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manner-that all the nebulæ in the heavens are moving around some magnificent central body-in short, that all the suns and worlds in the universe are in rapid and perpetual motion, as constituent portions of one grand and boundless empire, of which Jehovah is the Sovereignand, if we consider still farther, that all these mighty movements have been going on, without intermission, during the course of many centuries, and some of them, perhaps, for myriads of ages before the foundations of our world were laid-it is impossible for the human mind to form any adequate idea of the stupendous forces which are in incessant operation throughout the unlimited empire of the Almighty. To estimate such mechanical force, even in a single instance, completely baffles the mathematician's skill, and sets the power of numbers at defiance. “ Language,” and figures, and comparisons, are “ lost in wonders so sublime," and the mind, overpowered with such reflections, is irresistibly led upwards, to search for the cause in that OMNIPOTENT BEING who upholds the pillars of the universe—the thunder of whose power, none can comprehend. While contemplating such august objects, how emphatic and impressive appears the language of the sacred oracles, “ Canst thou by searching find out God? Canst thou find out the Almighty to perfection ? Great things doth he which we cannot comprehend. Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the glory, and the majesty ; for all that is in heaven and earth is thine. Among the gods there is none like unto thee, O Lord, neither are there any works like unto thy works. Thou art great, and dost wondrous things, thou art God alone. Hast thou not known, hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of all things, fainteth not, neither is weary, there is no searching of his understanding. Let all the earth fear the Lord, let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him ; for, he spake, and it was done ; he commanded, and it stood fast."
Again, the immense spaces which surround the heavenly bodies, and in which they perform their revolutions, tend to expand our conceptions on this subject, and to illustrate the magnificence of the Divine operations. In whatever point of view we contemplate the scenery of the heavens, an idea of grandeur irresistibly bursts upon the mind; and, if empty space can, in any sense, be considered as an object of sublimity, nothing can fill the mind with a grander idea of magnitude and extension, than the amplitude of the scale on which planetary systems are constructed. Around the body of the sun there is allotted a cubical space, 3,600 millions of miles in diameter, in which eleven planetary globes revolve-every one being separated from another, by intervals of many millions of miles. The space which surrounds the utmost limits of our system, extending, in every direction, to the nearest fixed stars, is, at least, 40,000,000,000,000 miles in diameter ; and, it is highly probable, that every star is surrounded by a space of equal, or even of greater extent. A body impelled with the greatest velocity which art can produce,-a cannon ball, for instance, would require twenty years to pass through the space that intervenes between the earth and the sun, and four millions, seven hundred thousand years, ere it could reach the nearest star. Though the stars seem to be crowded together in clusters, and some of them almost to touch one another, yet the distance between any two stars which seem to make the nearest approach, is such as neither words can express, nor imagination fathom. These immense spaces are as unfathomable, on the one hand, as the magnitude of the bodies which move in them, and their prodigious velocities, are incomprehensible on the other; and they form a part of those magnificent proportions according to which the fabric of universal nature was arranged-all corresponding to the majesty of that infinite and incomprehensible Being," who measures the ocean in the hollow of his hand, and meteth out the heavens with a span.” How wonderful that bodies at such prodigious distances should exert a mutual influence on one another! that the moon, at the distance of 240,000 miles, should raise tides in the ocean, and currents in the atmosphere! that the sun, at the distance of ninety-five millions of miles, should raise the vapours, move the ocean, direct the course of the winds, fructify the earth, and distribute light, and heat, and colour through every region of the globe; yea, that his attractive influence and fructifying energy should extend even to the planet Herschel, at the distance of eighteen hundred millions of miles! So that, in every point of view in which the universe is contemplated, we perceive the same grand scale of operation by which the Almighty has arranged the provinces of his universal kingdom.
