Abbildungen der Seite

factions of God. The miracles to which we have now referred, and every other supernatural fact recorded in the Bible, were not intended so much to display the plenitude of the power of Deity, as to bear testimony to the Divine mission of particular messengers, ?nd to confirm the truths they declared. It was not, for example, merely to display the energies of Almighty power, that the waters of the Red Sea were dried up before the thousands of Israel, but to give a solemn and striking attestation to all concerned, that the Most High God hud taken this people under his peculiar protection—that he had appointed Moses as their leader and legislator—and that they were bound to receive and obey the statutes he delivered. The most appropriate and impressive illustrations of Omnipotence, are those which are taken from the permanent operations of Deity, which are visible every moment in the universe around us; or, in other words, those which are derived from a detail of the facts which have been observed in the material world, respecting magnitude and. motion.

In the first place the immense quantity of matter contained in the universe, presents a most striking display of Almighty power.

In endeavouring to form a definite notion on this subject, the mind is bewildered in its conceptions, and is at a loss where to begin or to end its excursions. In order to form something approximating to a well-defined idea, we must pursue a train of thought commencing with those magnitudes which the mind can easily ^rasp, proceeding through all the intermediate'radations of magnitude, and fixing the attention on every portion of the chain, till we arrive at the object or magnitude of which we wish to form a conception. We must endeavour, in the first place, to form a conception of the bulk of the world in which we dwell, which, though only a point in comparison of the whole material universe, is in reality a most astonishing magnitude, which the mind cannot grasp, without a laborious eflort. We can form some definite idea of those protuberate masses we denominate hills, which arise above the surface of our plains ; but were we transported to the mountainous scenery of Switzerland, to the stupendous range of the Andes in South America, or to the Himmalayan mountains in India, where masses of earth and rocks, in every variety of shape, extend several hundreds of miles in different directions^and rear their projecting summits beyond the region of the clouds—we should find some difficulty in forming an adequate conception of the objects of our contemplation. For, (to use the words of one who had been a spectator of such scenes,) "Amidst those trackless regions of intense silence and solitude, we cannot contemplate, but with feelings of awe and admiration, the enormous masses of variegated matter which He around, beneath, and above us. The mind la

bours, as it were, to form a definite idea of those objects of oppressive grandeur, and feels unaole to grasp ihe august objects which compose the surrounding scene." But what are all these mountainous masses, however variegated and sublime, when compared with the bulk of the whole earth? Were they hurled from their bases, ana precipitated into the vast Pacific Ocean, thev would all disappear in a moment, except perhaps a few projecting tops, which, like a number of small islands, might be seen rising a few fathoms above the surface of the waters.

The earth is a globe whose diameter is nearly 8,000 miles, and its circumference about 25,000, and, consequently, its surface contains nearly two hundred millions of square miles—a magnitude too great for the mind to take in at one conception. In order to form a tolerable conception of the whole, we must endeavour to take a leisurely survey of its different parts. Were we to take our station on the top of a mountain, of a moderate size, and survey the surrounding landscape, we, should perceive un extent of view stretehing 40 miles in every direction, forming a circle 80 miles in diameter, and 250 in circumference and comprehending an area of 5,000 square miles. In such a situation the terrestrial scene around and beneath us—consisting of hills and plains, towns and villages, rivers and lakeswould form one of the largest objects which the eye, and even the imagination, can steadily grasp at one time. But such an object, grand and extensive as it is, forms no more than the forty* thousandth part of the terraqueous globe ; so that before we can acquire an adequate conception of the magnitude of our own world, we must conceive 40,000 landscapes of a similar extent, to pass in review before us: and were a scene, of the magnitude now stated, to pass before us every hour, till all the diversified scenery of the earth were brought under our view, and were 12 hours a day allotted for the observation, it would require 9 years and 48 days before the whole surface of the globe could be contemplated, even in this general and rapid manner. But, such a variety of successive landscapes passing before the eye, even although it were possible to be realized, would convey only a very vai;ue and imperfect conception of the scenery of our world; for objects at the distance of 40 miles cannot bo distinctly perceived; the only view which would be satisfactory would be, that which is comprehended within the range of 3 or 4 miles from ths spectator.

