John Wesley.

A survey of the wisdom of God in the creation; or, A compendium of natural philosophy .. (Volume 3) online

. (page 20 of 24)
Online LibraryJohn WesleyA survey of the wisdom of God in the creation; or, A compendium of natural philosophy .. (Volume 3) → online text (page 20 of 24)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

of Jupiter on the eavth, that the earth's revolution round
its axis, continually becomes more and more rapid. For
the force of Jupiter so accelerates the motion of the
earth round the sun, that tlie diminution of the years
would be sensible, it' the diurnal motion had not been
accelerated nearly in the same proportion.

It is another observation of astronomers, that the sun
does not shine as long on one side the line as on the
other : that he stays longer in the six northern shins,
than in the six southern : so much longer, as to make
no less a difference, than that of nine days. How is
this I Did the earth always obvert her northern hemis-
phere to the sun so much longer than the southern ? Or
lias she gradually warped so much to one side, in a course
of near 6*000 years!

But over and above the sun's motion round his own
axis, in 25 days, 15 hours, he has another motion. There
is a certain point, which is the true or common centre of
all the planetary motions, not quite a semi-diameter of
the sun distant from its centre. About this point, the sun
and all the planets move ; but in what time is uncer-

9. Let us consider more closely, the advantages arising
to us by the rotation of the earth about its own axis.
We are so made, that once in sixteen, or twenty hours at
most, we require a time for relaxation. And generally
in healthful people this time is pretty equal, between six
and eight hours. The storehouses of our spirits, will
not permit a longer application than twenty hours, with-
eut injury to our constitutions. And at least six hours
are required to rill them nsrain.

It was likewise necessary that the air should be cool
and temperate during the time of this rest ; for we ge-
nerally find those that sleep while the sun is above the
horizon, the worse for it, the sun and the heat exhaling
the natural perspirations too violently, and raising too
quick -a motion in the blood. And though we- generally
L 5

perspire more in the night, yet the perspiration is more
natural and less violent, and more according to the ne-
cessities df our constitutions in the night, than in the
day. Besides, the darkness is less subject to noise and
disturbance than the day. Now all these things are
wonderfully provided for, by the rotation of the earth
about its axis. For thereby we have the vicissitudes of
day and night, the day for spending our spirits, the night
to recruit them ; as also for nourishing the muscles,,
bones, channels, and other parts of the body ; for the
business of nutrition is mostly, if not altogether, per-
formed in the time of rest. Likewise how comfortable
and refreshing are the cool breezes of the night ; and
the trade winds to those that live under the equatorial
parts? Without which, life would both be exceeding
short, and very grievous.

These winds are the necessary effect of the rotatiort
of the earth about its axis, which under the line makes
the rays of the sun direct and equal all the year round ;
so that these parts being constantly under the sun's in-
fluence, his heat rarefies one part or the air, and the
cooler and heavier part presses upon the hotter, and so
makes a continual wind in his course from east to

Moreover, let us reflect upon our vegetables, which are
the support of animals ; the sun rarefies, and consequently
rakes, the sizy vegetables juices, at the roots of the tender
seeds, and thereby forces the folded branches to expand
and enlarge. Now, were the sun constantly shining
upon them, these juices would not be at liberty to settle
and consolidate in the fit places of the branches ; but
would be still rising higher and higher, till at last they
burst the canals ; whereas by this vicissitude of heat and
cold, what is raised in the day .time, has time to settle
and consolidate in the night. Its cold turns the thin
juices into sizy substances, which the supervening heat,
by exhaling the watry parts, hardens and fixes. On the
other hand, had not the earth moved upon its axis, but
only turned round the sun in its annual period, we had


not only lost all these advantages, which are so necessary
for both animals and vegetables, but had suffered also
such inconveniences, as neither of these could possibly
bear. For near half the year, we should have been in
perpetual darkness, the consequence of which would
have beenj that baleful damps, by the preceding heat,
generated and raised, would have fallen, which would
have stifled all animals. Or had they survived that,
snow, ice, and frost, would not only have locked up
all fluids, but would have froze the blood and spirits
in the channels of all the animals we are acquainted

Again, in the enlightened half of the year, we should
have had huge deluges of water, from the preceding
snow, which likewise would have produced suffocating
mists. Next, all our ground would have turned into a
stiff, stinking puddle, being in a manner dissolved by the
snow water. Then would sultry heats and a burning
air, have scorched, and chopped the earth, and galled
the animal tribes, so that they would have found rest,
neither in houses not dens, till at last, the Wood and
spirit of all the animals of our globe, would be quite
exhaled, or by the violent agitation thereof, they would
turn delirious.

