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precepts pervade every heart; and till a spirit of love, kindly affection, and benevolence distinguish the general mass of society in every land.
But, to return from this digression, it may be further remarked, that it is highly probable that the component parts of the atmosphere, in the ages before the flood, were very different from what they now are, and that it was owing to the peculiar constitution of the air which then existed, that the lives of the antediluvians were prolonged to nearly a thousand years. At the period of that awful catastrophe, when the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened, and the solid strata of the earth disrupted, it is probable that the atmosphere, too, underwent an important change by the dissolution of some of its elementary parts, so that it had a tendency to cut short the lives of mankind in all succeeding ages; and, till the ruins which were produced by that physical convulsion be in some measure repaired, the same cause, will produce the same effects.
In short, an atmosphere is not peculiar to the globe on which we dwell. We know, from observation, that the planets Mars, Venus, and Jupiter, are furnished with atmospheres; and it is probable that every planetary world has a similar appendage. But their nature may be as different from ours, as are the nature of their inhabitants and the constitution of the globes on which they reside. While our atmosphere is fitted only to prolong the lives of mortal men
for a limited number of years, the atmospheres of some of the other planets may be so impregnated with the vital principle as to support immortal bodies in undecaying vigour, and to cause such an elevation of spirits as will produce uninterrupted ecstasy and delight. And all this may be effected by the same elementary principles of which our atmosphere is composed, but differently modified and compounded by the hand of the Almighty. The experiments with nitrous oxyde, formerly mentioned, show us what striking effects may be produced by different combinations of the gaseous fluids; and, therefore, it is not improbable that the atmospheres of all the worlds in the universe are only different modifications of these substances, suited to the constitutions of their inhabitants, and the spheres they occupy in creation. In the operations of the Almighty throughout the system of nature, we perceive a striking simplicity in the means, producing an infinite variety of astonishing results. From a few simple substances-caloric, light, water, air, and carbon-are produced all the diversity of forms and colours which appear among the sixty thousand species of plants which adorn the vegetable kingdom, and almost all the diversified phenomena of sublunary nature. And it is not unlikely that different combinations of these, and a few other substances, produce all that variety which appears throughout the boundless universe; and may give birth to all the changes and revolutions through
which the different systems of creation may pass during every period of infinite duration. For He who arranged the system of universal nature “is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working"-" his wisdom is unsearchable," his power irresistible, and the ways of his providence “past finding out.”
The beneficial effects of the atmosphere in the system of
This subject presents an immense field of contemplation, which it would require several volumes fully to illustrate; and, therefore, a few general statements and illustrations can only be given.
i. In the first place, air is essentially requisite to the germination and growth of plants; and, therefore, to the influence of atmospheric air, all the beauties of the vegetable creation are to be chiefly ascribed. By experiment, it is found that the access of atmospheric air is no less necessary for plants than it is for the continuation of animal life. Like animals, they are found to die when confined within a vacuum, or deprived of the vital air. The influence of the atmosphere is equally essential at every period of their existence, from the germination of their seeds to the full development of all their organs in the perfect plant. Their leaves, acting in some measure like the lungs of animals, absorb oxygen gas during the night, and carbonic-acid gas during the day;
and this alternate process is found to be essential to their growth and nourishment. Even the green colour of plants, which is produced chiefly by the influence of light, is proved not to be perfected without the co-operation of oxygen gas.
It is found that pure air, or oxygen gas, may be procured by putting the leaves of plants into water, and exposing them to the sun.
In purifying contaminated air, Dr. Priestley discovered that vegetables answered this purpose most effectually. Having rendered a quantity of air very noxious, by mice breathing and dying in it, he divided it into two receivers, inverted in water, introducing a sprig of mint into one of them, and keeping the other receiver, with the contaminated air in it, alone. He found, in about eight or nine days after, that the air of the receiver into which he had introduced the sprig of mint had become respirable; for a mouse lived
well in this, but died immediately upon being introduced into the other receiver, containing the contaminated air alone. It is likewise proved by experiment, that the simple component principles which are essential to the formation of vegetable matter are but three in number, namely, carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen; and these form the bases of carbonic-acid gas, oxygen gas, and hydrogen gas. From the various proportions in which these ingredients are combined, results almost all the variety of vegetable matters which fall under our notice.
To the atmospheric influence, therefore, we