Mr Isaac Newton

Mathematick Professr and
Fellow of Trinity Coll.



Lond Ian. 13. 801


I recd yor lre of Dec. 24th. & ye favor of those excepcons you haue made to some passages of my booke; wch I cannot \but/ take very kindly; seing you haue had, it seems, both ye Patience to read it over & to make reflection upon seueral parts of it. The argumt you note p. 118. seems to me conclusiue 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 all ye Earth should bee covered maximis or mediocribꝫ montibꝫ, and consequently, yt there should bee noe regiones planæ 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 mentioned supposeth. And seing wee find yt there are a great many regions & countrys of ye Earth yt are planæ et humiles, some lower then ye surface of ye sea, some equal to it, some little higher, & a great many yt haue neither montes magnos, nor mediocres, I conclude yt ye mountains wee find upon ye Earth, greater or less, would not altogether fill ye cavity of ye Ocean by many degrees. Neither doe I mention how 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 leaue you to imagine.//

Tis true if those 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 ꝑporcons 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 confirmed by yt wch im̄ediately 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 scheme; 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.//


Then ye 3d argumt wch follows im̄ediately p. 120. confirmes these reasonings, by disproueing 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 comon 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 pauemt 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 haue shown there p. 120. 121. & as is confirmd by all yt haue 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 & inæqualities in ye forme of ye Earth came at first.//

But you seem rather to incline to ye philosphical acctofthese inequalities & of ye irregular forme of ye Earth; namely, yt ye heat of ye sun rarefying ye side of ye Chaos yt lay next it, or \by/ ye pressure of ye vortext 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 haue 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 convert & shrinke ye parts of ye Earth about ye Æquator more then towards ye poles, & make them holower.//

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 diuided & ye Earth wholly formd before ye Sun or Moon existed. These were made ye fourth day according to Moses, & ye Earth was finisht ye 3dday, as to ye inanimate pt of it, sea & land, & euen 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 haue 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 haue 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 giue 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 Orige|i|n 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 ({w}|A|s wee haue 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 & huge 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 ꝑceeded from any other causes. Especially this giuing 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 haue given a true acct of it p. 253. yt this a descripcon of ye ꝑsent forme of ye Earth, wch was its forme alsoe then when Moses writ, and not of ye primæval 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 primæval; wherof if Moses had giuen ye Theory it would haue ben a thing altogether inaccomodate to ye people & an useless dstracting amusemt. and therefore {illeg} instead of it hee giues a short ideal draught of a Terraqueous Earth rising from a Chaos, not according to ye order of Nature & natural causes, but in ye order wch was most conceiuable to ye people, & wherin they could easily imagine an Omnipotent powr might forme it, wth respect to ye conveniency of men & animals: Beginning first wth wt was most necessary, & proceeding/ by steps in ye same order to prepare an habitable world, furnisht wth euery thing proper first for animals, & then for Man ye Master of all, & whoseur considers ye whole impartially as tis reprsented li. 2. c. 8. I thinke will haue ye same thoughts of it.//