Upon all these accounts, the rotation of the earth,
about her axis, is one of the most signal instances of di-
vine wisdom.


Of the Heavenly Bodies, in particular.

1. Of the Sun. 8. -Saturn.

2. Mercury. 9. Comets.

3. Venus. 30. The fixed Stars.

4. The Earth. 11. Reflections.

5. The Moon 12. Doubts concerning- the mo-

6. Of Mars. dern Astronomy.

7. Jupiter.


HE very same effects which we observe daily in
fire, \ve observe also in- the sun. It shines, it warms, it
burns. Viewed with a telescope it appears like an ocean
of fire or melted metal. Hence many suppose, that the
spots appearing thereon and changing continually, are as
it were the dross and scum of that metal, which it
throws out from time to time. But it is more probable,
some of those spots are clouds, formed out of the solar
exhalations. And if exhalations rise out ofJiis body,
and are suspended at. a certain height from it, then the
sun must be encompassed with a fluid, analogous to our
atmosphere. Some. of these .spots dissolve and dis-
appear, in tl^e very middle of the sun's disk : that is, the
exhalations sometimes rise, sometimes fall back to the

But there is another kind of spots which regularly re-
volve once in seven and twenty days. Or, to speak
more properly, the sun himself revolves nearly in
that time,, round his ovvu axis, together with his at-

23 r

gr But over and above this motion on his own axis,
* f We are not sure, "says Mr. lluygens, "whether the sun
be a solid or liquid globe. I rather think it liquid,
which the equal distribution of his light to all parts is
an argument for. That very small inequality on his sur-
face, discovered by the telescope, which has made some
men imagine they saw huge mountains of fire, is en-
tirely owing to the trembling motion of the vapours
our atmosphere is full of, particularly near the
earth. And this is likewise the cause of -the -stars twink-

" The dark spots in the sun I have often seen : but
Ihose bright spots of which many speak, I never was
able to discover : so that 1 cannot but doubt of their
existence. Nor do I apprehend there is any thirtg in or
upon the sun, brighter than the sun itself. Indeed it is
not pretended that these bright spots are any were, but
just about the dark ones. And it is no wonder the parts
which are near the dark should appear somewhat
brighter than the rest. 7 '

And hence it is, that those spots being viewed ob-
liquely, near the edge of the sun, appear narrow and ob-
long. He is supposed to be abundantly larger than the
earth. When the moon passes between the earth and
the sun, so as to intercept his rays, he is said to be
eclipsed. This happens only at the time of the new
moon, because ; it is then only she passes between the sun
and the earth. Yet not at every new, moon, because
she generally declines either to the north or south.

No solar eclipse can be universal, the moon beiu^ too
little to overshadow the- whole earth. Nor does any
eclipse appear the same in all places, but is total in one,
and partial in another. In most solar eclipses, the moon
Is covered with a faint, dawning light, which is owing to
the rejection of the light from the illuminated parts of
the earth. In total eclipses the moon's edge is seen sur-
rounded by a pale circle of light, which is at least a pro-
bable indication of a lunar atmosphere.

'//hen the earth is interposed between the moon and
the sun. then the mooii is eclipsed. This is only at the


time of the full moon. Even in the midst of the ecfipse,
the moon has a faint light which is reflected by the at-
mosphere of the earth. And to the shadow of this it is
owing, that she grows paler and dimmer, before she en-
ters into the shadow of me earth.

2. The planet nearest to the sim is Mercury, which is
the smallest of all, supposed to be twelve times less than
the earth. It moves round the sun in about three
mon'hs, and is believed to be the most dense of all the
heavenly bodies. It sometimes moves between the
earth and the sun. Arid from its various appearances we
may certainly infer, that it has no light of its own, but
shines by reflection only.

3. The next to Mercury is Venus, whose appearances
likewise change in the same manner as the moon's. It is
supposed to be something less than the earth, and, coin-
pleats its period round the sun in nearly seven months.
From its situation we may judge, it is more dense than
the earth, but more rare than Mercury.

