Several incroachments upon Natural Providence, or misrepresentations of it, and false methods of Contemplation; A true method propos’d, and a true representation of the Universe. The Mundane Idea, and the Universal System of Providence; Several subordinate Systems, That of our Earth and Sublunary World; The course and Periods of it; How much of this is already treated of, and what remains. The Conclusion.
WE have set bounds to Nature in the foregoing Chapter, and plac’d her Author and Governour upon his Throne, to give Laws to her Motions, and to direct and limit her Power in such ways and methods as are most for his honour. Let us now consider Nature under the conduct of Providence, or consider Natural Providence, and the extent of it; And as we were cautious before not to give too much power or greatness to Nature, consider’d apart from Providence, so we must be careful now, under this second consideration, not to contract her bounds too much; lest we should by too mean and narrow thoughts of the Creation, Eclipse the glory of its Author, whom we have so lately own’d as a Being infinitely perfect.
And to use no further Introduction, In the first place, 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 mark’d and censur’d for Heresies in Religion, than many Opinions that have been censur’d 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 ordain’d 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. Surely if we made the least reflection upon our selves with impartiality, we should be asham’d 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 a 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 frantick. 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 nonsence 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 our selves, 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 superiour 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 our selves 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, as many orders of Beings above us, as there are ranks of Creatures below us; there is a greater distance sure betwixt us and God Al-mighty, 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 8th 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? ’Tis 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 Heavens. 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 make 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 that those 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 scatter’d, 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 plac’d in rank and order, if they had been all dispos’d into regular figures, and the little ones set with due regard to the greater, Then all finisht and made up into one fair piece or great Composition, according to the rules of Art and Symmetry. What a surprizing 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 made for us; but lest any such vain imagination should now enter into our thoughts, Providence (besides more important Reasons) seems on purpose to have left them under that negligence or disorder which they appear in to us.
The second part of this opinion supposeth this Planet, where we live, to be the only habitable part of the Universe; And this is a natural consequence of the former; If all things were made to serve us, why should any more be made than what is useful to us. But ’tis only our ignorance of the System of the World, and of the grandeur of the works of God, that betrays us to such narrow thoughts. See the Lat. Treat. lib. 1. c. 10, p. 108, 109, &c.If we do but consider what this Earth is, both for littleness and deformity, and what its Inhabitants are, we shall not be apt to think that this miserable Atome hath engross’d and exhausted all the Divine favours, and all the riches of his goodness, and of his Providence. But we will not inlarge upon this part of the opinion, lest it should carry us too far from the subject, and it will fall, of its own accord, with the former. Upon the whole we may conclude, that it was only the Sublunary World that was made for the sake of Man, and not the Great Creation, either Material or Intellectual; and we cannot admit or affirm any more, without manifest injury, depression, and misrepresentation of Providence, as we may be easily convinc’d from these four Heads; The meanness of Man and of this Earth, The excellency of other Beings, The immensity of the Universe, And The infinite perfection of the first Cause. Which I leave to your further meditation, and pass on to the second rule, concerning Natural Providence.
In the second place then, if we would have a fair view and right apprehensions, of Natural Providence, we must not cut the chains of it too short, by having recourse, without necessity, either to the First Cause, in explaining the Origins of things: or to Miracles, in explaining particular effects. This, I say, breaks the chains of Natural Providence, when it is done without necessity, that is, when
things are otherwise intelligible from second Causes. Neither is any thing gain’d by it to God Almighty; for ’tis but, as the Proverb says, to rob Peter to pay Paul, to take so much from his ordinary Providence, and place it to his extraordinary. When a new Religion is brought into the World, ’tis very reasonable and decorous that it should be usher’d in with Miracles, as both the Jewish and Christian were; but afterwards things return into their Chanel, and do not change or overflow again, but upon extraordinary occasions or revolutions. The power Extraordinary of God is to be accounted very Sacred, not to be touch’d or expos’d for our pleasure or conveniency; but I am afraid we often make use of it only to conceal our own ignorance, or to save us the trouble of inquiring into Natural Causes. Men are generally unwilling to appear ignorant, especially those that make profession of knowledge, and when they have not skill enough to explain some particular effect in a way of Reason, they throw it upon the First Cause, as able to bear all; and so placing it to that account, they excuse themselves, and save their credit; for all men are equally wise, if you take away Second Causes; as we are all of the same colour, if you take away the Light.
