Imágenes de páginas

primeval worlds," either for the purpose of cheering our winter hearth, or the noble design of generating steam, in order to move the great masses of machinery which have so enhanced the glory of England among the kingdoms of the world, are not only instruments on the one hand of adding to our domestic enjoyment, and on the other of exalting our national prosperity, but are also raising up large amounts of water and carbonic acid. Carbonic acid floating through the air to enter into the very composition of vegetable life, and water to ascend into the sky in the form of steam, there in the state of watery vesicles to form those masses of matter we denominate clouds, thus remaining either till some electrical change or some difference in temperature causes it to coalesce in the form of drops, and these descending to the earth as rain, penetrate through the various strata that compose its surface, and beautify, refresh, and replenish it again.

Indivisibility.-Matter is infinitely divisible. Our instruments may not be sufficiently delicate to divide matter, when in a minute state of division, but this in nowise proves that matter could not be further subdivided.

Impenetrability. This may at first sight seem sophistical, for we know that air and water are both matter, yet we can pass our hands through the one or plunge it into the other; by impenetrability, however, we mean, that two bodies cannot occupy the same space at the same time. A more practical illustration of this law cannot be mentioned than the diving-bell, which is a vessel generally shaped like a bell, open at the bottom, and, in common language, empty; however it is full of air, and though it descends into the depths of the sea, the water will never rise as long as the air remains in it. By a knowledge of this law, we are enabled to traverse "ocean's dark bed," and recover property which otherwise would have been for ever lost.

Extension. By extension we mean, that matter must possess bulk, and consequently occupy space. We cannot conceive of matter so small as not to fill up some nook in creation. This property indeed distinguishes matter from heat, and other immaterial principles.

Inertia, is another property of matter, and by this we mean, its perfect incapacity of spontaneously originating motion. For instance, a ball placed in a certain position, would remain there for ever, were it not impelled by a sufficient force to move it from the situation into which it was originally put, and again, when set in motion, it would never stop, but continue rolling ad infinitum were it not retarded and finally arrested by the friction of the earth, the action of the air, and the attraction of gravitation. There are two or three secondary properties of matter, such as,

Porosity. There are many bodies in nature whose individual particles are not in close connection, but are at some distance from each other, and pores exist between the particles of which they are composed, such as sponge, decayed wood, &c.

Compressibility. All matter is more or less compressible. Gases are far more capable of compression than solids or liquids. By ham

mering, most metals are rendered dense, and their specific gravity increased. It was at one time thought that water was incompressible, but this has since been proved to be erroneous. The "Academia del Cemento" of Florence, performed an experiment which was long thought conclusive. A hollow ball of thin beaten gold having been prepared, it was filled with water and subjected to a great pressure; the shape was not altered, but the water oozed through the pores of the gold. This, however, only proved that water was not very compressible. The following is a table showing the compressibility of various fluids, at the usual pressure of the atmosphere.

The weight of the air compresses rain water

[blocks in formation]





But Mr. Perkins' experiments seem to prove that water is far more compressible than is here stated.

Elasticity is the property that bodies possess of returning to their original shape when the compressing power is removed. When solid bodies have been subjected to a great pressure, their appearance has been so altered, that they do not resume their original form; but this is never the case with gases and liquids. The elasticity of water is familiarly exemplified in the pastime of throwing a flat substance such as an oystershell or tile on the water. When this is skilfully done, the elastic force of the water is sufficient to cause it to rebound two, three, or four times. "Polarity indicates a disposition in the particles of matter to move, to be attracted, or to cohere to others by certain parts or poles, instead of causing a confused mass."* Hence we always see matter, when unrestrained by any rude mechanical force, full of beautiful and regular arrangement.

These, then, are the general properties of matter. We shall now be enabled to understand the laws that govern that matter, both mechanical and chemical, in so admirable and wonderful a manner; and these laws will be fully entered into in our next.


