Abbildungen der Seite

withdrawn, and when sensual gratifications can afford no delight; they afford solace in the hours of retirement from the bustle of business, and consolation amidst the calamities and afflictions to which humanity is exposed; and the more we acquire a relish for such pleasures, the better shall we be prepared for associating with intelligences of a higher order in the future world. Before proceeding to the more particular illustration of this topic, let us consider the state and the enjoyments of the man whose mind is shrouded in ignorance. He grows up to manhood like a vegetable, or like one of the lower animals that are fed and nourished for the slaughter. He exerts his physical powers, because such exertion is necessary for his subsistence; were it otherwise, we should most frequently find him dozing over the fire, or basking in the sun, with a gaze as dull and stupid as his ox, regardless of every thing but the gratification of his appetites. He has perhaps been taught the art of reading, but has never applied it to the acquisition of knowledge. His views are chiefly confined to the objects immediately around him, and to the daily avocations in which he is employed. His knowledge of society is circumscribed within the limits of his parish, and his views of the world in which he dwells are confined within the range of the country in which he resides, or of the blue hills which skirt his horizon. Of the aspects of the globe in other countries—of the various tribes with which they are peopled—of the seas and rivers, continents and islands which diversify the landscape of the earth—of the numerous orders of animated beings which people the ocean, the atmosphere and the land,-of the revolutious of nations, and the events which have taken place in the history of the world, he has almost as little conception as the animals that range the forest, or bound through the lawns. In regard to the boundless regions that lie beyond him in the firmament, and the bodies that roll there in magnificent grandeur, he has the most confused and inaccurate ideas; and he seldom troubles himself with inquiries in relation to such subjects. Whether the stars be great or small, whether they be near us or at a distance, or whether they move or stand still, is to him a matter of trivial importance. If the sun give him light by day, and the moon by night, and the clouds distil their watery treasures upon his parched fields, he is contented, and leaves all such inquiries and investigations to those who have little else to engage their attention. He views the canopy of heaven as merely a ceiling to our earthly habitation, and the starry orbs as only so many luminous studs or tapers to diversify its aspect, and to afford a glimmering light to the benighted traveller. Of the discoveries which have been made in the physical sciences

in ages past, of the wonders of creation which they have unfolded to view, of the instruments which have been invented for exploring the universe, and of the improvements which are now going forward in every department of science and art, and the prospects they are opening to our view, he is almost as entirely ignorant as if he had been fixed under the frozen pole, or chained to the surface of a distant planet. He considers learning as consisting chiefly in the knowledge of grammar, Greek and Latin ; and philosophy and astronomy, as the arts of telling fortunes and predicting the state of the weather; and experimental chymistry, as allied to the arts of magic and necromancy. He has no idea of the manner in which the understanding may be enlightened and expanded, he has no relish for intellectual pursuits, and no conception of the pleasures they afford, and he sets no value on knowledge but in so far as it may tend to increase his riches and his sensual gratifications. He has no desire for making improvements in his trade or domestic arrangements, and gives no countenance to those useful inventions and public improvements which are devised by others. He sets himself against every innovation, whether religious, political, mechanical, or agricultural, and is determined to abide by the “good old customs” of his forefathers, however irrational and absurd. Were it dependent upon hin, the moral world would stand still as the material world was supposed to do in former times; all useful inventions and improvements would cease, existing evils would never be remedied, ignorance and superstition would universally prevail, the human mind would be arrested in its progress to perfection, and man would never arrive at the true dignity of his intellectual nature. It is evident that such an individual, (and the world contains thousands and millions of such characters) can never have his mind elevated to those sublime objects and contemplations which enrapture the man of science, nor feel those pure and exquisite pleasures which cultivated minds so frequently experience; nor can he form those lofty and expansive ideas of the Deity which the grandeur and magnificence of his works are calculated to inspire. He is left as a prey to all those foolish notions and vain alarms which are engendered by ignorance and superstition; and he swallows, without the least hesitation, all the absurdities and childish tales respecting witches, hobgoblins, spectres and apparitions, which have been handed down to him by his forefathers in former generations. And while he thus gorges his mind with fooleries and absurdities, he spurns at the discoveries of science as impositions on the credulity of mankind, and contrary to reason and common sense. That the sun is a million of times larger than the earth, that light flies from his body at the rate

