Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

recitations during the sickness of some professor. But blunders respecting the plainest Scripture records of to hear of men like Galileo, Kepler, Boyle, Newton, scientific facts. It is very unlikely that infidels, who and Leibnitz, or of Lyell, Mantell, Herschell, Agassiz, lay no claim to prophetic inspiration, should make any Hitchcock, Balbo, Nichol, or Rosse, heading an attack predictions about religion more reliable than those they upon Christianity, would be an unprecedented pheno- have been telling so abundantly for two hundred years menon. Such men are profoundly impressed with the past respecting the immediate overthrow of Christianity thorough agreement between the facts of nature rightly and the Bible ; which, nevertheless, has been going on observed, and the declarations of the Bible rightly in- conquering new kingdoms every year, its missionaries terpreted.

outstripping scientific ardour in exploring the mysteries Nevertheless, the other class being both the most of African geography, honourably receiving the prizes numerous and the most noisy, make up by perseverance which the infidel Volney instituted for philological profor their deficiency of information, and counterbalance ficiency, and printing Bibles from Voltaire's printing. their ignorance by their assurance. Such writers, as- press. And it is very unlikely that these physical suming that they have outstripped all the philosophers sciences, so long worshippers in the temple of God, should of former days, will tell you how foolishly David and now become impious: as unlikely as that John Angel Kepler, and Bacon and Newton, and Herschell dreamed James, or D’Aubigne, or Buchanan, or Hodge, or of the heavens declaring the glory of the Lord, and the Barnes should now, in their old days, renounce the firmament showing his handiwork ; “while at the Bible and blaspheme God. What! astronomy, and present time, and for minds properly familiarized with geology, and zoology, and botany, and ethnography, that true astronomical philosophy, the heavens display no were suckled at the breast of the Bible, raise their hands other powers than those of natural laws, and no other against the mother that bore them! Incredible! These glory than that of Hipparchus, of Kepler, of Newton, young sciences made an early profession of religion ; and of all who have helped to discover them.” Theology taught Sabbath schools in the days of Job, Zophar, and belongs only to the infancy of the human intellect; Elihu ; wrote sacred poetry, and were licensed to preach metaphysical philosophy is the amusement of youth ; in the days of Solomon ; poured forth prophetic rapbut the full-grown man has learned to relinquish both tures in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Abaz, and Hezereligion and reason, and comes to the " positive state of kiah ; wrote volumes on the politics of Christianity in science, in which the human mind, acknowledging the Babylon, and painted glorious visions of the victories impossibility of obtaining absolute knowledge, abandons of the Lamb of God, and dazzling views of the landscapes the search after the origin and destination of the uni- of paradise restored, in Patmos; employed the gigantic verse, and the knowledge of the secret causes of pheno- intellect of Newton, the elegant pen of Paley, the elomena.” The crown of modern science is ultimately to quence of Chalmers, Herschell's heaven-piercing eye, be placed upon the brow of Atheism ; but long before and Miller's muscular arm, to guard the outer courts de that eagerly-desired achievement, the old Bible theology the sanctuary, while they sung sublime anthems to the is to be buried beyond the possibility of a resurrection, music of David's harp within ;-and have they now, after under mountains of natural laws and monuments of such a life of devotion, relinquished all these sublimities scientific discovery. These assertions, confidently made, and beatitudes, taken lodgings in the stye, and reand perseveringly reiterated in the ears of ungodly men nounced their faith in God, and hope of heaven, for the ignorant of the facts, of impetuous youths eager to throw infidel maxin, “Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow he off the restraints of religion, of Christians weak in the die" ? God forbid ! faith, and even poured into the unsuspecting mind of No rational man will be easily convinced of the truth childhood, produce the most painful, and often fatal re- of such an unlikely accusation. Least of all will he besults ; and it becomes the imperative duty of the bishops lieve it, on the say-so of men of whom he knows little, of the Church of Christ not to allow them to pass un- save that they are not much acquainted with either rechallenged, but to convince the gainsayers, and stop the ligion or the sciences. I, for one, mean to inquire for mouths of these unruly and vain talkers ; or, if that be the truth from reliable informants. The object of this not possible, to make their folly manifest to all men. and the following papers is to interrogate these physical The weapons for such a service are well tried and abun- sciences themselves whether they are really becoming dant, and the difficulty lies only in making a proper sceptical of the being of the living God, and hostile to selection.