THE Scriptures of truth declare to us, that man by his unaided reason knows not God according to the glorious delineation of His character as pourtrayed in His holy word; that he will, left to himself, search, if haply he may find Him, and yet, even though in God we live and move and have our being, will his inquiry be fruitless, and the Incorruptible Jehovah, whose presence all space acknowledges, will be likened to devices and images effected by his own art and circumscribed by paltry limits! And it is a declaration strictly, painfully true. With what a strange and inconsistent picture are we presented in the character of the Ancient Egyptians; what wonderful sagacity was here closely

* Reid's Elements of Chemistry.

allied to utter blindness; what mental acumen with grovelling superstition! Refer to the most extraordinary inventions of modern times; the results of wearied and patient study; severe and arduous investigation; and we discover that our plans and machinations have been anticipated by our olden rivals, whilst in numberless instances they have far outstripped us. Let the splendid ruins of their ancient palaces and temples prove the extent of their architectural science, and let the far-famed pyramids testify as to whether difficulties could overcome their perseverance, and induce them to abandon projects which to us would seem visionary and speculative. And yet these men were the devoted supporters of religious mummeries, the utter absurdity of which we should have been apt to suppose one spark of reason would have been sufficient to point out. But no; there is a religious propensity in men's minds which they would fain exert in conformity with their vicious inclinations and desires, and to such did the priestly philosophers minister; they occupied, assiduously, Egyptian talent in the performance of their lordly wishes, and employed their commanding ability in forging the iron chain of despotism over the minds of their unoffending brethren. In them resided the mind-the people were the agency;-whence did the sublime philosophy of the loftier sects of Greece take its origin? Were not the master-minds of Plato, Pythagoras, Herodotus, and Eudoxus, filled with their vast resources from the instructions of Egypt's sages? The noble doctrine of the soul's imperishability, as expounded to admiring hearers by the eloquent Plato, was clearly derived from the Egyptian priesthood. With what correctness did they register the sun's apparent progress through the heavens by means of the zodiac-they calculated eclipses and foretold comets. Impelled onwards by their love of mathematical demonstration, they appear to have pushed their inquiries beyond the present experience of mortal men into abstract metaphysical regions. Man's future state of existence ; the nature and attributes of the Deity, and his mode of existence, were themes well adapted for their logical and comprehensive minds. They were wise enough, however, to perceive that they could only effectually govern the rabble by means of religion, and the questions they revolved in their own minds would not accomplish this, because they were questions. They saw plainly the obvious truth that where the idea of a superior Power and presiding Divinity sits loosely on the mind, or is rejected, that there all moral control must be deemed as visionary — man has then no check to the fury of his blasting and suicidal passions -the voice of conscience is quite unheeded; for, indeed, conscience has ceased to exist.

What a tissue of fables and nonsense do we find forced upon the Egyptians in accordance with the views we have been just describing. We find the origin of all things attributed to Agathodœmon, a good genius, from whom sprang Phtha, the first of their fabulous kings; the father of the Sun and the designer and artificer of Creation represented as a cunning workman; Re or On, the Sun, offspring of Vulcan; Rhea his wife, from whom issued Osiris, the most adored, who having married his sister

Isis, is stated to have left his kingdom under her control, and to have engaged in foreign expeditions; through a conspiracy formed against him, he was buried alive in a coffer, and cast into the Nile: the body, through various circumstances, came again into the possession of Isis, but was robbed by his brother Typhon, who severed the corpse into several parts, and buried them in different directions; notwithstanding which, we are informed they again revived, and he appeared on earth to comfort his disconsolate widow; Isis, the goddess of fertility and maternal love; Neith, of universal nature; Joh; Apopis, a brother of On; Kronus, or Saturn; Thoth or Theath, a privy counsellor to Osiris ; Somus, a general of Osiris, considered as the Egyptian Hercules; Horus and Harpocrates, sons of Osiris; Athor, the Venus of Egypt; Amoun, adored by the Ammonians under the form of a man with a ram's head; Bubastes, the sister of Horus; the sacred Nile, and many of the creatures who existed around it; a bull with extraordinary marks, called Apis, were some of the imaginary deities to whom these people paid an unbounded veneration; to whose honour temples of unparalleled magnificence were erected, and in whose service men were initiated into mysteries of iniquity, and taught how they might best bring about their desires, by adopting all the artifices that their genius could conceive, to govern and enslave their brethren; and all their extensive scientific knowledge was brought to bear in the performance of jugglery, by which to support their system of forgeries and lies.

