<1>

Lond Ian. 13. 801

Sr

I recd yor lre of Dec. 24th & ye favor of those excepcons you have made to some passages of my booke; wch I cannot \but/ take very kindly, seing you have had, it seems, both ye patience to read it over & to make reflection upon several parts of it. The argumt you note p. 118. seems to me conclusive for soe far as it goes; I doe there in a manner distinguish ye Earth into 3 parts, terram planam et humilem, montes mediocres, et montes maximos, And show up ye supposicons there mentioned, yt a{illeg}|ll| ye Earth should bee covered maximis or mediocrib montib, and consequently yt there should bee noe regiones plana᾽ or humiles, if soe much Earth as is capable to fill ye chanel of ye sea was thrown upon a surface of equal height wth ye sea, as ye opinion there mentiond supposeth. And seing wee find yt there are a great many regions & countrys of ye Earth yt are plana᾽ et humiles, some lower then ye surface of ye Sea, some equal to it, some little higher, & a great many yt have neither montes magnos, nor mediocres, I conclude yt ye mountaines wee find upon ye Earth, greater or less, would not altogether fill ye cavity of ye Ocean by many degrees. Neither doe I mention ho{illeg}|w| ye subterraneous Ocean & ye subterraneous cavities, wch some thinke may bee a third or 4th part as much as ye cavity of ye external Ocean; And their bowels or wt was dug out of them must bee thrown upon ye Earth too, and ye mountaines & higher parts of ye Earth should bee capable of filling them alsoe; wch how far they must come short of I leave you to imagine.

Tis true if these dimencons were known more exactly, ye height depth of ye sea, ye height of ye mountaines, ye quantity of ye whole Earth higher then ye surface of ye sea, their porcons might bee stated more demonstratively, but soe far as wee know them ye mountaines or higher parts of ye Earth doe not answer by many degrees to ye cavity of ye sea & all subterraneous cavitys.

And this calculus is confirmd by yt wch iediately follows to ye same effect (p. 119.) & is in a manner ye same under another forme & more simple; Tis in this tenour, yt ye mountaines upon supposicon yt they were taken out of ye chanel of ye sea, should bee equal to ye first Abyss, represented there in ye scheame; wheras if you suppose yt Abyss but halfe as deep as or deepest Ocean, yt calculus I thinke doth demonstrate yt ye aggregate of ye montaines {sic} of ye Earth, or of all ye Earth higher then ye surface of ye sea, doth not equal by many degrees ye bulk of ye Abyss, nor consequently ye cavity of ye Ocean wch now containes it.

<2>

Then ye 3d argumt wch follows iediately p. 120. confirmes these reasonings, by disproveing ye same opinion from other consideracons. And indeed yor supposicon wch men yt hold this opinion must goe upon, or ye idea they must forme of ye Exteriour Earth is altogether groundless & chymerical; for they must suppose yt there is some general or coon surface of ye Earth, of an equal height wth ye sea, & wch runs round ye Earth uninterruptedly in an uniforme convexity, upon wch surface as upon a foundacon or pavemt ye mountaines were set & all ye Earth yt was dugg out of ye sea. wch is a meer idle notion yt doth not answer to any thing in nature, nor to any observacon, as I have shown there p. 120. 121. & as is confirmd by all yt have to doe or know wt belongs to ye interiour structure of ye Earth. These argumentacons confirme one another, besides those general heads mencond p. 117. wch show ye inconveniences or impossibility of this Theological opinion, or of the vulgar acct how ye mountaines, ye cavity of ye sea, & all other cavitys & inequalities in ye forme of ye Earth came at first.

