My opinion of Astronomy has always been, that it is not the best medium through which to prove the agency of an intelligent Creator*; but that, this being proved, it shews, beyond all other sciences, the magnificence of his operations. The mind which is once convinced, it raises to sublimer views of the Deity, than any other subject affords; but is not so well adapted, as some other subjects are, to the purpose of argument. We are destitute of the means of examining the constitution of the heavenly bodies. The very simplicity of their appearance is against them. We see nothing, but bright points, luminous circles, or the phases of spheres reflecting the light which falls upon them. Now we deduce design from relation, aptitude, and correspondence of parts. Some degree therefore of complexity is necessary to render a subject fit for this species of argument. But the heavenly bodies do not, except perhaps in the instance of Saturn's ring, present themselves to our observation as compounded of parts at all. This, which may be a perfection in them, is a disadvantage to us, as enquirers after their nature. They do not come within our mechanics.
And what we say of their forms, is true of their motions. Their motions are carried on without any sensible intermediate apparatus: whereby we are cut off from one principal ground of argumentation and analogy. We have nothing wherewith to compare them; no invention, no discovery, no operation or resource of art, which, in this respect, resembles them. Even those things which are made to imitate and represent them, such as orreries, planetaria,* celestial globes, etc. bear no affinity to them, in the cause and principle by which their motions are actuated. I can assign for this difference a reason of utility, viz. a reason why, though the action of terrestrial bodies upon each other be, in almost all cases, through the intervention of solid or fluid substances, yet central attraction does not operate in this manner. It was necessary that the intervals between the planetary orbs
1 For the articles in this chapter marked with an asterisk, I am indebted to some obliging communications, received (through the hands of the Lord Bishop of Elphin*) from the Rev. J. Brinkley,* M. A. Andrew's Professor of Astronomy in the University of Dublin.
should be devoid of any inert matter either fluid or solid,* because such an intervening substance would, by its resistance, destroy those very motions, which attraction is employed to preserve. This may be a final cause of the difference; but still the difference destroys the analogy.
Our ignorance, moreover, of the sensitive natures, by which other planets are inhabited,* necessarily keeps from us the knowledge of numberless utilities, relations, and subserviencies, which we perceive upon our own globe.
After all; the real subject of admiration is, that we understand so much of astronomy as we do. That an animal confined to the surface of one of the planets; bearing a less proportion to it, than the smallest microscopic insect does to the plant it lives upon; that this little, busy, inquisitive creature, by the use of senses which were given to it for its domestic necessities, and by means of the assistance of those senses which it has had the art to procure, should have been enabled to observe the whole system of worlds to which its own belongs; the changes of place of the immense globes which compose it; and with such accuracy, as to mark out, beforehand, the situation in the heavens in which they will be found at any future point of time; and that these bodies, after sailing through regions of void and trackless space, should arrive at the place where they were expected, not within a minute, but within a few seconds of a minute, of the time prefixed and predicted: all this is wonderful, whether we refer our admiration to the constancy of the heavenly motions themselves, or to the perspicacity and precision with which they have been noticed by mankind. Nor is this the whole, nor indeed the chief part, of what astronomy teaches. By bringing reason to bear upon observation, (the acutest reasoning upon the exactest observation,) the astronomer has been able, out of the confusion (for such it is) under which the motions of the heavenly bodies present themselves to the eye of a mere gazer upon the skies, to elicit their order and their real paths.
Our knowledge therefore of astronomy is admirable though imperfect: and, amidst the confessed desiderata and desideranda, which impede our investigation of the wisdom of the Deity, in these the grandest of his works, there are to be found, in the phenomena, ascertained circumstances and laws, sufficient to indicate an intellectual agency in three of its principal operations,* viz. in chusing, in determining, in regulating; in chusing, out of a boundless variety of suppositions which were equally possible, that which is beneficial; in determining, what, left to itself, had a thousand chances against con-veniency, for one in its favour; in regulating subjects, as to quantity and degree, which, by their nature, were unlimited with respect to either. It will be our business to offer, under each of these heads, a few instances, such as best admit of a popular explication.
