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us the propriety and the emphasis of the language of Inspiration, “In Him we live, and move, and have our being"_"In his hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind.” But since we are assured that “the Lord is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works," and as we find no arrangement in the system of the universe whose ultimate object is to produce pain or misery to any sensitive being, we have no fear that such a catastrophe willever be permitted to take place. At the same time, we know not what the great ends of his moral government may incline the Deity to perform. We know that, at one period, the system of nature connected with this globe was disarranged on account of the wickedness of its inhabitants, and a deluge of waters overwhelmed all the abodes of men.
This catastrophe changed the aspect of the earth and atmosphere, and produced convulsions which shook the foundations of the earth, and disrupted its solid strata; the vestiges of which are still visible in every land, and form some of the subjects of scientific investigation. And, therefore, were the inhabitants of the world ever again to rise to the same pitch of wickedness as they did before the flood, we know not but the Almighty, instead of covering the earth with an abyss of water, might detach from it the surrounding atmosphere, and leave its inhabitants to the effect of such an awful catastrophe.
We learn from Revelation, that a period is
approaching, 6 when the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also, and the works that are therein shall be burned up.” In the hand of Him who sits on the throne of the universe, the atmosphere is fitted to become the means of producing this tremendous event. The atmosphere, as formerly stated, consists chiefly of two fluids, or gases, of very opposite qualities; one of these, namely oxygen gas, is the principle of combustion, and forms about one-fifth part of atmospheric air; the other, namely nitrogen, instantly extinguishes every species of fire or flame. Were the nitrogen, then, which forms four-fifths of the atmosphere to be swept away, and the oxygen left to exert its native energies, all the combustible substances on the face of the earth would instantly take fire, nay, the hardest stones, the most solid rocks, and even water itself, would blaze under its force with such energy as to carry destruction throughout the expanse of nature. Such are the elementary principles in the hand and under the superintendence of the Almighty, which are ready at his command to bring into effect all the events, changes, and revolutions, in relation to our world, which are predicted in the word of Divine Revelation.
The wisdom and benevolence of the Creator, as displayed in
the constitution of the atmosphere.
As this topic has been partially alluded to in the preceding chapter, only two or three additional illustrations may now be given.
1. The wisdom and goodness of God are manifest, in the proportion which subsists between the different gases of which the atmosphere is composed. Were the oxygen less in quantity than it now is—were it, for example, in the proportion of fifteen to eighty-five, a hundred parts of nitrogen, instead of twenty-one to seventy-nine, fire would lose its strength, candles would not diffuse a sufficient light, plants would wither, and animals could not breathe without the utmost difficulty and pain. On the other hand, were the nitrogen diminished, and the oxygen greatly increased, the least spark would set combustible bodies in a flame, and, in a few moments, they would be entirely consumed. Candles would be wasted in a few minutes after they were lighted, and would serve no other purpose than to dazzle our eyes with a tran
sient blaze. Were a few houses in a large city set on fire, such would be the rapidity with which the flames would spread on every side, that in a few hours, or even minutes, the whole city would be wrapped in one wide and unquenchable blaze, and no human art could arrest the progress of the destructive conflagration. In such atmospheric air, iron would be calcined, instead of acquiring from the fire that softness necessary for forming it into various instruments; it would accelerate to a dangerous degree the circulation of the fluids in animal bodies, and produce a degree of heat through the influence of which they would rapidly waste and decay. We know by experience that nitric oxyde, which consists of forty-four parts of nitrogen and fifty-six of oxygen, produces instant suffocation in all animals that attempt to breathe it. We also know that the nitric acid, one of the most corrosive substances, is composed of seventy-five parts oxygen and twenty-five parts nitrogen, which are only different proportions of the substances in atmospheric air; so that were the atmosphere conposed of the same proportion of ingredients, our breathing it might produce the same effect as if we were to swallow a pint of aquafortis, or nitrous acid, which we all know would produce our immediate destruction. Can we, then, be at a loss to perceive, in the adjustment of the gases which compose our atmosphere, the wisdom and benevolence of the Deity; and, at the same time, the infinite comprehension of the Divine
Mind, in foreseeing all the effects that would be produced by the different combinations of these gases, and in selecting that particular combination for the atmosphere which is precisely adapted to the existence and the comfort of living beings ?
2. The Divine wisdom and goodness are no less conspicuous in determining the relative specific gravity of these gases. The oxygen gas is found to be a little heavier than common air, and the nitrogen a little lighter, which enables it to rise to the higher regions of the atmosphere. In respiration (or breathing) there are four stages or periods:-1. Inspiration, or drawing in the air.—2. A pause when the lungs are filled.-3. Expiration, or breathing out the air from the lungs;—and 4. A pause when the lungs are emptied. In breathing, the air which is evolved from the lungs at every expiration, consists chiefly of nitrogen, (and a small portion of carbonic-acid gas,) which is entirely unfit to be breathed again, and, therefore, by its levity, rises above our heads before the next inspiration. The pause which takes place between every inspiration is evidently intended to allow time for the nitrogen gas which is thrown out of the lungs to rise in the air, in order that a fresh portion of the atmosphere may be taken in, and that the same air may not be breathed again. During that remarkable interval, there is time left for the noxious fiuids to separate, the nitrogen to ascend while the carbonic-acid gas preponderates,