Charles A. (Charles Augustus) Young.

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NOV 6 1925

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Prof. C. A. VOUNG, Pti.D., LL.D.,







PROF. C. A. YOl'NC;.

God's Glory in the Heavens.

IT is still as true as when the Psalmist wrote it first, that "the "^
"heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament showeth
"His handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night
" unto night showeth knowledge." In some ways it is even truer
now than then, because to-day the words have a more impressive and
a grander significance than they could have had to David. To him
the heavens were not so ver}' vast, nor so very far awa3' ; and for
him they, and the sun and moon, were mere appendages of the
earth, of no importance or significance except as beautiful and use-
ful servants of mankind. Now we know an immeasurable universe,
compared with which our great world itself is the merest speck — a /
drop in the ocean, a mote in the sunbeam.

"He that sitteth upon the heavens," "he whom the heavens
of heavens cannot contain." was indeed, to the ancient Hebrew,
very great as compared with any earthly potentate ; but what shall
we now say of Him who inhabits the immensity of space revealed
by Science ; who by His immediate, all-pervading presence, actuates
and vivifies the universe of universes : of Him to whom we still,
but with a clear understanding, address the adoring words of the
prophet ; " Of old, O Lord, hast thou laid the foundations of the earth,
"and the heavens are the work of th^- hands : they shall perish, but
"Thou shalt endure : as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they
"shall be changed ; but Thou art the same and thy years shall have
" no end."

I think it is unquestionable that, as men have come to know \
more of the material universe, they have had continually revealed
to them something more of the glory and majesty of its Creator.
Here, and for the present, we see, of course, only " through a glass
" darkly" : but as time goes on we catch more frequent glimpses
of the ineflable brightness and the majestic outlines : we recognize
more and more distinctly the presence and the power of the Omnipo-
tent ; lying still beyond our vision and our touch indeed, but inti-
mated, and to some extent manifested, in all the phenomena which
we can apprehend.




Here, however, let me admit a limitation as to the extent of
this natural revelation of God, so far, at least, as it appears in the
science of astrononi}'. ;' I dare not say that I am able to see in the
phenomena of the starry heavens verj' much that bears on His moral
attributes ; very little, for instance that goes to demonstrate His
holiness, His justice, or His mercy. For such evidence, apart from
Revelation, we must look rather to the moral law written upon the
human heart ; and especially to the course of histor\', where we
clearly recognize "the power, not ourselves, which makes for right-
" eousness," and find evidence as to the character of Him who
overrules the conflicts of the nations and directs the evtr-ascending
progress of the human race. ,

I may add, too, that one finds in the system of the stars less
evidence, perhaps, of the Divine "ingenuity," — if I may be allowed
to use the expression reverently — fewer cases of obvious " contriv-
" ance " than in the world of organic nature. It is in the structure
of living beings that the most striking instances of this sort occur.
Such organs as the eye and ear and the human hand, and the won-
derful arrangements by which the continuity and permanence of races
are maintained, have few if any parallels among the stars. There are,
it is true, numberless adaptations between the astronomical condi-
tions of the earth, on the one hand, and on the other the character-
istics and structure of its inhabitants, both animal and vegetable ;
and these adaptations may fairly be adduced, as Whewell and others
have adduced them, in evidence of the Creator's intelligence, which
has fitted together the habitation and its inmates. But the study
and discussion of these adaptations belongs to the naturalist rather
than to the astronomer, and I shall content m\-self with this mere
allusion to them.

The really impressive lessons of the stars, it seems to me, relate
to the greatness and eternity of God, His unity, His omnipresence,
and all-pervading activity ; and especially the wonderful manner in
which, by a few simple laws. He has built and organized the sub-
limely glorious architecture of the heavens, radiant throughout with
a clear intelligence, which we, His creatures, can recognize and
measurably comprehend. I think that astronom\- stands unrivalled
among the sciences in the emphasis with which she teaches these
lessons : no other science so forcibly, so overwhelmingl}-, impresses
the thoughtful mind with the infiniteness of God, and the relative
insignificance of man and the little globe on which we live. " What
" is man that Thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that
"Thou visitest him!" This the student of astronomy learns to
say with a profounder and more intelligent humility than anj- other
person can.

And, on the other hand, he too, I think, is likelj- to recognize
more fully than other men the high dignity of our human nature,
made in the image of God and partaking of the divine ; able in a

most real sense to "comprehend" the whole material universe, to
share the thoughts of God, and to think them after Him.

