Science as vocation

Glorifying God

“ There are those who condemn the study of Experimental Philosophy as a mere inquisitiveness and denounce the passion for knowledge as a pursuit unpleasing to God, and so quench the zeal of the philosopher. As if Almighty God were jealous of the knowledge of men. As if when He first formed us He did not clearly perceive how far the light of human intelligence could penetrate, or were it to His glory to do so, could not have confined it within narrower limits.”
Wisdom of God

“ We would urge men of University standing to spare a brief interval from other pursuits for the study of nature and of the vast library of creation so that they can gain wisdom in it at first hand and learn to read the leaves of plants and the characters impressed on seeds and flowers and seeds. Surely we can admit that even if, as things are, such studies do not greatly conduce to wealth or human favour, there is for a free man no occupation more worthy and delightful than to contemplate the beauteous works of nature and honour the infinite wisdom and goodness of god.”
Wisdom of God

“ Methinks, by all this Provision for the Use and Service of Man, the Almighty interpretatively speaks to him in this manner: ... I have implanted in thy Nature a desire of seeing strange and foreign, and finding out unknown Countries, for the improvement and advance of thy Knowiedge in Geography, by observing the Bays, and Creeks, and Havens, and Promontories, the Outlets of Rivers, the Situation of the Maritime Towns and Cities, the Longitude and Latitude, &c of those Places: In Politicks, by noting their Government, their Manners, Laws, and Customs, their Diet and Medicine, their Trades and Manufactures, their Houses and Buildings, their Exercises and Sports, &c. In Physiologv, or Natural History, by searching out their Natural Rarities, the Productions both of Land and Water, what Species of Animals, Plants, and Minerals, of Fruits and Drugs are to be found there, what Commodities for Bartering and Permutation, whereby thou may’st be enabled to make large Additions to Natural History, to advance those other Sciences, and to benefit and enrich thy Country by increase of its Trade and Merchandize”
Wisdom of God p.163-4

“ I perswade my self, that the bountiful and gracious Author of Man’s Being and Faculties, and all things else, delights in the Beauty of his Creation, and is well Pleased with the Industry of Man, in adorning the Earth with beautiful Cities and Castles, with pleasant villages and Country-Houses, with regular Gardens and Orchards, and Plantations of all sorts of Shrubs, and Herbs, and Fruits, for Meat, Medicine, or moderate Delight, with shady Woods and Groves, and Walks set with Rows of elegant Trees; with Pastures cloathed with Flocks, and Valleys covered over with Corn, and meadows burthened with Grass, and whatever else differenceth a civil and well cultivated Region, from a barren and desolate Wilderness.

“ If a Country thus planted and adorn’d, thus polished and civilized, thus improved to the height by all manner of Culture for the Support and Sustenance, and convenient Entertainment of innumerable multitudes of People, be not to be preferred before a barbarous and inhospitable Scythia, without Houses, without Plantations, without Corn-fields or Vineyards, where the roving Hords of the savage and truculent Inhabitants, transfer themselves from place to place in Waggons, as they can find Pasture and Forrage for their Cattle, and live upon Milk, and Flesh roasted in the Sun, at the Pomels of their Saddles; or a rude and unpolished America, peopled with slothful and naked Indians, instead of well-built Houses, living in pitifu1 Huts and Cabbins, made of Poles set end-ways; then surely the brute Beasts Condition, and manner of Living, to which, what we have mention’d doth nearly approach, is to be esteem’d better than Man’s, and Wit and Reason was in vain bestowed on him.”
Wisdom of God p.165

“ Use. Let us then consider the Works of God, and observe the Operations of his Hands: Let us take notice of, and admire his infinite Wisdom and Goodness in the Formation of them: No Creature in this sublunary World is capable of so doing, beside Man, and yet we are deficient herein: We content ourselves with the Knowledge of the Tongues, on a little Skill in Philology, or History perhaps, and Antiquity, and neglect that which to me seems more material, I mean, Natural History, and the Works of the Creation: I do not discommend, or derogate from those other Studies: I should betray mine own Ignorance and Weakness should I do so; I only wish they might not altogether jostle out, and exclude this. I wish that this might be brought in fashion among us; I wish Men would be equal and civil, as not to disparage, deride, and vilifie those Studies which themselves skill not of, or are not conversant in; no Knowledge can be more pleasant than this, none that doth so satisfie and feed the Soul; in comparison whereto that of Words and Phrases seems to me insipid and jejeune That Learning (saith a wise and observant Prelate) which consists only in the Form and Pedagogy of Arts or the critical Notions upon Words and Phrases, hath in it this intrinsical imperfection that it is only so far to be esteemed, as it conduceth to the Knowledge of Things, being in itelf but a kind of Pedantry, apt to infect a Man with such odd Humours of Pride and Affectation, and Curiosity, as will render him unfit for any great Employment. Words being but the Images of Matter, to be wholly given up to the study of these, what is it but Pygmalion’s Frenzy, to fall in Love with a Picture or Image? As for Oratory, which is the best skill”
Wisdom of God p.169

