the high-way in matters of importance, his docibleness and desire of glory and praise, and consequently his notable atchievements in War, where he will snap the Spears apieces with his teeth, and pull his Riders Enemy out of the Saddle; and then that he might be able to perform all this labour with more ease, that his Hoofs are made so fit for the Art of the Smith and that round armature of Iron he puts upon them, it is a very hard thing not to acknowledge, that this so congruous contrivance of things was really from a Principle of Wisdome and Counsel.

6. There is also another consideration of Animals and their Usefulness, in removing those Evils we are pester'd with by reason of the abundance of some other hurtful Animals, such as are Mice, and Rats, and the like; and to this end the Cat, is very serviceable. And there is in the West-Indies a Beast in the form of a Bear, which Cardan calls Ursus Formicarius, whose very business it is to eat up all the Ants, which some parts of that Quarter of the World are sometimes excessively plagued withall.

We might adde also sundry Examples of living creatures that not onely bear a singular good affection to Mankind, but are also fierce Enemies to those that, are very hurtful and cruel to Man: and such are the Lizard, an Enemy to the Serpent; the Dolphin, to the Crocodile; the Horse, to the Bear; the Elephant, to the Dragon, &c. But I lift not to insist upon these things.