John Wesley.

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

. (page 22 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 22 of 24)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


the waters would have had intolerable confluences; here
too much, there none at all. So that instead of a habi-
table world, far the greatest part would have been a
desert, or an useless bed of waters.

And all the parts of the earth are so distributed as
may best minister to their several uses. Thus the two
grand parts, the solids and fluids, instead of being jum-
bled into one mass, are admirably parted, and as nicely
disposed ot in proper places. -The strata-conveying
sweet water in all or most parts of the world, consist of
proper, pervious matter, remain distinct from tfie other
strata, and lie at sncn due depths, as either to break out
in fountains, or to be dug into for wells : all which is a
manifest demonstration of the concern of a Wise Agent.

And not only the planets are a demonstration of this,
M 5



f>t the very comets also : though their motions are so
far from being always the same way, that they move
sometimes contrary to each other. Their planes and
directions lie every way, and their orbits are exceeding
eccentrical. But this very eccentricity is an admirable
contrivance of the Creator, to prevent their disturbing
either the planets, or one another, by mutual attractions.
By this means they have sufficient room to revolve in :
and by ascending to very great heights, and spending
almost their time in the remote regions of the universe,
at vast distances both from the plane! s and each other,
they incommode neither. Whereas had 'they moved in
the same plane with the planets, they would sometimes
fcme come too near them : and possibly have disturbed
their motions, or even dashed against them.

But what would all the planets have done, had they
not been supplied with light and heat? And what, an
indulgent provision of these is made even for the most
distant of them ? See the sun, such a prodigious mass of
fire, placed in the centre of the system, to scatter his
light throughout the whole, and to warm and cherish us
by day : and such a noble retinue of moons and stars,
attending arid assisting us by night ! And we see the
smie care of the Creator, extended to all the other
planets. According to their several distances, they have -
proportiouably a great number of moons, and Saturn
a stupendous ring besides, to supply the decrease of
Jight and heat. Who can help being amazed at such
well contrived, such stately works of God ] Who can
partake of their beneficial influences, and not adore the
wisdom an I kindness of their Maker ?

One or two points, which have been lightly mentioned
already, deserve a more particular consideration.

That he who dispenses existence at his will, should
multiply, extend, enlarge,, and add a kind of immensity
to his works, B not properly what surprises me; at least
my amazement is chieiiy founded on my own extreme
litik&ess. But what abtonbhes me most, is to see, that



253

notwithstanding this my extreme littleness, he has
vouchsafed to regulate his immense" works, by the ad-
vantages 1 was to receive from them ! Thus he has pla-
placed the sun just at such a distance from the earth on
which I was lodged, that, it might be near enough to
warm me, yet not so near as to set it on fire.

The rays that proceed from a globe of fire, many
thousand times bigger than the earth, must needs have
an inconceivable force, while they remain close to each
other. But they are more and more distant from each
other, as they advance from their common centre,
toward the vast circumference they are to enlighten^
and their force Diminishes in proportion. liad the earth
been placed where these rays were still too numerous,
and too near each other, 'it could never have born their
burning heat. Had it been placed farther off than it is,
i? would have received but a faint warmth, such as was
iu.suflicient for its usual productions. It stands in that
very place where it is secured from all these incon-
veniences, and within the reach of every advantage.

1 The. heavens declare" the grandeur and glory of God;
froiij cue end of the world to Hie other. But the sun
a font affects us more than all the beauties the heavens
ran display vo our sight r the heavens are only a
pavillion to the sun. The richly embroidered veil
which seemed to hide him from us for a season, is
removed, when he advances. At first, he appears as a
young bridegroom, coming out of his chamber!. H;>
splendor is then full of mildness, and he is easy of ac
cess. But he is commissioned to conve^ 1 the heat and
the life, as t weil as the light, every where, lie darte
more and more fire as he ascends. He passes from one
end of the heavens to the other. There is nothing car,
?r be hid from his light, or subsist without his heat.
And by his pentl rating tires he reaches those very places
winch are inaccessible to his rays.