See Book I. c. 8. at the end.But to state this matter, and see the ground of this rule more distinctly, we must observe and consider, that The Course of Nature is truly the Will of God; and as I may so say, his first Will; from which we are not to recede, but upon clear evidence and necessity. And as in matter of Religion, we are to follow the known reveal’d will of God, and not to trust to every impulse or motion of Enthusiasm, as coming from the Divine Spirit, unless there be evident marks that it is Supernatural, and cannot come from our own; So neither are we, without necessity, to quit the known and ordinary Will and Power of God establisht in the course of Nature, and fly to Supernatural Causes, or his extraordinary Will; for this is a kind of Enthusiasm or Fanaticism, as well as the other: And no doubt that great prodigality and waste of Miracles which some make, is no way to the honour of God or Religion. ’Tis true, the other extream is worse than this, for to deny all Miracles, is in effect to deny all reveal’d Religion; therefore due measures are to be taken betwixt these two, ƒo as neither to make the Divine Power too mean and cheap, nor the Power of Nature illimited and all-sufficient.
In the Third Place, To make the Scenes of Natural Providence considerable, and the knowledge of them satisfactory to the Mind, we must take a true Philosophy, or the true principles that govern Nature, which are Geometrical and Mechanical. By these you discover the footsteps of the Divine Art and Wisdom, and trace the progress of Nature step by step, as distinctly as in Artificial things, where we see how the Motions depend upon one another, in what order and by what necessity. God made all things in Number, Weight and Measure, which are Geometrical and Mechanical Principles; He is not said to have made things by Forms and Qualities, or any combination of qualities, but by these three principles, which may be conceiv’d to express the subject of three Mathematical Sciences, Number, of Arithmetick; Weight, of Staticks; and Measure and Proportion, of Geometry; If then all things were made according to these principles, to understand the manner of their construction and composition, we must proceed in the search of them by the same principles, and resolve them into these again. Besides,
the nature of the subject does direct us sufficiently; for when we contemplate or treat of Bodies, and the Material World, we must proceed by the modes of Bodies and their real properties, such as can be represented, either to Sense or Imagination, for these faculties are made for Corporeal things; but Logical Notions, when appli’d to particular Bodies, are meer shadows of them, without light or substance. No man can raise a Theory upon such grounds, nor calculate any revolutions of Nature; nor render any service, or invent any thing useful in Humane Life: And accordingly we see, that for these many Ages, that this dry Philosophy hath govern’d Christendom, it hath brought forth no fruit, produc’d nothing good, to God or Man, to Religion or Humane Society.
To these true principles of Philosophy, we must joyn also the true System of the World. That gives scope to our thoughts, and rational grounds to work upon; but the vulgar System, or that which Aristotle and others have propos’d, affords no matter of contemplation. All above the Moon, according to him, is firm as Adamant, and as immutable; no change or variation in the Universe, but in those little removes that happen here below, one quality or form shifting into another; there would therefore be no great exercise of Reason or Meditation in such a World, no long Series's of Providence; The Regions above being made of a kind of immutable Matter, they would always remain in the same form, structure, and qualities: so as we might lock up that part of the Universe as to any further Inquiries, and we should find it ten thousand years hence in the same form and state wherein we left it. Then in this Sublunary World there would be but very small doings neither, things would lie in a narrow compass, no great revolution of Nature, no new Form of the Earth, but a few anniversary Corruptions and Generations, and that would be the short and the long of Nature, and of Providence, according to Aristotle. But if we consider the Earth, as one of those many Planets that move about the Sun, and the Sun as one of those innumerable fixt Stars that adorn the Universe, and are the Centers of its greatest Motions; and all this subject to fate and change, to corruptions and renovations; This opens a large Field for our Thoughts, and gives a large subject for the exercise and expansion of the Divine Wisdom and Power, and for the glory of his Providence.
