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he endeavoured to account for the production of every other planet of the solar system.

But of all this class of speculations, (for assuredly they deserve no higher character,) the most splendid and comprehensive is that which was first embraced by Dr. Herschel, and was perhaps an improvement on a prior hypothesis of M. Buffon; but which, so precarious is the life of a philosophical hypothesis, he himself discarded, not many years afterwards, for something newer. It supposes the existence of an immense mass of opake but igneous matter, seated in the centre of universal nature; that the sun and every other star were originally portions of this common substance; but it is volcanic in its structure, and subject to eruptions of inconceivable force and violence; that the sun and every other luminary of every other system were thrown forth from it at different times, by the operation of such projectile powers; and that these, possessing in a great degree the qualities of the parent body, threw forth afterwards at different times, by means of similar volcanoes, portions of their own substance, each of which, by the common laws of projectiles, assumed an orbicular motion, constituted a distinct planet, and became the chaos of a rising world.* Hence, according to this comprehensive and daring hypothesis, the existing universe has acquired its birth; hence new systems of worlds are perpetually rising into being, and new planets are added to systems already created.

But worlds and systems of worlds are not only perpetually creating, they are also perpetually diminishing and disappearing. It is an extraordinary fact, that within the period of the last century, not less than thirteen stars in different constellations, none of them below the sixth magnitude, seem totally to have perished; forty to have changed their magnitude by becoming either much larger or much smaller; and ten new stars to have supplied the place of those that are lost. Some of these changes may perhaps be accounted for by supposing a proper motion in the solar or sidereal systems, by which the relative positions of several of the heavenly bodies have varied. But this explanation, though it may apply to several of the cases, will by no means apply to all of them; in many instances it is unquestionable, that the stars themselves, the supposed habitations of other kinds or orders of intelligent beings, together with the different planets by which it is probable they were surrounded, and to which they may have given light and fructifying seasons, as the sun gives light and fruitfulness to the earth, have utterly vanished, and the spots which they occupied in the heavens have become blanks. What has thus befallen other systems will assuredly befall our own; of the time and the manner we know nothing, but the fact is incontrovertible; it is foretold by revelation, it is inscribed in the heavens, it is felt throughout the earth. Such is the awful and daily text; what then ought to be the comment ?

Phil. Trans. vol. lxxxiv.

See Dr. Herschel's Observations compared with Flamsteed's, Phil. Trans. vol. lxxiii.

art. 17.

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LECTURE II.

ON THE ELEMENTARY AND CONSTITUENT PRINCIPLES OF THINGS.

OUR study for the present lecture is the first or simplest principles of bodies, so far as we have hitherto been able to obtain any degree of knowledge upon this recondite inquiry, and the means by which they are com bined or separated from each other, so as to produce different kinds and orders of sensible objects.

A very slight contemplation of nature is sufficient to show us that matter under every visible form and modification, when regarded in its general mass, is perpetually changing; alternately living, dying, and reviving; decomposing into elements that elude our pursuit ; and recombining into new shapes and energies and modes of existence. The purest and most compact metals become tarnished or converted into a calx or oxyde on its surface, and the most durable and crystallized rocks crumble into granules; and the matter constituting these oxydes and granules, by an additional series of operations, is still farther decomposed, till every vestige of their late character is lost, and the elementary principles of which they consisted are appropriated to other purposes, and spring to view under other forms and faculties. The same process takes place in the organized world. The germ becomes a seed, the seed a sapling, the sapling a tree; the embryo becomes an infant, the infant, a youth, the youth a man: and having thus ascended the scale of maturity, both, in like manner, begin the downward path to decay; and, so far as relates to the visible materials of which they consist, both at length moulder into one common elementary mass, and furnish fresh fuel for fresh generations of animal or vegetable existence; so that all is in motion, all is striving to burst the bonds of its present state; not an atom is idle; and the frugal economy of nature makes one set of materials answer the purpose of many, and moulds it into every diversified figure of being and beauty and happiness.

It has hence been said, that matter is necessarily corruptible, and is perpetually changing from its intrinsic nature, and that the physical and moral evils of life, are mainly attributable to this perverse and incorrigible propensity. Such was the doctrine of many of the most eminent schools of ancient philosophy, both of Greece and Asia, and such continues to be the doctrine of various schools of the present day; a doctrine which has not unfrequently been considered as of the utmost importance, and as forming the best defence of the benevolence of the Supreme Architect; who, we are told, notwithstanding all the pains and calamities, the tumults and disorders of nature, has made the most of matter that it would admit of, and has tempered it not only with a positive predominancy of good over evil, but with as much and as real good as could possibly be infused into it.

