John Wesley.

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

. (page 11 of 24)
Online LibraryJohn WesleyA survey of the wisdom of God in the creation; or, A compendium of natural philosophy .. (Volume 3) → online text (page 11 of 24)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

where the sister with a feeble voice told him, " I have
trusted always in God and you, that you would not for-
sake me." The other brother, and the husband then
went down, and found still alive the wife about 45, the
sister about 35, and a daughter about 13 years of age.
These they raised on their shoulders to men above, who
pulled them up, and carried them to a neighbouring
house ; they were unable to walk, and so wasted, that
they appeared like mere shadows.

Some days after the inteudant came to see them, and
thc j y gave him the account that follows. In the morning
of the 19th of March, we were in the stable, with a
boy six years old, arid a girl about 13. In the same
stable were six goats, one of which had brought forth
two dead kids the evening before ; there were also an
ass and five or six fowls. We- were sheltering ourselves
in a corner of the stable, till the church-bell should ring,
intending to attend the service. The wife wanting to
go out of the stable to kindle a firg for her husband,
then clearing away snow from the top of the house, she


perceived a mass of snow breaking down towards the
east, on which she went back into the stable, shut the
door, and told her sister of it. In less than three mi-
nutes they heard the roof break over their heads, and
also part of the ceiling of the stable. The sister ad-
vised her to get into the rack and manger, which she did
very carefully. The ass was tied to the manger, but got
loose by struggling 5 and though it did not break the
manger, it threw down the little vessel which the sister
took up, and used afterwards to hold the melted snow,
which served them for drink. Very happily, the man-
ger 'vas under the main prop of the stable, and thereby
resisted the weight of the snow. Their first care was to
know what they had to eat ; the sister had- in her
pockets fifteen chesnuts: the children said they had
breakfasted, and should want no more that day. They'
remembered there were 30 or 40 loaves in a place near
the stable, and endeavoured to get at them, but were
not able, by reason of the snow. On this they called
out for help as loudly as they could, but no one heard
them. The sister came again to the manger, after she
had tried in vain to come at the loaves, gave two ches-
nuts to the wife, and eat two herself, and they drank
some snow water. All this while the ass continued
kicking, and the goats bleated very much, but soon after,
they heard no more of them. Two of the goats how-
ever were left alive, and were near the manger, they felt
them carefully, and knew by so doing, that one of them
was big, and would kid about the middle of April ;
the other gave milk, wherewith they preserved their

The women affirmed, lhat during all the time they
were buried, they saw not one ray of light ; neverthe-
less, for about twenty days, they had some notion of night
and day : for when the fowls crowed, they imagined it
was break of day, but at last the fowls died. The se-
cond day, being very hungry, they eat all the remaining
chesnuts, and drank what milk the goat yielded, which
for the first days, was near two pounds a day, but the
quantity decreased gradually. The third day, being


very hungry, they again endeavoured to get to the place
where the loaves were, but they could not penetrate to
it. They then resolved to take all possible care to feed
the goats, as very fortunately over'the ceiling of the
stable, and just above the manger, there was a hay-loft
with a hole, through which the hay was put clown into
the rack. This opening was near the sister, who pulled
down the hay, and gave it to the goats, as long as she
could reach it, which when she could no longer do, the
goats climbed upon her shoulders, and reached it them-
selves. On the sixth day the boy sickened, complaining
of violent pains in the stomach for six days, on the last
of which he desired his mother, who all this time had
held him in her lap, to lay him at his length in the man-
ger. She did so, and hiking him by the hand, felt it
was very cold : she then put her hand to his mouth, and
finding it. likewise very cold, she gave him a little milk ;
the boy cried, " O my father in the snow ! Oh ! fa-
ther! tather I" and expired.

The mother told the sister the boy was dead, and
then laid him in the manger where the sister was. In
the mean while the milk given by the goat diminished
daily. The fowls being dead, they could no longer dis-
tinguish night and day ; but according to their calcula-
tion the time \vas near when the other goat should kid,
which as they computed would happen about the middle
of April. At length they found the goat was kidding
by its cries; the sister helped it; they killed the kid to
save the milk for their own subsistence. And now they
knew it was the middle of April. Whenever they called
this goat, it would come and lick their face and hands,
and gave them every day two pounds of milk, for which
they still bear a great affection to it.