Holy Scripture ; or whether they have lately given any At first view, the extinction of religion by science utterances which would give occasion to such a siisseems very unlikely. It is as unlikely that anything picion. I do not propose, of course, to attempt giving that an infidel says about religion should be true, as an outline of astronomy, geology, zoology, ethnography, that a blind man should describe the sun correctly. &c., in the limits of this or subsequent papers ; but Did you ever know one who could quote three verses of confining our attention to astronomy, I shall assume Scripture correctly, or even read a chapter accurately that my readers are possessed of such a knowledge of and attentively with the book before him? I shall show the principles of that science as our common schools you presently that learned infidels make the grossest afford every intelligent youth-or, should their early education be defective in this respect, I entreat them that our line is not long enough, or our lead not heavy to do themselves the justice, and enjoy the high grati- enough, to reach it. fication, of perusing some of the lucid and interesting For it were a logical absurdity to say that the whole popular works on the subject to be found in every book is greater than the sum of its parts—that any number store, or in our public libraries, and proceed to select of finite parts could compose an infinite universe. Each from the vast mass of modern discoveries those which sun or planet is a finite object, and any possible number have a bearing upon the question, Is the progress of of them can be counted in a sufficient time. It is imastronomical discovery hostile or favourable to natural possible that any number can be infinite ; for we are and revealed religion ?

not using the word infinite here in the loose sense in The progress of astronomical science has swept away which it is used by mathematicians when they speak of the alleged facts on which all systems of Atheism have an infinite series--that is, a series which, though it has been based.

no end, has a beginning; but in the strict sense of 1. It has refuted the fundamental dogma of Atheism, something having neither beginning nor end. A beginthat the universe is infinite, and therefore self-existent. ning of the universe, either in space or time, is the The assertion is confidently made by Atheists and Pan- very thing the Atheist denies. theists, that the universe has no boundaries ; not While reason thus enables us to show this dogma of merely none which we can see, but that it actually the infinity of the universe to be theoretically improfills all immensity: suns succeeding suns, and firma- bable, and logically irrational, science has lately taken ment clustering beyond firmament, throughout infinite a more decisive step, and demonstrated it to be actually space.

false. The universe has boundaries, and we have seen It is indispensable for the Atheist not only to assert, them. The proof is simple, and easily demonstrable, but to prove this to be the fact, if he would convince since the discovery that nebulæ are clusters of stars. himself or any other person that the universe had no That broad band of luminous cloud which stretches Creator, but exists by the necessity of its own nature; across the heaven, called the Milky Way, consists of for that which exists by the necessity of its own nature millions of stars, so small and distant that we cannot must exist in all time and in every place. No reason see the individual stars, and so numerous that we cancan be given why self-existent suns, planets, and moons not help seeing the light of the mass : just as you see should exist in any one portion of space, and not exist the outline of the forest at a distance, but are unable to in any other similar portion of space. For if such a distinguish the individual trees. Besides this mass of reason could be given, that reason must show a cause stars to which our solar system belongs, there are thoufor their existence in the one place and their non- sands of smaller similar clouds in various parts of the existence in another; and that cause must have existed heavens which have successively been shown to consist before the universe, and must have been a cause suffi- of multitudes of stars. But all around these star-clouds cient to produce the effect. This sufficient cause in- the clear blue sky is discovered by the naked eye. cludes ability to produce, wisdom to arrange, and force Now it is easy to perceive that if all the regions of to put in motion all the powers of the universe-quali- infinite space were filled either with self-luminous suns, ties which reside only in an intelligent being. This is or planets capable of reflecting light, or comets of the cause which the Bible asserts when it says, “In the gaseous consistency, at such distances as the Milky beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” and Way or any other star-cloud demonstrates to be safe which Atheists deny when they assert that “the uni- and practicable, we should see no blue sky at all, but verse is eternal and infinite."