“ It may be (for ought I know, and as some Divines have thought) part of our Business and Employment in Eternity, to contemplate the Works of God, and give him the Glory of his Wisdom, Power, and Goodness, manifested in the Creation of them. I am sure it is part of the Business of a Sabbath-day, and the Sabbath is a Type of that Eternal Rest; for the Sabbath seems to have been first instituted for a Commemoration of the Works of the Creation, from which God is said to have rested upon the Seventh-Day.”
Wisdom of God p.170

“ It is not likely that Eternal Life shall bea torpid and unactive state, or that it shall consist only in an uninterrupted and endless Act of Love; the other Faculties shall employed as well as the Will, in Adrions suitable to, and perfective of their Nature especially the Understandint, the Supreme Faculty of the Soul, which chieflv differenceth us from brute Beasts, and makes us capable of Virtue and Vice, of Rewards and Punishments, shall be busied and employed in contemplating the Wsorks of God, and observing the Divine Art and Wisdom, manifested in the Structure and Composition of them and reflecting upon their Great Architect the Praise and Glory due to him. Then shall we clearly see to our great satisfaction and admiration, the Ends and Uses of these Things which here were either too subtle for us penetrate and discover, or too remote and unaccessible for us to come to any distinct view of, viz the Planets, and fix’d Stars; those illustrious Bodies, whose Contents and Inhabitants, whose Stores and Furniture we have here so longing a desire to know, as also their mutual subserviency to each other. Now the Mind of Man being not capable at once to advert to more than one thing, a particular View and Examination of such an innumerable number Qf vast Bodies, and the great multitude of Species, both of animate and inanimate Beings, which each of them contains, will afford Matter enough to exercise and employ our Minds, I do not say, to all eternity, but to many Ages, should we do nothing else.”
Wisdom of God p.171

“ Let it not suffice us to be Book-learned, to read what others have written, and to take upon Trust more Falsehood than Truth: But let us ourselves .examine things as we have opportunity, and converse with Nature as well as Books. Let us endeavour to promote and encrease this Knowledge, and make new Discoveries, not so much distrusting our own Parts, or despairing of our own Abilities, as to think that our Industry can add no thing to the Invention of our Ancestors, or correct any of their Mirakes. Let us not think that the bounds of Science are fixed like Hercules’s Pillars, and inscribed with a Ne plus ultra. Let us not think we have done, when we have learnt what they have delivered to us. The Treasurers of Nature are inexhaustible. Here Is Employment enough, for the vastest Parts, the most indefatigable Industries, the happiest Opportunities, the most prolix and undisturb’d Vacancies”
Wisdom of God p.172

“ I know that a new Study at first seems very vast, intricate, and difficult; but after a little resolution and progress, after a Man becomes a little acquainted, as I may say, with it, his Understanding, is wonderfully cleared up and enlarged, the Difficulties vanish and the thing grows easie and familiar. And for our encouragement in this Study, observe what the Psalmist saith, Psalm 111 v2 "The works of the Lord are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein. Which though it be principally spoken of the Works of Providence, yet may as well be verified of the Works of Creation. I am sorry to see so little count made of real Experimental Philosophy in this University; and that those ingenious Sciences of the Mathematicks are so much neglected by us: And therefore do earnestly exhort those that are young, especially Gentlemen, to set upon these Studies, and take some pains in them. They may possibly invent something of eminent Use and Advantage to the World; and one such Discovery would abundantly compensate the Expence and Travel of one Man s whole Life. However, it is enough to maintain and continue what is already invented: Neither do I see what more ingenious and manly Employment they can pursue, tending more to the Satisfaction of their own Minds and the Illustration of the Glory of God. For he is wonderful in all his Works.”
Wisdom of God p.173

“ But I would not have any Man cross his natural Genius or Inclinations, or undertake such Methods of Study, as his Parts are not fitted to, or not serve those Ends to which his Friends upon mature Deliberation have designed him; but those who do abound with Leisure, or who have a natural Propension and Genius inclining them thereto, or those who by Reason of the Strength and Greatness of their Parts, are able to compass and comprehend the whole Latitude of Learning.”
Wisdom of God p.174

Ray thought that students of Divinity [training for church ministry] would benefit from some classes in natural history.

