INQUIRY INTO THE DIVINE SYSTEM OF TIMES AND SEASONS NATURAL AND REVEALED.
SECTION I. SOLAR AND LUNAR DOMINION CAUSAL AND CHRONOLOGICAL.
CHRONOLOGY, BIBLICAL AND NATURAL. IS THERE HARMONY BETWEEN THE TWO? SOLAR AND LUNAR DOMINION IN THE INORGANIC WORLD. SOLI-LUNAR CONTROL OF TERRESTRIAL REVOLUTIONS. WINDS. RAINS, OCEAN CURRENTS. -TIDES, ELECTRIC AND MAGNETIC VARIATIONS.
OUR Subject in this volume so far, has been sacred prophecy. We have observed the manner in which the Omniscient God has been pleased to reveal the future to man -progressively; we have investigated some of the main principles, on which the symbolic predictions of Scripture should be interpreted; and we have traced the historic fulfilment of two of the most important of them. We must now turn to the distinct yet cognate subject of CHRONOLOGY, and examine the times and seasons of some of the events foretold in prophecy, and those of Scripture in general.
Every Bible student is aware, that prophecy has its chronology, that various periods are assigned to events foretold by holy men of old, who spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. Empires have their duration, dynasties and kingdoms, last for certain periods, and as predicting these, prophecy can no more be divested of the chronological element than history. Indeed prophecy being simply history anticipated, the times and seasons of the one, become in due course, those of the other; they are two parts of one whole; and now that history unrolls before our eyes a record extending over six thousand years, very few are the prophetic periods whose fulfilment cannot be traced in some part of the scroll.
But further; there exists, not in sacred prophecy alone, but throughout the entire Bible, a system of times and seasons. Chronology is a prominent feature of the Holy Scriptures. In the account of the creation, in the narrative of the flood, in the biographies of the patriarchs, in the Mosaic economy with its legal and ceremonial enactments, in the history of the Jewish nation; in the prophets; in the gospels, and in the Apocalypse; statements of time abound. Not only is the creation work recorded, but the time it occupied; not only are the waters of the flood described, but we are told how many days they took to rise, and how many to fall; how many years Noah had lived prior to the crisis, how many days he waited before he sent out the dove, and how many more before he. went forth from the ark, himself. It is so throughout. In fact the science of true chronology is based upon the statements of Scripture: the first of chronologers, Clinton, accepts its data as correct, and draws from thence his conclusions as to the age of the world. Unlike the sacred books of all false religions, Bible stories are no vague myths, or fabled occurrences, referred to some remote intangible past. The time of the events recorded is accurately measured, and they are all fitted into a framework of true chronology. And while the times and seasons of Scripture are substantial historical periods, bearing the stamp of accuracy and veracity, they form part of a series, and belong to a system, the features of which it is not difficult to trace. Not only are there chronological statements in abundance in the Bible, but there is, underlying them all a system, a peculiar system, harmonious with all the other features of that marvellous volume.
A moment s reflection will satisfy every well informed person that nature has also its times and seasons; that the outward material universe in which we dwell, and the laws which govern it, are marked by a well defined periodicity. The entire solar system is one great chronometer, the animal and vegetable worlds, are regulated by unchangeable laws in respect of time, as well as in every other respect; and nature being, in all its grandeur, its beauty, its complexity, its variety, its mystery, a revelation of its great Creator s wisdom and power, the system of times and seasons which characterizes it, may be called a Divine system of times and seasons.
There is no chance in the length of celestial revolutions, or in the duration of cycles of organic change: all is regulated, fixed, appointed. "He appointed the moon for seasons, the sun knoweth his going down. Thou makest darkness and it is night, wherein all the beasts of the forest do creep forth. The sun ariseth, they gather themselves together, and lay them down in their dens." As to man, "his days are determined, the number of his months are with Thee, Thou hast appointed his bounds, that he cannot pass.", As the apostle Paul proclaimed to the Athenians of old, "God hath determined the times before appointed" as well as the bounds of the habitation, of all men, and of all living things; and He has fixed the orbit of every rolling globe in space, and timed its various revolutions. The mighty machine of the universe, has been wound up and regulated by its great Creator; all its myriad parts keep march and measure; and move according to the Divine will and purpose.
