« ПредишнаНапред »
CIRCLE OF THE SCIENCES, WITH SUITABLE RE
ASTRONOMICAL SKETCHES.-NO. I.
Astronomy is the most ancient, sublime, perfect, and useful science, that ever engaged the attention of the thinking part of mankind. It is a science that has occupied the understandings of the most wise and learned, in all ages of the world; and which is calculated to impress the mind with the most awful and lofty views of the wisdom, power, goodness, and majesty of the Almighty.
Whether we contemplate the magnitude, number, and situation of the heavenly bodies, or the mysterious laws by which they are governed and upheld, we are equally lost in astonishment. The Royal Psalmist has elegantly expressed his sentiments on this noble and majestic subject in the eighth and nineteenth Psalms: “O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who has set thy glory above the heavens !-When I consider the heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and stars which thou hast ordained, what is man, that thou visitest him ?—The hea. vens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handy work. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard: their line is gone through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.” Or, their voice is heard without speech or language ;—they speak a universal and powerful language to the minds of intelligent beings, relative to the existence and perfections of Him who created all things, and who sustains all things by the word of his power.
These beautiful sentiments of the Psalmist are agreeable to the conclusion which the wise and good of all nations have made from God's works, particularly from those of the heavens. “Men," says Plutarch, “ began to acknowledge a God, when they saw the stars maintain so great harmony, and the days and nights through all the year, both in summer and winter, to observe their stated risings and settings.” “ What," says Tuily, “ can be so plain and clear, as when we behold the heavens and view the heavenly bodies, that we should conclude there is some Deity of a most excellent mind, by which these things are governed ? a present and Almighty God, which he that doubts of, I do not understand why he should not as well doubt whether or not there be a sun that shines.” Thus, it is clear that his invisible perfections are manifested by his visible works, and may be apprehended by what he has made. The immensity of God's works shows his omnipotence; their vast variety and contrivance, his omniscience; and their adaptation to the most beneficent purposes, his infinite goodness.
The glorious works of God display his infinite perfections. For what power less than infinite could produce those wonderful bodies which the heavens present to our view? What architect could build such vast masses, and in such innumerable multitudes, as the heavens contain? What mathematician could so exactly adjust their distances? What mechanic so nicely adapt their motions, and so well contrive their figures, as in the very best manner to secure their own conservation, and the benefit and convenience of each other? What philosopher could communicate to every globe, and to every particle of matter in every globe, a power of such absolute necessity to its preservation as that of gravity? What chymist could ever have contrived such noble apparatus for light and heat as are the sun, the moon, and the stars ? None could have done these things but God!
The most beautiful object which the heavens present to our view, is the Sun; the medium of light and animation to this lower world. This glorious luminary is placed nearly in the centre of the orbits of all the planets, which revolve around him in different periods and different distances.
It was for ages the opinion of astronomers, that the Sun was a mass of fire : and this opinion appears very plausible; as he diffuses light and heat throughout the
whole planetary system. But since the invention of the telescope, dark spots have been frequently observed upon his disc. These spots are of various magnitudes; some, it is computed, being large enough, to cover the continents of Asia and Africa ; others, the whole surface of the earth; and others, even five times its sure face. Their number also, is, to appearance, perpetually changing: sometimes many are visible'; sometimes very few ; and sometimes none at all: for as the Sun revolves on his axis, the spots are carried round from east to west, and the same phase is presented only once in twenty-five days, fourteen hours, and eight minutes, the time in which he performs a complete revolution. · Dr. Herschel imagined that these dark spots on the Sun, are mountains upon its surface. He says, that in August, 1792, he examined the Sun with telescopes of several powers, from ninety to five hundred, and it evi dently appeared that the dark spots are the opaque ground, or body of the Sun; and that the luminous part is an atmosphere, which, being interrupted or broken, gives us a view of the Sun itself. Hence he concludes, that the Sun has a very extensive atmosphere, which consists of elastic fluids that are more or less lucid and transparent; and of which the lucid ones furnish us with light and heat. It appears from these observations, that the body of the Sun is opaque, like our earth and the planets. And this opinion seems much more rational than the former, which supposed this luminary to be pure fire. For, on the supposition that the Sun is a body of fire, it must of course, have been wasting its light and heat ever since its creation ; and would, in process of time, become extinct ; or, at least, useless, as to the purposes for which it was created. But, if we suppose the body of the Sun to be opaque, and consequently solid, we discover in it the principles of duration.