Again, I have already stated, that the surfaco of the eariheon tains nearly 200,000,000 of square miles. Now,were a person to set out on a minute survey of the terraqueous globe, and to travel till he passed along every square mile on its surface, and to continue his route without intermission, at the rate of 30 miles every day, it would require 18,264 years before he could finish his tour, and

[graphic][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][subsumed][graphic][graphic][graphic][ocr errors]

♦onaider, what perpetual and incomprehensible snd powerful influence he exerts, what warmth and beauty and activity he diffuses, not only on the globe we inhabit, but over the more extensive regions of surrounding worlds. His energy extends to the utmost limits of the planetary sy«tem—to the planet Herschel, which revelves at the distance of 1,800 millions of miles from his surface, and there he dispenses tight, and colour, and comfort, to all the beings connected with that far-distant orb, and to all the moons whxh roll around it.

Here the imagination begins to be overpowered and bewildered in its conceptions of magnitude, when it has advanced scarcely a single step in its excursions through the material world: For it is highly probable that all the matter contained within the limits of the solar system, incomprehensible as its magnitude appears, bears a smaller proportion to the whole mass of the material universe, than a single grain of sand to all the particles of matter contained in the body of the sun and his attending planets.

If we extend our views from the solar system to the starry heavens, we have to penetrate, in our imagination, a space which the swiftest ball that was ever projected, though in perpetual motion, would not traverse in ten hundred thousand years. In those :rack less regions of immensity, we behold an assemblage of resplendent globes, similar to the sun in size and in glory, and, doubtless, accompanied with a retinue of worlds, revolving, like our own, around their attractive influence. The immense distance at which the nearest stars are known to be placed, proves that they are bodies of a prodigious size, not inferior to our sun, and that they shine, not by reflected rays, but by their own native light. But bodies encircled with such refulgent splendour would be of little use in the economy of Jehovah's empire, unless surrounding worlds were cheered by their benign influence, and enlightened by their beams. Every star is, therefore, with good reason, concluded to be a sun, no less spacious than ours, surrounded by a host of planetary globes, which revolve 1around it as a centre, and derive from it light, and heat, and comfort, Nearly a thousand of these luminaries may be seen in a clear winter nigh', b, the naked eye; so that a mass of matter equal to a thousand solar systems, or to thirteen hundred and twenty millions of globes of ike sixe of the earth, msv be perceived, by every common observer, in the canopy of heaven. But a1I the celestial orbs which are perceived by the unassisted sight, do not form the eightythousandth part of those which may be descried by the help of optical instruments. The telescope has enabled us to descry, in certain spaces of the heavens, thousands of stars where the naked ore could scarcely discern twenty. The late teWratea' astronomer, Dr. Herschel, has in

formed us, that, in the most crowded parts ef the Milky-way, when exploring that region with his best glasses, he has had fields of view which contained no less than 588 stars, and these were continued for many minutes: so that" in one quarter of an hour's time there passed no less than one hundred and sixteen thousand stars through the field of view of his telescope."

It has been computed, that nearly one hundred millions of stars might be perceived by the mos* perfect instruments, were all the regions of the sky thoroughly explored. And yet, all this vast assemblage of suns and worlds, when compared with what lies beyond the utmost boundaries of human vision, in the immeasurable spaces of creation, may be no more than as the smallest particle of vapour to the immense ocean. Immeasurable regions of space lie beyond the utmost limits of mortal view, into which even imagination itself can scarcely penetrate, and which are, doubtless, replenished with the operations of Divine Wisdom and Omnipotence. For, it cannot be supposed, that a being so diminutive as man, whose stature scarcely exceeds six feet—who vanishes from the sight at the distance of a league—whose whole habitation is invisibln from the nearest star—whose powers of vision are so imperfect, and whose mental faculties are so limitted—it cannot be supposed that man, who " dwells in tabernacles of clay, who is crushed before the moth," and chained down, by the force of gravitation, to the surface of a smalt planet,—should be able to descry the utmost boundaries of the empire of Him who fills immensity, and dwells in

light unapproachable.w That portion of his dominions, however which lies within the range of our view, presents such a scene of magnificence and grandeur, as must fill the mind of every reflecting person with astonishment and reverence, and constrain him to exclaim," Great is our Lord, and of great power, his understanding is infinite."—" When I consider the heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which thou hast ordained—what is man that thou art mindful of him!"—" I have heard of thee by hearing of the earI have listened to subtle disquisitions on thy character and perfections and have been but little affected, " but now Vie eye seeth thee ; wherefore I humble myseh, and repent in dust and ashes.*

In order to feel the full force of the impression made by such contemplations, the mini must pause at every step, in its excursions through the boundless regions of material existence: for it is not by a mere attention to the figures and numbers by which the magnitudes of the great bodies of the universe are expressed, that we arrive at the most distinct and ample conceptions of objects so grand and overwhelming. The mind, in its intellectual range, must dwell on every individual scene it contemplates, and on the various objects of which it is composed.