I. Amongst proofs of choice, one is, fixing the source of light and heat in the centre of the system. The sun is ignited and luminous; the planets, which move round him, cold and dark. There seems to be no antecedent necessity for this order. The sun might have been an opaque mass: some one, or two, or more, or any, or all, of the planets, globes of fire. There is nothing in the nature of the heavenly bodies, which requires that those which are stationary should be on fire, that those which move should be cold: for, in fact, comets are bodies on fire, yet revolve round a centre: nor does this order obtain between the primary planets and their secondaries, which are all opaque. When we consider, therefore, that the sun is one; that the planets going round it are, at least, seven;* that it is indifferent to their nature which are luminous and which are opaque; and also, in what order with respect to each other, these two kinds of bodies are disposed; we may judge of the improbability of the present arrangement taking place by chance.
If, by way of accounting for the state in which we find the solar system, it be alledged (and this is one amongst the guesses of those who reject an intelligent Creator*) that the planets themselves are only cooled or cooling masses, and were once, like the sun, many thousand times hotter than red hot iron; then it follows, that the sun also himself must be in his progress towards growing cold; which puts an end to the possibility of his having existed, as he is, from eternity. This consequence arises out of the hypothesis with still more certainty, if we make a part of it, what the philosophers who maintain it, have usually taught, that the planets were originally masses of matter struck off, in a state of fusion, from the body of the sun, by the percussion of a comet, or by a shock from some other cause with which we are not acquainted: for, if these masses, partaking of the nature and substance of the sun's body, have in process of time lost their heat, that body itself, in time likewise, no matter in how much longer time, must lose its heat also; and therefore be incapable of an eternal duration in the state in which we see it, either for the time to come, or the time past.
The preference of the present to any other mode of distributing luminous and opaque bodies I take to be evident. It requires more astronomy than I am able to lay before the reader, to shew, in its particulars, what would be the effect to the system, of a dark body at the centre, and of one of the planets being luminous: but I think it manifest, without either plates or calculation, first, that, supposing the necessary proportion of magnitude between the central and the revolving bodies to be preserved, the ignited planet would not be sufficient to illuminate and warm the rest of the system; secondly, that its light and heat would be imparted to the other planets, much more irregularly than light and heat are now received from the sun.
(*) II. Another thing, in which a choice appears to be exercised; and in which, amongst the possibilities out of which the choice was to be made, the number of those which were wrong, bore an infinite proportion to the number of those which were right, is in what geometricians call the axis of rotation. This matter I will endeavour to explain. The earth, it is well known, is not an exact globe, but an oblate spheroid, something like an orange. Now the axes of rotation, or the diameters upon which such a body may be made to turn round, are as many as can be drawn through its centre to opposite points upon its whole surface: but of these axes none are permanent, except either its shortest diameter, i. e. that which passes through the heart of the orange from the place where the stalk is inserted into it, and which is but one; or its longest diameters, at right angles with the former, which must all terminate in the single circumference which goes round the thickest part of the orange. This shortest diameter is that upon which in fact the earth turns; and it is, as the reader sees, what it ought to be, a permanent axis: whereas, had blind chance, had a casual impulse, had a stroke or push at random, set the earth a-spinning, the odds were infinite, but that they had sent it round upon a wrong axis. And what would have been the consequence? The difference between a permanent axis and another axis is this. When a spheroid in a state of rotatory motion gets upon a permanent axis, it keeps there; it remains steady and faithful to its position; its poles preserve their direction with respect to the plane and to the centre of its orbit: but, whilst it turns upon an axis which is not permanent, (and the number of those, we have seen, infinitely exceeds the number of the other,) it is always liable to shift and vacillate from one axis to another, with a corresponding change in the inclination of its poles. Therefore, if a planet once set off revolving upon any other than its shortest, or one of its longest axes, the poles on its surface would keep perpetually changing, and it never would attain a permanent axis of rotation. The effect of this unfix-edness and instability would be, that the equatorial parts of the earth might become the polar, or the polar the equatorial; to the utter destruction of plants and animals, which are not capable of interchanging their situations, but are respectively adapted to their own. As to ourselves, instead of rejoicing in our temperate zone, and annually preparing for the moderate vicissitude, or rather the agreeable succession of seasons, which we experience and expect, we might come to be locked up in the ice and darkness of the arctic circle, with bodies neither inured to its rigors, nor provided with shelter or defence against them. Nor would it be much better, if the trepidation of our pole, taking an opposite course, should place us under the heats of a vertical sun. But, if it would fare so ill with the human inhabitant, who can live under greater varieties of latitude than any other animal, still more noxious would this translation of climate have proved to life in the rest of the creation; and, most perhaps of all, in plants. The habitable earth, and its beautiful variety, might have been destroyed, by a simple mischance in the axis of rotation.
