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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wool is spread to dry. It takes it up, and scatters it in
small locks, at a considerable distance. Here is the ap-
pearance of a shovver of wool. If it sweeps along a
mineral rivulet, of which there, are many among the
mountains of Italy, it carries innumerable metallic parti-
cles away, and sprinkles them 0*1 some distant town or
fields. Here is what they call a shower of iron.

Hurricanes are foreseen at the Antibes by a calm, and
then a shifting of breezes from .all quarters; the suii
sets blood red, small clouds fly to and fro with great ra~
K 4,


pidlty. Sea birds quit the air^ ami seek the shore. Soon
utter a north breeze spring* up, which comes to the
north-tast. Afterwards it is south and south-east, and
the air is darkened by a black cloud.

In the h=st hurricane, the wind stood at north-east,
and blew with such violence, that the lur^t trees were
turn up by the root:* their trunks brokt u io pieces, and
not a ieat left on those other tries, which ufkied to the
iary or the w inds-. The hou es were thrown down, and
the tops of the suiw-rmtls, which could* not well be
thrown down, were crushed in pieces. At the end of a"
hurricane we tee lightning, and hear the lioise of thun-
der. Tiutti the wind -soften* gradually, till all becomes

When there vva? a violent hurricane at Guadeloupe,
there appeared upon the island, a thick black cloud,
which seemed on tire, and gravitating toward tire earth,
It occupied a space of five or six leagues in front.
Above it the air was almost clear, there appearing only
a kind of mist. The whole force of a hurricane is
lodged in the very body of a cloud, containing wind,
rain, lightning* and thunder .* where the air is com-*
pressed, and roiling upon itself, causes the storms,
which nothing cau resist. Nor does the hurricane end.,
till the cloud- bursts-, and the thiwider and lightning
come on*

One species of hurricanes is that which is termed "a wa-
ter-spout. These are seen to descend tVoin a cloud as a
pillar, having two motions, one round their own axis, the
other progressive in a strait direction. Such a spout is a-
- gyration of clouds, by contrary winds meeting in the
centre, and there (where the condensation and gravita-
tion are greatest) .sink ing down into a great tube, like a4
screw. In its working and whirling, it sucks and raises
the water, in the same-manner as the spiral aciew does.
One of these sometimes- appears -on the land. On June
21, some >ears since, the clouds near Halfield, in York-
shire, were oj^erved to be much agitated mid driven to*


gether. They soon became very black, and were hurried
round: hence proceeded -a v ; iiiig noise like that of 'a
milL Sooii after there : ' :i a long tube from the cen-
tre of the congregated clouds, having a screw-like mo-
tion, by which met. ihe water wherever it came was
raised up. In August following, the wind blowing at the
same time out of several quarters, created a graat whirl-
ing among the clouds, the centre of which every now and
then sank down, like a long, black pipe, wherein was
distinctly seen a motion like that of a screw, continually
drawing and screwing up, as it were, whatever it touched,,
Groves and trees bent under -it circularly, like wands.,
Some of the branches it tore otf. It is commonly sup-
posed, that the water at sea rises in a column, before the
tube touches it. But this is a mistake. The tube often
touches the surface of the sea, before the water rises
at all.

But water spouts happen several ways. Sometimes
the water is seen to boil, and raise itselt for a consider-
able space about a foot from the sea, before the tube
touches it. Above this there appears as it were a thick
and black smoke, in the -midst of which is a sort o^
pipe, resembling a tunnel, reaching up to the clouds.
At other times these tunnels come from the clouds, and
suck up the water with great violence. Sometimes
these discharge themselves into the sea, to the unavoid-
able destruction of such ships as are in their way : some-
times on the shore, beating down all they meet with, and '
raising the sand and stones to a prodigious height;

A very distinct account of this kind was given some
time since by an eye witness.

" We were on the coast of Barbary, when three water -
spouts came down : ohe of them bigger tiiatr three masts,
the other two scarce half as big : all of them werebladv,
as the cloud from which they fell ; all smooth, anc|
smaller at the lower end. Sometimes one became
smaller, and then larger again ; sometimes it disappeared;,
and quickly fell down again.

