Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 5.djvu/414

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

the respiration, too, of such an atmosphere as that of our earth, we perceive that our highest endowments are thus connected with things at first sight apparently, having no connection with them. And though it is thus the arch-chemist, the Sun, who transmutes a poisonous gas in the air into fruits, and seeds, and flowers; who prepares the vital medium that we breathe, and enables us, therefore, to think and move, shall we not look with veneration, through his more obvious agency, to a silent influence that is beyond? For these products of his action are so many witnesses to us of a provident foresight for our physical and moral wants. There is an authority who has taught us not to disregard such natural emblems. Who is it that has set his rainbow in the cloud, as the pledge of a plighted word? We are surrounded on all sides with similar indications, and are constantly invited to see in each material event a token of intellectual benefit; and if, as we have seen, from a poisonous atmosphere, there has thus gradually been developed, under the agency of that great celestial body, a medium suited to the well-being and conducive to the happiness of man, may we not hope that what has taken place as respects his physical is a type of what will occur as respects his social condition. Who that looks on the events which this year has brought forth[1]—the overturning of thrones and time-cemented institutions, the bloodshed and atrocities of civil wars—who does not recognize that we are entering on an era? The material atmosphere once had a poisonous constitution, the social atmosphere has its poisons too. There is a cry, almost of despair, from the Baltic to the Mediterranean, from the Black to the Atlantic Seas. It is no imaginary nightmare that is oppressing men, but so greatly has the human mind been developed by the advance of knowledge, that it has outgrown the existing order of things. The pressure of that invisible social atmosphere has become too intolerable to be borne; it must be cleared of its impurities and poisons; there must be freedom for thought and freedom of action. The natural change which we have been considering was only brought about after many a convulsion; the moral change mast have its catastrophes. But are we not taught, from this evening's reflections, to trust that there is in this too the influence of One far greater than the sun, but of whom the sun is the most noble and appropriate type, who, unaffected by the tempests of the times and the sufferings of men, is steadily shaping the course of events, to bring things at last into a condition suitable for the intellectual as well as the physical well-being of our race?

  1. This was said in 1848, a year of many political revolutions.