A general objection against this Theory, viz. That if there had been such a Primitive Earth, as we pretend, the fame of it would have sounded throughout all Antiquity. The Eastern and Western Learning consider’d, the most considerable Records of both are lost; what footsteps remain relating to this Subject. The Jewish and Christian Learning consider’d; how far lost as to this Argument, and what Notes or Traditions remain. Lastly, how far the Sacred Writings bear witness to it. The Providential conduct of Knowledge in the World. A recapitulation and state of the Theory.
HAVING gone through the two first Parts, and the two first Books of this Theory, that concern the Primitive World, the Universal Deluge, and the state of Paradise, We have leizure now to reflect a little, and consider what may probably be objected against a Theory of this nature. I do not mean single objections against single parts, for those may be many, and such as I cannot fore-see; but what may be said against the body and substance of the Theory,
and the credibility of it, appearing new and surprising, and yet of great extent and importance. This, I fancy, will induce many to say, surely this cannot be a reality; for if there had been such a Primitive Earth, and such a Primitive World as is here represented, and so remarkably different from the present, it could not have been so utterly forgotten, or lain hid for so many Ages; all Antiquity would have rung of it; the memory of it would have been kept fresh by Books or Traditions. Can we imagine, that it should lie buried for some thousands of years in deep silence and oblivion; and now only when the second World is drawing to an end, we begin to discover that there was a first, and that of another make and order from this?
To satisfie this objection, or surmise rather, it will be convenient to take a good large scope and compass in our Discourse; We must not suppose, that this Primitive World hath been wholly lost out of the memory of man, or out of History, for we have some History and Chronology of it preserv’d by Moses, and likewise in the Monuments of the Ancients, more or less; for they all suppos’d a World before the Deluge. But ’tis the Philosophy of this Primitive World that hath been lost in a great measure, what the state of Nature was then, and wherein it differ’d from the present or Post-diluvian order of things. This, I confess, hath been little taken notice of; it hath been generally thought or presum’d, that the World before the Flood was of the same form and constitution with the present World; This we do not deny, but rather think it design’d and Providential, that there should not remain a clear and full knowledge of that first state of things; and we may easily suppose how it might decay and perish, if we consider how little of the remote Antiquities of the World have ever been brought down to our knowledge.
The Greeks and Romans divided the Ages of the World into three periods or intervals, whereof they call’d the first the Obscure Period, the second the Fabulous, and the third Historical. The dark and obscure Period was from the beginning of the World to the Deluge; what pass’d then, either in Nature or amongst Men, they have no Records, no account, by their own confession; all that space of time was cover’d with darkness and oblivion; so that we ought rather to wonder at those remains they have, and those broken notions of the Golden Age, and the conditions of it, how they were sav’d out of the common shipwrack, than to expect from them the Philosophy of that World, and all its differences from the present. And as for the other Nations that pretend to greater Antiquities, to more ancient History and Chronology, from what is left of their Monuments many will allow only this difference, that their fabulous Age begun more high, or that they had more ancient Fables.
But besides that our expectations cannot be great from the learning of the Gentiles, we have not the means or opportunity to inform our selves well what Notions they did leave us concerning the Primitive World; for their Books and Monuments are generally lost, or lie hid unknown to us. The Learning of the World may be divided into the Eastern learning and the Western; and I look upon the Eastern as far more considerable for Philosophical Antiquities, and Philosophical Conclusions; I say Conclusions, for I do not believe either of them had
any considerable Theory, or Contexture of Principles and Conclusions together: But ’tis certain, that in the East, from what Source soever it came, Humane or Divine, they had some extraordinary Doctrines and Notions disperst amongst them. Now as by the Western learning we understand that of the Greeks and Romans; so by the Eastern, that which was amongst the Ægyptians, Phœnicians, Chaldæans, Assyrians, and Persians; and of the Learning of these Nations, how little have we now left? except some fragments and Citations in Greek Authors, what do we know of them? But if we had, not only those Books intire, whereof we have now the gleanings and reversions only, but all that have perisht besides, especially in that famous Library at Alexandria; if these, I say, were all restor’d to the World again, we might promise our selves the satisfaction of seeing more of the Antiquities, and Natural History of the first World, than we have now left, or can reasonably expect. That Library we speak of, at Alexandria, was a Collection, besides Greek Books, of Ægyptian, Chaldæan, and all the Eastern Learning; and Cedrenus makes it to consist of an hundred thousand Volumes: But Josephus saith, when the Translation of the Bible by the Septuagint was to be added to it, Demetrius Phalereus (who was Keeper or Governour of it) told the King then, that he had already two hundred thousand Volumes, and that he hop’d to make them up five hundred thousand; And he was better than his word, or his Successors for him, for Ammianus Marcellinus, and other Authors, report them to have increas’d to seven hundred thousand. This Library was unfortunately burnt in the sacking of Alexandria by Cæsar, and considering that all these were ancient Books, and generally of the Eastern wisdom, ’twas an inestimable and irreparable loss to the Commonwealth of Learning. In like manner we are told of a vast Library of Books of all Arts and Sciences, in China, burnt by the command or caprice of one of their Kings. Wherein, the Chineses, according to their vanity, were us’d to say, greater riches were lost, than will be in the last Conflagration.