But you seem rather to incline to ye philosophical acct of these ina᾽qualities & of ye irregular forme of ye Earth; namely, yt ye heat of ye Sun rarefying yt side of ye Chaos yt ley next it, or \by/ ye pressure of ye vortex or of ye Moon upon ye Waters, some inequalities might bee made in ye Earth, & then ye waters flowing \to/ those lower parts or cavities would make ye seas there, & ye upper parts of ye Earth towards ye poles wch they flowd from, would bee dry land. And all this might ye rather bee, because at first wee may suppose ye diurnal revolucons of ye Earth to have been very slow, soe yt ye first 6 revolucons or days might containe time enough for ye whole Creacon, & ye Sun in yt time might concort {sic} & shrinke ye parts of ye Earth about ye Æquator more then towards ye poles, & make them hollower.

But methinkes you forget Moses (whom in another place you will not suffer us to recede from) in this acct of ye formacon of ye Earth; for hee makes ye seas & dry land to bee divided & ye Earth wholly formd before ye Sun or Moon existed. These were made ye fourth day according to Moses, & ye Earth was finisht ye 3d day, as to ye inanimate t of it, sea & land, & even ye plants alsoe; you must then according to Moses bring ye Earth into this irregular forme it hath by other causes, & independently upon ye Sun or Moon. Besides ye Earth at first was cover'd wth an Abyss of water as both Moses & philosophy assure us, wt great influence or effect then could ye Sun have upon ye Earth wch ley at ye bottome of this Abyss, any more then it hath now upon ye bottome of ye Sea? Thirdly, if ye chanel of ye Sea had been formd this way, it would have been regular according to ye course of ye Sun or ye pressure of ye Moon, but there is nothing of regularity in ye figure of ye <3> Sea; & tis \it lies/ towards ye poles as much as towards ye Æquator, & in all degrees of latitude. And soe for ye mountaines too; & these mountaines are sometimes neerer ye Sea, sometimes further off, as throughout Asia & Africa. And then when al's done, these causes or their effects would by noe meanes answer ye vast mountaines & precipices of ye Earth, & ye prodigious vorago of ye Sea. nor doth it give any acct of ye subterraneous cavities, wch \whose bowels/ neither ye Sun could suck out nor ye pressure of ye Moon squeeze from wthin ye Earth.

Some of ye Ancient philosophers I rememb, especially ye Epicur. as wee see in Gassendus, attempted such a like explicacon of ye Sea & formacon Origin of ye Earth, and of ye formacon of ye Sea & mountaines & all other inequalities. But when one considers on the one hand how inadequate those causes are to ye effects, how indistinct, how unsatisfactory when presst & examind; and on the other hand how congruously, how easily, how naturally, ye Dissolucon of ye Exterir Earth ({it}|a|s wee have explaind it p. 58. 59. 60.) doth at once answer all those inequalities wee now find in it, both ye great chanel of ye Ocean, ye heapes & hugh {sic} juga of Mountaines, ye Origine of Islands & ye causes of subterraneous cavitys: how easily tis applicable to them all, how distinctly & fittly it answers them & all their uncouth properties, wee cannot rationally imagine yt they ceeded from any other causes. Especially this giveing an acct alsoe of ye universal Deluge wch upon noe other acct hypothesis is intelligible.

As for Moses his descripcon of ye formacon of ye Earth in ye first chap. of Genesis, I thinke I have given a true acct of it p. 253. yt tis a descripcon of ye prsent forme of ye Earth, wch was its forme alsoe then when Moses writ, and not of ye prima᾽val Earth wch was gone out of being long before. And \soe/ when ye Sea is mentiond there, or Seasons or any such thing it onely shows wt I say, yt yt descripcon respects ye prsent Earth & not ye prima᾽val; wherof if Moses had given ye Theory it would have been a thing altogether inaccomodate to ye people & an useless distracting amusemt. and therefore instead of it hee gives a short ideal draught of a Terraqueous Earth riseing from a Chaos, not according to ye order of Nature & natural causes, but in yt order wch was most conceiveable to ye people, & wherin they could easily imagine an Omnipotent powr might forme it, wth respect to ye conveniency of man & animals: Beginning first wth wt was most necessary, & proceeding by steps in ye same order to prepare an habitable world, furnisht wth every thing proper first for animals, & then for man ye Master of all. & whosoevr considers ye whole impartially as tis reprsented li. 2. 5. 8. I thinke will have ye same thoughts of it.

