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Since the Christian. rules have been established', the followers of Christianity .. have often fallen back into many of the pitiful doctrines of the heathen. Many important points '.. have been neglected, and trifles', attended to'. But', notwithstanding all these abuses', it is certain that the precepts of moral and religious conduct', have been greatly improved'.. by Christianity'. Many selfish and absurd notions'.. have been rectified'; and', as human nature becomes better understood', the pure and exalted precepts of our Christian religion', will continue more and more to shed their benign influence over the human race'
. True Christianity'.. will gain ground'.. hy every step which is made in the knowledge of man'.
SECTION VIII. The Wisdom and Majesty of God, attested by the Works of
Creation. -DR. CHALMERS. It is truly a Christian exercise'..to extract a sentiment of piety from the works and the appearances of nature'. It has the authority of the Sacred Writers upon its side', and even our Saviour himself".. gives it the weight and the solemnity of his example'. “Behold the lilies of the field': they toil not', neither do they spin'; yet your heavenly Father careth for them.” He expatiates on the beauty of a single flower', and draws from it the delightful argument of confidence in God'. He gives us to see', that taste may be combined with piety, and that the same heart may be occupied with all that is serious in the contemplations of religion', and', at the same time', be alive to the charms and the loveliness of nature'.
The Psalmist takes a still loftier flight'. He leaves the world', and Jifts his imagination to that mighty ex se which spreads above it and around it'. He wings his way through space', and wanders in thought over its immeasurable regions'. Instead of a dark and unpeopled solitude', he sees it crowded with splendour', and filled with the energy of the Divine Presence'. Creation rises in its immensity before him', and the world', with all it inherits', shrinks into littleness at a contemplation so vast and so overpowering'. He wonders that he is not overlooked amid the grandeur and the variety which are on every side of him'; and', passing upward from the majesty of nature'.. to the majesty of nature's Architect, he exclaims', “ What is man'.. that thou art mindful of him', or the son of man'..that thou shouldst deign to visit him'?"
It is not for us to say', whether inspiration revealed to the Psalmist the wonders of the modern astronomy. But even admitting the mind to be a perfect stranger to the science of these enlightened times', the heavens present to it a great and an elevating spectacle', an immense concave', reposing upon the circular boundary of the world', and the innumerable lights which are suspended from on high', moving with solemn regularity along its surface.
It seems to have been at night', when the moon and the stars were visible', and not when the sun had risen in his strength', and thrown a splendour around him', which bore down and eclipsed all the minor glories of the firmament, that the piety of the Psalmist was awakened
by this contemplation. And there is much in the scenery of a nocturnal sky' .. to lift the soul to pious contemplation. That moon', and those stars', what are they'? They are detached from the world', and they lift you above it'. You feel withdrawn from the earth’, and rise in lofty abstraction above this little theatre of human passions and human anxieties'. The mind abandons itself to revery', and is transferred', in the ecstasy of its thoughts', to distant and unexplored regions! It sees nature in the simplicity of its great elements, and it sees the God of nature invested with the high attributes of wisdom and majesty'.
SECTION IX. Arguments showing the probability that the Planetary an!
Astral Worlds are Inhabited.-IB. The heavenly bodies appear small to an inhabitant of this earth', only on account of the immensity of their distance from it. When we talk of hundreds of millions of miles', it is not to be listened to as incredible'; for we should remember' .. that we are talking of those bodies which are scattered over the immensity of space', and that space knows no limit'. The conception is great and difficult', but the truth'.. is unquestionable' By, a process of measurement', which it is unnecessary at present to explain', we have ascertained', first, the distance', and then', the magnitude', of some of those bodies which roll in the firmament? that the sun, which presents itself to the eye under so diminutive a form', is really a globe', exceeding', by many thousands of times', the dimensions of the earth which we inhabit"; that the moon itself has the magnitude of a world"; and that even a few of those stars'
, which appear like so many lucid points to the unassisted eye of the observer', expand into large circles upon the application of the telescope', and are', some of them', much larger than the ball which we tread upon', and to which we proudly apply the demonstration of the universe'.
Now', what is the fair and obvious presumption'? The world in which we live', is a round ball of a determined magnitude', and occupies its own place in the firmament'. But when we explore the unlimited tracts of that space which is everywhere around us', we meet with other balls of equal', or superiour', magnitude', and from which our earth would either be invisible', or appear as small as any of those twinkling stars which are seen on the canopy of heaven'. Why', then', suppose' .. that this little spot'— little', at least', in the immensity whichi surrounds it'-should be the exclusive abode of life and of intelligence'? What reason have we to think'. that those mightier globes which roll in other parts of creation', and which we have discovered to be worlds in magnitude', are not also worlds in use and in dignity'?. Why should we think'.. that the great Architect of nature', supreme in wisdom', as he is in power', would call these stately mansions into existence', and leave them unoccupied' ?