Now if there be a system of times and seasons, in nature, which is unquestionably from God, and a system also in the Bible, which claims to be a Divine revelation, it is evidently an inquiry of the deepest interest, are these two systems one? Can any principles or peculiarities be observed, which indicate that the two are the offspring of one and the same mind? Is the system of nature, the system of the Bible? Can the Bible system be traced in nature? Two books are before us, one certainly, the other professedly, the work of a given author. A marked peculiarity pervades the latter, with which long study has made us familiar. If on examination we find the very same singular feature to be prominent in the former, who would hesitate to conclude that both were written by one hand?
We propose now, in the last part of this work, to investigate this interesting and momentous point; to examine into the question, whether the natural system of times and seasons, is identical with, or related to the Bible system, whether the periodicity of nature, and the periodicity of Scripture, are demonstrably two parts of one whole.
The inquiry, it will be granted is a most legitimate one, for both the material universe, and the volume of inspiration are open revelations. We are not prying into hidden mysteries, or seeking to be wise above what is written. "The secret things belong to God, but the things that are revealed, to us and to our children:" we are at liberty to study such a subject, "whoso is wise and will observe these things" shall behold more and more of the glory of God, for the diverse revelations which He has made, throw light the one on the other.
Moreover a pleasing element of certainty, attaches to such a research : science astronomic, biologic, physical, botanical, chemical, optical,-science in all its branches, deals with facts, and there is no refusing the testimony of ascertained and well established facts. Nature can be watched and tested, and no baseless theories stand a chance against her silent testimony. Nor can the chronology of secular and sacred history, be made to fit a false system. It is too angular, too solid, to adapt itself to a scheme for which it was not designed. The most remote pre-historic periods are spaced out for us by Bible statements only, but by far the larger part of the annals of the human race, are bathed in the double light of sacred and profane history.
The importance of such an investigation will scarcely be questioned. In these days of supercilious scientific contempt for Scripture, we can ill afford to leave unemployed, any single line of evidence, which may strengthen the argument for the Divine origin of the Bible. To demonstrate this, is to enable Christianity to dispense with other evidence, for if Scripture be from God, Christianity is unquestionably true. Now if Bible times and seasons harmonize with the system by which the entire universe is regulated, he will be a most uncandid and unscientific sceptic, who refuses to believe that Scripture is from God. The harmony once proved, will demand a modification of many a theory of unbelief, and to account for it will tax the ingenuity of infidels.
In the following pages it will be our endeavour to show, that the natural and Biblical systems are one-two parts of one whole,-and may the proof redound to the glory of God, and confirm the faith of his servants, in the inspiration of his Holy Word.
We shall examine first the periodicity of nature, inorganic and organic, and subsequently that of Scripture history and prophecy, gathering from the latter strong confirmation of the views of prophetic interpretation already advocated, and convincing, unmistakable evidence of the nearness of the end of the age: and may the Holy Spirit, whose office it is to teach us all things, and show us things to come, Himself be our instructor and guide!
On the very threshold of this subject, however, we are met by a question evidently so fundamental to its clear conception, that we must pause to give it a reply
WHAT IS TIME?
Time is "duration set forth by measures;" the ticking of a clock, the beating of a pulse, the burning of a candle, the falling of sand through a certain aperture,-these, and a thousand similar regular movements, may serve as measures, more or less exact, of time. *(* Locke "On the Human Understanding.")
