« PreviousContinue »
ject the very same opinions; whereas beings above and beneath us have probably no opinions at all, or at least, no wavering and uncertainties in those they have. Our superiors are guided by intuition, and our inferiors by instinct. In respect to our wills, we fall into crimes and recover out of them, are amiable or odious in the eyes of our great Judge, and pass our whole life in offending and asking pardon. On the contrary, the beings beneath us are not capable of sinning, nor those above us of repenting. The one is out of the possibilities of duty, and the other fixed in an eternal course of sin, or an eternal course of virtue.
II.-BENEFITS OF SOCIETY. THEY, who have been accustomed to the refinements of science, and multiplication of contrivance, soon lose their confidence in the unassisted powers of nature, forget the paucity of our real necessities, and overlook the easy methods by which they may be supplied. It were it speculation worthy of a philosophical mind, to examine how much is taken away from our native abilities, as well as added to them, by artificial expedients. We are so accustomed to give and receive assistance, that each of us singly can do little for himself; and there is scarce any one among us, however contracted may be his form of life, who does not enjoy the labour of a thousand artists. But a survey of the various nations that inhabit the earth will inform us, that life may be supported with less assistance; and that the dexterity which practice, enforced by necessity produces, is able to effect much by very scanty means. The nations of Mexico and Peru erected cities and temples without the use of iron ; and, at this day, the rude Indian supplies himself with all the necessaries of life. Sent, like the rest of mankind, naked into the world, as soon as his parents have nursed him up to strength, he is to provide, by his own labour, for his own support. His first care is to find a sharp flint among the rocks; with this he undertakes to fell the trees of the forest. He shapes his bow, heads his arrows,
builds his cottage, and hollows his canoe; and, from that time, lives in a state of plenty and prosperity. He is sheltered from the storms, he is fortified against beasts of
prey, he is enabled to pursue the fish of the sea, and the deer of the mountains; and as he does not know, does not envy, the happiness of polished nations, where gold can supply the want of fortitude and skill, and he, whose laborious ancestors have made him rich, may be stretched upon a couch, and see all the treasures of all the elements poured down before him. This picture of a savage life, if it shows how much individuals may perform, shows likewise how much society is to be desired. Though the perseverance and address of the Indian excite our admiration, they, nevertheless, cannot procure him the conveniences which are enjoyed by the vagrant beggar of a civilized country. He hunts, like a wild beast, to satisfy his hunger; and, when he lies down to rest after a successful chase, cannot pronounce himself secure against the danger of perishing in a few days. He is perhaps content with his condition, because he knows not that a better is attainable by man; as he that is born blind does not long for the perception of light, because he cannot conceive the advantages which light would afford him. But hunger, wounds, and weariness are real evils, though he believes them equally incident to all his fellowcreatures; and, when a tempest compels him to lie starring in his hut, he cannot justly be concluded equally happy with those, whom art has in a great measure exempted from the power of chance, and who make the foregoing year provide for the following. To receive and to communicate assistance constitutes the happiness of human life. Man may, indeed, preserve his existence in solitude, but can enjoy it only in society. The greatest understanding of an individual, doomed to procure food and clothing for himself, will barely supply him expedients to keep off death from day to day; but as one of a large community, performing only his share of the common business, he gains leisure for intellectual pleasure, and enjoys the happiness of reason and reflection.
III.—THE TELESCOPE. The son of a spectacle-maker, of Middleburg in Holland, happening to amuse himself in his father's shop, by holding two glasses between his finger and thumb, and varying their distance, perceived the weather-cock of the church-spire opposite to him much larger than ordinary, and apparently much nearer, and turned upside down. This new wonder excited the amazement of the father; he adjusted two glasses on a board, rendering them moveable at pleasure; and thus formed the first rude example of a perspective-glass, by which distant objects are brought near to view. Galileo, a philosopher of Tuscany, hearing of the invention, improved upon it, and constructed a telescope, which he directed to different parts of the surrounding heavens. He discovered four moons revolving round the planet Jupiter-spots on the surface of the sun, and the rotation of that globe around its axis and numbers of fixed stars where scarcely one was visible to the naked eye. These discoveries were made about the year 1610; since which time the instrument has passed through various degrees of improvement; and, by means of it, celestial wonders have been explored in the distant regions of the universe, which, in former times, were altogether concealed from mortal view.
