Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

It is owing, in a great measure, to ignorance of the powers of numbers, and the mode of applying them, that we find it impossible to convey any distinct ideas of the velocities, distances, and magnitudes of the heavenly bodies to the illiterate ranks of mankind. We are told by travellers, that there are some untutored tribes whose knowledge of numbers is so limited, that they cannot count beyond a hundred, and that there are others whose notation is limited to twenty, or the number of fingers and toes on their hands and feet. While such ignorance of numbers exists, it is quite evident, that such persons are entirely unqualified for surveying, wih an eye of intelligence, the grand and diversified operations of the Creator, and for appreciating their number and magnificence. Ev. n the most cultivated minds, from an imperfect knowledge of this subject, find it difficult to form distinct conceptions of the plans of the Creator, and of the various relations which subsist in the universe. After familiarizing our minds to the classification and arrangement of numbers, we can form a tolerable notion of a thousand, or even of a hundred thousand; but it is questionable, whether we have any distinct and well-defined idea of a million, or ten hundred thousand. And if our conceptions of such a number be imperfect, how exceedingly vague must be our ideas of a thousand inillions, of billions, trillions, and quartillions, when used to express the number or distances of the heavenly bodies 7–It is evident, then, that beings of a superior order, or in a higher state of existence, must have a more profound and comprehensive knowledge of numbers than man: in consequence of which they are enabled to survey the universe with more intelligence, and to form more distinct and ample conceptions of the designs and operations of infinite wisdom and omnipotence.

Ma THEMATICs.

JMathematics, including geometry, trigonometry, couic sections, and other branches, is another department of science which will be recognised by superior beings in a future state. It is the science of Quantity, and treats of magnitude, or local extension, as lines, surfaces, solids, &c. The demonstrated truths of this science are eternal and unchangeable, and are applicable to the circumstances of all worlds, wherever they may exist, and in every period of duration, so long as the material tabric of the universe remains. Guided by the truths which this science unfolds and demonstrates we have been enabled to determine the figure and dimensions of the earth, to direct our course from one continent to another across the pathless deep, to ascertain the distance and magnitude of the sun and planets, and the laws which the Almighty has ordained for preserving their order and directing them in

their movements; and have been led to form more correct ideas of the immense distances and the vast extent of the starry heavens. It was owing to his profound knowledge of the truths of this science that the illustrious Sir Isaac Newton determined the properties and the composition of light, the causes of the alternate movements of the ocean, and the mechanism of the planetary system; and expanded our views of the grandeur of the universe and the persections of its Almighty Contriver. Some of the truths of this science may appear, to a superficial thinker, as extremely trivial, and almost unworthy of regard. The properties of a triangle, such as, “that the square of the hypotenuse of a right-angled triangle, is equal to the squares of the other two sides”—“that the three angles of a triangle are equal to two right angles"—and, “that the sides of a plane triangle are to one another as the sines of the angles opposite to them"—may appear to some minds as more curious than useful, and scarcely deserving the least attention. Yet these truths, when applied to the relations of the universe, and traced to all their legitimate consequences, have led to the most important and sublime results. On the ground of such truths we have ascertained, that the moon is 240,000 miles distant from the earth, that the sun is thirteen hundred thousand times larger than our globe, that the planet Herschel is removed to the distance of eighteen hundred millions of miles, and that the nearest star is at least two hundred thousand times farther from us than the sun. When the length of any one side of a triangle is known, however large that triangle may be, and the quantity of its angles determined, the length of the other sides can easily be found : we know the extent of the earth's diameter; we can ascertain under what angle that diameter appears at the moon, and