But its uniform and accurate measurement, being a matter of vast and universal importance, and standards of a great variety of lengths, being needful to beings who take an interest in the past, the present, and the future, including periods the most remote measures of a far more stable, accurate, regular and comprehensive character than these, are evidently needful. Such measures the great Creator has provided in the revolution of the heavenly bodies. The diurnal, annual, and secular movements of the globe on which we dwell, give rise to exceedingly various celestial phenomena, which as the principal hands of a complex dial plate, indicate the lapse of time. The best measures of time must of course be those which are most obvious, regular and universal, and in these and other respects, there are no standards that can for a moment compare, with the apparent and real movements of the sun and moon. The motions of the planets are slow, inconspicuous, and variable; now forward, now retrograde; difficult to detect, and observed by very few. The motions of the comets are still more irregular, and are for the most part altogether lost to sight; but those of the sun and moon are universally conspicuous, they combine regularity with variety, and revolutions of considerable rapidity, with others of a slow and stately character, including some whose periods are of enormous duration. Above all, the sun and moon exercise an unrivalled dominion in the control of terrestrial movements and changes. They combine, and that to a marvellous extent, the two distinct elements of POTENCY and PERIODICITY. While they originate and rule almost all the physical changes continually taking place upon the surface of the globe, they are eminently periodic, and from the combination of these two elements it results, that they alone of all the heavenly bodies, create and control terrestrial times and seasons. We name the primary periods which they measure, days, months, years; and all our times and seasons are either these, or multiples of these.
In investigating the question of Times and Seasons, we will commence then by considering the almost boundless DOMINION exercised by the sun and moon, over the inorganic and organic worlds, and we will then advance to the subject of the periodicity of their movements, and the relation of these and other natural times and seasons, to those revealed in the Word of God.
SOLAR AND LUNAR DOMINION IN THE INORGANIC WORLD.
"And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness. And God said, let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years."-#Gen 1.
The inspired writings were never intended to reveal to men, those truths of science, which their own God-given intelligence would ultimately enable them, by means of humble, diligent, and patient observation, to discover. Yet the Scriptures never darken counsel by words without knowledge, involving scientific blunders, and they often use, in a passing way, expressions which harmonize with the teachings of the most advanced modern science.
The statement above quoted, that God made the sun and moon "to RULE," is one of these. To rise to a conception of the vastness and universality of solar influence in the creation and control of inorganic and organic terrestrial change, is difficult for us even now, and must have been impossible for the ancients.
Yet that this great light of our globe, is also its great ruler, is beyond all question, and is a point we must seek to establish, for the sake of those who scarcely recognise its full import, before we endeavour to unfold some of the chronological laws of this dominion.
So numerous and important are the effects which Almighty Power accomplishes through solar and lunar agency, that the sun and moon may be said to drive the whole clockwork of terrestrial nature. The swift and ceaseless translation of the earth through space; the curving of its path and its retention in an annual orbit; the slow secular alteration of the direction of its axis; the periodic donation and withdrawal of various degrees of light and heat, with resulting days, and nights, and changeful seasons; the movement and circulation of all winds, from the gentlest zephyr to the most terrible tornado; the circulation of all water currents, including on the one hand, the innumerable rills and rivers of the land, and on the other, the equally countless currents of the ocean; the whole phenomena of tides, with their varied and vast results; and that of rains, from the upraising of waters in the form of vapour, and their transportation as clouds, to their condensation and descent in fertilizing showers; the formation and fall of dews, of snow, of hail; the control of all-pervading electric, magnetic, and chemical changes; these, together with the constant exercise of the most potent of all physical influences, in the development and support of vegetable and animal life, constitute a sum of solar and lunar operations, which seems to leave but little to be effected by other agencies.
It is needful that we should recall some familiar scientific facts, to justify this statement and give it its due weight.
First, then, as regards the relation of soli-lunar influence to inorganic changes, and primarily to the continual change in the earth s own position; i.e., to the earth s varied and complicated movements, be it remembered that every atom in the universe attracts every other atom with a force inverse to the square of the distance. Such is the great and, universal law of gravitation. What then must be the attractive power exercised on our globe by its closely-attendant satellite, the moon, which is a world 7000 miles in circumference, with a mass estimated at 78,000,000,000,000,000 of tons? And how stupendous and overmastering must be the attractive force brought to bear upon the earth by the supreme central orb of the system, which is 700 times greater than all the planets put together, and a million times larger than the earth itself! A ponderous luminous globe, equal to a million worlds in magnitude, is ever exerting on our world, all its might of irresistible attraction. The globe we inhabit, vast relatively to us though it be, yields to its influence, as the wave to the wind!