(*) III. All this however proceeds upon a supposition of the earth having been formed at first an oblate spheroid. There is another supposition; and, perhaps, our limited information will not enable us to decide between them. The second supposition is, that the earth, being a mixed mass somewhat fluid, took, as it might do, its present form, by the joint action of the mutual gravitation of its parts and its rotatory motion. This, as we have said, is a point in the history of the earth, which our observations are not sufficient to determine. For a very small depth below the surface (but extremely small, less, perhaps, than an eight thousandth part, compared with the depth of the centre) we find vestiges of ancient fluidity. But this fluidity must have gone down many hundred times further than we can penetrate, to enable the earth to take its present oblate form; and, whether any traces of this kind exist to that depth, we are ignorant. Calculations were made a few years ago of the mean density of the earth,* by comparing the force of its attraction with the force of attraction of a rock of granite, the bulk of which could be ascertained: and the upshot of the calculation was, that the earth upon an average, through its whole sphere, has twice the density of granite, or about five times that of water. Therefore it cannot be a hollow shell, as some have formerly supposed: nor can its internal parts be occupied by central fire, or by water. The solid parts must greatly exceed the fluid parts: and the probability is, that it is a solid mass throughout, composed of substances, more ponderous the deeper we go. Nevertheless, we may conceive the present face of the earth to have originated from the revolution of a sphere, covered with a surface of a compound mixture; the fluid and solid parts separating, as the surface became quiescent. Here then comes in the moderating hand of the Creator. If the water had exceeded its present proportion, even but by a trifling quantity compared with the whole globe, all the land would have been covered: had there been much less than there is, there would not have been enough to fertilize the continent. Had the exsiccation been progressive, such as we may suppose to have been produced by an evaporating heat, how came it to stop at the point at which we see it? Why did it not stop sooner; why at all? The mandate of the Deity will account for this: nothing else will.
IV. Of centripetal forces. By virtue of the simplest law that can be imagined, viz. that a body continues in the state in which it is, whether of motion or rest;* and, if in motion, goes on in the line in which it was proceeding, and with the same velocity, unless there be some cause for change: by virtue, I say, of this law, it comes to pass (what may appear to be a strange consequence) that cases arise, in which attraction, incessantly drawing a body towards a centre, never brings, nor ever will bring, the body to that centre, but keep it in eternal circulation round it. If it were possible to fire off a cannon ball with a velocity of five miles in a second, and the resistance of the air could be taken away, the cannon ball would for ever wheel round the earth, instead of falling down upon it. This is the principle which sustains the heavenly motions. The Deity having appointed this law to matter, than which, as we have said before, no law could be more simple, has turned it to a wonderful account in constructing planetary systems.
The actuating cause in these systems, is an attraction which varies reciprocally as the square of the distance:* that is, at double the distance, has a quarter of the force; at half the distance, four times the strength; and so on. Now, concerning this law of variation, we have three things to observe; first, that attraction, for any thing we know about it, was just as capable of one law of variation as of another: secondly; that, out of an infinite number of possible laws, those which were admissible for the purpose of supporting the heavenly motions, lay within certain narrow limits: thirdly; that of the admissible laws, or those which come within the limits prescribed, the law that actually prevails is the most beneficial. So far as these propositions can be made out, we may be said, I think, to prove choice and regulation; choice, out of boundless variety; and regulation, of that which, by its own nature, was, in respect of the property regulated, indifferent and indefinite.
I. First then, attraction, for any thing we know about it, was originally indifferent to all laws of variation depending upon change of distance, i. e. just as susceptible of one law as of another. It might have been the same at all distances. It might have increased as the distance increased. Or it might have diminished with the increase of the distance, yet in ten thousand different proportions from the present. It might have followed no stated law at all. If attraction be, what Cotes* with many other Newtonians have thought it, a primordial property of matter,* not dependent upon, or traceable to, any other material cause, then, by the very nature and definition of a primordial property, it stood indifferent to all laws. If it be the agency of something immaterial, then also, for any thing we know of it, it was indifferent to all laws. If the revolution of bodies round a centre depend upon vortices, neither are these limited to one law more than another.
