Perhaps you have not yet thought much about places far from the town or village where your home is. No doubt you have heard of the wonderful sights of London, if you have not seen them, and you know that London and many other towns are in our own country, England. Perhaps, too, you have friends who have travelled, and who speak of far-away places they have seen. And you may have thought, as you listened, how very big the world must be to hold so many places!
Our wonderful, beautiful world is very large and very full, with more people and places and things in it than you can ever know about. Indeed, there are many parts of it which nobody has seen yet, though brave men often make difficult and very dangerous journeys to find out and explore these unknown places. But, after all, the strange thing is, that our world must come to an end somewhere. Have you ever thought of that? It was a great puzzle to learned men who lived long ago, and who did not know so much about some things as you may learn before the end of this lesson. They knew the world was not everywhere; that the sun and moon which shine above us are not part of the world, but are a great way off. So they said, Why do we never come to the end of the world? If we journey on over land and sea for years, surely we should come to the end then? And what is the end like? Would we fall off the edge, just as a cup might fall off the edge of a table?
At last it was discovered that people never came to the end of the world on account of its shape. There are certain things we use which you might run your finger along all day without ever coming to an edge. Round things, such as balls or oranges, have no edge, no end. And our world is round. It is more the shape of an orange than of a ball, because it is a little bit flat at what we may call the top and bottom.
This was a wonderful thing to find out. You can see that a ball is round; even if it were a ball as big as the house, you could see enough of it to know its shape. But only God above can see the whole of this huge world; how then could men discover its shape?
You would not understand all the reasons which prove that the world is round, but three are easy enough. The captain of a ship found out, that, by sailing on and on, and never turning back, he came at last to the very place he had started from. Try that plan on a straight table, and you will find that the farther you go, the farther you will be from your starting place. Try on a ball which you have first stuck a pin into for a mark. After you have moved your finger half way round the ball, the farther you go, the nearer you get to the pin, until at last you touch it, and have reached again the point you started from. As people now very often sail round the world in this way, we know that the world is round in one direction. The other two reasons we shall find in the fourth lesson.