John Wesley.

A survey of the wisdom of God in the creation; or, A compendium of natural philosophy .. (Volume 3) online

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Hereby not only the arch which covers it, but the whole
body of the incumbent earth is shaken. And this is
one species of earthquakes. In this case, the deeper
the cavern is, and the larger the quantity of matter which
takes fire, the more extensive and the more violent the
earthquake. If the cavern is near the surface of the
earth, the fire often issues out of it ; and the lower
parts being eaten away, the ground sinks in, and swal-
lows up houses or whole cities.

But, to consider this point a little more minutely. As
some earthquakes are awing to fire, so are some to air,
others to water, and others to earth itself. 1. The earth
itself may be the occasion" of its own shaking, when the
root or basis of some large mass being worn away, that
mass sinks in by its own weight, and causes a concussion
of all the neighbouring parts. 2. Subterraneous waters
wash away the foundations of hills, and eat far under
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the earth. By this means many earthquakes have bee
occasioned, and whole cities swallowed up. This \v
undoubtedly the caus-e of the great earthquake at For
Royal, and of that which swallowed up Lima. 3. A'
pent up in the bowels of the earth, if it be at any time
rareiitd and expanded, will struggle for vent with in-
credible force, and thereby both shake and tear the
earlh. 4. "But the usual cause of the most violent
earthquakes is sulphur, or some other inflammable mat-
ter, taking fire in the cavities of the earth, and bursting
t hrongrT \\hatever opposes.

There are scarce any countries that are much subject
to earthquakes, which have not some burning mountain.
And whenever any earthquake happens, this is constantly
in flames, Indeed where it not that these vents thus dis-
gorge the fire, it would make far greater havoc than it
does; probably it would make the whole country for a
vast space round quite uninhabitable. Yea, so benefi-
cial are these, that we do not want instances of countries
frequently annoyed by earthquakes, which upon the
breaking out of a volcano, have been wholly delivered
from them.

Perhups what causes most earthquakes of this kind, is
the pyrites, or iron-stone, which will take fire of itself.
The eiirtb, \\e know, abounds in cavities, which are, at
certain times, full of inflammable vapours. This the
damps in mines shew, which being fired, do every thing
as in an earthquake, only in a less degree. And the py-
rites only, of ail known minerals, yields this inflamma-
ble vapour. Nor is any mineral or ore whatever, sul-
phureous, but what is more or less mixed with the pyri-
tes. But probably the pyrites of the burning mountains,
is more sulphureous than ours. It is likewise in far
greater quantities in all the countries round the Mediter-
ranean than in England : a plain reason why earth-
quakes are se much more frequent, and more violent

An artificial earthquake may be made thus.
twenty pounds of sulphur to twenty of iron filings.
Mix and temper these with water, so as to form a mass


of the consistence of a firm paste. Bury this three or
four feet under ground. In six or seven hours time,
the earth will begin to tremble, crack, and smoke, and
fire and flame will burst through. So that there only
wants a sufficient quantity of this matter, to produce a
true ^Etna. If it were supposed to burst out under the
sea, it might occasion a new island.

To explain this point a little farther. This globe of
earth is bored through with iufiuite cavities, which,,
branching out like the veins, arteries, and nerves in our
bodies, pass under the very bottom of the sea. Some
of them serve to convey water, others a more unctious
substance, others an igneous matter, that gives motion*
to the whole frame.

Thus the exterior sea communicates with the inmost
abyss, and passes to the roots of the hills and mountains.
Mean time a constant air or wind, forces the water into
the dark caverns, and receives and keeps alive a per-
petual lire.

Have we not indubitable examples of these things 1
Does not the vast river Wolga pour such a quantity
of water into the Caspian, within the space of one year,
as would be sufficient, were there not some invisible out-
let, to cover the whole earth? This invisible outlet is a
huge cavern, that passes under Mount Caucasus into the
Euxine sea. Hereby the waters of the one sea, dis-
charge themselves into the other. And the whole king-
doms of Georgia and Mengreiia, are a$ it were a bridge
over those subterraneous waters..