The earth moves in its orbit 120 times more swiftly than a cannon ball. This almost inconceivable velocity, imparts to it, of course, an inconceivably strong impulse or tendency to fly off at a tangent, and move on in a straight line, from every point of its orbit. It is for ever struggling with tremendous energy to be free from its lord paramount, seeking, with, all the force of the well-nigh irresistible laws of motion, to break away into space and escape beyond the influence of the sun s light and heat. But it may not be! The great ruler of the system asserts his absolute dominion; no laws of motion can resist the superior law of his attraction; the earth owns her complete subjection, and is compelled to travel continually in her elliptical orbit around the sun. Vet the struggle is maintained age after age, and age after age the victory rests with the sun. When, at one part of her orbit, the earths speed is increased to its maximum, she has power for awhile to increase her distance from the central orb round which she so reluctantly circulates. Further and further she retires, as if approaching the independence and the straight line to which she inclines; but as she retreats her speed diminishes, and when it has reached a minimum, the never relaxed attraction of the central sun is felt with increased power, and she is obliged slowly to approach again the distant but resistless ruler. Distance and velocity may change within certain limit; but the earth s orbit, and the period in which she journeys through it, are invariable, owing to the supreme overmastering dominion of the sun.
Other influences exerted on the earth, as that of the moon, and that of her sister planets, are not without their effect; but they are no more able permanently to change the earth s orbit, or alter her period, than are the sticks or stones of the river bank, able to stay the rushing river.
Again; steady though the earth s axis seems to be, pointing faithfully to the pole star, yet, in obedience to solar and lunar influences, it changes slowly its direction in the course of ages, so that the pole star of to-day, is not the pole star of the creation, nor will it be the pole star of a thousand years hence. This change in the direction of the axis of the earth, causes the entire starry firmament, to seem to revolve around the ecliptic, and makes the sun appear to fall back, through all the signs of the zodiac, in a direction contrary to that of its annual movement. This revolution, which occupies the immense period of 25,850 years, is called the precession of the equinoxes, or the advance of the equinoctial points. This is a year on a grand scale to our earth, a revolution occupying hundreds of centuries, performed under the double influence of solar and lunar attraction, and illustrating strikingly the complete and perpetual subjection of our globe, to these greater and lesser lights.
There is a second motion of the axis called "nutation," (nodding or tilting), caused by the moon s attraction alone. It is owing to a change in the plane of the moon s orbit, which causes the place of its intersection with the ecliptic to vary month by month, and year by year, for 19 years, in which period the series of changes is completed. During half that time, the axis of the earth is slightly tilted in one direction, and during the other half in the other; an instance of purely lunar dominion.
And on a grander scale than any of these, is the ruling power of the greater light displayed. It is an ascertained fact, that the sun, instead of being fixed and motionless in the heavens, as was at one time supposed, is leading his whole train of attendant planets, with their satellites, on an immense and immeasurable journey through space. At the rate of four or five hundred thousand miles every day, the sun is drawing his magnificent train after him, our globe included, in a direction which can he distinctly traced, but whose far-sweeping orbit and amazing period, no power of man has been able to calculate.
It is therefore evident, that in obedience to the sun s attraction, and, in a much smaller degree, to that of the moon, our globe is continually performing movements which are vast, varied, and complex.
They range from daily, monthly, and annual effects, to secular changes of enormous though calculable period, and. to some whose periods are incalculable.
The slowness of some of these movements, the amazing velocity of others, the variety of their form, and the vastness of their sweep, fill the mind which contemplates them as affecting the globe on which we dwell, with awe and admiration, and with a profound sense of the reality of solar and lunar dominion. The rule of these worlds over our own, is not in word, but in power. It is a role, unlike the most despotic rule with which men are familiar, that makes itself felt at all times, in all places, in spite of all counteracting influences, and it is a rule that nothing can in the long run resist; apt image of the power exercised by Him of whom Gerhardt wrote,-
"He everywhere hath sway, And all things serve his might; His every act pure blessing is, His path unsullied light."
And not only does the earth itself perform these marvellously complex and mighty motions under soli-lunar influence, but the very same power is the cause of almost all the incessant changes and movements which take place on its surface, and in its constituent elements.
Nothing in all its vast extent, as a moment s reflection will show, no single atom in the material substances which form and clothe the crust of the earth, is long at rest. And this unending and infinitely varied movement, may be traced to the influence of the sun and moon. Their rule not only embraces the greatest things, but is felt also by the least. The huge world itself submits to it, and every drop of water, every leaf, every insect, is similarly subject.
