The Wisdom and Love of God as Shown by His Creation by Noah Webster, Father of American Education. (In plain English so even lawyers and politicians can understand)
The Universe, — In viewing and contemplating the works of creation, we are struck with astonishment at the magnitude, the variety and the beauty of the bodies which compose the visible Universe. Innumerable resplendent orbs, stationed in the vast extent of space, at inconceivable distances from each other, so as to appear like mere spangles in the sky, though a thousand times larger than this earth, fill us with admiration and amazement. We shrink even from an effort to reach in thought the boundless extent of such a scene; or to comprehend the stupendous power of the creator.
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The fixed stars. — The fixed stars, which shine by their own light and are distinguished from planets by their twinkling, have always the same relative position; and therefore are supposed to be suns or centers of systems. They appear to have no immediate connection with our Solar system; but they adorn the vast concave over our heads, enliven the gloom of night, and delight the eye with their sparkling radiance.
Solar System. — The system of orbs, of which this earth is a part, consists of the Sun, and several planets, primary and secondary. The Sun is stationed in or near the center of this system, and around it revolve the primary planets at different but vast distances and in different periods of time. Some of these planets are attended with smaller orbs, which revolve about them, and are called secondary planets. One of these is the moon, an orb that revolves around the earth. These planets receive their light from the sun.
The Earth. — The earth, like the other planets, is round or nearly spherical. It is about ninety five million miles from the sun, the center of the system. It has two motions, by one of which are caused the day and night; and by the other, is determined what we call the year. These movements are regular.
Day and Night. — To form the day and night, the earth is made to revolve on an imaginary line, called its axis. It makes one complete revolution from west to east in twenty four hours. This is called a diurnal or daily revolution, during which the whole surface of the globe is presented to the sun. That half of the surface which is enlightened by the sun has day; and that half which is turned from the sun has night. The darkness of night therefore is the shade of the earth.
Uses of the Day and Night. — The division of time into day and night is a most benevolent provision for the convenience and comfort, not only of men, but of many species of animals. The light of the sun is necessary to enable men to perform their labors, at the same time, the heat of the sun’s rays is necessary or useful in promoting vegetation. Night, on the other hand, is necessary or useful for rest; darkness and stillness being favorable for sleep. Beasts, for the most part, feed in the day time, and sleep at night. This division of time therefore is a proof of the goodness of the creator, in adapting his works and laws to the welfare of his creatures.
The Year. — The earth revolves around the sun once in three hundred and sixty five days, and about six hours. This revolution constitutes the year, and is called its annual revolution. And by the inclination of its axis to the plane of the ecliptic or path of the sun, so called, the earth receives at one time, the rays of the sun in such a direction as to be much heated, and this heat constitutes summer. In another part of the year, the rays of the sun strike the earth more obliquely, and produce little heat. This defect of heat constitutes winter. But the sun is always so nearly vertical to the parts of the earth near the equator, as to constitute perpetual summer.
The Moon, — The small orb which we call the Moon is a secondary planet revolving round the earth once in about twenty nine days, which period constitutes a lunar month. It receives light from the sun, a portion of which is reflected to the earth, illuminating the night with a faint light. When the moon comes directly between the earth and the sun, it hides a part or the whole of the disk of the sun from the inhabitants of the earth. This is a solar eclipse. When the moon, in its revolution, passes through the shadow of the earth, a part or the whole of its face is obscured; and this is a lunar eclipse.
Remarks on the Solar System. — The admirable adjustment of the solar system to its purposes, is very striking. By the revolution of the earth on its axis, we have a constant succession of day and night; the one for labor, business and action, the other for rest to refresh the wearied body. The revolution of the earth round the sun determines the year, a regular division of time, highly important and useful; while the position of its axis varies the seasons, causing summer and winter in due succession. While we admire the beauty, order, and uses of this arrangement, we cannot but be surprised at the simplicity of the laws by which it is effected. All the works of God manifest his infinite wisdom, as well as his unlimited power.
