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neficence, (for such ought to be our premises) we proceed to construct millions of worlds upon the plan we have imagined. The earth is a globe, the planets are globes, and several of them larger than our earth: the earth has a moon; several of the planets have satellites : the globe we dwell in moves in an orbit round the sun; so do the planets : upon these premises, and no more, we hold ourselves authorised to affirm that they contain“ myriads of intelligent beings, formed for endless progression in perfection and felicity." Having gone thus far
, we next find that the fixed stars bear a certain resemblance to the sun; and, as the sun has a number of planets attendant on him, so, we say,
has each of the fixed stars, composing all together “ten thousand times ten thousand" habitable worlds.
All this is well, so long as we view it as a bold and ingenious conjecture. On any other subject it would be so regarded ; and we should consider it as reserved for the amusement and gratification of a fanciful visionary in the hour, when he gives up the reins to his imagination. But, backed as it is by a complexity of geometrical right lines and curves, and handed forth to us in large quartos, stuffed with calculations, it experiences a very ferent fortune. We are told that, “ by the knowledge we derive from astronomy, our faculties are enlarged, our minds exalted, and our understandings clearly convinced, and affected with the conviction, of the existence, wisdom, power, goodness, immu
tability and superintendency of the supreme being ; so that, without an hyperbole, “an undevout astronomer is made.'”
It is singular, how deeply I was impressed with this representation, while I was a schoolboy, and was so led to propose a difficulty to the wife of the master. I said, “I find that we have millions of worlds round us peopled with rational creatures. I know not that we have any decisive reason for supposing these creatures more exalted, than the wonderful species of which we are individuals. We are imperfect; they are imperfect. We fell; it is reasonable to suppose that they have fallen also. It became necessary for the second person in the trinity to take upon him our nature, and by suffering for our sins to appease the wrath of his father. I am unwilling to believe that he has less commiseration for the inhabitants of other planets. But in that case it may be supposed that since the creation he has been making a circuit of the planets, and dying on the cross for the sins of rational creatures in uninterrupted succession.” The lady was wiser than I, admonished me of the danger of being over-inquisitive, and said we should act more discreetly in leaving those questions to the judgment of the Almighty
But thus far we have reasoned only on one side of the question. Our pious sentiments have led us to magnify the Lord in all his works, and, however
* Ferguson, Astronomy, $ 1.
imperfect the analogy, and however obscure the conception we can form of the myriads of rational creatures, all of them no doubt infinitely varied in their nature, their structure and faculties, yet to view the whole scheme with an undoubting persuasion of its truth. It is however somewhat in oppotion to the ideas of piety formed by our less adventurous ancestors, that we should usurp the throne of God,
Snatch from his hand the balance and the rod,
and, by means of our telescopes and our calculations, penetrate into mysteries not originally intended for us. According to the received Mosaic chronology we are now in the five thousand eight hundred and thirty-fifth year from the creation: the Samaritan version adds to this date. It is therefore scarcely in the spirit of a Christian, that Herschel talks to us of a light, which must have been two millions of years in reaching the earth. Moses describes the operations of the Almighty, in one of the six days devoted to the work of creation, as being to place “ lights in the firmament of heaven, to divide the day from the night, to be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and to give light upon the earth; two great lights, the greater to rule the day, and the lesser the night; and the stars also.” And Christ, prophesying what is to happen in the latter days, says,
“ The sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven.” Whatever therefore be the piety of the persons, who talk to us of “ten thousand times ten thousand worlds, all peopled with rational creatures,” it certainly is not a piety in precise accordance with the Christian scriptures.
SECTION IV. It is also no more than just, that we should bear in mind the apparent fitness or otherwise, of these bodies, so far as we are acquainted with them, for the dwelling-place of rational creatures. Not to mention the probable extreme coldness of Jupiter and Saturn, the heat of the sunbeams in the planet Mercury is understood to be such as that water would unavoidably boil and be carried away', and we can scarcely imagine any living substance that would not be dissolved and dispersed in such an atmosphere. The moon, of which, as being so much nearer to us, we may naturally be supposed to know most, we are told by the astronomers has no water and no atmosphere, or, if any, such an atmosphere as would not sustain clouds and ascending vapour. To our eye, as seen through the telescope, it
appears like a metallic substance, which has been burned by fire, and so reduced into the ruined and ragged condition in which we seem to behold it. The sun appears to be still less an appropriate habitation for rational, or for living creatures, than any of the planets. The comets, which describe an
' Encyclopædia Londinensis, Vol. II, p. 355.
orbit so exceedingly eccentric, and are subject to all the excessive vicissitudes of heat and cold, are, we are told, admirably adapted for a scene of eternal, or of lengthened punishment for those who have acquitted themselves ill in a previous state of probation. Buffon is of opinion, that all the planets in the solar system were once so many portions of our great luminary, struck off from the sun by the blow of a comet, and so having received a projectile impulse calculated to carry them forward in a right line ; at the same time that the power of attraction counteracts this impulse, and gives them that compound principle of motion which retains them in an orbicular course. In this sense it may be said that all the planets were suns; while on the contrary Herschel pronounces, that the sun itself is a planet, an opake body, richly stored with inhabitants.
The modern astronomers go on to account to us for the total disappearance of a star in certain cases, which, they say, may be in reality the destruction of a system, such as that of our sun and its attendant planets, while the appearance of a new star may, in like manner, be the occasional creation of a new system of planets. “We ought perhaps," says Herschel, “ to look upon certain clusters of stars, and the destruction of a star now and then in some thousands of ages, as the very means by which the whole is preserved and renewed. These clusters
& Philosophical Transactions for 1795, p. 68.