"The science of Acoustics," says Sir D. Brewster, "furnished the ancient sorcerers with some of their best deceptions. The imitation of thunder in the subterranean temples, could not fail to indicate the presence of a supernatural agent, and the vocal statue of Memnon, which began at the break of day to accost the rising sun, were deceptions constructed from a diligent observation of the phenomena of nature." Their acquaintance with the power of steam, and its effects, we discover from a piece of workmanship, evidently effected for priestly purposes, called, "The Fountain of Hero," an Egyptian engineer, in which oil was made to overflow on the sacrifice, as the flames ascending from the altar caused the steam to exert its power. In Optics, they were presented with a wide scope for imposition: our author just quoted, says, By this means they were enabled to bring the remotest objects within the very grasp of the observer, and of swelling into gigantic magnitude the almost invisible bodies of the material universe. The ancients were not, indeed, acquainted with those combinations of lenses and mirrors which constitute the telescope and the microscope; but they must have been familiar with the property of lenses and mirrors to form erect and inverted images of objects. There is reason to think that they employed them to effect the apparition of their gods; and in some of the descriptions of optical displays which hallowed their ancient temples, we recognize all the transformations of the modern phantasmagoria."


May God be praised, that the Christian system is open for all to examine and investigate. "We do not," says the Apostle, "follow (or

imitate) cunningly-devised fables;" all that we know, we have laid open for your benefit, and are willing to die in its defence.

[blocks in formation]

Oh! then, may the glorious hope it inspires animate us to obey its dictates; and may not we be outdone by the untutored enthusiasm of the credulous Egyptian.


No sooner does nature attain to its highest beauty and perfection than we behold the symptoms of decay. These we are fully prepared to look for in the works of man- -his noblest productions are admired but for a moment, and the finest specimens of his skill bear with them the principle of corruption. But we are surprised when the earth evinces its mutability, when its mountains subside, when its loftiest rivers cease to flow, and when its loveliest scenes are blighted by the hurricane and the storm. Where in centuries past the inhabitants of a burning clime sought shelter from the noonday rays in every friendly covert, there is now the dreariness of winter; man himself has left untenanted those regions which he once possessed, and has resigned his dominion to the wild beasts of the forest.

While the contemplation of the sublime propositions of astronomy ennobles our understanding, the world on which we dwell affords ample scope for our powers, by exhibiting to us those members of the animal and vegetable kingdoms which have long been extinct; and by conducting us back in imagination to the times when darkness and chaos overspread a slumbering universe. There are good reasons for supposing that our earth has been in existence for numerous ages, not only from the facts afforded by the science of Geology, but likewise from those remains so often found imbedded in the unyielding rock. The forest found buried in the soil, with its massive trunks fast mouldering to dust, is a source of pleasing speculation to the philosopher;—even if he had viewed it in its pristine state he would have passed its groves with veneration; what then is his sensation when he reflects on the time that has since then elapsed?

England has given to science some of the rarest specimens of fossils. The numerous and large excavations made in different parts of this country have been the means of throwing considerable light on its natural history. The caverns at Kirkdale, in Yorkshire, are much celebrated for the variety of remains found there; ́on examination, Professor Buckland discovered of carnivorous beasts, the remains of the tiger, hyena, bear, &c.; of pachydermata, the rhinoceros, elephant, and others. On surveying such examples as these, we are convinced that numberless changes must have passed over the world. That animals whose nature is only adapted to the heat of a tropical climate should be found in a fossil

« AnteriorContinuar »