of two hundred housand miles in a moment of time, and that the earth is whirling round its axis from day to day, with a velocity of a thousana iniles every hour, are regarded by him as notions far more improbable and extravagant than the story of the “Wonderful Lamp,” and all the other tales of the “Arabian Night's Entertainments.” In his hours of leisure from his daily avocations, his thoughts either run wild among the most grovelling objects, or sink into sensuality or inanity, and solitude and retirement present no charms to his vacant mind. While human beings are thus immersed in ignorance, destitute of rational ideas, and of a solid substratum of thought, they can never experience those pleasures and enjoyments which flow from the exercise of the understanding, and which correspond to the dignity of a rational and immortal nature. On the other hand, the man whose mind is irradiated with the light of substantial science, has views, and feelings, and exquisite enjoyments to which the former is an entire stranger. In consequence of the numerous and multifarious ideas he has acquired, he is introduced, as it were, into a new world, where he is entertained with scenes, objects, and movements, of which a mind enveloped in ignorance can form no conception. He can trace back the stream of time to its commencement; and, gliding along its downward course, can survey the most memorable events which have happened in every part of its progress from the primeval ages to the present day—the rise of empires, the fall of kings, the revolutions of nations, the battles of warriors, and the important events which have followed in their train—the progress of civilization, and of arts and sciences—the judgments which have been inflicted on wicked nations—the dawnings of Divine mercy towards our fallen race—the manifestation of the Son of God in our nature—the physical changes and revolutions which have taken place in the constitution of our globe—in short, the whole of the leading events in the chain of Divine dispensation from the beginning of the world to the period in which we live. With his mental eye he can survey the terraqueous globe in all its variety of aspects; contemplate the continents, islands and oceans which compose its exterior, the numerous rivers by which it is indented, the losty ranges of mountains which diversify its surface, its winding caverns, its forests, lakes, sandy deserts, ice-islands, whirlpools, boiling springs, glaciers, sulphuric mountains, bituminous lakes, and the states and empires into which it is distributed, the tides and currents of the ocean, the ice-bergs of the polar regions, and the verdant scenes of the torrid zone. He can climb, in imagination, to the summit of the flaming volcano, listen to its subterraneous bellowings, behold its lava bursting

from its mouth and rolling down its sides like a flaming river—descend into the subterranean grotto, survey, from the top of the Andes, the lightnings flashing and the thunders rolling far beneath him—stand on the brink of the dashing cataract and listen to its roarings—contemplate the ocean rearing its billows in a storm, and the hurricane and tornado tearing up forests by their roots, and tossing them about as stubble. Sitting at his fireside, during the blasts of winter, he can survey the numerous tribes of mankind scattered over the various climates of the earth, and entertain himself with views of their manners, customs, religion, laws, trade, manufactures, marriage ceremonies, civil and ecclesiastical governments, arts, sciences, cities, towns and villages, and the animals peculiar to every region. In his rural walks he can not only appreciate the beneficence of Nature and the beauties and harmonies of the vegetable kingdom, in their exterior aspect, but can also penetrate into the hidden processes which are going on in the roots, trunks and leaves of plants and flowers, and contemplate the numerous vessels through which the sap is flowing from their roots through the trunks and branches, the millions of pores through which their odori. ferous effluvia exhale, their fine and delicate texture, their microscopical beauties, their orders, genera, and species, and their uses in the economy of nature. With the help of his microscope, he can enter into a world unknown to the ignorant, and altogether invisible to the unassisted eye. In every plant and flower which adorns the field, in every leaf of the forest, in the seeds, prickles and down of all vegetables, he perceives beauties and harmonies, and exquisi e contrivances, of which, without this instrument, he could have formed no conception. In every scale of a haddock he perceives a beautiful piece of net-work, admirably contrived and arranged, and in the scale of a sole a still more diversified structure, which no art could imitate, terminated with pointed spikes, and formed with admirable regularity. Where nothing but a speck of mouldiness appears to the naked eye, he beholds a forest of mushrooms with long stalks, and with leaves and blossoms distinctly visible. In the eyes of a common fly, where others can see only two small protuberances, he perceives several thousands of beautiful transparent globes, exquisitely rounded and polished, placed with the utmost regularity in rows, crossing each other like a kind of lattice work, and forming the most admirable piece of mechanism which the eye can contemplate. The small dust that covers the wings of moths and butterflies he perceives to consist of an infinite multitude of feathers of various forms, not much unlike the feathers of birds, and adorned with the most bright and vivid colours. In an animalso

