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have a more free and large horizon, and quite another face of things will present itself to our observation.
“ The greatest objects of nature are, niethinks, the most pleasing to behold; and next to the great concave of the heavens, and those boundless regions where the stars inhabit, there is nothing that I look upon with more pleasure than the wide sea and the mountains of the earth. There is something august and stately in the air of these things, that inspires the mind with great thoughts and passions; we do naturally, upon such occasions, think of God and his greatness : and whatsoever hath but the shadow and appearance of INFINITE, as all things have that are too big for our comprehension, they fill and over-bear the mind with their excess, and cast it into a pleasing kind of stupor and admiration.
“And yet these mountains we are speaking of, to confess the truth, are nothing but great ruins; but such as show a certain magnificence in nature; as from old temples and broken amphitheatres of the Romans we collect the greatness of that people. But the grandeur of a nation is less sensible to those that never see the remains and monuments they have left, and those who never see the mountainous parts of the earth, scarce ever reflect upon the causes of them, or what power in nature could be sufficient to produce them.
“ There is nothing doth more awaken our thoughts or excite our minds to inquire into the causes of such things, than the actual view of them; as I have had experience myself, when it was my fortune to cross the Alps and Apennine mountains; for the sight of those wild, vast, and indigested heaps of stones and earth, did so deeply strike my fancy, that I was not easy till I could give myself some tolerable account how that confusion came in nature.”
He is very indignant at the notion which had been started, that the mountains of the earth had been caused by earthquakes in former ages, of which no record remains.
“ Besides, when were these great earthquakes and disruptions, that did such great execution upon the body of the earth? was this before the flood or since? If before, then the old difficulty returns, how could there be a flood, if the earth was in this mountainous form before that time? This, I think, is demonstrated impossible in the second and third chapters. If since the flood, where were the waters of the earth before these earthquakes made a channel for them? Besides, where is the history or tradition that speaks of these strange things, and of this great change of the earth ? hath any writ of the origin of the Alps ? In what year of Rome, or what Olympiad, they were born? or how they grew from little ones? how the earth groaned when it brought them forth, when its bowels were torn by the ragged rocks? Do the chronicles of the nations mention these things, or ancient fame, or ancient fables ? were they made all at once, or in successive ages? These causes continue still in nature; we have still earthquakes and subterraneous fires and waters, why should they not
still operate and have the same effects? We often hear of cities thrown down by earthquakes, or countries swallowed up, but whoever heard of a new chain of mountains made upon the earth, or a new channel inade for the ocean? We do not read that there hath been so much as a new sinus of the sea ever since the memory of man; which is far more sensible than what they pretend. And things of this nature being both strange and sensible, excite admiration and great attention when they come to pass, and would certainly have been remembered or propagated in some way or other, if they had ever happened since the deluge. They have recorded the foundation of cities and monarchies, the appearance of blazing-stars, the eruptions of fiery mountains, the most remarkable earthquakes and inundations, the great eclipses or obscurations of the sun, and any thing that looked strange or prodigy-like, whether in the heavens or on earth, and these which would have been the greatest prodigies and greatest changes that ever happened in nature, would these have escaped all observation and memory of men ? that's as incredible as the things themselves are.”
It is an additional characteristic of the ancient world, according to the theory of Burnet, that the equator coincided with the ecliptic, and that the present inclination of these two orbits was caused by the commotions of the deluge. Consequently, in the primeval ages, there was no change of seasons, and a perpetual equinox to all the world. All parts of the year had one and the same face and temperament: there was no winter and summer, no seed-time nor harvest, but a constant temperature of the air and verdure of the earth. « Nor is there,” says Burnet, "any wonder in the thing, the wonder is rather ou our side, that the earth should stand and continue in the forced posture wherein it is now spinning yearly about an axis that doth not belong to the orbit of its motion; this, I say, is more strange, than that it once stood in a posture that was straight and regular; as we more justly admire the tower at Pisa, that stands crooked, than twenty other straight towers that are much higher.” Hence it would appear, that the whole earth was a paradise, and that our first parents were placed in a particular part of it, more highly favoured than
any other. In arranging this paradise, and disposing of the progenitors of mankind, Dr. Burnet seems to have been most puzzled by the scarcity of water. He could procure them every thing in profusion except water. This obstacle is overcome with his usual ingenuity.