And ye4 we. need his absence at proper intervals, no*
M 6



254

less than we do his presence. For night and sleep are so
connected, that when we want repose, we generally pro-
cure a kind of artificial night. Our senses are seldom
unbent, but by the removal of that which agitates them.
And this is the service for which night is appointed, and
which it excellently well performs. It does not come in
a blunt and abrupt manner, to extinguish the light of
the day, and all on a sudden to rob us of the sight of
the objects we are intent on : but advances only by slow
steps, and brings ori darkness by degrees. It is not till
after reminding us of the necessity of taking rest, that
it covers the face of nature.

During the time of man's repose, night hushes every
noise. It indeed suffers a few animals, whose grim as-
pect might scare him, to go forth, and silently seek their
food. It permits however, the animal that stands senti-
nel by him, to give him notice of what concerns him.
But it keeps the horse, the ox, and all his domestics fast
asleep around him. It disperses the birds, and sends
each to his respective abode. As it comes on, it gra-
dually hushes the winds, to secure the lord of nature's
rest. It causes his repose to be reverenced every
where : the moment of which is no sooner come, but
all creatures retire, and for several hours, an universal
silence reigns.

Nor yet is nature's palace wholly void of light. As
some may be constrained to travel by night, several
flambeaus are scattered through the firmament. But
these, though they prevent total darkness, yield only a
gentle light. Nor ought those \*ho then wake to be
supplied with such a light, as would interrupt the repose
of others.

But it is not by its darkness only, that night is useful
.to us. Its coolness likewise is of use: and this in-
creasing the spring of the air, iuakes it capable of
working with greater activity, and giving new vigour
both to the dry plants and the enfeebled animals, It is



255

lo preserve this cool, that the moon reflecting the light
of the sun, gives it without any sensible heat. In vain
do we collect her rays by the strongest burning glass.
An admirable caution of the Divine Artificer, who has
reserved for the night season, a light strong enough to
remove darkness, yet too weak to alter the coolness of
the air.

When man is inclined to have the benefit of this,
he sees no more the prospects of the day ; but night in
her turn, favours him with another, that has charms to
itself.

We cannot doubt but these immense globes of fire,
which enlighten our night, have all their peculiar ap-
pointments, which answer, in God's purposes, the magni-
ficence of their appearance. But who shall presume to
explain, what the Almighty has thought fit to conceal?
The small glimpses which a few are permitted to have,
being quite unknown to the bulk of mankind. It is not
in the particular destination of each star, nor in the ge-
neral harmony of all, that we are to look for the means
of instructing man, or regulating his affections. But yet
what we do see, and know concerning them, is matter
for the deepest admiration. We see innumerable fires
hung up in the magnificent ceiling of our abode : and
the dark azure which serves them as a ground, still
heightens their beauty and brightness. But their rays
are dispersed through spaces so immense, that when they
come to us, they are quite destitute of heat Thus by
the Creator's providence we enjoy the sight of a mul-
titude of fiery globes, without any danger of des-
stroying the coolness of our night, or the quiet of our
repose.

The sum of what has been said, with some farther
improvements, I add in the words of Mr. Hervey.

" The earth is, in fact, around body, though in some
parts raised into hills, or suuk into valiies, in others



256

spread out into wideband immeasurable plains. For the
loftiest mountains bear no more proportion to the whole
surface of the ball, than a particle of dust on the astro-
nomer's globe, bears to its whole circumference. We
may fancy that it has deep foundations, and rests on
some solid basis. But it is pendent in the wide transpa-
rent ether, without any visible support, either from
above or beneath. It may seem to remain stili and mo-
tionless : but it is continually sailing through the depths
of the sky, and in the space of twelve months, finishes
the mighty voyage. This periodical rotation produces
the seasons, and completes the year. And all the time
it proceeds in its annual circle, it spins upon its own cen-"
tre, and turns its sides alternately to the great fountain
of light. By this means, the day dawus in one hemis-
phere, while the night succeeds in the other. Without
this expedient, one part of it sregions* would during half
the great revolution, be scorched \vith excessive heat,
and languish under an uninterrupted glare : while the
other would jbe frozen to ice, and buried under dismal
and destructive darkness.

" The earth in the revolution which it performs daily
on its cwn axis, whirls about at the rate of above a
thousand miles an hour. What an amazing force must
be recjuisite, to protrude so vast a globe, and wheel it
on, loaded with huge rocks and mountains, with such a
prodigious degree of rapidity ?

