תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

self to attempt an argument which I think of the firmament. And there is much in fitted to soften and subdue those prejudices the scenery of a nocturnal sky, to list the which lie at the bottom of what may be soul to pious contemplation. That moon, called the infidelity of natural science; if and these stars, what are they? They are possible to bring over to the humility of the detached from the world, and they list you Gospel, those who expatiate with delight above it. You feel withdrawn from the on the wonders and sublimities of creation; earth, and rise in lofty abstraction above and to convince them that a loftier wisdom this little theatre of human passions and still than that even of their high and hon-human anxieties. The mind abandons itourable acquirements, is the wisdom of himself to reverie, and is transferred, in the ecwho is resolved to know nothing but Jesus | stacy of its thoughts, to distant and unexplorChrist, and him crucified.

ed regions. It sees nature in the simplicity of It is truly a most Christian exercise to her great elements, and it sees the God of extract a sentiment of piety from the works nature invested with the high attributes of and the appearances of nature. It has the wisdom and majesty. authority of the Sacred Writers upon its But what can these lights be? The cuside, and even our Saviour himself gives it riosity of the human mind is insatiable, the weight and the solemnity of his exam- and the mechanism of these wonderful ple. “Behold the lilies of the field; they heavens has, in all ages, been its subject toil not, neither do they spin, yet your and its employment. It has been reserved heavenly Father careth for them. He ex- for these latter times, to resolve this great patiates on the beauty of a single flower, and interesting question. The sublimest and draws from it the delightful argument powers of philosophy have been called to of confidence in God. He gives us to see the exercise, and astronomy may now be that taste may be combined with piety, and looked upon as the most certain and best that the same heart may be occupied with established of the sciences. all that is serious in the contemplations of We all know that every visible object religion, and be at the same time alive to appears less in magnitude as it recedes the charms and the loveliness of nature. from the eye. The lofty vessel as it re

The Psalmist takes a still loftier flight. tires from the coast, shrinks into littleness, He leaves the world, and lists his imagina- and at last appears in the form of a small tion to that mighty expanse which spreads speck on the verge of the horizon. The above it and around it. He wings his way eagle with its expanded wings, is a noble through space, and wanders in thought over object; but when it takes its flight into the its immeasurable regions. Instead of a dark upper regions of the air, it becomes less to and unpeopled solitude, he sees it crowded the eye, and is seen like a dark spot upon with splendour, and filled with the energy of the vault of heaven. The same is true of the Divine presence. Creation rises in its all magnitude. The heavenly bodies appear immensity before him, and the world, with small to the eye of an inhabitant of this all which it inherits, shrinks into littleness earth, only from the immensity of their at a contemplation so vast and so overpow- distance. When we talk of hundreds of ering. He wonders that he is not over-1 millions of miles, it is not to be listened to looked amid the grandeur and the variety as incredible. For remember that we are which are on every side of him, and pass talking of those bodies which are scattered ing upward from the majesty of nature to over the immensity of space, and that space the majesty of nature's Architect, he ex- knows no termination. The conception is claims, “What is man that thou art mind- great and difficult, but the truth is unquesful of him, or the son of man that thou tionable. By a process of measurement shouldest deign to visit him?"