As for the Western Learning, we may remember what the Ægyptian Priest says to Solon in Plato's Timæus, You Greeks are always Children, and know nothing of Antiquity; And if the Greeks were so, much more the Romans, who came after them in time, and for so great a People, and so much civiliz’d, never any had less Philosophy, and less of the Sciences amongst them than the Romans had; They studied only the Art of Speaking, of Governing, and of Fighting: and left the rest to the Greeks and Eastern Nations, as unprofitable. Yet we have reason to believe, that the best Philosophical Antiquities that the Romans had, perisht with the Books of Varro, of Numa Pompilius, and of the ancient Sibyls. De Civ. Dei lib. 6 Dion. Halic. Ant. Rom. lib. 4.Varro writ, as St. Austin tells us, a multitude of Volumes, and of various sorts, and I had rather retrieve his works, than the works of any other Roman Author; not his Etymologies and Criticisms, where we see nothing admirable, but his Theologia Physica, and his Antiquitates; which in all probability would have given us more light into remote times, and the Natural History of the past World, than all the Latin Authors besides have done. He has left the foremention’d distinction of three Periods of time; He had the doctrine of the Mundane Egg, as we see in Probus Grammaticus; and he gave us that observation of the Star Venus, concerning the great change she suffer’d about the time of our Deluge.
Numa Pompilius was doubtless a contemplative man, and ’tis thought that he understood the true System of the World, and represented the Sun by his Vestal Fire; though, methinks, Vesta does not so properly refer to the Sun, as to the Earth, which hath a Sacred fire too, that is not to be extinguisht. He order’d his Books to be buried with him, which were found in a Stone-Chest by him, four hundred years after his death; They were in all twenty-four, whereof twelve contain’d Sacred Rites and Ceremonies, and the other twelve the Philosophy and Wisdom of the Greeks; The Romans gave them to the Prætor Petilius to peruse; and to make his report to the Senate, whether they were fit to be publisht or no: The Prætor made a wise politick report, that the Contents of them might be of dangerous consequence to the establisht Laws and Religion; and thereupon they were condemn’d to be burnt, and Posterity was depriv’d of that ancient treasure, whatsoever it was. What the nine Books of the Sibyl contain’d, that were offer’d to King Tarquin, we little know; She valued them high, and the higher still, the more they seem’d to slight or neglect them; which is a piece of very natural indignation or contempt, when one is satisfied of the worth of what they offer. ’Tis likely they respected, besides the fate of Rome, the fate and several periods of the World, both past and to come, and the most mystical passages of them. And in these Authors and Monuments are lost the greatest hopes of Natural and Philosophick Antiquities, that we could have had from the Romans.