" Mean time the sun which seems to perform its daily
stages, is fixed and iwmoveable. It is the great axle of
heaven, about 'which the eart t and many larger orbs
wheel their stated courses. And small as it seems, it is
for larger than the earth : Sir Isaac New ton supposes,
900,000 times. Are we ready to cry out, how mighty is
the Being ;who kindled such a prodigious fire ? And
keeps alive from age to age, such an enormous mass of
flame] And yet this sun, with all its attendant planets,
are but a very small part of that grand machine, the uni-
verse. Every star is really a vast globe, like the suu iu



257

size and in glory. Nay, every star, as some suppose, is
not barely a world, but the centre of a magnificent
system ; has a retinue of worlds enlightened by its
beams, and revolving round its orb : all which are lost
to our sight, in immeasurable wilds of ether.*

" But could you soar farther yet, could you wing
your way to the highest apparent star, you would (here
see other skies expanded, another sun distributing his
beams by day, with other stars, that gild the horrors of
the alternate night: and other, perhaps nobler, systems
established, through fhe boundless dimensions of space.
Nor does the dominion of the great Sovereign, terminate
even here. Even at the end* of this vast tour, you would
find yourself, advanced no farther than the sulurls of
creation : arrived only at the frontiers of the great
Jehovah's kingdom.

" Think on this. When innumerable bodies, many
of them more than a hundred thousand miles in diame-
ter, are set in motion : when the orbits in which they
move, are extended to hundreds of millions of miles:
when each has a distinct and separate sphere, for finish-
ing his vast circuit : when none is cramped, but each
freely expatiates in his unbounded career : when every
one is so immensely distant from the others, that they
appear to each other, as only so many spots of light :
how astonishing is the expanse which yield's room for
them all, and their widely diffused operations ! To
what lengths did the Almighty builder stretch his line,
when he marked out the stupendous platform ! I won-
der at such an immeasurable extent : my thoughts are
last in this abyss of space.

" To go one step farther still : when I contemplate
those ample and amazing structures, erected in endless
magnificence, over all the ethereal plains: when I look
>n thtm as so many repositories of light, or fruitful

*A11 this is spgl.eu on the Newtonian Hypothesis.



258

abodes of life : when I remember there are orbs vastly
more remote, than those which appear to our unaided
sight : when I stretch my thoughts to the innumerable
orders of beings, which inhabit all those spacious sys-
tems, from the highest seraph, to the puny nations that
tinge the plumb with blue, r mantle the standing pool
with green. How various are the links in this immense
chain, the gradations in this universal scale of existence !
Yet ail these are the work of God's hand, and are full
of his presence I

" He rounded in his palm those dreadfully large
globes, which are pendulous in the vault of heaven. He
kindled those astonishingly bright fires, which fill the
firmament with a flood of glory. By him they are sus-
pended in fluid* ether, and never can be shaken : by him
they dispense a perpetual tide of beams, and never are
exhausted. He formed that exquisitely fine collection of
tubes, that unknown multiplicity of subtle springs, which
organize and actuate the frame of the minutest insect.
He bids the crimson current roll, the vital movements
play, and joins together a world of wonders, even in an
animated point. For there are living creatures abun-
dantly smaller than a mite. Mr. Bratily mentions some,
which by computation he found to be a thousand times
-less than the least visible grain of sand : at the same
time he declares, that this was a bulk}- being, compare^
to others discovered by Mr. Lewenhoek. If then we
consider the several limls, which composed sueh an or-
ganized particle ; the different springs which actuate
those limbs; the flow of spirits which put those springs
in motion ; the various fluids which circulate ; the differ-
ent secretions which must necessarily be performed ; to-
gether with the proportionable niiiruteness of the solids,
before they arrive at their full growth : we shall see the.
utmost reason to own, that, the Creator is greatly glori-
ous even in his smallest works.

*' To conclude this head. If the stars are magazines
of fire, and unmetae reservoirs of light, undoubtedly



259

they have some grand uses, suited to the magnificence of
their nature. To determine what uses, is not possible, in
our present state of distance and ignorance. This how-
ever is clear, they are disposed in such a manner, as is
most pleasing, and serviceable to mankind. They are
not placed at such an infinite remove, as to lie beyond
our sight: neither are they brought so near to our abode,
as to annoy us with their beams."