It is principally by means of its attraction that the sun governs the motions of the globe; but it is more through its heat, its light and its actinic, magnetic, and electric influences, that it operates on the atmosphere of our earth, on its seas and continents, on its flora and fauna, and on mankind. These forces, acting separately or in combination, produce almost all the changes and movements of matter which we witness, from the hurricane that cools and clears the heated atmosphere, to the opening of the rose-bud, and the painting of the petal or the. leaf.
Its heat is the first great means by which the sun originates terrestrial change and motion. Heat, as is well known, expands and so rarefies all matter. The amount of solar heat received by the earth is enormous. It has been calculated that on one square mile exposed at noon under the equator, 26,000 tons of ice would be melted in an hour; and fifty million times this amount of heat is actually received by the earth from the sun every hour. Were this amount of heat evenly distributed over the earth s surface, it would, in the course of a year, suffice to heat to the boiling point, an ocean of frozen water, sixty miles deep.
The amount of heat received by any one part of the earths surface depends mainly on the altitude in the heavens, attained by the sun in that particular locality. The higher the sun rises, the hotter are its beams, and the longer the period during which its light and heat are enjoyed.
When we remember that the three forms in which matter exists, solid, liquid, and gaseous, are due to different degrees of heat, we at once perceive the importance of solar heat, in relation to the state of inorganic matter. The results of its presence or absence, are seen at a glance, in the contrast presented by the tropic and frigid zones; the flowing seas and rivers of the one, and the frozen floods and icebergs of the other, are due solely to the increase or diminution of solar heat.
The vast inorganic changes in the surface of the earth which geology reveals, were brought about mainly by the same cause. The slow degradation of its solid constituents was due, then as now, to the alternate action of heat and frost, aided by the continual beating of the waves of the ocean, driven by winds, themselves the result of varying degrees of heat. To the flow of rivers and ocean currents, (which spying ultimately from the same cause) was due the dissemination and diffusion of these abraded matters, and their re-arrangement in fresh deposits. The violent volcanic action which from time to time upheaved the aqueous strata, is itself partially traceable to the same cause, for the increase of pressure over large spaces in the beds of the oceans, occasioned by the immense transfer of matter just alluded to, naturally produced diminished pressure over corresponding portions of the land, and the elastic, force of subterranean fires, repressed on the one hand, and released on the other, broke forth in the tremendous upheavals and eruptions of the geologic eras.
But it is in the case of the atmosphere surrounding our globe, that the effect of the sun s heat is most apparent. It is kept in a state of ceaseless and complicated motion by the variations of solar heat. The steady periodical trade winds and monsoons, are simply the currents of colder air which rush in to fill the spaces, in which, by the excessive heat of the rays of a vertical sun, the air has been rarefied to an extreme degree. They are an effect produced by the sun, in his apparent annual progress from one tropic to the other. So the familiar land and sea breezes, which may be recognised on every seaboard, though most distinctly in the tropics, arise from the unequal heating of the land and the water. From its low conducting power, the land during the hours of sunshine receives and retains more heat than the water. The superjacent atmosphere becomes more rarefied in consequence, and ascends, while the cooler air from the sea, flows in to fill the vacancy. In fact, fickle and uncertain as the winds appear, they are all the result of law, and all more or less directly produced hy solar heat. In Europe the winds succeed each other in an order always the same, and so marked as to be called "the law of rotation of the winds." Where solar heat is greatest, as in the tropics, atmospheric changes are most violent; where it is most constant, the general direction of winds is steadiest, as in the trade winds. In short the sun draws about the wind, as the loadstone the needle; and its dominion over the atmosphere is as complete as it is over the solid globe.
Nor is the world of waters any exception to the rule of solar dominion. The whole system of water-circulation, for the cleansing, support and nourishment of the world, is worked by solar power; the sun is the ever-acting pump or heart, by which the supply is raised from the great oceanic reservoir. Its heat lifts the water, in vapours to the sky; these vapours are transported by the heat-caused winds of which we have spoken, and condensed by the withdrawal of heat, into rain, snow, hail, or dew, as the case may he. Thus summer heat leads to mists and rains, and when excessive, to tropical deluges; thus sunset is followed by the fall of dew, and the winter diminution of solar heat, by snow, and hailstorms.