[blocks in formation]

other animal parts and functions, as nicely formed and adjusted, and endowed with as much vivacity, agility and intelligence as the larger animals. In the tail of a small fish or the foot of a frog, he can perceive the variegated branchings of the veins and arteries, and the blood circulating through them with amazing velocity. In a drop of stagnant water he perceives thousands of living beings of various shapes and sizes, beautifully formed, and swimming with wanton vivacity like fishes in the midst of the ocean. In short, by this instrument he perceives "that the whole earth is full of animation, and that there is not a single tree, plant or flower, and scarcely a drop of water that is not teeming with life and peopled with its peculiar inhabitants. He thus enters, as it were, into a new world, invisible to other eyes, where every object in the animal, vegetable and mineral kingdoms, presents a new and interesting aspect, and unfolds beauties, harmonies, contrasts and exquisite contrivances, altogether inconceivable by the ignorant and unreflecting mind. In the invisible atmosphere which surrounds him, where other minds discern nothing but an immense blank, he beholds an assemblage of wonders, and a striking scene of Divine Wisdom and Omnipotence. He views this invisible agent not only as a material but as a compound substance—compounded of two opposite principles, the one the source of flame and animal life, and the other destructive to both, and producing by their different combinations, the most diversified and beneficent effects. He perceives the atmosphere, as the agent under the Almighty, which produces the germination and growth of plants, and all the beautics of the vegetable creation—which preserves water in a liquid state—supports fire and flame, and produces animal heat, which sustains the clouds, and gives buoyancy to the feathered tribes— which is the cause of winds—the vehicle of smells—the medium of sounds—the source of all the pleasures we derive from the harmonies of music—the cause of that universal light and splendour which is diffused around us, and of the advantages we derive from the morning and evening twilight. In short, he contemplates it as the prime mover in a variety of machines,... as impelling ships across the ocean, blowing our furnaces, grinding our corn, raising water from the deepest pits, extinguishing fires, setting power-looms in motion, propelling steam-boats along rivers and canals, raising balloons to the region of the clouds, and performing a thousand other beneficent agencies without which our globe would cease to be a habitable world. All which views and contemplations have an evident tendency to enlarge the capacity of the

mind, to stimulate its faculties, and to produce rational enjoyment. Again,_the man of knowledge, even when shrouded in darkness, and in solitude, where other minds could find no enjoyment, can entertain himself with the most sublime contemplations. He can trace the huge globe on which we stand flying through the depths of space, carrying along with it its vast population, at tho rate of sixty thousand miles every hour, and, by the inclination of its axis, bringing about the alternate succession of summer and winter, spring and harvest. By the aid of his telescopo he can transport himself towards the moon, and survey the circular plains, the deep caverns, the conical hills, the lofty peaks, the shadows of the hills and vales, and the rugged and romantic mountain scenery which diversify the surface of this orb of night. By the help of the same instrument, he can range through the planetary system, wing his way through the regions of space along with the swiftest ( -bs, and trace many of the physical aspects and revolutions which have a relation to distant worlds. He can transport himself to the planet Saturn, and behold a stupendous ring 600,000 miles in circumference, revolving in majestic grandeur every ten hours, around a globe nine hundred times larger than the earth, while seven moons larger than ours, along with an innumerable host of stars, display their radiance, to adorn the firmament of that magnificent world. He can wing his flight to the still more distant regions of the universe, leaving the sun and all his planets behind him, till the appear like a scarcely discernible speck in creation, and contemplate thousands and millions of stars and starry systems, beyond the range of the unassisted eye, and wander among suns and worlds dispersed throughout the boundless dimensions of space. He can fill up, in his imagination, those blanks which astronomy has never directly explored, and conceive thousands of systems and ten thousands of worlds, beyond all that is visible by the optic tube, stretching our to infinity on every hand,-new creations inces intly starting into existence—peopled with intelligences of various orders, and all under the superintendence and government of “the King Eternal, Immortal and Invisible,” whose power is omnipotent, and the limits of his dominions past finding out. It is evident that a niind capable of such excursions and contemplations as I have now supposed, must experience enjoyments infinitely superior to those of the individual whose soul is enveloped in intellectual darkness. If substantial happiness is chiefly seated in the mind, if it consists in the vigorous exercise of its faculties, if it depends on the multiplicity of objects which lie within the range of its contemplation, if it is augmented by the view of scenes of beauty and sublimity, and displays of infinite intelligence and power, if it is connected with tranquility of mind, which generally accompanies intellectual pursuits, and with the subjugation of the pleasures of sense to the dictates of reason—the enlightened mind must enjoy gratifications as far superior to those of the ignorant, as man is superior, in station and capacity, to the worms of the dust. In order to illustrate this topic a little farther, I shall select a few facts and deductions in relation to science which demonstrate the interesting nature and delightfiti tendency of scientific pursuits. Every species of rational information has a tendency to produce pleasing emotions. There is a certain gratification in becoming acquainted with objects and operations of which we were formerly ignorant, and that, too, altogether independent of the practical tendency of such knowledge, of the advantages we may expect to reap from it, or the sensitive enjoyments with which it may be accompanied. A taste for knowledge, a capacity to acquire it, and a pleasure accompanying its acquisition, form a part of the constitution of every mind. The Creator has implanted in the human mind a principle of curiosity, and annexed a pleasure to its gratification, to excite us to investigations of the wonders of creation he has presented before us, to lead us to just conceptions of his infinite perfections, and of the relation in which we stand to him as the subjects of his government. We all know, with what a lively interest most persons peruse novels and romances, where hair-breadth escapes, mysterious incidents, and tales of wonder are depicted with all the force and beauty of language. But the scenes detailed in such writings produce only a momentary enjoyment. Being retraced as only the fictions of a lively imagination, they pass away like a dream or a vision of the night, leaving the understanding bewildered, and destitute of any solid improvement. In order to improve the intellectual faculties while we gratify the principle of curiosity, it is n!y requisite, that we direct the attention to focus instead of fictions; and when the real scenes of the universe are presented in an interesting aspect, they are calculated to produce emotions of wonder and delight even superior to those excited by the most highly wrought tales of fiction and romance. The following facts and considerations will perhaps tend to corroborate this position. In the first place, the number of offects produced by a single principle in nature, is calculated to excite emotions of admiration and delight. From the simple principle of gravitation, for instance, proceed all the beauties and sublimities which arise from the meandering rills, the majestic rivers, and the roaring cataracts—it causes the mountains to rest on a solid basis, and confines

