The particular History of Noah's Flood is explain’d in all the material parts and circumstances of it, according to the preceding Theory. Any seeming difficulties removed, and the whole Section concluded, with a Discourse how far the Deluge may be lookt upon as the effect of an ordinary Providence, and how far of an extraordinary.
WE have now proved our Explication of the Deluge to be more than an Idea, or to be a true piece of Natural History; and it may be the greatest and most remarkable that hath yet been since the beginning of the World. We have shown it to be the real account of Noah's Flood, according to Authority both Divine and Humane; and I would willingly proceed one step further, and declare my thoughts concerning the manner and order wherein Noah's Flood came to pass; in what method all those things happen’d and succeeded one another, that make up the History of it, as causes or effects, or other parts or circumstances: As how the Ark was born upon the waters, what effect the Rains had, at what time the Earth broke, and the Abysse was open’d; and what the condition of the Earth was upon the ending of the Flood, and such like. But I desire to propose my thoughts concerning these things only as conjectures, which I will ground as near as I can upon Scripture and Reason, and am very willing they should be rectifi’d where they happen to be amiss. I know how subject we are to mistakes in these great and remote things, when we descend to particulars; but I am willing to expose the Theory to a full trial, and to shew the way for any to examine it, provided they do it with equity and sincerity. I have no other design than to contribute my endeavours to find out the truth in a subject of so great importance, and wherein the World hath hitherto had so little satisfaction: And he that in an obscure argument proposeth an Hypothesis that reacheth from end to end, though it be not exact in every particular, ’tis not without a good effect; for it gives aim to others to take their measures better, and opens their invention in a matter which otherwise, it may be, would have been impenetrable to them: As he that makes the first way through a thick Forest, though it be not the streightest and shortest, deserves better, and hath done more, than he that makes it streighter and smoother afterwards.
Providence that ruleth all things and all Ages, after the Earth had stood above sixteen hundred Years, thought fit to put a period to that World, and accordingly, it was reveal’d to Noah, that for the wickedness and degeneracy of men, God would destroy mankind with the Earth (Gen. 6. 13) in a Deluge of water; where-upon he was commanded, in order to the preserving of Himself and Family, as a stock for the new World, to build a great Vessel or Ark, to float upon the waters, and had instructions given him for the building of it both as to the matter and as to the form. Noah believed the word of God, though against his senses, and all external appearances, and set himself to work to build an Ark, according to the directions given, which after many years labour was finish’d; whilst the incredulous World, secure enough, as they thought, against a Deluge, continu’d still in their excesses and insolencies, and laught at the admonition of Noah, and
at the folly of his design of building an extravagant machine, a floating house, to save himself from an imaginary Inundation; for they thought it no less, seeing it was to be in an Earth where there was no Sea, nor any Rain neither in those parts, according to the ordinary course of Nature; as shall be shown in the second Book of this Treatise.
But when the appointed time was come, the Heavens began to melt, and the Rains to fall, and these were the first surprizing causes and preparatives to the Deluge; They fell, we suppose, throughout the face of the whole Earth; which could not but have a considerable effect on that Earth, being even and smooth, without Hills and eminencies, and might lay it all under water to some depth; so as the Ark, if it could not float upon those Rain-waters, at least taking the advantage of a River, or of a Dock or Cistern made to receive them, it might be a-float before the Abysse was broken open. For I do not suppose the Abysse broken open before any rain fell; And when the opening of the Abysse and of the Flood-gates of Heaven are mention’d together, I am apt to think those Flood-gates were distinct from the common rain, and were something more violent and impetuous. So that there might be preparatory Rains before the disruption of the Abysse: and I do not know but those Rains, so covering up and enclosing the Earth on every side, might providentially contribute to the disruption of it; not only by softning and weakning the Arch of the Earth in the bottom of those cracks and Chasms which were made by the Sun, and which the Rain would first run into, but especially by stopping on a sudden all the pores of the Earth, and all evaporation, which would make the Vapours within struggle more violently, as we get a Fever by a Cold; and it may be in that struggle, the Doors and the Bars were broke, and the great Abysse gusht out, as out of a womb.