which it is unnecessary at present to exIt is not for us to say, whether inspira- plain, we have ascertained first the distance, tion revealed to the Psalmist the wonders and then the magnitude of some of those of the modern astronomy. But even though bodies which roll in the firmament; that he mind be a perfect stranger to the sci- the sun, which presents itself to the eye ence of these enlightened times, the heavens under so diminutive a form, is really a globe, present a great and an elevating spectacle; exceeding, by many thousands of times, the an immense concave reposing upon the dimensions of the earth which we inhabit; circular boundary of the world, and the in- | that the moon itself has the magnitude of numerable lights which are suspended from a world; and that even a few of those stars, on high, moving with solemn regularity which appear like so many lucid points to along its surface. It seems to have been at the unassisted eye of the observer, expand night that the piety of the Psalmist was/ into large circles upon the application of awakened by this contemplation, when the the telescope, and are some of them much moon and the stars were visible, and not larger than the ball which we tread upon, when the sun had risen in his strength, and to which we proudly apply the denomand thrown a splendour around him, which ination of the universe. bore down and eclipsed all the lesser glories Now, what is the fair and obvious presumption? The world in which we live, I as to us, has God divided the light from the is a round ball of a determined magnitude, darkness, and he has called the light day, and and occupies its own place in the firma- the darkness he has called night. He has said ment. But when we explore the unlimited let there be lights in the firmament of their tracts of that space, which is every where heaven, to divide the day from the night: and around us, we meet with other balls of equal let them be for signs, and for seasons, and or superior magnitude, and from which our for days, and for years; and let them be for earth would either be invisible, or appear as lights in the firmament of heaven, to give small as any of those twinkling stars which light upon their earth; and it was so. And are seen on the canopy of heaven. Why God has also made to them great lights. then suppose that this little spot, little at To all of them he has given the sun to rule least in the immensity which surrounds it, the day; and to many of them has he given should be the exclusive abode of life and of moons to rule the night. To them he has intelligence? What reason to think that made the stars also. And God has set them those mightier globes which roll in other in the firmament of heaven, to give light parts of creation, and which we have discov- unto their earth; and to rule over the day, ered to be worlds in magnitude, are not also and over the night, and to divide the light worlds in use and in dignity? Why should from the darkness; and God has seen that we think that the great Architect of nature, it was good. supreme in wisdom as he is in power, In all these greater arrangements of diwould call these stately mansions into ex-vine wisdom, we can see that God has done istence, and leave them unoccupied ? When the same things for the accommodation of we cast our eye over the broad sea, and look the planets that he has done for the earth at the country on the other side, we see no- which we inhabit. And shall we say, that thing but the blue land stretching obscurely the resemblance stops here, because we are over the distant horizon. We are too far not in a situation to observe it? Shall we away to perceive the richness of its scenery, say, that this scene of magnificence has or to hear the sound of its population. been called into being, merely for the Why not extend this principle to the still amusement of a few astronomers ? Shall more distant parts of the universe? What we measure the counsels of heaven by the though, from this remote point of observa- narrow importance of the human faculties? tion, we can see nothing but the naked or conceive, that silence and solitude reign roundness of yon planetary orbs? Are we throughout the mighty empire of nature; therefore to say, that they are so many vast that the greater part of creation is an empty and unpeopled solitudes; that desolation parade; and that not a worshipper of the reigns in every part of the universe but Divinity is to be found through the wide ours; that the whole energy of the divine extent of yon vast and immeasurable reattributes is expended on one insignificant gions ? corner of these mighty works; and that to It lends a delightful confirmation to the this earth alone belongs the bloom of vege- argument, when, from the growing perfectation, or the blessedness of life, or the dig- tion of our instruments, we can discover a nity of rational and immortal existence ? new point of resemblance between our

But this is not all. We have something earth and the other bodies of the planetary more than the mere magnitude of the system. It is now ascertained, not merely planets to allege, in favour of the idea that that all of them have their day and night, they are inhabited. We know that this and that all of them have their vicissitudes earth turns round upon itself; and we ob- of seasons, and that some of them have serve that all those celestial bodies, which their moons to rule their night and alleviare accessible to such an observation, have ate the darkness of it. We can see of one, the same movement. We know that the that its surface rises into inequalities, that earth performs a yearly revolution round it swells into mountains and stretches into the sun; and we can detect in all the valleys; of another, that it is surrounded planets which compose our system, a revo- by an atmosphere which may support th lution of the same kind, and under the same respiration of animals; of a third, that circumstances. They have the same suc- clouds are formed and suspended over it, cession of day and night. They have the which may minister to it all the bloom and same agreeable vicissitude of the seasons. luxuriance of vegetation, and of a fourth, To them, light and darkness succeed each that a white colour spreads over its northother; and the gaiety of summer is followed ern regions, as its winter advances, and by the dreariness of winter. To each of that on the approach of summer this whitethem the heavens present as varied and ness is dissipated-giving room to suppose, magnificent a spectacle; and this earth the that the element of water abounds in it, encompassing of which would require the that it rises by evaporation into its atmoslabour of years from one of its puny inhabi-phere, that it freezes upon the application tants, is but one of the lesser lights which of cold, that it is precipitated in the form of sparkle in their firmament. To them, as well I snow, that it covers the ground with a

fleecy mantle, which melts away from the the concave of their firmament. They let heat of a more vertical sun; and that other us know, that though this mighty earth, worlds bear a resemblance to our own, in with all its myriads of people, were to sink the same yearly round of beneficent and in-into annihilation, there are some worlds teresting changes.