And as to the Greeks, their best and Sacred Learning was not originally their own; they enricht themselves with the spoils of the East, and the remains we have of that Eastern Learning, is what we pick out of the Greeks; whose works, I believe, if they were intirely extant, we should not need to go any further for witnesses to confirm all the principal parts of this Theory. With what regret does one read in Laertius, Suidas, and others, the promising titles of Books writ by the Greek Philosophers, hundreds or thousands, whereof there is not one now extant; and those that are extant are generally but fragments: Those Authors also that have writ their Lives, or collected their Opinions, have done it confus’dly and injudiciously. I should hope for as much light and instruction, as to the Original of the World, from Orpheus alone, if his works had been preserv’d, as from all that is extant now of the other Greek Philosophers. We may see from what remains of him, that he understood in a good measure, how the Earth rise from a Chaos, what was its external Figure, and what the form of its inward structure; The opinion of the Oval Figure of the Earth is ascrib’d to Orpheus and his Disciples; and the doctrine of the Mundane Egg is so peculiarly his, that ’tis call’d by Proclus, The Orphick Egg; not that he was the first Author of that doctrine, but the first that brought it into Greece.
Thus much concerning the Heathen Learning, Eastern and Western, and the small remains of it in things Philosophical; ’tis no wonder then if the account we have left us from them of the Primitive Earth, and the Antiquities of the natural World be very imperfect. And yet we have trac’d (in the precedent Chapter, and more largely in our Latin Treatise) the foot-steps of several parts of this Theory amongst the writings and Traditions of the Ancients: and even of those parts that seem the most strange and singular, and that are the Basis upon which the rest
stand. We have shown there, that their account of the Chaos, though it seem’d to many but a Poetical Rhapsody, contain’d the true mystery of the formation of the Primitive Earth.Tell. Theor. lib. 2. c. 7. We have also shown upon the same occasion, that both the external Figure and internal form of that Earth was compriz’d and signified in their ancient doctrine of the Mundane Egg, which hath been propagated through all the Learned Nations.Ibid. Cap. 10. And lastly, as to the situation of that Earth, and the change of its posture since, that the memory of that has been kept up, we have brought several testimonies and indications from the Greek Philosophers.Ibid. And these were the three great and fundamental properties of the Primitive Earth, upon which all the other depend, and all its differences from the present Order of Nature. You see then, though Providence hath suffer’d the Heathen Learning and their Monuments, in a great part, to perish, yet we are not left wholly without witnesses amongst them, in a speculation of this great importance.
You will say, it may be, though this account, as to the Books and Learning of the Heathen, may be lookt upon as reasonable, yet we might expect however, from the Jewish and Christian Authors, a more full and satisfactory account of that Primitive Earth, and of the Old World. First, as to the Jews, ’tis well known that they have no ancient Learning, unless by way of Tradition, amongst them. There is not a Book extant in their Language, excepting the Canon of the Old Testament, that hath not been writ since our Saviour's time. They are very bad Masters of Antiquity, and they may in some measure be excus’d, because of their several captivities, dispersions, and desolations. In the Babylonish captivity their Temple was ransack’d, and they did not preserve, as is thought, so much as the Autograph or original Manuscript of the Law, nor the Books of those of their Prophets that were then extant, and kept in the Temple; And at their return from the Captivity after seventy years, they seem to have had forgot their Native Language so much, that the Law was to be interpreted to them in Chaldee, after it was read in Hebrew; for so I understand that interpretation in Nehemiah.C. 8. 7, 8. ’Twas a great Providence, methinks, that they should any way preserve their Law, and other Books of Scripture, in the Captivity, for so long a time; for ’tis likely they had not the liberty of using them in any publick worship, seeing they return’d so ignorant of their own Language, and, as ’tis thought, of their Alphabet and Character too. And if their Sacred Books were hardly preserv’d, we may easily believe all others perisht in that publick desolation.
