Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

He supposed, with the vulgar, who measure every thing by themselves, that the earth was fixed im. inoveably in the centre of the universe, and that the, feven planets, considering the moon as one of the primaries, were placed near to it; above them was the firmament of fixed stars, then the crystalline orbs, then the primum mobile, and, last of all, cælum empirium, or heaven of heavens. All these valt orbs he supposed to move round the earth once in twenty-four hours; and befides that, in certain stated and periodical times. This system was universally maintained by the Peripatetic philosophers, who were the most considerable feet in Europe from the time of Ptolemy to the revival of learning in the sixteenth century.

At length, Copernicus, a native of Poland, bold and original genius, adopted the Pythagorean or true system of the universe; and published it to the world in the year 1530. This doctrine had been so long in obfcurity, that the restorer of it was confidered as the inventor; and the system obtain ed the name of the Copernican Philosophy, though only revived by that great man.

Europe, however, was still immersed in igno. rance; and the general ideas of the world were not able to keep pace with those of a refined philofophy. This occafioned Copernicus to have few

abettors,

[ocr errors]

abettors, but many opponents. Tycho Brahe, in particular, a noble Dane, sensible of the defects of the Ptolemaic system, but unwilling to acknowledge the motion of the earth, endeavoured, about 1586, to establish a new system of his own, which was still more perplexed and embarrassed than that of Ptolemy. It allows a monthly motion to the moon round the earth, as the centre of its orbit; and it makes the sun to be the centre of the orbits of Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. The fun, however, with all the planets, is supposed to be whirled round the earth in a year, and even once in twenty-four hours. This system, notwithstanding its absurdity, met with its advocates, who so far refined upon it, as to admit the diurnal mo. tion of the earth, though they insisted that it had no annual motion.

CHAP. XXIV.

OF GALILEO.

ABOUT the year 1610, after a darkness of *

great many ages, the first dawn of learning and taste began to revive in Europe. Learned men,

in

[ocr errors]

in different countries, began to cultivate astronomy. Galileo, a Florentine, introduced the use of telefcopes, which discovered new arguments in support of the motion of the earth, and confirmed the old ones. The fury and bigotry of the clergy, indeed, had almost checked this flourishing bud. Galileo was obliged to renounce the Copernican system, as a damnable heresy.

The happy reformation in religion, however, placed the one half of Europe beyond the reach of the papal thunder. It taught mankind, that the scriptures were not given for explaining systems of: natural philosophy, but for a much nobler purpose, to make us juít, virtuous, and humane : that, instead of opposing the word of God, which, in speaking of natural things, suits itself to the preju- } dices of weak mortals, we employed our faculties in a manner highly agreeable to God himself, in tracing the nature of his works. The more they are considered, the more they afford us the greater reason to admire his glorious attributes of power, wisdom, and goodness.

From this time, therefore, noble discoveries were made in all the branches of astronomy. The motions of the heavenly bodies were not only clearly explained, but the general law of nature, according to which they moved, was discovered and illustrated

by

by the immortal Newton. This law is called Gravity or Attraction, and is the fame by which any body-falls to the ground, when disengaged from what supported it. It has been demonstrated, that this fame law, which keeps the sea in its channel, and the various bodies which cover the surface of this earth from flying off into the air, operates throughout the universe, keeps the planets in their orbits, and preserves the whole fabric.of. nature from confusion and disorder.

CHAP. XXV.

ON MYTHOLOGY, OR THE HISTORY OF THE

HEATHEN DEITIES.

MYT!

YTHOLOGY is the religion of the Pagans,

which confifted in the worship of false gods, whom their poets, painters, and statuaries imagined, and to whom they gave different attributes. It is the bafis of history, the standard of criticism, and the guide to the studies of youth.

A knowledge of feigned History, or Mythology, is absolutely necessary to the reader of the Clasics,

to

to the Painter, and to the Statuary*. We must not, therefore, overlook even the fictions“ of the more illustrious poets top

CHAP. XXVI.

OF COELUS AND TERRA, SATURN AND CYBELE.

COELUS is said

OELUS is said to be the son of the Air, great

father of the gods, and husband of Terra, the daughter of the Earth, by whom he had the Cyclops, Oceanus, Titan, the Hundred Giants, and many other children, the most eminent of which was Saturn, or Time.

This fable plainly signifies, that the Air and Earth were the common parent of all created beings. Cælus was dethroned by his youngest son Saturn.

SATURN was the most ancient of all the gods. Titan, his elder brother, resigned his birth-right to him, on condition that he should destroy all his male.issue, that the empire of the world might in time fall to his pofterity. Saturn accepted of this

* Knox

+ Quintilian.

condition;

« AnteriorContinuar »