The Earth. — The structure of the earth every where exhibits the wise purposes of the creator. The surface of the earth consists of dry land, or land covered with water, and hence the earth is called terraqueous. The land is intended for the habitation of men, and of various animals, many of which are evidently intended for the immediate use of men, and others are doubtless intended to answer some other useful purposes in the economy of the natural world.
Subsistence of men and animals, — The principal part of the food of man and beast is produced by the earth ; and the first thing to be noticed is the soil which covers a great portion of its surface. The soil is various; but well adapted to produce different kinds of plants. It is naturally or capable of being made, so loose and soft as to admit the growth and extension of roots, which serve the double purpose of conveying nutriment to plants, and of supporting them in an upright position. The soil is chiefly loam, clay or sand or a mixture of all, and different soils are best adapted to produce different trees and herbage.
Vegetable productions, — The wisdom and benevolence of the creator are wonderfully manifested in the variety and uses of plants. In the first ages of the world, men fed upon acorns and nuts, the seeds of trees, produced without labor. This mode of subsistence was, in some measure, necessary for mankind, before they had invented tools or learned the cultivation of the soil. When men had multiplied, and learned the uses of grain, then commenced agriculture, the most important occupation of men, and the chief source of subsistence and wealth.
Beauty of plants, — The goodness of the creator is manifested also in the beauty of the vegetable kingdom. The most common color of growing herbage and the leaves of trees is green; a color not injurious to the eye, and the more agreeable as being connected with growth and vigor. But nothing can equal the beauty of vegetable blossoms; the variety, richness and delicacy of the flowers which adorn the earth, in the proper seasons, baffle all human art and all attempts to do them justice in description.
Propagation of plants, — The modes by which plants continue their species, are a wonderful proof of the divine purpose and wisdom. The chief mode is by seeds, which each plant produces, and which fall to the earth, when the plant dies, or at the close of each summer. Each seed contains the germ of a new plant of the same species, which is defended from injury by a hard shell or firm coat, and thus protected, the germ may continue for years, perhaps for ages, until the seed is placed in a condition to germinate. The seed of some plants is a bulb, growing in the earth, as in the potato, the onion and the tulip. Some seeds are feathered that they may be wafted to a distance by wind. Many small seeds are the food of birds, and by them are dispersed. The seeds of rice, wheat and other plants are the chief support of mankind.
Variety of Animals. — For the use of man, and other purposes God created a great variety of animals having bodily powers as perfect as those of mankind, but with intellectual powers much inferior. Their faculties are adapted to their condition. They have what is called instinct, a faculty of directing them without any process of reasoning to the means of support and safety. Some of them appear to have powers similar to human reason, as the elephant. Many of them intended for the use of men, are capable of being tamed and taught to perform labor, and various services for mankind.
Land Animals, — Animals destined to live on land have lungs or organs of life as mankind have, and live by respiration. Their bodies are composed of like materials, bones, flesh, and blood. They move by means of legs and feet, by wings, or by creeping. They are mostly furnished with instruments by which they defend themselves from their enemies, as horns, hoofs, teeth and stings, some of them subsist on herbage and fruits, particularly such as are intended for the use of man, as horses, oxen, cows, sheep, camels and elephants. These are called herbivorous or graminivorous animals.
Forms of animals, — The first thing to be observed in the animal kingdom, is the adaptation of the form and propensities of each species to its modes of life, and to its uses. The camel, the horse, the ox and the sheep have four legs, and walk with their heads in a line with their bodies, so that they can take their food from the earth with the mouth, as they stand or walk. The elephant’s neck is short, but he has a strong muscular trunk, with which he can feed himself. Most of the large quadrupeds have hoofs consisting of a horny substance for walking on rough ground. But the elephant and camel have a tough musculus foot for walking on sand; thus being fitted for traversing the deserts of Asia and Africa.
The bovine kind and sheep. — The ox is peculiarly fitted for draft, either by the neck or head and horns, his body is very strong and his neck remarkably thick and muscular. The female is formed for giving milk, and both male and female are easily tamed and very manageable. These animals feed by twisting off the grass or herbage, which they swallow, and when filled, they lie down and chew the cud; that is, they throw up the grass or hay from the stomach and chew it leisurely for more easy digestion. The sheep feeds much in the same manner.
