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of its treasures of knowledge had then been revealed. Hipparchus, it is true, had done much to advance it beyond its mere infancy, and placed it on a footing of more exact observation and cautious research. He had detected the precession of the equinoxes, and increased the accuracy to which astronomers could calculate the motions of the planets. Still, compared with modern science, these efforts at discovery were only like the weak lispings of a child. The knowledge, even of the apparent motions, attained by the most learned astronomers, was very imperfect ; the real motions were still hidden from them, and Physical Astronomy, or the true laws which regulate these changes, was a science entirely unborn. The celestial sphere
With centric and excentric scribbled o'er,
Cycle and epicycle, orb on orb, seemed rather a strange parody on the simple and majestic harmony of the works of God, than their true explanation ; and no torch had yet been kindled, which could guide the astronomer through this dark labyrinth of changes, to the secret and mysterious cause on which they depend. What a contrast to that noble science of the heavens, which the labours of Copernicus and Galileo, of Kepler and Newton, with their distinguished successors, have gradually disclosed. The veil has at length been drawn aside, and instead of confusion, complexity, and interminable disorder, we can trace a Divine simplicity and unspeakable grandeur, in the laws and motions, and boundless extent of the starry heavens.
Yet even when the words of the Apostle were uttered, there was one of human race, who possessed already all the knowledge of these wonders, which has since been revealed to the world in later times. The darkness of science was no darkness to him, but clear as the day with all the light of those truths, which science has laboriously deciphered. He who appeared, to the eye of sense, the carpenter's son, a Jew from despised Galilee, to the eye of faith was no other than the Word and the Wisdom of God, the true light of the whole universe. Those very laws, which Copernicus and Galileo, Kepler and Newton, have since unfolded with toil and labour of thought, were appointed by Him who was with God in the beginning, and have been upheld, from age to age, by the word of His power, until He revealed them, in these last ages of the world, after His sovereign pleasure, by those whom he singled out to be the channels for these gifts of natural wisdom to the children of men. Copernicus, who dispersed the mists of sense, and restored the true system of the heavens, applied for a higher and holier gift to this ever living fountain of grace and wisdom. 'I ask not,' he says in his epitaph, ‘for the pardon of Paul, nor intreat for the favour of Peter, but earnestly implore the same which Thou gavest to the dying thief upon the cross.
.” For even now, as in the days of the Psalmist, it is the same Lord who dispenses all the treasures both of natural knowledge and of spiritual grace. “He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds. He telleth the number of the stars, and calleth them all by their names. Great is our Lord, and of great power; yea, and His wisdom is infinite.” And thus the Master of modern science prefixed to his great work the promise our Lord had given long ago to the beloved prophet, “ Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased ;” and the greatest discoverer in the works of nature consecrated his powers to search into “ the Revelation of Jesus Christ,” the last and
highest message in the kingdom of grace, from the risen Son of God.
From the explanation of the laws of Kepler to the discovery of the last-found planet, what treasures of knowledge have now been disclosed in the principle of gravitation alone! The falling apple, to a meditative mind, has been found to contain the seed of the whole theory of the universe. The same law, which guides its descent, determines the orbit of the moon, and explains the planetary motions, the relation of their periods and their distances, the course of their satellites, their variations of speed and apparent size, and their most minute distances ; while it explains the figure of the earth, the moon's libration, the changes of the tides, the slow revolution of the signs, the slight apparent motion of the stars, the orbits of the comets, the seeming irregularities of the more distant planets, and even the revolution of the double stars, in regions of space immeasurably distant from the boundaries of our own system. But the discovery of the law did not give it birth. These treasures of knowledge, though hidden, were already in being, when the inspired Apostle taught us their secret home. The noonday sun, which shone around his steps on the way to Damascus, and was there eclipsed by a brighter glory, guided the planets at that moment by its attractive force, in their various orbits; and the same Lord, who appeared in vision to the persecutor, sustained each of them in its course by His unerring wisdom. The moon, which shone brightly on the waves of Cedron, and guided the traitor to betray his Lord, already obeyed that simple law in her complicated motions, of which the results, even now, almost baffle the skill of science to interpret. Her power was felt, in that midnight
hour, by the waves of the Atlantic ocean, as they beat on the island where Newton was to detect the secret of their tides ; but where Druids were then offering their bloody sacrifices, and no ray of light had pierced through the heathen darkness. When the humbled Apostle uttered that penitent and touching appeal, “Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee,” his faith outstripped the tedious course of long ages of discovery, and reminds us that all the most complex results which science has now traced, and is still tracing with slow and painful efforts, were concealed, at that very hour of condescending mercy and love, in the bosom of the risen Saviour, who bids his children follow in his own blessed footsteps to the highest heaven.
But we may enlarge our view beyond the actual discoveries which Science has already attained. The same law, which Newton detected, and which has proved so fertile already in sublime results, cannot have been exhausted by the labours of a few mathematicians for one hundred and sixty years. It is still prolific, doubtless, with consequences at present unknown. Science has done something, but a reflective imagination has to do far more, before its various lessons of wisdom can be really appropriated, and become the general property of mankind. Even the simplest results that flow from it are overwhelming to our thoughts, when we suffer them to rest on the grand reality which binds all creation into one system of being. Every leaf that withers and falls, unnoticed, in the forest, affects, however insensibly, the motion of every planet in our system. The dew-drop, as it alights on the tender grass, has its speed increased by every gem that is buried in Indian mines, or every wave that dashes
on the beach of a thousand isles, and is imperceptibly delayed, how much only the All-wise could tell, by every star that beams down upon it from the sky. Once, and only once, at the uplifted spear of Joshua, the sun stood still in Gibeon ; and whether the motion of the earth, or of the sunbeams only, were changed, hasted not to go down for a whole day ; but it is not less true that every hour, the hand of the infant, lifted up in its sportive and light-hearted play, has a real, though unseen, and measurable influence on the motion of the sun, and of all the worlds that revolve around it. We live surrounded by mysteries without number, links of secret causation, that emanate unceasingly from every atom around us, and from our own bodies, and range onward till they lose themselves in infinity. The telescope of Galileo had power not only to detect the phases of Venus, but to alter her motions; and the more powerful lenses of modern astronomers, while they detect some dim and distant nebula in the farthest depth of space, are also exerting, every moment, a definite and measurable force on every sun and planet which composes that unknown system. There is nothing solitary in creation, no single atom, in earth or air or sea, but is linked fast, by manifold relations, which science has revealed, to the whole system of created things. We cannot trace these ever-varying results of that simple law of universal attraction, when applied to the innumerable objects around us and above, in earth and heaven. But science has proved their reality. And now faith rises higher, and tells us where all these treasures of knowledge, in all the endless complexity of physical changes, are really to be found. They are hidden, along with all the deeper treasures of spiritual wisdom, in Christ Jesus our Lord.