TO take a review of this Theory of the Earth, which we have now finish’d, We must consider, first, the extent of it: and then the principal parts whereof it consists. It reaches, as you see, from one end of the World to the other: From the first Chaos to the last day, and the Consummation of all things. This, probably, will run the length of Seven Thousand Years: which is a good competent space of time to exercise our thoughts upon, and to observe the several Scenes which Nature and Providence bring into View within the compass of so many Ages.
The matter and principal parts of this Theory, are such things as are recorded in Scripture. We do not feign a Subject, and then descant upon it, for diversion; but endeavour to give an intelligible and rational account of such matters of Fact, past or future, as are there specified and declar’d. What it hath seem’d good to the Holy Ghost to communicate to us, by History or Prophecy, concerning the several States and general Changes of this Earth, makes the Argument of our Discourse. Therefore the Things themselves must be taken for granted, in one sence or other: seeing, besides all other proofs, they have the authority of a Revelation; and our business is only to give such an explication of them, as shall approve it self to the faculties of man, and be conformable to Scripture.
We will therefore first set down the things themselves, that make the subject matter of this Theory: and remind you of our explication of them. Then recollect the general proofs of that explication, from reason and nature: but more fully and particularly shew how it is grounded upon Scripture. The primary Phænomena whereof we are to give an account, are these Five or Six.
II. The state of Paradise, and the Ante-diluvian World.
III. The Universal Deluge.
IV. The Universal Conflagration.
V. The Renovation of the World, or the New Heavens and New Earth.
VI. The Consummation of all things.
These are unquestionably in Scripture: and these all relate, as you see, to the several forms, states, and revolutions of this Earth. We are therefore oblig’d to give a clear and coherent account of these Phænomena, in that order and consecution wherein they stand to one another.
There are also in Scripture some other things, relating to the same Subjects, that may be call’d the secondary ingredients of this Theory, and are to be referr’d to their respective primary heads. Such are, for instance,
II. The Rupture of the Great Abyss, at the Deluge.
III. The appearing of the Rainbow after the Deluge: as a sign that there never should be a second Flood.
These things Scripture hath also left upon record: as directions and indications how to understand the Ante-diluvian state, and the Deluge it self. Whosoever therefore shall undertake to write the Theory of the Earth, must think himself bound to give us a just explication of these secondary Phænomena, as well as of the primary; and that in such a dependance and connexion, as to make them give and receive light from one another.
This part of the Task is concerning the World behind us, Times and Things pass’d, that are already come to light. The remainder is concerning the World before us, Times and Things to come: that lie yet in the bosome of Providence, and in the seeds of Nature. And these are chiefly the Conflagration of the World, and the Renovation of it. 1 Cor. 15.
Apoc. 20.When these are over and expir’d, then comes the end, as St. Paul says. Then the Heavens and the Earth fly away, as St. John says. Then is the Consummation of all things, and the last period of this sublunary World, whatsoever it is. Thus far the Theorist must go, and pursue the motions of Nature, till all things are brought to rest and silence. And in this latter part of the Theory, there is also a collateral Phænomenon, the Millennium, or Thousand years Reign of Christ and his Saints, upon Earth, to be consider’d. For this, according as it is represented in Scripture, does imply a change in the Natural World, as well as in the Moral: and therefore must be accounted for, in the Theory of the Earth. At least it must be there determin’d, whether that state of the World, which is singular and extraordinary, will be before or after the Conflagration.
These are the Principals and Incidents of this Theory of the Earth, as to the matter and subject of it: which, you see, is both important, and wholly taken out of Scripture. As to our explication of these points, that is sufficiently known, being set down at large in four Books of this Theory. Therefore it remains only, having seen the matter of the Theory, to examine the Form of it, and the proofs of it: for from these two things it must receive its censure. As to the form, the characters of a regular Theory seem to be these three; Few and easie Postulatums: Union of Parts: and a Fitness to answer, fully and clearly, all the Phænomena to which it is to be apply’d.
