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THE ATTRIBUTES OF GOD DISPLAYED.
CONTEMPLATION OF THE STARRY HEAVENS..
Extracted from Sturm's Reflections.
The sky at night presents us a sight of wonders, which must raise the astonishment of every attentive observer of nature. But from whence comes it, that so few consider the firmament with attention ? I am willing to believe, that in general it proceeds from ignorance: for it is impossible to be convinced of the greatness of the works of God, without feeling a rapture almost heavenly. O how I wish to make you share this divine pleasure !—Raise your thoughts for this purpose towards the sky. It will be enough to name to you the immense bodies which are strewed in that space, to fill you with astonishment at the greatness of the artificer. It is in the centre of our system that the throne of the sun is established. That body is more than a million of times larger than the earth. It is one hundred millions of miles distant from it, and notwithstanding this prodigious distance, it has a most sensible effect upon our sphere. Round the sun move nineteen globular bodies, seven of which are called planets, the other twelve, moons or satellites: they are opaque, and receive from the sun, light, heat, and perhaps also their interior motion. Georgium Sidus, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, the Earth, Venus, and Mercury, are the names of the seyen principal planets. Of these seven, Mercury is nearest the sun; and for that reason is mostly invisible to the astronomer. As he is near nineteen times smaller than our earth, he contributes but little to adorn the sky. Venus follows him, and is sometimes called the morning, and sometimes the evening star. It is one of the brightest of the heavenly bodies, whether it precedes, the sun-rise, or succeeds the sitting sun. It is near as large again as our earth, and is about sixty-eight millions of miles distant from the sun. After Venus comes our earth, round which the moon moves as a secondary planet. Mars, which is the fourth planet, is seven times smaller than our globe ; and its distance from the sun, is one hundred and forty-four millions of miles. Jupiter, with his belt, is always distinguished by his splendour in the starry sky; It seems in size to surpass all the fixed stars ; it is almost as bright as Venus in all her glory, ex.
cept that the light of it is less brilliant than the morning star. How small is our earth in comparison with Jupiter ! there would be no less than eight thousand globes like ours necessary to form one equal in size to that of Jupiter. Saturn, whose distance from the sun is upwards of nine hundred millions of miles, was thought the remotest planet, until the late discovery of the Georgium Sidus, whose distance is eighteen thousand millions of miles, and its magnitude eighty-nine times greater than our earth. In the mean time, the sun, with all the planets which accompany it, is but a very small part of the immense fabric of the universe. Each star, which from hence appears to us no larger than a brilliant set in a ring, is in reality an immense body, which equals the sun both in size and splendour. Each star, then, is not.only a world, but also the centre of a planetary system. It is in this light we must consider the stars, which shine over our heads in a winter night. They are distinguished from the planets by their brilliancy, and because they never change their place in the sky. According to their apparent size, they are divided into six classes, which comprehend altogether about three thousand stars. But though they have endeavoured to fix the exact number of them, it is certain they are innumerable. The very number of stars sowed here and there, and which the most piercing eye can with difficulty perceive, prove that it would be in vain to attempt to reckon them. Telescopes, indeed, have opened to us new points in the creation, since, by their assistance, millions of stars are discovered. But it would be a very senseless pride in man, to try to fix the limits of the universe by those of his telescope.
If we'reflect on the distance beetween the fixed stars and our earth, we shall have new cause to admire the greatness of the creation. Our senses alone make us already know that the stars must be farther from us than the planets. Their apparent littleness only proceeds from their distance from the earth. And, in reality, this distance cannot be measured; since a cannon-ball, supposing it always to preserve the same degree of swiftness, would scarce, at the end of six hundred thousand years, reach the star nearest to our earth. What then must the stars be? Their prodigious distance and their brightness tell us,--they are suns which reflect as far as to us, not a borrowed light, but their own light; suns which the Creator has
Let us stop
sown by millions in the immeasurable space : and each of which is accompanied by several terrestrial globes, which it is designed to illuminate.