12* A year or two after the preceding volumes were
published, the little sketch of astronomy therein given,
(or rather my doubts concerning it) was warmly attacked
in the London magazine. The substance of those objec-
tions, and of my answer, I have here subjoined.

SIR,

I am obliged to you for your queries and remarks ;
and so I shall be to any who will point out any thing
wherein they thiiik I have been mistaken. It would not
be strange, if there should be many mistakes in the
" Compendium of Natural Philosophy :" as philosophy
is what for many years I have only looked into at leisure
hours. Accordingly in the preface of that treatise I
said, " I am thoroughly sensible, there are many, who
have more ability, as well as leisure, for such a work
than me. But as none of them undertakes it, I have
myself made some little attempt in the following vo-
lumes."

Q. 1. " You say, the sun is supposed to be abundantly
larger than the earth ? Is it not demonstrable, that he
is so."

I do not know whether it is, or no.

Q. 2. ." Why do you say, the moon is supposed to be
forty-five times smaller than the earth, when the moon's
bulk is nicely known?"

It is not known by me, nor, I doubt, by any man
else.



*. SCO

GL . " You say, Jupiter is supposed to be twenty-
five times larger than llie earth : and in the next page,
that his diameter is supposed to be 130,655 miles.
If so, is he not 405)6 times larger than the earth T

Undoubtedly- But I do not undertake to defend ei-
ther one supposition or the other.

llcmark, 1. " You say, p. 148, Even with respect
to the distance of the sun, it is wisest to confess our ig-
norance, and to acknowledge we have nothing to rest
upon here, but mere uncertain conjectures/'

I did not say this of the distance of the sun in parti-
cular. My words, p. 146 are, " With regard to their
distance from the earth, (the distance of all the bodies
in the solar system) there is such an immense dif-
ference in the calculations of astronomers, even with re-
spect to the distance of the sun that it is wises? to
confess our ignorance," namely, with regard to tkeir dis-
tance.

To prove that we are not ignorant hereof^ you say,
" The knowledge of the sun's distance depends on find-
ing its parallax, or the angle that the semi-diameter of
the earth appears under at the sun, which angle is so very
minute, that an error of but a single second, will give
the distance very considerably greater or less than the
true distance." It will : and therefore I doubt, whether
the distance of any heavenly body can ever be known
by this means.

" But Dr. Keil says, we are assured by various me-
thods made use of to observe the sun's parallax, that his
distance from us is more than twenty-eight millions of
miles." He may be assured : but I am not. " He says,
farther, two eminent astronomers have since determined
the sun's distance to be about seventy-six millions of
miles: now if the least distance possible is absolutely
determined, how can it be wisest to confess our ig-
norance T If it be But I doubt it cannot be deter-
mined at all : at least, not by the sun's parallax : " see-
ing this is so very minute, that an error of a single se-



261

corn! will give the distance very considerably greater or
less than the true."

R. 2. In p. 143, you tell us. The whole para-
graph runs thus. " It is now almost universally sup-
posed, that the moon is just like the earth, having moun-
tains and valleys, seas with islands, peninsulas, and pro-
montories, with a changeable atmosphere, wherein va-
pours and exhalations rise and fall. Arid hence it is
generally inferred, that she is inhabited like the earth,
and by parity of reason, that all the other planets, as
r, ell as the earth and moon, have their respective inhabit-
ants." (I take this to be the very strength of the
cause. It was this consideration chiefly, which induced
me to think for many years, that all the planets were in-
habited.) " But after all comes - the celebrated Mr.
Huygeos, and brings strong reasons why the moon is not,
and cannot be inhabited at all, nor any secondary planet
whatever. Then" (if the first supposition sinks, on which
all the rest are built) " I doubt we shall never prove
that the primary are. ' And so the whole hypothesis, of
innumerable suns and worlds moving round them,
vanishes into air."

In order to prove that there are innumerable suns,
you say, 1. "It is found by observations on the parallax
of the earth's orbit, that a fixed star is ten thousand
times farther from the sun than we are."

I can build nothing on these observations, till paral-
laxes can be taken with greater certainty than they are
at present. Therefore I still want proof, that any one
fixed star is one thousand times farther from the suu than
we are.

2. *< They are fiery bodies." I suppose they are.
But this cannot be proved from their distance, till that
distance itself is proved.

