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THOUGHTS

ON THE

STRUCTURE

OF THIS GLOBE.

LETTER VII.

Further Attempt to explain the Mofaical Account of the firft Formation of the Universe by the fucceffive Application of the Fundamental Laws of Nature.

BUT it is my own ideas on this philofophical part of our researches that you require, Sir, and hitherto I have entertained you with the opinions of others. The writings of authors of so much fuperior authority and of fuch merited reputation, which I have laid before you, should perhaps condemn me to filence; but I have promifed you my own particular thoughts on the fubject, and I will now endeavour to collect in order to fubmit them to your judgment. When I first took pen in hand in obedience to your requeft, the 3 P

works

works of Meffieurs Wallerius and de Luc had not yet fallen into my hands. I have now given a previous abftract of their fyftems, and particularly of the first gentleman's, both that you may be inclined to give some little more credit to my ideas as supported in great measure by the fentiments of philofophers of such weight, and because their writings have greatly affifted me in developing my own thoughts. Neither will I conccal from you that, wherever I have found their explications confonant to, or ameliorating, my plan, I have adopted them without fcruple. With the fame franknefs I shall endeavour to refute their opinions wherever they happen not to coincide with mine. In a career where it behoves to tread with caution and diffidence, always ready to liften with candour, and to adopt truth wherever I may find it, my motto will ftill be, "Nullius jurare in verba magiftri."

Little fatisfied with the feveral fyftems. I had read before our journey into Switzerland, I naturally turned my thoughts to a more serious confideration of an antient author, often noticed by these, though viewed in various lights and with various fentiments. To him I reverted with fo much the greater earneftnefs, as I already perceived his hiftory of mankind immediately preceding and fubfequent to a deluge wonderfully confirmed by the testimonies of all antient traditions in all parts of the world. All of these agree with him, that ten generations of men, of a longevity no longer known to us, preceded a general deluge, in which, excepting a very small number who alone re-peopled the earth, all that former 4

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race of men perished in punishment of their depravity. All the moft antient inhabitants of the prefent earth profefs to derive their origin and pedigree from fome one of those men, whom he has noted as the fathers of nations, and of almoft every one of them fome veftige is fomewhere or other to be found on record. As a further proof that fome fuch general and not very remote cataftrophe had happened to mankind, all history concurs in fhewing, not fifteen centuries before the christian æra, as yet feeble colonies emigrating to, and gradually peopling countries the moft fertile, and in the process of a very few ages the most populous and the most renowned. Thefe facts, if true, difconcert indeed not a little the ground-work of most modern fyftems. But this fingular combination of traditions derived from the highest antiquity giving, if not proof, at least a greater degree of authority to these points than can be affumed by mere negatives grounded purely on their incompatibility with hypothetical systems, it seemed equitable to examine without prejudice, whether nature herself was really, as these philofophers pretend, in direct oppofition with these or other articles of his narration, or whether all of them might not be explained without the violation of her known laws.

Many modern philofophers, whose systems might be shaken amongst christians by the authority of Mofes, content themselves with anfwering to the objections which may be made to them from thence, that the Jewish legislator, though versed himself in all the Egyptian 3 P 2

fciences,

fciences, yet, writing for an ignorant people, was neceffitated, in order to make himself understood, to deviate from exact physical truths. Mr. Ferber, in a late publication, fays with truth, that it was no part of the purpofe of Mofes to inftruct us in that fcience, and that, content with indicating the effects and fucceffive operations of the creation, he attempts not to expound the caufes nor the phyfical means which gave birth to them. But if his expofition of effects and of fucceffive operations is founded in truth, or even fan&tioned by an authority in itself respectable, it will not be, as he pretends, useless to meditate it. This very fucceffion of operations and effects at the first creation or formation of all things may indicate the true fecrets of that nature we feek to unveil.

Without philofophical difcuffion or fcientific pretenfions, Mofes is the plain and fimple hiftoriographer, either of those real effects which took place at that epocha, or at leaft of the moft antient traditions transmitted on that fubject from the earliest known antiquity. The order of creation which he defcribes, and the most effential circumftances that accompany it, are confirmed by all the most antient cofmogonies, Roman, Greek, Phoenician, Phrygian, Egyptian, and Chinese precious remains, not of philofophical fyftems, but of original traditions. Like him, their authors affume not the tone of learned differtators, but of fimple narrators of facts tranfmitted to them by ftill more antient records or traditions. Whatever the Jewish writer tells us of the deluge comes equally confirmed by a

like concurrence of antique teftimonies. It will not furely appear extraordinary if many circumstances in thefe different relations are confiderably altered, and variously accommodated to national prejudices or theological opinions; but, without noticing the Arabs and Tartars, who, though feparated by immenfe regions, adopt almoft without deviation the Jewish account, it is furely no lefs fingular than ftriking, that all the effential points and ground-works fhould be every where the fame, notwithstanding the differences of ages, countries, and religions. The fuperior merit of candour, fimplicity, and perfpicuity, above all others, muft be allowed to the mosaical narration. Shall fuch concurring teftimonies be rejected without examination? No:-abfolute incompatibility with known and affured phyfical truths can alone outweigh authority fo corroborated. It becomes the province as well as duty of philofophers, to give this moft antient account the moft impartial difcuffion in a phyfical as well as in an hiftorical light. Having already confidered it in the laft, let us now fee in what manner fuch parts of it as relate to natural philosophy fhould be difcuffed.

Hitherto moft authors who have written upon the fubject feem to have firft framed their own fyftem, and then to have endeavoured to ftrain the text of Mofes in its fupport, or to explain it away when that could not be effected. Others have rejected him with flight, because he ftood in the way of their own particular ideas: few or none have examined him candidly without retrofpect to fome pre-adopted fyftem. The fole object of that venerable author

was

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