And if all Divines were as rational & judicious as yor selfe, I should not feare yt this would retard ye recepcon of ye Theory, as you suggest it may. For I would aske them in ye first place whether Moses his Hexameron or 6 dayes descripcon of ye creacon, doth respect ye whole universe or onely ye sublunary world, all ye heavens & ye heaven of heavens, <4> & all ye host of them, Stars or Angels; Or our Earth onely & ye Orb or heaven yt belongs to it: And I would not stir one step further till yt was determind betwixt us. Now it being demonstrable I thinke yt ye whole universe was not made out of ye Mosaical Chaos, I would in ye next place aske them whether ye Sun Moon & stars mentiond ye 4th day, were made out of ye Chaos, & then first brought into being when ye Earth was formd? If they grant yt this Chaos did not extend to ye whole universe, then they must grant yt ye Sun Moon & Stars were not made out of it; but are mentiond as things necessary to make this Earth an habitable world. From wch concession I would inferr 2 things, first yt ye distinccon of 6 dayes in ye Mosaical formacon of ye world is noe physical reality, seing one of ye 6 you see is taken up wth a non-reality, ye creacon of these things yt existed before. 2dly I inferr from this, ye|yt| as ye distinccon of 6 dayes is noe physical reality soe neither is this draught of ye creacon physical but Ideal, or if you will, morall, seing it is not physically true yt ye Sun Moon & Stars were made at yt time, viz. 5 or 6000 yeares since when ye Earth was form'd. And if it bee Ideal in one part, it may in some proporcon bee ideal in evry part. For confirmacon of this I'le instance in another thing, Moses his Firmamt, \wch/ was ye 2d dayes work; by ye properties wherof you may easily understand yt it was \is/ noe physical reality, as it is there set down; unless it bee lookt upon as a memorandum onely or a memorial of ye firmamentum interaqueum yt was in ye prima᾽val Earth. You see ye first property of ye firmamt as it is set down, is to divide betwixt ye celestial waters & ye terrestriall, and ye 2d is to bee ye seat of ye Sun Moon & Stars. Now I appeale to any man whether these 2 local perties bee not utterly inconsistent? to divide betwixt ye Ca᾽lest. & terrest. waters it must bee {far} below ye Moon, & ye cælest. waters must bee supposd betwixt it & ye Moon; and to bee ye seat of ye Sun Moon & Stars it must bee not onely as high as ye Moon but as ye Sun, nay as ye fixt stars wch are at an iense distance above ye Sun. Therefore ye Firmamt wth these properties can bee noe physical reality. and soe you see how is another day of ye 6 imployd upon noe physical reality.

If you make ye firmamt to bee ye Atmospheare as you seem to doe, & ye vapours above it to bee ye celestial waters, wch upon ye disrupcon of ye Abyss were suddenly & excessively condenst; wth all my heart: but then how are ye Sun Moon & stars placd in this firmamt? and wch is a{illeg}|s| bad how are these vapours extracted & settled above ye firmamt before there is a Sun to extract them? Neither indeed are these vapours or clouds or any space betwixt us & them soe considerable a thing methinkes, as to take up a 6th part of ye creacon; these things are rather a necessary conseqt of ye Earth formd & ye Sun acting upon it, then ye first & most material thing in ye formacon of it; and if this had been wholly omitted by Moses, his cosmopæia would have appeard as compleat, & wee should have misst noe parts of or world. Thus for ye 4th & 2d day.

