London Ian. 13. 801


I received your letter of Dec. 24th & the favour of those exceptions you have made to some passages of my booke; which I cannot but take very kindly, seing you have had, it seems, both the patience to read it over & to make reflection upon several parts of it. The argument you note p. 118. seems to me conclusive for soe far as it goes; I doe there in a manner distinguish the Earth into 3 parts, terram planam et humilem, montes mediocres, et montes maximos, And show upon the suppositions there mentioned, that all the Earth should bee covered maximis or mediocribus montibus, and consequently that there should bee noe regiones planæ or humiles, if soe much Earth as is capable to fill the chanel of the sea was thrown upon a surface of equal height with the sea, as the opinion there mentiond supposeth. And seing wee find that there are a great many regions & countrys of the Earth that are planæ et humiles, some lower then the surface of the Sea, some equal to it, some little higher, & a great many that have neither montes magnos, nor mediocres, I conclude that the mountaines wee find upon the Earth, greater or less, would not altogether fill the cavity of the Ocean by many degrees. Neither doe I mention how the subterraneous Ocean & the subterraneous cavities, which some thinke may bee a third or 4th part as much as the cavity of the external Ocean; And their bowels or what was dug out of them must bee thrown upon the Earth too, and the mountaines & higher parts of the Earth should bee capable of filling them alsoe; which how far they must come short of I leave you to imagine.

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

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


Then the 3d argument which follows immediately p. 120. confirmes these reasonings, by disproveing the same opinion from other considerations. And indeed your supposition which men that hold this opinion must goe upon, or the idea they must forme of the Exteriour Earth is altogether groundless & chymerical; for they must suppose that there is some general or common surface of the Earth, of an equal height with the sea, & which runs round the Earth uninterruptedly in an uniforme convexity, upon which surface as upon a foundation or pavement the mountaines were set & all the Earth that was dugg out of the sea. which is a meer idle notion that doth not answer to any thing in nature, nor to any observation, as I have shown there p. 120. 121. & as is confirmd by all that have to doe or know what belongs to the interiour structure of the Earth. These argumentations confirme one another, besides those general heads mentiond p. 117. which show the inconveniences or impossibility of this Theological opinion, or of the vulgar account how the mountaines, the cavity of the sea, & all other cavitys & inequalities in the forme of the Earth came at first.

But you seem rather to incline to the philosophical account of these inæqualities & of the irregular forme of the Earth; namely, that the heat of the Sun rarefying that side of the Chaos that ley next it, or by the pressure of the vortex or of the Moon upon the Waters, some inequalities might bee made in the Earth, & then the waters flowing to those lower parts or cavities would make the seas there, & the upper parts of the Earth towards the poles which they flowd from, would bee dry land. And all this might the rather bee, because at first wee may suppose the diurnal revolutions of the Earth to have been very slow, soe that the first 6 revolutions or days might containe time enough for the whole Creation, & the Sun in that time might contort & shrinke the parts of the Earth about the Æquator more then towards the poles, & make them hollower.

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

Some of the Ancient philosophers I remember, especially the Epicur. as wee see in Gassendus, attempted such a like explication of the Origin of the Earth, and of the formation of the Sea & mountaines & all other inequalities. But when one considers on the one hand how inadequate those causes are to the effects, how indistinct, how unsatisfactory when presst & examind; and on the other hand how congruously, how easily, how naturally, the Dissolution of the Exteriour Earth (as wee have explaind it p. 58. 59. 60.) doth at once answer all those inequalities wee now find in it, both the great chanel of the Ocean, the heapes & high juga of Mountaines, the Origine of Islands & the 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 that they proceeded from any other causes. Especially this giveing an account alsoe of the universal Deluge which upon noe other hypothesis is intelligible.

As for Moses his description of the formation of the Earth in the first chap. of Genesis, I thinke I have given a true account of it p. 253. that tis a description of the present forme of the Earth, which was its forme alsoe then when Moses writ, and not of the primæval Earth which was gone out of being long before. And soe when the Sea is mentiond there, or Seasons or any such thing it onely shows what I say, that that description respects the present Earth & not the primæval; wherof if Moses had given the Theory it would have been a thing altogether inaccommodate to the people & a useless distracting amusement. and therefore instead of it hee gives a short ideal draught of a Terraqueous Earth riseing from a Chaos, not according to the order of Nature & natural causes, but in that order which was most conceiveable to the people, & wherin they could easily imagine an Omnipotent power might forme it, with respect to the conveniency of man & animals: Beginning first with what was most necessary, & proceeding by steps in the same order to prepare an habitable world, furnisht with every thing proper first for animals, & then for man the Master of all. & whosoever considers the whole impartially as tis represented li. 2. 5. 8. I thinke will have the same thoughts of it.