There is, I know, an account given of attraction, which should seem, in its very cause, to assign to it the law, which we find it to observe, and which, therefore, makes that law, a law, not of choice, but of necessity: and it is the account, which ascribes attraction to an emanation from the attracting body. It is probable, that the influence of such an emanation will be proportioned to the spissitude of the rays, of which it is composed: which spissitude, supposing the rays to issue in right lines on all sides from a point, will be reciprocally as the square of the distance. The mathematics of this solution we do not call in question: the question with us is, whether there be any sufficient reason to believe, that attraction is produced by an emanation. For my part, I am totally at a loss to comprehend, how particles streaming from a centre, should draw a body towards it. The impulse, if impulse it be, is all the other way. Nor shall we find less difficulty in conceiving, a conflux of particles, incessantly flowing to a centre, and carrying down all bodies along with it, that centre also itself being in a state of rapid motion through absolute space; for, by what source is the stream fed, or what becomes of the accumulation? Add to which, that it seems to imply a contrariety of properties, to suppose an ethereal fluid* to act but not to resist; powerful enough to carry down bodies with great force towards a centre, yet, inconsistently with the nature of inert matter, powerless and perfectly yielding with respect to the motions which result from the projectile impulse. By calculations drawn from ancient notices of eclipses of the moon, we can prove, that, if such a fluid exist at all, its resistance has had no sensible effect upon the moon's motion for two thousand five hundred years. The truth is, except this one circumstance of the variation of the attracting force at different distances agreeing with the variation of the spissitude, there is no reason whatever to support the hypothesis of an emanation; and, as it seems to me, almost insuperable reasons against it.
II. (*) Our second proposition is, that, whilst the possible laws of variation were infinite, the admissible laws, or the laws compatible with the preservation of the system, lay within narrow limits. If the attracting force had varied according to any direct law of the distance, let it have been what it would, great destruction and confusion would have taken place. The direct simple proportion of the distance would, it is true, have produced an ellipse; but the perturbing forces* would have acted with so much advantage, as to be continually changing the dimensions of the ellipse, in a manner inconsistent with our terrestrial creation. For instance; if the planet Saturn, so large and so remote, had attracted the earth, both in proportion to the quantity of matter contained in it, which it does; and also in any proportion to its distance, i. e. if it had pulled the harder for being the further off, (instead of the reverse of it,) it would have dragged the globe which we inhabit out of its course, and have perplexed its motions, to a degree incompatible with our security, our enjoyments, and probably our existence. Of the inverse laws, if the centripetal force had changed as the cube of the distance, or in any higher proportion, that is, (for I speak to the unlearned,) if, at double the distance, the attractive force had been diminished to an eighth part, or to less than that, the consequence would have been, that the planets, if they once began to approach the sun would have fallen into his body; if they once, though by ever so little, increased their distance from the centre, would for ever have receded from it. The laws therefore of attraction, by which a system of revolving bodies could be upheld in their motions, lie within narrow limits, compared with the possible laws. I much underrate the restriction, when I say, that in a scale of a mile they are confined to an inch. All direct ratios of the distance are excluded, on account of danger from perturbing forces: all reciprocal ratios, except what lie beneath the cube of the distance, by the demonstrable consequence, that every the least change of distance, would, under the operation of such laws, have been fatal to the repose and order of the system. We do not know, that is, we seldom reflect, how interested we are in this matter. Small irregularities may be endured; but, changes within these limits being allowed for, the permanency of our ellipse is a question of life and death to our whole sensitive world.
III. (*) That the subsisting law of attraction falls within the limits which utility requires, when these limits bear so small a proportion to the range of possibilities, upon which chance might equally have cast it, is not, with any appearance of reason, to be accounted for, by any other cause than a regulation proceeding from a designing mind. But our next proposition carries the matter somewhat further. We say, in the third place, that, out of the different laws which lie within the limits of admissible laws, the best is made choice of; that there are advantages in this particular law which cannot be demonstrated to belong to any other law; and, concerning some of which, it can be demonstrated that they do not belong to any other.
(*) 1. Whilst this law prevails between each particle of matter, the united attraction of a sphere, composed of that matter, observes the same law. This property of the law is necessary, to render it applicable to a system composed of spheres, but it is a property which belongs to no other law of attraction that is admissible. The law of variation of the united attraction is in no other case the same as the law of attraction of each particle, one case excepted, and that is of the attraction varying directly as the distance; the inconveniency of which law in other respects we have already noticed.
(*) 2. Under the subsisting law, the apsides, the returning points, or points of greatest and least distance from the centre, are quiescent,* and, therefore, the body moves every revolution in exactly the same path relative to the attracting centre: which it would not do, under any other law whatever except that of the direct ratio of the distance, which we have seen to be objectionable. The planetary system required that the law of attraction should be a law which gave an orbit returning into itself. Now, out of an infinite number of laws, admissible and inadmissible, out of a vast variety even of admissible laws, there are few, except the actual law, which would do this. Here then is choice.
