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The Fear of Apparitions:

45 and communicated through the impressive medium of religion. But that such notions should still disgrace an intellectual people is remarkable. It shows how ready the invention of man is to be employed in conjuring up monsters, and in tormenting himself: as if there were not already enough of real evils to afflict him, he creates imaginary ones, and becomes wretched because he thinks he is so. How wretched is the miser through his fear of thieves; the misanthrope, from his doubt and mistrust of all who surround him; and the discontented man, from dissatisfaction with his condi tion, and anxiety for the future! Hence let us learn to guard against the illusions of the imagination, which not only during the night presents spectres to our view, but also, in the day-time, often deceives us by painting vice in alluring forms and attracting colours, Happy should we be if we were as eager to fly from the temptations to evil as we are from the imaginary terrors of an apparition.

Whence is it that some people, whose courage in real danger never shrinks, are violently affected by these chimeras? It is because their imagination clothes its objects in colours much more glowing than they really possess, and in this case, being perverted before reason can operate, terror has completely possessed the mind. Admitting the existence of spectres, why should the return of one from the dead so horribly shake our nature, when we live in the certainty of being one day transported into a world of incorporeal beings? Though we are convinced that every moment brings us nearer to the presence of the eternal God, we feel no fear from such a conviction; yet were an apparition at midnight to interrupt our repose, and announce the decree that we must soon follow it to an unknown country, the boldest amongst us would feel an emotion of terror, and await the event with the utmost torture of suspense. Yet we

regard not the voice of the Most High, which cries, 66 Prepare, O Israel, to meet thy God!" Let us not give up our minds to unnecessary alarms, but rather fear that Being at whose coming the hearts of the bravest would be appalled, and the wicked shall call upon the mountains to hide and the hills to cover them. Fear to do that which is contrary to the will of God, and you may banish every other fear, and sing with David, "The Lord is my light, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my soul, of whom shall I be afraid?"

JANUARY XXIV.

Subterraneous Fires.

THERE are certain phenomena occasionally observed which strongly prove the existence of subterranean fires. Terrible eruptions of inflammable mat. ter, from time to time, take place. The two most known and most considerable mountains which produce these effects are, Etna in Sicily, and Vesuvius in the kingdom of Naples. The accounts given of these two volcanoes are very terrible. At different intervals vast eruptions of fiery matter issue. Sometimes only a black vapour is seen to arise, and at the same time are heard hollow rumbling noises, often succeeded by strong flashes of fire, and peals like thunder, accompanied with the sensation of an earthquake. The vapour then becomes luminous, and showers of stones and lava are evolved, part of which falls again within the crater, though enough of them fall without to lay waste the neighbouring country, and they are often whirled to a considerable distance. These terrible explosions are sometimes even more violent. With the noise of thunder, torrents of burning sul

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phur, and liquid metals, enveloped with clouds of ashes and smoke, are hurled to an immense distance; rocks, upborne by the force of the explosion, fall with a dreadful crash; and cataracts of fire pour down the steep of the mountain; the deluge sweeps over villages, plantations, and cities; the earth rocks, and they who escape the flood fall within the gulph made by the earthquake, or, tossed from wave to wave, are buried in the general wreck.

JANUARY XXV.

Of Comets.

THAT remarkable star which derives its name from the vapour which surrounds it, may justly be ranked amongst the heavenly bodies which form a part of our system. Like our planets, it has its revolution round the sun; but it differs from them all, by its peculiar motion, orbit, and figure. Seen through a telescope, a comet appears full of spots and inequalities; but a thick vapour frequently renders it impossible to ob. serve its figure. The number of comets in our system is about twenty-one, moving in different directions, varying in size, and of much greater density than our carth. Their figure is not always round, and they are not always equally luminous. The train, or tail, is so transparent, that the fixed stars may be seen through it, and sometimes it extends to an immense distance in the heavens; the farther it reaches, the broader it seems to become, and is at times divided into rays. When nearest the sun, the heat of a particular comet has been computed by Newton to be two thousand times hotter than red-hot iron, and it would retain this heat until it came round again, though the period should be more than 20,000 years.

What we have just advanced on this subject is the result of observations made by astronomers. But there are many things concerning the heavenly bodies which we can never understand; and many of them are entirely removed from our sight. Is a comet an aqueous planet, or a burning globe? Can it be inhabited, when at one time it is placed so near the sun that the heat must be excessive, and at other times passing far beyond the orbits of other planets, it is immersed in utter darkness, where the sun's rays have no influence? Has the Great Judge of the earth destined comets for the abode of the unrighteous and the chastisement of the wicked? Shall these erratic bodies one day become the means of turning the planets from their orbits, and effecting their destruction? Or, are they still deserts, without form and void, as was the earth before the Creator made it habitable and fruitful? These questions cannot be resolved by natural wisdom; and from our incapacity in this respect we may learn humility, and be convinced how very limited are the powers of the human understanding.

Men too frequently neglect this truth. Were it present to their hearts, the appearance of a comet would not raise in their minds so many vain conjectures and fruitless opinions. Some men regard comets as the precursors of Heaven's judgments; and some read in their aspect the destiny of nations and the fall of empires. Others again predict, from their appearance, wars, famine, and plagues; and consider them as the severest scourge of man. These superstitious people never reflect that a comet is a natural body which does not derange the order of the universe, and the return of which may be calculated with certainty; neither do they consider that this body, as well as the other planets, must have a much more important destination than that which, superstition

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allows them. Are we to be told that the Supreme Almighty Wisdom has placed these immense and magnificent luminaries in the firmament, to announce to a few poor creatures the fate which awaits them?

JANUARY XXVI.

Of Snow.

ALTHOUGH Snow is very familiar to every one at this season of the year, its formation is sufficiently interesting to delight a mind fond of reflection.

Snow consists of watery particles frozen in the air: frozen water becomes ice; and snow only differs from ice in this respect, that the water which constitutes ice has been frozen when in its ordinary density, whilst the water which forms snow has been frozen when its particles were separated and reduced to a state of vapour. It has been proved by experiments that snow, at the first instant of its falling, is about twenty-four times more rare than water, and occupies ten or twelve times the space it does when dissolved.

The formation of the flakes of snow is both curious and beautiful; and were it not so familiar an object, would certainly fill us with astonishment. Let us, each time we see the thick flakes descend from the heavens, think of the benevolent Creator of nature, " which loveth all his works; which scattereth his snow like wool, and his hoar-frost like the shining pearls; which commandeth the cold to bless and to fertilise the earth, and to whom be rendered, for ever and ever, all praise, honour, and glory."

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