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person, (admitting that such an one could be found) to wish it to be true, we think the answer is very obvious. It claims to be a remedy for certain evils which, as no human being is wholly exempt from them, so no rational one will ever dispute their existence! That sin is in the world is a fact beyond dispute—that misery has followed in its train, and that both these evils are as prevalent and extensive as the existence of the human race, needs no other proof than the testimony of our senses, and the records of our species. It is a fact too, that we must all die! "The fathers, where are they? And the prophets, do they live for ever?" "What man is he that liveth and shall not see death?" Here then revelation comes in, arrayed in all the majesty of divine truth—not to deny the existence of evil, either natural or moral; but to ratify and confirm our strongest impressions of it, and strengthen our fears of its consequences hereafter; yet at the same instant, opening up an unexpected source of relief to the view of the
fuiltiest of the human race, and ringing "life and immortality to light." But here arises the perplexity; 'How shall we account for the conduct of those persons, who instead of hailing with every grateful emotion of the heart, a discovery so full of mercy and goodwill to men, are continually raising objections against it; and whose conduct would induce the persuasion, that their first wish concerning it is, that they could prove it to be false!' Such is the fact; but the Bible gives a satisfactory solution of this difficulty. It declares that "light is come into the world; but that men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil ,neither come they to the light, lest their deeds be reproved." Awful infatuation, which leads us to despise our own mercies! Christianity is of an humbling tendency; it calls for self-denial, the mortification of every sinful propensity, and the pursuit of holiness—and this is at the foundation of every cavil against it.
The gospel has been attacked in ways as multifarious, as are the weapons that have been used to overturn it. Adopting the foolish maxim that "ridicule in the test of truth," some of its adversaries have tried it by that touchstone; but the subject is
rather too serious for such a ludicron* process. Others, with more decency at least, have gone to work in order to undermine its foundation, and with a view to that, they have industriously laboured to subvert the various branches of evidence by which it is supported. Its miracles and prophecies; the resurrection of its divine founder; and the testimony of his Apostles, have all been made to pass through a fiery ordeal; but the faith once delivered to the saints has survived the process, and come out of the crucible like gold from the furnace; purified and rendered more brilliant than ever.
Yet the ingenuity of its enemies was not fully exhausted. After being foiled in all their former attacks, there still remained an objection against its pretensions, founded on the discoveries which have recently been made in the science of Astronomy. This objection which is specious and imposing, is thus stated by Dr. Chalmers, p. 97. of the volume before us. "Such a humble portion of the universe as ours, could never have been the object of such high and distinguishing attentions as Christianity has assigned to it. God would not have manifested himself in the flesh for the salvation of so paltry a world. The monarch of a whole continent, would never move from his capital; and lay aside the splendour of royalty; and subject himself for months, or for years, to perils, and poverty, and persecution; and take up his abode in some small islet of his dominions, which, though swallowed by an earthquake, could not be missed amid the glories of so wide an empire; and all this to regain the lost affections of a few families upon its surface. And neither would the Son of God—he who is revealed to us as having made all worlds, and as holding an empire, amid the splendours of which the globe that wc inherit, is shaded in insignificance; neither would he strip himself of the glory he had with the Father before the world was, and light on this lower scene, for the purpose imputed to him in the New Testament. Impossible, that the concerns of this puny ball, which floats its little round among an infinity of larger worlds, should be of such mighty account in the plans of the Eternal, or should have given birth ill heaven to so wonderful a movement, as the Son of God putting on the form of our degraded species, and sojourning amongst us, and sharing in all our infirmities, and crowning the whole scene of his humiliation, by .he disgrace and the agonies of a cruel martyrdom.
