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Fables of Infidelity and Facts of Faith - Being an Examination of the Evidences of Infidelity
by Robert Patterson
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"M. Otto Struve, Mr. Bond, and Sir David Brewster, are agreed that Saturn's third ring is fluid, that this is not of very recent formation, and that it is not subject to rapid change. And they have come to the extraordinary conclusion, that the inner border of the ring has, since the day of Huygens, been gradually approaching to the body of Saturn, and that we may expect, sooner or later—perhaps in some dozen years—to see the rings united with the body of the planet. With this deluge impending, Saturn would scarcely be a very eligible residence for men, whatever it might be for dolphins."[286]

Knowing, as we most certainly do, that the fluid envelopes of our own planet were once exceedingly different from the present,[287] here is a possibility quite sufficient to stop the mouth of the scoffer. Let him show that God did not, or prove that he could not, suspend a similar series of oceans over the earth, or cease to pronounce a universal deluge impossible.

2. That sublime ode, in which Deborah describes the stars in their courses as fighting against Sisera[288] has been rescued from the grasp of modern scoffers, by the progress of astronomy. It has been alleged as lending its support to the delusions of judicial astrology; by one class desiring to damage the Bible as a teacher of superstition, and by another to help their trade. The Bible reader will doubtless be greatly surprised to hear it asserted, that the Bible lends its sanction to this antiquated, and, as he thinks, exploded superstition. He knows how expressly the Bible forbids God's people to have anything to do with it, or with its heathenish professors. "Thus saith the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven, for the heathen are dismayed at them."[289] And they will be still more surprised to learn, that those who object against the Bible, that it ascribes a controlling influence to the stars, are firm believers in Reichenbach's discovery of odyle; an influence from the heavenly bodies so spiritual and powerful, that they imagine it able to govern the world, instead of God Almighty.[290]

The passage thus variously abused is a description, in highly poetic strains, of the battle between the troops of Israel and those of Sisera; of the defeat of the latter, and of an earthquake and tempest, which completed the destruction of his exhausted troops. The glory of the victory is wholly ascribed to the Lord God of Israel; while the rain, the thunder, lightning, swollen river, and "the stars in their courses," are all described, in their subordinate places, as only his instruments—the weapons of his arsenal.

"Lord, when thou wentest out of Seir, When thou marchedst out of the field of Edom, The earth trembled, and the heavens dropped, The clouds also dropped down water; The mountains also melted from before the Lord, Even that Sinai, from before the Lord God of Israel."

Then, after describing the battle, she alludes to the celestial artillery, and to the effects of the storm in swelling the river, and sweeping away the fugitives who had sought the fords:

"They fought from heaven; The stars in their courses fought against Sisera; The river Kishon swept them away; That ancient river, the river Kishon."[291]

After describing some further particulars the hymn concludes with an allusion to the clearing away of the tempest and the appearance of the unclouded sun over the field of victory:

"So let all thine enemies perish, O Lord; But let them that love thee be as the sun, when he goeth forth in his might."

Where is there the least allusion here to any controlling influence of the stars? You might just as well say, "The Bible ascribes a controlling influence over the destinies of men, to the river Kishon;" for they are both spoken of, in the same language, as instruments in God's hand for the destruction of his enemies.

But it is objected, "Even by this explanation you have the Bible representing the stars as causing the rain." Not so fast. If a man were very ignorant, and had never heard of anything falling from the sky but rain, he might think so. And if the Bible did attribute to the stars some such influence over the vapors of the atmosphere, as experience shows the moon to possess over the ocean, are you able to demonstrate its absurdity?

Deborah, however, when she sang of the stars in their courses fighting against Sisera, was describing a phenomenon very different from a fall of rain—was, in fact, describing a fall of aerolites upon the army of Sisera. Multitudes of stones have fallen from the sky, and not less than five hundred such falls are recorded.

"On September 1, 1814, a few minutes before midday, while the sky was perfectly serene, a violent detonation was heard in the department of the Lot and Garonne. This was followed by three or four others, and finally by a rolling noise, at first resembling a discharge of musketry, afterward the rumbling of carriages, and lastly that of a large building falling down. Stones were immediately after precipitated to the ground, some of which weighed eighteen pounds, and sunk into a compact soil, to the depth of eight or nine inches; and one of them rebounded three or four feet from the ground."

"A great shower of stones fell at Barbatan, near Roquefort, in the vicinity of Bordeaux, on July 24, 1790. A mass fifteen inches in diameter penetrated a hut and killed a herdsman and bullock. Some of the stones weighed twenty-five pounds, and others thirty pounds."

"In July, 1810, a large ball of fire fell from the clouds, at Shahabad, which burned five villages, destroyed the crops, and killed several men and women."[292]

Astronomers are perfectly agreed as to the character of these masses, and the source whence they come. "It appears from recent astronomical observations that the sun numbers among his attendants not only planets, asteroids, and comets, but also immense multitudes of meteoric stones, and shooting stars."[293] AErolites are, then, really stars. They are composed of materials similar to those of our earth; the only other star whose materials we can compare with them. They have a proper motion around the sun, in orbits distinct from that of the earth. They are capable of emitting the most brilliant light, in favorable circumstances. Some of them are as large as the asteroids. One, of 600,000 tons weight, passed within twenty-five miles of the earth, at the rate of twenty miles a second. A fragment of it reached the earth.[294] "That aerolites were called stars by the ancients is indisputable. Indeed, Anaxagoras considered the stars to be only stony masses, torn from the earth by the violence of rotation. Democritus tells us, that invisible dark masses of stone move with the visible stars, and remain on that account unknown, but sometimes fall upon the earth, and are extinguished, as happened with the stony star which fell near Aegos Potamos."[295]

When Deborah, therefore, describes the stars in their courses as fighting against Sisera, it is an utterly unfounded assumption to suppose that she has any allusion to the baseless fancies of an astrology everywhere condemned by the religion she professed, when a simple and natural explanation is afforded by the fact, that stars do fall from the heavens to the earth, and that they do so in their courses, and just by reason of their orbital motion; and that the ancients both knew the fact, and gave the right name to those bodies. Let no reasonable man delude himself with the notion that God has no weapons more formidable than the dotings of astrology, till he has taken a view of the arsenals of God's artillery, which he has treasured up against the day of battle and of war.

Here it may be well to notice the illustration which the remarkable showers of meteors, particularly those of November, 1833, shed upon several much ridiculed texts of Scripture. Scientific observation has fully confirmed and illustrated the scientific accuracy of the Bible in such expressions as, "the stars shall fall from heaven;" "there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp;" "and the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig-tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind." Whatever political or ecclesiastical events these symbols may signify, there can be no question, now, that the astronomical phenomenon used to prefigure them is correctly described in the Bible. Most of my readers have seen some of these remarkable exhibitions; but for the sake of those who have not, I give a brief account of one. "By much the most splendid meteoric shower on record, began at nine o'clock, on the evening of the twelfth of November, 1833, and lasted till sunrise next morning. It extended from Niagara and the northern lakes of America, to the south of Jamaica, and from 61 deg. of longitude, in the Atlantic, to 100 deg. of longitude in Central Mexico. Shooting stars and meteors of the apparent size of Jupiter, Venus, and even the full moon, darted in myriads toward the horizon, as if every star in the heavens had darted from their spheres." They are described as having been as frequent as the flakes of snow in a snow-storm, and to have been seen with equal brilliancy over the greater part of the continent of North America.[296]

The source whence these meteors proceed is distinctly ascertained to be, as was already remarked with regard to the aerolites, a belt of small planetoids, revolving around the sun in a little less than a year, and in an orbit intersecting that of the earth, at such an angle, that every thirty-three years, or thereabouts, the earth meets the full tide on the twelfth of November. These meteors are true and proper stars. "All the observations made during the year 1853 agree with those of previous years, and confirm what may be regarded as sufficiently well established: the cosmical origin of shooting stars."[297]

3. The language of the Bible with respect to the circuit of the sun is found to have anticipated one of the most sublime discoveries of modern astronomy. True to the reality, as well as to the appearance of things, it is scientifically correct, without becoming popularly unintelligible.

There is a class of aspirants to gentility who refuse to recognize any person not dressed in the style which they suppose to be fashionable among the higher classes. A Glasgow butcher's wife, in the Highlands, attired in all the magnificence of her satins, laces, and jewelry, returned the courteous salute of the little woman in the gingham dress and gray shawl with a contemptuous toss of the head, and flounced past, to learn, to her great mortification, that she had missed an opportunity of forming an acquaintance with the Queen. So a large class of pretenders to science refuse to become acquainted with Bible truth, because it is not shrouded in the technicalities of science, but displays itself in the plain speech of the common people to whom it was given. They will have it, that because its author used common language, it was because he could not afford any other; and as he did not contradict every vulgar error believed by the people to whom he spoke, it was because he knew no better; and because the Hebrews knew nothing of modern discoveries in astronomy, geology, and the other sciences, and the Bible does not contain lectures on these subjects, the God of the Hebrews must have been equally ignorant, and the Bible consequently beneath the notice of a philosopher.

