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CHAPTER XXII.

ASTRONOMY*.

M Y opinion, of Astronomy has always been, that it is not the befV'medium through which to prove the agency of an intelligent Creator; but that, this being proveu, it shews, beyond all other sciences, the magnificence of his operations. The mind which is once convinced, it raises to sublimer views of the Deity, than any other subject affords; but is not so well adapted, as some other subjects are, to the purpose of argu nent. We are destitute of the means of examining the constitution of the heavenly bodies. The very simplicity of their appearance is against them. We see nothing, but bright points, luminous circles, or the

phases of ipheres reflecting the light which

i

* For the articles in this chapter marked with ati asterisk, *I am indebted to some obliging communications, received (through the hands of the Lord Bishop of Elphin) from the Rev. J. Brinkley, M. A. Andrew's Professor of Astronomy in the University of Dublin.

falls falls upon them. Now we deduce design from relation, aptitude, and correspondence of parts. Some degree therefore of complexity is necessary to render a subject fit for this species of argument. But the heavenly bodies do not, except perhaps in the instance of Saturn's ring, present themselves to our observation as compounded of parts at all. This, which may be a persection in them, is a difadvantage to us, as enquirers after their nature. They do not come within our mechanics.

And what we fay of theirforms,istrueof their motions. Their motions are carried on without * any sensible intermediate apparatus: whereby we are cut off from one principal ground of argumentation and analogy. We have nothing wherewith to compare them; no invention, no discovery, no operation or resource of art, which, in this respect, resembles them. Even those things which are made to imitate and represent them, such as orreries, planetaria, cœlestial globes, &c. bear no affinity to them, in the cause and principle by which their motions are actuated. I can assign for this difference a reason of utility, viz. a reason why, though the action of terrestrial bodies upon each other be, in almost all cafes, through

t. the the intervention of solid or fluid substances, yet central attraction does not operate in this manner. It was necessary that the intervals between the planetary orbs should he devoid of any inert matter either fluid or solid, because such an intervening substance would, by its resistance, destroy those very motions, which attraction is employed to preserve. This may be a final cause of the difference; but still the difference destroys the analogy.

Our ignorance, moreover, of the sensitive natures, by which other planets are inhabited, neceifarily keeps from us the knowledge of numberless utilities, relations, and subserviencies, which we perceive upon our own globe.

After all: the real subject of admiration is, that we understand so much of astronomy as we do. That an animal confined to the surface of one of the planets; bearing a less proportion to it, than the smallest microscopic inst ct does to the plant it lives upon; that this little, busy, inquisitive creature, by the use of senses which were given to it for its domestic necessities, and by means of the assistance of those offenses which it has had the art to pro-* cure, should have been enab ed to observe the whole system of worlds to which itown be4 long*;

longs; the changes of place of the immense globes A\ hich compose it; and with such accuracy, as to mark out, beforehand, the situation in the heavens in which they will be found at any future point of time; and that these bodies, after failing through regions of void and trackless space, should arrive at the place where they were expected, not within a minute, but within a few seconds of a minute, of the time prefixed and predicted: all this is wonderful, whether we refer our admiration to the constancy of the heavenly motions themselves, or to the perspicacity and precision with which they have been noticed by mankind. Nor is this the whole, nor indeed the chief part, of what astronomy teaches. By bringing reason to bear upon observation, (the acutest reasoning upon the exactest observation,) the astronomer has been able, out of the confusion (for such it is) under which the motions of the heavenly bodies present themselves to the eye of a mere gazer upon the skies, to elicit their order and their real paths.

Our knowledge therefore of astronomy is admirable though imperfect : and, amidst the confessed desiderata and desideramda, which impede our investigation of the wisdom of the

. ;: . t- Deity, Deity, in these the grandest of his works, there are to be found, in the phænome; a, ascer-: tained circumstances and laws, sufficient to indicate an intellectual agency in three of its principal operations, viz. in chusing, in determining, in regulating; in chusing, out of a boundless variety of suppositions which were equally possible, that which is beneficial; in determining, what, left to itself, had a thousand chances against conveniency, for one in its favour; in regulating subjects, as to quantity and degree, which, by their nature, were unlimited with respect to either. I; will be our business to offer, under each of these heads, a few instances, such as best admit of a popular explication.

J. Amongst proofs of choice, one is, fixing the source of light and heat in the centre of the system. The sun is ignited and luminous; the planets, which move round him, cold and, dark. There seems to be no antecedent necessity for this order. The fun might have been an opaque mass: some one, or two, or more, or any, or all, of the planets, globes of fire. There is nothing in the nature of the heavenly bodies, which requires that those which are stationary should be on fire, that

those

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