In the last place, Having thus prepar’d your Mind, and the subject, for the Contemplation of Natural Providence, do not content yourself to consider only the present face of Nature, but look back into the first Sources of things, into their more simple and original states; and observe the progress of Nature from one form to another, through various modes and compositions. For there is no single Effect, nor any single state of Nature, how perfect soever, that can be such an argument and demonstration of Providence, as a Period of Nature, or a revolution of several states consequential to one another; and in such an order and dependance, that as they flow and succeed, they shall still be adjusted to the periods of the moral World; so as to be ready always to be the ministers of the Divine Justice or beneficence to Mankind. This shows the manifold riches of the Wisdom and Power of God in Nature. And this may give us just occasion to reflect again upon Aristotle's System and method, which destroys Natural Providence in this respect also; for he takes the World as it is now, both for Matter
and Form, and supposeth it to have been in this posture from all Eternity, and that it will continue to Eternity in the same; so as all the great turns of Nature, and the principal scenes of Providence in the Natural World are quite struck out; and we have but this one Scene for all, and a pitiful one too, if compar’d with the infinite Wisdom of God, and the depths of Providence. We must take things in their full extent, and from their Origins, to comprehend them well, and to discover the mysteries of Providence, both in the Causes and in the Conduct of them. That method which David followed in the contemplation of the Little World, or in the Body of Man, we should also follow in the Great; take it in its first mass, in its tender principles and rudiments, and observe the progress of it to a compleat form; In these first stroaks of Nature are the secrets of her Art; The Eye must be plac’d in this point to have a right prospect, and see her works in a true light. David admires the Wisdom of God in the Origin and formation of his Body;Psal. 139. 15, 16. My Body, says He, was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, curiously wrought in the lower parts of the Earth; Thine eyes did see my substance being yet unperfect, and in thy Book all my members were written; which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them, or being at first in no form. How precious are thy Thoughts to me, O God, &c. This was the subject of David's Meditations, how his Body was wrought from a shapeless mass into that marvellous composition which it had when fully fram’d; and this, he says, was under the Eye of God all along, and the model of it, as it were, was design’d and delineated in the Book of Providence, according to which it was by degrees fashion’d and wrought to perfection. Thine eyes did see my substance yet being imperfect, in thy Book all my members were drawn, &c. Job also hath aptly exprest those first rudiments of the Body, or that little Chaos out of which it riseth,Job. 10. 10, 11. Hast thou not poured me out as Milk, and crudled me like Cheese? Thou hast cloathed me with Skin and Flesh, and fenced me with Bones and Sinews. Where he notes the first Matter and the last Form of his Body, its compleat and most incompleat state. According to these examples we must likewise consider the Greater Bodies of Nature, The Earth and the Sublunary World; we must go to the Origin of them, the Seminal Mass, the Chaos out of which they rise; Look upon the World first as an Embryo-world, without form or shape, and then consider how its Members were fashion’d, how by degrees it was brought into that diversity of parts and Regions, which it consists of, with all their furniture, and with all their ornaments. The Idea of all which was beforehand, according to David's expression, written in the Divine Mind; and we partake of that wisdom, according to our capacity, in seeing and admiring the methods of it.
These seem to be necessary preparatives or directions to those that would contemplate, with profit, Natural Providence, and the great works of God in the visible Creation. We consider’d Nature in the precedent Chapter abstractly, and in her self, and now we consider her under the Conduct of Providence, which we therefore call Natural Providence; And as we have endeavour’d to remove those false notions and suppositions that lay as Clouds upon her face, so we must now endeavour to represent her in a better light, and in a fuller beauty. By Natural Providence therefore we understand, The Form or Course of Universal Nature, as
actuated by the Divine Power: with all the changes, Periods, and vicissitudes, that attend it, according to the method and establishment made at first, by the Author of it. I said of Universal Nature, through all the orders of Beings in the Intellectual World, and all the Regions and Systems of Matter in the Corporeal. For, having prov’d in the foregoing Chapter, that there is an Author of Nature, A Being infinitely Perfect, by whose power and influence alone all finite Natures exist and act, we have an assured ground to conclude, that nothing can come to pass, throughout the whole Creation, without the prescience and permission of its Author; and as it is necessary to suppose, that there is an Idea in the Divine Understanding of all the mass of Beings produc’d or Created, according to the several ranks and orders wherein they stand; so there is also an Idea there, according to which this great Frame moves, and all the parts of it, in beauty and harmony
And these two things, The Essences of all Beings, and the Series of their Motions, compose the MUNDANE IDEA, as I may so call it; or that great All-comprehensive Thought in the Divine Understanding, which contains the System of Universal Providence, and the state of all things, past, present, or to come. This glorious Idea is the express Image of the whole Creation, of all the works of God, and the disposition of them; here lie the mysteries of Providence, as in their Original; The successive Forms of all Nature; and herein, as in a Glass, may be view’d all the Scenes of Time or Eternity. This is an Abysse of Sacred Wisdom, The inexhausted treasure of all Science, The Root of Truth, and Fountain of Intellectual Light; And in the clear and full contemplation of this is perfect happiness, and a truly beatifick Vision.