The horse. — The horse is fitted for draft as well as the ox; but he is also fitted to bear burdens on his back, and his form is more beautiful than that of the ox. His neck is elegant and his gait noble. In the harness or under the saddle, the horse exhibits an elegant form and motions. The motion of the ox is slow and well adapted to draw heavy burdens or plow rough ground. The horse moves with more rapidity and is most useful on good roads for rapid conveyance, either upon his back or on wheels or runners.
The form and habits of these animals manifest most clearly the purpose of the creator, in fitting them for the use of mankind.
Wild animals. — Many species of animals live in the forest, and subsist upon herbage or upon the flesh of other animals, without the care of man. Some of these are tamable. Animals which subsist wholly or chiefly on flesh are called carnivorous. These are more rapacious and difficult to tame, than the herbivorous species. Yet the cat and the dog, which are carnivorous, are domesticated, and in some respects very useful to mankind. Carnivorous animals are formed for their mode of subsistence; having hooked claws for seizing their prey, and sharp pointed teeth for tearing their flesh.
Animals for food and clothing. — Many animals are useful to mankind for food and clothing. The ox, the sheep and swine, supply men with a large portion of their provisions. Among rude nations, the skins of animals, with little or no dressing, furnish a warm covering for the body, and skins were the first clothing of Adam and Eve. The wool of the sheep constitutes a principal material for cloth, and next to fur is the warmest covering. Furs are taken from animals inhabiting the cold regions of the earth. These are the most perfect non-conductors of heat, that is, they best prevent the heat of the body from escaping, and are therefore the warmest clothing.
Reflections. [on animals]— In the animal as well as vegetable kingdom, we see the wonderful wisdom and goodness of God. The animals which are most useful to man are easily tamed and subsisted. Some of them assist him in cultivating the earth and carrying on his business; and when they are too old for these services, they are fattened for slaughter, and their skins are dressed for use. Many wild beasts subsist without the care of men, but their skins and furs are converted to important uses. Furs, the warmest covering, are found in the coldest climates. Wool, next to furs in protecting the body from, cold, is produced chiefly in the temperate latitudes, where it is most wanted. These facts prove the wisdom of God, and his goodness, in providing for the wants of his intelligent creatures.
Fowls, — Fowls or birds are winged animals, destined to move with velocity through the air. For this purpose their bodies are made light, and so shaped as to pass through the air in the most advantageous manner; that is, with the least resistance. Their wings are extremely strong, and are easily moved with surprising rapidity; the large feathers or quills being so placed as to form a suitable angle for propelling the body forward; while the small feathers which cover the body and keep it warm, are so laid back one upon another, as to offer no resistance to the air.
Mouth and feet of fowls. — As fowls are destined to subsist on different species of food, their mouths are fitted for the purpose. Those which feed on small seeds and little insects have generally bills or beaks which are straight and pointed. Those which subsist on flesh have hooked bills for seizing small animals and tearing their flesh. The feet of fowls are also admirably fitted for their modes of life. Those which are destined to light on trees, have toes with sharp nails, which enable them to cling to the small twigs; and some species use their nails for scratching the earth in search of food.
Aquatic fowls. — Fowls destined to frequent water, and to subsist on fish, have forms adapted to these purposes. Some of them have long beaks for seizing and holding fish; some have longer legs than other fowls, and wade in shallow water in search of food. Others have webbed toes, or palmated feet, that is, the toes are connected by a membrane, which serves as an oar or paddle for propelling them in swimming. The bodies of aquatic fowls form a model, in some measure, for the body of ships; being fitted to move through the water with the least resistance.
Uses of fowls, — Many fowls are used as food; and some of them constitute our most delicate dishes. Not only the flesh, but the eggs of the domestic species, enter into various articles of cookery. Their feathers form our softest beds, and their quills, in the form of pens, record the events of life, and are made the instruments of preserving and communicating sacred and profane writings to distant nations and ages. The plumage of birds, presenting a variety of the richest colors, is among the most elegant ornaments of creation; some of the winged race often delight us in our dwellings with their varied notes, while others cause the solitary forest to resound with the melody of their songs. In this department of creation, we discover abundant proofs of the wisdom and benevolence of the creator.
