region of winds—the vehicle of smells—the medium of sounds, and the source of all the pleasures we derive from the harmonies of music; it is the cause of that universal light and splendour which are diffused around us, and of the advantages we derive from the morning and evening twilight; and all these advantages are more fully secured by the transparency of its particles, and by its being rendered incapable of being congealed into a solid body.

What, then, would be the consequences were the earth to be divested of its atmosphere ? Were the hand of Omnipotence to detach this body of air from our globe, and could we suppose living beings at the same time to exist, the landscape of the earth would be disrobed of all its vegetable beauties, and not a plant nor flower would be seen over the whole face of nature; the springs and rivers would cease to flow, even the waters of the mighty deep would be dried up, and its lowest caverns exposed to view, like frightful and hideous deserts. No fire nor heat would cheer the abodes of man, either by day or by night, no rains nor dews would refresh the fields, no gentle zephyrs would blow, nor aromatic perfumes be wafted from blooming flowers. The birds would no longer wing their flight on high, nor would their warblings be heard among the groves. No sound whatever would be heard throughout the whole expanse of nature, universal silence would reign undisturbed over the world, and the delights of music

be for ever unknown. The morning would no longer be ushered in by the dawn, nor the day protracted by the evening twilight. All would be gloom and obscurity by day, except in that quarter of the heavens where the sun appeared, and no artificial light nor flame could be procured to cheer the darkness of the night. The whole surface of the globe would present one wide prospect of barrenness and desolation, without a single object of beauty to relieve the horrors of the scene; and this earth, which now presents to the beholder so many objects of sublimity and beauty, would appear as if it had sunk into the primitive chaos whence it arose. But, as we are certain that, according to the present economy of the animal system, no living creatures could exist in such a state of things, it would be an inevitable consequence of the annihilation of the atmosphere, that all the myriads of living beings which now people the waters and the earth, would sink into remediless destruction, and the great globe we inhabit be transformed into one immense sepulchre, without enjoyment, motion, or life.

If, therefore, the Creator had not a regard to the happiness of his sensitive and intelligent offspring-or, if he wished to transform this globe into an abode of darkness and a scene of misery, he has only to support the functions of animal life on a new principle, and then to sweep from the earth the atmosphere with which it is now environed, and the dismal catastrophe is at once accomplished. Such a consideration shows


[ocr errors]

us the propriety and the emphasis of the language of Inspiration, “In Him we live, and move, and have our being”—“In his hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind." But since we are assured that “the Lord is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works," and as we find no arrangement in the system of the universe whose ultimate object is to produce pain or misery to any sensitive being, we have no fear that such a catastrophe willever be permitted to take place. At the same time, we know not what the great ends of his moral government may incline the Deity to perform. We know that, at one period, the system of nature connected with this globe was disarranged on account of the wickedness of its inhabitants, and a deluge of waters overwhelmed all the abodes of men. This catastrophe changed the aspect of the earth and atmosphere, and produced convulsions which shook the foundations of the earth, and disrupted its solid strata; the vestiges of which are still visible in every land, and form some of the subjects of scientific investigation. And, therefore, were the inhabitants of the world ever again to rise to the same pitch of wickedness as they did before the flood, we know not but the Almighty, instead of covering the earth with an abyss of water, might detach from it the surrounding atmosphere, and leave its inhabitants to the effect of such an awful catastrophe.

We learn from Revelation, that a period is approaching, 6 when the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also, and the works that are therein shall be burned up.” In the hand of Him who sits on the throne of the universe, the atmosphere is fitted to become the means of producing this tremendous event. The atmosphere, as formerly stated, consists chiefly of two fluids, or gases, of very opposite qualities; one of these, namely oxygen gas, is the principle of combustion, and forms about one-fifth part of atmospheric air; the other, namely nitrogen, instantly extinguishes every species of fire or flame. Were the nitrogen, then, which forms four-fifths of the atmosphere to be swept away, and the oxygen left to exert its native energies, all the combustible substances on the face of the earth would instantly take fire, nay, the hardest stones, the most solid rocks, and even water itself, would blaze under its force with such energy as to carry destruction throughout the expanse of nature. Such are the elementary principles in the hand and under the superintendence of the Almighty, which are ready at his command to bring into effect all the events, changes, and revolutions, in relation to our world, which are predicted in the word of Divine Revelation.


The wisdom and benevolence of the Creator, as displayed in

the constitution of the atmosphere.

As this topic has been partially alluded to in the preceding chapter, only two or three additional illustrations may now be given.

1. The wisdom and goodness of God are manifest, in the proportion which subsists between the different gases of which the atmosphere is composed. Were the oxygen less in quantity than it now is—were it, for example, in the proportion of fifteen to eighty-five, a hundred parts of nitrogen, instead of twenty-one to seventy-nine, fire would lose its strength, candles would not diffuse a sufficient light, plants would wither, and animals could not breathe without the utmost difficulty and pain. On the other hand, were the nitrogen diminished, and the oxygen greatly increased, the least spark would set combustible bodies in a flame, and, in a few moments, they would be entirely consumed. Candles would be wasted in a few minutes after they were lighted, and would serve no other purpose than to dazzle our eyes with a tran



« VorigeDoorgaan »