You will hear such persons most pertinaciously assert, that Moses believed all the absurdities of the Ptolemaic astronomy; that the earth is the immovable center, around which revolve the crystal sphere of the firmament, and the sun, and moon, and stars, which are attached to it, after the manner of lamps to a ceiling; and that he, and the world generally in his day, had not emerged from the grossest barbarism and ignorance of all matters of natural science. Yet these very people will probably tell you, in the same conversation, of the wonderful astronomical observations made by the Egyptians, ten thousand years before the days of Adam! So beautiful is the consistency of Infidel science. But when you inquire into the source of their knowledge of the philosophy of the ancients, you discover that they did not draw it from the writings of Moses, of which they betray the grossest ignorance, nor of any one who lived within a thousand years of Moses' time. Voltaire is their authority for all such matters. He transferred to the early Asiatics all the absurdities of the later Greek philosophers, and would have us believe that Moses, who wrote before these Greeks had learned to read, was indebted to them for his philosophy. Of the learning of the ancient patriarchs Voltaire does not tell them much, for a satisfactory reason.

Yet it might not have required much learning to infer, that the eyes, and ears, and nerves of men who lived ten times as long as we can, must have been more perfect than ours; that a man who could observe nature with such eyes, under a sky where Stoddart now sees the ring of Saturn, the crescent of Venus, and the moons of Jupiter, with the naked eye,[298] and continue his observations for eight hundred years, would certainly acquire a better knowledge of the appearance of things than any number of generations of short-lived men, called away by death before they have well learned how to observe, and able only to leave the shell of their discoveries to their successors; that unless we have some good reason for believing that the mind of man was greatly inferior, before the flood, to what it is now, the antediluvians must have made a progress in the knowledge of the physical sciences, during the three thousand years which elapsed from the creation to the deluge, much greater than the nations of Europe have effected since they began to learn their A, B, C, about the same number of years ago; and that though Noah and his sons might not have preserved all the learning of their drowned contemporaries, they would still have enough to preserve them from the reproach of ignorance and barbarism; at least until their sons have succeeded in building a larger ship than the ark, or a monument equal to the Great Pyramid. The Astronomer Royal of Scotland[299] has demonstrated, that in this imperishable monument, erected four thousand years ago, the builders, who took care to keep it alone, of all the buildings of Egypt, free from idolatrous images or inscriptions, recorded with most laborious care, in multiples of the earth's polar diameter, a metric system, including linear and liquid measures, and a system of weights based on a cubical measure of water of uniform temperature; which uniform temperature they took the utmost care to preserve. He shows further, that they were acquainted with the precession of the equinoxes, with the density of the earth, and with the earth's distance from the sun; or at least calculated it at what proves to be nearly a mean of our discordant calculations; and that they were acquainted with problems just beginning to attract the attention of the science of Europe.

When we know that the Chaldeans taught the Egyptians the expansive power of steam, and the induction of electricity by pointed conductors; that from the most remote antiquity the Chinese were acquainted with decimal fractions, electro-magnetism, the mariner's compass, and the art of making glass; that lenses have been found in the ruins of Nineveh, and that an artificial currency was in circulation in the first cities built after the flood;[300] that astronomical observations were made in China, with so much accuracy, from the deluge till the days of Yau, B. C. 2357, that the necessary intercalations were made for harmonizing the solar with the lunar year, and fixing the true period of 365-1/4 days; and that similar observations were conducted to a like result within a few years of the same remote period, in Babylon;—if the reader does not conclude that the world may have forgotten as much ancient lore during eighteen hundred years of idolatrous barbarism before the coming of Christ, as it has learned in the same number since, he will, at least, satisfy himself that the ancient patriarchs were not ignorant savages.[301] "Whole nations," says La Place, "have been swept from the earth, with their languages, arts, and sciences, leaving but confused masses of ruins to mark the place where mighty cities stood. Their history, with a few doubtful traditions, has perished; but the perfection of their astronomical observations marks their high antiquity, fixes the periods of their existence, and proves that even at that early time they must have made considerable progress in science."[302] The Infidel theory, that the first men were savages, is a pure fiction, refuted by every known fact of their history.

That, however, is not the matter under discussion. We are not inquiring now, what Moses and the prophets thought, but what the Author of the Bible told them to say. The scribe writes as his employer dictates. "I will put my words in thy mouth," said God to Jeremiah. "My tongue is as the pen of a ready writer," said David. The prophets began, not with "Thus saith Isaiah," but "Thus saith the Lord." Unless the Word of God was utterly different from all his other works, it must transcend the comprehension of man in some respects. The profoundest philosopher is as ignorant of the cause of the vegetation of wheat as the mower who cuts it down; but their ignorance of the mysteries of organic force is no reason why the one may not harvest, and the other eat and live. Just so God's prophets conveyed previous mysteries to the Church, of the full import of which they themselves were ignorant; even as Daniel heard but understood not. The prophets, to whom it was revealed, that they did not minister to themselves, but to us, inquired and searched diligently into the meaning of their own prophecies; which meaning, nevertheless, continued hid for ages and generations.[303] If the prophets of the old economy might be ignorant of the privileges of the gospel day, of which they prophesied, at God's dictation, they might very well be ignorant, also, of the philosophy of creation, and yet write a true account of the facts, from his mouth.

Let us suppose, then, that the ancient Hebrews and their prophets were, if not quite as ignorant of natural science as modern Infidels are pleased to represent them, yet unacquainted with the discoveries of Herschel and Newton; and, as a necessary consequence, that their language was the adequate medium of conveying their imperfect ideas, containing none of the technicalities invented by philosophers to mark modern scientific discoveries; and that God desired to convey to them some religious instruction, through the medium of language; must we suppose it indispensable for this purpose that he should use strange words, and scientific phrases, the meaning of which would not be discovered for thirty-three hundred years? Could not Dr. Alexander write a Sabbath-school book, without filling it full of such phrases as "right ascension," "declination," "precession of the equinoxes," "radius vector," and the like? Or, if some wiseacre did prepare such a book, would it be very useful to children? Perhaps even we, learned philosophers of the nineteenth century, are not out of school yet. How many discoveries are yet to be made in all the sciences; discoveries which will doubtless render our fancied perfection as utterly childish to the philosophers of a thousand years hence as the astronomy of the Greeks seems to us; and demand the use of technical language, which would be as unintelligible to us as our scientific nomenclature would have been to Aristotle. If God may not use popular speech in speaking to the people of any given period, but must needs speak the technical language of perfect science, and if science is now, and always will be, of necessity, imperfect, we are led to the sage conclusion, that every revelation from God to man must always be unintelligible!

Does it necessarily follow, that because the Author of the Bible uses the common phrases, "sun rising," and "sun setting," in a popular treatise upon religion, that therefore he was ignorant of the rotation of the earth, and intended to teach that the sun revolved around it? He is certainly under no more obligation to depart from the common language of mankind, and introduce the technicalities of science into such a discourse, than mankind in general, and our objectors in particular, are to do the like in their common conversation. Now, I demand to know whether they are aware that the earth's rotation on its axis is the cause of day and night? But do you ever hear any of them use such phrases as "earth rising," and "earth setting?" But if an Infidel's daily use of the phrases, "sun rising," "sun setting," and the like, does not prove, either that he is ignorant of the earth's rotation as the cause of that appearance, or that he intends to deceive the world by those phrases, why may not Almighty God be as well informed and as honest as the Infidel, though he also condescends to use the common language of mankind?

Do you ever hear astronomers, in common discourse, use any other language? I suppose Lieut. Maury, and Herschel, and Le Verrier, and Mitchell, know a little of the earth's rotation; but they, too, use the English tongue very much like other people, and speak of sunrise and sunset; yet nobody accuses them of believing in the Ptolemaic astronomy. Hear the immortal Kepler, the discoverer of the laws of planetary revolution: "We astronomers do not pursue this science with the view of altering common language; but we wish to open the gates of truth, without affecting the vulgar modes of speech. We say with the common people, 'The planets stand still, or go down;' 'the sun rises, or sets;' meaning only that so the thing appears to us, although it is not truly so, as all astronomers are agreed. How much less should we require that the Scriptures of divine inspiration, setting aside the common modes of speech, should shape their words according to the model of the natural sciences, and by employing a dark and inappropriate phraseology about things which surpass the comprehension of those whom it designs to instruct, perplex the simple people of God, and thus obstruct its own way toward the attainment of the far more exalted end to which it aims."

It is evident, then, that God not only may, but must, use popular language in addressing the people, in a work not professedly scientific; and that if this popular language be scientifically incorrect, such use of it neither implies his ignorance nor approval of the error.

But it may be worthy of inquiry whether this popular language of mankind, used in the Bible, be scientifically erroneous. If the language be intended to express an absolute reality, no doubt it is erroneous to say the sun rises and sets; but if it be only intended to describe an appearance, and the words themselves declare that intention, it can not be shown to be false to the fact. Now, when the matter is critically investigated, these phrases are found to be far more accurate than those of "earth rising," and "earth setting," which Infidels say the Author of the Bible should have used. For, as up and down have no existence in nature, save with reference to a spectator, and as the earth is always down with respect to a spectator on its surface, neither rising toward him, nor sinking from him, in reality, nor appearing to do so, unless in an earthquake, the improved phrases are false, both to the appearance of things, and to the cause of it. Whereas, our common speech, making no pretensions to describe the causes of appearances, can not contradict any scientific discovery of these causes, and therefore can not be false to the fact; while it truly describes all that it pretends to describe—the appearance of things to our senses. And so, after all the outcry raised against it by sciolists, the vulgar speech of mankind, used by the Author of the Bible, must be allowed to be philosophical enough for his purpose, and theirs; at least till somebody favors both with a better.