I do not forget, indeed, the " infinity of littleness" that lies, so
to speak, below us — the world of microscopic organisms and struct-
ures, of molecules, and atoms, and light-waves ; nor do I den}' that
here also is to be found a revelation of God, which, in its logical
force and import, is as well worthy of consideration as that contained
in the story of the stars. But it seems to me harder to read : the
type is not so large, the sentences are more intricate, and the lan-
guage is far less familiar. At an}- rate, that is not what we have
to deal with at present.

And now let us, in the first place, consider the vasfness of the
material universe as in some sense a revelation of God's greatness.
Clearl}' He is greater than any or all of the worlds that He has
made ; and so in contrasting the immensity of that portion of crea-
tion which we can see, with the littleness of our own sphere oj
action, we shall advance toward a true conception of the tremendous
meaning of His omnipresence : advance towards it, I say, not reach
it ; for it is more than probable, nay it is certain, that our sensible
universe is but an infinitesimal fraction of the mighty whole. The
domain of astronomy is but a little corner of God's material king-
dom ; yet even this little corner is so vast that we can attain to
some conception of its immensity only by degrees, beginning with
the smaller and the nearer, and so ascending step by step through
unimaginable heights until we reach the limits of our human obser-

Compared with ourselves, and with the region we can fairly see
around us, the sphere upon which we live is certainly immense : he
who has travelled much and made its circuit appreciates its great-
ness. When one has ridden wearj^ days and nights to reach the
coast of the Pacific, and then has steamed some three weeks or
more across that great, lonely, sailless ocean to the islands of Japan,
and spent another two months in coasting along the shores of China
and Siam, and traversing the Indian Ocean, and the Red Sea, and
the short-cut at Suez, and sailing over the blue Mediterranean and
the rough Atlantic to his home again ; such a man, I say, begins
to know something of the magnitude of this world of ours. All
the thousands of millions (probably about fifty thousand millions)
of human beings who have inhabited the earth since its histor}^
began could be seated, as roomily as we are here, upon the surface
of the single State of New Jersey. Compare a man even with moun-
tains or lakes or rivers, not to speak of continents and oceans, and
how small he is : how feeble as against the wild powers of wave
and storm and earthquake. If we could have no, knowledge of any-
thing beyond the earth itself, we should rightly feel that a man, or
even the whole human race, is as the small dust of the balance
when weighed against the world.

But we are not so restricted in our kno\vlerl;^e. The heavens
arc full of objects that from the be^^inninj,' must have riveted the
attenticm and excited the curiosity of men. Nearest of them all,
and most interesting, on account of her constant changes ;uid rapid
motion, is the Moon. How we ascertain her distance from us I
have no occasion to explain : it is enough that astronomers can
measure it with accuracy, and have done so, finding it to be a little
more than thirty tinjes the diameter of the earth, or nearly 239,000
miles. So remote is she that even our largest tele.scopes cannot
bring her optically nearer than eighty miles. The great telescope of
the Lick Observatory, the most powerful instrument in the world
at present, will sometimes, when all the conditions of the air are
kindly, bear a power of about 3,000 ; and then the observer sees the
surface of our satellite about as a person in New York City would,
with unassisted vision, look into Philadelphia, if he were raised
high enough to bring the towers of the rival cit}- above the hori-
zon. As for the Moon herself, while we find that she is indeed
much smaller than the earth, yet she is a real world, large enough
to carry a population at least equal to that which now inhabits the
earth. It is true, however, I may say in passing, that we find the
condition of afifairs there to be such that no inhabitants like those
which dwell upon the earth could live upon her surface. This
splendid orb that rules the night, and so beautifully brightens our
hours of, is an airless waste, frozen and lifeless, so far as
we can ascertain. "God's ways are not our ways, nor His thoughts
like ours ;" at least this often turns out to be the case.

T,et us in imagination leave the region of the earth and attempt
tlif journey to the Sun. It is unnecessary and would i)e out of
place to discuss this evening the methods by which astronomers
have been able to stretch their measuring lines across the tremen-
dous abvss and so to affix their scale of miles to the great map of
the .solar system : for this distance ot the sun is now the unit ol all
human measures in the celestial spaces ; like the golden reed with
which the angel measured the walls of the New Jerusalem. The
problem has not l)een an easy one, and its first approximate solu-
tion was attained only in the century by means of the tran-
sits of Venus in 1761 ami 1769. Since then various other methods
have been devised and carried out, all of which practically agree in
showing that the mean radius of the orbit of the earth is a little
less than 93,

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Online LibraryCharles A. (Charles Augustus) YoungGod's glory in the heavens → online text (page 1 of 3)