The constant proximity of the sun would make the torrid zone uninbabitable, while the poles would, in a great measure, be deprived of its genial rays. These two circumstances combined would drive the vapours and moisture, from the central parts of the earth, to the extremities, where they would be condensed, descend in rain, and form themselves into streams, which, owing to the
shape of the globe, would flow down to the equator, and gradually branch off and diminish till they approached it, where the power of the sun would again draw them up, again to be condensed, and again to flow from the regions of the poles. The beauty and serenity of this paradisiacal atmosphere would be exceedingly genial to the human frame, and readily gives a solution to the difficulty attached to the longevity of the antediluvians. The whole of this part is laboured with great care, and is perhaps the most curious portion of the book.
We cannot, however, afford to go into it. One single view of the question we will extract, because it is short, and has the air of novelty.
“ We are now so used to a short life, and to drop away after threescore or fourscore years, that when we compare our lives with those of the ante-diluvians, we think the wonder lies wholly on their side, why they lived so long; and so it doth, popularly speaking; but if we speak philosophically, the wonder lies rather on our side, why we live so little, or so short a time: for seeing our bodies are such machines as have a faculty of nourishing themselves, that is, of repairing their lost or decayed parts, so long as they have good nourishment to make use of, why should they not continue in good plight, and always the same? as a flame does, so long as it is supplied with fewel? And that we may the better see on whether side the wonder lies, and from what causes it proceeds, we will propose this problem to be examined, Why the frame or machine of an human body, or of another animal, having that construction of parts and those faculties which it hath, lasts so short a time? And though it fall into no disease, nor have any unnatural accident, within the space of eighty years, more or less, fatally and inevitably decays, dies and perisheth?
“ That the state and difficulty of this question may the better appear, let us consider a man in the prime and vigour of his life, at the age of twenty or twenty-four years, of an healthful constitution, and all his vitals sound; let him be nourished with good food, use due exercise, and govern himself with moderation in all other things; the question is, why this body should not continue in the same plight, and in the same strength, for some ages? or, at least, why it should decay so soon, and so fast as we see it does? We do not wonder at things that happen daily, though the causes of them be never so hard to find out; we contract a certain familiarity with common events, and fancy we know as much of them as can be known, though in reality we know nothing of them but matter of fact; which the vulgar knows as well as the wise or the learned. We see daily instances of the shortness of man's life, how soon his race is run, and we do not wonder at it, because 'tis common; yet if we examine the composition of the body, it will be very hard to find any good reasons why the frame of it should decay so soon.”
. This part of the theory of the earth, which relates to its creation, the deluge, and paradise, winds up with two fine chapters on the Author of Nature and Natural Providence. The littleness of man, when compared with the great Author of Nature, was never set forth with greater force than by Burnet. We would not wish to read the presumptuous and arrogant man a better lesson than these passages :
“ We must not by any means admit or imagine, that all nature, and this great universe, was made only for the sake of man, the meanest of all intelligent creatures that we know of; nor that this little planet where we sojourn for a few days, is the only habitable part of the universe; these are thoughts so groundless and unreasonable in themselves, and also so derogatory to the infinite power, wisdom, and goodness of the first cause, that as they are absurd in reason, so they deserve far better to be marked and censured for heresies in religion, than many opinions that have been censured for such, in former ages. How is it possible, that it should enter into the thoughts of vain man, to believe himself the principal part of God's creation; or that all the rest was ordained for him, for his service or pleasure? Man, whose follies we laugh at every day, or else complain of them ; whose pleasures are vanity, and his passions stronger than his reason; who sees himself every way weak and impotent, hath no power over external nature, little over himself; cannot execute so much as his own good resolutions; mutable, irregular, prone to evil.