However, when the Rains were faln, we may suppose the face of the Earth cover’d over with water; and whether it was these waters that St. Peter refers to, or that of the Abysse afterwards, I cannot tell, when he saith in his first Epistle, Chap. 3. 20. Noah and his Family were sav’d by water; so as the water which destroy’d the rest of the World, was an instrument of their conservation, in as much as it bore up the Ark, and kept it from that impetuous shock, which it would have had, if either it had stood upon dry land when the Earth fell, or if the Earth had been dissolv’d without any water on it or under it. However, things being thus prepar’d, let us suppose the great frame of the exteriour Earth to have broke at this time, or the Fountains of the great Abysse, as Moses saith, to have been then open’d, from thence would issue, upon the fall of the Earth, with an unspeakable violence, such a Flood of waters as would over-run and overwhelm for a time all those fragments which the Earth broke into, and bury in one common Grave all Mankind, and all the Inhabitants of the Earth. Besides, if the Flood-gates of Heaven were any thing distinct from the Forty days Rain, their effusion, ’tis likely, was at this same time when the Abysse was broken open; for the sinking of the Earth would make an extraordinary convulsion of the Regions of the Air, and that crack and noise that must be in the falling World, and in the collision of the Earth and the Abysse, would make a great and universal Concussion above, which things together, must needs so shake, or so squeeze the
[paragraph continues] Atmosphere, as to bring down all the remaining Vapours; But the force of these motions not being equal throughout the whole Air, but drawing or pressing more in some places than in other, where the Center of the convulsion was, there would be the chiefest collection, and there would fall, not showers of Rain, or single drops, but great spouts or caskades of water; and this is that which Moses seems to call, not improperly, the Cataracts of Heaven, or the Windows of Heaven being set open.
Thus the Flood came to its height; and ’tis not easie to represent to our selves this strange Scene of things, when the Deluge was in its fury and extremity; when the Earth was broken and swallow’d up in the Abysse, whose raging waters rise higher than the Mountains, and fill’d the Air with broken waves, with an universal mist, and with thick darkness, so as Nature seem’d to be in a second Chaos; and upon this Chaos rid the distrest Ark, that bore the small remains of Mankind. No Sea was ever so tumultuous as this, nor is there any thing in present Nature to be compar’d with the disorder of these waters; All the Poetry, and all the Hyperboles that are us’d in the description of Storms and raging Seas, were literally true in this, if not beneath it. The Ark was really carri’d to the tops of the highest Mountains, and into the places of the Clouds, and thrown down again into the deepest Gulfs; and to this very state of the Deluge and of the Ark, which was a Type of the Church in this World, David seems to have alluded in the name of the Church, Psal. 42. 7. Abysse calls upon Abysse at the noise of thy Cataracts or water-spouts; all thy waves and billows have gone over me. It was no doubt an extraordinary and miraculous Providence, that could make a Vessel, so ill man’d, live upon such a Sea; that kept it from being dasht against the Hills, or overwhelm’d in the Deeps. That Abysse which had devour’d and swallow'd up whole Forests of Woods, Cities, and Provinces, nay the whole Earth, when it had conquer’d all, and triumph’d over all, could not destroy this single Ship. I remember in the story of the Argonauticks, Dion. Argonaut. li. 1. v. 47. when Jason set out to fetch the Golden Fleece, the Poet saith, all the Gods that day look’d down from Heaven, to view the Ship; and the Nymphs stood upon the Mountain-tops to see the noble Youth of Thessaly pulling at the Oars; We may with more reason suppose the good Angels to have lookt down upon this Ship of Noah's; and that not out of curiosity, as idle spectators, but with a passionate concern for its safety and deliverance. A Ship whose Cargo was no less than a whole World; that carri’d the fortune and hopes of all posterity, and if this had perisht, the Earth, for any thing we know, had been nothing but a Desert, a great ruine, a dead heap of Rubbish, from the Deluge to the Conflagration. But Death and Hell, the Grave, and Destruction have their bounds. We may entertain our selves with the consideration of the face of the Deluge, and of the broken and drown’d Earth, in this Scheme, with the floating Ark, and the guardian Angels.