4. Next to Venus is the earth, which moves round
its own axis from west to east in twenty-four hours, and
round the sun in three hundred and sixty-five days, rive
hours and near forty-nine minutes.

The difference of seasons, as well as the different de-
grees of heat and cold, depend on the different positions
of ihe earth with respect to the sun. The natural state
of this globe, seems to be what we call temperate. This
is what secures springs and other bodies from being
frozen. But the obliquity ?nd perpendicularity with
winch the rays of the sun fall on the air, are varying
continually, according to which the warmth of the air is
continually lessening or increasing. Likewise the conti-
nuance of the sun's presence, with the slowness of his
motion, naturally increase heat : as his absence and the
swiftness of his motion, naturally increase cold. Yet
this rule does not always hold. There are many acci-
dents that prevent it : such as the situation of hills, <uid


the declivity of land, towards the north or south. Clouds
also sometimes reflect heat, and watef clouds cool the
air. South or south west winds, if without rain, increase
warmth ; east or northerly winds occasion cold. When-
ever smooth water reflects the sun's rays, it much in-
creases heat. And indeed all smooth bodies which re-
flect light, reflect heat along with it, and that more or
less, according to the closeness of the pores, and the ex-
tent, convexity, or concavity of their surface.

All parts of the earth enjoy nearly the same quantity
of the sun's presence in the same space of a year. And
yet how widely different is the quantity of heat in some,
from that in others ? But it is not, as any one would
imagine greatest under the line. This is prevented by
the swiftness of his motion. For the nearer he ap-
proaches to it, the swifter is his motion from east to
west, from north to south, and from south to north. He
passes seven degrees, from three and a half south lati-
tude, to three and a half north, in eighteen days: where-
as at twenty degrees north latitude, he spends a whole
month in going three degrees and a hair', and another
in returning : so that he is as near the tropic for sixty-
seven days, as he was to the line for eighteen. And
hence the heat is considerably greater under the tropic,
than it is under the line.

5. The moon moves round the earth in about twenty-
eight days, and with the earth round the sun in a year.
Yet it always turns nearly the same side to the earth,
whence we always observe the same inequalities in its
surface. It does not appear that she moves at all
round her own axis. None now doubts of the moon's
being an opake body : and the spots and unevenesses,
which constantly appear upon it, have been judged by
some to be valiies, mountains, lakes, and seas.

Her days and months are of an equal length, which
we do not observe of any other body in the heavens.
That her day is equal to her month, appears hence.
Since in whatever part of her orbit she is, the same

face ftnd the same spots are always observed, with-
out the least variation, she must have such a motion
round her own axis as turns every moment so much of
her surface from our view, as is turned to us by her peri-
odical motion: that is, she must move in the same time
about her axis, as she does about the earth.

Half at least of the moon is always enlightened by the
sun, but as it is continually changing its situation, the whole
of the enlightened part is not always toward us, and
therefore she exhibits to us various appearances. When
she begins to recede from her conjunction with the sun,
and to emerge out of his rays, a small portion of her
enlightened part is seen, and appears as it were horned.
But the farther she recedes from the sun, the more of the
enlightened part appears, till about the fourteenth day,
being just opposite to him, she shews us her entire
hemisphere. In the same manner sire appears to de-
crease, while she is approaching the sun. The moon is
supposed to be forty-five times smaller than the earth.

The moon has sometimes disappeared in a clear sky,
so as not to be discoverable by the besf glasses. This
Keppler observed in the year 15SO, and in 1583 : Heve-
lius, in l(i20, as did Riccioius, and many others at Bo-
logna. Many people throughout Holland, observed the
same, April, 14, 16"42. December 23, 1703, there was
another total obscuration ; a little before it, she ap-
peared at Aries, of a yellowish brown, at Avignon, ruddy
and transparent. At Marseilles, one part was ruddy,
the other dusky, till she wholly disappeared. I do not
find that the boldest philosophers attempt to account
for this. ~

It is now almost universally supposed, that the moon '
is- just like the earth, having mountains and vallies, seas
with islands, peninsulas, and promontories, and a change-
able atmosphere, wherein vapours and exhalations rise
and fall/ And hence it is generally inferred, that she is
inhabited like the earth, and by parity of reason, that
all the other planets, as well as the earth and moon, have
their respective inhabitants. But alter all conies the
celebrated Mr. Huygens, and brings strong reasons viliy


'-oon Is not, and cannot be inhabited at all, nor any
secondary planet whatever. Then I doubt we shali
ncver prove that the primary are : and so the whole in-
genious hypothesis, of innumerable suns and worlds-
moving rodiid them, vanishes into air.