the whole vault of heaven would present that whitish Now, this fundamental article of the creed of infidels light resulting from the mingling of the rays of multiis utterly incapable of proof. If the fact were really so, tudes of stars, planets, and comets, which the Milky they never could prove it. They acknowledge no reve- Way does actually exhibit. No matter how small or lation from an infinite understanding, but found their how distant these stars, if they were only infinitely belief on the knowledge of a number of finite and numerous it is impossible that there could be any point ignorant beings. Before they are competent to pro- in the heavens unilluminated by their rays, even alnounce upon the extent of the universe, they must though the stars themselves were invisible to our eyes, explore it thoroughly; which, when they shall have or even to our telescopes. The whole heaven would be done, they will have demonstrated that it has bound- one vast Milky Way. aries, seeing they have discovered them; but if they Though the telescope discovers multitudes of stars have not thoroughly explored the universe, they cannot where the naked eye sees none, yet they are, in far the say that it is infinite, because they do not know. The greater number of instances, “ seen projected on a pervery utmost, then, which could possibly be asserted on fectly dark heaven, without any appearance of interthe matter would be, not that the universe has no mixed nebulosity.”* And even through the Milky boundaries, but that man has never reached them. As Way and the other nebulæ the telescope penetrates in the case of ocean soundings, if we cannot find bottom, we are not therefore to conclude that there is none, but

* Herschell's “Outlines,"'ch, xvii., sec. 887.

[ocr errors]

through “intervals absolutely dark, and completely | clear through the nebulæ, and find that they bear no void of any star of the smallest telescopic magnitude."* more cubical proportion to the infinite darkness behind It may assist us to understand the full import of this them than the sparks of a chimney do to the extent of declaration to remember that Lord Rosse's large tele- the sky against which they seem projected; so far from scope clearly defines any object on the moon's surface imagining the universe to be infinite, we stand conas large as the Custom House. Its power of penetrat- founded at its relative insignificance, and are convincel ing space surpasses our power of imagination, but is that it bears no more proportion to infinite space than represented by saying, that light, which flashes from a fishing-boat does to the Atlantic Ocean. San Francisco to London quicker than you can close There is no possible evasion of this great fact by any your eye and open it again, requires millions of years contradictory hypothesis. It cannot be objected" that to travel to our earth from the most distant star-cloud stars may exist at infinite distances, whose light bas discoverable by this telescope.t If a galaxy like this pot yet reached the limits of our universe.” If they do, of ours existed anywhere within this amazing distance, they did not exist from eternity, for there is no possible that telescope would discover its existence. It has, in distance over which light could not have travelled durfact, augmented the universe visible to us 125,000,000 ing eternal duration. But their eternal existence is times, and thus made us feel that not merely this the very thing which the Atheist is concerned to prove. world, which constitutes our earthly all, and yon glori- Grant that infinite space is filled with worlds which had ous sun which shines upon it, but all the host of a beginning, and their necessary existence instantly heaven's suns, and planets, and moons, and firmaments falls, and we are compelled to seek for a cause of their which our unaided eyes behold, are but as a handful of beginning of existence ; that is to say, a Creator. the sand of the ocean shore compared with the immen- Nor will it answer the purpose to say, “ that, for

antsity of the universe. But ever, and along with this, it thing we know to the contrary, these dark regions may has shown us the ocean as well as the shore, and re- be filled with dark stars." vealed boundless regions of darkness and solitude If the fact were so, it is equally fatal to the dogma of stretching around and far away beyond these islands of self-existence. Some stars shine; others are dark. Why existence. The telescope, then, enlarges and confirms so? Wherefore this difference? Variety is an effect, our views of the extent of the unoccupied portions of and demands a prior cause. Were there only two space.