"This has been started as a difficulty in the way of the Christian Revelation; and it is the boast of many of our philosophical Infidels, that by the light of modern discovery, the light of the New Testament is eclipsed and overborne; and the mischief is not confined to philosophers; for the argument has got into other hands, and the popular illustrations that are now given to the sublimest truths of science, have ■widely disseminated all the Deism that has been grafted upon it; and the high tone of a decided contempt for the Gospel, is now associated with the flippancy of superficial acquirements; and, while the venerable Newton, whose genius threw open those mighty fields of contemplation, found a fit exercise for his powers in the interpretation of the Bible, there are thousands and tens of thousands, who, though walking in the light which he holds out to them, are seduced by a comp acency which he never felt, and inflated by a pride which never entered into his pious and philosophical bosom, and whose only notice of the Bible, is to depreciate, and to deride, and to disown it."
The present performance of Dr. Chalmers, consists of seven Discourses, and an Appendix. Diss. I. is entitled A Sketch of the modern Astronomy, text, Ps. viii. 3, 4. Diss.
11. The modesty of true science, 1 Cor. viii. 2. Diss. III. On the extent of the divine condescension, Ps. cxiii. 5, 6. Diss. IV. On the knowledge of man's moral history in the distant places of creation, 1 Pet. i.
12. Diss. V. On the sympathy that is felt for man in the distant places of creation, Luke xv. 7. Diss. VI. On the contest for an ascendancy over man, amongst the higher orders of intelligence, Col. ii. 15. Diss. VII. On the slender influence of mere taste and sensibility, in matters of religion, Ezek. xxxiii. 32. The Appendix is intended to supply a series of passages of Scripture, which serve to illustrate or to confirm the leading
arguments which are employed in each separate division of the subject.
In attempting to furnish our readers with such an account of the volume before us as shall do any thing like justice to the subject, we feel to be a task of no ordinary magnitude. For whether we consider the sublimity of the topics which are illustrated in these Discourses; the irresistible torrent of masterly reasoning that pervades the whole volume; or the fascinating eloquence of the preacher's style; we are at a loss which of them most to admire, and do think that, taking it all in all, the whole round of English literature cannot produce any thing equal to it. This is not the language of panegyric—it is the sober verdict of truth; and we must pity the dulness of that man, wtio can go through the volume, as we have done, and hesitate a moment to yield his assent to what we have now said of it.
In the first Discourse, Dr. ChaJmers has given a Sketch of the Modern Astronomy, founded on the Newtonian discoveries, with which he has fully evinced his intimate acquaintance, in all its ramifications. Adopting as the foundation of: his discourse, the fine address of the Psalmist, "When I consider thy heavens, &c. &c." he, in a striking exordium, pertinently remarks that
"It is a most Christian exercise, to ex tract a sentiment of piety from the works and appearances of nature. It has the authority of the Sacred Writers upon its side, and even our Saviour himself gives it the weight and the solemnity of his example. "Behold the lilies of the field; they toil not, neither do they spin, yet your heavenly Father careth for them." He expatiates on the beauty of a single flower, and draws from it the delightful argument of confidence in God. He gives us to see that taste may be combined with piety, and that the same heart may be occupied with all that is serious in the contemplations of religion, and be at the same time alive to the charm's and the loveliness of nature.
"The Psalmist takes a still loftier flight. He leaves the world, and lifts his imagination to that mighty expanse which spreads above it and around it. He wings his way through space, and wanders in thought over its immeasurable regions. Instead of a dark and unpeopled solitude, he sees it crowded with splendour, and filled with the energy of the Divine presence. Creation rises in its immensity before him, and the world, with all which it inherits, shrinks into littleness at a contemplation so vast and so overpowering. He wonders that he is not overlooked amid the grandeur and the variety which are on every side of him, and passing upward from the majesty of nature to the majesty of nature's Architect, he exclaims, ' What is man that thou art mindful of him, or the son of man that thou shouldest deign to visit him?'"
This leads the preacher to some very just and pertinent remarks on the magnificent objects that present themselves to our contemplation on a survey of the firmament—" the scenery of a nocturnal sky." "That moon and these stars, what are they? They are detached from the world, and they lift you above it. You feel withdrawn from the earth, and rise jn lofty abstraction above this little theatre of human passions and human anxieties. The mind abandons itself to reverie, and is transformed in the ecstacy of its thoughts to distant and unexplored regions. It sees nature in the simplicity of her great elements, and it sees the God of nature invested with the high attributes of wisdom and majesty." But now comes in the interesting enquiry, "What can these lights be?" The answer to this question .naturally leads Dr. Chalmers, to remark the number and magnitude of the planets, and the grand and interesting discoveries that have been made respecting them by means of the Telescope. But there are only five, or at most six of the planetary orbs visible to the naked eye. What then is that multitude of other lights which sparkle in our firmament with innumerable splendours? The planets are all attached to the sun; and in circling around him, they do homage to that influence which binds them to perpetual attendance on this great luminary: but the other stars do not own his dominion—they do not circle around him—what mean these unnumerable fires lighted up in the distant parts of the universe? In answer to this let Dr. Chalmers speak.
"The first thing which strikes a scientific observer of the fixed stars, is their immeasurable distance. If the whole planetary system were lighted up into a globe of fire, it would exceed, by many millions of times, the magnitude of this world, and yet only appear a small lucid point from the nearest of them. If a body were projected from the sun with the velocity of a cannon-ball, it would
take hundreds of thousands of years be fore it described that mighty interval which separates the nearest of the fixed stars from our sun and from our system. If this earth, which moves at more than the inconceivable velocity of a million and a half of miles a-day, were to be hurried from its orbit, and to take the same rapid flight over this immense tract, it would not have arrived at the termination of its journey, after taking all the time which has elapsed since the creation of the world. These are great numbers, and great calculations, and the mind feels its own impotency in attempting to grasp them. We can slate them in words. We can exhibit them in figures. We can demonstrate them by the powers of a most rigid and infallible geometry. But no human fancy can summon up a lively or an adequate conception—can roam in its ideal flight over this immeasurable largeness—can take in this mighty space in all its grandeur, and in all its immensity—can sweep the outer boundaries of such a creation—or lift itself up to the majesty of that great and invisible arm, on which all is suspended.
"But what can those stars be which are seated so far beyond the limits of our planetary system? They must be masses of immense magnitude, or they could not be seen at the distance of place which they occupy. The light which they give must proceed from themselves, for the feeble reflection of light from some other quarter, would not carry through such mitrhty tracts to the eye of an observer. A body may be visible in two ways. It may be visible from its o»n light, as the flame of a candle or the brightness of a fire, or the brilliancy of yonder glorious sun which lightens all below, and is the lamp of the world. Or it may be visible from the light which falls upon it, as the body which receives its light from the taper that falls upon il—or the whole assemblage of objects on the surface of the earth, which appear only when the light of the day rests upon them—or the moon, which, in that part of it that is towards the sun, gives out a silvery whiteness to the eye of the observer, while the other part forms a black and invisible space in the firmament—or as the planets, which shine only because (he sun shines upon them, present the appearance of a dark spot ou the side (hat is turned away from il. Now apply this question to the fixed stars. Are they luminous of themselves, or do they derive their light from the sun, like the bodies of our planetary system} Think of their immense distance, and the solution of this question becomes evident. The sun, like any other body, must dwindle into a less apparent magnitude as you retire from it. At Ihe prodigious distance even of the very nearest of the fixed stars, it must have shrunk into a small indivisible point.
Tn short, it must have become a star itself, and could shed no more light than a single individual of those glimmering myriads, the whole assemblage of which cannot dissipate and can scarcely alleviate the midnight darkness of our world. These stars are visible to us, not because the sun shines upon them, but because they shine of themselves, because they are so many luminous bodies scattered over the tracts of immensity—in a word, because they are so many suns, each throned in the centre of his own dominions, and pouring a Hood of light over his own portion of these unlimitable regions.'