from these data we can, by an easy calculation,

determine the length of any of the other two sides of this triangle, which gives the distance of the moon. We have every reason to conclude, that angels and other superior intelligences proceed on the same general principles in estimating the distances and magnitudes of the great bodies of the universe. They may not, indeed, require to resort to the same tedious calculations, nor to the same instruments and geometrical schemes which we are obliged to use. Without such aids, they may arrive at the proper results with unerring precision, and their computations may be performed almost in the twinkling of an eye; and while we are obliged to confine our calcula tions to lines and triangles of only a few thousands or millions of miles in extent, they may be enabled to form triangles of inconceivable extent, on base lines of several thousands of trilhous of miles in length. We are informed, in the book of Daniel, that “the angel Gabriel, being coinmanded to fly swifi.lv from the celestial regions, reached the prophet about the time of the evening sacrifice.” This fact implies, not only that angelic beings are endued with powers of rapid motion, but that they are intinately acquainted with the directions, distances, and positions of the bodies which compose the material universe. This heavenly messenger, having been previously stationed far beyond the limits of our planetary system, had to shape his course in that direction, to discriminate the orbit of the earth from the orbits of the other planets, and the particular part of its orbit in which it was then moving ; and having arrived at the confines of our atmosphere, he required to discriminate the particular region in which Daniel resided, and to direct his flight to the house in which he was offering up his devotions. Now, since angels are neither omniscient nor omnipresem, as they are limited beings, possessed of rational faculties, and as it is probable are invested with bodies, or fine material vehicles, *—they inust be guided in such excursions by their reasoning powers, and the faculty of rapid motion with which they are endued. Such excursions imply the recognition of certain mathematical principles, and I have already had occasion to notice, that these principles are applicable throughout every part of the universe, and must be recognised, more or less, by all intelligent beings. The Creator himself has laid the foundation of the mathematical sciences. His works consist of globes and spheroids of all different dimensions, and of immense concentric rings revolving with a rapid motion. These globes are carried round different centres, some of them in circles, some in ellipses, and others in long eccentric curves. Being impelled in their courses by dif. serent degrees of velocity, their real motions cannot be traced, nor the beautiful simplicity and narmony of the different systems made apparent, without the application of mathematical investigations. To an observer untutored in this science, many of the celestial motions would appear to display inextricable confusion, and lead him to conclude, that the Framer of the universe was deficient in wisdom and intelligent design.— The principles of mathematics are also exhibited in the numerous and diversified figures into which diamonds, crystals, salts, and other bodies, are formed ; in the hexagonal cells of bees, wasps and hornets, in the polygons and parallel lines which enter into the construction of a spider's web, and in many other objects in nature.—Now, since God has exhibited the elements of this science before us in his works; since he has endued us with rational faculties to appreciate and apply these elements to useful investigations; and since his wisdom and intelligence, and the beau

• The Author will afterwards have an opportunity of Illustrating this position, in Part III. of this work.

ty and order of his works, cannot be fully under, stood without such investigations,—it is evident, that he must have intended, that men should be occasionally exercised in such studies: in order to perceive the depths of his wisdom, and the admirable simplicity and harmony of his diversified operations. And as the applications of this science are extremely limited in the present world, its more extensive applications, like those of many other branches of knowledge, must be considered as reserved for the life to come.—To suppose, therefore, that such studies will be abandoned, and such knowledge obliterated in a suture state, would be to suppose, that the works of God will not be contemplated in that state, and that redeemed men in the heavenly world will lose a part of their rational faculties, and remain inferior in their acquirements to the inhabitants of the earth, even in their present imperfect and degraded condition.

AstroNo MY.

Astronomy is another science which will oc

cupy the attention of pure intelligences in the future world. The object of this science is, to determine the distances and magnitudes of the heavenly bodies, the form of the orbits they describe, the laws by which their motions are directed, and the nature and destination of the various luminous and opaque globes of which the universe appears to be composed. It is the most noble and sublime of all the sciences, and presents to our view the most astonishing and magnificent objects, whether we consider their immense magnitude, the splendour of their appearance, the vast spaces which surround them, the magnificent apparatus with which some of them are encompassed, the rapidity of their motions, or the display they afford of the omnipotent energy and intelligence of the Creator. In consequence of the cultivation of this science, out views of the extent of creation, and of the sublime scenery it unfolds, are expanded far beyond what former ages could have conceived. From the discoveries of astronomy it appears, that our earth is but as a point in the immensity of the universe—that there are worlds a thousand times larger, enlightened by the same sun which “rules our day”—that the sun himself is an immense luminous world, whose circumference would inclose more than twelve hundred thousand globes as large as ours—that the earth and its inhabitants are carried forward through the regions of space, at the rate of a thousand miles every minute—that motions exist in the great bodies of the universe, the force and rapidity of which astonish and overpower the imagination— and that beyond the sphere of the sun and planets, creation is replenished with millions of luminous globes, scattered over immense regions to which the human mind can assign no boundaries.