It must add scene to scene, magnitude to magnitude, and compare smaller objects with greater—a range of mountains with the whole earth, the earth with the planet Jupiter, Jupiter with the son, the sun with a thousand stars, a thousand stars with 80 millions, and 60 millions with all the boundless extent which lies beyond the limits of mortal vision; and, at every step of ihis mental process, sufficient time must be allowed for the imagination to expatiate on the objects before it, till the ideas approximate, as near as possible, to the reality. In order to form a comprehensive conception of the extent of the terraqueous globe, the mind must dwell on an extensive landscape, and the objects with which it is adorned; it must endeavour to survey the many thousands of diversified landscapes which the earth exhibits—the hills and plains, the lakes and rivers and mountains, which streteh in endless variety over its surface —it must dive into the vast caverns of the ocean—penetrate into the subterraneous regions of the globe, and wing its way amidst clouds and tempests, through the surrounding atmosphere. It must next extend its flight through the most expansive regions of the solar system, realixing, in imagination, those magnificent scenes which can be described neither by the naked eye nor by the telescope, and comparing the extent of our sublunary world with the more magnificent globes that roll around us. Leaving the sun and all his attendant planets behind, till they have diminished to the size of a small twinkling star, it must next wing its way to the starry regions, and pass from one system of worlds to another, from one Nebulas* to another, from one region of Nebulae to another, till it arrive at the utmost boundaries of creation which human genius has explored. It must also endeavour to extend its flight beyond all that is visible by the best telescopes, and expatiate at large in that boundless expanse into which no human 1eye has yet penetrated, and which is, doubtless, replenished with other worlds, and systems, and firmaments, where the operations of infinite power and beneficence are displayed in endless variety, throughout the illimitable regions of space.

Here, then, with reverence, let us pause, and wonder! Over all this vast assemblage of material existence, God presides. Amidst the diversified objects and intelligences it contains, he is eternally and essentially present. By his unerring wisdom, all its complicated movements are directed. By his Almighty fiat, it emerged from nothing into existence, and is continually supported from age to age. "He Spake Add It


'tast."—s By the word of the Lord were the For nn account of the Nebula, see Ch. II. Art.

heavens made, and all the host of them by the spirit of his mouth.*' What an astonishing display of Divine power is here exhibited to our view ! How far transcending all finite comprehension must be the energies of Him who only * ' spake and it was done;" who only gave the command, and this mighty system of the universe, with all its magnificence, started into being! The infinite ease with which this vast fabric was reared, lead* us irresistibly to conclude, that there are powers and energies in the Divine mind which have never yet been exerted, and which may unfold themselves to intelligent beings, in the production of still more astonishing and magnificent effects, during an endless succession of existence. That man who is not impressed with a venerable and overwhelming sense of the power and majesty of Jehovah, by such contemplations, must liave a mind incapable of ardent religious emotions, and unqualified for appreciating the grandeur of that Being "whose kingdom ruleih over 811." And shall such ennobling views be completely withheld from a Christian audience? Shall it be considered as a matter of mero indifference, whether their views of tin- Creator's works be limited to the sphere of a few miles around them, or extended to ten thousand worlds t—whether they shall be left to view the operations of the Almighty throughout eternity past and to come, as confined to a small globe placed in the immensity of space, with a number of brilliant studs fixed in the arch of heaven, at a few miles distance ; or as extending through the boundless dimensions of space?—whether they shall be left to entertain no higher idea of the Divine majesty than what may be duo to one of the superior orders of the seraphim or cherubim,—or whether they shall be directed to form the most august conceptions of the King eternal, immortal,and invisible, corresponding to the displays he has given of his glory in his visible works? If il be not, both reason and piety require, that such illustrations of the Divine perfections should occasionally be exhibited to their view.