Thus much for the beginning and progress of the Deluge. It now remains only that we consider it in its decrease, and the state of the Earth after the waters were retied into their Chanels, which makes the present state of it. Moses saith, God brought a wind upon the waters, and the tops of the Hills became bare, and then the lower grounds and Plains by degrees; the waters being sunk into the
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[paragraph continues] Chanels of the Sea, and the hollowness of the Earth, and the whole Globe appearing in the form it is now under. There needs nothing be added for explication of this, ’tis the genuine consequence of the Theory we have given of the Deluge; and whether this wind was a descending wind to depress and keep down the swellings and inequalities of the Abysse, or whether it was only to dry the Land as fast as it appear’d, or might have both effects, I do not know; But as nothing can be perpetual that is violent, so this commotion of the Abysse abated
after a certain time, and the great force that impell’d the waters, decreasing, their natural gravity began to take effect, and to reduce them into the lowest places, at an equal height, and in an even surface, and level one part with another: That is, in short, the Abysse became our Sea, fixt within its Chanel, and bounded by Job. 38. 10, 11.Rocks and Mountains: Then was the decreed place establisht for it, and Bars and Doors were set; then it was said, hitherto shalt thou come, and no further, and here shall thy proud waves be stopt. And the Deluge being thus ended, and the waters setled in their Chanels, the Earth took such a broken Figure as is represented in those larger Schemes, p. 118. And this will be the form and state of it till its great change comes in the Conflagration, when we expect a new Heaven and a new Earth.
But to pursue this prospect of things a little further; we may easily imagine, that for many years after the Deluge ceast, the face of the Earth was very different from what it is now, and the Sea had other bounds than it hath at present. I do not doubt but the Sea reach’d much further in-land, and climb’d higher upon the sides of the Mountains; And I have observ’d in many places, a ridge of Mountains some distance from the Sea, and a Plain from their roots to the shore; which Plain no doubt was formerly cover’d by the Sea, bounded against those Hills as its first and natural Ramparts, or as the ledges or lips of its Vessel. And it seems probable, that the Sea doth still grow narrower from Age to Age, and sinks more within its Chanel and the bowels of the Earth, according as it can make its way into all those Subterraneous Cavities, and crowd the Air out of them. We see whole Countries of Land gain’d from it, and by several indications, as ancient Sea-ports left dry and useless, old Sea-marks far within the Land, pieces of Ships, Anchors, &c. left at a great distance from the present shores; from these signs, and such like, we may conclude that the Sea reach’d many places formerly that now are dry Land, and at first I believe was generally bound on either side with a chain of Mountains. So I should easily imagine the Mediterranean Sea, for instance, to have been bounded by the continuation of the Alps through Dauphiné and Languedock to the Pyreneans, and at the other end by the Darmatick Mountains almost to the Black Sea. Then Atlas major which runs along with the Mediterranean from Ægypt to the Atlantick Ocean, and now parts Barbary and Numidia, may possibly have been the Ancient Barriere on the Africk side. And in our own Island I could easily figure to my self, in many parts of it, other Sea-bounds than what it hath at present; and the like may be observ’d in other Countries.
And as the Sea had much larger bounds for some time after the Deluge, so the Land had a different face in many respects to what it hath now; for we suppose the Valleys and lower grounds, where the descent and derivation of the water was not so easie, to have been full of Lakes and Pools for a long time; and these were often converted into Fens and Bogs, where the ground being spongy, suckt up the water, and the loosen’d Earth swell’d into a soft and pappy substance; which would still continue so, if there was any course of water sensible or in-sensible, above or within the ground, that fed this moist place: But if the water stood in a more firm Basin, or on a soil which for its heaviness or any other reason would not mix with it, it made a Lake or clear Pool. And we may easily imagine
there were innumerable such Lakes, and Bogs and fastnesses for many years after the Deluge, till the world begun to be pretty well stockt with people, and humane industry cleans’d and drain’d those unfruitful and unhabitable places. And those Countries that have been later cultivated, or by a lazier people, retain still, in proportion to their situation and soil, a greater number of them.
