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by trees, and adorned with a variety of beautiful decorations; whereas, to a spectator placed on one of the planets, it wears a uniform aspect; looks all luminous; and no larger than a spot. To beings who dwell at still greater distances, it entirely disappears.
That which we call alternately the morning and the evening star, (as in one part of the orbit she rides foremost in the procession of night, in the other ushers in and anticipates the dawn,) is a planetary world. This planet, and the four others that so wonderfully vary their mystic dance, are in themselves dark bodies, and shine only by reflection; have fields, and seas, and skies of their own; are furnished with all accommodations for animal subsistence, and are supposed to be the abodes of intellectual life; all which, together with our earthly habitation, are dependent on that grand dispenser of Divine munificence, the sun; receive their light from the distribution of his rays, and derive their comfort from his benign agency.
The sun, which seems to perform its daily stages through the sky, is, in this respect, fixed and immoveable it is the great axle of heaven, about which the globe we inhabit, and other more spacious orbs, wheel their stated courses. The sun, though seemingly' smaller than the dial it illuminates, is more than a million times larger than this whole earth on which so many lofty mountains rise, and such vast oceans roll. A line extending from side to side through the centre of that resplendent orb, would measure more than eight hundred thousand miles; a girdle formed to go round its circumference, would require a length of millions. Were its solid contents to be estimated, the account would overwhelm our understanding, and be
almost beyond the power of language to express. Are we startled at these reports of philosophy!
Are we ready to cry out in a transport of surprise, "How mighty is the Being who kindled so prodigious a fire; and keeps alive, from age to age, so enormous a mass of flame!" Let us attend our philosophical guides, and we shall be brought acquainted with speculations more enlarged and more inflaming.
This sun, with all its attendant planets, is but a very little part of the great machine of the universe: every star, though in appearance no bigger than the diamond that glitters upon a lady's ring, is really a vast globe, like the sun in size and in glory; no less spacious, no less luminous, than the radiant source of day. So that every star, is not barely a world, but the centre of a magnificent system; has a retinue of worlds, irradiated by its beams, and revolving around its attractive influence, all which are lost to our sight in unmeasureable wilds of ether.
That the stars appear like so many diminutive, and scarcely distinguishable points, is owing to their immense and inconceivable distance. Immense and inconceivable indeed it is, since a ball shot from the loaded cannon, and flying with unabated rapidity, must travel, at this impetuous rate, almost seven hundred thousand years, before it could reach the nearest of these twinkling luminaries.
While beholding this vast expanse, I learn my own extreme meanness, I would also discover the abject littleness of all terrestrial things. What is the earth, with all her ostentatious scenes, compared with this astonishing grand furniture of the skies? What, but a dim speck, hardly perceivable in the map of the universe.
It is observed by a very judicious writer, that if the sun himself, which enlightens this part of the creation, were extinguished, and all the host of planetary worlds, which move about him, were annihilated, they would not be missed by an eye that can take in the whole compass of nature, any more than a grain of sand upon the sea-shore. The bulk of which they consist, and the space which they occupy, are so exceeedingly little in comparison to the whole, that their loss would scarcely leave a blank in the immensity of God's works.
If then, not our globe only, but this whole system, be so very diminutive, what is a kingdom, or a country? What are a few lordships, or the so much admired patrimonies of those who are styled wealthy? When I measure them with my own little pittance, they swell into proud and bloated dimensions: but when I take the universe for my standard, how scanty is their size! how contemptible their figure! They shrink into pompous nothings.
The importance of a good Education.
I consider a human soul, without education, like marble in the quarry: which shows none of its inherent beauties, until the skill of the polisher fetches out the colours, makes the surface shine, and discover every ornamental cloud, spot, and vein, that runs through the body of it. Education, after the same manner, when it works upon noble mind, draws out to view every latent virtue and perfection, which without such helps, are never able to make their appearance.
If my reader will give me leave to change the allusion so soon upon him, I shall make use of the same instance to illustrate the force of education, which Aristotle has brought to explain his doctrine of substantial forms, when he tells us that a statue lies hid in a block of marble; and that the art of statuary only clears away the superfluous matter, and removes the rubbish. The figure is in the stone, and the sculptor only finds it.
What sculpture is to a block of marble, education is to a human soul. The philosopher, the saint, or the hero, the wise, the good, or the great man, very often lies hid and concealed in a plebian, which a proper education might have disinterred, and have brought to light. I am therefore much delighted with reading the accounts of savage nations; and with contemplating those virtues which are wild and uncultivated; to see courage exerting itself in fierceness, resolution in obstinacy, wisdom in cunning, patience in sullenness and despair.
Men's passions operate variously, and appear in different kinds of actions, according as they are more or less rectified and swayed by reason. When one hears of negroes, who, upon the death of their masters, or upon changing their service, hang themselves upon the next tree, as it sometimes happens in our American plantations, who can forbear admiring their fidelity, though it expresses itself in so dreadful a manner?
What might not that savage greatness of soul, which appears in these poor wretches on many occasions, be raised to were it rightly cultivated? And what colour of excuse can there be, for the contempt with which we treat this part of our species; that we should not
put them upon the common footing of humanity; that we should only set an insignificant fine upon the man who murders them; nay, that we should, as much as in us lies, cut them off from the prospects of happiness in another world, as well as in this; and deny them that which we look upon as the proper means for attaining it?
It is therefore an unspeakable blessing, to be born in those parts of the world where wisdom and knowledge flourish; though, it must be confessed, there are, even in these parts, several poor uninstructed persons, who are but little above the inhabitants of those nations of which I have been here speaking; as those who have had the advantages of a more liberal education, rise above one another by several different degrees of perfection.
For to return to our statue in the block of marble, we see it sometimes only begun to be chipped, sometimes rough hewn, and but just sketched into a human figure; sometimes we see the man appearing distinctly in all his limbs and features; sometimes we find the figure wrought up to a great elegancy; but seldom meet with any to which the hand of a Phidias or a Praxiteles could not give several nice touches and finishings.
There is not a more pleasing exercise of the mind, than gratitude. It is accompanied with so great inward satisfaction, that the duty is sufficiently rewarded by the performance. It is not like the practice of