We would now ask, in the name of all that is sacred, whether such magnificent manifestations of Deity ought to be considered as irrelevant in the business of religion, and whether they ought to be thrown completely into the shade, in the discussions which take place on religious topics, in “ the assemblies of the saints ?" If religion consists in the intellectual apprehension of the perfections of God, and in the moral effects produced by such an apprehension—if all the rays of glory emitted by the luminaries of heaven, are only so many reflections of the grandeur of Him who dwells in light unapproachable-if they have a tendency to assist the mind in forming its conceptions of that ineffable Being, whose uncreated glory cannot be directly contemplated—and if they are calculated to produce a sublime and awful impression on all created intelligences,—shall we rest contented with a less glorious idea of God than his works are calculated to afford ? Shall we disregard the works of the Lord, and contemn “the operations of his hands,” and that, too, in the face of all the invitations on this subject, addressed to us from heaven? For thus saith Jehovah, “Lift up your eyes on high, and behold, who hath created these things ? who bringeth forth their host by number? I the Lord, who maketh all things, who stretched forth the heavens alone, and spread abroad the earth by myself; all their host have I commanded.” And, if, at the command of God, we lift up our eyes to the “ firmament of his power," surely we ought to do it, not with
brute unconscious gaze,” not with the vacant stare of a savage, not as if we were still enveloped with the mists and prejudices of the dark ages—but as surrounded by that blaze of light which modern science has thrown upon the scenery of the sky, in order that we may contemplate,
with fixed attention, all that enlightened reason, aided by the nicest observations, has ascertained respecting the magnificence of the celestial orbs. To overlook the sublime discoveries of modern times, to despise them, or to call in question their reality, as some religionists have done, because they bring to our ears such astonishing reports of the “ eternal power,” and majesty of Jehovahis to act as if we were afraid lest the Deity should be represented as more grand and magnificent than he really is, and as if we would be better pleased to pay him a less share of homage and adoration than is due to his name.
Perhaps some may be disposed to insinuate, that the views now stated are above the level of ordinary comprehension, and founded too much on scientific considerations, to be stated in detail to a common audience. To any insinuations of this kind, it may be replied, that such illustrations as those to which we have referred, are more easily comprehended than many of those abstract discussions to which they are frequently accustomed; since they are definite and tangible, being derived from those objects which strike the sense and the imagination. Any person of common understanding may be made to comprehend the leading ideas of extended space, magnitude, and motion, which have been stated above, provided the descriptions be sufficiently simple, clear, and well defined ; and should they be at a loss to comprehend the principles on which the conclusions rest, or the mode by which the magnificence of the works of God has been ascertained, an occasional reference to such topics would excite them to inquiry and investigation, and to the exercise of their powers of observation and reasoning on such subjectswhich are too frequently directed to far less important objects. The following illustration, however, stands clear of every objection of this kind, and is level to the comprehension of every man of common sense.-Either the earth moves round its axis once in 24 hours—or, the sun, moon, planets, comets, stars, and the whole frame of the universe, move around the earth, in the same time. There is no alternative, or third opinion, that can be formed on this point. If the earth revolve on its axis
every 24 hours, to produce the alternate succession of day and night, the portions of its surface about the equator, must move at the rate of more than a thousand miles an hour, since the earth is more than twenty four thousand miles in circumference. This view of the fact, when attentively considered, furnishes a most sublime and astonishing idea. That a globe of so vast dimensions, with all its load of mountains, continents, and oceans, comprising within its circumference a mass of two hundred and sixty-four thousand millions of cubical miles, should whirl round with so amazing a velocity, gives us a most august and impressive conception of the greatness of that Power which first set it in motion, and continues the rapid whirl, from age to age! Though the huge masses of the Alpine mountains were in a moment detached from their foundations, carried aloft through the regions of the air, and tossed into the Mediterranean Sea, it would convey no idea of a force equal to that which is every moment exerted, if the earth revolve on its axis. But should the motion of the earth be called in question, or denied, the idea of force, or power, will be indefinitely increased. For, in this case, it must necessarily be admitted, that the heavens, with all the innumerable host of stars, have a diurnal motion around our globe; which motion must be inconceivably more rapid than that of the earth, on the supposition of its motion. For, in proportion as the celestial bodies are distant from the earth, in the same proportion would be the rapidity of their movements. The sun, on this supposition, would move at the rate of 414,000 miles in a minute; the nearest stars, at the rate of fourteen hundred millions of miles in a second, and the most distant luminaries, with a degree of swiftness which no numbers could express.* Such velocities, too, would be the rate of motion, not merely of a single globe like the earth, but of all the ten thousand times ten thousand spacious globes that exist within the boundaries of creation. This view conveys an idea of power, still more august and overwhelming than any of the views already stated, and
* See Appendix, No. I.