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suited to the narrowness of our more usual modes of thought. On the contrary, there is scope for the fullest and most enduring career which imagination can assign as the destined portion of our world -and there thus seems to be every thing in its appearances—in its relation to the vast scheme of universal nature—and in the attributes of the Being by whom its destiny has been marked out and determined, that should lead us to conclude that our world, and the race of beings by whom it is peopled, are but yet in the infancy of their existence --and that they have before them a career still to be accomplished which the understanding and fancy of man altogether fail in attempting to ascertain or to limit.
And how vastly superior is this idea of the destined course of our world and of its successive generations, to the limited style of thought respecting it which formerly prevailed, and which represented it either as the sole abode of intelligence in nature—or as having existed but for the few thousand years of its ascertained history—or as having already reached the last stage of its duration and incapable of receiving any alterations that shall greatly change the institutions,—or much augment the knowledge—or essentially alter the opinions on the most apparently important topics, which
have already been established. The difference of effect is the same as that which is experienced by a person who, after having struggled amidst the obstacles of a tangled woodland, where roots and shrubs of all forms and dimensions impeded his path and checked his view, at length finds himself on the summit of a rising ground, from which he can stretch his gaze over the wide extent of the landscape around him-and can trace the relation of each object in that landscape to all the rest with which it is associated, and to the position in which the observer finds himself;—it is in truth a glorious landscape which is opened up to our contemplation on all sides by the views we have been now endeavouring to exhibit—and though they seem indeed at first sight, and under one aspect, to lessen the individualimportance of men-andeven of the successive generations as they arise, yet in truth, they far more than compensate for this effect, by the proofs of Divine Wisdom and power which they so magnificently manifestby the vast ideas which they present of the extent and grandeur of the scheme which is going on around us—and even by the new beauty and interest which they give to our actual position upon the face of this world--from its relation to a whole so rich in loveliness and extending on all sides in such unutterable grandeur.
The meanest thing on earth, amidst such views, loses all its apparent worthlessness
because it is in fact a part of the boundless Universe, and has a relation to other existences whose duration is to be continued throughout the ages of Eternity.
IDEAS NECESSARY TO BE ADMITTED INTO THE
CONCEPTION OF THIS SUBJECT.
It is only necessary to compare for a moment, the conceptions first entertained by men upon the foregoing topics, with those to which improved observation afterwards introduces them that is to say, the idea of but one world--that having existed but for a few thousand years—and being already in the last stage of its progress—with the stupendous idea of the infinite host of worlds, to which that which we inhabit is but as the minute particle of dust to the materials of the earth itself—with the conception, that this world has existed in many forms different from the present, and extending into ages of which no distinct trace has now been left on the face of nature and with the luminous idea that interminable
ages are yet to be passed through, during the changes which are destined to characterize the condition of this world—it is only necessary, I say,
to compare these two sets of ideas together, in order to be at once satisfied, how poor in itself-how unsuitable to the vast scheme of Providence which is actually going on throughout the universe--and how utterly destitute of all probability or truth is the first series—and perhaps to have our wonder excited, that, placed as man is, amidst the immensity of the universe, which is constantly soliciting his notice, he should yet, for so long a period, have remained under the influence of impressions so unlike the grandeur of his actual place. Yet it must be confessed that there are other considerations which are fitted to abate this wonder, and especially that it is one among the numberless beautiful provisions of Divine Wisdom, that in no case is the view of the creature permitted to perceive the true grandeur of its position—that the ideas even of the most enlightened minds on all such topics fall infinitely short of the truth and above all, that there is true wisdom and great benevolence of design in limiting the notions and exertions of the creatures to those particular fields of duty which embrace their true objects of interest—and by the proper cultivation of which their real happiness and welfare are promoted. And this it is evident, is often best done by giving them a high notion of the particular sphere of duty which they have actually been appointed to
fill, or of that place in the universe in which their existence has been assigned them and to which all their powers of perception, as well as all their chief views of interest, must be accommodated.
On the other hand, it is not easy to say which of the series of larger views already mentioned is most fitted to impress the mind—or to open up the most extensive and glorious notions of the vast scheme which Divine Wisdom is conducting-and of which even that part of the universe which is exposed to our view offers but a faint intimation. For, if it be an idea of overpowering grandeur that presents itself to our minds when we think of the illimitable regions which, at any one moment, stretch every where around us-all teeming with life-and all bearing testimony to the goodness, and wisdom, and power of the Divine Framer—there is also a corresponding grandeur of conception in carrying our minds back over the infinite extent of ages that have revolved before we were in a condition to speculate respecting the vast mystery of the universe—and over the countless myriads of sentient and intelligent beings who, during ages of which no record now survives--at least none which man can discover-have seen the wonderful manifestations of Divine power—and been glad in the existence which Divine bounty had assigned them.