The dimensions of this globe of light, are truly astonishing. Its diameter is 883,243 miles; which is nearly twice the diameter of the Moon's orbit. And as spheres are to each other as the cubes of their diameters, the Sun is 1,384,472 times greater than our
Earth ; and nearly six hundred times larger than all the planets put together.
The mean distance of the Sun from the Earth, is computed to be above 95,000,000 miles. The diameter of the Earth's orbit is, therefore, upwards of 190,000,000, and, as the diameter of a circle is to the circumference nearly in the proportion of 7 to 22, the Earth's orbit is about 600,000,000 miles in circumference.
This mighty round is travelled by the earth and all its inhabitants in 365 days, 6 hours, 9 minutes, and 12 seconds, at the mean rate of 68 000 miles an hour.
CABINET OF NATURE.
: EARTHQUAKES. (Earthquakes are certainly the most terrible appearances of nature; whole cities have frequently been swallowed up by them, and many thousand persons without warning, in the midst of pleasures and of sins, have in a few moments been called to answer for their crimes before a righteous God, and palaces and cottages, temples and theatres, have been involved in one general ruin, and a lake appearing where a city stood. It is not, therefore, at all surprising, that the learned and the rude should have attempted to find out the natural cause of these most awful visitations. 'They have very generally been attributed to the explosion of subterraneous air. This opinion, however, has met with an opponent in Dr. Stukely, who conceives they are occasioned by the electric fuid rushing along the surface, and probably communicating with that which is within. In combating the opinion of those who contend that subterraneous air is the cause, he mentions the earthquake which happened in Asia Minor, A. D. 17, which destroyed thirteen cities, and affected an extent of country 300 miles in diameter. Had this, he says, proceeded from a subterraneous cause, it must have moved an inverted cone of solid earth 300 miles in diameter, 900 in circumforance and about 200 W
depth, which all the gunpowder that has been made would not be able to stir, much less any vapours which could be supposed to be generated so far below the surface. Who is to decide when learned doctors disagree? Let us now hear what the unenlightened nations have to say on this subject. Of all the great phenomena of nature, earthquakes have always made the most opposite impressions on their minds, and gave rise to the most contradictory notions-some regarding them as joyful events announcing happiness, others as alarming tokens of the fury of the gods.
The Kopts break out into exultation at the appearance of an earthquake, as they imagine that heaven is opened, and that every celestial blessing is about to alight on the land of Egypt, in order to procure the inhabitants a plentiful supply of rain. The Kampschatdales account for earthquakes by the driving of an infernal deity beneath the earth. The earth is shaken, they say, when the dog that draws this deity scratches himself, or shakes off the snow from his hide! The tribes of the North believed, that at the time of an earthquake, poison dropped into the face of the malignant deity, who is fastened to a rock, and that, furious with the smart, he shakes the foundations of the earth! The people of Chili run with wooden platters on their heads, and a supply of provision for several days, to a certain mountain, by which, according to an ancient tradition current among them, they should be kept floating above the waters of a general inundation; and as they apprehend an earthquake will produce this flood, and the waters rise as high as the sun, therefore to prevent that orb from scorching their heads, they cover them with the wooden platters.
The reader has here a choice of opinions on this subject, and is at perfect liberty to choose, or even to reject the whole of them. Indifference on such a subject is no crime; but there are subjects upon which they must decide ; there are questions of the most solemn import, and which every one must answer for himself. Take the following as a specimen
“ Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners."