Youth's Magazine,  3rd ser. 7 (1834), 377–83.




Short Fiction


Theology of Nature, Theodicy, Climatology, Design, Providence, Natural Theology

People mentioned:

Carl Linnaeus

    The narrator begins by describing the habits of Tommy Burford, an eight-year-old boy who has a large stock of information learned by always asking 'Why?' (377). Recounts Tommy's conversation with his father, a man of biblical religion, one morning in November as they walked out together. Mr Burford tells his son: 'He hath made every thing beautiful in his time [...] "But he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end", and is therefore unable to see that beauty, harmony, and order in creation, which it exhibits to His eye who looketh under the whole heavens' (378–79). When Tommy questions why winter has to be so cold, his father counsels against taking a narrow perspective: 'A large portion of the human family is so constituted, as to derive the greatest measure of enjoyment form the rigours of such a season; and were we to travel to the coldest regions of the earth, we should find them teeming with the inferior animals, all of which are so well adapted to their station and circumstances, that elsewhere they would be comparatively miserable' (379). Mr Burford recalls how when they went to the Zoological Gardens the previous week, they had observed special means employed 'to supply the Polar bears with an atmosphere approaching to that of their native country' (380). They discuss provisions by which various species are protected from the effects of climate, including the migration of birds; these are taken as instances of divine providence. Tommy observes that, while divine providence never fails humans, 'young lions' suffer. His father contends that such suffering confounds the deist, since it can only be accounted for by the Fall, and by the need for redemption, as revealed in the Bible. He argues that, while God has not 'left himself without witness', and '"the things that are made" teach us something of his character as the father of mercies and the giver of peace', it is only revelation that can explain the mystery of salvation (383).

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