Fishes. — Fishes are formed to inhabit the waters of the ocean, of rivers and lakes; and for this purpose they have a peculiar structure. They have not lungs like those of land animals, as no air can be imbibed in water, except such as the water contains. Some of them imbibe air with water by their gills; others occasionally rise to the surface of the water and imbibe air; and some species of animals are amphibious, being able to live a long time under water, then betaking themselves to the land.
Form of fishes, — Fishes being destined to move in a fluid more dense than air, and of course making more resistance to motion, are formed with slender bodies, with a pointed mouth, the body swelling to its full thickness at or near the head, and then gradually sloping to the tail. The body is furnished with fins ; those on the back and sides serving to balance the body and keep it in a proper position, while a strong tail, ending in a fin, serves as an oar to propel the body forward.
Uses of fish, — Many species of fish are used as food, and some of them constitute an important article of commerce. They are produced in the deep in inexhaustible abundance, and cost nothing except the time and labor of catching and curing them. The largest species, the whale, supplies us with oil for lamps and for various other uses. Our houses and streets are lighted, and the machinery of our manufactures is kept in order, and its movements facilitated by oil formed in the bosom of the ocean, and perhaps on the opposite side of the globe.
Man, — The last species of living beings created by God, was man. This species differs from all other orders of animals in external form, and still more in mental endowments. The form of man is erect and dignified; his body and his limbs are equally distinguished for strength, for beauty and for convenient action. The head at the upper end of his body contains the eyes or organs of sight. These are placed in orbits which protect them from injury; and the better to see in various directions, they are movable by muscles, which turn the balls in a moment. These delicate organs are defended also by lids which may be instantaneously closed to cover them; and the eye-lashes, while they add beauty to the face, serve to protect the eyes from dust and insects.
The mouth, nose and ears. — The mouth is the aperture by which food is taken for nourishment. In this are the teeth for breaking and masticating the food, and the tongue, the principal instrument of taste and of speech. The nose is penetrated with apertures or nostrils, by which air is received and communicated to the lungs, and as respiration cannot be interrupted without loss of life, and as the nostrils may casually be obstructed, the creator has provided that air may be inhaled by the mouth, that life may not depend on a single orifice. The ears, organs of hearing, have a wide aperture for receiving vibrations of air, and conveying sound to the auditory nerve.
The neck and body, — The neck which connects the head with the body is smaller than the body, and so flexible as to permit the head to be turned. The chest or thorax, the upper part of the body, contains the lungs and heart, organs indispensable to life, which are defended from injury by the ribs and sternum or breast bone.
The arms. — To the upper part of the body are attached the arms, by a joint at the shoulder. By means of this joint, the arm may be moved in any direction. Near the middle of the arm is the elbow, a joint by means of which the arm may be bent for embracing, holding and carrying things. At the wrist is another joint, for turning the hand. The hand at the extremity of the arm has five fingers, each of which has three joints by means of which they may be bent for grasping objects. As the thumb is intended to encounter the strength of the four fingers on the opposite side of an object, it is made much thicker and is sustained in exertion by a larger and stronger muscle.
The lower limbs, — The lower limbs are attached to the body by a joint that admits of a forward motion for walking; while the joint at the knee permits the limb to be bent. To the end of the leg is attached the foot which is so broad as to support the body in a steady position. The ankle joint permits the foot to be turned and raised for the convenience of stepping. The firm muscular substance of the heel, and that at the first joint of the great toe, are well fitted to support the body, or receive its weight in stepping. The motions of the legs are dependent on some of the strongest muscles and tendons in the body. Muscles are firm fleshy substances, and tendons are the cords by which the muscles are attached to the bones.