stars in the sky, or two substances on the earth, and If there were only one dark point of the heavens no those unlike in any particular, that plurality and that larger than the apparent magnitude of the smallest variety would prove that they could not be infinite or star, this one unoccupied space would sufficiently dis- self-existent, but dependent upon some cause for their prove the infinity of the universe, inasmuch as there existence and their various forms. would be a portion of space of boundless length, and of But we do know many things contrary tò the notion a diameter not less than the diameter of the earth's that the dark regions of infinite space may be full of orbit-say 190,000,000 miles—in which stars might exist, dark stars. Light is not the only indication of the as they do in its borders, but yet do not. But the argu- presence of a star. The attraction of gravity, which is ment becomes utterly overwhelming when the attenipt wholly independent of light, is a proof quite as certain is made to calculate the proportion of space occupied and satisfactory to the astronomer. The presence of by the stars to that left unoccupied. Whether we take stars and planets too faint to be discovered by the Herschell's computation, that the nebulæ cover one naked eye, and of one, the planet Neptune, * as far 270th part of the superficies of the visible heaven, I or distant from the planet disturbed by its attraction as Struve's supposition of the existence of a star subtend the earth is from the sun, was ascertained, and its place ing no measurable angle, in every part of the visible pointed out to a degree, by Adams and Leverrier, before sky as large as the surface of the moon, the vast dis- it was seen. If the dark interplanetary spaces, then, proportion of the universe to the space in which it is were full of dark attracting bodies, the perturbations of placed forces itself upon our notice. For, upon the the other planets would discover their existence. So largest of these computations, the proportion of exist- the presence of some invisible stars at much greater ence to empty space is mathematically proved to be not distances from their visible associates has been disgreater than as the cube of 1 to the cube of 269 ; that covered by Bessel,+ and it is quite possible that a dark is to say, there is room for 19,395,109 such universes as firmament may yet be discovered, containing as great a this of ours in that small part of infinite space open to number of dark stars as we now behold of luminaries : the view of Herschell's telescopes. But when we come another group of islets in the ocean of infinite space. to consider the vastness of these regions of darkness, But the very facts which will prove their existence will over which no light has travelled for twenty millions of disprove their infinity ; for we can know their presence years, and remember also that astronomers have looked only by their perturbation of the proper motions of the

Cosmos,"

," iii., 197.
Architecture of the Heavens,” 9th ed., p. 180.
1 “Cosmos," iv., 292.

Nicholl's Contemplations on the Solar System," III. t" Cosmos," iii., 253.

visible stars ; but if infinite space were full of dark effects. When the law of projectile makes a cannonbodies, the visible stars would have no room to move at ball, and projects it, we will believe that the law of all. It is easily demonstrable, that if infinite space were gravity made the worlds, and moves them. filled with dark stars, the equilibrium and coherence of “ Descending within the mind's interior chambers, I our galaxy, and of all other clusters of stars, would be find no conviction so sure of the existence of an external destroyed. The existence of nebulæ and clusters, and world, as is my belief in the reality of power-of somethe revolutions of the binary stars, are conclusive proof thing that sustains snccession, and causes order. that the dark parts of infinite space are not full of dark Again, then, whence this idea, and what is it? What attracting bodies.

this attribute with which I endow material laws, and Nor can the Atheist here raise his usual argument raise them into forces ? Now, in my apprehension, the from unknown facts, and say that, “far beyond the strictest scrutiny cannot obtain for these inquiries any range of our most powerful telescopes, a boundless ex- reply save one : we primarily connect the idea of power panse of firmaments may exist.” It concerns not our with no change or movement, except an act or deterpresent argument whether such exist or not. Whatso- mination of the FREE WILL ; but from such acts, that ever discoveries may be made to eternity, of firmaments, idea is inseparable. If, therefore, in order to explain ten thousand times ten thousand times larger than we the progress of material things, we require the agency Dow behold, they can never bear the smallest proportion of efficient causes, is not this a direct and solemn reto the infinite space in which they exist. Beyond these cognition-through all form and transiency—of the islets will extend gulfs and oceans immeasurable. Our necessity of an ever-present creative power : a power argument, however, has no concern with the unknown requisite and necessary to uphold--to renew the universe possible, but with the actual fact-visible to the naked every moment-or, rather, to prolong creation by the eye, and confirmed by the telescope—that there is a persistence of the creative act ? And, in very truth, portion of space in which millions of universes such as startling though it be, such is the only and ultimate this might exist with safety, yet they do not. Worlds, scientific idea of the Divine Omnipresence. Law is not therefore, do not exist by the necessity of their own even the Almighty's minister ; the order of the material nature, wherever there is room for them, but must have world, however close and firm, is not merely the Alhad some pre-existent, external, and supernatural cause mighty's ordinance. The forces, if so we name them, of their existence in this place and not in other places. which express that order, are not powers which he has This implies choice-will-God.