* At such an immense distance for observation, it is not to be supposed, that we can collect many points of resemblance between the fixed stars, and the jolar star which forms the centre of our planetary system. There is one point of resemblance, however, which has not escaped the penetration of our astronomers. We know that our sun turns round upon himself, in a regular period of time. We also know, that there are dark spots scattered over his surface, which, though invisible to the naked eye, are perfectly noticeable by our instruments. If these spots existed in greater quantity upon one side than upon the other, it would have the general effect of making that side darker, and the revolution of the sun must, in such a case, give us a brighter and a fainter side, by regular alternations. Now, there are some of the fixed stars which present this appearance. They present us with periodical variations of light. From the splendour of a star of the tint or second magnitude, they fade away into some of the inferior magnitudes—and one, by becoming invisible, might give reason to apprehend that we had lost bim altogether—but we can still recognize him by the telescope, till at length he reappears in his own place, and, after a regular lapse of so many days and hours, recovers his original brightness. Now, the fair inference from this, is,that the fixed stars, as they resemble our sun in being so many luminous masses of immense magnitude, they resemble him in this also, that each of them turns round upon his own axis; so that if any of them should have an inequality in the brightness of their sides, this revolution is rendered evident, by the regular variations in the degree of light which it undergoes.
"Shall we say, then, of these vast luminaries, that they were created in vain? Were they called into existence for no other purpose than to throw a tide of useles splendour over the solitudes of immensity? Our sun is only one of these luminaries, and we know that he has • worlds in his train. Why should we strip the rest of this princely attendance? Why may not each of them be the cen
tre of his own system, and give light Is his own worlds? It is true that we see them not, but could the eye of man take its flight into those distant regions, it should lose sight of our little world, before it reached the outer limits of our system—the greater planets should disappear in their turn—before it had described a small portion of that abyss which separates us from the fixed stars, the sun should decline into a little spot, and all its splendid retinue of worlds be lost in the obscurity of distance—he should, at last, shrink into a small indivisible atom, and all that could he seen of this magnificent system, should be reduced to the glimmering of a little star. Why resist any longer the grand and interesting conclusion? Each of these stars may be the token of a system as vast and as splendid as the one which we inhabit. Worlds roll in these distant regions; and these worlds must be the mansions of life and of intelligence. In yon gilded canopy of heaven, we see the broad aspect of the universe, where each shining point presents us with a sun, and each sun with a system of worlds—where the Divinity reigns in all the grandeur of his attributes—where he peoples immensity with his wonders; and travels in the greatness of his strength through the dominions of one vast and unlimited monarchy.
"The contemplation has no limits. If we ask the number of suns and of systems, the unassisted eye of man can take in a thousand, and the best telescope which the genius of man has constructed can take in eighty millions. But why subject the dominions of the universe to the eye of man, or to the powers of bis genius? Fancy may take its flight far beyond the ken of eye or of telescope. It may expatiate in the outer regions of all that is visible—and shall we have the boldness to say, that there is nothing there? that the wonders of the Almighty are at an end, because we can no longer trace his footsteps? that his omnipotence is exhausted, because human art can no longer follow him? that thecreative energy of God has sunk into repose, because the imagination is enfeebled by the magnitude of its efforts, and can keep no longer on the wing through those mighty tracts, which shoot far beyond what eye hath seen, or the heart of man hath conceived— which sweep endlessly along, and merge into an awful and mysterious infinity?"
From this our eloquent divine extends his view to a consideration of the nebulae, which constitute what is commonly termed "the milky way"—a field of expansive and lofty contemplation, where the mind is left wildering in the uncertainty, whether here the wonderful progression be ended.