(*) 3. All systems must be liable to perturbations. And therefore to guard against these perturbations, or rather to guard against their running to destructive lengths, is perhaps the strongest evidence of care and foresight that can be given. Now we are able to demonstrate of our law of attraction, what can be demonstrated of no other, and what qualifies the dangers which arise from cross but unavoidable influences, that the action of the parts of our system upon one another will not cause permanently increasing irregularities, but merely periodical ones: that is, they will come to a limit, and then go back again. This we can demonstrate only of a system, in which the following properties concur, viz. that the force shall be inversely as the square of the distance; the masses of the revolving bodies small, compared with that of the body at the centre; the orbits not much inclined to one another; and their eccentricity* little. In such a system the grand points are secure. The mean distances and periodic times, upon which depend our temperature, and the regularity of our year, are constant. The eccentricities, it is true, will still vary, but so slowly, and to so small an extent, as to produce no inconveniency from fluctuation of temperature and season. The same as to the obliquity of the planes of the orbits. For instance, the inclination of the ecliptic* to the equator will never change above two degrees, (out of ninety,) and that will require many thousand years in performing.
It has been rightly also remarked, that, if the great planets Jupiter and Saturn had moved in lower spheres, their influences would have had much more effect as to disturbing the planetary motions than they now have. While they revolve at so great distances from the rest, they act almost equally on the Sun and on the inferior planets, which has nearly the same consequence as not acting at all upon either.
If it be said that the planets might have been sent round the Sun in exact circles, in which case, no change of distance from the centre taking place, the law of variation of the attracting power would have never come in question; one law would have served as well as another; an answer to the scheme may be drawn from the consideration of these same perturbing forces. The system retaining in other respects its present constitution, though the planets had been at first sent round in exact circular orbits, they could not have kept them: and if the law of attraction had not been what it is, (or, at least, if the prevailing law had transgressed the limits above assigned,) every evagation would have been fatal: the planet once drawn, as drawn it necessarily must have been, out of its course, would have wandered in endless error.
(*) V. What we have seen in the law of the centripetal force, viz. a choice guided by views of utility, and a choice of one law out of thousands which might equally have taken place, we see no less in the figures of the planetary orbits. It was not enough to fix the law of the centripetal force, though by the wisest choice, for, even under that law, it was still competent to the planets to have moved in paths possessing so great a degree of eccentricity, as, in the course of every revolution, to be brought very near to the sun, and carried away to immense distances from him. The comets actually move in orbits of this sort: and, had the planets done so, instead of going round in orbits nearly circular, the change from one extremity of temperature to another must, in ours at least, have destroyed every animal and plant upon its surface. Now, the distance from the centre at which a planet sets off, and the absolute force of attraction at that distance, being fixed, the figure of his orbit, its being a circle, or nearer to, or further off from, a circle, viz. a rounder or a longer oval, depends upon two things, the velocity with which, and the direction in which, the planet is projected. And these, in order to produce a right result, must be both brought within certain narrow limits. One, and only one, velocity, united with one, and only one, direction, will produce a perfect circle. And the velocity must be near to this velocity, and the direction also near to this direction, to produce orbits, such as the planetary orbits are, nearly circular; that is, ellipses with small eccentricities. The velocity and the direction must both be right. If the velocity be wrong, no direction will cure the error; if the direction be in any considerable degree oblique, no velocity will produce the orbit required. Take for example the attraction of gravity at the surface of the earth. The force of that attraction being what it is, out of all the degrees of velocity, swift and slow, with which a ball might be shot off, none would answer the purpose of which we are speaking but what was nearly that of five miles in a second. If it were less than that, the body would not get round at all, but would come to the ground: if it were in any considerable degree more than that, the body would take one of those eccentric courses, those long ellipses, of which we have noticed the inconveniency. If the velocity reached the rate of seven miles in a second, or went beyond that, the ball would fly off from the earth, and never be heard of more. In like manner with respect to the direction; out of the innumerable angles in which the ball might be sent off, I mean angles formed with a line drawn to the centre, none would serve but what was nearly a right one; out of the various directions in which the cannon might be pointed, upwards and downwards, every one would fail, but what was exactly or nearly horizontal. The same thing holds true of the planets; of our own amongst the rest. We are entitled therefore to ask, and to urge the question, Why did the projectile velocity, and projectile direction of the earth happen to be nearly those which would retain it in a circular form? Why not one of the infinite number of velocities, one of the infinite number of directions, which would have made it approach much nearer to, or recede much further from, the sun?