During all this time, hnnger gave them but very little
uneasiness, except on the tirst five or six days. Their
greatest pain was from the extreme coldness of the
melted snow-water, which fell on them ; from the stench
of the dead ass, dead goat, and fowls; but more than
all from the uneasy posture they were obliged to conti-
nue in. For though the place in which they were buried


was twelve English feet long, eight ,wide, and five high,
the manger, in which they sat squatting against the wall,
was no more than three feet four inches broad.

19- May we not impute to earthquakes, those huge
cavities in the earth, which are found in several parts of
England? Such is Poole's-Hole, about half a mile from
Button, in Derbyshire, said to have been the refuge of
one Poole, a noted robber. It is at the foot of a moun-
tain : its entrance is low and narrow ; but it presently
opens into a broad and lofty concavity, of above a mile
in length. The water dropping from the roof, congeals
into a kind of crystal, and forms a thousand surprising
figures. Here is also a large clear stone, resembling
alabaster, which the queen of Scots, when here, called
her pillar, and it still goes by that name. Along
the middle a stream of water falls among the rocks,
which loudly echoes through the vault. The most
striking thing is, the height of the arch, and the spangled
roof resembling fret-work. And indeed the drops of
water, which, petrifying as they fall, form isicles, re-
sembling crystal above, and pyramids hardened into
stone below, have a surprising effect from the light of
the candles ; the hanging drops dazzling the eyes, as if
this mighty arch was covered with diamonds.

Elden-Hole is a frightful chasm in the middle of a
field, fifty or sixty feet long, and about twenty broad.
But how deep it is could never be discovered, notwith-
standing all the attempts that have been made. Mr.
Cotton endeavoured to fathom it with a line of six-
teen hundred yards; but in vain. Some suppose these
to have been passages, whereby the waters of the de-
luge returned from the surface of the earth to the great

There is another effect of subterraneous fires, which
has been generally imputed to quite different causes.
The Giant's Causeway, in Ireland, and all other strong
concretions of the same kind, where pillars are formed

by pentagon, hexagon, or multangular stones, placed
one upon another, are commonly supposed to be formed
by a deposition of stony matter from an aqueous fluid.
On the contrary, it is evident from various considerati-
ons, respecting their structure and phenomena, that thev
are concretions of a peculiar kind, generated by an ig-
neous fluid. They are peculiar to volcanic countries,
and differ in every respect from the crystals produced
by the slow and successive precipitation of the stony par*
tides contained in water. Their formation is owing to
an intrinsic principle of organization, operating on an ig-
nified fluid : on the concretion of which that principle
may be supposed to have operated simultaneously in a
large mass, and to have produced these bodies in the
same manner, as a linget of metal concretes at once in
the mould.

In Persia there is a subterraneous fire of a very harm-
less nature. It rises out of the ground about twenty
miles from Baku, and three from the Caspian sea.
The ground is rocky, but has a shallow covering of
earth. If this be any where scraped off, and fire ap-
plied to the place, it catches fire immediately, and burns
without diminution, nor ever goes out, unless you throw
cold earth over it, by which it is easily extinguished. A
piece of ground, about two English miles in extent, has
this wonderful property. In many parts of it there is a
continual flame : the chief is in a hole, about four feet
deep and fourteen in diameter. This is said to have
burned many thousand years. They burn stones into
lime, by filling a hole in the ground with them, and then,
putting a lighted candle into the hole. The fire imme-
diately kindles, and in about three days burns the stones

It is remarkable, that this flame, how great soever it
be, gives neither smoke nor smell. There is much
naptha all about the place, though not just were the
fire is.

Doubtless an inflammable vapour issues in abundance
out of the ground in this place. Something of the same



kind is found between Bologna and Florence, on the side
of one of the Apennines. On a spot of ground three
or four miles diameter, there is a constant eruption of
lire. The flame rises very high ; yet without noise,
smoke, or smell. In great rains it sometimes intermits,
but afterwards burns with greater vigour. There are
three other such fires on the same mountain:}. Pro-
bably they rise from the veins of bitumen.

20. A late ingenious writer ascribes all earthquakes to
the same cause, electricity. The impression, says he,
they make on land and water, to the greatest distance,
is instantaneous. This can only be affected by electrici-
ty. In the late earthquake the concussion was felt
through the space of a hundred Hies in length, and forty
in breadth, at the same instant. Now what could
throw a tract of land, of four thousand square miles in
surface, into such an agitation in a moment? No natu-
ral power is equal to this, but that of electricity which
alpine acknowledges no bounds, neither any sensible
transition of time.