Then for ye first day & ye Light made then, wt was yt pray? wt physical reality, where made <5> or how? was it made out of ye Chaos as other things, in wt manner pray? if not out of ye Chaos, it doth not seem to belong to Moses his world, nor to have any right to take up one of his 6 dayes: neither doe I know wt Light was then first made yt was not before, or how upon ye formacon of a planet any \new/ Light would be duct. Vpon ye whole I confess I see noe other acct of these things then wt I have given in ye 8th ch. li. 2. & yt ye Hexameron or hypothesis of 6 dayes is onely Ideal, accomodated to ye prsent Terraqueous forme of ye Earth; but ye Cosmopa᾽ia, if one may soe cal it, in ye 2d chapter, of yt Garden wch God planted מחדם a principio, yt is real & physical, & ye ductions of man & other creatures there: Neither doe I see why yt 2d makeing of man animals & plants should have been instituted if ye first had been a physical reality.

Yor supposicon yt ye first revolucons of ye Earth were much slower & ye dayes much longr then they are now, & consequently a day might then bee a competent time for some great change or transformacon of ye Chaos, looks pretty well at ye first; but unless you make ye first 6 dayes as long as 6 yeares or rather much longer, I cannot imagine yt they should bee sufficient for ye work. for instance ye 3d day when ye waters were gathered into one place & ye dry land made to appeare, & consequently ye chanel of ye Sea made then & ye mountaines, could these grand changes bee wrought in ye body of ye Earth in less then a yeares time? I thinke not in a much longer time. then ye Sun Moon & Stars wch were made ye 4th day, was not yt a good yeare {illeg} days work, though ye day was as long as a yeare. then if ye day was thus long wt a dolefull night would there bee? I am affraid yt would undoe all yt was done on ye day time, & doe as much hurt in ye state & progress of nature as ye day did good. But if ye revolucons of ye Earth were thus slow at first, how came they to bee swifter? from natural causes or supernatural? & did they come subitaneously or by degrees to yt swiftness they have now? if they came to it by degrees, wt prodigious long life did Adam & his children live? Adams 900 & 30 yeares would make 9000 of ours at least; & soe proportionably of ye rest.

These things, Sr & some others of this nature I would suggest to those Divines yt insist upon ye hypothesis of 6 dayes as a physical reality, wch even many of ye Fathers as I remember have allowd to bee onely an artificial scheame of narracon, they supposeing ye creacon to have been momentaneous. And I would further desire these persons to explaine to me ye forme of St Peters κόσμος ἀρχαιος or ante-diluvian Earth & heavens; wherin it was differt from ors & differt in such a manner yt it was thereby peculiarly subject to perish by a Deluge, as I have noted p. 25. & in many other places. They must alsoe tell me wt is or can bee understood by Moses's disruption of ye Abyss at ye Deluge, if ye Earth was then in ye same forme it is in now. And wt yt Gyrus or Orbis is wch both in Iob & Solomons Cosmopa᾽ia is <6> plac't round ye Abyss or face of ye first waters; wch I have taken notice of p. 126 &c & li. 2. c. 8. When they have considerd these places & especially yt of St Peter and joynd all ye other reasons both a priori & a posteriori wch I have brought to show yt ye Earth was at first in a differt forme from wt it is in now, I thinke they will iudge my supposition very reasonable yt Moses his hypothesis of 6 dayes work is but ye Idea of a creacon accomodate to ye people & to ye present forme of ye Earth.

Concerning paradise you seem to bee of opinion yt it might bee under ye Æquator: but I doe not see how this alone would answer its phænomena. I distinguish ye pha᾽nomena of Paradise (in ye 2d book) into those yt were general & comon to it wth all yt Earth, and into those yt respect its particular region & situacon. Its general pha᾽nom. were a petual serenity & temperature of air wthout any vicissitude of seasons; longa᾽vity of animals, & their duccon out of ye Earth: And wee must first find an Earth capable of these things, before wee enquire wt region of yt Earth was most paradisiacal. Now these things I say or prima᾽val Earth was very capable of, considering ye eaveness & equality of its surface, ye temper of its soyle, & its right situacon to ye Sun, wch gave it a perpetual equinox. wch situacon of ye prima᾽val Earth I thinke I have shown both from reason p. 182 &c. & from Antiquity p. 291, 292 &c. and I should bee willing to know yor opinion of yt hypothesis.

