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the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein:* ... I have made the earth, and created man upon it; I, even my hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded. . . . Thus saith the Lord, that created the heavens; God himself, that formed the earth, and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed IT to be inhabited: I am the Lord; and there is none else."t Here the Psalmist speaks of both the heaven and the earth, saying of the latter that he has given it to the children of men; while the inspired prophet repeatedly speaks of the heavens and the earth, saying that God had given breath to the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein; that he had created man upon it; that he had created the earth not in vain, but formed "it," to be inhabited. It is not said that he formed the heavens to be inhabited, but the earth. This passage Sir David Brewster has quoted as "a distinct declaration from the inspired prophet, that the earth would have been created IN VAIN, if it had not been formed to be inhabited; and hence we draw the conclusion, that as the Creator cannot be supposed to have made the worlds of our system, and those in the sidereal universe, in vain, they must have been formed to be inhabited." Is not this a huge "conclusion" to draw from these premises? And do not the words tend rather the other way-to show that the earth, with its wondrous adaptations, would have been created in vain, if not to be inhabited; but that the heavens may be created for other purposes, of which man, in the present stage of existence, has not, nor can have, any conception?
We have spoken of Sir David Brewster's drawing a huge conclusion from a passage of Scripture in support of his views of the question before us; but we have to present a still huger conclusion, drawn by him from another glorious passage: "When I
Isaiah, xlii. 5.
Isaiah, xlv. 12, 18.
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? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?" "This," says Sir David," is a positive argument for a plurality of worlds! We cannot doubt that inspiration revealed to the Hebrew poet the magnitude, the distances, and the final cause of the glorious spheres which fixed his admiration.... He doubtless viewed these worlds as teeming with life, physical and intellectual; as globes which may have required millions of years for their preparation, exhibiting new forms of beings, new powers of mind, new conditions in the past, and new glories in the future!" In his Dialogue Dr Whewell thus drily dismisses this extraordinary flight of his opponent: "That the Hebrew poet knew, or thought about, the plurality of worlds, is a fact hitherto unnoticed by the historians of astronomy; to their consideration I leave it."
Let us now, however, follow Dr Whewell in the development of his idea, bearing in mind his own impressive statement, in his preface, that, "while some of his philosophical conclusions appear to him to fall in very remarkably with certain points of religious doctrine, he is well aware that philosophy alone can do little in providing man with the consolations, hopes, supports, and convictions which religion offers; and he acknowledges it as a ground of deep gratitude to the Author of All Good, that man is not left to philosophy for those blessings, but has a fuller assurance of them by a more direct communication from Him."
"The two doctrines which we have here to weigh against each other," says Dr Whewell," are the plurality of worlds, and the unity of the world;" and he includes, as a necessary part of the conception of a 'WORLD,' a collection of intelligent creatures, where reside intelligence, perception of truth, recognition of moral law, and reverence for a Divine Creator and Governor." His Essay branches into three great divisions, in disposing of the conjectural plurality of worlds, More Worlds than One, p. 17.
|| Essay, p. 359.
and suggesting the reality of the unity of the world. First, he considers the constitution of man: secondly, that of the earth which he inhabits, its adaptation, structure, and position: lastly, its neighbours in the heavens-the solar system to which it belongs, the fixed stars, and the nebulæ; and as to these, he declares that "a closer inquiry, with increased means of observation, gives no confirmation to the conjecture which certain aspects of the universe at first sight suggested to man, that there may be other bodies, like the earth, tenanted by other creatures like man,-some characters of whose nature seem to remove or lessen the difficulties we may at first feel in regarding the earth as, in a unique and special manner, the field of God's providence and government.' This is not the order in which Dr Whewell proceeds, but it is that which we shall observe, in giving our readers such a brief and intelligible account as we can of this singularly bold Essay. He himself commences with a beautiful sketch of the state of "Astronomical Discoveries," with which Dr Chalmers dealt in his celebrated Discourses; by no means understating the amount of them, with reference principally to the number of the heavenly bodies"a countless host of worlds, arranged in planetary systems, having years and seasons, days and nights, as we have;" as to which, "it is at least a likely suggestion that they have also inhabitants-intelligent beings, who can reckon those days and years-who subsist on the fruits which the seasons bring forth, and have their daily and yearly occupations, according to their faculties." If this world be merely one of innumerable other worlds, all, like it, the workmanship of God,-all the seats of life-like it, occupied by intelligent creatures, capable of will, law, obedience, disobedience, as man is, -to hold that it alone should have been the scene of God's care and kindness, and still more, of His special interposition, communication, and personal dealings with its individual inhabitants, in the way which religion teaches, is, the objector is conceived
to maintain, in the highest degree extravagant, incredible, and absurd."‡ Such is, as we have seen, the assertion of Thomas Paine; and Dr Whewell proposes to discuss this vast speculative question, "not as an objection urged by an opponent, but rather as a difficulty felt by a friend of religion; "—" to examine rather how we can quiet the troubled and perplexed believer, than how we can triumph over the dogmatical and selfsatisfied infidel." § But let our reader note well, at starting, the above mighty "IF:" which he may regard as the comet's nucleus, drawing after it an enormous and dismaying train of consequences, sweeping into annihilation man's hopes equally with his fears.