The little damage done by most earthquakes, is ano-
ther argument, for their being occasioned, by a simple
vibration of the earth, through an electric shock. This
vibration on the water, meeting with the solid bottoms
of ships, occasions that thump which, is felt by them.
That this shakes millions of ordinary houses, and yet
not one of them falls, is a farther proof, that it is not a
convulsion hi the bowels of the earth, but an uniform
vibration, like what we occasion in a glass, by rubbing
our finger on the edge ; which may be brought to such a
pitch, as to break the glass in pieces, by an electric re-
pulsion of its parts.

There can be little doubt, but some earthquakes are
owing to electricity ; but many more are owing to other
causes: those ot Callao, Lima, Port-Royal, for in-
stance, uere unquestionably owing to water : those
in the neighbourhood of /Etna, and Vesuvius, with those
in the East-Indies, to lakes of five. The grand fault

i< therefore tlie ascribing them either to electricity, or
any one cause, exclusive of the rest : whereas some lire
owing to each of these causes : some to several of them,
-acting conjointly.

21. We have inflammable vap6urs in England, in
three or four different places.

One who accurately observed it, gives the following
particular account of a burning well.

" In "the latter end of February, I went to see a
spring in .the- road, which leads from Wigan to Warring-
ton. When we came to it, and applied a lighted candle
to the surface of the water, there was suddenly a large
and vigorous flame produced. But having filled a cup
AV ith water at the {taming place, and held a lighted can-
dle to it, it went out. Yet the water at that place boiled
like water over a lire : though when I put my hand into
it, it did not feel so much as warm. This boiling seems
to proceed from some sulphureous fumes, the spring be-
ing not 'above forty yards from a coal-pit, and all the
country for many miles round, being underlaid willi

" When the water was drained away, I applied the
candle to the surface of the earth where the water burned
before. The fumes took tire and burnt very bright and
vigorous, tht3 flame, ascending a foot and a half from the
ground : and the basis of it was as broad as a man's hat
v.t the brims, It was not discoloured like that of sul-
phur, nor had any scent. I ordered a bucket of wa-
ter to be poured ou the ftr-e, and it. was immediately

2?. There was a spp'mg of the same kind at Brosely,
sueav Wenlock, in the county of Salop. It was disco-
vered in June, 1711, by a terrible noise in the night,
which awaked several people in their beds, who desiring
to know what it was., rose up, ami coming to a boggy
place under a little hill about two hundred yards from
the Severn, perceived a mighty rumbling and shaking of
the earth, and a little water boiling up through the grass.

VOL. in. G

When they dug up some of the earth, the water flew up
to a great height, and a candle that was in their hand,
set the vapour on fire. There is now (viz. in 1711) an
iron cistern round the spring, with a cover having a hole '
in the middle of it. If yon put a. lighted candle to the
hole, the water takes fire, and burns like spirits of wine.
It burns as long as you keep the air from it ; but if you
take up the cover, it goes out. The heat of this fire ex-
ceeds that of common fire. Some people, after they
have set the water on fire, have put a kettle of water
over the cistern, with a joint of meat in it. It was boil-
ed much sooner than it could be, by any artificial fire.
If you put wood, or even green boughs upon it, it pre-
sently consumes them to ashes. The water of itself
feels as cold as any common water. Nay, if you put
your hand into it as soon as the fire is out, at feels as
cold as if there had been no fire near it. But it still
continues boiling up, with a considerable noise.

But this well was lost for many years. The poor
man in whose land it was, missing the profit he used to
have J by shewing it, used all his endeavours to find it
again: and in May, 1744, hearing a rumbling noise un-
der ground, a little nearer the river than the former well
was, he lighted upon it again. For five or six feet deep,
jt was above six feet wide.* Within this was a smaller
hole, of like depth, dug in the clay, in the bottom of
which was a cylindric earthen vessel, four or five inches
diameter, having the bottom taken off, and the sides
fixed in the clay. Within the pot was brown water,
thick as puddle, continually forced up with a violent mo-
tion and a hollow noise, rising and falling by turns, five
or six inches. Upon putting a candle at the end of a
stick, within a quarter of a yard, it took fire, darting and
flashing in a violent manner, about half a yard high,
much like spirits in a lamp, but with a greater agitation.
The man said it had^made a tea-kettle boil in nine mi-
nutes, and that it would burn forty-eight hours without
any sensible diminution. It was extinguished by put-
ting a wet mop upon it. And still the water felt very



The well lay about thirty yards from the Seven**
which in that place, and for some miles above and be-
low, runs in a vale full a hundred yards perpendicular be-
low the level of the country on either side. But the well
s now^lost again, the water being drawn of by a coal-pit.