Though we are in no way concerned, then, to prove that every poetical figure in Scripture, and every popular illustration taken from nature, corresponds to the accuracy of scientific investigation, before we believe the Bible to be a revelation of our duty to God and man, yet it may be worth while to inquire, further, whether we really find upon its sacred pages such crude and egregious scientific errors as Infidels allege. We have seen in the last chapter, that they are not able to read even its first chapter without blundering. Indeed, they generally boast of their ignorance of its contents. It is a very good rule to take them at their word, and when they quote Scripture, to take it for granted that they quote it wrong, unless you know the contrary. The first thing for you to do when an Infidel tells you the Bible says so and so, is to get the Book, and see whether it does or not. You will generally find that he has either misquoted the words, or mistaken their meaning, from a neglect of the context; or perhaps has both misquoted and mistaken. Then, when you are satisfied of the correct meaning of the text, and he tells you that it is contrary to the discoveries of science, the next point is to ask him, How do you know? You will find his knowledge of science and Scripture about equal. Both these tests should be applied to scientific objections to the Bible, as they are all composed of equal parts of biblical blunders, and philosophical fallacies.

In the objection under consideration, for instance, both statements are wrong. The Bible does not represent the earth as the immovable center of the universe, or as immovable in space at all. It does not represent the sun and stars as revolving around it. Nor are the facts of astronomy more correctly stated. It is not the Bible, but our objector, that is a little behind the age in his knowledge of science.

If we inquire for those texts of Scripture which represent the earth as the immovable center of the universe, we shall be referred to the figurative language of the Psalms, the book of Job, and other poetical parts of Scripture, which speak of the "foundations of the earth," "the earth being established," "abiding for ever," and the like, when the slightest attention to the language would show that it is intended to be figurative. The accumulation of metaphors and poetical images in some of these passages is beautiful and grand in the highest degree; but none, save the most stupid reader, would ever dream of interpreting them literally. Take, for instance, Psalm civ. 1-6, where, in one line, the world is described as God's house, with beams, and chambers, and foundations; but in the very next line the figure is changed, and it is viewed as an infant, covered with the deep, as with a garment.

"Bless, the Lord, O my soul. O Lord my God, thou art very great; Thou art clothed with honor and majesty: Who coverest thyself with light, as with a garment; Who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain; Who layeth the beams of his chambers upon the waters: Who walketh upon the wings of the wind: Who maketh his angels spirits: His ministers a flaming fire: Who laid the foundations of the earth, That it should not be removed for ever. Thou coveredst it with the deep, as with a garment: The waters stood above the mountains."

But if any one is so gross as to insist on the literality of such a passage, and to allege that it teaches the absolute immobility of the earth, let him tell us what sort of immobility the third verse teaches, and how a building could be stable, the beams of whose chambers are laid upon the waters—the chosen emblems of instability. "He hath founded it upon the seas: he hath established it upon the floods," says the same poet, in another Psalm—xxiv 1. This, and all other expressions quoted as declaring the immobility of the earth in space, are clearly proved, both by the words used, and the sense of the context, to refer to an entirely different idea: namely, its duration in time. Thus, Ecclesiastes i. 4, "One generation passeth away, and another cometh; but the earth abideth forever," is manifestly contrasting the duration of earth with the generations of short-lived men, and has no reference to motion in space at all.

Again, in Psalm cxix. 89-91, our objectors find another Bible declaration of the immobility of the earth in space:

"For ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven; Thy faithfulness is unto all generations; Thou hast established the earth, and it abideth. They continue to this day, according to thine ordinances."

The same permanence is here ascribed to the heavens (to which, as our objectors argue, the Bible ascribes a perpetual revolution) as to the earth. The next verse explains this permanence to be continuance to this day; durability, not immobility. That the word establish does not necessarily imply fixture, is evident from its application, in Proverbs viii. 28: "He established the clouds," the most fleeting of all things. Nor is the Hebrew word kun (whence our English word, cunning), inconsistent with motion; else, the Psalmist had not said that "a good man's footsteps are established by the Lord."[304] "He established my goings." Wise arrangement is the idea, not permanent fixture.

The same remarks apply to Psalm xciii. 1; xcvi. 10; 1 Chronicles xvi. 30, and many other similar passages.

"The world is established, that it can not be moved; Thy throne is established of old: Thou art from everlasting."

Where the establishment, which is contrasted with the impossible removal, and which explains its import, is evidently not a local fixing of some material seat, in one place, but the everlasting duration of God's authority. The idea is not that of position in space, at all, but of continued duration.

Space does not allow us to quote all the passages which refer to this subject; but after an examination of every passage in the Bible usually referred to in this connection, and of a multitude of others bearing upon it, I have no hesitation in saying, that it does not contain a single text which asserts or implies the immobility of the earth in space. The notion was drawn from the absurdities of the Greek philosophy, and the superstitions of popery, but was never gathered from the Word of God.

But it is alleged that other passages of Scripture do plainly and unequivocally express the motion of the sun, and his course in a circuit; as, for instance, the Nineteenth Psalm:

"In them he hath set a tabernacle for the sun, Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, And rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race. His going forth is from the end of heaven, And his circuit unto the ends of it."

And again, in the account of Joshua's miracle, in the tenth chapter of his book, it is quite evident that the writer supposed the sun to be in motion, in the same way as the moon, for he commanded them both to stand still: "Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon, and thou moon in the valley of Ajalon. And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies." Now, it is said, if the writer had known what he was about, he would have known that the sun was already standing still, and would have told the earth to stop its rotation. And if the earth had obeyed the command, we should never have heard of the miracle; for, as the earth rotates at the rate of a thousand miles an hour, the concussion produced by such a stoppage would have projected Joshua, and Israelites, and Amorites, beyond the moon, to pursue their quarrel among the fixed stars.

When we hear men of some respectability bring forward such stuff, we are constrained to wonder, not merely were they ever at school, but if they ever traveled in a railroad car, or whether they suppose their hearers to be so ignorant of the most common facts as to believe that there is no way of bringing a carriage to a stand but by a sudden jerk, or that God is more stupid than the brakeman of an express train. We will do them the justice, however, to say, that they did not invent it, but merely shut their eyes, and opened their mouths, and swallowed it for philosophy, because they found it in the writings of an Infidel scoffer, and of a Neological professor of theology[305]—an edifying example of Infidel credulity!

Let it be noticed, that in neither of these texts, nor in any other portion of Scripture, does the Bible say a single word about the revolution of the sun round the earth, as the common center of the universe; on which, however, the whole stress of the objection is laid. The passages do not prove what they are adduced to prove. They speak of the sun's motion, and of the sun's orbit, but they do not say that the earth is the center of that orbit. These texts, then, do not prove the Author of the Bible ignorant of the system of the universe.

The objection is based upon utter ignorance of one of the most important and best attested discoveries of modern astronomy; the grand motion of the sun and solar system through the regions of space, and the dependence of the rotation of all the orbs composing it, upon that motion. It is not the Author of the Bible who is ignorant of the discoveries of modern astronomy—when he speaks of the orbit of the sun, and his race from one end of the heavens to the other, and of the need of a miraculous interposition to stop his course for a single day—but his correctors, who have ventured to decry the statements of a Book which commands the respect of such astronomers as Herschel and Rosse, while ignorant of those elements of astronomy which they might have learned from a perusal of the books used by their children in our common schools. For the benefit of such, however, I will present a brief explanation of the grounds upon which astronomers are as universally agreed upon the belief of the sun's motion around a center of the firmament, as they are upon the belief of the revolution of the earth round the sun.

When you are passing in a carriage, at night, through the street of a city lighted up by gas-lamps in the streets, and lights irregularly dispersed in the windows, or passing in a ferry-boat, from one such city to another, at a short distance from it, you observe that the lights which you are leaving appear to draw closer and closer together, while those toward which you are approaching widen out, and seem to separate from each other. If the night were perfectly dark, so that you could see nothing but the lights, you could certainly know not only that you were in motion, but also to what point you were moving, by carefully watching their appearances. So, if all the fixed stars were absolutely fixed, and the sun and planets, including our earth, were moving in any direction—say to the north—then the stars toward which we were moving would seem to widen out from each other, and those which we were leaving would seem to close up; so that the space which appeared between any two stars in the south, in a correct map of the heavens, a hundred years ago, would be smaller, and that between any two stars in the north would be larger, than the space between the same stars upon a correct map now. Now, such changes in the apparent positions of stars are actually observed. The stars do not appear in the same places now as they did a hundred years ago.

The fixed stars, then, are either drifting past our solar system, which alone remains fixed; or, the fixed stars are all actually at rest, and our sun is drifting through them; or, our solar system and the so-called fixed stars are both in motion. One or other of these suppositions must be the fact. The first is simply the old Ptolemaic absurdity, only transferring the center of the universe to the sun. The second is contrary to the observed fact, that multitudes of the stars, which were supposed to be fixed, are actually revolving around each other, in systems of double, triple and multiple suns. And both are contrary to the first principles of gravitation; for, as every particle of matter attracts every other, directly as the mass, and inversely as the square of the distance, if any one particle of matter in the universe is in motion, the square of its distance from every other particle varies, and its attraction is increased in one direction, and diminished in another; and so every particle of matter in free space, as far as the force of gravitation extends, will be put in motion too. But our earth, and the planets, and the double and triple stars, are in motion, and the law of gravitation extends to every known part of the universe; therefore every known particle of matter in the universe is in motion too, our sun included.

