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To a supposition so unphilosophical and absurd, some of our poets very happily allude:
When I behold this goodly frame, this world
merely to officiate light
Ask for what end the heav'nly bodies shine?
And the whole ocean's confluent waters swell,
Every star, then, is the centre cf a magnificent system, attended by a retinue of worlds, irradiated by its beams, and revolving round it by its active influence. Thus the greatness of God is magnified, and the grandeur of his empire made manifest. He is not glorified on one earth, or in one world alone, but in ten thousand times ten thousand. If we could wing our way to the highest apparent star,
we should there see other skies expanded; other suns that distribute their inexhaustible beams of day; other stars that gild the alternate night; and other (perhaps nobler) systems established in unknown profusion through the boundless dimensions of space. Nor does the dominion of the universal Sovereign terminate there: even at the end of this vast tour we shall find ourselves advanced no farther than the suburbs of creation, the frontiers of the great Jehovah's kingdom.'
This mode of reasoning may be applied with greater force to the planets of our own system, and gains strength from other considerations. For who will presume to assert, that Infinite Love and Consummate Wisdom have formed such immense material masses (some of which greatly exceed our earth in size), convey them in revolutions round the sun, provide them with moons, and grant them the alternate change of day and night, and the vicissitudes of seasons, and all this only to emit their scanty light on our earth?
Who, that has seen any engine, a windmill for instance, and knows the use of it, if he travels into another country, and there sees an engine of the same sort, will not reasonably conclude that it is designed for the same purpose? When, therefore, we know, that the use of this planet, the earth, is for the habitation of various animals, and we see other planets at a distance from us, some larger and some smaller than our earth, moving round the sun, revolving on their axes, and attended by moons; is it not reasonable to conclude, that they are all designed for the same use as this earth is, and that they are habitable worlds, like the earth in which we reside?
Who can perceive them 'unpossessed
Only to shine yet scarce to contribute
Who can imagine that the omnipotent Creator, who has not left a single drop of water unpeopled, and has filled every part of creation with animated existence, should leave such immense bodies destitute of inhabitants? It is surely much more rational to suppose them the abodes of intelligent beings; of beings endowed with capacities of knowing, loving, and adoring their Creator; provided and blessed with every object conducive to their happiness; many of them, perhaps, in a far greater state of purity than the inhabitants of our earth; in possession of superior degrees of bliss; and placed in situations, which furnish them with scenes of joy, equal to whatever poetry can paint, or religion promise; and all under the direction, indulgence, and protection of infinite Wisdom and Goodness'.
In a word, it seems evidently to be the design of divine Providence, by this visible variety of worlds, to exalt our minds above this planetary globe, in search of that omnipotent Being upon whom all Nature is dependent; and the Creator, no doubt, in this immense display of his wisdom. and power, designed the amazing whole as the adequate object of each part, and, as such, equally open on all sides to the penetrating progress of human minds; and through the most extensive faculty of sense, the sight, to draw our reason and understanding, by degrees, from finite objects to infinite; from the contemplation of terrestrial objects to the ultimate enjoyment of Himself in scenes of everlasting bliss:
I See Young's Night Thoughts, vi. 174 to 190; ix. 1514 to 1532. Blackmore's Creation, ii. 526 to 542. Prier's Solomon, i. 502 to 535. Spectator, No. 420, 565.
For, from the birth
Of mortal man, the sov'reign Maker said,
Power's pú le robes, nor Pleasure's flow'ry lap,
ON THE FIGURE AND MOTION OF THE EARTH.
Qui tellurem medio libraverat axe.
The globe terrestrial, with its slanting poles,
My soul, unused to stretch her pow'rs In flight so daring, drops her weary wing,
FROM the contemplation of the starry firmament, the infinite assemblage of worlds beyond worlds, and systems beyond systems, I now descend to a more particular consideration of our terraqueous globe.
And seeks again the known accustomed spot,
Drest up with sun, and shade, and lawns, and streams,
This vast body was long considered as a circular plane, extending on all sides to an infinite distance. The firmament above, in which all the heavenly bodies seem to move daily from east to west, was supposed to be at no great distance
for its use and ornament. But this opinion, retained only by the vulgar and uninformed, I have sufficiently refuted in my preceding paper. It is now received as an incontestible truth, that the earth is nearly of a spherical figure, or resembling that of a globe.
It is not necessary to enter into any scientific researches, in order to demonstrate the truth of this doctrine. It is evident from its having been frequently sailed round. The first time was in the year 1519, when Ferdinand Magellan commenced a voyage round the whole globe, which he completed in 1124 days. In 1557, 8, and 9, Sir Francis Drake performed the same in 1056 days; in 1586 and 7, Sir Thomas Cavendish made the same voyage in 777 days; Simon Cordes, of Rotterdam, in the year 1590; and in 1598 to 1600, Oliver Noort, a Dutchman, in 1077 days; William Cornelius Van Schouten, in the year 1615, 16, in 749 days; James Heremites and John Huygens, in the year 1623, in 802 days; and many others have since performed the same circumnavigation. All these intrepid navigators, by sailing continually from east to west, at length arrived in Europe, whence they had set out; and, in the course of their voyage, they observed all the phenomena, both of the heavens and the earth, to correspond to this spherical figure.
Another evidence of this form is the circular appearance of the sea itself, and the circumstances which attend large objects, when seen at a distance on its surface: for when a ship is sailing from the shore, we first lose sight of the hull, afterward of the rigging, and, at last, discern the top of the mast only. This is evidently occasioned by the convexity of the water between the eye and the object; for, otherwise, the largest and most conspicuous part would be visible the longest.