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arising from the considerations of light, and heat, and a thousand other obstacles, are to give way to the perfect insight we have as to how the deity will conduct himself in every case that can be proposed. I am not persuaded that this is agreeable to religion; and I am still less convinced that it is compatible with the sobriety and sedateness of common sense.
It is with some degree of satisfaction that I perceive lord Brougham, the reputed author of the Preliminary Discourse to the Library of Useful Knowledge, at the same time that he states the dimensions and distances of the heavenly bodies in the usual way, says not a word of their inhabitants.
It is somewhat remarkable that, since the commencement of the present century, four new planets have been added to those formerly contained in the enumeration of the solar system. They lie between the planets Mars and Jupiter, and have been named Vesta, Juno, Ceres and Pallas. Brinkley speaks of them in this manner. “ The very small magnitudes of the new planets Ceres and Pallas, and their nearly equal distances from the sun, induced Dr. Olbers, who discovered Pallas in 1802, nearly in the same place where he had observed Ceres a few months before, to conjecture that they were fragments of a larger planet, which had by some unknown cause been broken to pieces. It follows from the law of gravity, by which the planets are retained in their orbits, that each fragment would again, after every revolution about the
sun, pass nearly through the place in which the planet was when the catastrophe happened, and besides the orbit of each fragment would intersect the continuation of the line joining this place and the sun. Thence it was easy to ascertain the two particular regions of the heavens through which all these fragments would pass. Also, by carefully noting the small stars thereabout, and examining them from time to time, it might be expected that more of the fragnients would be discovered.M. Harding discovered the planet Juno in one of these regions; and Dr. Olbers himself also, by carefully examining them (the small stars] from time to time, discovered Vesta."
These additions certainly afford us a new epoch in the annals of the solar system, and of astronomy itself. It is somewhat remarkable, that Herschel, who in the course of his observations traced certain nebulæ, the light from which must have been two millions of years in reaching the earth, should never have remarked these planets, which, so to speak, lay at his feet. It reminds one of Esop's astrologer, who, to the amusement of his ignorant countrymen, while he was wholly occupied in surveying the heavens, suddenly found himself plunged in a pit. These new planets also we are told are fragments of a larger planet : how came this larger planet never to have been discovered?
Till Herschel's time we were content with six planets and the sun, making up the cabalistical number seven. He added another. But these four new ones entirely derange the scheme. The astronomers have not yet had opportunity to digest them into their places, and form new worlds of them. This is all unpleasant. They are, it seems, “ frag. . ments of a larger planet, which had by some unknown cause been broken to pieces.” They therefore are probably not inhabited. How does this correspond with the goodness of God, which will suffer no mass of matter in his creation to remain unoccupied ? Herschel talks at his ease of whole systems, suns with all their attendant planets, being consigned to destruction. But here we have a catastrophe happening before our eyes, and cannot avoid being shocked by it. “God does nothing in vain.” For which of his lofty purposes has this planet been broken to pieces, and its fragments left to deform the system of which we are inhabitants ; at least to humble the pride of man, and laugh to scorn his presumption ? Still they perform their revolutions, and obey the projectile and gravitating forces, which have induced us to people ten thousand times ten thousand worlds. It is time, that we should learn modesty, to revere in silence the great cause to which the universe is indebted for its magnificence, its beauty and harmony, and to acknowledge that we do not possess the key that should unlock the mysteries of creation.
One of the most important lessons that can be impressed on the human mind, is that of self-knowledge and a just apprehension of what it is that we are competent to achieve. We can do much. We are capable of much knowledge and much virtue. We have patience, perseverance and subtlety. We can put forth considerable energies, and nerve ourselves to resist great obstacles and much suffering. Our ingenuity is various and considerable. We can form machines, and erect mighty structures. The invention of man for the ease of human life, and for procuring it a multitude of pleasures and accommodations, is truly astonishing. We can dissect the human frame, and anatomise the mind. We can study the scene of our social existence, and make extraordinary improvements in the administration of justice, and in securing to ourselves that germ of all our noblest virtues, civil and political liberty. We can study the earth, its strata, its soil, its animals, and its productions, “ from the cedar that is in Lebanon, to the hyssop that springeth out of the wall."
But man is not omnipotent. If he aspires to be worthy of honour, it is necessary that he should compute his powers, and what it is they are competent to achieve. The globe of earth, with "all that is therein,” is our estate and our einpire. Lel us be content with that which we have. It were a pitiful thing to see so noble a creature struggling in a field, where it is impossible for him to distinguish himself, or to effect any thing real. There is no situation in which any one can appear more little and ludicrous, than when he engages in vain essays, and seeks to accomplish that, which a moment's sober thought would teach him was utterly hopeless.
Even astronomy is to a certain degree our own. We can ineasure the course of the sun, and the orbits of the planets. We can calculate eclipses. We can number the stars, assign to them their places, and form them into what we call constellations. But, when we pretend to measure millions of miles in the heavens, and to make ourselves acquainted with the inhabitants of ten thousand times ten thousand worlds and the accommodations which the creator has provided for their comfort and felicity, we probably engage in something more fruitless and idle, than the pigmy who should undertake to bend the bow of Ulysses, or strut and perform the office of a warrior clad in the armour of Achilles.
How beautiful is the “firmament; this majestical roof fretted with golden fire!” Let us beware how we mar the magnificent scene with our interpolations and commentaries ! Simplicity is of the essence of the truly great. Let us look at the operations of that mighty power from which we ourselves derive our existence, with humility and reverential awe! It may well become us. Let us not
presume into the heaven of heavens," unbidden, unauthorised guests! Let us adopt the counsel of the apostle, and allow no man to “spoil us through vain philosophy.” The business of human life is