4< There was always a great boiling and flying up of

the water, like the appearance of a smoakiag chimney
in a calm day. Sometimes it stood as a pillar' some
yards above the sea, and then'spread itself and scattered
like smoke. One spout came down to the very middle
of tiiis pillar, and joined with it. Afterwards if pointed
to the pillar at some distance, first in a perpendicular,
and then in an oblique line.

" It was hard to say, whether this spout fell first from
the cloud, or the pillar rose first from the sea, both ap-
pearing opposite to each other* as in the twinkling of an
eye. But in another place the water rose up to a great
height, without any spoilt pointing to it. Only here,
the water did not rise like a pillar, but flew scatterm^ly,
and advanced as a moving bush upon the surface of the
sea. This proves that the rising of the water may begin
before the spout from the cloud appears.

" All these spouts, but especially the great one towards
the end, began to appear like a hollow canal, along the
middle of which one might distinctly perceive the sea
.v/ater fly up very swiftly : soon after the spout broke in
the middle* and disappeared by little and little : the
boiling up, yea* the pillar of sea water continuing a con-
siderable time after.'*

There is something very uncommon in the Fetter, a
lake which parts East and West Gothland. It is about
eighty miles long and eighteen Iroad. Its water is very
clear, and in some places so deep, as not to be sounded
by a line of three hundred fathom, it is often disturbed
by storms, which sometimes begin so suddenly* that the^
surface of the water is agitated, before the least breath
of wind is perceived. And it is not urxcommoii for boats,
in one part of the lake to be tossed by a violent storm,,
while others at a small distance, are in <i perfect cairn.
Immediately before a storm, while the slo is clear, a
noise is perceived in the lake like thunder. Of this the
inhabitants oi' Visijjgorc, an island in the middle of the
lake, are more sensible than any oiheis. For from that
pait of the island, whence the wind will blow, they heas
a noise/ like the firing of a cannon, \Yhenever this is


heard in the east, they expect hail and rain to follow*
Undoubtedly all these storms are owing to subterraneous^
winds. To these likewise we may attribute the sudden
cracking of the ice upon the lake in the spring. This is
one minute strong enough to bear horses and sledges,
and the next broken in pieces. A strange noise under-
neath, which precedes 'the breach, warns travellers to
make the b*e^t of their way. But those who happen to
be at a great distance from land, are swallowed up, un-
less they can float upon shoals of ice, till they meet with
relief. The violent under currents observed in this lake
are also very surprising. These direcily opposing the
winds, give the fishermen a great deal of trouble. From
these, as well as from unfathomable depths, it is sup-
posed to have a communication under ground with
another lake called Venner, about forty miles^ to the

13; It remains only to add a few reflections, on some
of the preceding heads.

How useful is the atmosphere to the life, the health,,
the comfort, and the business of the whole globe ! It is
the air * by which all animals live : not only the inhabi-

* As the air is of absolute necessity to animal life, so it is neces-
sary it should ^be of a clue consistence, not foul, for that suffocates ;
not too thin, for that suffices not.

In the diving bell, after some time of stay under water, they are
forced to come up and take in fresh air. But Cornelius Drebell-
contrived not only a vessel to be rowed under water, but also a
liquor to be carried therein, that would supply the want of fresh
air. The vessel was made for King James the First. It carried
twelve rowers beside the passengers. It was tried in the Thames.
A person who was therein told it one who related it to Mr, Boyle.
As to the liquor, Mr. Boyle discovered ;by a physician, who married
Drebell's daughter, that from time to time, when the air in the sub-
marine boat was so clogged by the breath of the company, as to be-
unfit for respiration, by unstopping a vessel full of this, he speedily/
restored it, so that they breathed again without difficulty.

And as too gross, so too thin an air, is unfit for respiration* Hence,
the difficulty of breathing, (as all travellers relate) upon the top ofr
hi^h fountains. But the, cause of this difficulty is riot the, thin ness >
K. 6


tants of the earth, but of the waters too. Without it
most animals live scarce half a minute, and none of them
many days.

And not only animals, but even trees and plants owe
their life and vegetation to this useful element : as is
manifest irons their glory and verdure in. a free air, and
their paleness and sickliness, when excluded from it.

Thus necessary is the air to the life of animals, and
it is no lesjs so, to the conveyance of many of theme
All the winged tribes owe their flight and buoyancy to it.
And even the inhabitants .of the waters cannot easily-
ascend or descend in their own element without it.

