« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
If there be a standard of truth and responsibility, it must in itself be fixed. If it be variable and fluctuating, susceptible of modification and change, it is worse than valueless, it is absurd; because in this case what may be truth and responsibility, at one time, may be altogether different, nay, may be diametrically the opposite at another. Of such a standard, therefore, immutability must constitute an integral attribute; and adequate authority must be added to immutability. If there be any question as to authority, there is an end of immutability. All this is virtually demonstrating that that there can be no standard of truth and responsibility which is not divine.
From all the uncertainty, the confusion, the falsehood, and the despair of scepticism—from its ever-shifting quicksands of danger and destruction, we gladly repair to the solid and immutable rock of revelation, established by the fulfilled prophecies of Omniscience, and the accredited miracles of Omnipotence. There we take our decisive and confident stand there we feel that we are established on truth, infallible and eternal : there we ascertain our responsibilities, and are plenarily instructed in the way in which they are to be discharged :-there we realize the balmy and the blessed influence of benevolence, usefulness, and happiness :—there we obtain the pabulum of universal union and peace, in the language of an author we have before quoted, “ the pillar of society, the safeguard of social order, which alone has power to curb the fury of the passions, and to secure to every one his rights; to the laborious the reward of their industry, to the rich the enjoyment of their wealth, to nobles the preservation of their honours, and to princes the stability of their thrones."
With rapid facility, then, we shall be able in our next publication to close our remarks upon this important topic, and to point out, according to our promise, the responsibilities of young men as they refer to mind, to pursuit, to effort, to association, to taste, to habit, to influence, to the person, to society, to the country, to the world and to God, now that we have proved that, THE STANDARD OF TRUTH AND RESPONSIBILITY IS TO BE FOUND IN THE REVEALED WILL OF GOD.
NATURAL PHILOSOPHY.—No. III.
LAWS OF MOTION. We have seen from the outline that has been presented of the properties of matter, that it is utterly incapable either of originating motion or of remaining at rest, being entirely passive and completely at the control of circumstances altogether independent of itself.
A moving body possesses a power or force, called its momentum, and is measured by the mass of matter multiplied into its velocity or rate of motion, because the total amount of motion a body possesses must be the sum of the motion of its several parts. So that if a body of 10 lbs. move with a velocity of 40 feet per minute, its momentum is 400; and it will be perceived that a light body may travel with an equal velocity to a bulky one, and yet the momentum be considerably less.
The following axioms or fundamental laws strictly deducible from the phenomena of nature, and conclusive on the principles of sound reason, are sufficient to account for every kind of motion however varied or complex.
1. Every body continues in its state of rest, unless compelled to change that state by forces impressed; for manifestly matter being at rest, must remain so for ever unless impelled by some extrinsive cause. Also every body continues in a state of uniform motion in a right or straight line, unless compelled to change its course by forces impressed ; for by the vis inertie it must so proceed unless diverted by resistance of the air, the force of gravity, or some other agency of a similar nature.
II. All motion is in proportion to the force impressed, and is communicated in the line of direction in which such force is impressed: if force produce movement, a double force must of necessity originate a double amount, and a triple force a triple amount, and so on; and of course it either produces, assists, or diminishes motion in accordance with the direction in which it is impressed ; or being a compound of two forces in different directions, is added obliquely.
III. Action and re-action are always equal and in contrary directions; that is to say, that wherever a certain force impressed meets with an antagonistic principle, precisely the same amount of power, and in a contrary direction, is offered to it, and is required to oppose it as that by which it was originally impelled : thus if we strike a hard substance with the hand, the hand is equally struck by the substance; or if we hammer an anvil placed on the ground, the blows are equally returned by the anvil,-in short, wherever resistance or re-action is experienced to action, such resistance must, or it ceases to be resistance, be equal to the action, and in a contrary direction.
Before illustrating the practical truth of these fundamental and most simple laws, we must remark that motion, as well as rest, is either absolute or relative :-absolute, when we speak of such motion as communicated to a body actually passing from one part of space to another ; and relative, when we refer to the comparative motions of two bodies which at the same time are absolutely in motion.