* Essay, p. 359. § Ibid., p. 103.
Dr Whewell gives a lucid and terse account of the scope of Dr Chalmers's eloquent declamation, his ingenious suggestions, and his astronomical or philosophical arguments, which he deems" of great weight; and, upon the whole, such as we may both assent to, as scientifically true, and accept as rationally persuasive. I think, however, that there are other arguments, also drawn from scientific discoveries, which bear in a very important and striking manner upon the opinions in question, and which Chalmers has not referred to; and I conceive that there are philosophical views of another kind, which, for those who desire and will venture to regard the universe and its Creator in the wider and deeper relations which appear to be open to human speculation, may be a source of satisfaction." ||
But “WHAT IS MAN?" is the pregnant question of the royal Psalmist; and Dr Whewell gives an account of man, at once ennobling and solemnising; in strict accordance, moreover, with revelation, and with those views of his moral and intellectual nature universally entertained by the believers in revealed religion. We know of no man living entitled to speak with more authority on such subjects than Dr Whewell; and we think it impossible for any thoughtful person to read the portions of his Essay relating to this subject, without feelings
are revealed to us, as such, by the operations of our mind, by which we come to discover them. They are the utterances of the Creator, delivered in language which we can understand; and being thus Language, they are the utterances of an Intelligent Spirit. ‡
of awe and reverence towards our
* Essay, p. 360.
"If man, when he attains to a knowledge of such laws, is really admitted, in some degree, to the view with which the Creator himself beholds his creation; if we can gather, from the conditions of such knowledge, that his intellect partakes of the nature of the Divine intellect; if his mind, in its clearest and largest contemplation, harmonises with the Divine mind, -we have in this a reason which may well seem to us very powerful, why, even if the earth alone be the habitation of intelligent beings, still the great work of creation is not wasted. If God have placed on the earth a creature who can so far sympathise with Him (if we may venture upon the expression), who can raise his intellect into some accordance with the creative intellect; and that not once only, nor by few steps, but through an indefinite gradation of discoveries more and more comprehensive, more and more profound, each an advance, however slight, towards a Divine Insight; then, so far as intellect alone, of which alone we are here speaking, can make man a worthy object of all the vast magnificence of creative power, we can hardly shrink from believing that he is so."§
Again: The earth is a scene of MORAL TRIAL. Man is subject to a moral law; and this moral law is a law of which God is the legislator-8 law which man has the power of discovering, by the use of the faculties which God has given him. Now, the existence of a body of creatures, capable of such a law, of such a trial, and of such an elevation, as man is the subject and has the power of-that is, of rising from one stage of virtue to another, by a gradual and successive purification and elevation of the desires, affections, and habits, in a degree, so far as we know, without limit-is, according to all we can conceive, infinitely more worthy of the Divine Power and Wisdom, in the creation of the universe, than any number of planets occupied by creatures having no such lot, no such law, no such capacities, and no such respon
+ Ibid., p. 362.
+Ibid., p. 360 (Professor Owen).
sibilities. However imperfectly the moral law may be obeyed; however ill the greater part of mankind may respond to the appointment which places them here in a state of moral probation; however few there may be who use the capacities and means of their moral purification and elevation; still that there is such a plan in the creation, and that any respond to its appointments, is really a view of the universe which we can conceive to be suitable to the nature of God, because we can approve it, in virtue of the moral nature which He has given us. One school of moral discipline, one theatre of moral action, one arena of moral contests for the highest prizes, is a sufficient centre for innumerable hosts of stars and planets, globes of fire and earth, water and air, whether or not tenanted by corals and madrepores, fishes and creeping things. So great and majestic are those names of RIGHT and GOOD, DUTY and VIRTUE, that all mere material or animal existence is worthless in the comparison. Man's moral progress is a progress towards a likeness with God; and such a progress, even more than a progress towards an intellectual likeness with God, may be conceived as making the soul of man fit to endure for ever with God, and therefore, as making this earth a preparatory stage of human souls, to fit them for eternitya nursery of plants which are to be fully unfolded in a celestial garden. And if this moral life be really only the commencement of an infinite Divine plan beginning upon earth, and destined to endure for endless ages after our earthly life, we need no array of other worlds in the universe, to give sufficient dignity and majesty to the scheme of the Creator.