To argue thus, is to revive the theory of pure Platonism, far too extensively introduced into the Christian world, as I hinted in our last lecture, upon the first conversion of the Grecian philosophers who had been chiefly students in the Platonic school; and to suppose the existence of matter as an independent and eternal principle. "God," says the sublime but mistaken founder of this school," wills, as far as it is possible, every thing good and nothing evil :"*" but it cannot be that evil should be destroyed,

*Thet. t. i. P. 176.

for there must always be a something contrary to good," a guμputes ExiQupid "an innate propensity to disorder," in that eternal and independent principle of matter, out of which all visible things are created.

How much more consolatory, as well as agreeable to right reason, is the view taken of this abstruse subject in the pages of genuine, unsophisticated, and unphilosophised revelation, in which the present is represented as a state, not of actual necessity, but of pre-ordained probation; willed, in infinite wisdom, by the great first cause, to promote the best ultimate happiness of man; and matter as a substance produced out of nothing by his almighty fiat! It was one of the express objects of the preceding lecture to prove not only that matter does exist, in opposition to those who have thought it expedient to deny the being of a sensible and material world, but that it could not exist by any other means; and that, while there is no self-contradiction or absurdity in contending that matter, and that ten thousand other substances than matter, may be produced out of nothing by the energy of an infinite and omnipotent intelligence, there is so pure and perfect an absurdity in endeavouring to account for its existence upon every other theory which has hitherto been invented, that right reason should induce us to embrace the former opinion with the same promptitude with which we fly from every opinion that opposes it.

Matter, then, is the production of an almighty intelligence, and as such is entitled to our reverence; although, from a just abhorrence of many ancient and not a few modern errors, it has too often been regarded in a low and contemptible light. Though not essentially eternal, as was contended for by all the schools of Greece and Asia, nor essentially intelligent, as was contended for by several of them, it evinces in every part and in every operation the impress of a divine origin, and is the only pathway vouchsafed to our external senses by which we can walk

Through nature up to nature's God;

that God whom we behold equally in the painted pebble and the painted flower-in the volcano and the corn-field-in the wild winter-storm and in the soft summer moonlight. Although when contemplated in its aggregate mass, and especially in its organized form, it is perpetually changing, it is every where perfect in its kind, and even at present bears indubitable proofs of being capacified for incorruptibility. In its elementary principles it is maintained by the best schools of both ancient and modern times to be solid and unchangeable; and, even in many of its compound forms, it discovers an obvious approach to the same character. The firm and mighty mass that constitutes the pyramids of Egypt has resisted the assaults of time and of tempests for, perhaps, upwards of four thousand years, and by many critical antiquaries is supposed to have triumphed over the deluge itself. While there is little doubt that the hard and closely crystallized granitic mountains of every country in which they occur, "the everlasting hills," to copy a correct and beautiful figure from the pages of Hebrew poetry, are coeval with the creation, and form at this moment, as they formed at first, the lowest depths as well as the topmost peaks of the globe. That they are in every instance considerably attenuated and wasted away admits, indeed, of no doubt; but to have borne the brunt of so long and incessant a warfare, without actually being worn down to the level of the circumjacent

*Id Theœt. t. i. p. 176.

† Phileb. See also Brucher, Hist. Phil. lib. ii. eap. viii. § 1.

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plains, affords no feeble proof of an almost imperishable nature, and a proof open to the contemplation of the most common capacities.

There are various examples of the Macedonian stater or gold coin, struck in the reign of Philip, at this time preserved in the rich cabinet of the Florence gallery,* which, though they have continued in existence for at least 2200 years, do not appear to have lost any thing of their weight. Barthelemni, making a trivial mistake in the weight of the drachma, which he calculated at 66.55 grains English, suspected that these had sustained upon the average a loss of about seven-eighths of a grain during this long period; but as M. Fabbroni has since satisfactorily proved that the drachma was not more than 66.8 grains, and as this is the actual weight of several staters in this cabinet, we have a demonstration that they have sustained no diminution whatever.

Yet, in its liquid and gaseous state, matter often exhibits still more extraordinary instances of indestructibility or resistance to decomposition; and it should be especially remarked, that its indestructibility or indecomposable power appears to hold a direct proportion to its subtilty, its levity, its activity, its refined ethereal or spiritualized modification of being.

