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Sphere of Human Influence.
his papers after his lamented decease; nor do we feel by any means confident, that the book now in our hands would have seen the light, at least in its present form, aster a lapse of twenty years, if the author had lived so long to pursue his favorite studies and enlarge his views in relation to them.
The typographical execution, like that of everything that comes from its publishers, is excellent. We cannot help, however, pointing out two great faults; which we do not charge to their account, for they undoubtedly printed the manuscript as it was put into their hands. One is, that the number of each Book is not marked at the top of the page. The other is, that the page itself is always one uniform, solid column; with nothing to distribute it before the eye; no resting-place where one may hope to halt awhile; no gap of a breathing-place through the close lines. It is enough to bewilder and exhaust one, only to look at it. We never before saw a book without paragraphs, and hope never to see another.
N. L. F.
ART. V. - SPHERE OF HUMAN INFLUENCE.
CHARLES BABBAGE, in his “ Ninth Bridgewater Treatise," has a chapter concerning the permanent impression of our words upon the air, a chapter which none have ever read without a thrill of mingled admiration and fear; and which closes with an eloquence that were worthy the lips of an orator, though coming from a mathematician's pen.
Would that Babbage had touched, in his fragmentary treatise, upon some of the inferences which may be drawn from the Newtonian law of gravity, inferences which would probably have been as new to most of his readers, as those which he, with so much acuteness, draws from the law of the equality of action and reaction.
The motion of which Babbage speaks in the chapter to which we refer, is undulatory, communicated by impulse and requiring time for its transmission; and the startling result of his reasoning comes from the never dying character of the motion, keeping forever a record of our words
in the atmosphere itself, always audible to a finer sense than ours; reserved against the day of account, when perchance our own ears may be quickened to hear our own words yet ringing in the air.
But motion is not only enduring through all time, it is simultaneous throughout all space. The apple which falls from the tree is met by the earth; not half way, but at a distance fitly proportioned to their respective masses. The moon follows the movement of the earth with instant obedience, and the sun with prompt humility bends his course to theirs. The sister planets with their moons are moved by sympathy with earth, and the stars and most distant clusters of the universe obey the leading of the sun. Thus throughout all the fields of space, wherever stars or suns are scattered, they move for the falling apple's sake. Nor is the motion slowly taken up. The moon waits for no tardy moving impulse from the earth, but instantly obeys. The speed of light which reaches the sun in a few minutes, would be too slow to compare with this. Electricity itself, coursing round the earth a thousand times an hour, can give us no conception of the perfectly simultaneous motions of gravity. There are stars visible to the telescopic eye, whose light has been ages on its swift-winged course before it reached this distant part of space; but they move in instant accordance with the falling fruit.
True it is, that our senses refuse to bear witness to any motion other than the apple's fall, and our fingers tire if we attempt to unite the long list of figures, which our Arabic notation requires to express the movement thereby given to the sun.
Yet that motion can be proved to exist, and the algebraist's formula can represent its quantity. The position of every particle of matter at every instant of time, past, present, or to come, has been written in one short sentence, which any man can read. And as each man can understand more or less of this formula of motion, according to his ability and his acquaintance with mathematical learning, so we may conceive of intelligent beings, whose faculties are very far short of infinite perfection, who can read in that sentence the motions not only of the sun, but of all bodies which our senses reveal to us. Nay, if the mind of Newton has advanced in power since he entered heaven with a speed at all proportioned to his intellectual growth
Sphere of Human Influence.
on earth, perhaps even he could now with great ease assign to every star in the wide universe of God the motion, which it received from the fall of that apple which led him to his immortal discoveries.
Every moving thing on the earth, from the least unto the greatest, is accompanied in its motion by all the heavenly spheres. The rolling planets influence each other on their path, and each is influenced by the changes on its surface. The starry systems wheeling round their unknown centre move in harmony with each other, and bend each other's courses, and each is moved by the planets which accompany it in its mighty dance. Thus does this law of motion bind all material bodies in one well balanced system, wherein not one particle can move but all the uncounted series of worlds and suns must simultaneously move with it.