The third supposition, then, is most indisputably true; our solar system, and all the heavenly bodies, are in motion. To this conclusion all the observed facts conform. The Bible does say that the sun moves, and moves in a curve. All mathematicians prove that it must of necessity do so. All astronomers assert that it does so. The unanimous verdict of the scientific world is thus rendered by Nichol: "As to the subject itself, the grand motion of the sun, as well as its present direction, must be received now as an established doctrine of astronomy."[306] But the discovery was anticipated, three thousand years ago, by the Author of the Bible.

But, as will readily be perceived, the difficulty of determining either the direction or the rate of this motion is immensely increased in this case; for we are now not like persons riding in a carriage, watching the fixed lights in the street to determine our direction and rate of progress; but we are watching the lamps of a multitude of carriages, moving at various distances, and with various velocities, and, for anything we can tell at first sight, in various directions. We are on board a steamer, and are watching the lights of a multitude of other steamers, also in motion; and it is not easy to find out, in the darkness, how either they or we are going. If each were pursuing its own independent course, without any common object or destination, the confusion would be so great that we could learn nothing of the rate or direction either of our own motion or theirs.

But astronomers are not content to believe that the universe is governed by accident. The whole science is based upon the assumption, that a presiding mind has impressed the stamp of order and regularity upon the whole cosmos. They are deeply convinced that God's law extends to all God's creation; that all his works display his intelligence, as well as his power, and proceed according to a wise plan. Having seen that all the stellar motions previously known are orderly motions, in circular or elliptical orbits, and that the most of the solid bodies belonging to our own system revolve in one direction, they reasoned from analogy, that this might be the case with the sun and the fixed stars, and went to work with great diligence, to see whether it was or not; and, by comparing a great multitude of observations, ancient and modern, made both in the northern and southern hemispheres, and on all sorts of stars, they have come to the conclusion, that our sun, and all the bodies of the solar system, are flying northward, at the rate of three millions three hundred and thirty-six thousand geographical miles a day—five thousand times faster than a railway express train—toward the constellation Hercules, in R. A. 259 deg. Dec. 35 deg..

Further, as the direction of this motion is slowly and regularly changing, just as the direction of the head of a steamer in wearing, or of a railway train running a curve, it is certain that the sun is moving, not in a straight line, but in a curve. The revolution of the sun in such an orbit was known to the Author of the Bible when he wrote, "his circuit is to the end of heaven." The direction of the circumference of a circle being known, that of its center can be found; for the radius is always a tangent to the circumference, and the intersection of two of these radii will be the center; so that, if we certainly knew the sun's orbit to be circular, or nearly so, we could calculate the center. But as we do not certainly know its form, we can not certainly calculate the center; we can only come near it. And as we know that the line which connects the circumference with the center of the sun's orbit, runs through the group of stars known as the Pleiades, or the Cluster; and as all the stars along that line seem to move in the same direction—a different direction from that of the stars in other regions, just as they must do if they and we were revolving around that group—Argelander and others have concluded, with a high degree of probability, that the grand center around which the sun and our firmament revolve, is that constellation which the Author of the Bible, more than three thousand years ago, called kymethe pivot.

It would require a greater knowledge of electro-magnetism than most of my readers possess, to explain the connection of the earth's rotation with the sun's grand movement. I will merely state the facts. Electro-magnetism is induced by friction. The regions of space are not empty, but filled with an ether, whose undulations produce light; and this ether is sufficiently dense to retard the motions of comets. The friction, produced by the rapid passage of the sun and solar system through this ether, must be immense, and is one source of electricity, and the principal source of electro-magnetism. This kind of electricity differs from the other kinds, in that its action is always at right angles to the current, and tends to produce rotation in any wheel, cylinder, or sphere, along whose axis it flows.[307] The sun, and all the planets, traveling in the direction of their poles, the current is of course in the direction of the axis; and the result is, that while the sun moves along his grand course, he and all the bodies of the system will rotate, by the influence of the electro-magnetism generated by that motion; and if he stops, his and their rotation stops too. Day and night on earth are produced by the sun's motion causing the earth's rotation. You can see the principle illustrated by the child who runs along the street with his windmill, to create a current, which will make it revolve. The Author of the Bible made no mistake when, desiring to lengthen the day, he commanded the sun to stand still. It is not the Creator, but his correctors, who are ignorant of the mechanism of the universe.

Thus, these long-misunderstood and much-assailed Scriptures are not only vindicated, but far more than vindicated, by the progress of astronomical discovery. It not only proves the language of the Bible to be correct; it assures us that it is divine. The same Hand which formed the stars to guide the simple peasant to his dwelling, at the close of day, and to lead the mighty intellects of Newton and of Herschel among the mysteries of the universe, formed those expressions which, to the peasant's eye, describe the apparent reality, and, to the astronomer's reason, demonstrate the reality of the appearance of the heavens, and are thus, alike to peasant and philosopher, the oracles of God.

Nor is this the only instance of such Bible oracles. Thousands of years before philosophers knew anything of the formation of dew, Moses described it exactly, and noticed how it differed from the rain which drops down, while the dew evaporates. "My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distill as the dew."—Deuteronomy xxxii. 2. Solomon described the cycloidal course of the wind, and recorded it in Ecclesiastes long before Admiral Fitzroy's discovery; as he also anticipated the doctrine of aqueous circulation in his pregnant proverb: "Unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again."—Ecclesiastes i. 7. Job declared the law of pneumatics when he declared that "God maketh weight for the winds." Long before Madler, the celebrated Russian astronomer, published his remarkable opinion: "I regard the Pleiades as the central group to the whole astral system, and the fixed stars, even to its outer limits, marked by the Milky Way; and I regard Alcyone as that star of all others, composing the group which is favored by most of the probabilities as being the true central sun of the universe," Moses tells us they were known as "the hinge, or pivot," of the heavens; and God asks, "Canst thou bind the secret influences of the Pleiades?" Though Peter was no geologist, and probably incapable of calculating the ratio of the central heat, he tells us that the heavens and the earth are "reserved unto fire," literally, "stored with fire."

Equally in advance of modern medical science, thousands of years before our modern discoveries, the Author of the Bible declared that "the life is in the blood," and spoke of the slow combustion of starvation exactly in the language of the most recent physiology, "they shall be burnt with hunger, and devoured with burning heat."—Deuteronomy xxxii. 24.

Here we have scientific truth not discovered for centuries by our men of science, but revealed by prophets—scientific discovery, in advance of science—predictions of the future progress of the human intellect, no less than revelations of the existing motions of the stars. He who wrote these oracles knew that the creatures to whom he gave them would one day unfold their hidden meaning (else he had not so written them), and in the light of scientific discovery, see them to be as truly divine predictions of the advance of science, as the prophecies of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, read among the ruins of Thebes or Babylon, are seen to be predictions of the ruin of empires. Man's discoveries fade into insignificance in the presence of such unfolding mysteries; and we are led to our Bibles, with the prayer, "Open mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law."

4. The ancient charter of the Church was written in the language of one of the most recent astronomical discoveries, thirty-six hundred years before Herschel and Rosse enabled us to understand its full significance: "He brought him forth abroad, and said unto him, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be."[308]

The scenery was well calculated to impress Abraham's mind with a sense of the ability of Christ to fulfill a very glorious promise, by a very improbable event; but the illustration was as well calculated as the promise to test the character of that faith which takes God's Word as sufficient evidence of things not seen; for, if the promise was a trying test of faith, so was the illustration. Before this, God had promised that his seed should be as the dust of the earth; and afterward he declared it should be as the sand of the seashore; the well-known symbol of a multitude beyond all power of calculation. To couple the stars of heaven with the sand upon the seashore in any such connection as to imply that the stars too were innumerable, or that their number came within any degree of comparison with the ocean sands, must have seemed to Abraham in the highest degree mysterious, even as it has appeared to scoffers, in modern times, utterly ridiculous; for, though the first glance at the sky conveys the impression that the stars are really innumerable, the investigations of our imperfect astronomy seem to assure us that this is by no means the case. And, as the patriarch sat, night after night, at his tent door, and, in obedience to the command of Christ, counted the stars, and made such a catalogue of them as his Chaldean preceptors had used, he would very speedily come to the conclusion, that so far as he could see, they were by no means innumerable; for the catalogue of Hipparchus reckons only one thousand and twenty-two as visible to one observer, and the whole number visible in both hemispheres by the naked eye does not exceed eight thousand.[309] And even if we suppose, that these old patriarchs had better eyes, as we know they had a clearer sky, than modern western observers, and that Abraham saw the moons of Jupiter, and stars as small, still the number would not seem in the least degree comparable with the number of the sands upon the seashore—whereof a million are contained in a cubic inch,[310] a number greater than the population of the globe in a square foot,[311] while the sum total of the human race, from Adam to this hour, would not approach to the aggregate of the sands of a single mile. Though the stars of a size too small to be visible to our eyes, are much more numerous than the larger stars, yet even up to the range of view possessed by ordinary telescopes, they are by no means innumerable. In fact, they are counted and registered, and the number of the stars of the ninth magnitude, which are four times as distant as the most distant visible to our eyes—so distant that their light is five hundred and eighty-six years in traveling toward us—is declared to be exactly thirty-seven thousand seven hundred and thirty-nine. Abraham's sense and Abraham's faith must have had many a conflict on this promise, as the faith and the sense of many of his children, especially the scientific portion of them, have since, when reading such portions as this; and those other Scriptures which represent it as an achievement of Omniscience, that "he telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names."[312] It is indeed remarkable how God delights to test the faith of his people, and to stumble the pride of fools, by presenting this mysterious truth, of the innumerable multitude of the stars, in every announcement of the wonderful works of Him who is perfect in wisdom. Infant astronomy stretched out her hands to catch the stars, and count them. Many a proud Infidel wondered that Moses could be so silly as to suppose he could not count the stars, and the believer often wondered what these words could mean. But faith rests in the persuasion of two great truths: "God is very wise," and "I am very ignorant."