The author of the Essay then ascends to an infinitely greater and grander altitude:
God's goodness and greatness were largely displayed, than could be done by any amount of peopling of planets with creatures who were incapable of moral agency, or with creatures whose capacity for the development of their moral faculties was small, and would continue to be small, till such an act of Divine government was performed. The interposition of God, in the history of man, to remedy man's feebleness in moral and spiritual tasks, and to enable those who profit by the interposition to ascend towards a union with God, is an event entirely out of the range of those natural courses of events which belong to our subject: and to such an interposition, therefore, we must refer with great reserve; using great caution that we do not mix up speculations and conjectures of our own with what has been revealed to man concerning such an interposition. But this, it would seem, we may say, that such a Divine interposition for the moral and spiritual elevation of the human race, and for the encouragement and aid of those who seek the purification and elevation of their nature, and an eternal union with God, is far more suitable to the idea of a God of infinite goodness, purity, and greatness, than any supposed multiplication of a population, on our own planet, or on any other, not provided with such means of moral and spiritual progress. And if we were, instead of such a supposition, to imagine to ourselves, in other regions of the universe, a moral population purified and elevated without the aid, or need, of any such Divine interposition, the supposed possibility of such a moral race deform and sadden the aspect of our would make the sin and misery, which earth, appear more dark and dismal still. We should, therefore, it would seem, find no theological congruity, and no religious consolation, in the assumption of a plurality of worlds of moral beings; while, to place the seats of those worlds in the stars and the planets would be, as we have already shown, a step discountenanced by physical reasons; and discountenanced the more, the more the light of science is thrown upon it." *
"If by any act of the Divine government the number of those men should be much increased, who raise themselves towards the moral standard which God has appointed, and thus towards a likeness to God, and a prospect of a future eternal union with him; such an act of Divine government would do far more towards making the universe a scene in which
Should it be urged, that if the creation of one world of such creatures as man exalts so highly our views of the dignity and importance of the plan of creation, the belief in many such worlds must elevate still more our sentiments of admiration and reverence of the greatness and goodness of the Creator; and must be a belief,
* Essay, pp. 370, 371.
on that account, to be accepted and cherished by pious minds, Dr Whewell replies in the following weighty pas
"We cannot think ourselves authorised to assert cosmological doctrines, selected arbitrarily by ourselves, on the ground of their exalting our sentiments of admiration and reverence for the Deity, when the weight of all the evidence which we can obtain respecting the constitution of the universe, is against them. It appears to me, that to discover one great scheme of moral and religious government, which is the spiritual centre of the universe, may well suffice for the religious sentiments of men in the present age; as in former ages, such a view of creation was suffi cient to overwhelm men with feelings of awe, and gratitude, and love, and to make them confess, in the most emphatic language, that all such feelings were an inadequate response to the view of the scheme of Divine Providence which was revealed to them. The thousands of millions of inhabitants of the earth, to whom the effects of the Divine love extend, will not seem, to the greater part of religious persons, to need the addition of more, in order to fill our minds with vast and affecting contemplations, so far as we are capable of pursuing such contemplations. The possible extension of God's spiritual kingdom upon the earth will probably appear to them a far more interesting field of devout meditation than the possible addition to it of the inhabitants of distant stars, connected, in some inscrutable manner, with the Divine
"In this state of our knowledge," Dr Whewell subsequently adds, after recapitulating the whole course of the argument indicated by the lines above placed in italics, "and with such grounds of belief, to dwell upon the plurality of worlds of intellectual and moral creatures as a highly probable doctrine, must, we think, be held to be eminently rash and unphilosophical. On such a subject, where the evidences are so imperfect, and our power of estimating analogies so small, far be it from us to speak positively and dogmatically. And if any one holds the opinion, on whatever evidence, that there are other spheres of the Divine government than this earth, other spheres in which God has subjects and servants, other beings who do his will, and who, it may be, are connected with the moral and religious interests of man, we do not breathe a syllable against such
Essay, pp. 371, 372.
a belief, but, on the contrary, regard it with a ready and respectful sympathy: it is a belief which finds an echo in pious and benevolent hearts, and is of itself an evidence of that religious and spiritual character in man, which is one of the points of our argument. . But it would be very rash, and unadvised- -a proceeding unwarranted, we think, by religion, and certainly at variance with all that science teaches to place those other extrahuman spheres of Divine government in the planets and in the stars. With regard to these bodies, if we reason at all, we must reason on physical grounds; we must suppose, as to a great extent we can prove, that the law and properties of terrestrial matter and motion apply to them also. On such grounds it is as improbable that visitants from Jupiter, or from Sirius, can come to the earth, as that men can pass to those stars—as unlikely that inhabitants of those stars know and take an interest in human affairs, as that we can learn what they are doing. A belief in the Divine government of other races of spiritual creatures, besides the human race, and in Divine ministrations committed to such beings, cannot be connected with our physical and astronomical views of the nature of the stars and planets, without making a mixture altogether incongruous and incoherent a mixture of what is material, and what is spiritual, adverse alike to sound religion and to sound philosophy."+
Those possessing a competent acquaintance with the doctrines of theology, and ethical and metaphysical discussions, cannot, we think, read this necessarily faint and imperfect outline of what Dr Whewell has thus far advanced on the subject, without appreciating the caution and discretion with which he handles the subject which he here discussesone of a critical character-in all its aspects and bearings. It is deeply suggestive to reflecting minds, who may be disposed to note with satisfaction how closely his doctrine, as thus far developed, quadrates with those of the Christian system. He has well reminded us, in the Dialogue, of a saying of Kant—that two things impressed him with awe: the starry heaven without him, and the Moral Principle within; and the current of his reflections tends towards that awful passage in the New Testa
+ Ibid., pp. 375, 376.