23. There is a fire of the same kind at Pietra Mala,
; village on the Appennines. The flame is extremely
bright, covers a surface of three yards by two, and
usually rises about four feet. After great rains or snows,
he whole bare patch, about nine yards diameter, flames,
flic gravel out of which it rises, at a very little depth,
s quite cold. There, are four of these fires in the
leiglibourhood : the middle of the ground whence one
>f them rises, is a little hollowed, and has in it a pud-
lie of water, through which there are strong ebulli-
ious of air. This air will not take fire ; but that which
ises through the wet and cold gravel flames briskly.

In Dauphiny, and some other parts of France, the
urface of several springs take fire in the same manner
n the approach of a candle* Sulphureous vapours wr-
oubtedly exhale from the waters : as is the case in the
iinous Grotto del Cani.

This lies on the side of a little hill, between Naples
fid Pozzoli. The sides of it are cut perpendicular in
ic earth. It is about three feet wide ; near twelve feet
nig ; five or six feet high at the entrance, and less than
iree at the farther end.

The ground slopes a little from this end to the mouth*
id more from thence to the road. If you stand a few
eps without, and stoop so as to have your eye nearly
i a level with the ground of the grotto, you may see a
ipour within, like that which appears over a chafing-
sli of red-hot coals, only that it is more sluggish, and
>es not rise above five or six inches higlh Its surface
ore distinctly terminated than that of other vapours,
dances visibly under the air, as if unwilling to mix
ith it.

The ground of the grotto is always moist ; and so are
G 2


the sides to the height often inches. Yet this Heycr m-

, -creases so as to form any drops. While you stand up-
right, you remark nothing more, than a slight cart by
smell, common in ail .subterraneous places \vhi<;
kept shut. But if you put down vour hand, within ten

..inches of the ground, it feels as if you put it into the
Gteam of boiling water; yet your hand contracts nei
ther smell nor taste. A vapour similar to that fn the
grotto, rises also from the grown d without ; but it &

weaker, and does not rise so high. .This partly spreads
itself from the cavern, partly exhales from the earth.

Alighted flauibeau thrust. into the vapour, presently
goes out; yet without any noise or hissing. The thick
smoke which appears immediately after its extinction^
remains floating on the vapour, and being lighter than!
it, but heavier than the air . above it, spreads between
both. Indeed common smoke is lighter than .air:
that impregnated with the vapour is heavier.

If a young vigorous dog be held dowji within
-vapour, lie at first struggles, pants, snorts, and rattles in
.Ihe throat; but in three. minutes he lies as dead. Cany
him into the open air, and he draws in long draughts, <u
one recovering, from a fit, and in two minutes gets upoo.
liis legs, and seems, to ail nothing. A cock having his
head plunged into the vapour, was suffocated all at
once beyond recovery. Frogs are stupified by it in three
r or four minutes-', yet though they have laid in it a quar-
ter of an hour, soon recover when placed in the open
air. Large flies, beetles, .and butterflies, : were longer
without giving signs of their suffering, and longer in're-

* .covering. .A toad resisted the vapour near half an hour,
a lizard above an hour and, a quarter; and a large grass-
hopper stirred in the .-vapour., after being more than two
hours in it.

An English gentleman kneeled down in the grotto,
and leaning on his hands, bowed his face to vyithin two
or three inches of the ground, holding his breath, keep
ing his eyes open, and his tongue a .little out of hh.
~xuouth. He remained thus three or four seconds, with-
out any painful impression, or any..sort of taste on his

torrg;re ; and hence it manifestly appeared, that thi
IK>{ a poisonous vapour.