When the Gaspiaiirsea has been, on occasion of winds,
too much emptied into the Euxine, it is replenished from
the Persian Guiph >r which is a kind of reservoir for
it. And the subterraneous communication between
the Red sea, and the Mediterranean is now out of all

And how many instances of this, have we in rivers'?
So late geographers assure us, that the river Niger, r*i
Africa, is derived from the river Nile, under the mighty
chain of the mountains of Nubia : on the western side
of which mountains, it takes the uaine of "Niger, and <
F 5


continues its course into the Atlantic ocean. So the
vast and deep cave in Mount Taurus, receives the Ti-
gris, and gives it a passage to the other side. The same
fiver afterward hides itself under ground, for near
twelve miles, and then breaking out again, disembogues
into the Euphrates, near Babylon.

To come nearer home ; the Guadiana, that runs be-
tween Spain and Portugal, runs thirty-two miles under
ground. Yea, in our own country, the Mole, in Surry,
falls into the ground near Boxhill, and rises again at a
considerable distance.

Hence we may safely collect that the earth is filled
with subterraneous aqueducts and caverns, full of air
and vapour from copious exhalations from all sorts of
minerals, as well as water.

Besides these cavities, there are mountains whose
bowels are in a continual flame. And their belching out
ashes, smoke, broken rocks, and minerals, argue vast va-
cuities, and huge magazines of combustible matter,
which are lodged therein. In the chain of mountains,
called the Andes, in America, there are no less than fif-
teen volcanos, by whose burnings, caverns as big as
whole kingdoms are made, and receive the cataracts of
mighty rivers. And not only here, but over all the ear
there are so many channels clefts, and caverns, that '
do not know, when or where we stand upon good ground.
Indeed it might amaze men of a stout heart, could they
see into the world beneath their feet, view the dark re-
cesses of nature, and observe the strongest building
stand upon an immense vault, at the bottom of whicl
runs an unfathomable sea, and whose upper hollows, a
filled with stagnating air, and the expirations of sulph
feons and bituminous matter.

Therefore as there are no large tracts of land, withe
volcanos and sulphureous caverns, from which branch
ing into smaller pipes, the subterraneous heat is con-
veyed throughout the earth : so no country can promise
itself an entire immunity from earthquakes : even were
there no other cause of these dreadful events, but sub-
terraneous fires. Especially, when it is considered, that


the earth is one part impregnated with sulphur, in others
with nitre, alluin, vitriol, mercury, bitumen, oker, and
chalks. For if an artificial powder, made only of nitre,
sulphur, and charcoal, has so wonderful effects, what force
must that combustible matter have, which arises from
sulphur, nitre, sal-ammoniac, bitumen, gold, copper,
iron, arsenic, mercury, and other metallic and mineral
spirits, with which the womb of the earth abounds, when
the subterraneous fires break through into the hollow
vaults, where these are reposited by the God of nature 1
Then, according to the copiousness of these combusti-
bles, and the more or less firmness of the super-incum-
bent earth, these fires cause tremblings and concussions,
or violent eruptions ; and perhaps open wide and deep
gulphs, wherein whole cities, yea mountains, are swal-
lowed up.

Many such instances occur in history. Pliny tells us, that
in his own time, the Mountain Cymbotus, with the town
of Eurites, which stood on its side, were totally swallow-
ed up. He records the like of the city of Tantelis in
Magnesia, and after it of the mountain Sopelus, both
absorbed by a violent opening of the earth, so that no
trace of either remained. Galanis and Garnatus, towns
once famous in Phoenicia, are recorded to have met the
same fate. Yea, the vast promontory called Phlegium
in Ethiopia, after a violent earthquake in the night, was
not to be seen in the morning, the earth having swal-
lowed it up and closed over it.

Like instances we have of later date. The mountain
Picus, in one of the Molucca's was so high, that it ap-
peared at a vast distance, and served as a land mark to
sailors. But during an earthquake in the isle, the moun-
tain in an instant sunk into the bowels of the earth :
and no token of it remained but a vast lake of water.
The like happened in the mountainous part of China,
in 1556 : when a whole province, with ail its towns, ci-
ties, and inhabitants, was absorbed in a moment ; an ini-


' ^

snense lake of water, remaining in its place, even to this

In the year 164^, during the terrible earthquake in
the kingdom of Chili, several whole mountains of the
AndeSj one after another, were wholly absorbed in the
earth. Probably many lakes, of whose beginning we
Iiave no account, were occasioned by the like absorp*