The increase of knowledge, by widening the boundaries of our ignorance, seemed for a time to render the difficulty even greater. The increased power of Herschel's telescope, and his discovery of the constitution of the Milky Way, mark an era in the progress of astronomy, and enlarge our views of the extent of the universe, to an extent inconceivable by those who have not studied the science. Where we see only a faint whitish cloud stretching across the sky, Herschel's telescope disclosed a vast bed of stars. At one time he counted five hundred and eighty-eight stars in the field of his telescope. In a quarter of an hour, one hundred and sixteen thousand passed before his eye. In another portion, he found three hundred and thirty-one thousand stars in a single cluster.[313] He found the whole structure of that vast luminous cloud which spans the sky, "to consist entirely of stars, scattered by millions, like glittering dust, on the background of the general heavens."

Yet still it was not supposed to be at all impossible to estimate their numbers. Even this distinguished astronomer, a few years ago, computed it at eight or ten millions. Schroeter allowed twenty degrees of it to pass before him, and withdrew from the majestic spectacle, exclaiming, "What Omnipotence!" He calculated, however, that the number of the stars visible through one of the best telescopes in Europe, in 1840, was twelve millions; a number equaled by a single generation of Abraham's descendants, far below the power of computation, and utterly insignificant, as compared with the sands of the sea.

Had our powers of observation stopped here, the great promise must still have seemed as mysterious to the astronomer, as it once seemed to the Patriarch. But if either the Father of the Faithful, or the Father of Sidereal Astronomy, had deluded himself with the notion, that he fully comprehended either the words or the works of Him who is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working, and argued thence that, because the revealed words and the visible works seemed not to correspond, they were really contradictory, he would have committed the blunder of modern Infidels, who assume that they know everything, and that as God's knowledge can not be any greater than theirs, every Scripture which their science can not comprehend must be erroneous. The grandest truths, imperfectly perceived in the twilight of incipient science, serve as stumbling-blocks for conceited speculators, as well as landmarks on the boundaries of knowledge to true philosophers, who will ever imbibe the spirit of Newton's celebrated saying: "I seem to myself like a child gathering pebbles on the shore, while the great ocean of knowledge lies unexplored before me;" or the profound remark of Humboldt: "What is seen does not exhaust that which is perceptible."

But the progress of science was not destined merely to coast the shore of this ocean. In 1845, Lord Rosse, and a band of accomplished astronomers, commenced a voyage through the immensities, with a telescope which has enlarged our view of the visible universe to one hundred and twenty-five million times the extent before perceived, and displayed far more accurately the real form and nature of objects previously seen. Herschel's researches into the Architecture of the Heavens, which have justly rendered his name immortal as the science he illustrated, had revealed the existence of great numbers of nebulae—clouds of light—faint, yet distinct. He supposed many of these to consist of a luminous fluid, pretty near to us; at least, comparatively so; for to believe that they were stars, so far away as to be severally invisible in his forty feet telescope, while yet several of these clouds are distinctly seen by the naked eye, involved the belief of distances so astounding, and of multitudes so incredible, and of a degree of closeness of the several stars so unparalleled by anything which even he had observed, that his imagination and reason failed to meet the requirements of such a problem. The supposition was, however, thrown out by this gigantic intellect, that these clouds might be firmaments; that the Bible word heavens might be literally plural; and more than that, he labored in the accumulation of facts which tended to confirm it. He disclosed the fact, that several of these apparent clouds, which, to very excellent telescopes, displayed only a larger surface of cloudy matter, did, in the reflector of his largest telescope, display themselves in their true character, as globular clusters, consisting of innumerable multitudes of glorious stars; and, moreover, that, stretching away far beyond star, or Milky Way, or nebulae, he had seen, in some parts of the heavens, "a stippling," or uniform dotting of the field of view, by points of light too small to admit of any one being steadily or fixedly examined, and too numerous for counting, were it possible so to view them! What are these? Millions upon millions of years must have elapsed ere that faint light could reach our globe, from those profundities of space, though it travels like the lightning's flash. If they are stars, the sands of the seashore are as inferior in numbers as the surface of earth is inferior in dimensions to the arch of heaven. But if these faint dots and stipplings are not single stars!—if they are star-clouds—galaxies—firmaments, like our Milky Way—our infinity is multiplied by millions upon millions! Imagination pants, reason grows dizzy, arithmetic fails to fathom, and human eyes fear to look into the abyss. No wonder that this profound astronomer, when a glimpse of infinity flashed on his eye, retired from the telescope, trembling in every nerve, afraid to behold.

And yet this astounding supposition is a literal truth; and the light of those suns, whose twilight thus bowed down that mighty intellect in reverent adoration, now shines before human eyes in all its noonday refulgence. One of the most remarkable of these nebulae—one which is visible to a good eye in the belt of Orion—has been disclosed to the observers at Parsontown as a firmament; and minute points, scarce perceptible to common telescopes, blaze forth as magnificent clusters of glorious stars, so close and crowded, that no figure can adequately describe them, save the twin symbol of the promise, "the sand by the seashore," or "the dust of the earth." "There is a minute point, near Polaris," says Nichol, "so minute, that it requires a good telescope to discern its being. I have seen it as represented by a good mirror, blazing like a star of the first magnitude; and though examined by a potent microscope, clear and definite as the distinctest of these our nearest orbs, when beheld through an atmosphere not disturbed. Nay, through distances of an order I shall scarcely name, I have seen a mass of orbs compressed and brilliant, so that each touched on each other, like the separate grains of a handful of sand, and yet there seemed no melting or fusion of any one of the points into the surrounding mass. Each sparkled individually its light pure and apart, like that of any constituent of the cluster of the Pleiades."[314]

"The larger and nearer masses are seen with sufficient distinctness to reveal the grand fact decisive of their character, viz: that they consist of multitudes of closely related orbs, forming an independent system. In other cases we find the individual stars by no means so clearly defined. Through effect, in all probability, of distance, the intervals between them appear much less, the shining points themselves being also fainter; while the masses still further off may be best likened to a handful of golden sand, or, as it is aptly termed, star dust; beyond which no stars, or any vestige of them, are seen, but only a patch or streak of milky light, similar to the unresolved portions of our surrounding zone."[315]

To say, then, that the stars of the sky are actually innumerable is only a cold statement of the plainest fact. Hear it in the language of one privileged to behold the glories of one out of the thousands of similar firmaments: "The mottled region forming the lighter part of the mass (the nebula in Orion) is a very blaze of stars. But that stellar creation, now that we are freed from all dubiety concerning the significance of those hazes that float numberless in space, how glorious, how endless! Behold, amid that limitless ocean, every speck, however remote or dim, a noble galaxy. Lustrous they are, too; in manifold instances beyond all neighboring reality—beyond the loftiest dream which ever exercised the imagination. The great cluster in Hercules has long dazzled the heart with its splendors, but we have learned now that among circular and compact galaxies, a class to which the nebulous stars belong, there are multitudes which infinitely surpass it—nay, that schemes of being rise above it, sun becoming nearer to sun, until their skies must be one blaze of light—a throng of burning activities! But, far aloft stands Orion, the pre-eminent glory and wonder of the starry universe! Judged by the only criticism yet applicable, it is perhaps so remote that its light does not reach us in less than fifty or sixty thousand years; and as at the same time it occupies so large an apparent portion of the heavens, how stupendous must be the extent of the nebula. It would seem almost as if all the other clusters hitherto gauged were collected and compressed into one, they would not surpass this mighty group, in which every wisp—every wrinkle—is a sand-heap of stars. There are cases in which, though imagination has quailed, reason may still adventure inquiry, and prolong its speculations; but at times we are brought to a limit across which no human faculty has the strength to penetrate, and where, as now, at the very footstool of the secret THRONE, we can only bend our heads, and silently adore. And from the inner Adyta—the invisible shrine of what alone is and endures—a voice is heard:

"Hast thou an arm like God? Canst thou thunder with a voice like Him? Canst thou bind the sweet influences of the Pleiades, Or loosen the bands of Orion? Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his seasons? Canst thou guide Arcturus and his sons?[316] He telleth the number of the stars: He calleth them all by their names. Great is our Lord, and of great power; His understanding is infinite."[317]

Thus, nobly does science vindicate Scripture, and display the wisdom and power of the Lord of Hosts, whose kingdom extends through all space, and endures through all duration. He who called these countless hosts of glorious orbs into being is abundantly able to multiply, to an equally incalculable number, the humble sands which line the oceans of terrestrial grace, the brilliant stars which shall yet adorn the heavens of celestial glory. All, of every nation, who shall partake of Abraham's faith, are Abraham's children. They are Christ's, and so Abraham's seed, and heirs, according to this promise.[318] When the great multitude, which no man can number, out of every nation, and tongue, and people, stand before the throne of God, and cause the many mansions of our Father's house to re-echo the shout, "Salvation to our God which sitteth on the throne, and to the Lamb," the answering hallelujahs of the most distant orbs shall expound the purport of that solemn oath to Abraham and Abraham's seed: "By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand which is upon the seashore."[319]