The results accomplished by this water supply, are of the highest possible importance in the physical world. The circulation of water, is to the globe, what the circulation of the blood is to the animal frame; it is the great means by which life is supported, and by which the elements of corruption and decay are removed. In each case the circulation is complete. "All the rivers ran into the sea, yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again." The sparkling springs and mountain rivulets, the murmuring brooks, the flowing rivers, and the broad estuaries, are the continual returning of this life-sustaining water supply, to the ocean from which the sun originally lifted it. This water-circulation, together with all its marvellous effects, in cleansing, nourishing, beautifying, moving, transporting, disintegrating, depositing, accumulating, channelling, changing, etc., is carried on from year to year, and age to age, simply by solar influence. The power required for the work; and actually exerted by the sun is enormous. It has been calculated that the production of one day s steady rain, over an area equal to that of the county of Middlesex, demands power, equivalent to the mechanical force which would be requisite to raise 1,000,000,000 tons, to a height of three miles. What then must be the solar force expended in the constant work of watering the whole world?
Nor is this all! The ocean reservoir is itself a maze of currents; no portion of the mighty deep is ever perfectly quiescent. From its surface to its lowest soundings, and from pole to pole, its waters are in ceaseless circulation. A large number of its currents have been tabulated, and are laid down on our charts; some of them are hundreds, and even thousands of miles in length. Their existence is clearly traceable to the effect of solar heat. The heated waters of the Gulf of Mexico, becoming lighter as they expand under the vertical rays of a tropical sun, flow off like oil, from the top of the heavier water which rushes in below to take their place, and guided by the conformation of the adjacent continent, and the direction of the prevailing winds, cross the Atlantic and form the well known "Gulf stream," whose waters are perceptibly warmer than the ocean through which they run. Similar warm currents are constantly flowing northward from the tropics, and cold counter-currents returning from the poles. Thus the cold of extreme northern latitudes is modified, while ice-floes and icebergs are transported southward, and melted in the solar ray; marine life, both animal and vegetable, is preserved and propagated; ships are carried to their destinations, and the equilibrium of nature maintained; and it is the sun which is the source of all this motion in the depths of the sea, as in the heights of the atmosphere.
It is mainly to the moon that we are indebted for that marvellous, worldwide, daily-recurring, and most beneficent movement of the waters known as the tides. It is impossible to overrate the value of the ebb and flow of the tide to man. It is a mighty scavenger in the first place, and a most inexpensive and precious mechanical power in the second. By the attractive power of the moon, operating all over the world, the ocean is heaved up at opposite sides of the globe in two broad waves, which travel round the world, steadily following the advancing moon. Two similar but lesser waves follow the track of the sun, and the high bi-monthly wave known as spring tide, is caused by a combination of these two. The nearness of the moon, gives it over the waters of the ocean, a power greater than that of the larger but more distant sun.
There is no terrestrial phenomenon which manifests so marked and steady a periodicity as this ebb and flow of the waters of the sea; and there are few whose general effect is more beneficial. But for it, our shores, where rivers run into the ocean, would become vast stagnant deltas of corruption; sources of pestilence and death. Cities and towns naturally grow up on the banks of rivers, and have an inevitable tendency to pollute them. But twice a day, thanks to the tidal wave, their impurities, instead of being suffered to accumulate in their channels, or at their mouths, are carried out to sea, and lost or rendered harmless; a most important advantage to mankind.
A transport service of enormous extent is also performed by the tide, on coasts and on rivers, and where wind and steam are not available.
The heavier traffic carried on by large ships and in barges, is often taken in tow by this quiet but powerful tug, which performs without expense, an amount of mechanical labour, the money value of which would be difficult to calculate, even for one large city.