The greatest earthquake we find in antiquity is that
mentioned by Pliny, in which twelve cities in Asia Minor
were swallowed up in one night. But one of those most
particularly described in history is that of ihe year 1&93.
It extended to a c rcumference of two thousand six hun-
dred leagues, chiefly affecting the sea coasts and great
rivers. Its motions were so rapid, that those who lay at
their leitirth were tossed from side to side as upon a
rolling b llcw. The walls were dashed from their founda-
tion?, and no less than fifty-four cities, with an incredible
fliiinber of villages, were either destroyed or greatly da-
maged. The city of Catanea, in particular, was utterly
overthrown. A traveller who was on his way thither, at
the distance of some miles perceived a black cloud'
hanging near the place. The sea all of a sudden began
to roar ; Mount ZEtna to send forth great spires of iJamc ;
and soon after a shock ensued, with a noise as if all the
artilU ry in the world had been at onve discharged. Our
traveller being obliged to alight instantly, felt himself
raised a foot from the ground, and turning his eyrs to
the city, saw nothing but a thick cloud of dust in the air.
Although the shock did not continue above three minutt*,
yet near nineteen thousand of the inhabitants of Sicily,
perished in the ruins.

The following* account of a dreadful earthquake at
Calabritt, in 16'38, is related by the celebrated Fatln
Kircbcr, as it happened while he \vas ou his journey


" Having hired a boat in company with four i-nore,
we launched, on the ?4th of March, from the harbour of
Messiwa, and arrived the same day at the promontory of
Pelorus. Our destination w as for tiie city of Euphsemia,
ia Calabria. But though we often put to sea, we were
as often driven back. At length, however, we ventured,
forward. Proceeding onward, and turning my eyes to
-dEtua, I saw it cast forth large voiumes^of smoke, which
entirely covered the whole island* This, together with
the dreadful, noise, filled me with apprehension. The
sea itself began to wear a very unusual appearance, co-
vered all over with bubbles. My surprise was increased
by the calmness of the weather. I therefore warned my
companions that an earthquake was approaching, and
making for the shore with all possible speed, we landed
at Tropac. But we had scarce arrived at the Jesuit's
College in that city, when our ears were stunned with a,
horrid sound, resembling that of an infinite number of
chariots driven fiercely forward, the wheels rattling, and
the thongs cracking. Soon after, the whole tract upon
which we stood, seemed to vibrate, as if we were in the
scale of a balance that continued wavering. This sooa
grew more violent, and being no longer able to keep my
legs, I was thrown prostrate upon the ground. In the
mean time, the universal ruin round me, redoubled my
amazement.. The crash of falling houses, the tottering
of towers,, and the groans of the dying, all contributed
to raise my terror. On every side of me I saw nothing
but a scene of ruin ; danger threatening wherever I could
fly. I recommended myself to Gad as my last refuge.
At that hour, O how vain was every sublunary happi-
ness ! Wealth, honour, empire, wisdom, all mere use-
less sounds, and as empty as the bubbles on the deep*
Just standing on the threshold of eternity, nothing but
God was my pleasure, and the nearer I approached, J
only loved him the more. After some time, however, I
resolved to venture for safety, and running as fast as I
could, reached the shore. 1 did not search long, till I
found. the. Imt in. which Ihad landed, and my comgani-


ons also. Our meeting was all silence, and gloomy
dread of impending terrors.

ff Leaving this seat of desolation, we prosecuted our
voyage, and the next day landed at Rochetta, although
the earth still continuned in violent agitations. But we
were scarce arrived at our inn, when we were obliged to
return to the boat, and in about half an hour, we saw the
greatest part of the town, and the inn at which we had
set up, dashed to the ground, and burying all its inhabi-
tants beneath its ruins. Proceeding onward IQ our little
vessel, finding no safety at land, and yet having but a
very dangerous continuance at sea, we at length landed
at Lapizium, a castle midway between Trapaea and Eu-
phaemia. Here, wherever I turned my eyes, nothing but
scenes of ruin and horror appeared ; towns and castles .
levelled to the ground: Strombalo, though at sixty
miles distance, belching forth flames in an unusual man-
lier. But my attention was quickly turned to nearer
danger. The rumbling sound of an earthquake alarmed
us. It every moment seemed to grow louder, and to
approach more near. The place on which we stood, now
began to shake most dreadfully, so that being unable to
stand, my companions and I caught hold of the shrubs
near us, and supported ourselves in that manner.