We are now prepared to acquiesce in the following illustrations. By laws I. and II. we shall find that a force impressed upon a, in the direction », would cause it to move in a right line B; but if at the same moment a force were imparted in the direction N, it would move in the diagonal AD of the parallelogram AB DC; for since the force N would impel it in the line ac, which is parallel to BD, and at the same time having an impulsion from M, in the line AB, which it will by no means alter, it must be found at same point in the line BD; and on the same ground it must be found somewhere in CD, and consequently seeing that it is to be sought for in the two lines at the same time, and the only situation in which such can be the case being where the two lines intersect one another, it must be at the point D.
In the theory of forces, we may indeed calculate that if the component forces impressed be equal, that then the resultant must be the diagonal of a square; but as such niceties do not really occur, the best illustration is by the parallelogram of forces.
We may also by our figure demonstrate how two or more forces are equivalent to a single force, as we have done in the above problem ; or on the other hand, how several forces are equal to a given single force, of which, however, we shall have numerous instances when we treat on the mechanical powers.
A GOSSIP ON SUPERSTITION.
(Continued from page 54.) For the present, my remarks shall be limited to individuals only, as I have lately hinted, and I will forbear
“Farther to explore,
The dregs of Fancy cloud its purest vein." I have met with a letter* in Pliny, which may not be out of place if here inserted, as it touches closely upon my subject. It is addressed to Sura.
“The present vacation supplies you with leisure to communicate, and me to receive intelligence. I am eager to learn your opinions relative to spectres. Do you believe they have a real existence, and are a species of divinities; or the visionary impressions of a terrified imagination? What strongly induces me to credit their reality, is a story which I lately heard of Curtius Rufus.* When he was in low circumstances, and unknown in the world, he attended the governor of Africa into that province. One evening, whilst sauntering in the public portico, he was extremely surprised with the apparition of a female, whose shape and beauty were more than human. She informed him she was the presiding and tutelar divinity of Africa, and was come to reveal to him the events of his future life ;-that he should return to Rome, there to be elevated to the highest honours ; that he should, as præconsul, rule over the province, and there die: accordingly, every circumstance of this prophetic announcement was actually fulfilled. It is stated, upon his arrival at Carthage, as he was leaving the ship, the same figure accosted him upon the shore. Certain it is, at least,
* Epistola xxvii. Liber 7.
that when seized with a fit of illness, (though his case exhibited no symptoms to occasion in the minds of his attendants any despair,) he gave up all hopes of recovery, judging (it should seem) of the truth of the future part of the prophecy by that which had already been fulfilled, and of the misfortune that threatened him by the success which he had experienced. To this account, let me add another, no less remarkable, but attended with more terrifying circumstances. I will relate it as exactly as told me. There was at Athens a large and commodious house reputed to be haunted. In the dead of night, a noise resembling the clashing of iron was frequently heard, which, to the attentive listener, was like the rattling of chains. It Smed distant at first, but by degrees approached nearer, till a spectre in the form of an old man, very meagre and ghastly, with a long beard and dishevelled hair, rattling the chains on his hands and feet, presented himself: the distressed inhabitants passed the night in the most dreadful suspense; this, as it interrupted their rest, ruined also their health, and produced distempers, which, with their horrors of mind, proved in the end fatal to their lives; even in the day, though the spirit did not appear, yet so strongly was the impression implanted on their imagination, that it still seemed before their eyes, and kept them in a continual state of alarm. By these means the house was at last deserted, being deemed absolutely uninhabitable, and its only occupant was the ghost. However, in hopes that some tenant might be found who was ignorant of this very alarming circumstance, a bill was put up, stating it was to be let or sold. It happened that Athenodorus the philosopher came to Athens at this time, and reading the bill, inquired the price : the extraordinary cheapness excited his suspicion ; nevertheless, when he had heard the whole story, he was so far from being discouraged, that he was the more strongly inclined to hire it, and in fact he did so. As evening advanced, he ordered a couch to be made ready for him in a front room of the house, and after calling for a light, pencil and tablets, requested the domestics to retire. To prevent his mind for want of employment from being open to the vain terrors of imaginary noises and spirits, he applied himself with the closest attention to writing. The first part of the night passed in the usual silence; but at length the chains began to rattle; however, he neither lifted up his eyes, nor laid down his pencil, but directed his observations by pursuing his studies with greater earnestness. The noise encreased and advanced nearer, till it seemed at the door, and at last in the chamber: he raised his eyes, and there stood the ghost (in the