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with all its sublime scenery, stupendous as it is, dwindles into an inconsiderable ball. If we pass from our globe to some of the other bodies of the planetary system, we shall find that one of these stupendous orbs is more than 900 times the size of our world, and encircled with a ring .200,000 miles in diameter, which would nearly reach from the earth to the moon, and would enclose within its vast circumference, several hundreds of worlds as large as Another of these planetary bodies,
appears to the vulgar eye only as a brilliant speck on the vault of heaven, is found to be of such a size, that it would require 1,400 globes of the bulk of the earth to form one equal to it in dimensions. The whole of the bodies which compose the solar system (without taking the sun and the comets into account,) contains a mass of matter 2,500 times greater than that of the earth. The sun himself is 520 times larger than all the planetary globes taken together; and one million, three hundred thousand times larger than the terraqueous globe. This is one of the most glorious and magnificent visible objects, which either the eye, or the imagination, can contemplate ; especially when we consider, what perpetual, and incomprehensible, and powerful influence he exerts, what warmth, and beauty, and activity, he diffuses, not only on the globe we inhabit, but over the more extensive regions of surrounding worlds. His energy extends to the utmost limits of the planetary system-to the planet Herschel, which revolves at the distance of 1,800 millions of miles from his surface, and there, he dispenses light, and colour, and comfort, to all the beings connected with that far-distant orb, and to all the moons which roll around it.
Here the imagination begins to be overpowered and bewildered in its conceptions of magnitude, when it has advanced scarcely a single step in its excursions through the material world : For, it is highly probable, that all the matter contained within the limits of the solar system, incomprehensible as its magnitude appears, bears a smaller proportion to the whole mass of the material universe, than a single grain of sand to all the particles of matter contained in the body of the sun and his attending planets.
If we extend our views from the solar system to the starry heavens, we have to penetrate, in our imagination, a space which the swiftest ball that was ever projected, though in perpetual motion, would not traverse in ten hundred thousand years. In those trackless regions of immensity, we behold an assemblage of resplendent globes, similar to the sun in size, and in glory, and, doubtless, accompanied with a retinue of worlds, revolving, like our own, around their attractive influence. The immense distance at which the nearest stars are known to be placed, proves, that they are bodies of a prodigious size, not inferior to our own sun, and that they shine, not by reflected rays, but by their own native light. But bodies encircled with such refulgent splendour, would be of little use in the economy of Jehovah's empire, unless surrounding worlds were cheered by their benign influence, and enlightened by their beams. Every star is, therefore, with good reason, concluded to be a sun, no less spacious than ours, surrounded by a host of planetary globes, which revolve around it as a centre, and derive from it light, and heat, and comfort. Nearly a thousand of these luminaries may be seen in a clear winter night, by the naked eye ; so that a mass of matter equal to a thousand solar systems, or to thirteen hundred and twenty millions of globes of the size of the earth, may be perceived, by every common observer, in the canopy of heaven. But all the celestial orbs which are perceived by the unassisted sight, do not form the eighty thousandth part of those which may be descried by the help of optical instruments. The telescope has enabled us to descry, in certain spaces of the heavens, thousands of stars where the naked eye could scarcely discern twenty. The late celebrated astronomer, Dr. Herschel, has informed us, that, in the most crowded parts of the Milky-way, when exploring that region with his best glasses, he has had fields of view which contained no less than 588 stars, and these were continued for many minutes ; so that “ in one quarter of an hour's time there passed no less than one hundred and sixteen thousamd stars through the field of view of his telescope."
It has been computed, that nearly one hundred millions of stars might be perceived by the most perfect instruments, were all the regions of the sky thoroughly explored: And yet, all this vast assemblage of suns and worlds, when compared with what lies beyond the utmost boundaries of human vision, in the immeasurable spaces of creation, may be no more than as the smallest particle of vapour to the immense ocean. Immeasurable regions of space lie beyond the utmost limits of mortal view, into which even imagination itself can scarcely penetrate, and which are, doubtless, replenished with the operations of Divine Wisdom and Omnipotence. For, it cannot be supposed, that a being so diminutive as man, whose stature scarcely exceeds six feet—who vanishes from the sight at the distance of a league-whose whole habitation is invisible from the nearest star-whose powers of vision are so imperfect, and whose mental faculties are so limited—it cannot be supposed that man, who “dwells in tabernacles of clay, who is crushed before the moth," and chained down, by the force of gravitation, to the surface of a small planet-should be able to descry the utmost boundaries of the empire of Him who fills immensity, and dwells in “ light unapproachable.” That portion of his dominions, however, which lies within the range of our view, presents such a scene of magnificence and grandeur, as must fill the mind of every reflecting person, with astonishment and reverence, and constrain him to exclaim, “Great is our Lord, and of great power, his understanding is infinite.” " When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which thou hast ordained-what is man that thou art mindful of him !" “ I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear;" I have listened to subtle disquisitions on thy character and perfections, and have been but little affected, “ but now mine eye seeth thee; wherefore I humble myself, and repent in dust and ashes."