It would be endless to specify theaises of the air in/
the operations of nature. To touch only on one or two
instances. How admirable is that property of it, the
conserving animated bodies, whether animal or vegeta-
ble, while it dissolves all other bodies ; by which means
many things which would prove nuisances to the world,
are put out of the way, and reduced to -their first princi-
ples. Even crystal glasses, especially if not used, it will >
in time reduce to powder. And thus divers minerals, ,
stones, fossil-shells, trees, which have lain under ground
for many ages, and so secure from corruption, when ill
the open air, have quickly mouldered away.

Another admirable use of the atmosphere is* its minis-
tring to the enlightening the earth, by reflecting to us the*
light of the sun, * and refracting his beair-s -to our eye,
berbre he surmounts our horizon, by which means the,

only, but the too great lightness thereof, which renders it unable
to be a counter-balance to the heart, and all the muscles minister*
ing to the respiration.

* To tnis is owing that whiteness which is in the air in the day
time, caused by the rays of light, striking on the particles of the at-
mosphere, as well as upon the clouds above, and the other objects
beneath on the eajth. To the same cause we owe the twilight,
namely, to the sun-beams touching the uppermost parts of the at-
mosphere, which they do, when the sun is eighteen degrees below
the horizon.


day is- protracted throughout the whole globe, and the
long and dismal nights are shortened in the frigid zones.
Yea, the sun rises in appearance, when he is indeed
many degrees below the horizon*

Let us a little more attentively consider the light"
\vhich whitens the sky before the sun rises. There is
something surprising in this. We see the light only by
the rays which flow to our eyes. Now the sun being as>
yet beneath the earth, cannot project any of his rays
directly to us. And the rays which dart on the extre-
mities of the land that terminates our sigJjt, proceed
farther into the heavens, unless they meet with- any body
which reflects them back to us. Is there any particular
body in nature designed to do us this service ? There is,
namely, the atmosphere, which is framed over our heads-
in such a manner, that notwithstanding its extensive
mass, it suffers us to see the stars, at an immense distance,
from us ; and notwithstanding its transparency, bends-
and gathers for us numberless rays, of which, we should,
otherwise be quite deprived.

Any ray that falls perpendicularly on the atmosphere,
enters it -without any obstacle, and descends through it
to the earth in the same right line. But those which
fall obliquely upon it, are admitted into, or repelled from
it, according to the situation of the luminous body. If
this he more than eighteen degrees below the horizon,
all its rays are scattered abroad. If less, the rays enter
the atmosphere, and are retracted to our sight. This is
the true cause of the twilight, and indeed of the conti-
nuance and principal beauty of the day, even when the
sun is in its highest elevation. The earth which receives
his rays reflects them into the atmosphere, which once
more returns the greater part of them. Thus it preserves
to us that splendour which is the beauty of nature, and
that heat which is the soul of it. For it collects num*
berless rays, the greater or smaller union whereof, is the
measure of L**t aud cold. Thus it becomes to us a


mantle of the finest texture, redoubling the heat, yet
not pressing us by its weight.

The atmosphere at the same time causes and maintains
round us, that light which lays our whole habitation
before our eyes. In order to clear this, suppose the
atmosphere were destroyed : 1 . The rising of the sun
would not be preceded by any twilight, but the most in-
tense darkness would surround us till the moment of
his rising. 2, In that .instant he would break out in his
full brightness, -and so continue till his setting: and that
moment it would be pitch dark. 3. In the day his
liht would resemble a clear fire, which we see by night
in the midst of a spacious field. We should see what
was near us, but nothing else : the distant lands would
not be perceived, ancPthe night would still continue,
notwithstanding the sun. For instead of the white tint
-of, day, which displays all nature by brightening the
azure of the heavens, and colouring all the horizon, we
should see nothing but an abyss of darkness, there being
nothing to reflect the soiar rays. The stars indeed
would be seen at noonday: but then those luminous
bodies, which now appear to be placed in a delightful
azure, would seem fastened on a dismal, mourning carpet.

" But how does that fine azure depend on the atmos-
phere?" This will plainly appear, if it be considered,
what a quantity of rarefied water is suspended from the
top of the atmosphere to the bottom, And there is
never a greater quantity suspended there, than in the
fine days, when no clouds are to be seen. It is these
rarified waters, that intercept and reflect to us, the rays
reflected from the earth. And this prnr-igious mass of
\vaters, being a simple and uniform bodN, the colour of.
it is simple, and always the same.