"And, after all, though it be a mighty and difficult conception, yet who can question it? What is seen may be nothing to what is unseen; for what is seen is limited by the range of our instruments. What is unseen has no limit; and, though all which the eye of man can take in, or his fancy can grasp at, were swept away,there might still remain as ample a field, oyer which the Divinity may expatiate, and which he may have peopled with innumerable worlds. If the whole visible creation were to disappear, it would leave a solitude behind it—but to the Infinite Mind, that can take in the whole system of nature, this solitude might be nothing; a small unoccupied point in that immensity which surrounds it, and which he may have filled with the wonders of his omnipotence. Though this earth were to be burned up, though the trumpet of its dissolution were sounded, though yon sky were to pass away as a scroll, and every visible glory, which the finger of the Divinity has inscribed on it, were to be put out for ever—an event, so awful to us, and to every world in our vicinity, by which so many suns would be extinguished, and so many varied scenes of life and of population would rush into forgetfulness—what is it in the high scale of the Almighty's workmanship? a mere shred, which, though scattered into nothing, would leave the universe of God one entire scene of greatness and of majesty. Though this earth, and these heavens, were todisappear, there are other worlds, which roll afar; the light of other suns shines upon them; and the sky which mantles them, is garnished with other stars. Is it presumption to say, that the moral world extends to these distant and unknown regions? that they are occupied with people? that the charities of home and of neighbourhood flourish there? that the praises of God are there lifted up, and his goodness rejoiced in? that piety has its temples and its offerings? and the richness of the divine attributes is there felt and admired by intelligent worshippers?
"And what is this world in the immensity which teems with them—and what are they who occupy it? The universe at large would suffer as little, in its splendour and variety, by the destruction of onr planet, as the verdure and sublime magnitude of a forest would suffer by the fall of a single leaf. The leaf quivers on the branch which supports it. It lies at the mercy of the slightest accident. A breath of wind tears it from its stem, and it lights on the stream of water which passes underneath. In a moment of time, the life, which we know, by the microscope, it teems with, is extinguished; and, an occurrence so insignificant in the eye of man, and on the scale of his observation, carries in it, to the
myriads which people this little leaf, att event as terrible and as decisive as the destruction or' a world. Now, on the grand scale of the universe, we, tbe occupiers of this ball, which performs its lit tie round among the suns and the systems that astronomy has unfolded—we may feel the same littleness, and the same insecurity. We differ from the leaf only in this circumstance, that it would require the operation of greater elements to destroy us. But these elements exist. The fire which rages within, may lift its devouring energy to the surface of our planet, and transform it into one wide and wasting volcano. The sudaen formation of elastic matter in the bowels of the earth—and it lies within the agency of known substances to accomplish this-— may explode it into fragments. The exhalation of noxions air from below, may impart a virulence to the air that is around us; it may affect the delicate proportion of its ingredients; and the whole of animated nature may wither and die under the malignity of a tainted atmosphere. A blazing comet may cross this fated planet in its orbit, and realize all the terrors which superstition has conceived of it. We cannot anticipate with precision the consequences of an event which every astronomer must know to lie within the limits of chance and probability. It may hurry ourglobe towards the sun—or drag it to the outer regions of the planetary system—or give it a new axis of revolution—and the effect, which I shall simply announce, without explaining it, would be to change the place of the ocean, and bring another mighty flood upon our islands and continents. These are changes which may happen in a single instant of time, and against which nothing known in the present system of things provides us with any security. They might not annihilate the earth, bin they would unpeople it; and we who tread its surface with such firm and assured footsteps, are at the mercy of devouring elements, which, if let loose upon us by the hand of the Almighty, would spread solitude, and silence, and death, over the dominions of the world.
"Now, it is this littleness, and this insecurity, which make the protection of the Almighty so dear to us, and bring, with such emphasis, to every pious bosom, tbe holy lessons of humility and gratitude. The God who sitteth above, and presides in high authority over all worlds, is mindful of man; and, though at this moment his energy is felt in tbe remotest provinces of creation, we may feel the same security in his providence, as if we were the objects of his undivided care. It is not for us to bring our minds up to this mysterious agency. But, such is the incomprehensible fact, that the same Being, whose eye is abroad over the whole universe, gives vegetation to every blade of