The planets going round, all in the same direction, and all nearly in the same plane, afforded to Buffon* a ground for asserting, that they had all been shivered from the sun by the same stroke of a comet, and by that stroke projected into their present orbits. Now, beside that this is to attribute to chance the fortunate concurrence of velocity and direction which we have been here noticing, the hypothesis, as I apprehend, is inconsistent with the physical laws by which the heavenly motions are governed. If the planets were struck off from the surface of the sun, they would return to the surface of the sun again. Or, if, to get rid of this difficulty, we suppose, that the same violent blow, which shattered the sun's surface, and separated large fragments from it, pushed also the sun himself out of his place; a question of no less difficulty presents itself, namely, when once put into motion, what should stop him. The hypothesis is also contradicted by the vast difference which subsists between the diameters of the planetary orbits. The distance of Saturn from the sun (to say nothing of the Georgium sidus*) is nearly five-and-twenty times that of Mercury; a disparity, which it seems impossible to reconcile with Buffon's scheme. Bodies starting from the same place, with whatever difference of direction or velocity they set off, could not have been found at these different distances from the centre, still retaining their nearly circular orbits. They must have been carried to their proper distances, before they were projected.1
To conclude: In astronomy, the great thing is to raise the imagination to the subject, and that oftentimes in opposition to the impression made upon the senses. An illusion, for example, must be got over, arising from the distance at which we view the heavenly bodies, viz. the apparent slowness of their motions. The moon shall take some hours in getting half a yard from a star which it touched. A motion so deliberate, we may think easily guided. But what is the fact?* The moon, in fact, is, all this while, driving through the heavens, at the rate of considerably more than two thousand miles in an hour; which is more than double of that, with which a ball is shot off from the mouth of a cannon. Yet is this prodigious rapidity as much under government, as if the planet proceeded ever so slowly, or were conducted in its course inch by inch. It is also difficult to bring the imagination to conceive (what yet, to judge tolerably of the matter, it is necessary to conceive) how loose, if we may so express it, the heavenly bodies are. Enormous globes, held by nothing, confined by nothing, are turned into free and boundless space, each to seek its course by the virtue of an invisible principle; but a principle, one, common, and the same, in all; and ascertainable. To preserve such bodies from being lost, from running together in heaps, from hindering and distracting one another's motions, in a degree inconsistent with any continuing order; h. e. to cause them to form planetary
1 'If we suppose the matter of the system to be accumulated in the centre by its gravity, no mechanical principles, with the assistance of this power of gravity, could separate the vast mass into such parts as the sun and planets; and, after carrying them to their different distances, project them in their several directions, preserving still the equality of action and reaction, or the state of the centre of gravity of the system. Such an exquisite structure of things could only arise from the contrivance and powerful influences of an intelligent, free, and most potent agent. The same powers, therefore, which, at present, govern the material universe, and conduct its various motions, are very different from those, which were necessary, to have produced it from nothing, or to have disposed it in the admirable form, in which it now proceeds.' — Maclaurin's Account of Newton's Phil.* p. 407, ed. 3.
systems, systems that, when formed, can be upheld, and, most especially, systems accommodated to the organized and sensitive natures which the planets sustain, as we know to be the case, where alone we can know what the case is, upon our earth: all this requires an intelligent interposition, because it can be demonstrated concerning it, that it requires an adjustment of force, distance, direction, and velocity, out of the reach of chance to have produced; an adjustment, in its view to utility similar to that which we see in ten thousand subjects of nature which are nearer to us, but in power, and in the extent of space through which that power is exerted, stupendous.
But many of the heavenly bodies, as the sun and fixed stars, are stationary. Their rest must be the effect of an absence or of an equilibrium of attractions. It proves also that a projectile impulse was originally given to some of the heavenly bodies, and not to others. But further; if attraction act at all distances, there can be only one quiescent centre of gravity in the universe: and all bodies whatever must be approaching this centre, or revolving round it. According to the first of these suppositions, if the duration of the world had been long enough to allow of it, all its parts, all the great bodies of which it is composed, must have been gathered together in a heap round this point. No changes however which have been observed, afford us the smallest reason for believing that either the one supposition or the other is true; and then it will follow, that attraction itself is controlled or suspended by a superior agent; that there is a power above the highest of the powers of material nature; a will which restrains and circumscribes the operations of the most extensive.
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