Water is as much a compound as any of the earths, yet we have strong reason for believing that for the most part it exists unchangeably from age to age; and that its integrity has been not essentially interfered with from the commencement of the world. Its constituent parts are by no means broken into, but continue the same whether under a solid form, as that of ice; under its usual form, as that of a liquid; or under an elastic form, as that of vapour : it is the same in the atmosphere as on the earth; it falls down of the very same nature as it ascends, and the electric flash itself appears, generally speaking, to have no other influence upon it than that of hastening its precipitation. It is only to be decomposed, that we know of, by a very concentrated action of the most powerful chemical agents; and even this, whether by art or by nature, upon a very limited scale.

A similar identity appears to exist in atmospheric air, which is, probably, at least as indestructible as water; for its composition, when purged of the heterogeneous substances which are often combined with it, is the same in the deepest valleys, as on the highest cliffs; at the equator and at the poles; the earth's surface, and the height of 21,000 feetf above it; in many of which situations, and especially the more elevated, it is impossible for it ever to be generated; since the constituent parts of which it is composed are not found to exist in a separate state for its production. It is capable, indeed, of decomposition; but, like water, becomes decomposed with great difficulty, and probably consists at this moment, as to its general mass, of the very identic particles that formed it on its first emerging from a state of chaos.

Of the composition of the subtler gases we know nothing. The specific weight of several of them has been ascertained, and the constituent principles of one or two of them, as nitrogene and hydrogene, have been guessed at, but nothing more; for the boldest experiments of chemistry have hitherto been exerted in vain to effect their decomposition. While as to those which are more immediately connected with the principle of animal life, and upon which many schools of modern philosophy have supposed it altogether to depend, as caloric, and the electric and voltaic fluids, the last

*See Nicholson's Journal, vol. xxxii. p. 25.

† See Thomson's Chem. vol. iv. 64., as also Phil. Mag. xxi. 225.

PRINCIPLES OF THINGS.

23

of which seems in truth to be only a peculiar modification of the second, together with other substances or qualities which in subtilty and activity have a considerable resemblance to them, as light and the magnetic aura, we are not only wholly incapable of decomposing them by any process whatever, but even of determining them to be ponderable, or to possess any of the other common properties of matter, as extent and solidity. Whence we are, in fact, incapable of ascertaining whether they be matter at all, whether mere qualities of matter, or whether some other more subtle and spiritualized substances,* intermixing themselves under different combinations with the material mass, and giving birth to many of its most extraordinary properties and phænomena.

The question is entered upon at some length by Professor Berzelius, in his" Explanatory Statement," published in the Memoirs of the Academy of Stockholm for 1812, in which he endeavours to support the probability that the electric fluids and caloric are material as well as the fluid of light; but, to do this, he is compelled to alter the common definition of matter, and to contend that matter does not necessarily possess gravitation or aggregation.†

The materiality of light has been attempted to be proved by its effects on solutions of muriate of ammonia and prussiate of potash, when placed in a situation to be crystallized. The crystallization of these salts may be directed at pleasure by the introduction of light at one or the other side of the vessels containing such solutions. Camphor displays a like affinity for light. All this, however, shows merely that light possesses an influence of some kind; but it by no means establishes that such influence is a material one.‡

Is it inquired to what important point these abstruse speculations lead? I may reply, among others, to the following:

First, to a probability, if not to a proof, that matter, under peculiar modifications, is capable of making an approximation to something beyond itself, as ordinarily displayed; and hereby of becoming fitted, whenever necessary, for an intercourse and union with an immaterial principle.

And, secondly, to a clearer view of the coincidence of natural phanomena with one of the most glorious discoveries of revelation. For notwithstanding that matter, under every visible shape and texture, is at present in a greater or less degree, perpetually changing and decomposing, the moment we perceive that this is not a necessary effect, dependent upon its intrinsic nature, but a beneficial power superadded to it for the mere purpose of rendering it a more varied and more extensive medium of being, beauty, and happiness-the moment we find ground for believing, that in its elementary principles it is essentially solid and unchangeable; and that even in many of its compounds it is almost as much exempted from the law of change-we are prepared to contemplate a period in some distant futurity, in which, the great object for which it has been endowed with this superadded power being accomplished, the exemption may extend equally to every part and to every compound: a period in which there will be new heavens and a new earth, and whatever is now corruptible will put on incorruption.

But what, after all, is matter in its elementary principles, as far as we are capable of following them up? Can it be divided and subdivided to

*See Young's Lectures, vol. ii. p. 742. lect. Ix.

See Nicholson's Journal, vol. xxxiv. p. 164, 165.

See Accum's Elements of Crystallography, and Tilloch's Phil. Mag. vol. xli. p. 967,

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