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

If you make the firmament to bee the Atmospheare as you seem to doe, & the vapours above it to bee the celestial waters, which upon the disruption of the Abyss were suddenly & excessively condenst; with all my heart: but then how are the Sun Moon & stars placd in this firmament? and which is as bad how are these vapours extracted & settled above the firmament 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 the creation; these things are rather a necessary consequent of the Earth formd & the Sun acting upon it, then the first & most material thing in the formation 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 our world. Thus for the 4th & 2d day.

Then for the first day & the Light made then, what was that pray? what physical reality, where made <5> or how? was it made out of the Chaos as other things, in what manner pray? if not out of the 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 what Light was then first made that was not before, or how upon the formation of a planet any new Light would be product. Vpon the whole I confess I see noe other account of these things then what I have given in the 8th ch. li. 2. & that the Hexameron or hypothesis of 6 dayes is onely Ideal, accomodated to the present Terraqueous forme of the Earth; but the Cosmopæia, if one may soe cal it, in the 2d chapter, of that Garden which God planted מחדם a principio, that is real & physical, & the productions of man & other creatures there: Neither doe I see why that 2d makeing of man animals & plants should have been instituted if the first had been a physical reality.

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

These things, Sir & some others of this nature I would suggest to those Divines that insist upon the hypothesis of 6 dayes as a physical reality, which even many of the Fathers as I remember have allowd to bee onely an artificial scheame of narration, they supposeing the creation to have been momentaneous. And I would further desire these persons to explaine to me the forme of St Peters κόσμος ἀρχαιος or ante-diluvian Earth & heavens; wherin it was different from ours & different in such a manner that 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 what is or can bee understood by Moses's disruption of the Abyss at the Deluge, if the Earth was then in the same forme it is in now. And what that Gyrus or Orbis is which both in Iob & Solomons Cosmopæia is <6> plac't round the Abyss or face of the first waters; which I have taken notice of p. 126 &c & li. 2. c. 8. When they have considerd these places & especially that of St Peter and joynd all the other reasons both a priori & a posteriori which I have brought to show that the Earth was at first in a different forme from what it is in now, I thinke they will iudge my supposition very reasonable that Moses his hypothesis of 6 dayes work is but the Idea of a creation accommodate to the people & to the present forme of the Earth.

Concerning paradise you seem to bee of opinion that it might bee under the Æquator: but I doe not see how this alone would answer its phænomena. I distinguish the phænomena of Paradise (in the 2d book) into those that were general & common to it with all that Earth, and into those that respect its particular region & situation. Its general phænomena were a perpetual serenity & temperature of air without any vicissitude of seasons; longævity of animals, & their production out of the Earth: And wee must first find an Earth capable of these things, before wee enquire what region of that Earth was most paradisiacal. Now these things I say our primæval Earth was very capable of, considering the eaveness & equality of its surface, the temper of its soyle, & its right situation to the Sun, which gave it a perpetual equinox. which situation of the primæval 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 your opinion of that hypothesis.

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

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

I should bee glad to know what you thinke of the opinion of the oblong figure of the Earth, whatsoever the cause of it was; & whether you know any argument or observation that either proves the contrary or demonstrates that. what I mention p. 197. of degrees of latitude from the poles to the equator being unequal or the spaces from the Earth that answer to them, is taken out of Dechales, a French Iesuite, who hath writ a large cursus Mathematicus, & in a little tract about the general principles of Geography, hee hath observd that Ricciolus, the Mathematicians of Paris, & Snellius, who have all measurd the circuit of the Earth, & to that purpose tooke the proportion of a degree, differ each of them in their measure of a degree, according as they tooke it more or less North-wards; & finds that they differ much what in such a proportion as the paralels where they tooke the degrees were more or less distant from the equator. If this observation was pursued it would come the neerest to a demonstration of anything I know that the Earth is still oblong North & South.

Sir your kindness hath brought upon you the trouble of this long letter; which I could not avoyd seing you had insisted upon 2 such material points, the possibility (as you suppose) of forming the Earth as it now is, immediately from the Chaos or without a dissolution; & the necessity of adhereing to Moses his Hexameron as a physical description; to show the contrary to these 2 hath sweld my letter too much, which will however give you noe further trouble then the reading, unless your humour lead you sometime to reflect againe upon {that} Theory. Sir wee are all {soe} busy in gazeing upon the Comet, & what doe you say at Cambridge can be the cause of such a prodigious coma as it had. I am


Your affectionate freind & Servant

T. Burnet.

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