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is of greater moment than regularity, particularly such as might be deemed artificial, in the works of a Deity.
But we labour under a farther disadvantage by our position in one of the planets which necessarily controls our view of the universe. Though all the planets move in nearly circular ellipses, yet to our eye this is not apparent. It is impossible, for example, that Venus should exhibit a revolution ; she can only appear to move in one direction through the heavens, remaining stationary for a time, and then assuming a retrograde course. Did we inhabit the sun at the centre, the point of view would be more advantageous; and were we placed in the centre of the whole universe, all its constellations might present a more strikingly regular and beautiful appearance.
The proximity of the stars is only apparent, and their distances, even when gathered into groups, are so great, in fact, on any plausible calculation, as to admit of their being each the centre round which some planet or planets revolve. According to Herschell, the stars, in a certain part of the heavens, seem to recede, which, as it is contrary to the law of gravitation, he imputes to a gradual approach of the sun, and the whole of our system, to the constellation Hercules. Did we then reside in any of the stars of the most compaet group, we might see the rest at immense distances.
This motion of our system may lead to the conelusion which Herschell has also suggested, that the sun is slowly revolving round some distant centre, and that the whole universe has some common centre, to a motion round which all its systems are properly adjusted.
But though this sublime idea be admitted, while it does not require us to imagine any dissolution of the groups or nebulæ, and while it does not appear that any point of view whatever could rectify the universe into a regular system of concentric orbs,-it must still be remembered that we have no reason for supposing regular structure, according to our notions, to be the only end worthy of a Deity. Many purposes may be served by the present structure of the heavens which we cannot even conceive, but which if known would completely justify the arrangement. There may be other beings acquainted with these, and profited by them. It is possible that we may at length be initiated into the mystery, and thus our rational powers blessed with the views and consecrated to the adorations for which they were originally formed. In the mean time, though the heavens assuredly were not replenished for the sake of man, yet as they space, which
have various relations to this planet and its inhabitants, the object of all these relations is gained by their present form, perhaps even better than by regular structure. Their present form, besides all its utilities, in increasing the quantum of light in the heavens, favouring navigation on the earth, &c. tends, as we have seen in the demonstrative part of this treatise, more fully to ascertain the existence of an Intelligent First Cause, than a concentric arrangement of all the bodies in
, might have been plausibly ascribed to chance, or the operation of physical causes.
On this head the Scriptures contain but little, not being designed to teach us astronomy, or to give general reasons for the works of God. They frequently recognise the limited powers of man. They consider us as fallen from our original capacity of understanding the works of God, and are mainly occupied in unfolding the plan of recovery to this capacity, and to all the pleasures in reserve for it. They represent it, however, as the ancient belief, that the constellations are beautiful, sublime, and useful. (Job ix. 8–11.) And they introduce the Deity himself, declaring the present structure of the heavens to be the result of his sovereign will, at the same time calculated to display his wisdom, power, and benevolence: “ Canst thou bind the sweet influences of the Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion ? Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season, or canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons ? Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven, (their true form and designs,) or canst thou set the dominion thereof (either passively—their utility, or actively, the control over them,) in the earth ? (by giving it the benefit, which it has, or, by assigning it the place of central control, which it has not.") Job xxxvii. 3133. “ 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." Is. xlv. 12.- Seek him that maketh the seven stars, and Orion, that turneth the shadow of death into the morning." Amos v. 8.
The Scriptures, moreover, hold out the hope of a future state, when the righteous shall see all things “ in the light of the Lord,” shalí “ know” in their measure “ even as they are known,” and be eternally occupied in contemplating and celebrating the manifestation of the Deity in his works. Nor is the view which they give of Heaven and Hell foreign to the idea of the universe suggested by Herschell. Though in the immensity of space there can neither be “ up” nor “ down,” in the strict sense of the terms, yet as in supposing two planets in
opposite quarters of the heavens, the eyes of the inhabitants of each would be said to be directed upwards to the sun in the centre, so if we suppose a common centre of the universe, the direction from all points, even of the utmost circumference, would, with greater propriety, be said to be upwards to that centre as the principal place, than downwards ; and lines drawn from this centre would descend in every direction to the exterior abyss of darkness and vacuity. Such a centre, it is evident, would be the fittest habitation of the Almighty, by whose habitation can be meant only the place where his glory is most eminently manifested. It accords with the Scriptural idea of the Throne of God, around which he hath spread out the canopy of the heavens as the curtains of his tent. It is “ the high and lofty place” whence proceeds in every direction the manifestation of the Deity in his works; whence issues that influence which philosophers style gravitation, but which is, according to Scripture, the divine power, upholding the universe, and retaining its several parts in their constituted order,—whence too angels are missioned on those behests in which the Deity may choose to employ means, but which are out of the sphere of physical laws. This centie must be to us, and indeed to all worlds, “ the third heavens," beyond the aerial or atmospheric heaven of every inhabited globe, and beyond the starry heaven which encircles or revolves around it. 'If then the righteous of mankind shall, upon grounds justified by the wonderful mystery of their redemption, be translated to this high and lofty place, (which other good beings may also be allowed to visit,) they will be placed in the most advantageous situation for surveying all the works of God, according to the powers which may be conferred upon them, and we know not what regularity and propriety may thence be discerned in the arrangement of the universe. Hell, on the other hand, will be the region of exile for all rebellious beings, the vast inane beyond the limits of the universe, to which they shall be driven as to the farthest distance from the throne of God, from the blissful manifestation of the Deity in his works, and from even the comfort of natural light. Between it and heaven there is, according to Scripture, “ a great and intransible gulf;" it is the region of “outer (exterior) darkness," the “bottomless abyss." So far as corporal punishment may be requisite, the electric Auid, which does not depend on the presence of air for its activities, and which is usually styled in Scripture “ fire and brimstone” or
" the fire of the Lord,” may be the means employed. Let us for the
present follow the lights we have, recognising and revering the Deity, endeavouring to fulfil the present ends of our being; and let us hope for a more advantageous aspect, and clearer understanding, of the works of God. “ If any man,” said our Saviour, “ will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine," may we not add, he shall know of the universe ?