When we cast our eye over the broad sea', and look at the country on the other side', we see nothing but the blue land'.. stretching obscurely over the distant horizon'. We are too far away to perceive the richness of its scenery', or to hear the sound of its population. Why not extend this principle to the still more distant parts of the universe'? What though', from this remote point of observation', we can see nothing but the naked roundness of yon planetary orbs'? Are we', therefore', 10 say', that : hey are so many vast and unpeopled solitudes'? that desola.
tion reigns in every part of the universe but ours'? that the whole energy of the divine attributes', is expended on one insignificant corner'.. of these mighty works'? and that', to this earth alone belongs the bloom of vegetation, or the blessedness of life', or the dignity of rational and immortal existence'?
But this is not all. We have something more than the mere magnitude of the planets to allege in favour of the idea that they are inhabited'. We know ihat this earth turns round upon itself'; and we observe'.. that all those celestial bodies which are accessible to such an observation', have the same movement. We know that the earth performs a yearly revolution round the sun'; and we can detect', in all the planets which compose our system', a revolution of the same kind', and under similar circumstances. They have the same succession of day and night'. They have the same agreeable vicissitude of the seasons. To them' .. light and darkness succeed each other'; and the gayety of summer is followed by the dreariness of winter'. To each of them'.. the heavens present as varied and magnificent a spectacle'; and this earth', the encompassing of which', would require ihe labour of years from one of its puny inhabitants', is but one of the smaller lights which sparkle in their firmament'.
To them', as well as to us', has God divided the light from the darkness';. and he has called the light' .. day', and the darkness' .. he has called night. He has said', " Let there be lights in the firmament of their heaven', to divide the day from the night': and let them be for signs', and for seasons', and for days', and for years': and let them be for lights in the firmament of heaven', to give light upon their earth'; and it was so." And God has also made to them' .. great lights'. To all of them':. he has given the sun to rule the day'; and', to many of them' .. has he given moons to rule the night'. To them he has made The stars also'. And God has set them in the firmament of heaven', to give light unto their earth', and to rule over the day', and over the night', and to divide the light from the darkness'; and God has seen that it was good'.
In all these greater arrangements of divine wisdoin', we can see that God has done ihe same things for the accommodation of the planets', that he has done for the earth which we inhabit'. And shall we say, that the resemblance stops here', because we are not in a situation to observe it'? Shall we say', that this scene of magnificence' .. has been called into being', merely for the amusement of a few astronomers'? Shall we measure the counsels of heaven by the narrow importance of the human faculties'? or shall we conceive', that silence and solitude reign throughout the mighty empire of nature'? that the greater part of creation is an empty parade'? and that not a worshipper of the Divinity is to be found through the wide extent of yon vast and immeasurable regions'?
It lends a delightful confirmation to the argument', when', from the growing perfection of our instruments', we can discover a new point of resemblance between our earth and the other bodies of the planetary system. It is now ascertained', not merely that all of them have their day and night', and their vicissitudes of seasons', and that some of them have their moons to rule their night, and alleviate the darkness of it'; but we can see of one', that its surface rises into inequalities', that it swells into mountains and stretches into valleys'; of another', that it is surrounded by an atmosphere which may support the respiration of animals'; of a third', that clouds are formed and suspended over it', which may minister to it all the bloom and luxuriance of vegetation's and of a fourth', that', as its winter advances', a white colour spreads over its northern regions', and that', on the approach of summer', this whiteness is dissipated-giving room to suppose', that the element of water abounds in it', that it rises by evaporation into its atmosphere', that it freezes upon the application of cold", that it is precipitated in the form of snow', which covers the ground with its fleecy mantle', and melts away from the heat of a more vertical sun'; and that other worlds bear a resemblance to our own', in the same yearly round of beneficent and interesting changes'.