" But are these azure skies, which we confound with
the starry heaven, nothing more than a little air and*
water ] And what we took for the heaven, only a cover


wrapt close round the earth T So it is. And this is a
new wonder, and a new proof of our Creator's wisdom 1
A few small bubbles of air and water are indeed of
themselves things very insignificant: but that hand
which has with so much art and caution placed them
over our heads, has done it merely, that his sun and
stars might not be rendered useless to us. He embel-
lishes whatever he pleases ; and these drops of water and
air become in his hands an inhexhaustible source of
glory. He draws from them those twilights, which so
usefully prepare our eses for the receiving a stronger
light. He fetches out of them the brightness of the
duwn. From them he produces the splendour of the
day. He makes them contribute to the increase and
preservation of that heat which nourishes every thing
breathing. Of them he makes a brilliant arch, which
enchants the sight of man, and becomes the ceiling of his

I shall only add the excellent use of the atmosphere^
in respect of two of its meteors, the winds, aud the
eiouds and rain.

The winds * are of such absolute necessity to the
wholesomeness of the atmosphere, that all the world
would be poisoned without these agitations. We find
how putrid and unfit for respiration, a confined, stagna-
ting air is. And if the whole mass of air and vapours
were always at rest, instead of refreshing, it. would suffo-
cate all the world. But the motion it receives from the
gales and storms, keeps it pure, and healthy still.

* The most uni versa I 1 and constant alterations of the ballanee of
the atmosphere arc from heat and cold. This r manifest in the
general Trade-Winds, blowing all the year becvvcv.ii the tropics from.
east to west : the cause whereof is undoudtt-diy by the sun's daily
progress rouad that part of the^Iobe, by his heat rarefying, one part
of the air, whilst the cooler and heavier air behind passes after.

In thunder storms .here are often two currents of air, the undefi
cm rent contrary to the upper. Hence the wind near the eartix
blows one way> and the cJouds more above* the other way>


Without these gales to fan us also, in the' heat, of
summer, even in 'our temperate- climate, men would i.ard-
ly be able to get through their daily labour, without en-
dangering, their health.* These are ptrpetuul in the
torrid zone, and make what the ancients imagined to be
not habitable to any but wild btd.sts, a healthful and
pleasant habitation.

Of what use likewise are the winds, to transport men
to the distant regions of the world I Particularly, the
general and coasting trade winds, the sea and the land
breezes : the one serving to carry the mariners in long
voyages from east -to west : the other, to waft him to
particular places : the one serving to carry him into his
harbour, the other to bring him out. Sea breezes com-
monly rise in the morning about nine o'clock. They
first approach, the shore gently, as if they were afraid to
come near it. The breeze comes in a fine, small, black
curl upon the water, whereas all the sea between it and
the share, is as smooth -and even as glass, in half an
hour after it reaches the shore, it fans pretty briskly,
and so increases gradually till twelve o'clock: then it is
commonly the strongest. It lasts so till two or three.
At three it begins to die away, till about five it is lulled
asleep. x As the sea breezes blow in the day*, and rest ia
the night ; the land breezes blow in the night, and rest
in the day. They spring up between six and twelve at
flight, and last till six, eight, or nine,>in 4he morning.

The clouds and rain are iia less useful meteors than
the winds, as is manifest in the refreshing .shades- which
the clouds afford, and the fertile dews and showers, which
they pour down on the trees and plants, which would

* July 8, 1707, called frf some time after the Hot Tuesday, was
so excessively hot and suffocating, by reason or' there being no
wind at aH, that divers persons died in their harvest work. A
healthy, lusty, young man, near Upminster in particular, was killed
en the spt by the heat, and several travellers on the road dr opt
down and died. -


sh and die with perpetual drought, but are hereby
made verdant and flourishing : so that as the psalmist
saith, The little hills rejoice on every side, and the
va flies shout for joy , and slug.

A farther improvement of these remarks I subjoin h*
the words of Mr. Hervey.