Yet there was another destruction of that Nation, and their Temple, greater than this, by the Romans; and if there were any remains of Learning preserv’d in the former ruine, or any recruits made since that time, this second desolation would sweep them all away. And accordingly we see they have nothing left in their Tongue, besides the Bible, so ancient as the destruction of Jerusalem. These and other publick calamities of the Jewish Nation, may reasonably be thought to have wasted their Records of ancient Learning, if they had any; for, to speak truth, the Jews are a people of little curiosity, as to Sciences and Philosophical enquiries: They were very tenacious of their own customs, and careful of those Traditions that did respect them, but were not remarkable, that I know of, or thought great Proficients in any other sort of Learning. There has been a great
fame, ’tis true, of the Jewish Cabala, and of great mysteries contain’d in it; and, I believe, there was once a Traditional doctrine amongst some of them, that had extraordinary Notions and Conclusions: But where is this now to be found? The Essenes were the likeliest Sect, one would think, to retain such doctrines, but ’tis probable they are now so mixt with things fabulous and fantastical, that what one should alledge from thence would be of little or no authority. One Head in this Cabala was the doctrine of the Sephiroth, and though the explication of them be uncertain, the Inferiour Sephiroth in the Corporeal World cannot so well beVid. Men. ben Isr. de Creat. probl. 28. appli’d to any thing, as to those several Orbs and Regions, infolding one another, whereof the Primigenial Earth was compos’d. Yet such conjectures, I know, are of no validity, but in consort with better Arguments. I have often thought also, that their first and second Temple represented the first and second Earth or World; and that of Ezekiel's, which is the third, is still to be erected, the most beautiful of all, when this second Temple of the World shall be burnt down. If the Prophecies of Enoch had been preserv’d, and taken into the Canon by Ezra, after their return from Babylon, when the Collection of their Sacred Books is suppos’d to have been made, we might probably have had a considerable account there, both of times past and to come, of Antiquities and Futuritions; for those Prophecies are generally suppos’d to have contain’d both the first and second fate of this Earth, and all the Periods of it. But as this Book is lost to us, so I look upon all others that pretend to be Ante-Mosaical or Patriarchal, as Spurious and Fabulous.
Thus much concerning the Jews. As for Christian Authors, their knowledge must be from some of these fore-mention’d, Jews or Heathens; or else by Apostolical Tradition: For the Christian Fathers were not very speculative, so as to raise a Theory from their own thoughts and contemplations, concerning the Origin of the Earth. We have instanc’d, in the last Chapter, in a Christian Tradition, concerning Paradise, and the high situation of it, which is fully consonant to the site of the Primitive Earth, where Paradise stood, and doth seem plainly to refer to it, being unintelligible upon any other supposition. And ’twas, I believe, this elevation of Paradise, and the pensile structure of that Paradisiacal Earth, that gave occasion to Celsus, as we see by Origen's answer, to say, that the Christian Paradise was taken from the pensile Gardens of Alcinous: But we may see now what was the ground of such expressions or Traditions amongst the Ancients, which Providence left to keep mens minds awake; not fully to instruct them, but to confirm them in the truth, when it should come to be made known in other methods. We have noted also above, that the ancient Books and Authors amongst the Christians, that were most likely to inform us in this Argument, have perisht, and are lost out of the World, such as Ephrem Syrus de ortu rerum, and Tertullian de Paradiso; and that piece which is extant, of Moses Bar Cepha's upon this subject, receives more light from our Hypothesis, than from any other I know; for correcting some mistakes about the Figure of the Earth, which the Ancients were often guilty of, the obscurity or confusion of that Discourse in other things, may be easily rectifi’d, if compar’d with this Theory.
Of this nature also is that Tradition that is common both to Jews and Christians, and which we have often mention’d before, that there was a perpetual serenity,
and perpetual Equinox in Paradise; which cannot be upon this Earth, not so much as under the Equinoctial; for they have a sort of Winter and Summer there, a course of Rains at certain times of the Year, and great inequalities of the Air, as to heat and cold, moisture and drought. Lat. Treat. lib. 2. c. 10.They had also Traditions amongst them, That there was no Rain from the beginning of the World till the Deluge, and that there were no Mountains till the Flood, and such like; These, you see, point directly at such an Earth, as we have describ’d. And I call these Traditions, because we cannot find the Original Authors of them; The ancient ordinary Gloss (upon Genesis) which some make Eight hundred years old, mentions both these Opinions; so does Historia Scholastica, Alcuinus, Rabanus Maurus, Lyranus, and such Collectors of Antiquity. Bede also relates that of the plainness or smoothness of the Ante-diluvian Earth. Yet these are reported Traditionally, as it were, naming no Authors or Books from whence they were taken; Nor can it be imagin’d that they feign’d them themselves; to what end or purpose? it serv’d no interest; or upon what ground? seeing they had no Theory that could lead them to such Notions as these, or that could be strengthen’d and confirm’d by them. Those opinions also of the Fathers, which we recited in the seventh Chapter, placing Paradise beyond the Torrid Zone, and making it thereby inaccessible, suit very well to the form, qualities, and bipartition of the Primæval Earth, and seem to be grounded upon them.