We think our Hypothesis does not want any of these Characters. As to the First, we take but one single Postulatum for the whole Theory: and that an easie one, warranted both by Scripture and Antiquity: Namely, That this Earth rise,
at first, from a Chaos. As to the second, Union of parts, The whole Theory is but one Series of Causes and Effects from that first Chaos. Besides, you can scarce admit any one part of it, first, last, or intermediate, but you must, in consequence of that, admit all the rest. Grant me but that the Deluge is truly explain’d, and I’le desire no more for proof of all the Theory. Or, if you begin at the other end, and grant the New Heavens and New Earth after the Conflagration, you will be led back again to the first Heavens and first Earth that were before the Flood. For St. John says, that New Earth was without a Sea: Apoc. 21. 1. And it was a Renovation, or Restitution to some former state of things: there was therefore some former Earth without a Sea; which not being the present Earth, it must be the Ante-diluvian. Besides, both St. John, and the Prophet Isaias, have represented the New Heavens and New Earth, as Paradisiacal; According as is prov’d, Book the 4th. ch. 2. And having told us the form of the New-future-Earth, that it will have no Sea, it is a reasonable inference that there was no Sea in the Paradisiacal Earth. However from the form of this Future Earth, which St. John represents to us, we may at least conclude, That an Earth without a Sea is no Chimæra, or impossibility: but rather a fit seat and habitation for the Just and the Innocent.
Thus you see the parts of the Theory link and hold fast one another: according to the second character. And as to the third, of being suited to the Phænomena, we must refer that to the next head, of Proofs. It may be truly said, that bare coherence and union of parts is not a sufficient proof; The parts of a Fable or Romance may hang aptly together, and yet have no truth in them. This is enough indeed to give the title of a just Composition to any work, but not of a true one: till it appear that the conclusions and explications are grounded upon good natural evidence, or upon good Divine authority. We must therefore proceed now to the third thing to be consider’d in a Theory, What its Proofs are: or the grounds upon which it stands, whether Sacred or Natural.
According to Natural evidence, things are proved from their Causes or their Effects. And we think we have this double order of proofs for the truth of our Hypothesis. As to the method of Causes, we proceed from what is more simple, to what is more compound: and build all upon one foundation. Go but to the Head of the Theory, and you will see the Causes lying in a train before you, from first to last. And tho’ you did not know the Natural history of the World, past or future, you might, by intuition, foretell it, as to the grand revolutions and successive faces of Nature, through a long series of Ages. If we have given a true account of the motions of the Chaos, we have also truly form’d the first habitable Earth. And if that be truly form’d, we have thereby given a true account of the state of Paradise, and of all that depends upon it. And not of that onely, but also of the universal Deluge. Both these we have shewn in their causes: The one from the Form of that Earth, and the other from the Fall of it into the Abyss. And tho’ we had not been made acquainted with these things by Antiquity, we might, in contemplation of the Causes, have truly conceiv’d them, as properties or incidents to the First Earth. But as to the Deluge, I do not say, that we might have calculated the Time, manner, and other circumstances of it: These things
were regulated by Providence, in subordination to the Moral World. But that there would be, at one time or other, a disruption of that Earth, or of the Great Abyss: and in consequence of it, an universal Deluge: So far, I think, the light of a Theory might carry us.
Furthermore, In consequence of this disruption of the Primeval Earth, at the Deluge, Theor. book 3 ch. 7, & 8. the present Earth was made hollow and cavernous: and by that means, (due preparations being used) capable of Combustion, or of perishing by an universal Fire: Yet, to speak ingenuously, This is as hard a step to be made, in vertue of Natural causes, as any in the whole Theory. But in recompence of that defect, the Conflagration is so plainly and literally taught us in Scripture, and avow’d by Antiquity, that it can fall under no dispute, as to the thing it self. And as to a capacity or disposition to it in the present Earth, that I think is sufficiently made out.
