Youth's Magazine,  8 (1835), 379–81.

The Comet



Short Fiction


Astronomy, Piety, Scientific Practitioners, Biblical Authority, Mathematics, Natural Theology, Infidelity, Status, Popularization, Expertise, Error, Wonder, Feeling

People mentioned:


    On an evening walk the narrator hears a neighbour declare of the comet: 'Is that it? [...] why it's nothing after all!'. Looking at the 'much-talked-of messenger', the narrator reflects that there is 'more good sense than good humour' in this exclamation. While not wanting to suggest that there is 'a single object undeserving of attention, or barren of materials for deep and serious thought', the narrator reflects that, when 'the one thing needful' is overlooked, there is some call for censure or veto to 'shut out from our unsanctified researches these gods many and lords many of our own creation'. (379) Does not undervalue science, but opposes error. Is 'waging war with those who wrest the scripture of creation to their own bewilderment, and not with those who learn through it something of "the invisible things of God"'. Fears that many astronomers are undevout: they may have some sense of God in his works, but 'the style of their arguments' often suggests that they are 'looking for truth in the "rigid and infallible geometry" of their propositions, rather than in the word of Him who cannot lie'. Astronomy often distracts from the Bible, but 'whilst the heavens declare His glory, and the firmament His handiwork but dimly, the law of the Lord is perfect, and able to make us wise unto salvation'. Relates this distinction to the inadequacy of deism for moral transformation. (380) The narrator is more concerned with taking this opportunity of 'contrasting the errors of the creature with the perfections of the Creator, than in launding the science which our fellow-creatures have displayed in misinforming the pubic mind, or the vanity with which they have appropriated the facts of history relating to this celestial visitant'. Observes that anyone acquainted with the history of Halley's comet could have predicted its reappearance at this time, and that 'the path which it has taken among the stars is not exactly that marked out for it by the most skilful astronomers of Europe'. Uses this to enforce 'a lesson which cannot be too often repeated,—that "the wisdom of God is foolishness before God"'. (381) The sense of wonder prompted by the comet should lead to feelings of piety.

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