" If we turn our thoughts to' the atmosphere, we find'
a most curious and exquisite apparatus of air. This is
-a source of innumerable advantages; all which are
fetched from the very jaws of ruin. To explain this.
The pressure of the air on a person of a moderate size
is equal to the weight of twenty thousand pounds.
Tremendous consideration ! Should a house fall upon
us with half that force, it would break every bone of
our bodies. Yet so admirably has the Divine Wisdom
contrived the air, and so nicely counterpoised, its dread-
ful power, that we suffer no manner of inconvenience ;
-we even enjoy the load. Instead of being as a mountain
on our loins, it is as wings to our feet, or sinews to our
limbs. Is not this common ordination of Providence,
somewhat like the miracle of the burning bush ] Well
may we say unto God, O how terrible, yet how benefi-
cent art thou in thy works !

" The air, though too weak to support our flight, is &
thoroughfare for innumerable wings. Here the whole
common wealth of birds expatiate, beyond the reach of
their adversaries. Were they to .run upon the earth,
they would be in ten thousand dangers, without strength
to resist, or speed to escape them : whereas by mount-
ing the skies, they are secure from peril, they scorn the
horse and his rider. Some ol them peiching on the
boughs, or soaring aloit, entertain us with their notes*
Many of them yield us wholesome ar.d agreeable food,
and yet give us no trouble, put us to no expense, but til!
the time we want them, are wholly out ot the way,

**The air is charged a!so : with several offices, abso*


lately needful for mankind. In our lungs it ventilates
the blood, qualifies its warmth, promotes the uniiual ser
cretions. We might live even months, without the
light of the sun, yea, or the glknJnering of a tar,
\Vh< reas, if we are deprived but a few minutes of this,
we sicken, we faint, we die. The same universal nurse
has a considerable share in cherishing the se \cral uifoes
of plants. It tranvitibc:> vegetable vigour into tiie trui'k
of an oak, and a blooming gaiety into the leaves of
a rose.

" The air likewise conveys to our uostjrils the ex-
tremely subtil effluvia which exhale from odoriferous
bodies : particles so small, that they elude th most
careful hand. But this receives and transmits the invi-
sible vagrants, without losing even a single atom ; enter-
taining us with the delightful sensations that arise from
the fragrance of flowers, and admonishing us <o with-
draw from an unwholesome situation, to beware of per-
nicious food*

" The air by its undulating motion conducts to our
ear all the 'diversities of sound. While danger is at a
considerable distance, this advertises us of its approach ;
and with a clamorous, but kind importunity, urges us to
provide for our safety.

" The air wafts to bur sense all tbe modulations of
music, and the more agreeable entertainments of con-
versation. It distributes every musical variation with the
utmost exactness, and delivers the message of the speaker
with the most punctual fidelity : whereas without tlus in-
tcrnuutio, all would be sullen and unmeaning silence.
We should neither be charmed by the harmonious, nor
improved by the articulate accents.

" How gentle are the breezes of the air when uucon-
fined ! but when collected, they act with such immense
farce, as is sufficient to w4iirl round the hugest wheels,


though clogged with the mest incumbering loads. They
make the ponderous mill-stones move as swiftly as the
dancer's heel ; and the massy beams play as nimbly as the
musician's lingers.

*' In the higher regions there is an endless succession
of clouds, fed by evaporations from the ocean. The
clouds are themselves a kind of ocean, suspended in the
air. Tiiey travel in detached parties, over all the ter-
restial globe. They fructify by proper communications
of moisture, the spacious pastures of the wealthy, and
gladden with no less liberal showers the cottager's little
spot. Nay, they satisfy the desolate and waste ground*
and cause the lud of ike tender herb to spring forth :
that the natives of the lonely desert, the herds which
know no master's stall, may nevertheless experience tht*
care of an all-supporting parent.

" How wonderful ! That pendant lakes should be
diffused, fluid mountains heaped over our heads, and
both sustained in the thinnest part of the atmosphere.
How surprising is the expedient which without ressels
of ton or brass, keeps such loads of water in a buoyant
state ] Job considered this with holy admiration. Dost
thou know the balancings of the clouds 1 How such pon-
derous^ bodies are made to hang in even poise, and ho-
ver like the lightest down ? He bindeth up the waters in
his thick cloud : and the cloud, though nothing is more
loose and fluid, because by his order, tenacious as casks
of iron,, is not rent under all the weight.

" When the sluices are opened and the waters descend,
one would think they should pour down* in torrents.

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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 18 of 24)