[graphic]
[graphic]

These objects present an immense field for the eontemplation of every class of moral intelligences, and a bright mirror in which they will behold the reflection of the divine attributes. Of this vast universe, how small a portion has yet been unveiled to our view! With respect to the bodies which compose our planetary system, we know only a few general facts and relations. In regard to the fixed stars, we have acquired little more than a few rude conceptions of their immense distance and magnitudes. In relation to the comets, we only know that they move in long eccentric orbits, that they are impelled in their courses with immense velocity, and appear and disappear in uncertain periods of time. Of the numerous systems into which the stars are arranged, of the motions peculiar to each system, of the relations which these motions have to the whole universe as one vast machine, of the nature and arrangement of the numerous nebulae which are scattered throughout the distant regions of space; of the worlds which are connected with the starry orbs; of the various orders of beings which people them; of the changes and revolutions which are taking place in different parts of the universe, of the new creations which are starting into existence, of the number of opaque globes which may exist in every region of space, of the distance to which the material world extends, and of the various dispensations of the Almighty towards the diversified orders of intelligences which people his vast empire—we remain in almost profound ignorance, and must continue in this ignorance, so long as we are chained down to this obscure corner of creation.—There will, therefore, be ample scope in the suture world for further researches into this subject, and for enlarging our knowledge of those glorious scenes which are at present so far removed beyond the limits of natural vision, and the sphere of human investiation.

The heavens constitute the principal part of the divine empire—compared with which our earth is but as an atom, and “all nations are as nothing, and are accounted to Jehovah as less than nothing and vanity.” Vast as this world may appear to the frail beings that inhabit it, it probably ranks among the smallest globes in the universe; but although it were twenty thousand times more spacious than it is, it would be only as a grain of sand when compared with the immensity of creation, and all the events that have passed over its inhabitants as only a few of those ephemeral transactions which crowd the annals of eternity. It is throughout the boundless regions of the firmament that God is chiefly seen, and his glory contemplated by unnumbered intelligences. It is there that the moral grandeur of his dispensations, and the magnificence of his works are displayed in all their variety and lustre to countless orders of his rational off

spring. over which he will continue eternally to preside. Hence the numerous allusions to “the heavens,” by the inspired writers, when the majesty of God and the glory of his dominions are intended to be illustrated. “All the gods of the nations are idols; but Jehovah made the heavens.” “The Lord hath prepared his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom ruleth over all.” “By his Spirit he hath ganished the heavens.” “The heavens declare the glory of Jehovah.” “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained—what is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him " “The heavens, even the heaven of heavens, cannot contain thee.” “By the word of Jehovah were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the spirit of his mouth.” “The heavens shall declare his righteousness.” “Our God is in the heavens, he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased.” “The heavens shall declare thy wonders, O Lord!” “I list up mine eyes to thee, O thou that dwellest in the heavens.” “Thus saith God the Lord, he that created the heavens and stretched them out.” “The henvens for height are unsearchable.” “As the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.” He is the God of heaven, he rideth on the heaven of heavens which he founded of old : heaven is his throne, and the earth his footstool.”—When the folly of idolaters is exposed, when the coming of Messiah is announced, and when motives are presented to invigorate the faith and hope of the saints, Jehovah is represented as that omnipo

tent Being who “meteth out the heavens with a

span, who spreadeth them out as a curtain, and bringeth forth their hosts by the greatness of his might.” “Thus saith God the Lord, he that created the heavens and stretched them out—l will give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles.”* “Thus saith the Lord that created the heavens—I said not to the seed of Jacob, seek ye me in vain,” &c.f. These, and hundreds of similar passages, evidently imply, that we ought to contemplate the attributes of God chiefly in relation to the display which is given of them in the firmament of his power— that the heavens are by far the most extensive portion of his dominions—and that the power and intelligence displayed in the formation and arrangement of the hosts of heaven, lay a sure foundation for the hope and joy, and the future prospects of the people of God. In order to form just conceptions of the beauty and grandeur of the heavens, and of the intelligence of Him who arranged their numerous hosts some of the fundamental facts and principles of astronomy require to be understood and recognised. The order of the bodies which compose

* Isa. xliv 5 6 Isa. xlv. 18, 18.

