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leaving a space between for a fresh current of pure atmospheric air to rush into the lungs. But what would be the consequence if nitrogen gas, instead of being a little lighter, had been a slight degree heavier than common air, or of the same specific gravity? Then we should not only have been obliged to breathe a portion of it again at every inspiration, but the vast quantity of it thrown off by the respiration of men and other animals would have perpetually occupied the lower regions of the atmosphere; and especially in our chambers it would have accumulated to such a degree as to have produced diseases, pestilence, and death, in rapid succession. But, being a little lighter than the surrounding atmosphere, it flies upwards, and we never breathe it again till it has entered into new and salutary combinations. Such is the benevolent skill which the great Author of nature has displayed for the preservation and comfort of the human race, and of every species of animated existence.
3. The wisdom of the Creator is displayed in the process for supplying the waste of oxygen, and promoting the renovation of the atmosphere. The quantity of carbonic acid which is daily formed, by combustion and the respiration of animals, is so great, that it must have rapidly increased to a most dangerous extent, had not the Almighty provided means for its being as rapidly decomposed. It is well known that whenever atmospheric air becomes charged with one-tenth of this gas, it is unfit for promoting combustion, and is fatal to most animals that breathe it. Hydrogen too, and carburetted hydrogen gas, are perpetually evolved at the surface of the earth from various sources, particularly from marshes, dunghills, and stagnant pools; and these are likewise prejudicial, and even destructive, to the animal creation. On the other hand, oxygen gas, which is the support of fire and animal life, is continually wasted by the various processes of combustion, as in the case of furnaces, burning candles, and domestic fires, and by the breathing of all animals. How, then, has the all-wise Creator contrived to supply this waste, and to protect the inhabitants of the world from the baneful effects of the other gases with which the atmosphere is contaminated? The process appears to be this:—Vegetables are so constituted that carbon and hydrogen are the necessary food of plants, and are - conducive to the support of vegetable life. Their vegetating organs seize the carbonic-acid gas that comes within their reach, and while they appropriate the carbon to themselves, the oxygen is thrown off to renovate the atmosphere, by its union with the nitrogen ejected by animal respiration. The leaves of trees, shrubs, and other vegetables, give out, during the day, a large portion of oxygen gas, which unites with the surrounding air, keeps up the equilibrium of the gases, and preserves the salubrity of the atmosphere; for it is found by experience that the air in every region, in the most crowded cities, as well as INVISIBILITV OF THE ATMOSPI1ERE. 123
in the open fields, contains the same quantity of oxygen gas. Thus it appears, that what is noxious to man is rendered beneficial to the vegetable tribes, and the oxygen of which they "do not stand in need, is separated by them, in its utmost purity, for the use of man. The wisdom, the simplicity, and the beneficence of this arrangement, cannot fail to produce conviction in every reflecting mind, that the laws of nature are not to be referred to blind chance, but to unerring intelligence combined with boundless beneficence. In every breath we draw, we may perceive, if we reflect on the above-stated arrangements, that we are every moment indebted to an all-wise and almighty Being in whom we live and move, for the continuance of our existence and for every comfort we possess, and therefore praise, adoration, and thanksgivings, are due to him from all the ranks of his intelligent offspring.
The department of the subject already treated, may now be concluded with a reflection or two, founded on the statements previously made.
1. From the invisibility of the atmosphere, and its numerous and important effects in the system of nature, we may learn the folly of denying the reality of a future and invisible state of existence, because the objects connected with that state are not perceptible by our corporeal senses. Who could have imagined, previously to modern discoveries, that all the
functions of the vegetable kingdom, and all the comforts enjoyed by animated beings, are dependent upon the operation of a few invisible fluids, and that all the beauties of this lower creation are owing to the composition and decomposition, in a thousand different ways, of those gaseous substances whose operations are imperceptible to the keenest eye? And yet, the researches of modern chemistry have proved this fact to a demonstration, and shown us that every breath we draw, every pleasing sensation we feel, every portion of food we eat, every particle of heat that warms our apartments, every ray of artificial light that illuminates our streets and habitations, and every musical sound that enchants our ears, are owing to the unremitting motion and energy of invisible substances. And shall we, then, assert that the invisible principle of mind is not in existence or in action beyond the limits of this diurnal sphere, because its operation in that state lies beyond the range of our senses? We behold multitudes of rational beings daily departing from the living world; their organical frames crumbling into the dust, and the intellectual principle which animated them disappearing from mortal view. But we have no more reason to doubt that it is existing and operating in another sphere, than we have to doubt of the incessant energy of the invisible gases in giving life and beauty to sublunary nature. The disembodied spirits of men, whether existing in a pure ethereal form, or invested with fine material vehicles, may bo employed in active services, and in sublime contemplations and investigations, of which we can at present form no adequate conception. We may, on the same grounds, form a conception of spirits suffering pains, anxieties, sorrows, and miseries, of different kinds, from a retrospective view of their former feelings, affections, and conduct, even when separated from those material organs with which they were formerly connected.
With regard to the great objects of religion, many of them lie beyond the range of our corporeal vision, as some of the agents employed in certain chemical processes elude our senses. Faith is described to be "the confident expectation of things hoped for, and the conviction of things which are not seen."* It substantiates and realizes those objects which are invisible to the eye of sense, or which lie far beyond its present range of view. Hence we are told that, in the present world, we should "walk by faith, not by sight." The objects connected with a future world are real, although they are placed at such a distance as not to be cognizable by our present visual organs. They are not all merely of a spiritual nature, they are also connected with material objects; but, between our sensitive organs and such objects, immeasurable regions of space intervene. The glorified body of the Redeemer of mankind is a material substance and an object of sense,
* Doddridge's Translation of Hebrews xi. 1.