The close connection between tidal phenomena and lunar movements, is demonstrated by the fact that the tides have their cycles, which have been reduced to tables, and found accurately to coincide with cycles of soli-lunar change. For many years tide-tables were constructed from the results of observation independently of science. But Mr. Lubbock, a mathematician, convinced that more accurate tables might be framed on a scientific basis, undertook the extensive labours needful for their preparation. Finding that regular tide observations had been made at the London Docks, from 1795, he took nineteen years of these, purposely selecting the length of a cycle of the motions of the lunar orbit; constructed tables for the effect on the tide of the moon s declination, parallax, and hour of transit; and was able to produce tide-tables founded on the data thus obtained, which were more exact than those which were compiled from observation alone.
The sun exerts mighty and mysterious influences over the earth, independently of his attraction and of his heat. That there is a close connection between solar and lunar force, and magnetism, has been abundantly demonstrated, though the nature of that connection is still, to a great extent, a problem awaiting solution.
Distinct diurnal, monthly, and annual variations in the direction of the magnetic needle, have been discovered, indicating the existence of some hidden, but close, relation between the revolutions of the sun and moon, and this potent and all-pervading force. Universal magnetic variations, accurately and constantly correspond with the changes which take place in the position of the sun and moon with reference to the earth. "All the magnetic elements, are subject to periodical variations, dependent on the position of the sun with respect to the meridian, the period of which is accordingly, the solar day." "They are subject also to a small variation dependent on the position of the moon with respect to the meridian;"* and to a third irregularity which is annual in character, attaining its maxima and minima in the spring and autumn in the northern hemisphere, and vice versa in the southern. (* "Treatise on Magnetism." H. Lloyd, D. D., Provost of Trinity College, Dublin.)
Besides this, the magnetic declination changes slowly at all parts of the earth, in the course of centuries. Thus in the year 1580, and onwards to the year 1657, the declination of the magnetic needle at London was in an easterly direction, but constantly decreasing. At the latter date it disappeared altogether, and for some years the magnetic meridian coincided with the astronomic. After the year 660 the declination became westerly it attained its maximum in this direction in the year 1815, and has ever since been diminishing, and returning towards the true astronomic meridian as before.
In addition to these diurnal, monthly, annual, and secular variations in the direction of the magnetic needle, there is an eleven years cycle of electric and magnetic change, corresponding constantly and accurately, both in its duration, and in its periods of maxima and minima, with the eleven years cycle of solar change, or that of the increase and diminution of sun spots, whose very remarkable periodicity was discovered by Schwabe of Dessau.
The periods of scarcity and abundance of the spots on the sun, succeed each other every five and a half years, so that in eleven years, the sun passes through all its stages of purity and spottiness: that is, about nine times in the course of every century. Both the beautiful electric phenomena called the aurora borealis, and the magnetic currents which influence the compass, are closely connected with these spots on the sun, though in what manner cannot he explained. Magnetic storms, as they are called, or sudden and powerful currents which cause the needle to jump and jerk violently at the same moment, all over the earth, and singularly brilliant and widespread auroras have been observed to correspond with remarkable outbursts of light, in or near some of the solar spots. The years 1857 to 1861 were remarkable for spots: in September, 1859, a most singular appearance was noted by two separate observers, unknown to each other, and in different parts of the world. Great spots were on that day visible on the disc of the sun, and suddenly a brilliant luminous appearance, like a cloud of light more dazzling than the sun itself, appeared close to one of the spots; in about five minutes it swept across and beside it, travelling over a space which could not be less than 35,000 miles in that brief space of time. What was this? An explosion of gas? A conflagration? It is impossible to say; but observations made at the time prove, that the earth was lit a perfect convulsion of electro-magnetism at the moment. The self- registering magnetic instruments at Kew, which are always at work, recording photographically every instant, the positions of three differently arranged magnetic needles, showed, when examined subsequently, that each of the three made at that moment a strongly marked lack from its former position. Auroras were seen at the same time, even in parts of the world where they are rarely visible; as near the equator, and in South Australia. In some places the electric telegraph refused to work, and at several towns in America the telegraph men received severe electric shocks. At Boston, a flame of fire followed the pen of Bain s electric telegraph, which writes down the message on chemically prepared paper. There can be no question whatever that the solar phenomena, whatever its nature, had a direct and instantaneous terrestrial effect, and the fact is a new proof of solar dominion in the inorganic world.