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heaven and the sea, are doing the very thing which was done in the bottle. Nothing can be of greater importance to the living creation, than the salubrity of their atmosphere. It ought to reconcile us therefore to these agitations of the elements, of which we sometimes deplore the consequences, to know, that they tend powerfully to restore to the air that purity, which so many causes are constantly impairing.
II. In Water, what ought not a little to be admired, are those negative qualities which constitute its purity. Had it been vinous, or oleaginous, or acid; had the sea been filled, or the rivers flowed, with wine or milk ; fish, constituted as they are, must have died; plants, constituted as they are, would have withered; the lives. of animals which feed upon plants, must have perished. Its very insipidity, which is one of those negative qualities, renders it the best of all menstrua. Having no taste of its own, it becomes the sincere vehicle of
every other. Had there been a taste in water, be it what it might, it would have infected every thing we ate or drank, with an importunate repetition of the same favour.
Another thing in this element, not less to be admired, is the constant round which it travels; and by which, without suffering either adulteration or waste, it is con. tinually offering itself to the wants of the habitable globe. From the sea are exhaled those vapours which form the clouds: these clouds descend in showers, which, penetrating into the crevices of the hills, supply springs; which springs flow in little streams into the valleys; and there uniting, become rivers ; which rivers, in return, feed the ocean. So there is an incessant circulation of the same fluid ; and not one drop probably more or less now than there was at the creation. A particle of water takes its departure from the
surface of the sea, in order to fulfil certain important offices to the earth ; and, having executed the service which was assigned to it, returns to the bosom which it left.
Some have thought, that we have too much water upon the globe, the sea occupying above three-quarters of its whole surface. But the expanse of ocean, immense as it is, may be no more than sufficient to ferti. lize the earth. Or, independently of this reason, I know not why the sea may not have as good a right to its place as the land. It may proportionably support as many inhabitants; minister to as large an aggregate of enjoyment. The land only affords a habitable surface; the sea is habitable to a great depth.
III. Of Fire, we have said that it dissolves. The only idea probably which this term raised in the reader's mind, was that of fire melting metals, resins, and some other substances, fluxing ores, running glass, and assisting us in many of our operations, chymical or culinary. Now these are only uses of an occasional kind, and give us a very imperfect notion of what fire does for us. The grand importance of this dissolving power,
the great office indeed of fire in the æconomy of nature, is keeping things in a state of solution, that is to say, in a state of fluidity. Were it not for the presence of heat, or of a certain degree of it, all fluids would be frozen. The ocean itself would be a quarry of ice; universal nature stiff and dead.
We see, therefore, that the elements bear not only a strict relation to the constitution of organised bodies, but a relation to each other. Water could not perform its office to the earth without air ; nor exist, as water, without fire.
IV. Of Light (whether we regard it as of the same substance with fire, or as a different substance), it is
altogether superfluous to expatiate upon the use. No man disputes it. The observations, therefore, which I shall offer, respect that little which we seem to know of its constitution.
Light travels from the sun at the rate of twelve millions of miles in a minute. Urged by such a velocity, with what force must its particles drive against (I will not say the eye, the tenderest of animal substances, but) every substance, animate or inanimate, which stands in its way! It might seem to be a force sufficient to shatter to atoms the hardest bodies.
How then is this effect, the consequence of such prodigious velocity, guarded against ? By a proportionable minuteness of the particles of which light is composed. It is impossible for the human mind to imagine to itself any thing so small as a particle of light. But this extreme exility, though difficult to conceive, it is easy to prove. A drop of tallow, expend. ed in the wick of a farthing candle, shall send forth rays sufficient to fill a hemisphere of a mile diameter; and to fill it so full of these rays, that an aperture not larger than the pupil of an eye, wherever it be placed within the hemisphere, shall be sure to receive some of them. What floods of light are continually poured from the sun, we cannot estimate; but the immensity of the sphere which is filled with particles, even if it reached no farther than the orbit of the earth, we can in some sort compute: and we have reason to believe, that, throughout this whole region, the particles of light lie, in latitude at least, near to one another. The spise situde of the sun's rays at the earth is such, that the number which falls upon a burning-glass of an inch diameter, is sufficient, when concentrated, to set wood
The tenuity and the velocity of particles of light, as
ascertained by separate observations, may be said to be proportioned to each other ; both surpassing our utmost stretch of comprehension ; but proportioned. And it is this proportion alone, which converts a tremendous element into a welcome visitor.
It has been observed to me by a leatned friend, as having often struck his mind, that, if light had been made by a common artist, it would have been of one uniform colour: whereas, by its present composition, we have that variety of colours, which is of such infinite use to us for the distinguishing of objects; which adds so much to the beauty of the earth, and augments the stock of our innocent pleasures.
With which may be joined another reflection, viz. that, considering light as compounded of rays of seven different colours (of which there can be no doubt, because it can be resolved into these rays by simply passing it through a prism), the constituent parts must be well mixed and blended together, to produce a fluid so clear and colourless, as a beam of light is, when received from the sun.
My opinion of Astronomy has always been that it is not the best medium through which to prove the agency of an intelligent Creator ; but that, this being proved, it shows, beyond all other sciences, the mag
* For the articles of this chapter marked with an 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.
nificence of his operations. The mind which is onc. -convinced, it raises to sublimer views of the Deity than any other subject affords ; but it is not so well adapted, as some other subjects are, to the purpose
of argument. 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 spheres reflecting the light which 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 perfection in them, is a disadvantage to us, as inquirers after their nature. They do not come within our mechanics.
And what we say of their forms, is true of their motions. Their motions are carried on without any sensible intermediate apparatus; whereby we are cut off from one principal ground of argumentation, 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, celestial 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 cases, through the intervention of solid or fluid substances, yet central attraction does not operate in this
It was necessary that the intervals between the planetary orbs should be devoid of any inert matter