In the mean time, all these observations, however surprising they are, lead us, at the utmost, but to the first limits of the creation. If we could transport ourselves above the moon; if we could reach the highest star over our heads, we should discover new skies, new suns, new stars, new systems of worlds, and perhaps still more magnificent. Even there, however, the dominions of our great Creator would not end; and we should find, with the greatest surprise, that we had only arrived at the frontiers of the worldly space. But the little we do know of his works, is sufficient to make us admire the infinite wisdom, power and goodness of our adorable Creator. here, then, and reflect how great must be that being who has created these immense globes! who has regulated their course, and whose mighty hand directs and supports them! And what is the clod of earth we inhabit, with the magnificent scene it presents us, in comparison of the beauty of the firmament? If this earth were annihilated, its absence would be no more observed than that of a grain of sand from the sea shore. What are provinces and kingdoms in comparison of those worlds ? Nothing but atoms which play in the air, and are seen in the sun beams. And what am I, when I reckon myself among this infinite number of God's creatures ? How am I lost in my own nothingness! But however little I appear in this, how great do I find myself in other respects !--" How beautiful this starry firmament which God has chosen for his throne! What is more admirable than the celestial bodies! Their splendour dazzles me; their beauty enchants me. However, all beautiful as it is, and richly adorned, yet is this sky void of intelligence. It knows not its own beauty; while I, mere clay, whom God has moulded with his hands, am endowed with sense and reason." I can, contemplate the beauty of these shining orbs: Still more, I am already, to a certain degree, acquainted with their sublime Author ; and I partly see some rays of his glory. I will endeavour to be more and more acquainted with his works, and make it my employment, till, by a glorious change, I rise above the starry regions.
Millions of rational beings, dispersed in the different countries of the world, are provided at this season with all the necessaries of life. The greater the number of them is, the greater variety of wants they have, according to their condition, their age, their manner of living. The less we are able to form a plan, and take secure measures for our own preservation, the more the arrangements, so full of wisdom and goodness, made by our Creator, to provide for it, deserve our attention and admiration. But there would be a sort of selfishness in confining the divine goodness and wisdom to the preservation of mankind alone, without remembering the care that Providence also takes of animals during winter. A care which he extends to creatures much greater in number on the earth, than the rational beings who inhabit it.
However wonderful the preservation of human creatures may he, we can say, with truth, that the cares of Providence towards animals are still more astonishing proofs of the wisdom, power, and goodness of God.
That the prodigious number of animals which our globe contains, should find food or habitation in summer, is not surprising, because all nature then is disposed to concur towards that end. But that, in this season, the same number of creatures, those millions of quadrupeds, of reptiles, of birds, of insects, and fishes, should continue to exist, is a circumstance which must excite the astonishment of every one capable of reflection. Nature has provided most animals with a covering, by means of which they can bear the cold, and procure themselves food in winter, as well as in summer. The bodies of wild beasts which inhabit forests and deserts are so formed, that the hair falls off in summer, and grows again in winter, till it becomes a fur which enables the animal to endure the most severe cold. Other kinds of animals and an assylum under the bark of trees, in old crevices, in hollows of rocks and caves, when the cold obliges them to quit their summer dwelling.
It is there, that some carry before-hand the food which is to serve them, and thus live on what they have gathered in the summer; others pass the winter in profound sleep. Nature has given to several sorts of birds an instinct, which prompts them to change place at the approach of winter. They are seen flying in great numbers into warmer climates. Several animals, who are not designed to travel, find, notwithstanding, their wants supplied in this season. Birds know how to find out insects in moss, and in the crevices of the bark of trees. Several kinds of quadrupeds carry provision in the summer-time into caves and feed on it in winter. Others are obliged to seek their subsistence under the snow and ice. Several sorts of insects in winter, confined to marshes and frozen rivers, are deprived of food for that time, and still preserve life. Perhaps also, many means made use of by Providence for the preservation of animals, are yet concealed from us.
Adore, with me, our almighty and gracious Preserver, whose goodness and majesty do not make him disdain attention to the weakest creature existing under the heavens.
From the elephant to the mite, all animals owe to him their dwelling, their food, and their life ; and, even where nature herself seems barren of resources, he finds means to make amends
for her poverty.
Let this consideration strengthen our confidence in God. How can anxiety, care, or anguish, get access into our hearts, or make us despair of being preserved during the winter? That God, who provides for the animals, will not forsake mankind. He who shews himself so great in smaller objects, will be still greater in the more important.
The God who provides a covering for animals will be able to clothe us. The God who points out to them a retreat in the caves of the mountains, will find for us an assylum to pass our days in quietness. The God who has prepared for them, even under the snow and ice, their proper food, will be able to provide for us in the most critical seasons.
In fine, let these reflections lead us to imitate, as much as our faculties will permit, the generous cares of divine Providence, in contributing to the preservation and happiness of our fellow creatures, and even to the welfare of every living animal.To be cruel towards animals, to refuse them food, and indispensible conveniencies, is to act manifestily contrary to the will of our common Creator, whose beneficent cares extend even to those beings which are inferior to us. And, if animals have a real right to our attention, how much more are