Bones and skin. — The frame of the body consists of bones, hard firm substances, which support the softer flesh and viscera. The bones, for enabling animals to move and exert power in various ways, are connected by joints, so fitted as to permit the limbs to move; the round end of one bone being placed in the hollow of another, or otherwise inserted so as to be movable. The flesh is a softer substance, but the muscular part is that which gives active strength and vigor to the limbs. The whole frame is invested with skin, a tough substance, covered with a cuticle. The firmness of the skin defends the flesh from injury, while its extreme sensitiveness serves to give us notice of any external annoyance, and put us on our guard.
Of the viscera and blood. — The principal viscera are the heart, and lungs, in the thorax or chest, and the liver and bowels in the abdomen. The lungs support life by receiving and expelling air at every breath. The fresh air conveys the living principle to the lungs, and the foul air is expelled. The heart by its motion drives the blood into the arteries, which convey it to every part of the body and limbs, and the veins receive it at the extremities and re-convey it to the heart. By the blood, heat is communicated to all parts of the body.
Intellect and soul, — Wonderful as is the structure of the animal body, and the adaptation of its parts to support life, still more astonishing is the existence of intellect, a soul and moral faculties, with the matter which composes the body. We can, without much difficulty, conceive of mechanical powers exerted in respiration and the circulation of the blood; but we can have no idea how the powers of understanding, and reasoning can be united with matter which is by itself inert and insensible. There is perhaps no fact in the universe, which, to us, is so utterly inexplicable, and which so forcibly impresses upon our minds the agency of almighty power. The existence of human intellect is by itself absolute demonstration of the being of an infinite God, and of his exclusive agency in our creation.
Seat of the intellect. — The brain is evidently the seat of the understanding. This is a soft delicate substance, inclosed in the skull, which consists of bones, and defends the brain from injury. From the brain proceeds the spinal marrow, which extends through the back-bone, and from which branches of nerves extend to different parts of the body. The nerves are supposed to be the organs of sensation and perception. Any serious injury or disordered state of the brain destroys the regular exercise of reason, and a separation of the spine is followed by instant death.
Structure of the earth, Land, — That part of the earth which is not covered with water consists of a variety of soils, and contains a variety of mineral substances. Its general division is into hills or mountains and plains. Hills or elevations of moderate size are composed sometimes of sand, clay or other earthy matters, without rocks; but often their base is a body of rocks and stones. But vast masses of rock are usually the bases of mountains; and not infrequently the whole mass is rock not even covered with earthy matter.
Uses of mountains. — Mountains are useful or necessary for the purpose of forming slopes and declivities, in land, which are necessary to give currency to water. If the surface of the land were perfectly level, there could be no rivers; and water falling upon the earth must be stagnant, until absorbed or evaporated. Hence we observe that continents or large tracts of land, on which rivers must be of great length, in order to reach the ocean or other reservoir, contain high mountains. The reason is obvious; the sources of long rivers must be in very elevated regions, or there would not be a sufficient declivity or descent, to conduct streams to the sea.
Other uses of mountains, — The rocks which form the bases of mountains are often useful for various purposes. Such are limestone, slate and granite. They often contain iron, and other valuable metals. They embosom reservoirs of pure water which issues in springs, which are the sources of rivers. Many mountains are covered with earth sufficient for producing forests of trees for fuel and timber. On them also grow medicinal plants for the use of man; and the forest is the habitation of wild beasts whose flesh may feed, or whose fur may warm some part of the human race.
Minerals, — The earth abounds with mineral substances, which are of immense importance to mankind. Of these the most useful are salt and coal. It is remarkable that in many countries, remote from the ocean, the earth embosoms vast masses of salt, for the supply of the inhabitants. Such is the fact in Poland, whose mines of salt are a wonder. And where salt already crystallized, is not taken from mines, it may be obtained from water saturated with salt, raised from natural reservoirs in the earth, as in Onondago, in the State of New York. This is a benevolent provision of the Creator, for the comfort of men, in places remote from the sea.