evolved from the silences, and to whose guardianship he The physical refutation of the self-existence of the has committed all things, so that he himself might reuniverse is completed by the discovery, that all the pose. No! above, below, around, there is God : there orbs of heaven, as well as the earth, are in motion, and his universal presence, speaking to finite creatures, in that an orderly and regulated motion.* The fact need finite forms, a language which only the living heart can not be illustrated, for it is not denied. The consequence understand. In the rain and the sunshine ; in the soft is inevitable. That which is self-existent must be un- zephyrs ; in the cloud, the torrent, and the thunder ; changeable : for change is an effect, and demands a in the bursting blossom, and the fading branch ; in the cause; and the cause must exist before the effect, and revolving season, and the rolling star,-there is the Inproduce it. Whatsoever is changeable, then, is a pro- finite Essence, and the mystic development of His duct of a prior cause, and so not self-existent. But WILL." the universe is changeable, for it is in motion, which is 2. Scientific Astronomy inexorably demolishes the a change of place : therefore the universe is not self- Atheistic scheme for the arrangement of the Solar existent, but the product of a prior cause.

System by accident, commonly known as Buffon's No mechanical law is a sufficient cause for this motion. cosmogony. To allege that a power of orderly, regulated motion- “Buffon supposes that the force of a comet falling and there is no other sort of motion in heaven or earth obliquely on the sun has projected to a distance a -is an inherent property of matter, is simply to insult torrent of the matter of which it is composed, as a stone our common sense, and overturn the foundation of all thrown into a basin causes the water which it contains reason. For we have no knowledge of matter, and can to splash out. This torrent of matter, in a state of fuhave none, more certain than we have of the constitu- sion, has broken into several parts, which have been tion of our own minds, which requires us to trace up arrested at different distances from the sun, accordevery change among material objects to the energy and ing to their density, or the impetus they received. will of a person capable of planning and effecting the They then united in spheres, by the effect of motion of change. To refer us to the law of gravity, is not to give us rotation, and condensing by cold, have become opaque a cause for the motions of the heavenly bodies, but only and solid planets and satellites.” + a name; for law is only a rule of action. We demand This formation of worlds by accident, it is true, gave a lavgiver-an agent-a force, capable of producing no reason for the form of their orbits, for their rotation on their axes, in one direction, and that, too, the direc- the roads in which they ran were of different gauges and tion of their motion ; nor for several other matters, of grades—one little asteroid, Pallas, running up and down which infidels make little account, but about which a track inclined 35 degrees, just as speedily as the plain men like to ask, namely: Where did the sun others-every new discovery increased the difficulty of accome from? What melted it down into a fluid state, counting for their origin by explosion. But the discovery fit to be splashed about ? Where did the comet come of the planet Hygeia, at a vast distance from the others, from? And who threw it with so correct an aim utterly overturned the explosion theory. Loomis says :through infinite space as exactly to hit the sun in an “ The difficulties in the way of our regarding these oblique direction? Creation, it seems, was nearly missed, small planets as fragments of a single body, were wellafter all. This chaotic theory never gained much re- nigh insuperable before the discovery of Hygeia. This spect from men of science, though its simplicity speedily last discovery has probably given the death-blow to the opened its way among the vulgar, and it has ever been theory of Olbers. The orbit of Hygeia completely a favourite with the most ignorant class of infidels, incloses the orbits of several of the asteroids, its perinumbering thousands of warm advocates, even at the helion distance—that is, its least distance from the sur present day.