And if all Diuines 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 days 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 univers was not made out of ye Mosaical Chaos, I would in ye next place aske them whether ye Sun Moon & stars mentioned ye 4th day, were made out of ye Chaos, & then first brought into being when ye Earth was formed? 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 days 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 those things yt existed before. 2dly I inferr from this, ye|t| 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 eury part. For confirmacon of this I'le instance in another thing, Moses his Firmamt, \wch/ was ye 2d dayes work; by ye proportion 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 interaquæum yt was in ye primæval Earth. You see ye first property of ye firmamt as it is set down is to diuide 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 those 2 local ꝑportiōs bee not utterly inconsistent? to diuide betwixt ye Cælest. & 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 im̄ense distance aboue ye Sun. Therfore ye Firmamt wth these proportiōs 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 aboue it to bee ye celestial waters, wch upon ye disrupcon of ye Abyss were suddenly & excessiuely condenst; wth all my heart: but then how are ye Sun Moon & Stars pact in the firmamt? and wch is a{b}|s| bad how are these vapours extracted & settled aboue ye firmamt before there is a Sun to extract them? Neither indeed are those 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 cosmopœia would haue appeard as compleat, & wee should haue 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 haue 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 bee ꝑduct. Upon ye whole I confess I see noe other acct of these things then wt I haue giuen 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 Cosmopœia, if one may soe cal it, in ye 2d chapter of yt Garden wch God planted מהרם a principio, yt is real & physical, & ye ꝑductions of man & other creatures there: Neither doe I see why yt 2d makeing of man animals & plants should haue 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, lookes 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 yeares 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 haue now? if they came to it by degrees, wt prodigious long life did Adam & his children liue? 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 Diuines yt insist upon ye hypothesis of 6 dayes as a physical reality, wch euen many of ye Fathers as I remember haue allowd to bee onely an artificial scheame of narracon, they supposing ye creacon to haue 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; wherein it was differt from ors & differt in such a manner yt it was thereby peculiarly subject to perish by a Deluge, asI haue 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 wch both in Iob & Salomons Cosmopœia is <6> plac't round ye Abyss or face of ye first waters; wch I haue taken notice of p. 426. &c & li. 2. c. 8. When they haue considerd these places & especially yt of St Peter and joynd all ye other reasons both a priori & a posteriori wch I haue brought to show yt ye Earth was at first in a differt forme from wt it is in now, I thinke they will judge 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 Pardise 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 phænomena of paradise (in ye 2d book) into those yt were general & comon to it wth all yt Earth, and into those yt respect its particuler region & situacon. Its general phænom. were a ꝑpetual serenity & temperature of air wthout any vicissitude of seasons; longævity of animals, & their ꝑduccon out of ye Earth: And wee must first find an Earth capable of these things, before wee enquire wt region of ye Earth was most paradisiacal. Now these things I say or primæval Earth was very capable of, considering ye eaveness & equality of its surface, ye temper of its soyle, & its right situacon to ye Sun, wch gaue it a perpetual equinox. wch situacon of ye primæval Earth I thinke I haue shown both from reason p. 182. &c. & from Antiquity p. 291. 292 &c. and I should be willing to know yor opinion of yt hypothesis.

Then as for ye particuler 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 haue 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 ouer those parts of ye Earth, then the other; for you must consid yt ye Earth was then involved in a kind of Chaos or Spiss atmosphear, as tis represented 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 atmospheare 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 conceiue this bag or membrane more stretcht or to haue a stronger tone in one ꝑt 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 ꝑticuler vortex.//

I should bee glad to know wt you thinke of ye opinion of ye oblong figure of ye Earth wtsoeur 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 upon 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 observed yt Ricciolus, ye Mathematicians of Paris, & Snellius, who haue all measurd ye circuit of ye Earth, & to yt purpose tooke ye proportions of it|a d|egree, differ each of them in their measure of a degree, according as they tooke it more or less North-wards; & finds they differ much wt in such a ꝑporcon 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 nearest to a demonstracon of any thing 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, imediately from ye Chaos or wthout a dissolucon; & ye possibility of adhering to Moses his Hexameron as a physical descripcon to show ye contrary to these 2 hath swold my lre too much, wch will howeur giue you noe further trouble then ye reading, unless yor humour lead you sometime to reflect againe upon yt Theory. Sr wee are all here busy in gazeing upon ye Comet, & wt doe you say at Cambr. can bee ye cause of such a prodigious coma as it had. I am


yor affect. freind & servt

T. Burnet.



Yor argument p 118 I acknowledg good against those who suppose only hills & mountains taken out of ye sea, & it may be good agt those who suppose all ye earth higher then ye sea taken out thence but one who w{illeg}|o|uld have mountains & ye sea made by removing earth from one place to another might suppose (if it were necessary) all the earth a quarter of a mile or half a mile lower then the top of the seas or then the lowest valleys, or even lower then that, was thrown out of the deep. But the opinion being to me absurd, I say no more of it. I could wish I was as well satisfied wth your argument about ye oval figure of ye earth. ffor it seems hard to me that a constant force applied to stretch th|a| membrane (as you figuratively term ye atmosphere) should make it shrink, unless you suppose it at first overstre{illeg}|tc|ht by a tumultuary force & so to return by way of undulation, & that ye limus of ye earth hardened while it was in ye ebb. But what ever may be ye reason of ye earths figure you desire my opinion what that figure is. I am most inclined to beleive it spherical or not much oval. And my chief reason for that opinion is ye analogy of ye Planets. They all appear round so far as we can discern by Telescopes, & I take ye earth to be like ye rest. If it's diurnal motion would make it oval that of Iupiter would much more make Iupiter oval the vis centrifuga at his equator caused by his diurnal motion being 20 or 30 times greater then the vis centrifuga at or equator caused by the diurnal motion of or earth, as may be collected from the largeness of his body & swiftness of his revolutions. The sun also has a motion about his axis & yet is round. What may be argued from ye dimensions of ye earth's shaddow collected by Lunar Eclipses I cannot tell, nor what from ye measures on ye earth answering to a degreee in several latitude's, not knowing how exactly those measures were made or the Latitudes of places taken.