Neither is it at all incongruous or inconvenient to suppose, that the face of the Earth stood in this manner for many years after the Deluge; for while Mankind was small and few, they needed but a little ground for their seats or sustenance; and as they grew more numerous, the Earth proportionably grew more dry, and more parts of it fit for habitation. De Leg. li. 3.I easily believe that Plato's observation or tradition is true, that Men at first, after the Flood, liv’d in the Up-lands and sides of the Mountains, and by degrees sunk into the Plains and lower Countries, when Nature had prepar’d them for their use, and their numbers requir’d more room. The History of Moses tells usGen. 11., that sometime after the Deluge, Noah and his posterity, his Sons and his Grand-children, chang’d their quarters, and fell down into the Plains of Shiner, from the sides of the Hills where the Ark had rested; and in this Plain was the last general rendezvous of Mankind; so long they seem to have kept in a body, and from thence they were divided and broken into companies, and disperst, first, into the neighbouring Countries, and then by degrees throughout the whole Earth; the several successive Generations, like the waves of the Sea when it flows, over-reaching one another, and striking out further and further, upon the face of the Land. Not that the whole Earth was peopled by an uniform propagation of Mankind every way, from one place, as a common center: like the swelling of a Lake upon a Plain, for sometimes they shot out in length, like Rivers: and sometimes they flew into remote Countries in Colonies, like swarms from the Hive, and setled there, leaving many places un-inhabited betwixt them and their first home. Sea-shores and Islands were generally the last places inhabited: for while the memory or story of the Deluge was fresh amongst them, they did not care for coming so near their late Enemy: or, at least, to be enclos’d and surrounded by his forces.
And this may be sufficient to have discourst concerning all the parts of the Deluge, and the restitution of the Earth to an habitable form, for the further union of our Theory with the History of Moses; There rests only one thing in that History to be taken notice of, which may be thought possibly not to agree so well with our account of the Deluge; namely, that Moses seems to shut up the Abysse again at the end of the Deluge, which our Explication sypposeth to continue open. But besides that half the Abysse is still really cover’d, Moses saith the same thing of the windows of Heaven, that they were shut up too; and he seemeth in both to express only the cessation of the Effect which proceeded from their opening: For as Moses had ascrib’d the Deluge to the opening of these two, so when it was to cease, he saith, these two were shut up; as they were really put" into such a condition, both of them, that they could not continue the Deluge any longer, nor ever be the occasion of a second; and therefore in that sence, and as to that effect were for ever shut up. Some may possibly make that also an Objection against us, that Moses mentions and supposes the Mountains at the Deluge,
for he saith, the waters reached fifteen Cubits above the tops of them; whereas we suppose the Ante-diluvian Earth to have had a plain and uniform surface, without any inequality of Hills and Valleys. But this is easily answer’d, ’twas in the height of the Deluge that Moses mention’d the Mountains, and we suppose them to have risen then or more towards the beginning of it, when the Earth was broke; and these Mountains continuing still upon the face of the Earth, Moses might very well take them for a standard to measure and express to Posterity the height of the waters, though they were not upon the Earth when the Deluge begun. Neither is there any mention made, as is observ’d by some, of Mountains in Scripture, or of Rain, till the time of the Deluge.
We have now finisht our account of Noah's Flood, both generally and particularly; and I have not wittingly omitted or conceal’d any difficulty that occur’d to me, either from the History, or from abstract reason: Our Theory, so far as I know, hath the consent and authority of both: And how far it agrees and is demonstrable from natural observation, or from the form and Phænomena of this Earth, as it lies at present, shall be the subject of the remaining part of this First Book. In the mean time I do not know any thing more to be added in this part, unless it be to conclude with an Advertisement to prevent any mistake or misconstruction, as if this Theory, by explaining the Deluge in a natural way, or by natural causes, did detract from the power of God, by which that great judgment was brought upon the World in a Providential and miraculous manner.