5. It is not probable that the mysteries of the distant heavens, or of those future glories of the redeemed which the Bible employs them to symbolize, will ever be fully explored by man, or adequately apprehended in the present state of being. But it is most certain that God would not have employed the mysteries of astronomy so frequently as the symbols of the mysteries of the glory to be revealed, had there not been some correspondence between the things which eye hath not seen, and these patterns shown in the mount. So habitual, indeed, is the Scripture use of these visible heavens as the types of all that is exalted, pure, cheering, and glorious, that, to most Christians, the word has lost its primary meaning, and the idea first suggested to their minds by the word heaven is that of future glory; yet their views of the locality and physical adornments of the many mansions of their Father's house are dim and shadowy, just because they do not acquaint themselves sufficiently with the divine descriptions in the Bible, and the divine illustrations in the sky. The Bible would be better understood were the heavens better explored. "I go," said Jesus, "to prepare a place for you." The bodies of the saints, raised on the resurrection morn, will need a place on which to stand. The body of the Lord, which his disciples handled, and "saw that a spirit had not flesh and bones, as they saw him have," is now resident in a place. Where He is, there shall his people be also. Why, then, when the Bible employs all that is beauteous in earth, and glorious in heaven, to describe the adornments of the palace of the King of kings, should we hesitate to believe that the power and wisdom of God are not exhausted in this little earth of ours, but that other worlds may as far transcend ours in glory, as many of them do in magnitude?—or, to allow that the glorious visions of Ezekiel and John were not views of nonentities, or mere visions of clouds, or of some incomprehensible symbols of more incomprehensible spiritualities, but actual views of the existing glories of some portion of the universe, presented to us as vividly as the dullness of our minds and the earthliness of our speech will permit? It is certain that the recent progress of astronomical discovery has revealed celestial scenery which illustrates some of the most mysterious of these visions.

It has long been known, that "one star differeth from another star in glory," and that the orbs of heaven shine with various colors. Sirius is white, Arcturus red, and Procyon yellow. The telescope shows all the smaller stars in various colors. Under the clear skies of Syria their brilliance is vastly greater than in our climate. "One star shines like a ruby, another as an emerald, and the whole heavens sparkle as with various gems."[320] But the discovery of the double and triple stars has added a new harmony of colors to these coronets of celestial jewels. These stars generally display the complementary colors. If the one star displays a color from the red end of the spectrum, the other is generally of the corresponding shade, from the violet end. For instance, in O2 Cygni, the large star is yellow, and the two smaller stars are blue; and so in others, through all the colors of the rainbow. "It may be easier suggested in words," says Sir John Herschel, "than conceived in imagination, what a variety of illumination two stars—a red and a green, or a yellow and a blue one—must afford a planet circulating around either, and what cheering contrasts and grateful vicissitudes a red and a green day, for instance, alternating with a white one, and with darkness, must arise from the presence or absence of one, or other, or both, from the horizon."[321] But suppose one of the globular clusters—for instance, that in the constellation Hercules—thus constituted; its unnumbered thousands of suns, wheeling round central worlds, and exhibiting their glories to their inhabitants; "skies blazing, with grand orbs scattered regularly around, and with a profusion to which our darker heavens are strangers;" the overhead sky, seen from the interior regions of the cluster, must appear gorgeous beyond description. In the strictest literality it might be said to the dwellers in such a cluster, "Thy sun shall no more go down, neither shall thy moon withdraw herself." The surrounding walls of such a celestial palace must seem indeed "garnished with all manner of precious stones." Sapphire, emerald, sardius, chrysolite, and pearl, must seem but dim mirrors of its glorious refulgence. Under its ever rising suns the gates need not be shut at all by day, "for there shall be no night there." That glorious place now exists, though far away.

But the Lord of these hosts has said, "Behold, I come quickly." He will not tarry. A thousand times faster than the swiftest chariot, our solar system and the surrounding firmament wing their flight toward that same glorious cluster in Hercules. As our firmament approaches, under the guidance of Omnipotent wisdom, it too must fly to meet our sun, with a velocity increasing with an incalculable ratio. The celestial city will then be seen to descend from heaven. Once within the sphere of its attractions, our sun and surrounding planets will feel their power. Their ancient orbits and accustomed revolutions must give way to the higher power. Old things must pass away, and all things become new. A new heaven, no less than a new earth, will form the dwelling of righteousness.

These are no longer the visions of prophecy merely, but the sober calculations of mathematical science, based upon a foundation as solid as the attraction of gravitation, and as wide as the existence of that ether whose undulations convey the light of the most distant stars; for, so surely as that attraction is efficient, must all the firmaments of the heavens be drawn more closely together; and as certainly as they revolve not in empty space, but in a medium capable of retarding Encke's comet three days in every revolution, must that retarding medium bring their revolutions to a close. "And so," said Herschel, casting his eye fearlessly toward future infinities, "we may be certain that the stars in the Milky Way will be gradually compressed, through successive stages of accumulation, until they come up to what may be called the ripening period of the globular cluster." Unnumbered ages may be occupied with such a grand evolution of celestial progress, beyond our power of calculation; but will the changes of created things, even then, have come to an end? Hear again the voice, not of the prophet, but of the astronomer: "Around us lie stabilities of every order; but it is stability only that we see, not permanence." As the course of our inquiry has already amply illustrated, even majestic systems, that at first appear final and complete, are found to resolve themselves into mere steps or phases of still loftier progress. Verily, it is an astonishing world! Change rising above change—cycle growing out of cycle, in majestic progression—each new one ever widening, like the circles that wreathe from a spark of flame, enlarging as they ascend, finally to become lost in the empyrean! And if all that we see, from earth to sun, and from sun to universal star-work—that wherein we best behold images of eternity, immortality and God—if that is only a state or space of a course of being rolling onward evermore, what must be the Creator, the Preserver, the Guide of all!—He at whose bidding these phantasms came from nothingness, and shall again disappear;—whose name, amid all things, alone is Existence—I AM THAT I AM?

"Of old hast thou laid the foundations of the earth, And the heavens are the works of thy hands; They shall perish, But thou shalt endure; Yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment: As a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed; But thou art the same, And thy years shall have no end. The children of thy servants shall continue, And their seed shall be established before thee."

Psalm cii. 25

"And I saw a new heaven, and a new earth; For the first heaven and the first earth were passed away, And there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, Coming down from God out of heaven, Prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven, saying, Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, And he will dwell with them, And they shall be his people, And God himself shall be with them, and be their God."

Revelation xxi.

* * * * *

Reader, is this glorious heaven your inheritance? Is this unchangeable Jehovah your God? Are you looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God? Is it your daily prayer, Even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly?

FOOTNOTES:

[283] Kendall's Uranography, 268.

[284] Annual of Scientific Discovery, 1856, p. 380.

[285] Ibid. 1852, p. 376.

[286] Ibid. 1856, p. 377.

[287] Cosmos, Vol. I. pp. 198-215.

[288] Judges, chap. v.

[289] Jeremiah, chap. x.

[290] Some of my readers may deem any notice of such a subject, in the nineteenth century, entirely unnecessary; but having lived for some years within sight of the dwelling of a woman who publicly advertised herself in the newspapers as a professor of astrology, and seen the continual flow of troubled minds to the promised light—the humble serving-girl stealing up the side entrance, and the princely chariot discharging its willing dupes at the door, and rolling hastily away, to await them at the corner—I know of a certainty that folly is not yet dead. There are women, aye, and men too, who are above the folly of reading the Bible, but just wise enough to pay five dollars for, and spend hours in the study of an uncouth astrological picture, representing a collocation of the stars, which was never witnessed by any astronomer. There are men who would not give way to the superstition of supposing that their destiny was regulated by the will of Almighty God, yet who believe that every living creature's fate is regulated by the aspect of the stars at the hour of his nativity; the same stars always causing the same period of life and mode of death; though every day's experience testifies the contrary. The same stars presided over the birth of the poor soldier, who perished in an instant at Austerlitz; of his imperial master, who pined for years in St. Helena; of the old gentleman who died in his own bed, of gout; and of the batch of puppies, whereof old Towser was the only surviving representative, the other nine having found their fate in the horse-pond, in defiance of the controlling stars. They were all born at the same hour, and under the same auspices, and destined to the same fate, by the laws of astrology. Yet half a dozen professors of astrology find patrons enough in each of our great cities to enable them to live and to pay for advertising in the daily papers.

[291] Judges, chap. v.

[292] Dick's Celestial Scenery, p. 57, Applegate's edition, where many such instances are related.

[293] Vaughn's Report to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, in Annual of Scientific Discovery for 1855, p. 364.

[294] Somerville's Connection of the Physical Sciences, 382.

[295] Cosmos, Vol. I. p. 122; Vol. IV. p. 569.

[296] Somerville's Connection of the Physical Sciences, 383.

[297] Annual of Scientific Discovery, 1854, p. 361.

[298] Letter to Herschel, from Oroomiah, in Persia—Annual of Scientific Discovery, 1854, p. 367.

[299] Life and Work in the Great Pyramid, by Piazzi Smyth, F. R. S., LL. D.

[300] "These tablets (of unbaked clay, with inscriptions, found in the tombs of Erech, the city of Nimrod—Genesis, chap. x. 10—and deciphered by Rawlinson) were, in point of fact, the equivalent of our bank notes, and prove that a system of artificial currency prevailed in Babylon and Persia at an unprecedentedly early age; centuries before the introduction of paper and writing."

