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character of the subject upon which it is employed, or of the
cause which it advocates; that it should be considered, in fact, as a mere instrument, a weapon, a sword," which may be used in a good cause, or in a bad one; may be wielded by a patriot, or a highwayman; may give protection to thedearest interests of society, or may threaten those interests with the irruption of pride, and profligacy, and folly,—of all the vices which compose the curse and degradation of our species.
2. I am the more disposed to dwell a little upon this subject, because I am persuaded that it is not sufficiently attended to,'3s — nay, that in ninety-nine instances out of a hundred it is not attended to at all;1*—that works of imagination are perused for the sake of the wit which they display; which wit not only reconciles us to, but endears to us, opinions, and feelings, and habits, at war with wisdom and morality,—to say nothing of religion; — in short, that we admire the polish, the temper, and shape of the sword^andl the dexterity with which it is wielded, though it is the property of a lunatic, or of a bravo; though it is brandished in the face of wisdom and virtue; and, at every wheel,103 threatens to inflict a wound* that will disfigure some feature, or lop some member; or, with masterly adroitness, aims a death-thrust at the heart!
3. I would deprive genius of the worship that is paid to it for its own sake. Instead of allowing it to dictate to the world, I would have the world dictate to it, — dictate to it so far as the vital interests of society are affected. I know it is the opinion of many that the moral of mere poetry is of little avail; that we are charmed by its melody and wit, and uninjured by its levity and profaneness; and hence many a thing has been allowed in poetry, which would have been scouted, deprecated, rejected, had it appeared in prose; as if vice and folly were less pernicious for being introduced to us with an elegant and insinuating address; or as if the graceful folds and polished scales of a serpent were an antidote against the venom of its sting.
4. There is not a more prolific source of human error than that railing at the world which obtrudes itself so frequently upon our attention in the perusing of Lord Byron's poems, — that sickness of disgust which begins its indecent heavings whensoever the idea of the species forces itself upon him. The species is not perfect; but it retains too much of the image of its Maker, preserves too many evidences of the modelling of the Hand that fashioned it, is too near to the hovering providence of its disregarded but still cherishing Author, to excuse, far less to call for, or justify, desertion, or disclaiming, or revilings upon the part of any one of its members.
5. I know no more pitiable object than the man who standing upon the pigmy eminence of his own self-importance, looks around upon the species with an eye that never throws a beam of satisfaction on the prospect, but visits with a scowl whatsoever it lights upon. The world is not that reprobate world, that it should be cut off from the visitation of charity; that it should be represented as having no alter'native but to inflict or bear. Life is not one continued scene of wrestling with our fellows. Mankind'" are not forever grappling one another by the throat. There is such a thing as the grasp of friendship, as the outstretched hand of benevolence, as an interchange of good offices, as a mhgling, a crowding, a straining together for the relief or the benefit of our species.
6. The moral he thus inculcates is one of the most baneful tendency. The principle of self-love,— implanted in us for the best, but capable of being perverted to the worst of purposes, — by a fatal abuse, too often disposes us to indulge in this sweeping depreciation of the species; a depreciation founded upon some fallacious idea of superior value in ourselves, with which imaginary excellence we conceive the world to be at war. A greatei source of error cannot exist. Rnowlks.
1. The spacious firmament91 on high,
And spangled heavens, a shining frame,
2. Soon as the evening shades prevail,
3. What, though in solemn59 silence all
What, though no real voice nor sound
LXIV. — ASTRONOMY ^W-^IMMOKTALITY.
1. The planet on which we live is twenty-five thousand miles in circum'ference, and its surface is diversified and adorned with oceans, continents, and islands,—with mountains, valleys, forests, an^rivers; and over all is stretched the glorious canopy of the heavens, forever lovely with the golden light of the stars. The distance of the earth from the sun is, in round numbers, one hundred millions of miles; which is, of course, the radius" or semi-diam'eter" of its orbit."
2. This<orbit, therefore, reaches through a circuit42 of six hundred millions of miles, along which the earth passes at the rate of seventy thousand miles an hour. And it should be remembered that this earth of ours, instead of being something con'trary to the visible heavens, is a portion of them; so that we are as truly in the heavens where we are, as we could be in any other point of space.
3. We are at this moment more than thirty-five thousand miles distant from the point in space where we were thirty minutes ago. We have actually travelled thirty-five thousand miles, beside being carried by the diurnal motion of the earth five hundred miles further east than we were half an hour ago! It is difficult to feel the reality of this, and yet it is as certain as figures.