The same subject continued.-IB. Shall we say', then', of these vast luminaries', that they were created in vain'? Were they called into existence for no other purpose than to throw a tide of useless splendour over the solitudes of immensity'? Our sun is only one of these luminaries', and we know that he ha; worlds in his train'. Why should we strip the rest of this princely attendance'? Why may not each of them be the centre of his own system', and give light to his own worlds'? It is true', that we have seen them not“; but, could the eye of man take its flight into those distant regions', it would lose sight of our little world before it had reached the outer limits of our system'; the greater planets would disappear in their turn':-before it had described a small portion of that abyss which separates us from the fixed stars', the sun would decline into a little spot, and all its splendid retinue of worlds', would be lost in the obscurity of distance';-he would', at last', shrink into a small', indivisible atom', and all that could be seen of this magnificent system', would be reduced to the glimmering of a little star,
Why resist', any longer, the grand and interesting conclusion'? Each of these stars may be the token of a system as vast and as splendid as the one which we inhabit'. Worlds roll in these distant regions'; and these worlds must be the mansions of life and intelligence'. In yon gilded canopy of heaven', we see the broad aspect of the universe', where each shining point presents us with a sun', and each sun', with a system of worlds'; -- where the Divinity reigns in all the grandeur of his attributes';-where he peoples immensity with his wonders', and', in the greatness of his strength, travels through the dominions of onc vast and unlimited monarchy:
The contemplation has no limits'. If we ask for the number of suns and of systems', the unassisted eye of man can take in a thousand", and the best telescope', eighty millions'. But fancy can take its flight far beyond the ken of eye or of telescope'. Shall we have the boldness to say', that there is nothing there'?—that the wonders of the Almighty are at an end'?—that the creative energy of God has sunk into repose", because the imagination is enfeebled by the magnitude of its efforts'?
To an eye that could spread itself over the whole system of worlds', the mansion which accommodates our species', might be so very small as to lie wrapped up in microscopical concealment'. What is seen', may be nothing to what is unseen'; for what is seen', is limited by the range of our instruments'. What is unseen', has no limit'; and', though all which the eye of man can take in', or which his fancy can grasp',
were swept away, there might still remain a more ample field over which the Divinity may expatiate', and which he may have peopled with innumerable worlds'.
If the whole visible creation were to disappear', it would leave a solitude behind it'; but to the infinite Mind', that can take in the whole system of nature', this solitude might be nothing -a small', unoccupied point in that immensity which surrounds it', and which he may have filled with the wonders of his omnipotence'. Though this earth were to be burnt up, though the trumpet of its dissolution were sounded', though yon sky were to pass away as a scroll', and every visible glory which the finger of the Divinity has inscribed upon it', were to be put out for ever'-an event so awful to us, and to every world in our vicinity', by which so many suns would be extinguished', and so many varied scenes of life and of population would rush into forgetfulness'm-what is it in the high scale of the Almighty's workmanship? a mere shred", which', though scattered into nothing', would leave the universe of God one entire scene of greatness and of majesty'.
Though this earth and these heavens were to disappear', there are other worlds which roll afar'; the light of other suns', shines apon them'; and the sky which mantles them', is garnished with other stars'. Is it presumption to say', that the moral world extends to these distant and unknown regions" ? that they are occupied with people'? that the charities of home and of neighbourhood flourish there'? that the praises of God are there lifted up', and his goodness rejoiced in'? that piety has its temples and its offerings'? and that the richness of the divine attribute', is there felt and admired by intelligent worshippers' ?
And what is this world in the immensity which teems with them ? and what are they who occupy it'? The universe at large', would suffer as little in its splendour and variety by the destruction of our planet', as the verdure and sublime magnitude of a forest', would suffer by the fall of a single leaf: The leaf' .. quivers on the branch which supports it'. It lies at the mercy of the slightest accident'. A breath of wind'.. tears it from its stem', and it lights on the stream of water which passes underneath' In a moment of time', the life which we know by the microscope', it teems with’, is extinguished'; and', an occurrence so insignificant in the eye of man and on the scale of his observation', carries in it', to the myriads which people this little leaf', an event as terrible and as decisive as the destruction of a world'.
Now', on the grand scale of the universe', we', the occupiers of this little ball, which performs its little round among the suns and the systems that astronomy has unfolded',--we may feel the same littleness', and the same insecurity. We differ from the leaf', only in this circumstance', that it would require the operation of greater elements to destroy us'. But these elements exist." The fire which rages within , may lift its devouring energy to the surface of our planet', and transform it into one wide and wasting volcano'. The sudden formation of elastick matter in the bowels of the earth'-and it lies within the agency of known substances to accomplish this may explode it into fragments'. The exhalation of noxious air from below', may impart a virulence to the air that is around us'; it may affect the delicate proportion of its ingredients';, and the whole of animated nature may wither and die under the malignity of a tainted atmosphere'. A blazing comet may cross this fated planet in its orbit', and realize to it all the terrours which superstition has conceived of it'. These are changes which may happen in a single instant of time