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ries, and in the histories of those whom we best know. Such an exercise would be useful as well as interesting; for it would teach us that, whether we heed it or no, there is a watchful eye and a guiding hand, noticing and directing every event; and that nothing is too minute to be under the control of Him by whom the very hairs of our head are numbered, and without whom not a sparrow falls to the ground. But what was the trifling circumstance which led to such important consequences in the future life of Newton ?
During the time that the Plague was raging so fearfully, he left Cambridge, and retired into the country, to avoid the risk of infection; for the danger was not confined to the city of London. One day, as Newton was sitting in the garden, busied most probably with the thoughts of his own reasoning mind, he observed an apple fall from a tree. Now there was nothing at all extraordinary in this. It is what happens continually, and hundreds of people might see apples fall from the trees every day, and no other thought would be suggested to their minds by such a simple matter than that of picking them up, and eating them. But it was very different with Newton. He observed, and then he reflected. That falling apple led him to ask himself the question, "Why does it fall?" and the train of reason
ing which followed the enquiry, ended in the discovery of that great law of nature, in obedience to which not only apples fall to the ground, but the earth revolves, and the planets perform their courses in the heavens ;-the law of gravitation.
The very law which moulds a tear,
And bids it trickle from its source,—
And guides the planets in their course.
It will not be necessary for us to talk about the various discoveries and inventions of this great man; but let us not neglect to take a hint from the little incident I have just told you. One lesson, you remember, which we were to learn from Locke, was to look within, and to think. The lesson we are to learn here from Newton, may be, to look around, and to think.
There are events passing around us every day, which are so common, and, as we are accustomed to suppose, so trifling, that we pay no attention to them at all. Now we lose a great deal of pleasure, and a great deal of instruction too, from this heedlessness of ours; for though only minds of a very superior and uncommon order, such as Newton's was, can make remarkable discoveries, and draw unexpected conclusions from these every day incidents, to astonish and enlighten the world,
yet any person of ordinary ability may, if he choose, observe and reflect upon what he sees, and thus
Find tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
I must not omit to tell you, that Sir Isaac Newton, like the other two great men of whom we have been speaking to-day, was an attentive student of the Bible. He brought the powers of his mind, especially those powers of mathematical calculation for which he was so distinguished, into exercise, in the study of that book; and devoted a large share of his time and attention, to the work of explaining some difficult passages in the prophetical parts of scripture, which baffle the investigation of ordinary minds. The grand and necessary truths of the Bible are indeed so plain and simple, that even a child may understand them; but then there are hard and mysterious portions also; and no doubt these have been given to teach us patience and humility, as well as to lead us to diligence aud study. It was a noble use which Newton made of his intellectual powers, when he employed them in the investigation of the revealed will of the eternal God.
But there are two more points which I wish you to notice and to remember in Newton's
character. The first is, his patience. You may suppose what long and persevering effort was needed to work out his own ideas, from their first suggestion to their final results,to trace back effects to their causes, and to see how one link was connected with another in the long train of scientific reasoning. All this required time, and was the result of steady fixedness of purpose. Sometimes this patience of Newton was tried by circumstances over which he had no control. And this reminds me of another trifling occurrence which I may mention, in his every day history,-one which was very different in its consequences, however, from that of the falling apple. It was an unpleasant occurrence, but it served to show Newton's patience, and his equanimity of temper, and so may not be without its use to those who hear of it.
Newton happened to have a dog named Diamond. This dog was a great favourite, and unfortunately he was allowed to have too free access to his master's study. Diamond indeed seems to have been as regardless of the philosopher's speculations, as the mouse had been in former days; and he occasioned much more annoyance by his freaks and fancies, than the little "miller" had done by devouring the One day, Newton was called from his study, and hastily went into the next room,
forgetting at the moment, that he had left Diamond in sole possession of the vacated apartment. On his return, he found to his great consternation, that the playful dog had, during his absence, thrown down a lighted candle upon some papers which contained a number of important calculations. They had taken fire, and thus were consumed the fruits of many years' labours. It was a trying moment even for a philosopher. But Newton was too wise, and of too gentle a temper, to be betrayed into any irritation or useless complaints, vexed as he was at the accident; and turning to the mischievous favourite, who could not be expected to feel much sympathy with his master in this disaster, he only said, "Oh Diamond, Diamond, thou little knowest what mischief thou hast done! "
The other point I wished you to notice in Newton's character, is his humility. And indeed we need not wonder to hear that this was a part of his character, for humility is the constant accompaniment of a truly great mind. It is the ignorant and foolish who are proud and conceited, and who think highly of themselves and of their acquirements; for they know so little, that they are not aware how much there is to be known, and how very small a distance they have advanced in the road of learning and science. But those who