“ Neither yet need those who are designed to Divinity itself, fear to look into these Studies, or think they will engross their whole Time, and that no considerable Progress can be made therein, unless Men lay aside and neglect their ordinary Callings, and necessary Employments ...we might find Time enough, did we husband it well: Seneca saith, "We have not received a short Life, but have made it so; neither do we want time but are prodigal of it. And did but young Men fill up that time with these Studies, which lies upon their Hands, ...and troubled how to pass away, much might be done even so. I do not see but the Study of true Physiology, may be justly accounted a proper Preparative to Divinity.”
Wisdom of God p.174

“ The Scripture, Psalm 148 calls upon "The Sun, Moon, and Stars; Fire and Hail, Snow and Vapour; stormy Winds and Tempests, Mountains and all Hills... How can that be? Can senseless and inanimate Things praise God? ...doth in effect call upon Men and Angels, and other rational Beings, to consider those great Effects of the Divine Power and Wisdom, their vast Dimensions, their regular Motions and Periods, their admirable Disposition and Order, their eminent Ends and Uses in illuminating and enlivening the Planets, and other Bodies about them, and their Inhabitants, by their comfortable and cherishing Light, Heat, and Influences, and to give God the Glory of his Power, in making such great and illustrious Bodies, and of his Wisdom and Goodness in so placing and disposing of them, so moving them regularly and constantly, without clashing or interfering one with another, and enduing them with such excellent Virtues and Properties as to render them... beneficial to Man, and all other creatures about them. ...when they are commanded to praise God, which they cannot do by themselves; Man is commanded to consider them particularly, to Observe and take Notice of their curious Structure, Ends, and Uses, and give God the Praise of his Wisdom and other Attributes therein manifested.”
Wisdom of God p.178

“ And therefore those who have Leisure, Opportunity, and Abilities, to contemplate and consider any of these Creatures, if they do it not, do as it were rob God of some part of his Glory, in neglecting or slighting so eminent a Subject of it, and wherein they might have discovered so much Art, Wisdom, and Contrlvance.

And it is particularly remarkable, that the Divine Author of this Psalm, amongst other Creatures, calls upon Insects also to praise God; which is as much as to say, ye Sons of Men, neglect none of his Works, those which seem most vile and contemptible; there is Praise belongs to him for them. Think not that any Thing he hath vouchsafed to create, is unworthy thy Cognizance, to be slighted by thee. It is Pride and Arrogance, or Ignorance and Folly in thee so to think. There is a greater depth of Art and Skill in the Structure of the meanest Insect, than thou art able for to fathom or comprehend.

The Wisdom Art, and Power of Almighty God, shines forth as visibly in the Structure of the Body of the minutest Insect, as in that of a Horse or Elephant: Therefore God is said to be, Maximus in minimis. We Men, esteem it a more difficult Matter, and of greater Art and Curiosity to frame a small Watch, than a large Clock: And no Man blames him who spent spent his whole time in the Consideration of the Nature and Works of a Bee, or thinks his Subject was too narrow. Let us not then esteem any thing contemptible or inconsiderable, or below our notice taking; for this is to derogate from the Wisdom and Art of the Creator, and to confess ourselves unworthy of those Endowments of Knowledge and Understanding which he hath bestowed on us. Do we praise [human inventors] for their Cunning in inventing, and Dexterity in framing and composing a few dead Engines or Movements, and shall we not admire and magnifie the Great Former of the World, who hath made so many, yea, I may say, innumerable, rare Pieces, and those too not dead ones, such as cease presently to move so soon as the Spring is down, but all living, and themselves performing their own Motions, and those so intricate and various, and requiring such a Multitude of Parts and subordinate Machines, that is is incomprehensible, what Art, and Skill, and Industry, must be employed in the framing of one of them?”
Wisdom of God p.180-1

| Home | John Ray | Pagetop |