You seem to apprehend that I would have the prsent face of ye earth formed in ye first creation. A sea I beleive was then formed as moses expresses, but not like or sea, but wth an eaven bottom, wthout any precipices or steep descents as I think I exprest in my letter. Of or present sea, rocks, mountains &c I think you have given the most plausible account. And yet if one would go about to explain it otherwise Philosophically, he might say that that {sic} as saltpeter dissolved in water, though ye solution be uniform crystallises not all over ye vessel alike but here & there in long barrs of salt: so the limus of ye Chaos \or some substances in it/ might coagulate at first, not all over ye earth alike, but here & there in veins or beds of divers sorts of stones & minerals. That in other places wch remained yet soft, the air wch in some measure subsided out of ye superior regions of ye earth \chaos/ together wth ye earth or limus, by degrees extricating it self, gave liberty to the limus to shrink & subside & have the first coagulated places standing up like hills: which subsiding would be encreased by the draining & drying of the limus. That the veins & tracts of limus in the bowels of the {mountains} <9> also drying & consequently shrinking, crack't & left many cavities some dry others filled with water. That after the upper crust of the earth by the heat of the sun together wth that caused by action of minerals, was hardened & set; the earth in the lower regions still going closer together left large caverns between it & the upper crust filled wth the water wch upon subsiding by its weight it spewed out by degrees till it had done shrinking, wch caverns, or subterraneal seas might be the great deep of Moses And if you will, it may be supposed one great orb of water between ye upper crust or gyrus & the lower earth, though perhaps not a very regular one. That in process of time many exhalations were gathered in those caverns which would have expanded themselves into 40 or 50 times the room they lay in, or more, had they been at liberty. ffor if air in a glass may be crouded into 18 or 20 times less room then it takes at liberty & yet not burst the glass, much more may subterranean exhalations by the vast weight of ye incumbent earth be keept crouded into a less room before they can in any place lift up & burst that {earth} crust of earth. That at length somewhere forcing a breach, they by expanding themselves forced out vast quantities of water before they could all get out themselves, wch commotion caused tempests in ye air & thereby great falls of rain in spouts & all together made ye flood & after the vapors were out ye waters retired into their former place. That the air wch in ye beginning subsided wth ye earth, by degrees extricating it self mght ly pent up in one or more great caverns in the lower earth under ye abyss & at ye time of ye flood breaking out \into ye abyss/ & consequently expanding it self might also force out ye waters of ye abyss before it. That the upper crust or gyrus of earth might be upon the stretch before ye breaking out of ye abyss & then by its weight shrinking to its natural posture might help much to force out the waters. That ye subterraneal vapors which then first brake out & have ever since continued frequently to do so, being found by experience noxious to mans health infect the air & cause that shortness of life wch has been ever since the flood. And that several pieces of earth either at the flood or since falling, some perhaps into ye great deep, others into less & shallower cavities, have caused may of those Phænomena we see on ye earth besides the original hills & cavities.

But you will ask how could an uniform chaos coagulate at first irregularly in heterogenous veins or masses to cause hills. Tell me then how an uniform solution of saltpeter coagulates irreguly {sic} into long barrs; or to give you another instance, if Tinn, (such as the Pewterers buy from ye mines in Cornwel to make Pewter of) be melted & then let stand to cool till it begin to congeal & when it begins to congeale at ye edges, if it be inclined on one side for ye more fluid part of ye Tin to run from those parts wch congeale first, you will see a good part of ye Tin congealed in lumps which after the fluider part of ye Tin wch congeales not so soon is run from between them appear like so many hills with as much irregularity as any hills on ye earth do. Tell me ye cause of this & ye answer will perhaps serve also for ye Chaos.