Rawlinson, in News of the Churches, February, 1858, p. 50.

[301] Wilkinson's Manners and Customs of the Egyptians, Vol. III. p. 106; Cosmos, Vol. I. pp. 173, 182; Chinese Repository, Vol. IX. p. 573; Williams' Middle Kingdom, Vol. II. p. 147.

[302] Somerville's Connection of Physical Sciences, 82.

[303] Daniel, chap. xii. 8. 1 Peter, chap. i. 10. Ephesians, chap. i. 3.

[304] Psalm xl. 1, and xxxvii. 23, margin.

[305] M. Voltaire; M. Cheneviere; Theol. Essays, Vol. I. p. 456.

[306] Humboldt's Cosmos, Vol. I. p. 139; Herschel's Outlines, 380; Kendall's Uranography, 205.

[307] Somerville's Connection of the Physical Sciences, 171, 337, 315; Architecture of the Heavens, 286.

[308] Genesis, chap. xv. 5.

[309] Cosmos I. 140.

[310] Ehrenberg computes that there are forty-one millions of the shells of animalculae in a cubic inch of Bilier Slate.

[311] Annual of Scientific Discovery, 1860, p. 341.

[312] Psalm cxlvii. 4.

[313] Dick's Sidereal Heavens, 59; Herschel's Outlines.

[314] Architecture of the Heavens, 62.

[315] Architecture of the Heavens, 64. These unresolved milky streaks and patches have since been discovered to be true nebulae, or phosphoric clouds, in some way connected with their adjacent stars.

[316] Architecture of the Heavens, 144.

[317] Job, chap. xxxviii. 31. Psalm cxlvii. 4.

[318] Genesis, chap. xxii. 16.

[319] Galatians, chap. iii. 14, 29. Gen. xxii. 16, 17.

[320] Architecture of the Heavens, 217.

[321] Architecture of the Heavens, 77, 130.



CHAPTER XIII.

SCIENCE, OR FAITH?

"Faith is destined to be left behind in the onward march of the human intellect. It belongs to an infantile stage of intellectual development, when experience, dependent on testimony, becomes the slave of credulity. Children and childish nations are prone to superstition. Religion belongs properly to such. Hence the endless controversies of religious sects. But as man advances into the knowledge of the physical sciences, and becomes familiarized with mathematical demonstration and scientific experiment, he demands substantial proofs for all kinds of knowledge, and rejects that which is merely matter of faith. The certainties of science succeed the controversies of creeds. Science thus becomes the grave of religion, as religion is vulgarly understood. But science gives a new and better religion to the world. Instead of filling men's minds with the vague terrors of an unknown futurity, it directs us to the best modes of improving this life."—"This life being the first in certainty, give it the first place in importance; and by giving human duties in reference to men the precedence, secure that all interpretations of spiritual duty shall be in harmony with human progress."—"Nature refers us to science for help, and to humanity for sympathy; love to the lovely is our only homage, study our only praise, quiet submission to the inevitable our duty; and truth is our only worship."—"Our knowledge is confined to this life; and testimony, and conjecture, and probability, are all that can be set forth in regard to another."—"Preach nature and science, morality and art; nature, the only subject of knowledge; morality, the harmony of action; art, the culture of the individual and society."[322]

Or, if you will insist upon preaching religion, support it "with such proofs as accompany physical science. This I have always loved; for I never find it deceives me. I rest upon it with entire conviction. There is no mistake, and can be no dispute in mathematics. And if a revelation comes from God, why have we not such evidence for it as mathematical demonstration?"

Such is the language now used by a large class of half-educated people, who, deriving their philosophy from Comte, and their religion from the Westminster Review, invite us to spend our Sabbaths in the study of nature in the fields and museums, turn our churches into laboratories, exchange our Bibles for encyclopedias, give ourselves no more trouble about religion, but try hard to learn as much science, make as much money, and enjoy as much pleasure in this life as we can; because we know that we live now, and can only believe that we shall live hereafter. I do not propose to take any notice here of the proposal of Secularism—for that is the new name of this ungodliness—to deliver men from their lusts by scientific lectures, and keep them moral by overturning religion. That experiment has been tried already. But it is worth while to inquire, Is science really so positive, and religion so uncertain, as these persons allege? Is a knowledge of the physical sciences so all-sufficient for our present happiness, so attainable by all mankind, and so certain and infallible, that we should barter our immortality for it? And, on the other hand, are the great facts of religious experience, and the foundations of our religious faith, so dim, and vague, and utterly uncertain, that we may safely consign them to oblivion, or that we can so get rid of them if we would?

The object of this chapter is to refute both parts of the Secularist's statement; to show some of the uncertainties, errors, contradictions, and blunders of the scientific men on whose testimony they receive their science; and to exhibit a few of the facts of religious experience which give a sufficient warrant for the Christian's faith.

Scientific observations are made by fallible men exposed to every description of error, prejudice and mistake; men who can not possibly divest themselves of their preconceived opinions in observing facts, and framing theories.

Lord Bacon long ago observed that "the eye of the human intellect is not dry, but receives a suffusion from the will and the affections, so that it may be almost said to engender any science it pleases. For what a man wishes to be true, that he prefers believing." "If the human intellect hath once taken a liking to any doctrine, either because received and credited, or because otherwise pleasing, it draws everything else into harmony with that doctrine, and to its support; and albeit there may be found a more powerful array of contradictory instances, these, however, it does not observe, or it contemns, or by distinction extenuates, and rejects."[323]

A prejudiced observer sees the facts distorted and exaggerated. "Thus it is that men will not see in the phenomena what alone is to be seen; in their observations they interpolate and expunge; and this mutilated and adulterated product they call a fact. And why? Because the real phenomena, if admitted, would spoil the pleasant music of their thoughts, and convert its factitious harmony into a discord. In consequence of this many a system professing to be reared exclusively on observation and fact, rests, in reality, mainly upon hypothesis and fiction. A pretended experience is indeed the screen behind which every illusive doctrine regularly retires. 'There are more false facts,' says Cullen, 'current in the world than false theories.' Fact, observation, induction, have always been the watchwords of those who have dealt most extensively in fancy."[324] We propose, therefore, to show that, I. The students of the physical sciences have no such certain knowledge of their facts and theories as Secularists pretend.

1. Mathematical science relating merely to abstract truth is supposed to possess powers of demonstration, and capability of scientific certainty superior to all other kinds of knowledge, but the moment we begin to apply it to any existing facts we enter the domain of liability to errors as numerous as our fallible observations of these facts; and when we attempt to apply mathematical demonstration to the infinite, and to enter the domain of faith, in which as immortals we are chiefly concerned, it baffles, deceives, and insults our reason. Take the following illustrations:

Let an infinite whole be divided into halves; the parts must be either finite or infinite. But they can not be finite, else an infinite whole would consist of a finite number of parts; neither can they be infinite, being each less than the infinite whole.

Again: it is mathematically demonstrable, that any piece of matter is infinitely divisible. A line therefore of half an inch long is infinitely divisible, or divisible into an infinite number of parts. Thus we have an infinite half inch. Further, for a moving body to pass a given point requires some time; and to pass an infinite number of points must require an infinite number of portions of time, or an eternity; therefore, as half an inch contains an infinite number of points, it will require eternity to pass half an inch.

Again: it is mathematically demonstrable, that a straight line, the asymptote of a hyperbola, may eternally approach the curve of the hyperbola and never meet it. But no axiom can be plainer than that if two lines continually approach each other they must at length meet. Here is a demonstration contradicting an axiom; and no man has ever yet shown the possibilities of reconciling them, nor yet of denying either side of the contradiction.

Again: it is a fundamental axiom, contained in the definition of a circle, that it must have a center; but the non-existence of this center is mathematically demonstrable, as follows: Let the diameter of the circle be bisected into two equal parts; the center must be in one, or the other, of these parts, or between them. It can not be in one of these parts, for they are equal; and, therefore, if it is in the one, it must also be in the other, and thus the circle would have two centers, which is absurd. Neither can it be between them, for they are in contact. Therefore the center must be a point, destitute of extension, something which does not occupy or exist in space. But as all existences exist in space, and this supposed center does not, it can not be an existence; therefore it is a non-existence.

In like manner it has been mathematically demonstrated,[325] that motion, or any change in the rate of progress in a moving body, is impossible; because in passing from any one degree of rapidity to another, all the intermediate degrees must be passed through. As when a train of cars moving four miles an hour strikes a train at rest, the resulting instantaneous motion is two miles an hour; and the first train must therefore be moving at the rate of four, and at the rate of two miles an hour at the same time, which is impossible. And so the ancients demonstrated the impossibility of motion.

Thus the non-existence of the most undeniable truths, and the impossibilities of the most common facts are mathematically demonstrable; and the proper refutation of such reasoning is, not the scientific, but the common sensible; as when Plato refuted the demonstration of the impossibility of motion, by getting up and walking across the floor. In the hyperbola we have the mathematical demonstration of the error of an axiom. In the infinite inch we behold an absurdity mathematically demonstrated. So that it appears we can give mathematical demonstration in support of untruth, impossibilities and absurdities; and our reason can not discover the error of the reasoning! Alas, for poor humanity, if an endless destiny depended upon such scientific certainty! Yet mathematical reasoning about abstract truth is universally conceded to be less liable to error than any other form of scientific analysis. This line, then, is too short to fathom the ocean of destiny; too weak to bear inferences from even the facts of common life.