Thus much may serve for a short Survey of the ancient Learning, to give us a reasonable account, why the memory and knowledge of the Primitive Earth should be so much lost out of the World; and what we retain of it still; which would be far more, I do not doubt, if all Manuscripts were brought to light, that are yet extant in publick or private Libraries. The truth is, one cannot judge with certainty, neither what things have been recorded and preserv’d in the monuments of Learning, nor what are still; not what have been, because so many of those Monuments are lost: The Alexandrian Library, which we spoke of before, seems to have been the greatest Collection that ever was made before Christianity, and the Constantinopolitan (begun by Constantine, and destroy’d in the Fifth Century, when it was rais’d to the number, as is said, of one hundred twenty thousand Volumes) the most valuable that was ever since, and both these have been permitted by Providence to perish in the merciless Flames. Besides those devastations of Books and Libraries that have been made in Christendom, by the Northern barbarous Nations overflowing Europe, and the Saracens and Turks great parts of Asia and Africk. It is hard therefore to pronounce what knowledge hath been in the World, or what accounts of Antiquity; Neither can we well judge what remain, or of what things the memory may be still latently conserv’d; for besides those Manuscripts that are yet unexamin’d in these parts of Christendom, and those that have been scarce view’d in the great Abyssine or Æthiopick Library, there are many, doubtless, of good value in other parts; and we know particularly of two fam’d Libraries, that of Buda, and that of Fez, both in the hands of Mahometans; who keep them as the Dragon did the Golden Apples, will neither make use of them themselves, nor suffer others to peruse them. The Library of Fez is said to contain thirty two thousand Volumes in
[paragraph continues] Arabick; and though the Arabick Learning was mostwhat Western, and therefore of less account, yet they did deal in Eastern Learning too; for Avicenna writ a Book with that Title, Philosophia Orientalis. There may be also in the East thousands of Manuscripts unknown to us, of greater value than most books we have: And as to those subjects we are treating of, I should promise my self more light and confirmation from the Syriack Authors than from any others. These things being consider’d, we can make but a very imperfect estimate, what evidences are left us, and what accounts of the Primitive Earth; and if these deductions and defalcations be made, both for what Books are wholly lost, and for what lie asleep or dead in Libraries, we have reason to be satisfied in a Theory of this nature, to find so good attestations as we have produc’d for the several parts of it; which we purpose to inlarge upon considerably at another time and occasion.
But to carry this Objection as far as may be, let us suppose it to be urg’d still in the last place, that though these Humane writings have perisht, or be imperfect, yet in the Divine writings at least, we might expect, that the memory of the Old World, and of the Primitive Earth should have been preserv’d. To this I answer in short, That we could not expect in the Scriptures any Natural Theory of that Earth, nor any account of it, but what was general; and this we have, both by the Tehom-Rabba of Moses, and the description of the same Abysse in other places of Scripture, as we have shown at large in the First Book, Chap. 7. And also by the description which St. Peter hath given of the Ante-diluvian Heavens and Earth, and their different constitution from the present. You will say, it may be, that that place of St. Peter2 Pet. 3. 5, 6, &c. is capable of another interpretation; so are most places of Scripture, if you speak of a bare capacity; they are capable of more than one interpretation; but that which is most natural, proper and congruous, suitable to the words, suitable to the Argument, and suitable to the Context, wherein is nothing superfluous or impertinent, that we prefer and accept of as the most reasonable interpretation. Besides, in such Texts as relate to the Natural World, if of two interpretations propos’d, one agrees better with the Theory of Nature than the other, cæteris paribus, that ought to be prefer’d. And by these two rules we are willing to be tri’d, in the exposition of that remarkable Discourse of St. Peter's, and to stand to that sence which is found most agreeable to them.