Coal — The vast beds of coal found in the earth are another proof of divine goodness. Some countries, without this mineral, would not be habitable or at least not populous for a long period of time. Such is the case with England. That country has long since been destitute of wood for fuel, and without coal, not only must many of its manufactures cease, but its population must be reduced. The immense treasures of coal in the United States, such as those in Pennsylvania, are among the most valuable gifts of Providence to mankind.
Metals. — Among the most useful substances contained in the earth are the metals. Of these iron is the most necessary to mankind; so necessary indeed that without it men must have remained in a half-barbarous state. To this must be added gold and silver which are the instruments of commerce among all civilized nations. Being scarce, they can never lose their value by superabundance, being very hard, they are not liable to be worn away, and not being liable to rust, they retain their luster and their substance, a long time, unimpaired. To these may be added lead, tin, copper and zink, all of great value in the arts.
Air and Water. — It is observable, that God, in his wisdom and benevolence, has created not only what men want, but has created in the greatest abundance, what is most necessary, or essential to their existence. Thus air, which is indispensable to life, invests the whole globe. Wherever men go, they find air for respiration. Next to air the most necessary substance, is water, and this is abundant in most parts of the earth. And the better to preserve the purity of these fluids, provision is made in the economy of the creation, to keep them almost continually in motion.
Winds. — By the laws of nature, heat expands air and puts it in motion. When air is
rarefied, it becomes lighter than in its usual state, and the denser or heavier air rushes to the place where it is rarefied. This is one of the general causes of winds, which blow from land to the ocean or from the ocean to land, according to the state of heat. At certain times, when the earth is heated, cold air rushes from the regions of the clouds, with rain or hail, cooling and refreshing the heated earth. Violent winds frequently agitate the ocean and currents continually carry water from one climate to another.
Water, — The ocean is the great reservoir of water on the earth; there are also inland seas, lakes and rivers. The water of the ocean is salt, but in evaporation the salt is separated and left behind, and fresh water only rises in vapor. Wonderful is the process of evaporation and generation of rain. By the heat of the sun or drying winds, water is raised from the ocean and the earth, but in an invisible state, so that the labors of man are not impeded by evaporation. When raised into the cold regions of the atmosphere, the watery particles are condensed into clouds, which cast the water back upon the earth. This interrupts the labors of the husbandman, but for a short time only, and it is remarkable that rain ordinarily falls in small drops, that do no injury even to the most tender plants.
Form of the surface of the earth. — It is worthy of special notice that the two continents are so formed that both terminate in navigable latitudes. On the north, the continents extend into the polar regions, and if any passage by water exists between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, it is usually or always obstructed by ice. But in the southern hemisphere, Africa on the east and America on the west of the Atlantic, terminate in navigable latitudes. Hence, since the southern termination of the American continent, at Cape Horn, has been discovered, ships are continually passing from Europe and the United States round that Cape and visiting the isles of the vast Pacific on their way to China, and the Indies.
Advantages of this form of the earth. — Had the two continents been extended from pole to pole, the navigation from one side of the globe to the other would have been prevented. And had the continents extended east and west, the intercourse between the northern and southern climates, would have been limited, so that the fruits of the cold and temperate regions could not have had a ready exchange for those of the tropical latitudes, and vice versa. But in the present positions of the continents and ocean, the navigation between the climates is not interrupted: The sugar, the rice and the oranges of the warm climates are easily conveyed to the frigid zone; while the furs, the fish, the timber and the metals of the north are borne to the equatorial regions. In all this arrangement we cannot but see the purposes of a benevolent creator.
Moral purposes of this form of the earth, — It is obvious that the Creator adapted all parts of creation to important purposes, moral as well as physical. The form of the continents is fitted to favor commerce, and the free intercourse of nations. This commerce contributes greatly to the convenience of mankind. At the same time, commerce is made the handmaid of civilization, and the instrument of evangelizing pagan nations. In the structure of the globe we have evident proofs that the creator had it in his counsels to provide the means of recalling mankind from their national alienation and wandering from his service into a communion of Christian brethren.
Excerpts taken from book Value of the Bible and the Excellence of the Christian Religion by Noah Webster 1758-1843 published 1834
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