" After some time this shock ceasing, we stood up m
order to go to Euphaemia, that lay within sight. In the
mean time, I turned my eyes towards the city, but could
see only a dark cloud resting upon the place. This the
more surprised us, as the weather was so serene. We
waited till the cloud was part away, then looking for the
city, it was totally sunk. Nothing but a putrid lake was
seen where it stood. We looked about for some one
that could tell us the sad catastrophe, but could see none.
All was become a melancholy solitude ; a scene of hidious
desolation. Such was the fate of the city of Thaemia.
And as we continued our melancholy cour e < lung the
shore, the whole coast for the space of two hundred
miles presented nothing but the remains of cities. Pro-


ceedmg thus along, we at length ended our distressful
voyage, by arriving at Naples/'

15. Of the great earthquake at Port-Royal, in Jamaica,
an eye-witness writes thus. " It happened on July, 7,
1692, just before noon ; and, in the space of two minutes,
shook down and drowned nine tenths of the town. The
houses sunk outright thirty or forty fathom. The earth
opened and swallowed up the people in one street, and
threw them, up in another : some rose in the middle of
the harbour. While the houses on one side of a street
were swallowed up, those on the other side were
thrown on heaps. The sand in the street, rising like
waves in the sea, lifted up every one that stood upon
it. Then suddenly sinking into pits, the water broke out,
and rolled them over and over. Sloops and ships in the
harbour were overset, and lost : the Swan frigate was
driven over the tops of many houses. All this was at-
tended with a hollow rumbling noise. In less than a
minute, three quarters of the houses, with their inhabit-
ants, were all sunk under water : and the little part
whicii remained was no better than a heap of rubbish.
The shock threw people down on their knees, or their
faces, as they ran about to look for shelter. Several
houses which were left standing, were removed some
yards out of their places. One whole street was made
twice as broad as before. In many places the earth
cracked, opened and shut, with a motion quick and fast ;
and two or three hundred of these openings might be
seen at a time. In some of these people were swallowed
up, in others caught by the middle and pressed to death.
In others the heads of men only appeared, in whicii con-
dition dogs came and ate them. Out of some of these
openings, whole rivers of water spouted up a prodigious
height ; and out of all the wells the water flew, with a
surprising violence. The whole was attended with j*
noisome stench, and the noise of falling mountains at a
distance ; while the sky in a minute's time turned dull
and reddish, like a glowing oven. And yet more houses
were left sanding at Port-Royal, than in all the island
beside. Scarce a planter's house, or sugar work was left


throughout all Jamaica. A great part of them was
swallowed up ; frequently houses, people and trees at one
gap, in the room of which there afterwards appeared u
large pool of water. This when dried up, discovered
nothing but sand, without any mark that house of tree
had been there. Two thousand people lost their lives ^
had it been in the night, few would have escaped. A
thousand acres of land were sunk : one plantation was
removed half a mile from its place. Yet the shocks
were most violent among the mountains. Not far from
Yali-house^ part of a mountain, after it had made several
leaps, overwhelmed a whole family, and great part
of a plantation, though a mile distant. A large moun-
tain near Port Morant, about a da^'s journey over, was
quite swallowed up, and m the place where it stood, re-
mained a lake, four or five leagues over. Vast pieces of
mountains, with all the trees thereon, falling together in
a confused manner, stopped up most of the rivers, till
swelling abroad, they made themselves new channels,
tearing up every tiling that opposed their passage, carry-
ing with them into the sea, such prodigious quantities of;
timber, that they seemed like moving islands. In Li^ua-
nia the sea, retiring from the land, left the ground dry
for two or three hundred yards. But it returned in a
minute or two> and overflowed a great-part of the shore,
Those who escaped from the town, got on beard the
ships in the harbour, where many continued two months,
the shocks all the time being so violent, that they durst
not come on, shore. The noisome vapours occasioned
a general sickness, which- swept away three thousand
of those that were left."