the ocean to its appointed channels—retains the inhabitants of the earth to its surface, and prevents them from flying off in wild confusion through the voids of space—it produces the descent of the rains and dews, and the alternate flux and reflux of the tides—regulates the various movements of all animals—forms mechanical powers—gives impulsion to numerous machines —rolls the moon round the earth, and prevents her from flying off to the distant regions of space —extends its influence from the moon to the earth, from the earth to the moon, and from the sun to the remotest planets, preserving surrounding worlds in their proper courses, and connecting the solar system with other worlds and systems in the remote spaces of the universe. When a stick of sealing wax is rubbed with a piece of flannel, it attracts feathers or small bits of paper; when a long tube of glass, or a cat's back is rubbed in the dark, they emit flashes of fire, accompanied with a snapping noise. Now is it not delightful to a rational mind to know. that the same principle which causes wax or amber to attract light substances, and glass tubes or cylinders to emit sparks of fire, produces the lightnings of heaven, and all the sublime phenomena which accompany a violent thunder-storm, and, in combination with other agents, produces also the fiery meteor which sweeps through the sky with its luminous train, and the beautiful coruscations of the aurora borealis? There are more than fify thousand dis. ferent species of plants in the vegetable kingdom, all differing from one another in their size, structure, flowers, leaves, fruits, mode of propagation, internal vessels, medicinal virtues, and the odours they exhale. Who would imagine that this immense assemblage of vegetable productions which adorns the surface of the earth in every clime, with such a diversity of forms, fruits and colours, are the result of the combination of four or five simple substances variously modified by the hand of the Creator? Yet it is an undoubted fact, ascertained from chymical analysis, that all vegetable substances, from the invisible mushroom which adheres to a spot of mouldiness, to the cedar of Lebanon and the Banian-tree, which would cover with its shade an army of ten thousand men, are solely composed of the following natural principles, Caloric, Light, Water, Air and Carbon. Again, is it not wonderful, that the invisible atmosphere should compress our bodies every moment with a weight of more than thirty thousand pounds without our feeling it, and the whole earth with a weight of 12,043,468,800,000,000, 000 of pounds, or five thousand billions of tons,