the polar systein, or other systems which exist in the universe—the form of their orbits, their proportional distances and periods of revolution— their magnitudes, rotations, velocities, and the various phenomena which are observed on their surfaces—the arrangement and positions of the different clusters of stars—of the sellar an I plan. etary nebulae, of double, triple, and variable stars, and many other general facts, require to be known before he mind can receive farther information respecting the structure of the universe. It may be also necessary, even in a higher state of existence, to be acquainted with those contrivances or artificial helps by which very distant objects may be brought near to view. We know by experience, in our present state, that by means of telecsopes, millions of stars, which the una sisted eye cannot discern, are brought within the sphere of our observation, and numerous other splendid objects, which, without the aid of these instruments, would have been altogether concealed from our view. The organs of vision, in leed, of the redeemed inhabitants of our globe, after the resurrection, there is every reason to believe, will be capable of taking in a much more extensive range of view than at present. They may be endowed with qualities which will enable them to penetrate into the depths of space far beyond the reach of our most powerful telescopes, and to perceive with distinctness, objects at the distance of many billions of miles. Still, however, they may require artificial aids to their natural organs, in order to enable them to contemplate objects at still greater distances. And although such helps, to natural vision, analogous to our telescopes, may be conceived as incomparably superior to ours, yet the same general principles must be recognised in their construction. For, as has been already noticed, the light which emanates from the most distant stars consists of the same colours, and is refracted and reflected by the same laws, as the light which is emitted from the sun, and which illuminates our terrestrial abode ; and, consequently, must operate on the organs of sentient beings, in those remote regions, in a manner similar to its effects on the eyes of man. It is highly probable, that, in the future world, a considerable portion of our knowledge respecting the distant provinces of the divine empire, will be communicated by superior beings who have visited the different systems dispersed through the universe, and have acquired infortion respecting their history, and their physical and moral scenery. We learn from Scripture, that there are intelligences who can wing their way, in a short period of time, from one world to another. Such beings, in the course of a thousand centuries, must have made many extensive tours through the regions of creation, and acquired a comprehensive knowledge of the most

striking scenes which the universe displays. And, since they have occasionally minged in the society of inen, and communicated intelligence from heaven to earth, it is reasonable to believe, that they will have more frequent intercourse with redeemed men in a future state, and communicate the discoveries they Enve made respecting the economy and grandeur of God's universal empire. But, at the same time, it ought carefully to be observed, that such communications would neither be fully understood nor appreciated, unless the mind had a previous acquaintance with the leading facts, and the grand outlines of astronomical science. To enter into the spirit of those sublime details which angels or archangels might communicate respecting other systems and worlds, the mind must be prepared by a knowledge of those principles which have already been ascertained, and of those discoveries which have already been made in relation to the system of the universe. Suppose a group of the native tribes of New Holland or Van Diemen's Land, were assembled for the purpose of listening to a detail of the principal discoveries which modern astronomers have made in the heavens—it would be impossible to convey to their minds a clear conception even of the prominent and leading facts of this science, from the want of those general ideas which are previously necessary in order to the right understanding of such communications. Such would be the case of men in a future state, in regard to the communications of angelic messengers from distant worlds, were their minds not imbued with a certain portion of astronomical knowledge. They might stare, and wonder at some of the facts detailed; but their ideas would be vague and confused, and they would be unable to form clear and comprehensive conceptions of the various circumstances connected with the scenes described, in all their bearings, aspects, and relations, and of the indications they afford of exquisite skill and intelligent design. As the objects which astronomy explores are unlimited in their range, they will afford an inerhaustible subject of study and contemplation to superior beings, and to mankind when placed in a higher sphere of existence. Astronomical science, as having for its object to investigate and explore the facts and relations peculiar to all the great bodies in the universe, can never be exhausted; unless we suppose that finite minds will be able, at some future period in duration, to survey and to comprehend all the plans and operations of the infinite Creator. But this is evidently impossible; for “who can by searching find out God?. Who can find out the Almighty to perfection ?” After millions of centuries have run their rounds, new scenes of grandeur will be still bursting on the astonished mind, new regions of creation, and new displays of divine power and wisdom will still remain to be explored, arol, consequently, the science of astronomy will never arrive at absolute perfection, but will be in a progressive course of improvement through all the revolutions of eternity. In the prosecution of such investigations, and in the contemplation of such objects as this science presents, the grand aim of celestial intelligences will be, to increase in the knowledge and the love of God; and, in proportion as their views of the glories of his empire are enlarged, in a similar proportion will their conceptions of his boundless attributes be expanded, and their praises and adorations ascend in sublimer strains to Him who sits upon the throne of the universe, who alone is “worthy to receive glory, honour, and power,” from every order of his creatures. Since then, it appears, that astronomy is conversant about objects the most wonderful and sublime—since these objects tend to amplify our conceptions of the divine attributes—since a clear and distinct knowledge of these objects cannot be attained without the acquisition of a certain portion of astronomical science—since the heavens constitute the principal part of God's universal empire—since our present views of the magnificence of this empire are so obscure and circumscribed—since even the information that may be communicated on this subject, by other intelligences, could not be fully understood without some acquaintance with the principles of this science—and since the boundless scenes it unfolds present an inexhaustible subject of contemplation, and afford motives to stimulate all holy beings to incessant adoration—it would be absurd to suppose that renovated men, in a superior state of existence, will remain in ignorance of this subject, or that the study of it will ever be discontinued while eternity endures.