It may not" be unacceptable to the reader, to see the
sum of his reasonings on this head, " One would
think that the moon which is so neav us, and may by a
telescope be so accurately observed^ should afford us
matter of more probable conjecture, than any of the re-
moter planets. But it is quite otherwise. Only this we
may venture to say, that all the attendants of Jupiter
and Saturn arc of the same nature with our moon, as
going round them, and being carried with them round
ihe sun, just as the moon is with' the earth. Therefore
whatever we may reasonably affirm or conjecture, with
regard to our moon, must be supposed with very little
alteration to belong to the satellites of Jupiter and

" The surface of the moon is found, even when we
use the shortest telescopes, to be diversified with long
tracts of mountains, and again with broad vallies. For
in those parts opposite to the sun, you may see the sha-
dows of the mountains, and often the round vallies be-
tween them, with a hill or two rising out of them. But
I cannot find any thing like sea there, notwithstanding
what many affirm. For those vast countries which ap-
pear darker than the others, commonly taken for seas,
are discovered with a good long telescope, to be full of
little round cavities: the shadow of which, falling with-
in themselves, makes them appear of that colour. And
those largo champaigns/ if you look carefully upon them,
you will find, not to be always smooth and even. Now
neither of these things can agree to the sea. Therefore
it is far more probable, that those plains in her which
seem brighter than the other parts, consist of a whiter
sort of matter. Nor do I believe, that there are any ri-
vers; for Jf there were, they could never have escaped


our observations. Especially if they run between tire
hills, as our rivers do. Nor have they any clouds to
furnish rivers with water. For if they had, we should
sometimes see one part of the moon darkened by them
and sometimes another, whereas we have always the
same prospect of her.

" It is certain moreover that the moon has no air or
atmosphere Surrounding it. For then we could never
see the very outeimost rim of the moon so exactly as we
do when any star goes under it, but its light would ter-
minate in a faint, gradual shade, and there would be a
sort of down as it \vere about it. Not to mention, that
the vapours of our atmosphere consist of water ; and
consequently where there are no seas, there can be no
such atmosphere. Tin's is tlie grand difference between
the moon and us. Were there seas and rivers therein^
we might easiiy believe that ithsd all the other furniture
which belong to our earth. But how can plants or ani-
mals, all whose nourishment comes from liquid bodies,
thrive in a dry waterless soil.

" Does then the moon serve for nothing but to give
us light in the night ? And do ail these moons round
Jupiter and Saturn answer no other purpose I \ do not
know what to say, bet-.ause I know of kuothing like them
to found a conjecture upon. Perhaps they may have
some piaatb and animals, which have some nourishment
of a different kind irorn'oursi Perhaps they may have
moisture enough to cause a mist or dew, which may
suthce tor the herbs that grow there. But these are mere
guesbes, or rather doubts. And vet they are the best
we can make, concerning either our moon or those
which attend Jupiter and Saturn."

\\hat benefits do we receive from our moon ? First
the supplying light in the nigl?t time, ior at least t-.ue
fouiths of the ,ear. Now how comiTo* table and delight-
ful a thing thi- iv travelers and v< yagers can best tell.
Curios*tv, ambition, luxury, and sometimes necessity,
have made it unavoiuahic, t!ial some part of mankind
should be travelling by iaiui and sea, in the night sea-


sons. How pleasant than is it, to have a light held s
out from heaven, to guide our steps, to direct us in our
course, and to point out to us how our time wears out.