Then as for ye particular situacon of Paradise, whether hemispheare twas in, I doe not undertake to determine yt by ye Theory onely, but depend cheifely upon ye testimony of ye Ancients, who excepting one or two yt place it under ye æquator as yu doe; did generally place it in ye other hemispheare; either explicitly or by necessary consequence.

Sr, persueing those things yt were of greatest extent in yor lre, as wt you had offerd concerning ye possibility of formeing ye Earth, as it now is, out of a Chaos; Or wt related to Moses's Hexameron, Or to Paradise; I have omitted to speake to yor excepcon about ye Oval figure of ye Earth or rather ye cause of it. I suppose (p. 198. lin. 21. 22) as you doe, yt ye equinoctial parts would first endeavor to rise & fly off, but could not, because of ye greater strength & resistency of ye air over those parts of ye Earth, then the other; for you must consid yt ye Earth was then involvd in a kind of Chaos or spiss atmospheare, as tis reprsented p. 36. and this was soe thick & <7> strong, yt it may bee considerd as a kind of membrane or bag about ye Abyss, and ye parts of this Chaotical atmospher{e} orb being far more agitated & in a far stronger motion about ye equator then towards ye poles, & ye space there being alsoe narrower, it would bee far more difficult to make these parts yeeld then those towards ye poles; as if you conceive this bag or membrane more stretcht or to have a stronger tone in one t then another, it would yeeld there sooner where twas less stretcht or its tone was weaker. Soe yt ye waters attempting first to rise & fly off at ye equator, & finding there a strong resistance wch they could not overcome, they must necessarily by this repercussion & their own continual tendency from ye center in one way or other, fall off towards ye poles; and soe conforme themselfes into an Elliptical or oblong figure answerable to yt of their orb or ticuler vortex.

I should bee glad to know wt you thinke of ye opinion of ye oblong figure of ye Earth, wtsoevr ye cause of it was; & whether you know any argumt or observacon yt either proves ye contrary or demonstrates yt. wt I mention p. 197. of degrees of latitude from ye poles to ye equator being unequal or ye spaces from ye Earth yt answer to them, is taken out of Dechales, a French Iesuite, who hath writ a large cursus Mathematicus, & in a little tract about ye general principles of Geography, hee hath observd yt L|R|icciolus, ye Mathematicians of Paris, & Snellius, who have all measurd ye circuit of ye Earth, & to yt purpose tooke ye proportion{illeg} of a{illeg}|d|egree {sic}, differ each of them in their measure of a degree, according as they tooke it more or less North-wards; & finds yt they differ much wt in such a porcon as ye paralels where they tooke ye degrees were more or less distant from ye equator. If this observacon was pursued it would come ye neerest to a demonstracon of anything I know yt ye Earth is still oblong North & South.

Sr yor kindness hath brought upon \you/ ye trouble of this long lre; wch I could not avoyd seing you had insisted upon 2 such material points, ye possibility (as you suppose) of forming ye Earth as it now is, iediately from ye Chaos or wthout a dissolucon; & ye necessity of adhereing to Moses his Hexameron as a physical descripcon; to show ye contrary to these 2 hath sweld my lre too much, wch will howevr give you noe further trouble then ye reading, unless yor humour lead you sometime to reflect againe upon {yt} Theory. Sr wee are all {soe} busy in gazeing upon ye Comet, & wt doe you say at Cambr. can be ye cause of such a prodigious coma as it had. I am

Sr

Yor affect. freind & Servt

T. Burnet.

© 2019 The Newton Project

Professor Rob Iliffe
Director, AHRC Newton Papers Project

Scott Mandelbrote,
Fellow & Perne librarian, Peterhouse, Cambridge

Faculty of History, George Street, Oxford, OX1 2RL - newtonproject@history.ox.ac.uk

Privacy Statement

  • University of Oxford
  • Arts and Humanities Research Council
  • JISC