But what concerns the Intellectual World in this Idea, and the Orders or Natures that compose it, is not our present business to pursue; We are to speak of the Corporeal Universe, whereof we will make now a short and general Survey, as it lies under Providence. The Corporeal Universe, how immense soever it be, and divided into innumerable Regions, may be consider’d all as one System, made up of several subordinate Systems. And there is also one immense design of Providence co-extended with it, that contains all the fate, and all the revolutions of this great Mass. This, I say, is made up of several subordinate Systems, involving one another, and comprehending one another, in greater and greater Orbs and Compositions; and the Aggregate of all these is that which we call the Universe. But what the Form of these Compositions is, and what the Design of Providence that runs thorough them all, and comprehends them all, this is unsearchable, not only to Humane Understanding, but even to Angels and Archangels.
Wherefore leaving those greater Systems and Compositions of the Universe, as matter of our admiration, rather than of our knowledge, There are two or three kinds of lesser Systems that are visible to us, and bring us nearer to our subject, and nearer home. That of a Fixt Star, single; That of a Fixt Star with its Planets, and That of a single Planet, Primary or Secondary. These three Systems we see and enjoy more or less. No doubt there are Fixt Stars single, or that have no Planets about them, as our Sun hath; nay, ’tis probable, that at first
the whole Universe consisted only of such; Globes of liquid Fire, with Spheres about them of pure Light and Æther: Earths are but the dirt and skum of the Creation, and all things were pure as they came at first out of the hands of God. But because we have nothing particular taught us, either by the light of Nature or Revelation, concerning the Providence that governs these single Stars, of what use they are to Intellectual Beings, how animated by them, what diversity there is amongst those Ethereal Worlds, what Periods they have, what Changes or Vicissitudes they are capable to undergo; because such Inquiries would seem too remote, and carry us too far from our subject, we leave these Heavenly Systems to the enjoyment and contemplation of higher and more noble Creatures.
The Sun, with all the Planets that move about him, and depend upon him, make a second sort of System; not considerable indeed, if compar’d with the whole Universe, or some of the greater Compositions in it, but in respect of us, the System of the Sun is of vast extent; We cannot measure the greatness of his Kingdom, and his Dominion is without end. The distance from the highest Planet to the nearest fixt Star in the Firmament is unmeasurable, and all this belongs to the Empire of the Sun; besides the several Planets and their Orbs, which cast themselves closer about his Body, that they may receive a warmer and stronger influence from him; for by him they may be said to live and move. But those vast spaces that lie beyond these opake Bodies, are Regions of perpetual light; One Planet may eclipse the Sun to another, and one Hemisphere of a Planet to the other Hemisphere makes night and darkness, but nothing can eclipse the Sun, or intercept the course of his light to these remote Ethereal Regions; They are always luminous, and always pure and serene. And if the worst and Planetary parts of his Dominions be replenisht with Inhabitants, we cannot suppose the better to lie as Desarts, uninjoy’d and uninhabited; his Subjects then must be numerous, as well as his Dominions large; And in both respects, this System of a Fixt Star, with its Planets (of which kind we may imagine innumerable in the Universe, besides this of the Sun, which is near and visible to us) is of a noble Character and Order, being the habitation of Angels and glorified Spirits, as well as of mortal Men.