To satisfie all reasonable and intelligent persons in this particular, I answer and declare, first, That we are far from excluding Divine Providence, either ordinary or extraordinary, from the causes and conduct of the Deluge. I know a Sparrow doth not fall to the ground without the will of our Heavenly Father, much less doth the great World fall in pieces without his good pleasure and superintendency. In him all things live, move, and have their being; Things that have Life and Thought have it from him, he is the Fountain of both: Things that have motion only, without Thought, have it also from him: And what hath only naked Being, without Thought or Motion, owe still that Being to him. And these are not only deriv’d from God at first, but every moment continued and conserv’d by him. So intimate and universal is the dependance of all things upon the Divine Will and Power.
In the second place, they are guilty, in my Judgment, of a great Error or indiscretion, that oppose the course of Nature to Providence. St. Paul says (Act. 14. 17.) God hath not left us without witness, in that he gives us Rain from Heaven; yet Rains proceed from natural causes, and fall upon the Sea as well as upon the Land. Mat. 6. 28.In like manner, our Saviour makes those things instances of Divine Providence, which yet come to pass in an ordinary course of Nature; In that part of his excellent Sermon upon the Mount, that concerns Providence, He bids themLuk. 12. 24. Consider the Lilies how they grow, they toil not, neither do they spin, and yet Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these; He bids them also consider the Ravens, they neither sow nor reap, neither have they Storehouse nor Barn, and God feedeth them. The Lilies grow, and the Ravens are fed according to the ordinary course of Nature, and yet they are justly made arguments of Providence
by our Saviour; nor are these things less Providential, because constant and regular; on the contrary, such a disposition or establishment of second causes, as will in the best order, and for a long succession, produce the most regular effects, assisted only with the ordinary concourse of the first cause, is a greater argument of wisdom and contrivance, than such a disposition of causes as will not in so good an order, or for so long a time produce regular effects, without an extraordinary concourse and interposition of the First cause. This, I think, is clear to every man's judgment. We think him a better Artist that makes a Clock that strikes regularly at every hour from the Springs and Wheels which he puts in the work, than he that hath so made his Clock that he must put his finger to it every hour to make it strike: And if one should contrive a piece of Clock-work so that it should beat all the hours, and make all its motions regularly for such a time, and that time being come, upon a signal given, or a Spring toucht, it should of its own accord fall all to pieces; would not this be look’d upon as a piece of greater Art, than if the Workman came at that time prefixt, and with a great Hammer beat it into pieces? I use these comparisons to convince us, that it is no detraction from Divine Providence, that the course of Nature is exact and regular, and that even in its greatest changes and revolutions it should still con-spire and be prepar’d to answer the ends and purposes of the Divine Will in reference to the Moral World. This seems to me to be the great Art of Divine Providence, so to adjust the two Worlds, Humane and Natural, Material and Intellectual, as seeing thorough the possibilities and futuritions of each, according to the first state and circumstances he puts them under, they should all along correspond and fit one another, and especially in their great Crises and Periods.
Thirdly, Besides the ordinary Providence of God in the ordinary course of Nature, there is doubtless an extraordinary Providence that doth attend the greater Scenes and the greater revolutions of Nature. This, methinks, besides all other proof from the Effects, is very rational and necessary in it self; for it would be a limitation of the Divine Power and Will so to be bound up to second causes, as never to use, upon occasion, an extraordinary influence or direction: And ’tis manifest, taking any Systeme of Natural causes, if the best possible, that there may be more and greater things done, if to this, upon certain occasions you joyn an extraordinary conduct. And as we have taken notice before, that there was an extraordinary Providence in the formation or composition of the first Earth, so I believe there was also in the dissolution of it; And I think it had been impossible for the Ark to have liv’d upon the raging Abysse, or for Noah and his Family to have been preserv’d, if there had not been a miraculous hand of Providence to take care of them. But ’tis hard to separate and distinguish an ordinary and extraordinary Providence in all cases, and to mark just how far one goes, and where the other begins. And writing a Theory of the Deluge here, as we do, we were to exhibit a Series of causes whereby it might be made intelligible, or to shew the proximate Natural causes of it; wherein we follow the example both of Moses and St. Peter; and with the same veneration of the Divine Power and Wisdom in the government of Nature, by a constant ordinary Providence, and an occasional extraordinary.
So much for the Theory of the Deluge, and the second Section of this Discourse.