where an event so awful to us would be Who shall assign a limit to the discove- unnoticed and unknown, and others where ries of future ages? Who can prescribe to it would be nothing more than the disapscience her boundaries, or restrain the ac-pearance of a little star which had ceased tive and insatiable curiosity of man within from its twinkling. We should feel a senthe circle of his present acquirements? We timent of modesty at this just but humilimay guess with plausibility what we can-ating representation. We should learn not not anticipate with confidence. The day to look on our earth as the universe of may yet be coming, when our instruments God, but one paltry and insignificant porof observation shall be inconceivably more tion of it; that it is only one of the many powerful. They may ascertain still more mansions which the supreme Being has decisive points of resemblance. They may created for the accommodation of his worresolve the same question by the evidence shippers, and only one of the many worlds of sense which is now so abundantly con- rolling in that flood of light which the sun vincing by the evidence of analogy. They pours around him to the outer limits of may lay open to us the unquestionable ves- the planetary system. tiges of art, and industry, and intelligence. But is there nothing beyond these limits? We may see summer throwing its green The planetary system has its boundary, but mantle over these mighty tracts, and we space has none; and if we wing our fancy may see them left naked and colourless af- there, do we only travel through dark and ter the flush of vegetation has disappeared. unoccupied regions ? There are only five, In the progress of years, or of centuries, we or at most six, of the planetary orbs visible may trace the hand of cultivation spreading to the naked eye. What, then, is that multia new aspect over some portion of a plan- tude of other lights which sparkle in our etary surface. Perhaps some large city, firmament, and fill the whole concave of the metropolis of a mighty empire, may ex-heaven with innumerable splendours? The pand into a visible spot by the powers of planets are all attached to the sun; and, in some future telescope. Perhaps the glass circling around him, they do homage to that of some observer, in a distant age, may en- influence which binds them to perpetual able him to construct a map of another attendance on this great luminary. But the world, and to lay down the surface of it in other stars do not own his dominion. They all its minute and topical varieties. But do not circle around him. To all common there is no end of conjecture, and to the observation, they remain immoveable; and men of other times we leave the full assu-each, like the independent sovereign of his rance of what we can assert with the high- own territory, appears to occupy the same est probability, that yon planetary orbs are inflexible position in the regions of immenso many worlds, that they teem with life, sity. What can we make of them ? Shall and that the mighty Being who presides in we take our adventurous flight to explore high authority over this scene of grandeur these dark and untravelled dominions ? and astonishment, has there planted wor- What mean these innumerable fires lighted shippers of his glory. 'n

up in distant parts of the universe ? Are Did the discoveries of science stop here, they only made to shed a feeble glimmerwe have enough to justify the exclamation ing over this little spot in the kingdom of of the Psalmist,“ What is man that thou nature? or do they serve a purpose worart mindful of him, or the son of man that thier of themselves, to light up other worlds, thou shouldest deign to visit him ?" They and give animation to other systems. widen the empire of creation far beyond the The first thing which strikes a scientific limits which were formerly assigned to it. observer of the fixed stars, is their immeaThey give us to see that yon sun, throned surable distance. If the whole planetary in the centre of his planetary system, gives system were lighted up into a globe of fire, light, and warmth, and the vicissitude of it would exceed, by many millions of times, seasons, to an extent of surface several hun- the magnitude of this world, and yet only dreds of times greater than that of the earth appear a small lucid point from the nearest which we inhabit. They lay open to us a of them. If a body were projected from the number of worlds, rolling in their respect- sun with the velocity of a cannon-ball, it ive circles around this vast luminary would take hundreds of thousands of years and prove, that the ball which we tread before it described that mighty interval upon, with all its mighty burden of oceans which separates the nearest of the fixed and continents, instead of being distinguished stars from our sun and from our system. from the others, is among the least of them; If this earth, which moves at more than the and, from some of the more distant planets, inconceivable velocity of a million and a would not occupy a more visible point in half miles a day, were to be hurried from