4. Nep'tune, the outermost body of our solar family, is thirty times as far from the sun as we are, or three thousand millions of miles. From this we mount to the nearest fixed star, or the sun in our cluster next to us; and that is twenty millions of millions of miles distant from the earth.
5. And over this space it takes the light more than three years to come to us, travelling at the rate of two hundred thousand miles in a second. How overwhelming the thought! And yet this star is only the first mile-stone on the great highway that stretches along the measureless abysses of space.
6. This whole firmament?1 of ours, including the Milky" Way of which it is a part, is only one among the myriad44 hosts of heaven! With all its innumerable suns and systems, and the tremendous voids that lie between, it is only one company in the grand army of God; a single cluster among multitudes of others of equal and greater magnitude and splendor.
7. And, if three thousand millions of miles separate90 the sun from one of its planets, and twenty millions of millions of miles separate one sun from another, what, — the same stupendous scale being preserved,140 — what must be the breadth of that nameless profound which separates one firmament121 from another, — which lies between those magnificent and mighty clusters, that, as the telescope" is improved, rise upon the field" of vision, troop behind troop, emerging forever out of the fathomless depths of space!
8. Verily, we are ready to exclaim, with the Psalmist," " 0 Lord God Almighty, marvellous are thy works, and that118 my soul knoweth right well, — marvellous are thy works, and in wisdom and in power hast thou made them all." And, were it not that we have the assurance that they are made in goodness as well as in wisdom and power, we should almost fear lest we should be overlooked and forgotten amid this endless wilderness of worlds; often we should take up that other cry of the Psalmist,60 — "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, and the son of man, that thou visitest him!"
LXV. — ASTRONOMY AND IMMORTALITY.
1. And yet, after all, it is man, it is mind, it is intelligent spirit," that gives to this grand theatreE' of the material universe all its substantial use and worth, all its real glory! Without men and angels, without Mind to appreciate and enjoy it, to honor and glorify its Author, it would be like a splendid and costly panorama" without spectators.
2. It would be as if one should compose and have performed a magnificent orato'rio" without an audience! And this brings us to the argument for the endless life of the soul, the immortality of Mind, which seems necessarily and logically to grow out of the infinitude of the material universe.
3. For what is this display of worlds and suns, of galaxies'* and constellations1- and clusters, without number and without end, if the soul, so colossal" in its powers, so fitted to explore, appreciate, and enjoy these wonders, and through which, only these and all else can glorify God, — if this is to perish at death ana be no more forever?
4. Why is so glorious a work set out before it, and ability and energy given to perform it, but the time alone denied? Forsurely the present life, compared with the extent of the universe, is as a cipher to infinity. The mind has opportunity only to try its powers, to realize what it can do if time be given, and then it is crushed out, according to the gospel" of unbelief, leaving the glorious work it could do all unfinished,—yea," scarcely begun!5. Let us look at this: let us consider how much one can do toward a thorough acquaintance with our little planet, the earth, within the space of time allotted to the ordinary life of man How much is it possible for us to accomplish in studying the surface of our globe,— its mountains, seas, rivers, plains, deserts, forests, and mines; its countless forms of animal and vegetable life, — beasts and birds,— fishes, reptiles, and insects, — plants flowers, and fruits, — nations, languages, customs, modes of life, — history, science, and art, — and so through the encyclopedia" of all knowledge possible to man in his present estate,131 — how much of this grand survey,82 in its endless details, is it possible for us to accomplish in a single lifetime?
6. Extend now this study and survey to the myriad millions of worlds and systems which we have glanced at in passing, and the myriad millions more, invisible, plunging through the fathomless profound of space. What time will be needful to this great work,—what time to behold, examine," and enjoy the nameless and numberless exhibitions of the Divine power, and wisdom, and goodness, spread out on this broad and magnificent theatre of the universe, — what time to become familiar with the order and arrangements, the harmonies and beauties, the life and history, of each one of these glittering orbs ?132
7. What time, but that which shall parallel this endless procession of suns and constellations? What life, but an unending one, will be long enough to look upon all the glorious wonders of Creative Power; and lift the veil from the beautiful mysteries which burn along the infinite abysses, and invite the gaze of the exulting astronomer, only to show him that they lie beyond the reach of all human efforts!
8. Is there not here, then, a presumptive proof of the endless life of the soul ?12S Has not God himself furnished us here an illustration of the great revelation of the gospel, that we live forever? Is He not consistent Are not all his works in ha*