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ble, has enabled us not only to take a delightful and distinct survey of the objects that surround us, but has veiled from our view the gross humours incessantly perspired from animal bodies, the filth exhaled from kitchens, streets, and sewers, and every other object that would excite disgust. Again, were the different portions of the atmosphere completely stationary, and not susceptible of agitation, all nature would soon be thrown into confusion. The vapours which are exhaled from the sea by the heat of the sun would be suspended, and remain for ever fixed over those places from whence they arose. For want of this agitation of the air, which now scatters and disperses the clouds over every region, the sun would constantly scorch some districts, and be for ever hid from others; the balance of nature would be destroyed; navigation would be useless, and we could no longer enjoy the productions of different climates. In fine, were the atmosphere capable of being frozen, or converted into a solid mass, as all other fluids are, (and we know no reason why it should not be subject to congelation, but the will of the Creator,) the lives of every animal in the air, the waters, and the earth, would, in a few moments, be completely extinguished. But the admirable adjustment of every circumstance, in relation to this useful element, produces all the beneficial effects which we now experience, and strikingly demonstrates, that the Intelligent Contriver of all things is "wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working."
From the instances now stated, we may plainly perceive, that if the Almighty had not a particular regard to the happiness of his intelligent offspring, and to the comfort of every animated existence; or, if he wished to inflict summary punishment on a wicked world, he could easily effect, by a very slight change in the constitution of the atmosphere, the entire destruction of the human race, and the entire conflagration of the great globe they inhabit throughout all its elementary regions. He has only to extract one of its constituent parts, and the grand catastrophe is at once accomplished. With what a striking propriety and emphasis, then, do the inspired writers
declare, that, "In Him we live, and move, and have our being ;" and that "in his hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind."
A great variety of other admirable properties is possessed by the atmosphere, of which I shall briefly notice only the following:-It is the vehicle of smells, by which we become acquainted with the qualities of the food which is set before us, and learn to avoid those places which are damp, unwholesome, and dangerous. It is the medium of sounds, by means of which knowledge is conveyed to our minds. Its undulations, like so many couriers, run for ever backwards and forwards, to convey our thoughts to others, and theirs to us; and to bring news of transactions which frequently occur at a considerable distance. A few strokes on a large bell, through the ministration of the air, will convey signals of distress, or of joy, in a quarter of a minute, to the population of a city containing a hundred thousand inhabitants. So that the air may be considered as the conveyor of the thoughts of mankind, which are the cement of society. It transmits to our ears all the harmonies of music, and expresses every passion of the soul it swells the notes of the nightingale, and distributes alike to every ear the pleasures which arise from the harmonious sounds of a concert. It produces the blue colour of the sky, and is the cause of the morning and the evening twilight, by its property of bending the rays of light, and reflecting them in all directions. forms an essential requisite for carrying on all the processes of the vegetable kingdom, and serves for the production of clouds, rain, and dew, which nourish and fertilize the earth. In short, it would be impossible to enumerate all the advantages we derive from this noble appendage to our world. Were the earth divested of its atmosphere, or were only two or three of its properties changed or destroyed, it would be left altogether unfit for the habitation of sentient beings. Were it divested of its undulating quality, we should be deprived of all the advantages of speech and conversation-of all the melody of the feathered songsters, and of all the pleasures of music; and, like the deaf and dumb, we could have no
power of communicating our thoughts but by visible signs. Were it deprived of its reflective powers, the sun would appear in one part of the sky of a dazzling brightness, while all around would appear as dark as midnight, and the stars would be visible at noon-day. Were it deprived of its refractive powers, instead of the gradual approach of the day and the night which we now experience, at sun-rise, we should be transported all at once from midnight darkness to the splendour of noon-day: and, at sun-set, should make a sudden transition from the splendours of day to all the horrors of midnight, which would bewilder the traveller in his journey, and strike the creation with amazement. In fine, were the oxygen of the atmosphere completely extracted, destruction would seize on all the tribes of the living world, throughout every region of earth, air, and sea.