Badrada

its orbit, and to take the same rapid flightworld. These stars are visible to us, not over this immense tract, it would not have because the sun shines upon them, but bearrived at the termination of its journey, cause they shine of themselves, because after taking all the time which has elapsed they are so many luminous bodies scattered since the creation of the world. These are over the tracts of immensity; in a word, great numbers, and great calculations, and because they are so many suns each throned the mind feels its own impotency in at- in the centre of his own dominions, and tempting to grasp them. We can state them pouring a flood of light over his own porin words. , We can exhibit them in figures. tion of these unlimitable regions. We can demonstrate them by the powers At such an immense distance for obserof a most rigid and infallible geometry. But vation, it is not to be supposed, that we can no human fancy can summon up a lively collect many points of resemblance between or an adequate conception-can roam in its the fixed stars, and the solar star which ideal flight over this immeasureable large- forms the centre of our planetary system. ness-can take in this mighty space in all There is one point of resemblance, howits grandeur, and in all its immensity_can ever, which has not escaped the penetration sweep the outer boundaries of such a crea- of our astronomers. We know that our sun tion-or lift itself up to the majesty of that turns round upon himself, in a regular pegreat and invisible arm, on which all is riod of time. We also know, that there are suspended.

dark spots scattered over his surface, which, But what can those stars be which are though invisible to the naked eye, are perseated so far beyond the limits of our plane- fectly noticeable by our instruments. If tary system? They must be masses of these spots existed in greater quantity upon immense magnitude, or they could not be one side than upon another, it would have seen at the distance of place which they the general effect of making that side darker, occupy. The light which they give must and the revolution of the sun must, in such proceed from themselves, for the feeble re Ja case, give us a brighter and a fainter flection of light from some other quarter, side, by regular alternations. Now, there would not carry through such mighty tracts are some of the fixed stars which present to the eye of an observer. A body may be this appearance. They present us with pevisible in two ways. It may be visible from riodical variations of light. From the splenits own light, as the flame of a candle, or dour of a star of the first or second magnithe brightness of a fire, or the brilliancy of tude, they fade away into some of the yonder glorious sun, which lightens all be- inferior magnitudes-and one, by becoming low, and is the lamp of the world. Or it invisible might give reason to apprehend may be visible from the light which falls that we had lost him altogether-but we upon it, as the body which receives its light can still recognize him by the telescope, till from the taper that falls upon it-or the at length he re-appears in his own place, whole assemblage of objects on the surface and, after a regular lapse of so many days of the earth, which appear only when the and hours, recovers his original brightness. light of day rests upon them-or the moon, Now, the fair inference from this is, that which, in that part of it which is towards the fixed stars, as they resemble our sun in the sun, gives out a silvery whiteness to the being so many luminous masses of immense eye of the observer, while the other part magnitude, they resemble him in this also forms a black and invisible space in the that each of them turns round upon his own firmament-or as the planets, which shine axis; so that if any of them should have an only because the sun shines upon them, inequality in the brightness of their sides, and which, each of them, present the ap- this revolution is rendered evident, by the pearance of a dark spot on the side that is regular variations in the degree of light turned away from it. Now apply this ques- which it undergoes. tion to the fixed stars. Are they luminous Shall we say, then, of these vast luminaof themselves, or do they derive their light ries, that they were created in vain? Were from the sun, like the bodies of our plane- they called into existence for no other purtary system Think of their immense dispose than to throw a tide of useless splentance, and the solution of this question be- dour over the solitudes of immensity ? Our comes evident. The sun, like any other sun is only one of these luminaries, and we body, must dwindle into a less apparent know that he has worlds in his train. Why magnitude as you retire from it. At the should we strip the rest of this princely atprodigious distance even of the very nearest tendance? Why may not each of them be of the fixed stars, it must have shrunk into the centre of his own system, and give light a small indivisible point. In short, it must to his own worlds? It is true that we see have become a star itself, and could shed no them not, but could the eye of man take its more light than a single individual of those flight into those distant regions, it should glimmering myriads, the whole assemblage lose sight of our little world, before it reached of which cannot dissipate, and can scarce- the outer limits of our system-the greater ly alleviate the midnight darkness of our planets should disappear in their turn-before it had described a small portion of that impulse; or, this movement may be coeval abyss which separates us from the fixed with his being, and he may have derived stars, the sun should decline into a little both from an immediate fiat of the Creator. spot, and all its splendid retinue of worlds But there is an actually observed phenomebe lost in the obscurity of distance-he non of the heavens which advances the conshould, at last, shrink into a small indivisi-jecture into a probability. In the course ble atom, and all that could be seen of this of age, the stars in one quarter of the celesmagnificent system, should be reduced to tial sphere are apparently receding from the glimmering of a little star. Why resist each other; and in the opposite quarter, any longer the grand and interesting con- they are apparently drawing nearer to each clusion ? Each of these stars may be the other. If the sun be approaching the fortoken of a system as vast and as splendid | mer and receding from the latter, this pheas the one which we inhabit. Worlds roll nomenon admits of an easy explanation, in these distant regions; and these worlds and we are furnished with a magnificent must be the mansions of life and intelligence. step in the scale of the Creator's workmanIn yon gilded canopy of heaven we see the ship. In the same manner as the planets, broad aspect of the universe, where each with their satellites, revolve round the sun, shining point presents us with a sun, and may the sun, with all its tributaries, be each sun with a system of worlds-where moving in common with other stars, around the Divinity reigns in all the grandeur of some distant centre, from which there emahis attributes—where he peoples immensity nates an influence to bind and to subordiwith his wonders; and travels in the great-nate them all. Our sun may, therefore, ness of his strength through the dominions be only one member of a higher family of one vast and unlimited monarchy. --taking his part, along with millions of