By the help of telescopes, combined with the art of measuring the distances and magnitudes of the heavenly bodies, our views of the grandeur of the Almighty, of the plenitude of his power, and of the extent of his universal empire, are extended far beyond what could have been conceived in former ages. Our prospects of the range of the divine operations are no longer confined within the limits of the world we inhabit;- we can now plainly perceive, that the kingdom of God is not only “ an everlasting dominion,” but that it extends through the unlimited regions of space, comprehending within its vast circumference thousands of suns, and ten thousands of worlds, all ranged in majestic order, at immense distances from one another, and all supported and governed by him “ who rides on the heaven of heavens,” whose greatness is unsearchable, and whose understanding is infinite.
The telescope has also demonstrated to us the literal truth of those Scriptural declarations which assert that the stars are innumerable. Not more than a thousand stars can be perceived by the unassisted eye in the clearest night. But this invention has unfolded to view not only thousands, but hundreds of thousands, and millions of those bright luminaries, which lie dispersed in every
direction throughout the boundless dimensions of space. And the higher the magnifying powers of the telescope are, the more numerous those celestial orbs appear; leaving us no room to doubt, that countless myriads more lie hid in the distant regions of creation, far beyond the reach of the finest glasses that can be constructed by human skill.
The telescope may be considered as serving the purpose of a vehicle for transporting us to the distant regions of space. We would consider it as a wonderful achievement, could we be conveyed two hundred thousand miles from the earth, in the direction of the moon, in order to take a nearer view of that celestial orb. But this instrument enables us to take a much nearer inspection of that planet, than if we had actually surmounted the force of gravitation, traversed the voids of space, and left the earth two hundred and thirty thousand miles behind us. For supposing such a journey to be accomplished, we should still be ten thousand miles distant from that orb. But a telescope which magnifies objects two hundred and forty times, can carry our views within one thousand miles of the moon ; and a telescope, such as Dr Herschel's forty-feet reflector, which magnifies six thousand times. would enable us to view the mountains and vales of the moon, as if we were transported to a point about forty miles from her surface. We can view the magnificent system of the planet Saturn, by means of this instrument, as distinctly as if we had performed a journey of eight hundred millions of miles in the direction of that globe; which, at the rate of fifty miles an hour, would require a period of more than eighteen hundred years to accomplish. By the telescope, we can contemplate the region of the fixed stars, their arrangement into systems, and their immense numbers, with the same distinctness and amplitude of view, as if we had actually taken a flight so rast, that several millions of years would be required to accomplish the journey, though our motion were as rapid as that of a ball projected from a cannon. We would justly consider it as a noble achievement for enabling us to take an extensive survey of the works of God, if we had the faculty of transporting ourselves to such immense distances from the sphere we now occupy; but, by means of the telescopic tube, we may take nearly the same ample views of the dominions of the Creator, without stirring a foot from the limits of our terrestrial abode. This instrument may, therefore, be considered as'a proridential gift bestowed upon mankind, to serve in the meantime, as a temporary substitute for those powers of rapid flight with which the seraphim are endowed, and for those superior faculties of motion with which man himself
may be invested, when he arrives at the summit of moral perfection.
The Microscope is also an instrument which has greatly expanded our views of the “ manifold wisdom of God." This instrument, which discovers to us small objects invisible to the naked eye, was invented soon after the invention and improvement of the telescope. By means of this optical contrivance, we perceive a variety of wonders in almost every object in the animal, the vegetable, and the mineral kingdoms. We perceive that every particle of matter, however, minute, has a determinate formthat the very scales on the back of the smoothest fish are all beautifully interwoven and variegated, like pieces of net-work which no art can imitate that the points of the prickles of vegetables, though magnified a thousand times, appear as sharp and well polished as to the naked eye-ihat every particle of dust on a butterfly's wing, is a beautiful and regularly organised feather—that every hair of our head is a hollow tube, with bulbs and roots, furnished with a variety of threads and filaments—and that the pores in our skin, through which the perspiration