All this I write not to oppose you, for I think the main part <10> of your Hypothesis as probable as what I have here written, if not in some respects more probable. And though the pressure of ye Moon or Vortex &c may promote ye irregularity of ye causes of hills, yet I did not in my former letter design to explain the generation of hills thereby, but only to insinuate how a Sea might be made above ground in your own hypothesis before the flood besides the subterranean great deep, & thereby all difficulty of explaining rivers & the main point in wch some may think you & Moses disagree might be avoyded. But this sea I not not {sic} suppose round the equator but rather to be two seas in two opposite parts of it where the cause of ye flux & reflux of or prsent sea deprest the soft mass of ye earth at that time when ye upper crust of it hardened.

As to Moses I do not think his description of ye creation either Philosophical or feigned, but that he described realities in a language artificially adapted to ye sensc|e|e of ye vulgar. Thus where he speaks of two great lights I suppose he means their apparent not real greatness. So when he tells us God placed those lights in ye firmamt, he speaks I suppose of their apparent not of their real place, his business being not to correct the vulgar notions in matters philosophical but to adapt a description of ye creation as handsomly as he could to ye sense & capacity of ye vulgar. So when he tells us of two great lights \& ye starrs/ made ye 4th day, I do not think their creation from beginning to end was done ye fourth day nor in any one day of ye creation nor that Moses mentions their creation as they were physicall \bodies in themselves/ some of them greater then this earth & perhaps habitable worlds, but only as they were lights to this earth, & therefore though their creation could not physically belong {be} assigned to any one day, yet being a part of ye sensible creation wch it was Moses's design to describe & it being his design to describe things in order according to ye succession of days allotting no more then one day to one thing, they were to be referred to some day or other & rather to ye 4th day then any other if they {sic} air then first became clear enough for them to shine through it & so put on ye appearance of lights in ye firmament to enlighten the earth. ffor till then they could not properly be described under ye notion of such lights, nor was their description under that notion to be deferred after they had that appearance though it may be the creation of some of them was not yet completed. Thus far perhaps one might be allowed to go in ye explaining ye creation of ye 4th day, but in ye first \third/ day for Moses to describe ye creation of seas when there was no such thing done neither in reality nor in appearance me thinks is something hard, & that ye rather becaus if before ye flood there was no water but that of rivers that is none but fresh water above ground there could be no fish but such as live in fresh water & so one half of ye fift days work will be a non entity & God must be put upon a new creation after ye flood to replenish one half of this terraqueous globe wth Whales & all those other kinds of sea fish we now have.

You ask what was that light created ye first day? Of what extent was ye Mosaical chaos? Was ye firmament if taken for ye atmosphere so considerable a thing as to take up one day's work? & would not ye description of ye creation have been complete wthout mentioning it? To answer these things fully would require comment upon Moses whom I dare not pretend to understand: yet to say something by way of conjecture, one may suppose {illeg} ye Planets about or sun were created together, there being in no history any mention of new ones appearing or old ones ceasing. That they all & ye sun had at first <11> one common Chaos. That this Chaos by ye spirit of God moving upon it became separated into several parcels each parcel for a planet. That at ye same time ye matter of ye sun also separated from ye rest & upon ye separation began to shine before it was formed into that compact & well defined body we now see it. And the preceding darkness & light now cast upon ye chaos of every Planet from ye solar Chaos was the evening & morning wch Moses calls ye first day even before ye earth had any diurnall motion or was formed into a globular body. That it being Moses design to describe the origination of this earth only & to touch upon other things only so far as they related to it, he passes over the division of ye general chaos \into particular ones/ & does not so much as describe ye fountain of that light God made that is ye Chaos of ye Sun, but only wth repect to the Chaos of or Earth tells us that God made light upon ye face of ye deep where darkness was before. Further one might suppose that after or chaos was separated from ye rest, by the same principle wch promoted its separation (wch might be gravitation towards a center) it shrunk closer together & at length a great part of it condensing subsided in ye form of a muddy water or limus to compose this terraqueous globe. The rest wch condensed not separated into two parts the vapors above & the air wch being of a middle degree of gravity, ascended from ye one descended from ye other & gathered into a body stagnating between both. Thus was the Chaos at once separated into three regions the globe of muddy waters below ye firmament the vapors or waters above the firmament & ye air or firmament it self. Moses had before called the Chaos the deep & the waters on ye face of wch ye spirit of God moved, & here he teaches the division of all those waters into two parts with a firmament between them: wch being the main step in ye generation of this earth was in no wise to be omitted by Moses. After this general division of ye chaos Moses teaches a subdivision of one of its its {sic} parts, that is of the miry waters under ye firmament into clear water & dry land i|o|n the surface of the whole globous mass. ffor wch separation nothing more was requisite then that ye water should be drained from ye higher parts of ye limus to leave them dry land & gather together into the lower to compose seas. And some parts might be made higher then others not only by ye cause of ye flux & reflux but also by ye figure of ye Chaos if it was made by division from ye Chaos's of other Planets. ffor then it could not be spherical. And now while the new planted vegetables grew to be food for Animals, the heavens becoming clear for ye sun in ye day & Moon & starrs in ye night to shine distinctly \through/ them on the earth & so put on ye form of lights in ye firmament so that had men been now living on ye earth to view the process of ye creation they would have judged those lights created at this time, Moses here sets down their creation as if he had then lived & were now describing what he saw. Omit them he could not wthout rendring his description of ye creation imperfect in ye judgment of ye vulgar. To describe them distinctly as they were in themselves would have made ye narration tedious & confused, amused ye vulgar & become a Philosopher more then a Prophet. He mentions them therefore only so far as ye vulgar had a notion of them, that is as they were phænomena in or firmament & describes their making only so far & at such a time as they were made such phænomena. Consider therefore whether any one who understood the process of ye creation & designed to accommodate to ye vulgar not an Ideal or poetical but a true description of it as succinctly & theologically as Moses has done, without omitting any thing material wch ye vulgar have a notion of or describing any being further then the vulgar have a notion of it, could mend that description wch Moses has given us. If it be {said} that ye expression of making & setting two great lights in ye firmament is more poetical then natural, so also are some other expressions of Moses, as where <12> he tells us the windows or floodgates of heaven were opened Gen 7 & afterwards stopped again Gen 8 & yet the things signified by such figurative expressions are not Ideall or moral but true. ffor Moses accommodating his words to ye gross conceptions of ye vulgar, describes things much after ye manner as one of ye vulgar would have been inclined to do {illeg} had he lived & seen ye whole series of wt Moses describes.