A Planetary System is the last and lowest; And of these, no doubt, there is great variety, and great differences; not only of Primary and Secondary, or of the principal Planet, and its Moons or Attendants, but also amongst Planets of the same rank; for they may differ both in their original constitution, and according to the form and state they are under at present; of which sort of differences we have noted 1 some amongst our Planets, though they seem to be all of much-what the same original constitution. Besides, according to external circumstances, their distance, manner of motion, and posture to the Sun, which is the Heart of the whole System, they become different in many things. And we may observe, that those leading differences, though they seem little, draw after them innumerable others, and so make a distinct face of Nature, and a distinct World; which still shows the riches and fecundity of Divine Providence, and gives new matter of contemplation to those that take pleasure in studying the works and ways of
[paragraph continues] God. But leaving all other Planets or Planetary Systems to our meditations only, we must particularly consider our own.
Having therefore made this general Survey of the great Universe, run thorough the boundless Regions of it, and with much ado found our way home to that little Planet where our concerns lie, This Earth or Sublunary World, we must rest here as at the end of our course; And having undertaken to give the general Theory of this Earth, to conclude the present Treatise, we'll reflect upon the whole work, and observe what progress we have hitherto made in this Theory, and what remains to be treated of hereafter. This Earth, though it be a small part or particle of the Universe, hath a distinct System of Providence belonging to it, or an Order establisht by the Author of Nature for all its Phænomena (Natural or Moral) throughout the whole Period of its duration, and every interval of it; for as there is nothing so great as to be above the Divine care, so neither is there any thing so little as to be below it. All the Changes of our World are fixt, How, or how often to be destroy’d, and how renew’d; What different faces of Nature, and what of Mankind, in every part of its Course; What new Scenes to adorn the Stage, and what new parts to be Acted; What the Entrance, and what the Consummation of all. Neither is there any sort of knowledge more proper, or of more importance to us that are the Inhabitants of this Earth, than to understand this its Natural and Sacred History, as I may so call it, both as to what is past, and what is to come. And as those greater Volumes and Compositions of the Universe are proportion’d to the understanding of Angels and Superiour Beings, so these little Systems are Compendium's of the Divine Wisdom, more fitted to our capacity and comprehension.
The Providence of the Earth, as of all other Systems, consists of two parts, Natural, and Sacred or Theological. I call that Sacred or Theological that respects Religion, and the dispensations of it; the government of the Rational World, or of Mankind, whether under the light of Nature only, or of a Revelation; the method and terms of their happiness and unhappiness in a future life; The State, Oeconomy, and Conduct of this, with all the Mysteries contain’d in it, we call Theological Providence; in the head whereof stands the Soul of the Blessed Messiah, who is Lord of both Worlds, Intellectual and Material. When we call the other part of Providence Natural, we use that word in a restrain’d sence, as respecting only the Material World; and accordingly this part of Providence orders and superintends the state of the Earth, the great Vicissitudes and Mutations of it; for we must not imagine, but that these are under the eye of Providence, as well as Humane affairs, or any revolutions of States and Empires. Now seeing both in the Intellectual and Corporeal World there are certain Periods, Fulnesses of Time, and fixt Seasons, either for some great Catastrophe, or some great Instauration, ’Tis Providence that makes a due harmony or Synchronism betwixt these two, and measures out the concurrent fates of both Worlds, so as Nature may be always a faithful minister of the Divine pleasure, whether for rewards or punishments, according as the state of Mankind may require. But Theological Providence not being the subject of this work, we shall only observe, as we said before, what account we have hitherto given of the Natural state of the Earth, and what remains to be handled in another Treatise, and so conclude.