In order to feel the full force of the impression made by such contemplations, the mind must pause at every step, in its excursions through the boundless regions of material existence: for it is not by a mere attention to the figures
dwell on every
and numbers by which the magnitudes of the great bodies of the universe are expressed, that we arrive at the most distinct and ample conceptions of objects so grand and overwhelming. The mind, in its intellectual range, must
individual scene it contemplates, and on the various objects of which it is composed : It must add scene to scene, magnitude to magnitude, and compare smaller objects with greater-a range of mountains with the whole earth, the earth with the planet Jupiter, Jupiter with the sun, the sun with a thousand stars, a thousand stars with 80 millions, and 80 millions with all the boundless extent which lies beyond the limits of mortal vision-and, at evety step of this mental process, sufficient time must be allowed for the imagination to expatiate on the objects before it, till the ideas approximate, as near as possible, to the reality. In order to form a comprehensive conception of the extent of the terraqueous globe, the mind must dwell on an extensive landscape, and the objects with which it is adorned; it must endeavour to survey the many thousands of diversified landscapes which the earth exhibits—the hills and plains, the lakes and rivers, and mountains, which stretch in endless variety over its surface-it must dive into the vast caverns of the ocean penetrate into the subterraneous regions of the globe, and wing its way, amidst clouds and tempests, through the surrounding atmosphere. It must next extend its flight through the more expansive regions of the solar system, realizing, in imagination, those magnificent scenes which can be descried neither by the naked eye, nor by the telescope ; and comparing the extent of our sublunary world, with the more magnificent globes that roll around us. Leaving the sun and all his attendant planets behind, till they have diminished to the size of a small twinkling star, it must next wing its way to the starry regions, and pass from one system of worlds to another, from one Nebula* to another, from one region of Nebulæ to another, till it arrive at the utmost boundaries of creation which human
* For an account of the Nebulæ, see Ch. II. Art. Astronomy.
genius has explored. It must also endeavour to extend its flight beyond all that is visible by the best telescopes, and expatiate at large in that boundless expanse into which no human eye has yet penetrated, and which is, doubtless, replenished with other worlds, and systems, and firmaments, where the operations of infinite power and beneficence are displayed, in endless variety, throughout the illimitable regions of space.
Here, then, with reverence, let us pause, and wonder! Over all this vast assemblage of material existence, God presides. Amidst the diversified objects and intelligences it contains, he is eternally and essentially present. By his unerring wisdom, all its complicated movements are directed. By his Almighty fiat, it emerged from nothing into existence, and is continually supported from age to age. “HE SPAKE, AND IT WAS DONE ; HE COMMANDED, AND IT STOOD FAST.” “ By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the spirit of his mouth.”
What an astonishing display of Divine power is here exhibited to our view! How far transcending all finite comprehension must be the energies of Him who only “spake, and it was done,” who only gave the command, and this mighty system of the universe, with all its magnificence, started into being! The infinite ease with which this vast fabric was reared, leads us irresistibly to conclude, that there are powers and energies in the
Divine mind which have never yet been exerted, and which may unfold themselves to intelligent beings, in the production of still more astonishiing and magnificent effects, during an endless succession of existence. That man who is not impressed with a venerable and overwhelming sense of the power and majesty of Jehovah, by such contemplations, must have a mind incapable of ardent religious emotions, and unqualified for appreciating the grandeur of that Being “whose kingdom ruleth over all.” And shall such ennobling views be completely withheld from a Christain audience? Shall it be considered as a matter of mere indifference, whether their views of the Creator's works be limited to the sphere of a few miles around them, or extended to ten thousand worlds ? whether they shall be left to view the operations of the