The contemplation has no limits. If we others, in some loftier system of mechanism, ask the number of suns and of systems, the by which they are all subjected to one unassisted eye of man can take in a thou-law, and to one arrangement-describing sand, and the best telescope which the the sweep of such an orbit in space, and genius of man has constructed can take in completing the mighty revolution in such a eighty millions. Fancy may take its flight period of time, as to reduce our planetary far beyond the ken of eye or of telescope. seasons and our planetary movements, to a Shall we have the boldness to say, that very humble and fractionary rank in the there is nothing there—that the wonders of scale of a higher astronomy. There is room the Almighty are at an end-that the creative for all this in immensity; and there is even energy of God has sunk into repose, be- argument for all this in the records of actual cause the imagination is enfeebled by the observation; and, from the whole of this magnitude of its efforts ?

speculation, do we gather a new emphasis There are two points of interesting spec- to the lesson, how minute is the place, and ulation, both of which serve to magnify our how secondary is the importance of our conceptions of the universe. If a body be world, amid the glories of such a surroundstruck in the direction of its centre, it ob- ing magnificence! tains a progressive motion, but without any Another very interesting tract of speculamovement of revolution being at the same tion, has been opened up to us by the more time impressed upon it. But, again, should recent observations of astronomy, the disthe stroke not be in the direction of the cen-covery of the nebulæ. We allow that it is tre-should the line which joins the point but a dim and indistinct light which this of percussion to the centre, make an angle discovery has thrown upon the structure of with that line in which the impulse was com- the universe; but still it has spread before municated, then the body is both made to go the eye of the mind a field of very wide and forward in space, also to wheel upon its axis. lofty contemplation. Before this the uniThus, each of our planets may have had verse might appear to have been composed their compound motion communicated to it of an indefinite number of suns, about equiby one single impulse; and, on the other distant from each other, and each encomhand, if ever the rotatory motion be commu- passed by such a planetary attendance as nicated by one blow, then the progressive mo- takes place in our own system. But, it now tion must go along with it. In order to have appears instead of lying uniformly and in a the first motion without the second, there state of equidistance from each other, they must be a twofold force applied to the body are arranged into distinct clusters-that, in opposite directions. It must be set agoing in the same manner as the distance of the in the same way as a spinning-top, so as to nearest fixed stars, marks the separation of revolve about an axis, and to keep un- the solar systems, so the distance of two changed its situation in space.

contiguous clusters may be so inconceivably · But at this stage of the argument, the superior to the reciprocal distance of those matter only remains a conjectural point of fixed stars which belong to the same cluster, speculation. The sun may have had his as to mark an equally distinct separation of rotation impressed upon him by a spinning the clusters, and to constitute each of them

« הקודםהמשך »