I did not think it necessary to carry the story and original of the Earth, higher than the Chaos, as Zoroaster and Orpheus seem to have done; but taking That for our Foundation, which Antiquity Sacred and Profane doth suppose, and Natural Reason approve and confirm, we have form’d the Earth from it. But when we say the Earth rise from a Fluid Mass, it is not to be so crudely understood, as if a rock of Marble, suppose, was fluid immediately before it became Marble; no, Things had a gradual progression from one form to another, and came at length to those more permanent forms they are now setled in: Stone was once Earth, and Earth was once Mud, and Mud was once fluid. And so other things may have another kind of progression from fluidity; but all was once fluid, at least all the exteriour Regions of this Earth. And even those Stones and Rocks of Marble which we speak of, seem to confess they were once soft or liquid, by those mixtures we find in them of Heterogeneous Bodies, and those spots and Veins disperst thorough their substance; for these things could not happen to them after they were hard and impenetrable, in the form of Stone or Marble. And if we can soften Rocks and Stones, and run them down into their first Liquors, as these observations seem to do, we may easily believe that other Bodies also that compose the Earth, were once in a fluid Mass, which is that we call a Chaos.
We therefore watch’d the motions of that Chaos, and the several transformations of it, while it continued Fluid; and we found at length what its first Concretion would be, and how it setled into the form of an habitable Earth. But that form was very different from the present form of the Earth, which is not deducible from a Chaos, by any known laws of Nature, or by any wit of Man; as every one, that will have patience to examine it, may easily be satisfied. That first Earth was of a smooth regular surface, as the Concretions of Liquors are, before they are disturb’d or broken; under that surface lay the Great Abysse, which was ready to swallow up the World that hung over it, and about it, whensoever God should give the command, and the Vault should break; And this constitution of the Primæval Earth gave occasion to the first Catastrophe of this World, when it perisht in a Deluge of Water. For that Vault did break, as we have shown at large, and by the dissolution and fall of it, the Great Deep was thrown out of its bed, forc’d upwards into the Air, and overflow’d, in that impetuous Commotion, the highest tops of the Fragments of the ruin’d Earth, which now we call its Mountains. And as this was the first great and fatal Period of Nature; so upon the issue of this, and the return of the Waters into their Chanels, the second face of Nature appear’d, or the present broken form of the Earth, as it is Terraqueous, Mountainous, and Cavernous. These things we have explain’d fully in the first Book, and have thereby setled two great Points, given a rational account of the Universal Deluge, And shown the Causes of the irregular form of the present or Post-diluvian Earth. This being done, we have appli’d our selves, in the Second Book, to the description of the Primæval Earth, and the examination of its properties; And this hath led us by an easie tract to the discovery of Paradise, and of the true Notion and Mystery of it; which is not so much a spot of ground where a fine Garden stood, as a course of Nature, or a
peculiar state of the Earth; Paradisiacal in many parts, but especially in one Region of it; which place or Region we have also endeavour’d to determine, though not so much from the Theory, as from the suffrages of Antiquity.
THUS much is finisht, and this contains the Natural Theory of the Earth till this present time; for since the Deluge all things have continued in the same state, or without any remarkable change. We are next to enter upon new Matter and new Thoughts, and not only so, but upon a Series of Things and Times to come, which is to make the Second part of this Theory. Dividing the duration of the World into two parts, Past and Future, we have dispatch’d the first and far greater part, and come better half our way; And if we make a stand here, and look both ways, backwards to the Chaos, and the Beginning of the World, and forwards to the End and consummation of all things, though the first be a longer prospect, yet there are as many general Changes and Revolutions of Nature in the remaining part as have already happen’d; and in the Evening of this long Day the Scenes will change faster, and be more bright and illustrious. From the Creation to this Age the Earth hath undergone but one Catastrophe, and Nature hath had two different faces; The next Catastrophe is the CONFLAGRATION, to which a new face of Nature will accordingly suceed, New Heavens and a New Earth, Paradise renew’d, and so it is call’d the Restitution of things Ἀτοκατά ζασις ναλιγζενεσία.}, or Regeneration of the World. And that Period of Nature and Providence being expir’d, then follows the Consummation of all things, or the General Apotheosis; when Death and Hell shall be swallowed up in victory; When the great Circle of Time and Fate is run; or according to the language of Scripture, When the Heavens and the Earth shall pass away, and Time shall be no more.
MAY we, in the mean time, by a true Love of God above all things, and a contempt of this Vain World which passeth away; By a careful use of the Gifts of God and Nature, the Light of Reason and Revelation, prepare our selves, and the state of things, for the great Coming of our Saviour. To whom be Praise and Honour for evermore.
225:1 Book 1, chap. last, p. 128, &c.