So far as we have discovered, the universe which we have observed with telescopic instruments has no limits that mortals can define, and in comparison with its magnitude our earth is less than a grain of sand, and is so old that no genius can calculate and no imagination can conceive when it had a beginning. All that we know is, that suns exist at distances we cannot define. But around what centre do they revolve? Of what are they composed? Are they inhabited by intelligent and immortal beings? Do we know that they are not eternal, except from the divine declaration that there was a time when the Almighty fiat went forth for this grand creation? Creation involves a creator; and can the order and harmony seen in Nature’s laws exist without Supreme intelligence and power? Who, then, and what, is God? “Canst thou by searching find out Him? Knowest thou the ordinances of Heaven? Canst thou bind the sweet influences of the Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion?” What an atom is this world in the light of science! Yet what dignity has man by the light of revelation! What majesty and power and glory has God! What goodness, benevolence, and love, that even a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice,—that we are the special objects of His providence and care! Is there an imagination so lofty that will not be oppressed with the discoveries that even the telescope has made?
Ah, to what exalted heights reason may soar when allied with faith! How truly it should elevate us above the evils of this brief and busy existence to the conditions of that other life,—
“When the soul,
Advancing ever to the Source of light
And all perfection, lives, adores, and reigns
In cloudless knowledge, purity, and bliss!”
Delambre, Histoire de l’Astronomie; Arago, Histoire de l’Astronomie; Life of Galileo, in Cabinet Library; Life of Galileo, by Brewster; Lives of Galileo, by Italian and Spanish Literary Men; Whewell’s History of Inductive Sciences; Plurality of Worlds; Humboldt’s Cosmos; Nichols’ Architecture of the Heavens; Chalmers’ Astronomical Discourses; Life of Kepler, Library of Useful Knowledge; Brewster’s Life of Tycho Brahe, of Kepler, and of Sir Isaac Newton; Mitchell’s Stellar and Planetary Worlds; Bradley’s Correspondence; Airy’s Reports; Voiron’s History of Astronomy; Philosophical Transactions; Everett’s Oration on Galileo; Life of Copernicus; Bayly’s Astronomy; Encyclopaedia Britannica, Art. Astronomy; Proctor’s Lectures.