Page images

Almighty throughout eternity past, and to come, as confined to a small globe, placed in the immensity of space, with a number of brilliant studs fixed in the arch of heaven, at a few miles distance-or, as extending through the boundless dimensions of space?-whether they shall be left to entertain no higher idea of the Divine majesty than what may be due to one of the superior orders of the seraphim or cherubim,-or, whether they shall be directed to form the most august conceptions of the King eternal, immortal, and invisible, corresponding to the displays he has given of his glory in his visible works? If it be not, both reason and piety require, that such illustrations of the Divine perfections should occasionally be exhibited to their view.

In the next place, the rapid motions of the great bodies of the universe, no less than their magnitudes, display the Infinite Power of the Creator.

We can acquire accurate ideas of the relative velocities of moving bodies, only by comparing the motions with which we are familiar, with one another, and with those which lie beyond the general range of our minute inspection. We can acquire a pretty accurate conception of the velocity of a ship, impelled by the wind-of a steam-boat -of a race horse-of a bird darting through the air--of an arrow flying from a bow-and of the clouds when impelled by a stormy wind. The velocity of a ship is from 8 to 12 miles an hour,-of a race horse, from 20 to 30 miles of a bird, say from 50 to 60 miles, and of the clouds, in a violent hurricane, from 80 to 100 miles an hour. The motion of a ball from a loaded cannon is incomparably swifter than any of the motions now stated; but of the velocity of such a body we have a less accurate idea; because, its rapidity being so great, we cannot trace it distinctly by the eye, through its whole range, from the mouth of the cannon to the object against which it is impelled. By experiments, it has been found, that its rate of motion is from 480 to 800 miles in an hour, but it is retarded every moment, by the resistance of the air and the attraction of the earth. This velocity, however, great as it is, bears no sensible proportion to the rate of motion

which is found among the celestial orbs. That such enormous masses of matter should move at all, is wonderful; but when we consider the amazing velocity with which they are impelled, we are lost in astonishment. The planet Jupiter, in describing his circuit round the sun, moves at the rate of 29,000 miles an hour. The planet Venus, one of the nearest and most brilliant of the celestial bodies, and about the same size as the earth, is found to move through the spaces of the firmament at the rate of 76,000 miles an hour; and the planet Mercury, with a velocity of no less than 105,000 miles an hour, or 1750 miles in a minute-a motion two hundred times swifter than that of a cannon ball.

These velocities will appear still more astonishing, if we consider the magnitude of the bodies which are thus impelled, and the immense forces which are requisite to carry them along in their courses. However rapidly a ball flies from the mouth of a cannon, it is the flight of a body only a few inches in diameter; but one of the bodies, whose motion has been just now stated, is eighty-nine thousand miles in diameter, and would comprehend, within its vast circumference, more than a thousand globes as large as the earth.-Could we contemplate such motions, from a fixed point, at the distance of only a few hundreds of miles from the bodies thus impelled-it would raise our admiration to its highest pitch, it would overwhelm all our faculties, and, in our present state, would produce an impression of awe, and even of terror, beyond the power of language to express. The earth contains a mass of matter equal in weight to at least 2,200,000,000,000,000,000,000 tons, supposing its mean density to be only about 2 times greater than water. To move this ponderous mass a single inch beyond its position, were it fixed in a quiescent state, would require a mechanical force almost beyond the power of numbers to express. The physical force of all the myriads of intelligences within the bounds of the planetary system, though their powers were far superior to those of man, would be altogether inadequate to the production of such a motion. How much more must be the force requisite to impel it with a

velocity one hundred and forty times swifter than a cannon ball, or 68,000 miles an hour, the actual rate of its motion, in its course round the sun! But whatever degree of mechanical power would be requisite to produce such a stupendous effect, it would require a force one hundred and fifty times greater to impel the planet Jupiter, in his actual course, through the heavens! Even the planet Saturn, one of the slowest moving bodies of our system, a globe 900 times larger than the earth, is impelled through the regions of space, at the rate of 22,000 miles an hour, carrying along with him two stupendous rings, and seven moons larger than ours, through his whole course round the central luminary. Were we placed within a thousand miles of this stupendous globe, (a station which superior beings may occasionally occupy) where its hemisphere, encompassed by its magnificent rings, would fill the whole extent of our vision-the view of such a ponderous and glorious object, flying with such amazing velocity before us, would infinitely exceed every idea of grandeur we can derive from terrestrial scenes, and overwhelm our powers with astonishment and awe. Under such an emotion, we could only exclaim, “GREAT AND MARVELLOUS ARE THY WORKS, LORD GOD ALMIGHTY!" The ideas of strength and power implied in the impulsion of such enormous masses of matter, through the illimitable tracts of space, are forced upon the mind with irresistible energy, far surpassing what any abstract propositions or reasonings can convey; and constrain us to exclaim, "Who is a strong Lord like unto thee! Thy right hand is become glorious in power! The Lord God omnipotent reigneth!"

If we consider the immense number of bodies thus impelled through the vast spaces of the universe-the rapidity with which the comets, when near the sun, are carried through the regions they traverse,—if we consider the high probability, if not absolute certainty, that the sun, with all his attendant planets and comets, is impelled with a still greater degree of velocity towards some distant region of space, or around some wide circumference-that all the thousands of systems of that nebula to which the sun belongs, are moving in a similar


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 Sovereign— and, 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.


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

« PreviousContinue »