* Herschell's "Outline3," ch. xvi.

Nicholl's Architecture of the Heavens," Sth ed., 272. † Pontecoulant in “System of the World,” p. 70.

-exceeding the aphelion--or greatest distance-of Flora It was thought to be very much corroborated by the by twenty-five millions of miles. No change of position discovery of the asteroids, and their supposed formation of the orbits could, therefore, bring these orbits to a by the explosion of a larger body. There is a certain coincidence."* proportion observed in the distances of the orbits of the The matter has been finally settled by the greatest of planets from each other—a breadth of gauge, as it were, modern mathematicians, Leverrier, who has subjected on the celestial railroad. But there was the breadth of the eccentricities, distances, and inclinations of the a track between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter on which orbits of the asteroids to a mathematical investigation, no train ran, and this vacancy excited the curiosity of the result of which is as follows : astronomers. In the first seven years of this century, “In the present state of things, these eccentricities three very small planets were discovered, running near and these inclinations are totally incompatible with this track; and Dr. Olbers, the discoverer of Pallas, Olber's hypothesis, which supposed that the small finding that they were nearly in the same track, and planets—some of which were discovered even in his sometimes crossed each other, and that they were dimi- day—were produced from the wreck of a larger star, nutively small— bearing about the same proportion to a which had exploded. The forces necessary to launch regular planet which a hand-car does to a freight train- the fragments of a given body in such different routes imagined that they were formed by the explosion of a (whose existence we should be obliged to suppose), large planet : that the boiler of the large locomotive would be of such an improbable intensity, that the most had burst, the fragments had all lighted upon the track limited mathematical knowledge could not but see its again, in the shape of hand-cars, and the hand-cars had absurdity.” He concludes the memoir by advancing magnanimously resolved to keep running, and do the four propositions, “which for ever annihilate Olber's business of the line; and that, as there must have been hypothesis." + material enough in the original planet to make some The Buffonian theory, thus deprived of the only thousands of theni, more would be discovered by watch- apparently analogous fact by which it was supported

, ing two depots, at the crossings of the tracks, in the was restored to its birthplace in the regions of foggy constellations Virgo and the Whale, where they must all hypothesis. But science, indignant that such nonsense pass. In fact, he did himself find another, very near should ever have dared to assume her livery, will not one of these nodes ; and quite lately, thirty-eight others allow it to linger even among the shades. Those have been found ; and astronomers now expect to hear irregular world-breaking comets, which, while their of one or two more every year. At first sight, his theory density was unknown, formed such convenient sledgeseemed strengthened by every new discovery. It is true, hammers for the atheist's world-factory, have been retlecting men could not help wondering at such a mar- literally dissipated into smoke by powerful telescopes vellously regular explosion as would produce beautiful In fact, a respectable wreath of smoke is quite a sublittle orderly planets, going so regularly and curiously stantial being compared with the densest of the comets too, and all by accident. They never heard of the blow- “ The smallest comets, such as are visible only in ing up of a palace producing cottages, or the explosion telescopes, or with difficulty by the naked eye, and of a steamboat throwing off the hurricane deck in the which are by far the most numerous, offer very freshape of whaleboats, or the bursting of a locomotive quently no appearance of a tail, and appear only as producing model engines or even hand-cars. However, round or somewhat oval vaporous masses, more dense as the theory removed God out of sight, it was generally towards the centre, where, however, they appear to accepted, and freely used by infidels, to show that the

have no distinct nucleus, or anything which seems world had no need of a Creator. But astronomers saw, that as each new asteroid had

* Progress of Astronomy,” 70.

Memoir to the French Academy, by M. Leverrier ; a track of its own, and ran to a different terminus, and

Annual of Scientific Discovery," for 1855, p. 376.

from "The

« PredošláPokračovať »