« PreviousContinue »
phases of VENUs. 35
disc being turned towards the earth at E. When at B, she would appear half illuminated, as the enlightened hemisphere is now partly turned from the earth. At C, she would appear either wholly unilluminated or at best a slight crescent, since her enlightened portion is now wholly or almost wholly turned from the earth, at D, she would appear again half illuminated. These phases were
not really observed in the case of Venus, although Copernicus predicted they would be, when we could see Venus plainer, and this was considered by some as an unanswerable argument against the truth of his theory, while others maintained that the planets shone by their own inherent light, and of course had no phases. Such was the state of science when Copernicus died, but already the dawn of a brighter day was advancing. The use of spectacle glasses was quite common, and many shops were engaged in their manufacture. It is related that some children of a Dutch optician, while playing with the spectacle-glasses one day, chanced to arrange two at such a distance as gave a magnified but inverted image of distant objects, and the optician following out the idea thus accidentallv presented, the telescope was first made in Holland. Galileo, at this time professor of Mathematics, at Padua, heard of the wonderful tube, and immediately set himself to work to construct one. In this he was eminently successful, and in his hands it gave the death blow to the opposers of the system of Copernicus. With the telescope, Venus was clearly observed exhibiting the phases which Copernicus had predicted. We cannot imagine the delight which must have thrilled the heart of Galileo when he, for the first time since the creation of man, beheld the phases of the evening star. Already a champion for the true system, he must have hailed this complete and unanswerable evidence, with a joy such as we cannot now conceive. We would have supposed that now the absurd dogma which asserted that the earth was the grand centre of the universe, and denied its diurnal revolution, would have been forever rejected, but alas! error is difficult to eradicate, it takes root easily, and attains a most luxuriant growth, without any cultivation. Henceforth Galileo's life was embittered by a persecution from the Church. The doctrines which he maintained, and so ably advocated, were supposed to contradict the Bible, and at the old age of 70, after a life spent in the cause of science, he was the subject of a most humiliating spectacle. A hoary headed man, with trembling voice abjuring what he knew to be the truth, abjuring, cursing, and detesting as heresies those doctrines which he had spent the vigor of his manhood in establishing, those etermal and immutable truths which the Almighty had permitted him to be the first to establish, and with his hand on the Gospels, avowing his belief that the earth was the centre of the system, and without the diurnal motion on its axis. Oh that the strong spirit which sustained the early martyrs for religion, had supported this martyr of science.—But the feebleness of age was upon him, harrassed and tormented, worn out by long persecution, his spirit yielded, and never recovered from the degradation; blind and infirm, he never talked or wrote more on the subject of astronomy. Here are the qualifications of these two propositions which asserted the stability of the sun and the motion of the earth, as qualified by the Theological Qualifiers: I. The propostion that the sun is in the centre of the world, and immovable from its place, is absurd, philosophically false, and heritical, because it is expressly contrary to the Holy Scriptures. II. The proposition that the earth is not the centre of the world, nor immovable, but that it moves, and also with a diurna motion, is also absurd, philosophically false, and theologically considered equally erroneous in faith.”
RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY. 37
It hardly seems credible that such opposition could have been seriously entertained by grave and learned dignitaries, when the proofs were so abundant to the contrary. Yet at a later day, we find the Jesuit Fathers, P. P. Le Seur and Jacques declaring in the preface of their edition of Newton's Principia: “Newton in this third book, has assumed the hypothesis of the earth’s motion. The author's propositions are not to be explained but by making the same hypothesis also. Hence we are obliged to proceed under a feigned character; but in other respects, we profess ourselves obsequious to the decrees of the Popes made against the motion of the earth.” Such was the strong hold which ignorance had upon the minds of men, that like Sizzi, who refused to look through Galileo's telescope for fear he might be obliged to acknowledge the actual existence of Jupiter's satellites, they would not receive the truth when it was absolutely forced upon them. Even in the present enlightened state of the world, there are many who object to the science of Geology, because some of its teachings, they imagine, are contrary to the word of God. Religion and Philosophy can never conflict, if both are based upon the Truth. We may be well assured, that the rapid advancement of science and art, will, so far from being injurious to the cause of Religion, tend but to illustrate, and exhibit, in clearer characters, the wisdom and goodness of the Creator. Nothing can be more unwise, or of greater injury to the cause of Religion, than the foolish opposition which is sometimes made to the recent developments, if they may be so termed, of natural science. Religion points us to another sphere of action ; it opens before us another world; and bids us aim for higher and nobler ends than we strive for here. The questions, whether the Heavens are eternal, or our own earth a million, or six thousand years old, are of little moment compared with the question of the immortality of the soul. Science elucidates the former, Religion the latter. Since, then, their aim is so very different, and since we believe both to be based upon Truth, and therefore immutable, why perplex ourselves with questions which can never be answered?
To the Geologist, the proof is abundant, that the present globe has had a being, and been inhabited by wonderful animals and plants, myriads of years past. To the Astronomer, the proof is equally conclusive, that the Heavens are infinite, and eternal, that our system will, at least so far as natural causes are operating, continue for ever, unchanged, and unchangeable. To the Christian, the proof is equally strong, perhaps stronger, that the word of revelation is what it professes, the message of God, teaching what Science could never learn us, but not conflicting with it.
“The broad circumference
WE have now shown that our earth is revolving around the sun, which is the grand central luminary, and that within its orbit are the orbits of Venus and Mercury, while exterior are the orbits of Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. We have learned to look upon these bodies as orbs, or balls like our own earth, and suppose them to revolve like our earth upon an axis. We now desire to know something of their distance from us, and the actual velocity with which both we and they are moving. The diameter of our earth we have assumed at 8000 miles, or equal lengths, we can, from knowing this, ascertain the distance of the moon from the earth, and of the earth from the sun. Every one is familiar with the fact, that every change of position of a spectator, causes an apparent change of place in the object viewed. Thus, if while in a certain position, we observe a particular house to be in the range, or same line with a distant tree, then upon changing our position, the house will no longer be in a line with the tree, but will appear to have moved in the contrary direction. This apparent change of place of the object, due to a real change of place in the observer, is called parallax, and by its means, we can determine the distances of the heavenly bodies. Thus, supposing spectators on opposite portions of the earth’s surface, as at A and B, to view the moon or a planet, at c, the observer at A, will see the object c, apparently at a, while the observer at B will perceive it at the same time at b. Here is an apparent change of