Man — that puny worm of the dust!
(Thomas Dick, "The Solar System", 1774-1857)
"When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place — what is man that You are mindful of him, the son of man that You care for him? Psalm 8:3-4
A survey of the solar system has a tendency to moderate the pride of man, and to promote humility.
Pride is one of the distinguishing characteristics of puny man, and has been one of the chief causes of all the contentions, wars, devastations, systems of slavery, and sinful projects which have desolated and demoralized our sinful world. Yet there is no disposition more incongruous to the character and circumstances of man!
Perhaps there are no rational beings throughout the universe, among whom pride would appear more unfitting or incompatible, than in man, considering the situation in which he is placed. He is exposed to numerous degradations and calamities:
the rage of storms and tempests,
the devastations of earthquakes and volcanoes,
the fury of whirlwinds,
the tempestuous billows of the ocean,
the ravages of the sword, famine, pestilence, and numerous diseases;
and at length he must sink into the grave, and
his body must become the companion of worms!
The most dignified and haughty of men are liable to these and similar degradations — as well as the lowest of the human family. Yet, in such circumstances, man — that puny worm of the dust, whose knowledge is so limited, and whose follies are so numerous and glaring — has the effrontery to strut in all the haughtiness of pride, and to glory in his shame! "For dust you are — and to dust you will return!" Genesis 3:19
When other arguments and motives produce little effect on certain minds, no considerations seem likely to have a more powerful tendency to counteract this deplorable propensity to pride in human beings, than those which are borrowed from the objects connected with astronomy. They show us what an insignificant being — what a mere atom, indeed, man appears amidst the immensity of creation!
What is the whole of this globe on which we dwell — compared with the solar system, which contains a mass of matter millions times greater? What is this earth — in comparison of the millions of suns and worlds which have been scattered throughout the starry regions?
Could we take our station on the lofty pinnacles of Heaven, and look down on this scarcely distinguishable speck of earth — we would be ready to exclaim with Seneca, "Is it to this little spot, that the great designs and vast desires of men are confined?"