Attempts have indeed been made to apply mathematics to the facts of life in what is called the doctrine of chances. By this kind of calculation it can be shown, that the chances were a thousand millions to one that you and I should never have been born. Yet here we are.

But when we begin to apply mathematics to the affairs of every-day life, we immediately multiply our chances of error by the number and complexity of these facts. The proper field of mathematics is that of magnitude and numbers. But very few subjects are capable of a mathematical demonstration. No fact whatever which depends on the will of God or man can be so proved. For mathematical demonstration is founded on necessary and eternal relations, and admits of no contingencies in its premises. The mathematician may demonstrate the size and properties of a triangle, but he can not demonstrate the continuance of any actual triangle for one hour, or one minute, after his demonstration. And if he could, how many of my most important affairs can I submit to the multiplication table, or lay off in squares and triangles? It deals with purely ideal figures, which never did or could exist. There is not a mathematical line—length without breadth—in the universe. When we come to the application of mathematics, we are met at once by the fact that there are no mathematical figures in nature. It is true we speak of the orbits of the planets as elliptical or circular, but it is only in a general way, as we speak of a circular saw, the outline of its teeth being regularity itself compared with the perturbations of the planets. We speak of the earth as a spheroid, but it is a spheroid pitted with hollows as deep as the ocean, and crusted with irregular protuberances as vast as the Himalaya and the Andes, in every conceivable irregularity of form. Its seas, coasts, and rivers follow no straight lines nor geometrical curves. There is not an acre of absolutely level ground on the face of the earth; and even its waters will pile themselves up in waves, or dash into breakers, rather than remain perfectly level for a single hour. Its minuter formations present the same regular irregularity of form. Even the crystals, which approach the nearest of any natural productions to mathematical figures, break with compound irregular fractures at their bases of attachment. The surface of the pearl is proportionally rougher than the surface of the earth, and the dew-drop is not more spherical than a pear. As nature then gives no mathematical figures, mathematical measurements of such figures can be only approximately applied to natural objects.

The utter absence of any regularity, or assimilation to the spheroidal figure, either in meridianal, equatorial, or parallel lines, mountain ranges, sea beaches, or courses of rivers, is fatal to mathematical accuracy in the more extended geographical measurements. It is only by taking the mean of a great many measurements that an approximate accuracy can be obtained. Where this is not possible, as in the case of the measurements of high mountains, the truth remains undetermined by hundreds of feet; or, as in the case of the earth's spheroidal axis, Bessel's measurement differs from Newton's, by fully eleven miles.[326] The smaller measures are proportionately as inaccurate. No field, hill, or lake, has an absolute mathematical figure; but its outline is composed of an infinite multitude of irregular curves too minute for man's vision to discover, and too numerous for his intellect to estimate. No natural figure was ever measured with absolute accuracy.

All the resources of mathematical science were employed by the constructors of the French Metric System; but the progress of science in seventy years has shown that every element of their calculations was erroneous. They tried to measure a quadrant of the earth's circumference, supposing the meridian to be circular; but Schubert has shown that that is far from being the case; and that no two meridians are alike; and Sir John Herschel, and the best geologists, show cause to believe that the form of the globe is constantly changing; so that the ancient Egyptians acted wisely in selecting the axis of the earth's rotation, which is invariable, and not the changing surface of the earth, as their standard of measure.

The Astronomer Royal, Piazzi Smyth, thus enumerates the errors of practice, which they added to those of their erroneous theory: "Their trigonometrical survey for their meter length has been found erroneous, so that their meter is no longer sensibly a meter; and their standard temperature of 0 deg. centigrade is upset one way for the length of their scale, and another way for the density of the water employed; and their mode of computing the temperature correction is proved erroneous; and their favorite natural reference of a quadrant of the earth is not found a scientific feature capable of serving the purpose they have been employing it for; and even their own sons show some dislike to adopt it fully, and adhere to as much of the ancient system as they can."[327]

But coming down to more practical and every-day calculations, in which money is invested, how very erroneous are the calculations of our best engineers, and how fatal their results. Nineteen serious errors were discovered in an edition of Taylor's Logarithms, printed in 1796; some of which might have led to the most dangerous results in calculating a ship's place, and were current for thirty-six years. In 1832 the Nautical Almanac published a correction which was itself erroneous by one second, and a new correction was necessary the next year. But in making this correction a new error was committed of ten degrees.[328] Who knows how many ships were run ashore by that error?

Nor can our American mathematicians boast of superior infallibility to the French or British. In computing the experiments which were made at Lowell (for a new turbine wheel), it was found that when the gate was fully open, the quantity of water discharged through the guides was seventy per cent. of the theoretical discharge. (An error of thirty per cent.) The effect of the wheel during these experiments was eighty-one and a half per cent. of the power expended; but when the gate was half open the effect was sixty-seven per cent. of the power, while the discharge through the guides eleven per cent. more than the theoretical discharge. But when the opening of the gate was still further reduced to one-fourth of the full opening, the effect was also reduced to forty-five per cent. of the power, while the discharging velocity was raised to forty-nine per cent. more than that given by the theory.[329] An unscientific man would hardly call that good guessing; but it was the best result of labored and expensive scientific calculation. No wonder the London Mechanics' Magazine says: "More can be learned in this way (testing engines in the workshop) in half an hour, than can be derived from the theoretical instructions, however good, in a year." So much for the infallibility of a mathematical demonstration. In regard even to the very limited circle of our relations which can be measured by the foot rule, and the small number of our anxieties which may be resolved by an equation, if by mathematical accuracy be meant anything more than tolerable correctness, or by mathematical demonstration a very high degree of probability, mathematical certainty is all a fable.

2. Astronomy.

The omniscience and prescience of the human intellect have been largely glorified by some Infidel lecturers, upon the strength of the accuracy with which it is possible to calculate and predict eclipses, and to the disparagement of Bible predictions. And this glorification has been amazingly swollen by Le Verrier's prediction in 1846 of the discovery of the planet Neptune. But the prediction of some unknown motion would form a more correct basis for a comparison of the prophecies of science with those of Scripture; such, for instance, as Immanuel Kant's prediction of the period of Saturn's rotation at six hours twenty-three minutes fifty-three seconds; "which mathematical calculation of an unknown motion of a heavenly body," he says, "is the only prediction of that kind in pure Natural Philosophy, and awaits confirmation at a future period." It is a pity that this unique scientific prediction should not have had better luck, for the encouragement of other guessers; but after waiting long and vainly, for the expected confirmation, it was finally falsified by Herschel's discovery of spots on the surface of the planet, and observation of the true time, ten hours sixteen minutes forty-four seconds.[330] This, however, was not his only astronomical prediction. He predicted that immense bodies in a transition state between planets and comets, and of very eccentric orbits, would be found beyond the orbit of Saturn, and intersecting it, but no such bodies have been discovered. Uranus and Neptune have no cometary character whatever, their orbits are less eccentric than others and do not intersect, nor approach within millions of miles of Saturn's orbit. The verification of Le Verrier's prediction affords even a more satisfactory proof of the necessarily conjectural character of astronomical computations of unknown quantities and distances. The planet Neptune has not one-half the mass which he had calculated; his orbit, which was calculated as very elliptical, is nearly circular; and the error of the calculation of his distance is three hundred millions of miles![331]

"Let us then be candid," says Loomis, "and claim no more for astronomy than is reasonably due. When in 1846 Le Verrier announced the existence of a planet hitherto unseen, and when he assigned it its exact position in the heavens, and declared that it shone like a star of the eighth magnitude, and with a perceptible disc, not an astronomer of France, and scarce an astronomer in Europe, had sufficient faith in the prediction to prompt him to point his telescope to the heavens. But when it was announced that the planet had been seen at Berlin, that it was found within one degree of the computed place, that it was indeed a star of the eighth magnitude, and had a sensible disc—then the enthusiasm not only of the public generally, but of astronomers also, was even more wonderful than their former apathy. The sagacity of Le Verrier was felt to be almost superhuman. Language could scarce be found strong enough to express the general admiration. The praise then lavished upon Le Verrier was somewhat extravagant. The singularly close agreement between the observed and computed places of the planet was accidental. So exact a coincidence could not reasonably have been anticipated. If the planet had been found even ten degrees from what Le Verrier assigned as its probable place, this discrepancy would have surprised no astronomer. The discovery would still have been one of the most remarkable events in the history of astronomy, and Le Verrier would have merited the title of First Astronomer of the age."[332]

Nevertheless, astronomy from the comparative simplicity of the bodies and forces with which it has to deal, and the approximate regularity of the paths of the heavenly bodies, may be regarded as the science in which the greatest possible certainty is attainable. It opens at once the widest field to the imagination, and the noblest range to the reason; it has attracted the most exalted intellects to its pursuit, and has rewarded their toils with the grandest discoveries. These discoveries have been grossly abused by inferior minds, ascribing to the discoverers of the laws of the universe the glory due to their Creator; and boasting of the power of the human mind, as if it were capable of exploring the infinite in space, and of calculating the movements of the stars through eternity. Persons who could not calculate an eclipse to save their souls, have risked them upon the notion that, because astronomers can do so with considerable accuracy, farmers ought to reject the Bible, unless its predictions can be calculated by algebra. It may do such persons good, or at least prevent them from doing others harm, to take a cursory view of the errors of astronomers; errors necessary as well as accidental.

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