Omitting, at present, the consideration of an indefinite variety of other particulars, which suggest themselves on this subject, I shall just notice one circumstance more, which has a relation both to the waters and to the atmosphere. It is a well known law of nature, that all bodies are expanded by heat, and contracted by cold. There is only one exception to this law which exists in the economy of our globe, and that is, the expansion of water in the act of freezing. While the parts of every other body are reduced in bulk, and their specific gravity increased by the application of cold; water, on the contrary, when congealed into ice, is increased in bulk, and becomes of a less specific gravity than the surrounding water, and, therefore, swims upon its surface. Now, had the case been otherwise; had water, when deprived of a portion of its heat, followed the general law of nature, and, like all other bodies, become specifically heavier than it was before, the present constitution of nature would have been materially deranged, and many of our present comforts, and even our very existence, would have been endangered. At whatever time the temperature of the atmosphere became reduced to 32° of the common thermometer, or to what is called the freezing point, the water on the surface of our rivers and lakes would have been converted into a
layer of ice; this layer would have sunk to the bottom as it froze; another layer of ice would have been immediately produced, which would also have sunk to the former layer, and so on in succession, till, in the course of time, all our rivers, from the surface to the bottom, and every other portion of water, capable of being frozen, would havebeen converted into solid masses of ice, which all the heat of summer could never have melted. We should have been deprived of most of the advantages we now derive from the liquid element, and, in a short time, the face of nature would have been transformed into a frozen chaos. But, in the existing constitution of things, all such dismal effects are prevented, in consequence of the Creator having subjected the waters to a law contrary to that of other fluids, by means of which the frozen water swims upon the surface, and preserves the cold from penetrating to any great depth in the subjacent fluid; and when the heat of the atmosphere is increased, it is exposed to its genial influence, and is quickly changed into its former liquid state. How admirably, then, does this exception to the general law of nature display the infinite intelligence of the Great Contriver of all things, and his providential care for the comfort of his creatures, when he arranged and established the economy of nature !
VARIETY OF NATURE.
As a striking evidence of Divine Intelligence, we may next consider the immense variety which the Creator has introduced into every department of the material world.
In every region on the surface of the globe, an endless multiplicity of objects, all differing from one another in shape, colour, and motion, present themselves to the view of the beholder. Mountains covered with forests, hills clothed with verdure, spacious plains adorned with vineyards, orchards, and waving grain; naked rocks, abrupt precipices, extended vales, deep dells, meandering rivers, roaring cataracts, brooks and rills; lakes and gulphs, bays and promontories, seas and oceans, caverns and grottos-meet the eye of the student of Nature, in every country, with a variety which is at once beautiful and ma
jestic. Nothing can exceed the variety of the vegetable kingdom, which pervades all climates, and almost every portion of the dry land, and the bed of the ocean. The immense collections of Natural History which are to be seen in the Museum at Paris, show, that Botanists are already acquainted with nearly fifty-six thousand different species of plants.* And yet, it is probable, that these form but a very small portion of what actually exists, and that several hundreds of thousands of species remain to be explored by the industry of future ages. For, by far the greater part of the vegetable world still remains to be surveyed by the scientific botanist. Of the numerous tribes of vegetable nature which flourish in the interior of Africa and America, in the immense islands of New Holland, New Guinea, Borneo, Sumatra, Java, Ceylon, Madagascar, and Japan; in the vast regions of Tartary, Tibet, Siberia, and the Birman Empire; in the Phillippines, the Moluccas, the Ladrones, the Carolinas, the Marquesas, the Society, the Georgian, and thousands of other islands which are scattered over the Indian and Pacific oceans-little or nothing is known by the Naturalists of Europe; and yet it is a fact which admits of no dispute, that every country hitherto explored, produces a variety of species of plants peculiar to itself; and those districts in Europe which have been frequently surveyed, present to every succeeding explorer a new field of investigation, and reward his industry with new discoveries of the beauties and varieties of the vegetable kingdom. It has been conjectured by some Naturalists, on the ground of a multitude of observations, that "there is not a square league of earth, but what presents some one plant peculiar to itself, or, at least, which thrives there better, or appears more beautiful than in any other part of the world." This would make the number of species of vegetables to amount to as many millions as there are of square leagues on the surface of the earth.
Now, every one of these species of plants differs from another, in its size, structure, form, flowers, leaves, fruits,
* Edinburgh Philosophical Journal, July 1822, p. 48.