In the next place, the rapid motions of the great bodies of the universe, no less than their magnitudes, display the Infinite Power of the Creator* We can acquire accurate ideas of the relative velocities of moving bodies, only by comparing the motions with which we are familiar, with one another, and with those which lie beyond the general range of our minute inspection. W -i can acquire a pretty accurate conception of the velocity of a ship impelled by the wind—of a steamboat—of a race-hoi sc.—of a bird darting through the air—of an arrow flying from a bow —and of the clouds when impelled by a stormy wind. The velocity of a ship is from 8 to 12 miles an hour—of a race-horse, from 20 to 3O miles—of a bird, say from 60 to 60 miles, and of the clouds, in a violent hurricane, from 80 to 10C i hour. The motion of a ball from a KKuint cannon is-incomparably swifter then any of thu motions now alated ; but of ihe velocity of such a body we have a less accurate idea; becau,te, its rapidity being so great, we cannot trace it distinctly by the eye through its whole range, from the mouth of the cannon to the object against which it is impelled. By experiments, it has been found, that its rate of motion is from 480 to 800 miles in an hour, but it is retarded every moment, by the resistance of the air and the attraction of the earth. This velocity, however, great as it is, bears no sensible proportion to the rate of motion which is found among the celestial orbs. That such enormous masses of matter should move at all, is wonderful; but when we consider the amazing velocity with which they are impelled, we arc lost in astonishment. The planet Jupiter, in descrihing his circuit round the sun, moves at the rateof29,000 miles an hour. The planet Venus, one of the nearest and most brilliant of the celestial bodies, and about the same size as the earth, is found to move through the spaces of the firmament at the rate of 76.000 miles an hour, and the planet Mercury with a velocity of no less than 150,000 miles an hour, or 1750 miles in a minute—a motion two hundred limes swifter than that of a cannon ball.

'These velocities will appear still more astoaishing, if we consider the magnitude of the bodies which are thus impelled, and the immense forces which are requisite to carry them along in their courses. However rapidly a hall flies from the mouth of a cannon, it is the flight of a body only a few inches in diameter; but one of the bodies, whose motion has been just now stated, is eighty-nine thousand miles in diameter, and would comprehend, within its vast circumference, more than a thousand globes as large as the earth. Could we contemplate such motions, from a fixed point, at the distance of only a few hundreds of miles from the bodies thus impelled—it would raise our admiration to its highest piteh, it would overwhelm all our (acuities, and, in our present state, would produce an impression of awe, and even of terror, beyond the power of language toexpress. The earth contains a mass of matter equal in weight to at leasts,,000,000,000 tons, supposing its mean density to be only about 2£ times greater than water. To move this ponderous mass a single inch beyond its position, were it fixed in a quiescent state, would require a mechanical force almost beyond the power of numbers to express. The physical force of all the myriads of intelligences within tho bounds of the -lanetary system, though their powers were far superior to those of men, would be altogether inadequate to the production of such a motion. How much more must be the force requisite to impel it with a velocity one hundred asd forty timet swifter than a cannon ball, or

68,000 miles an hour, the actual rate of its motion, in its course round the sun! But wiiaiever degree of mechanical power would be requisite to produce such a (Stupendous effect, it would require a force one hundred and fifty times greater to impel the planet Jupiter, in his actual course through the heavens! Even the planet Saturn, one of the slowest moving bodies of our system, a globe 900 times larger than the earlfi, is impelled through the regions of space at the rate of 22,000 miles an hour, carrying along with him two stupendous rings, and seven moons larger than ours, through his whole course round the central luminary. Were we placed within a thousand miles of this stupendous globe.(a station which superior beings may occasionally occupy,) where its hemisphere, encompassed by its magnificent rings, would fill the whole extent of our vision—the view of such a ponderous and glorious object, flying with such amazing velocity before us, would infinitely exceed every idea of grandeur we can derive from terrestrial scenes, and overwhelm our powers with astonishment and awe. Under such an emotion, we could only exclaim,"great And Marvellous


The ideas of strength and pewer implied in the impulsion of such enormous masses of matter through the illimitable tracts of space, are forced upon the mind with irresistible energy, far surpassing what any abstract propositions or reasonings can convey; and constrain us to exclaim, "Who is a strong Lord like unto thee! Thy right hand is become glorious in power! the Lord God omnipotent reigneth !M

If we consider the immense number of bodies thus impelled through the vast spaces of the universe—the rapidity with which the comets, when near the sun, are carried through the regions they traverse,—if we consider the high probahility, if not absolute certainty, that the sun, with all his attendant planets and comets, is impelled with a still greater degree of velocity towards some distant region of space, or around some wide circumference—that all the thousands of systems of that nebulm to which the sun belongs, are moving in a similar manner—that all the nebulae in the heavens are moving around some magnificent central body—in short, that all the suns and worlds in the universe are in rapid and perpetual motion, as constituent portions of one grand and boundless empire, of which Jehovah is the vereign—and, if we consider still further, that all these mighty movements have been going on, without intermission, during the course of many centuries, and some of them, perhaps, for myriads of ages before the foundations of our world were laid—it is impossible foe the human mind to form any adequate idea of the stupendous forces which are in incessant operation thoughout the unlimited empire of the Almighty. To estimate such mechanical force cren in a single instance,

« ZurückWeiter »