that this pressure is essentially necessary to our

existence, and that a small quantity of air within us, which would not weigh above a single ounce, by its strong elastic force, counteracts the effects of this tremendous pressure upon our bodies, and prevents our being crushed to pieces—that the same cause prevents our habitations from falling upon us and crushing us to death, without which our glass windows would be shattered to atoms, and our most stately edifices tumbled into ruins!—that this atmosphere is at the same time performing an immense variety of operations in Nature and Art—insinuating itself into the pores and sap-vessels of plants and flowers—producing respiration in all living beings, and supporting all the processes of life and vegetation throughout the animal and vegetable creation— that its pressure produces the process of what is called suction and cupping—causes snails and pe— riwinkles to adhere to the rocks on which they are found—gives effect to the adhesion of bodies by means of mortar and cements—raises water in our forcing-pumps and fire-engines—supports the quicksilver in our barometers—prevents the water of our seas and rivers from boiling and evaporating into steam—and promotes the action of our steam-engines while raising water from deep pits, and while propelling vessels along seas and rivers! In the next place, science contributes to the gratification of the human mind by enabling us to trace, in many objects and operations, surprising resemblances, where we should least of all have erpected them. Who could, at first sight, imagine, that the process of breathing is a species of combustion, or burning—that the diamond is nothing else than carbon in a crystallized state, and differs only in a very slight degree from a piece of charcoal--that water is a compound of two invisible airs or gases, and

that one of these ingredients is the principle of

flame!—that the air which produces suffocation and death in coal-mines and subterraneous grottos, is the same substance which gives briskness to ale, beer, and soda water, and the acid flavour to many mineral springs—that the air we breathe is composed of the same ingredients and nearly in the same proportions as nitric acid or aqua fortis, which can dissolve almost all the metals, and a single draught of which would instantly destroy the human frame —that the colour of white is a mixture or compound of all the other colours, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet, and consequently, that the white light of the sun produces all that diversity of colouring which adorns the face of nature—that the same principle which causes our fires to burn, forms acids, produces the rust of metals, and promotes the growth of plants by night—that plants breathe and perspire as well as animals—that carbonic acid gas, or fixed air, is the product both of vegetation, of burning, of fermentation and of breathing—that it remains indestructible by age, and, in all its diversified combinations, still preserves its identity—that the air which burns in our street-lamps and illuminates our shops and manufactories, is

the same which causes a balloon to rise above the clouds, and likewise extinguishes flame when it is immersed in a body of this gas—that the leaves of vegetables which rot upon the ground and appear to be lost for ever, are converted by the oxygen of the atmosphere into carbonic acid gas, and this very same carbon is, in process of time, absorbed by a new race of vegetables, which it clothes with a new foliage, and again renews the face of nature—and that the same principle which causes the sensation of heat is the cause of fluidity, expands bodies in every direction, enters into every operation in nature, flies from the sun at the rate of 195,000 miles in a second of time, and, by its powerful influence, prevents the whole matter of the universe from being converted into a solid mass' What, then, can be more delightful, to a being surnished with such powers as man, than to trace the secret machinery by which the God of nature accomplishes his designs in the visible world, and displays his infinite power and intelligence—to enter into the hidden springs of Nature's operations, to follow her through all her winding recesses, and to perceive, from what simple principles and causes the most sublime and diversified phenomena are produced' It is with this view that the Almighty hath set before us his wondrous works, not to be overlooked, or beheld with a “brute unconscious gaze,” but to be investigated, in order that they may be admired, and that in such investigations we may enjoy a sacred pleasure in contemplating the results of his Wisdom and Intelligence. In the third place, science contributes to our enjoyment by the grand and sublime objects she presents before us. In consequence of the investigations which have been made to determine the distances and magnitudes of the heavenly bodies, objects of magnificence and grandeur are now presented to the view of the enlightened mind of which former ages could form no conception. These objects are magnificent in respect of magnitude, of motion, of the vast spaces which intervene between them, and of the noble purposes for which they are destined. What a sublime idea, for example, is presented to the view by such an object as the planet Jupiter, a globe fourteen hundred times larger than the world in which we dwell, and whose surface would contain a population a hundred times more numerous than all the inhabitants that have existed on our globe since the creation! And how is the sublimity of such an idea augmented when we consider, that this immense body is revolving round its axis at the rate of twenty-eight thousand miles in an hour, and is flying, at the same time, through the regions of space, twenty-nine thousand miles every hour, carrying along with it four moons, each of them larger than the earth, during its whole course round the centre of its motion! And if this planet, which appears only

« ZurückWeiter »