manner that had been described to him) beckoning to him. Athenodorus made a sign with his hand that it should wait a little, and then threw his eyes upon his papers ; but the ghost continuing to rattle his chains, he looked up and saw it still beckoning: upon this, he at Ghce rose, and with the light in his hand, followed it. The spectre stalked slowly along, as though impeded; turning into the area of the house, it suddenly vanished. Athenodorus being thus left, made a mark with some dry grass where the spirit disappeared. The next day information was given by him to the magistrates, and he requested them to order the place to be dug up: this was complied with, and the skeleton of a man in chains was there found ; but the body had mouldered away from the fetters: the bones were collected and publicly buried, and by this means the ghost was appeased and the house no longer haunted. This story I believe upon the credit of others. What I am now going to mention, I give you upon my own. I have a freedman named Marcus, who is by no means illiterate; one night as he and his younger brother were lying together, he imagined he saw some person upon his bed, who, with
a pair of scissors, cut off the hair from the top part of his head: in the morning it appeared the boy's hair was really cut, and the clippings were found scattered on the floor. Some little time after, an event of a similar nature contributed to strengthen the preceding story. A young lad of my family was sleeping in his apartment with the rest of his companions, when two persons in white clothing entered the room, as he says, through the windows, and cut off his hair as he lay: the operation finished, they departed by the way they entered. The next morning it was found this boy had been served just as the other, and with the very same circumstance of the hair spread about the room. Nothing remarkable followed these events, except that I escaped a prosecution, in which, if Domitian (during whose reign this happened) had lived longer, I should certainly have been involved : for, after the death of that Emperor, articles of impeachment against me were found in his escritoir, which had been exhibited by Carus. It may, therefore, be conjectured, since it is customary for persons under any public accusation to allow their hair to grow, this cutting off the hair of my servants was a sign I should escape the imminent danger threatened against me. Let me then request you maturely to consider this question ; the subject merits your examination. I trust I am not myself altogether unworthy to participate in the abundance of your superior knowledge, and though you should wish your customary scepticism balance between two opinions, yet I hope you will throw the weightier reasons on one side, lest, whilst I consult you, in order to have my doubt settled, you dismiss me in the same suspense and indecision that occasioned you the present application. Farewell."
So much for the opinions of an ancient. Can we not find its equal in more modern times amongst our own countrymen? We can! The greatest intellects have been swayed by strong superstition, and this failing has been the darkest slur on their characters. Sir Isaac Newton, he who first calculated the respective distances of the stars—who revealed those laws of motion by which the Almighty directs and keeps in their proper orbits unnumbered worlds—he who had revealed the mysteries of the stars themselves,
“He who through vast immensity could pierce,
See worlds on worlds compose one universe,
What other planets circle other suns ;" even he, placed belief in judicial astrology : the poet Dryden gave credence to the same.“ The learned Molanus," writes Zimmerman, “ fancied in the latter part of his life that he was a barley-corn, and although he received his friends with great courtesy and politeness, and conversed upon subjects both of science and devotion with great ease and ingenuity, he could never afterwards be persuaded to stir from home, lest, as he expressed his apprehensions, he should be picked up in the streets and swallowed by a fowl.” Richelieu, that ambitious minister, believed in the calculation of nativities. The philosopher Locke in many things displayed a superstition truly astonishing-romances delighted him extremely. Tasso, the sad and melancholy author of “Jerusalem Delivered,” was often discovered conversing with what he deemed a spirit, or, as he generally called it, his guardian angel. Dr. Johnson has also been by most persons considered "notoriously superstitious." Melancthon of old trusted in dreams. Of more recent times, Sir Christopher Wren is an instance similar. The renowned Dr. Halley implicitly believed in apparitions and visions. A ludicrous conversation which took place between Judge Powell and Dr. Fowler, Bishop of Gloucester, a notorious believer in apparitions at the beginning of the eighteenth century, may not be unacceptable to the readers of The Student :-“Since I saw you," said the lawyer, “ I have had occular demonstration of the existence of nocturnal apparitions.” “I am glad you are become a convert to truth: but do you say actual occular demonstration? Let me know the particulars of the story?" “ My Lord, I will. It was—let me see-last Thursday night, between the hours of eleven and twelve, but nearer the latter than the former, as I lay sleeping in my bed, I was suddenly awakened by an uncommon noise, and heard something coming up stairs, and stalking directly towards my room ; the door flying open, I drew back my curtain, and saw a faint glimmering light enter my chamber." "Of a blue colour no doubt!” “The light was of a pale blue, my Lord, and followed by a tall meagre