The following account of this memorable event is-
given by the Hector of Por^Royal :

" On Wednesday, June 7, 1 had been reading- prayers,
(which I have read every lay since I came to Port-
Royal, to keep up some shew of- religion among a most
ungodly people) and- was gone to the President of ths
Council. We had scarce dined, when I felt the ground
heave and roll under me. I said, " Sir, what is this T-

.. 115

He replied composedly, " It is an earthquake. Be not
afraid,, it will soon be over." But it increased more and
more : and presently we heard the church and the tower
fall. Upon this we ran to save ourselves ; I quickly lost
him, and ran toward Morgan's fort : as that was a wide
open place, and secure from the falling of houses. As I
ran I saw the earth open, and swallow up multitudes
of people, and the sea mounting over the fortifications.
1 then laid aside all thought of escape, and went home-
ward to meet death in -as good a posture as I could. I
was forced to go through two or three narrow streets :
the Iveuses fell on each side of me. Some bricks came
rolling over my shoes, but none hurt me. When: I came
to my lodging" I found all things in the same order that
I left them. I went to the balcony, and saw that no
bouses in our street were fallen. The people seeing me,
cried to me, to come and pray with them. When I
came into the street, every one laid hold of my clothes,
and embraced me. I desired them to kneel down in a
ring, and prayed with them near an hour, till I was al-
most spent, between the exercise, and the heat of the
sun. They then brought me n chair, the earth working
all the time, like the rolling of the sea, insomuch that
sometimes while I was at prayers, I could hardly keep on
my knees. By the time I had been half an hour longer
with them, in setting their sins before them, <md exliort-
; ing them to repentance, some merchants came, and de-
sired me to go on board one of the ships in the harbour.
From the top of some houses, which lay level with the
water, I got into a boat, and went on board the Siani
Merchant. The day when this happened was exceeding
clear, and afforded no suspicion of evil. But about
half an hour past eleven, in less than three minutes,
Port-Royal, one of the fairest towns in the English plant-
ations, was shattered in pieces, and left a dreadful mo-
nument of the justice of God."

About ten years after the town was rebuilt, a terrible
fire laid it. in ashes. Yet they rebuilt it once more. But
in the year 1722, a hurricane reduced it a third time to
a heap of rubbish. Warned by these extraordinary eu*


lamities, \vhich seemed to mark it out as a devoted
they removed the public offices from thence, and forbade
any market to be held there tor the future.

. Lima, in Peru, contains about 60,000 persons. In
an earthquake laid three fourths of the city level
with the ground.

17 Callao, the port of Lima, containing 3 or 4(.
inhabitants was totally destroyed. Only one man esca-
ped, and that by a very singular providence. He was
going to strike the .*.g on the fort, that overlooked the
harbour, when he saw the sea retire to a considerable dis-
tance, and then return, swelling mountains high. The
inhabitants ran from their houses, in the utmost degree
of terror and confusion. A cry for mercy arose from
all parts : and immediately all was silent, the sea . t-id
quite overwhelmed the city, and buried it for ever in its
bosom. But at the same time it -drove a little boat to
ti si< of the fort, into which thernan leaped and was

18. Perhaps we have not in history, many more re-
markable deliverances than that of this good man. But
more remarkable if possible, is the following deliver-
ance, from a danger of a very different kind.

In the neighbourhood of Demonte, as one descends
through the upper valley of Stura towards the middle of
the mountain, there were some houses in a place called
Bergemoletto, which on the l^th of March, in the mor-
ning (there being then a great deal of snow), were en-
tirely overwhelmed by f wo vast bodies of snow, that
tumbled down from the upper Alps. All the mi abl-
auts were then in their houses, except one Joseph Ro-
chia, a man of about 50. [email protected] and twenty persons
were buried under this mass of snow, which was sixty
English feet in height. Many men were ordered to give
them assistance ; but were not able to do tSiem the least
service. After five days, Joseph Rochia, got upor* *
snow, (with his son, and two brothers of hu wife; to


fry if they could find the place under which his house
and stable were buried ; but they could not. However,
the month of April proving very hot, and the snow be-
ginning to melt, this unfortunate man was again encou-
raged to use his best endeavours. On the 24th, the
snow was greatly diminished, and he conceived hopes of
finding out his house by breaking the ice. He thrust
down a long pole, but the evening coming on, he pro-
ceeded no farther. His wife's brother dreamed the
same night, that his sister was still alive, and begged him
to help her. He rose early in the morning, told his
dream to Joseph and his neighbours, and went with
them, to work upon the snow, were they made another
opening, which led them to the house they searched for :
but finding no dead bodies in its ruins, they sought for
the stable, which was about 240 English feet distant, and
having found it, they heard a cry of " help, my dear
brother." Being greatly surprised as well as encouraged
by these words, they laboured till they had made a
large opening, through which the brother went down,

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Online LibraryJohn WesleyA survey of the wisdom of God in the creation; or, A compendium of natural philosophy .. (Volume 3) → online text (page 10 of 24)