II.-“ If the arrangements in regard to our world, its distance from the sun, its annual number of rotations, the inclination of its axis, &c. be demonstrative of wisdom and goodness, the argument must conclude against Mercury, Jupiter, Saturn, and the Georgium Sidus, which have not the same advantages for light, heat, the revolution of seasons,” &c.
The reply to this is briefly, that the difficulty rests on the unphilosophical presumption, that the inhabitants of these planets must be like us, and their constitution of things the same with ours; whereas we ought rather to reason from ana. logy, that the planet and its inhabitants are properly adjusted to each other.
On this head the Scriptures have nothing specific. Everywhere declaring the admirable adaptation of the earth to its animated inhabitants, especially " the sons of men” to whom God hath given it,” they merely throw out to reason the fact that the same God " made the stars also,” and assert of his works in general that “ in wisdom he hath made them all, and because he is great in power not one faileth.” His “ tender mercies are over all his works.”
III.-" The unequal and rugged form of the earth, with the vast mass of the ocean, presents an appearance of deformity, and a waste of space which might have been more happily occupied.".
Would the objector in this case have the surface of the earth as smooth as a factitious globe ? It were easy to show how disadvantageous this form would have been in numerous respects. Besides, “ pulchritude is relative, and all bodies are truly and physically beautiful under all possible shapes and proportions
• Nequaquam nobis divinitùs esse creatam
Lucret. lib. 5.
that are good in their kinds and fit for their proper uses." An equal convexity of the globe would present to each individual only a narrow prospect (supposing nothing to interrupt it) of a little circular plane around him. Are there long ranges of barren mountains in some of the best climates and most fertile regions of the earth ? The excellence of the climate is greatly owing to them; and by condensing the vapours to the production of rain, fountains, and rivers,—they give to the vallies and plains around their boasted fertility. Take away the mountains, reduce the earth to a mere convex rotundity, and what a loss in the vegetable kingdom, as all plants cannot grow in the same region ; what a want too in the mineral, of those metals which contribute so much to the comfort and conveniences of life. Grant mountains to exist, and imagine them all regular cones; what then would become of all the romantic and sublime scenes of nature? The dull uniformity could not long be enjoyed. To expatiate on the benefits of the ocean, the mass of whose waters is no more than is requisite to preserve the earth and vegetable nature as it is, and which increases the wonder of such a self-balanced globe, must be needless.
By the testimony of Scripture, the ocean is a vast theatre of almighty power and goodness, “ there ships go, there God makes to play the great leviathan ;” and a dull flat of even cultivated land could never have compensated for “ the chief things of the ancient mountains, and the precious things of the everlasting hills.”—(Deut. xxxiii. 15.) It is the sentence of Scripture as well as of mankind, that ós a land of hills and vallies" is more pleasant, beautiful, and useful, than a uniform plain, for such a land God gave to Israel, and pronounced to be “ the joy of all lands.' Read the civ. Psalm in Buchanan's very elegant paraphrase (which might be appended as a complete anwer to the quotation from Lucretius in the note), or in the still more sublime simplicity of the original, and the structure of the earth,—more useful and pleasant than the atheist would have had it,—so far from disparaging, must be allowed to evince in the most captivating form the wisdom and goodness of the agent. If there be disadvantages, the Scriptures connect these with the state of disorder to be afterwards considered, and at the same time benignantly turn them to the best account, teaching us to regard the world as only the land of our peregrination, and directing our views to “ a better country, that is an heavenly.”
IV.-" The earth is encumbered with weeds and noxious