Give me leave to conclude the whole Discourse with this general Consideration; ’Tis reasonable to suppose, that there is a Providence in the conduct of Knowledge, as well as of other affairs on the Earth; and that it was not design’d that all the mysteries of Nature and Providence should be plainly and clearly understood throughout all the Ages of the World; but that there is an Order establisht for this, as for other things, and certain Periods and Seasons; And what was made known to the Ancients only by broken Conclusions and Traditions, will be known (in the later Ages of the World) in a more perfect way, by Principles and Theories. The increase of Knowledge being that which changeth so much the face of the World, and the state of Humane affairs, I do not doubt but there is a particular care and superintendency for the conduct of it; by what steps and degrees it should come to light, at what Seasons and in what Ages; what evidence should
be left, either in Scripture, Reason, or Tradition, for the grounds of it; how clear or obscure, how disperst or united; all these things were weigh’d and consider’d, and such measures taken as best suit the designs of Providence, and the general project and method propos’d in the government of the World. And I make no question but the state both of the Old World, and of that which is to come, is exhibited to us in Scripture in such a measure and proportion, as is fit for this foremention’d purpose; not as the Articles of our Faith, or the precepts of a good Life, which he that runs may read; but to the attentive and reflexive, to those that are unprejudic’d, and to those that are inquisitive, and have their minds open and prepar’d for the discernment of mysteries of such a nature.
Thus much in answer to that general Objection which might be made against this Theory, That it is not founded in Antiquity. I do not doubt but there may be many particular Objections against Parts and Sections of it, and the exposing it thus in our own Tongue may excite some or other, it may be, to make them; but if any be so minded, I desire (if they be Scholars) that it may rather be in Latin, as being more proper for a subject of this nature; and also that they would keep themselves close to the substance of the Theory, and wound that as much as they can; but to make excursions upon things accidental or collateral, that do not destroy the Hypothesis, is but to trouble the World with impertinencies. Now the substance of the Theory is this, THAT there was a Primitive Earth of another form from the present, and inhabited by Mankind till the Deluge; That it had those properties and conditions that we have ascrib’d to it, namely, a perpetual Equinox or Spring, by reason of its right situation to the Sun; Was of an Oval Figure, and the exteriour face of it smooth and uniform, without Mountains or a Sea. That in this Earth stood Paradise; the doctrine whereof cannot be understood but upon supposition of this Primitive Earth, and its properties. Then that the disruption and fall of this Earth into the Abysse, which lay under it, was that which made the Universal Deluge, and the destruction of the Old World; And that neither Noah's Flood, nor the present form of the Earth can be explain’d in any other method that is rational, nor by any other Causes that are intelligible. These are the Vitals of the Theory, and the primary Assertions, whereof I do freely profess my full belief: and whosoever by solid reasons will show me in an Errour, and undeceive me, I shall be very much oblig’d to him. There are other lesser Conclusions which flow from these, and may be call’d Secondary, as that the Longævity of the Ante-diluvians depended upon their perpetual Equinox, and the perpetual equality and serenity of the Air; That the Torrid Zone in the Primitive Earth was uninhabitable; And that all their Rivers flow’d from the extreme parts of the Earth towards the Equinoctial; there being neither Rain, nor Rainbow, in the temperate and habitable Regions of it; And lastly, that the place of Paradise, according to the opinion of Antiquity, was in the Southern Hemisphere. These, I think, are all truly deduc’d and prov’d in their several ways, though they be not such essential parts of the Theory, as the former. There are also besides, many particular Explications that are to be consider’d with more liberty and latitude, and may be perhaps upon better thoughts, or better observations, corrected, without any prejudice to the general Theory.
[paragraph continues] Those places of Scripture which we have cited, I think, are all truly appli’d; and I have not mention’d Moses's Cosmopœia, because I thought it deliver’d by him as a Lawgiver, not as a Philosopher; which I intend to show at large in another Treatise, not thinking that discussion proper for the Vulgar Tongue. Upon the whole, we are to remember, that some allowances are to be made for every Hypothesis that is new-propos’d and untri'd: and that we ought not out of levity of wit, or any private design, discountenance free and fair Essays: nor from any other motive, but the only love and concern of Truth.