- Secondly, she raises our* tides twice in twenty-four
hours, which is absolutely necessary towards the subsist-
ence both of animals and vegetables. Every body
knows that a lake that has no fresh water running into*
it, will by the heat of the sun in a few months, and its
stagnation, turn into a stinking, rotten puddle, sending
forth nauseous and poisonous steams. And though
many thousand rivers daily run into the sea, yet
they are very inconsiderable in respect of the vast ocean
of salt water; and would by no means hinder its stag-
nation, and consequently its corruption and stinking.
Now suppose the ocean stagnated, the first effect would
be, all the places towards the shores, would be wrought
upon by the sun, and turned to a mephitis. Then it
would get farther till the whole were become more
baneful and poisonous than the lake of Sodom and Go-
morrah. Hereby the fishes would first be destroyed,
and afterwards the plants and animals ; but by this
action of the motfn, the waters are lifted up on a heap,
as it were, arid then let fall again, whereby the waters
near the shores are constantly secured from stagnation
and corruption, atid the beginning of malady stiiied.
This perpetual change of new water on the shores, keep-
ing any one portion thereof, from being exposed to the
sun long enough to have its mixture corrupted. Now
what a noble contrivance have we here. By appointing
an attendant to our earth, all the animals and vegetables
are preserved from certain destruction. Though indeed
to the full effect of this wise design, the salt of the sea
does very much contribute ; as there are many sarnie rocks
and mountains dispersed over the foundations of the
great ocean. Besides this, how many conveniences for
our navigation in rivers and harbours does this ebbing
and flowing of the sea afford ? Yet if our earth nad
more than one moon attending it, we should receive
more damage than advantage by it ; for though hereby

sss :

eittulght'in the night might be- augmented; yet at t
conjunctions and oppositions with one another, and v\ irh-
the sun, we should have- tides that would raise the waters
over too much of our dryland; and in their quadra-
tures we should have io lide'at alL Aaurn, if our moon
were bigger or nearer the earth, or if we had more than
one, at any tolerable;-ti)c<i from us, we should be
every now and then in hazard of being stifled by the
noxious jstevvins arizing from the ocean. From all which
it is evident, how wisely our satellite hus been contrived
for our purposes.

6. Mars, as well as Venus, Mercury, and the moon,
lias various appearances, more or less lull, as it is various-
ly placed, with regard to the sun arid -tlie .earth, t

&re observed on ins surface also, from the regular motion-
of which we learn, that he revolves round his axis from
west to east, in twenty-four hours and forty minutes.
He moves round the sun in two years, and it is thought
to be eight times smaller than the earth.

7. Jupiter is encompassed from west to east with two
or three lucid belts, not always appearing alike. In one
of them asppt is constantly observed ; and they regu-
larly move from west to east. Hence we learn^ that he
revolves round his axis, which he does in nine hours and
fifty six minutes. He is likewise attended by four smaller
planets or satellites, like our moon. Each^ of these
move round him in its slated period, and all move with
him round the sun in twelve years. Jupiter is supposed
"by some to be twenty-five; by others 4096 times larger
tilau the earth.

8. The highest planet, Saturn, is encompassed with a
broad -ring, which is not contiguous to bis body, but is
suspended over him equally distant from every part of his
surface. He has five satellites^ o-r moons, moving round
him in their stated periods. The brightest of these, .
\vhiclt is the fourth, was first discovered by Mr. liuygens,
in- the .year l6'5o The rest were discovered


** And I have reason to think," says Mr. rluygens, " tlie**
are one or two more still behind. For between the
fourth and fifth l!;ev- is a di tmice not at all proportion-
able to that, between till the others. Hence it is [proba-
ble, there -may be a sixth. And there may not impro-
bably be another, without the tilth, whkh has hitherto
escaped us. For we can never see the -fifth but in that
part of its orbit, which is towards the west. 7 '

Saturn himself revolves with them round the sun in
about thirty years. tJUi is supposed to be :iifteen times
bigger than the earth.

If we Compute the magnitude of the planets in num.-
Jjer of miles, the diameter of the moon is supposed to be
2 1 75 miles, that of Mercury .2748, that o! Mars 4875,
-of the earth, (and nearly of Venus) 7967, of Saturn
345 1, of Jupiter 130653 ; and that of the sim 822 148.

With regard to their distance- from the earth, there is
,$uch an immense difference in. the calculations of astro-
jiomers, even with respect to the distance of the sun
(which some demonstrate to be ninety millions of miles,
Bothers to be not three millions ftom the earth), that it
is the wisest to .cnutess our ignorance,, and to acknow-
ledge we have nothing to rest on here, but mere micer-
,-tain conjectuie

.9- Comelsr are opuke bodies, which emit numerous
^ray>, sometimes forwards, someiimes backwards, some-
; limes all round the body of the. comet. Now they sink

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 20 22 23 24

Online LibraryJohn WesleyA survey of the wisdom of God in the creation; or, A compendium of natural philosophy .. (Volume 3) → online text (page 20 of 24)