Thus may every deed on earth be instantly known in the farthest star, whose light, travelling with almost unbounded speed since creation's dawn, has not yet reached our eyes. It only needs in that star a sense quick enough to perceive the motion, infinitely too small for human sense, and an analysis far reaching enough to trace that motion to its cause. The cloud of witnesses, that ever encompass this arena of our mortal life, may need no near approach to earthly scenes, that they may scan our conduct. As they journey from star to star and roam through the unlimited glories of creation, they may read in the motions of the heavens about them the ever faithful report of the deeds of men.
This sympathetic movement of the planets, like the mechanical impulse given by our words to the air, is ever during.
The astronomer from the present motion of the comet learns all its former path, traces it back on its long round of many years, shows you when and where it was disturbed in its course by planets, and points out to you the altered movement which it assumed from the interference of bodies unknown by any other means to human science. He needs only a more subtle analysis and a wider grasp of mind to do for the planets and the stars what he has done for the comet. Nay, it were a task easily done by a spirit less than infinite, to read in the present motion of any one star the past motions of every star in the universe, and thus
of every planet that wheels round those stars, and of every moving thing upon those planets.
Thus considered, how strange a record does the stargemmed vesture of the night present! There, in the seemingly fixed order of those blazing sapphires, is a living dance, in whose mazy track is written the record of all the motions that ever man or nature made. Had we the skill to read it, we should there find written every deed of kindness, every deed of guilt, together with the fall of the landslide, the play of the fountain, the sporting of the lamb, and the waving of the grass. Nay, when we behold the superhuman powers of calculation exhibited sometimes by sickly children long before they reach man's age, may we not believe that men, when hereafter freed from the load of this mortal clay, may be able in the movement of the planets or the sun to read the records of their own past life?
Thou who hast raised thy hand to do a deed of wickedness, stay thine arm! The universe will be witness of thine act, and bear an everlasting testimony against thee; for every star in the remotest heavens will move when thy hand moves, and all the tearful prayers thy soul can utter will never restore those moving orbs to the path from which thy deed has drawn them.
ART. VI. -- HOPKINS'S LECTURES.*
The city of Boston owes a large debt of gratitude to the founder of the Lowell Institution. His original plan was characterized by a wide, far-seeing wisdom, as well as benevolence; and he was scarcely more happy in its conception, than in the arrangements which he was able to make to ensure its being carried into successful execution. The name of Lowell has through a succession of generations been an honored one in this Commonwealth ; and if it be a grateful spectacle to see children rear monuments in mem
Lectures on the Evidences of Christianity, before the Lowell Institute, January, 1844. By Mark Hopkins, D. D., President of Williams Col. lege. Boston: T. R. Marvin. 1846. 8vo. pp. 383.
ory of their fathers, it is a still more beautiful one to see them emulating and equalling them in their public useful
Were we to frame in imagination some scheme which in the long run would secure the greatest amount of good, it must, as an essential condition of success, be one which, in some way or other, should bring the mass of the community into close contact with its best minds. To accomplish this is difficult; but wherever it is not done, society is split up into castes determined not by artificial rules, but by differences of ideas. They stand on different levels of thought. There is no gulf so deep, no wall so high between different classes, as this. And the most wretched class that swelters and starves in the cellars and lanes of the great European capitals, is not to be pitied so much because it is doomed to have the body fed on scanty and unwholesome food, as because the mind is fed, or famished, on a lower and poorer kind of ideas. On the other hand, there is no greater good done than when the truths, to which the best minds have laboriously attained, are made the property of all. To spend an hour with a great and good man, standing on his level and looking at the world from his point of view, will often give an impulse and direction to a person which will not be lost through life. And when the members of a community, drawn from all callings and classes, come into contact with such men, and hear them treat elaborately those subjects in which they are most interested, it will be found before long, that their ideas have spread widely, that they have done much to determine the starting-points and direction of thought and speculation, and to a greater or less degree colored the general mind. It is an influence not immediately seen, and not easily measured. But if familiarity with the best models raises the standard of taste, familiarity with the best minds raises the standard of thought and attainment; and that community will always be found to be in advance of others, where the best instructed men, instead of forming a class by themselves, are constantly in their various departments brought before the people at large.
To aid in promoting this object is the purpose of the Lowell Institute. The lectures delivered in this institution differ entirely from the common popular lectures, in that VOL. XLI. - 4TH S. VOL. VI. NO. II.