Now for ye number & length of ye six days: by what is said above you may make ye first day as long as you please, & ye second day too if there was no diurnal motion till there was a terraqueous globe, that is till towards ye end of that days work. And then if you will suppose ye earth put in motion by an eaven force applied to it, & that ye first revolution was done in one of or years, in the time of another year there would be three revolutions of a third five of a fourth seaven &c & of ye 183d yeare 365 revolutions, that is as many as there are days in or year & in all this time Adams life would be increased but about 90 of or years, wch is no such great business. But yet I must profess I know no sufficient naturall cause of ye earth {sic} diurnal motion Where natural causes are at hand God uses them as instruments in his works, but I doe not thinck them alone sufficient for ye creation & therefore may be allowed to suppose that amongst other things God gave the earth it's motion by such degrees & at such times as was most suitable to ye creatures. If you would have a year for each days work you may by supposing day & night was made by the annual motion of ye earth only & that the earth had no diurnal motion till towards the end of ye six days. But you'l complain of long & dolefull nights. And why might not birds & fishes endure one long night as well as those & other animals endure many in Greenland, or rather why not better then the tender substances wch were growing into animals might endure successions of short days & nights & consequently of heat & cold? ffor what think you would become of an egge or Embryo wch should frequently grow hot and cold? Yet if you think ye night too long, it's but supposing the divine operations quicker. But be it as it will, me thinks one of ye tenn commandmts given by God in mount Sina, prest by divers of ye prophets, observed by or Saviour, his Apostles & first Christians for 300 years & wth a day's alteration by all Christians to this day, should not be grounded on a fiction. At least Divines will hardly be perswaded to leive {sic} so.

As I am writing, another illustration of ye generation of hills proposed above comes into my mind. Milk is as uniform a liquor as ye chaos was. If beer be poured into it & ye mixture let stand till it be dry, the surface of ye curdled substance will appear as rugged & mountanous as the earth in any place. I forbear to describe other causes of mountains, as ye breaking out of vapours from below before the earth was well hardned, the settling & shring|k|ing of ye whole globe after ye upper regions or surface began to be hard. Nor will I urge their antiquity out of Prov. 8.25. Iob: 15.7 Psal. 90.2 but rather beg yor excuse for this tedious letter wch I have ye more reason to do because I have not set down any thing I espouse have well considered or will undertake to defend.

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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

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