natural, phi Losophy.

Natural Philosophy is another subject which will doubtless engage the attention of regenerated men in a suture state.

The objects of this science is to describe the phenomena of the material world, to explain their causes, to investigate the laws by which the Almighty directs the operations of nature, and to trace the exquisite skill and benevolent design which are displayed in the economy of the universe. It embraces investigations into the several powers and properties, qualities and attributes, motions and appearances, causes and effects, of all the bodies with which we are surrounded, and which are obvious to our senses,<such as light, heat, colours, air, water, sounds, echoes; the electrical and magnetical fluids; hail, rain, snow, dew, thunder, lightning, the rainbow, parhelia, winds, luminous and fiery meteors, the Aurora Borealis, and similar objects in the system of nature.

From the discoveries of experimental philoso

phers, we have been made acquainted with a variety of striking facts and agencies in the system of the universe, which display the amazing

.energies of the Creator, and which tend to ex

cite our admiration of the depths of his wisdom and intelligence. We learn that the light emitted from the sun and other luminous bodies moves with a velocity equal to 200,000 miles in a second of time—that every ray of white light is composed of all the colours in nature, blended in certain proportions—that the immense variety of shades of colours which adorns the different landscapes of the earth, is not in the objects themselves, but in the light that falls upon them—and that thousands of millions of rays are incessantly flying off from all visible objects, crossing and recrossing each other in an infinity of directions, and yet conveying to every eye that is open to receive them, a distinct picture of the objects whence they proceed. We learn that the atmosphere which surrounds us presses our bodies with a weight equal to thirty thousand pounds, that it contains the principles of fire and flame—that, in one combination, it would raise our animal spirits to the highest pitch of ecstacy, and in another, cause our immediate destruction—that is capable of being compressed into 40,000 times less space than it naturally occupies—and that the production of sound, the lives of animals, and the growth of vegetables, depend upon its various and unceasing agencies. We learn that a certain fluid pervades all nature, which is capable of giving a shock to the animal frame, which shock may be communicated in an instant to a thousand individuals—that this fluid moves with inconceivable rapidity—that it can be drawn from the clouds in the form of a stream of fire—that it melts iron wire, increases the evaporation of fluids, destroys the polarity of the magnetic needle and occasionally displays its energies among the clouds in the form of fire-balls, lambent flames. and forked lightnings. We learn that the bodies of birds, fishes, quadrupeds, and insects, in relation to their eyes, feet, wings, fins, and other members, are formed with admirable skill, so as to be exactly adapted to their various necessities and modes of existence, and that they consist of an infinite number of contrivances and adaptations in order to accomplish the purpose intended—and that the beaver, the bee, the ant, and other insects, construct their habitations, and perform their operations with all the skill and precision of the nicest mathematical science. The bee, in particular, works, as if it knew the highest branches of mathematics, which required the genius of Newton to discover.—In short, the whole of nature presents a scene of wonders which, when seriously contemplated, is calculated to expand the intellectual powers, to refine the affections, and to excite admiration of the attributes of God, and the plan of his providence.

« ZurückWeiter »