Then, the Conflagration admitted, in that way it is explain’d in the 3d. Book: The Earth, you see, is, by that fire, reduc’d to a second Chaos. A Chaos truly so call’d. And from that, as from the First, arises another Creation, or New Heavens and a New Earth; By the same causes, and in the same form, with the Paradisiacal. This is the Renovation of the World: The Restitution of all things: mentioned both by Scripture and Antiquity: and by the Prophet Isaiah, St. Peter and St. John, call’d the New Heavens and New Earth. With this, as the last period, and most glorious Scene of all humane affairs, our Theory concludes, as to this method of Causes, whereof we are now speaking.
I say, here it ends as to the method of Causes. For tho’ we pursue the Earth still further, even to its last Dissolution: which is call’d the Consummation of all things: yet all, that we have superadded upon that occasion, is but Problematical: and may, without prejudice to the Theory, be argued and disputed on either hand. I do not know, but that our conjectures there may be well grounded: but however, not springing so directly from the same root, or, at least, not by ways, so clear and visible, I leave that part undecided. Especially seeing we pretend to write no more than the Theory of the Earth, and therefore as we begin no higher than the Chaos, so we are not obliged to go any further than to the last state of a Terrestrial consistency: which is that of the New Heavens and the New Earth.
This is the first natural proof, From the order of Causes. The second is from the consideration of Effects. Namely of such effects as are already in being. And therefore this proof can extend onely to that part of the Theory, that explains the present and past form and Phænomena of the Earth. What is Future, must be left to a further trial, when the things come to pass, and present themselves to be examin’d and compar’d with the Hypothesis. As to the present Form of the Earth, we call all Nature to witness for us: The Rocks and the Mountains, the Hills and the Valleys, the deep and wide Sea, and the Caverns of the Ground: Let these speak, and tell their origine: How the Body of the Earth came to be thus torn and mangled: If this strange and irregular structure was not the effect of a ruine: and of such a ruine as was universal over the face of the whole Globe. But we have given such a full explication of this, in the
first part of the Theory, from Chapt. the 9th. to the end of that Treatise, that we dare stand to the judgment, of any that reads those four Chapters; to determine if the Hypothesis does not answer all those Phænomena, easily and adequately.
The next Phænomenon to be consider’d, is the Deluge, with its adjuncts. This also is fully explain’d by our Hypothesis, in the 2d. 3d. and 6th. Chapters of the first Book. Where it is shewn, that the Mosaical Deluge, that is, an universal Inundation of the whole Earth, above the tops of the highest Mountains, made by a breaking open of the Great Abyss, (for thus far Moses leads us) is fully explain’d by this Hypothesis, and cannot be conceiv’d in any other method. There are no sources or stores of Water sufficient for such an effect: that may be drawn upon the Earth, and drawn off again, but by supposing such an Abyss, and such a Disruption of it, as the Theory represents.
Lastly, As to the Phænomena of Paradise and the Ante-diluvian World, we have set them down in order in the 2d. Book: and apply’d to each of them its proper explication, from the same Hypothesis. We have also given an account of that Character which Antiquity always assign’d to the first age of the World, or the Golden Age, as they call’d it: namely, Equality of Seasons throughout the Year, or a perpetual Equinox. We have also taken in all the adjuncts or concomitants of these States, as they are mention’d in Scripture. The Longevity of the Ante-diluvians, and the declension of their age by degrees, after the Flood. As also that wonderful Phænomenon, the Rainbow: which appear’d to Noah for a Sign, that the Earth should never undergo a second Deluge. Theor. Book 2. chap. 5.And we have shewn, wherein the force and propriety of that Sign consisted, for confirming Noah's faith in the promise and in the divine veracity.
Thus far we have explain’d the past Phænomena of the Natural World. The rest are Futurities, which still lie hid in their Causes; and we cannot properly prove a Theory from effects that are not yet in being. But so far as they are foretold in Scripture, both as to substance and circumstance, in prosecution of the same Principles we have ante-dated their birth, and shew’d how they will come to pass. We may therefore, I think, reasonably conclude, That this Theory has performed its task and answer’d its title: having given an account of all the general changes of the Natural World, as far as either Sacred History looks backwards, or Sacred Prophecy looks forwards. So far as the one tells us what is past in Nature, and the other what is to come. And if all this be nothing but an appearance of truth, ’tis a kind of fatality upon us to be deceiv’d.