evil. Surely, if we made the least reflection upon ourselves with impartiality, we should be ashamed of such an arrogant thought. How few of these sons of men, for whom, they say, all things were made, are the sons of wisdom? how few find the paths of life? They spend a few days in folly and sin, and then go down to the regions of death and misery. And is it possible to believe, that all nature, and all Providence, are only, or principally, for their sake? Is it not more reasonable character or conclusion which the prophet hath made, Surely every man is vanity? Man that comes into the world at the pleasure of another, and goes out by an hundred accidents; his birth and education generally determine his fate here, and neither of those are in his own power; his wit also is as uncertain as his fortune; he hath not the moulding of his own brain, however a knock on the head makes him a fool, stupid as the beasts of the field; and a little excess of passion or melancholy makes him worse, mad and frantic. In his best senses he is shallow, and of little understanding; and in nothing more blind and ignorant than in things sacred and divine ; he falls down before a stock or a stone, and says, Thou art my God; he can believe nonsense and contradictions, and make it his religion to do so. And is this the great creature which God hath made by the might of his power, and for the honour of his majesty ? upon whom all things must wait, to whom all things must be subservient? Methinks, we have noted weaknesses and follies enough in the nature of man; this need not be added as the top and accomplishment, that with all these he is so vain as to think that all the rest of the world was made for his sake.
“ And as due humility and the consideration of our own meanness ought to secure us from any such vain opinion of ourselves, so the perfection of other beings ought to give us more respect and honour for them. With what face can we pretend, that creatures far superior to us, and more excellent both in nature and condition, should be made for our sake and service? How preposterous would it be to ascribe such a thing to our Maker, and how intolerable a vanity in us to affect it? We that are next to the brutes that perish, by a sacrilegious attempt would make ourselves more considerable than the highest dignities. It is thought to have been the crime of Lucifer, who was thrown down from heaven to hell, that he affected an equality with the Almighty; and to affect, to be next to the Almighty, is a crime next to that. We have no reason to believe but that there are, at least, many orders of beings above us, as there are ranks of creatures below us; there is a greater distance sure betwixt us and God Almighty, than there is betwixt us and the meanest worm; and yet we should take it very ill, if the worms of the earth should pretend that we were made for them. But to pass from the invisible world, to the visible and corporeal
“Was that made only for our sake? King David was more wise, and more just both to God and man, in his eighth psalm; where he says, He wonders, when he considers the heavens, that the Maker of them could think on man. He truly supposes the celestial bodies, and the inhabitants of them, much more considerable than we are, and reckons up only terrestrial things as put in subjection to man. Can we then be so fond as to imagine all the corporeal universe made for our use? It is not the millioneth part of it that is known to us, much less useful ; we can neither reach with our eye, nor our imagination, those armies of stars that lie far and deep in the boundless hea
If we take a good glass, we discover innumerably more stars in the firmament than we can with our single eye; and yet, if you take a second glass, better than the first, that carries the sight to a greater distance, you see more still lying beyond the other; and a third glass, that pierceth further, still makes new discoveries of stars; and so forwards, indefinitely and inexhaustedly for any thing we know, according to the immensity of the divine nature and power. Who can reckon up the stars of the galaxy, or direct us in the use of them? and can we believe thatthose and all the rest were made for us? Of those few stars that we enjoy, or that are visible to the eye, there is not a tenth part that is really useful to man; and no doubt if the principal end of them had been our pleasure or conveniency, they would have been put in some better order in respect of the earth. They lie carelessly scattered, as if they had been sown in the heaven, like seed, by handfuls; and not by a skilful hand neither. What a beautiful hemisphere they would have made, if they had been placed in rank and order; if they had been all disposed into regular figures, and the little ones set with due regard to the greater, then all finished and made up into one fair piece or great composition, according to the rules of art and symmetry. What a surprising beauty this would have been to the inhabitants of the earth? What a lovely roof to our little world ? This indeed might have given one some temptation to have thought that they had been all