3. " It is demonstrable, that Sirius is as big as the sun*""
Demonstrate it who can.



262

4. " Seeing the fixed stars are not much less than the
sun, they are to be esteemed so many suns."

Not much less ! How is this proved ? To argue
from the distance, is to prove ignotum per ccque ig-
notum.

" You see, sir, the hypothesis of innumerable suns, is
so far from vanishing into air, that it is almost altogether
founded on demonstration."

Indeed I do not see one tittle of demonstration yet
from the beginning to the end.

In order to prove that the planets are inhabited, you
say, 1. " The earth is spherical, opake, enlightened by
the sun, casting a shadow opposite thereto, and revolving
round it, in a time exactly proportioned to its dis-
tance. The other planets resemble the earth in all these
particulars. Therefore they likewise are inhabited." I
cannot allow the consequence.

2. " The earth has a regular succession of day and
night, summer and winter. So probably have all the
planets ; therefore they are inhabited." I am not sure
of the antecedent. But however that be, I deny the
consequence.

5. " Jupiter and Satan are much bigger than the
enrth." Does this prove that they are inhabited ?

4. " The earth has a moon, Jupiter has four, Saturn
five, each of them larger than ours. They eclipse their
respective planets, and are eclipsed by them."

* All this does not prove that they are inhabited.

5. " Saturn's ring reflects the light of the sun upon
.him."

I am not sure of that. And till the fact is ascer-
tained, no certaiu inference can be drawn from it.

6. " But is it probable God should have created pla-
nets like our own, and furnished them with such ad



263

amazing apparatus, and yet have placed no inhabitants
therein 1''

Of their apparatus I know nothing : however if all
you assert be the prolability of their being inhabited, I
contend not.

7. " They who aiirm, that God created those great
bodies, the fixed stars, only to give us a small dim light,
must have a very mean opinion of the Divine Wisdom."

I do not affirm this, neither can I tell for what other
ends he created them : he that created them knows : but
I have so high an opinion of the Divine Wisdom, that I
believe no child of man can fathom it. Tt is our wisdom
to be very wary how we pronounce concerning things
wliich we have not seen.

Ri 10. " Suppose some intelligent beings in one of
the planets, who were

Slaves to no sect, who sought no private road,
But look'dt hro' nature, up to nature's God :

viewed the earth from thence, they would argue, it must
be inhabited, as we argue that the other planets are.
But the superstitious would oppose this doctrine, and
call it mere uncertain conjecture/'

I see no argument in this : but perhaps I do not un-
derstand it. Are you applauding the supposed inhabit-
ants of Venus, for not being slaves to the ckristian sect ?
Otherwise, what has superstition to do in the case ] Why
is this dragged in by the head and shoulders? If there
be superstition here, it is on your side, who believe be-
cause you will believe : who assent to what you have no
evidence for, and maintain what you cannot prove. At
present you are the volunteer in faith : you swallow what
choaks my belief.

R. 1-1. " You quote Dr. Rogers," But I do not under-
take to defend his hypoihesis, or any other. "Our best
observators could never find the parallax of the sun to

3



be above eleven seconds/' But I cannot depend on
their observations: especially when 1 iind one of the chief
of them, in computing the distance of the sun, to stride
from twenty-eight millions of miles, to seventy-six :
near fifty millions of miles at once ! After this let any
impartial man judge what stress is to be laid on paral-
laxes !

" But Dr. Rogers supposes the parallax of the sun to
be five minutes, which others cannot find to be above
eleven seconds. Why doctor, if this be true," (namely,
that the parallax which was lately but eleven seconds, is
now uiei eased to five minutes) " the earth has approxima-
ted thirty times nearer" (a little harmless tautology) " to
the sun." That is, if both- the computation of Mr.
Keil, and that of Dr. Rogers be true ! But whoever
supposes this] If the one be true, the other is un-
doubtedly false.

" To conclude. Since there is no arguing against facts,
and since the sun's parallax is found not to exceed eleven
seconds, ought you not to give up that hypothesis as ab-
surd and ridiculous }"

\es, as soon as any of those facts appear: till then I
neither espouse, nor give it up. But I still look upon it as


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 22 24

Online LibraryJohn WesleyA survey of the wisdom of God in the creation; or, A compendium of natural philosophy .. (Volume 3) → online text (page 22 of 24)