He aftetward advanced bis face to the surface of the
vapour, and took - in breath gently. He was sensible of
something sufi'urathig, just like the air of a hot and
moist stove: Likewise he felt, a slight acrimony in the
throat and nose, -which made him cough and sneeze : no hcad-ach, no sickness at "-stomach, nor any other

It is clear then upon the wln>le, that animals die in :
this^apour, not as poisoned, but rather as drowned,
in a fluid not capable of supplying the place of the air,
which 'is necessary for respiration, and equally necessary
to sustain tire, as the flame of a lighted flambeau.

2^, A 'fire of a strange miture appeared 'in Wales,
about Christmas, l6'f|3v A fiery vapour came from the
sea, and moved up and down for many weeks. It set
on fire sixteen ricks of hay, at Harlech, in Merioneth-
shire, and two barns, and annoyed the country, as well
by poisoning the grass, as firmg the hay. It was a blue,
.weak flame, and did no harm to the men who tried to
save the hay, though they ventured even to touch it.
An intelligent person who lived near Harlech, informed-
his friend some time after, "The fire still continues*
there. It covers over a part of the sea, from a marshy
place in Carnarvonshire, eight or nine miles off. The
grass over which it moves kills all manner of cattle that
i'eed upon it," sheep, goats, swine, cows, and horses. But
what is very remarkable, is, that any great noise, as >
beating a drum -or sounding a horn, effectually repels it
from any house j. or barn, or stack of hay/'

25. A much stranger flame than that which issues
out of the earth, is that which issues out of the stomach
*>f animals. The anatomical lecturer at Pisa, m the
year 1597, happening to hold a lighted candle near the
subject he was dissecting, on a sudden set on fiie the va-
pours that came out of the stomach he had just opened.
In the same year, as Dr. Ruisch, then anatomy profes-

128 '

$0* at Pisa, was dissecting a woman, a student lighting
him with a candle, he had no sooner opened the stomach,
than there issued out a yellow greenish flame. A like
thing happened some years after at Lyons, in dissecting
a woruan. Her stomach was no sooner opened, than a
considejahle flame burst out and filled the place. But
this is rot so much to be wondered at, since the experi-
ments made by Dr. Vulpari, anatomical professor at Bo-
logna. He affirms, any one may see, issuing from the
stomach of an animal, a matter that burns like spirits
of wine, if the upper and lower orifices are bound fast
with a very strong thread. The stomach thus tied, must
be cut, above, and under the ligature, and afterwards
pressed with both hands, so as to make all that it con-
tain^ pass to one side. This will produce a swelling in
that part, which must be held with the left hand, to
hinder its escaping. A candle then being held abont
half an inch from the stomach, let it be suddenly opened
by the right hand, and a bluish flame will immediately
gush ou which will sometimes last a minute. The
same way flame may be brought forth from the intes-
tines also.

Nor is it from carcasses only that flames have issued.
This has been the case with live persons likewise. Bartho-
line relates,, that a popish cavalier, having drank a quan-
tity of brandy died in a little space, after an eruption of
a flame through his mouth. He relates also the case of
three others, who, after drinking much brandy, experi-
enced the same symptom. Two presently died; the
third escaped by immediately drinking cold water. Still
more astonishingis the case of a woman at Paris, who
used to drink brandy to excess* She was one night re-
duced to ashes by a fire from within, all but her head,
and the ends of her fingers. In like manner Cornelia
Bandi, an aged lady of unblemished life, near Cesena, in
Romagna, in 1731, retired in the evening into her cham-
ber ; and in the morning was .found in the middle of the
room, reduced to ashes, all except her face, skull, three
fingers and her legs, which remained entire, with her
shoes and stockings. The ashes were light: the floos.


was smeared with a gross, stinking moisture, and tl/e
walls and furniture covered with a moist soot, which had
stained all the linen in the chest.

Perhaps a larger account of so remarkable an inci-
dent will not be unacceptable to the curious reader.

The countess of Cornelia Bandi, in the sixty-second
year of her age, was all day, as well as usual. When
she was in bed, she passed two or three hours in talking
with her maid ; then she fell asleep. The maid going
into her chamber in the morning, saw two feet distant
from the bed, a heap of ashes, and two legs with the
stockings on. Between them was part of the head;
but the brains, half the skull, and the whole chin, were

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 11 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24

Online LibraryJohn WesleyA survey of the wisdom of God in the creation; or, A compendium of natural philosophy .. (Volume 3) → online text (page 11 of 24)