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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have been rivers without mountains, yet they could only
Lave run in a strait line, if they had run ^t all ; whereas
bj fhesg eminences, placed up and down, they make
innumerable turnings mid windings, whereby they enrich,
fatten, and water the soil of several (iaTereut countries in
one course, and at List disembogue in several mou ts
iri ID the sea. Lastly, ;i;ost hills are the nests of metals
or minerals. These, bv t ! ?e efiicaev of subterranean
the iuljaceii; earths into their substance,
B 4


grow as truly as animals or vegetables. I just mentiori
their use for the production, shelter, and nourishment of
so ne sorts of vegetables and animals, which could not
grow or live so \veil any where else. But from the
\vhole we may see of what advantage these unsightly
moles (as some thought them) are to the accommoda-
tions, and even necessities of life.

6. The height of Snowden-TI ill, generally supposed to
be the highest in Great Britain, is 1240 yp.rds. But
Skiddow-Hill, in Cumberland, is I'/Oo yards high from
the level of the lake beneath. And .Conagra, which
rises gradually from the head of the Bay at St. Kilda,
one of the western islands of Scotland, is 1 800 yards
high ; so that this may justly be stiled the Ten e riff of
Great Britain. The height of several mountains in
France is as follows :


Bugarach in Langucdoc 38S8

Le Pay de domine\ 4860

Le Courland / 508&

Le Coote > in Auvergne 5 \ 06

Le Caiital i 5Q04

Le Mont d'or 6J80

Le Mont Ventoux in Avignon 0216

The height of the Pyrenean Mountain is,
St. Bartheiemi 7 HO

Le Moiitagne des Mausset
Le Conigoe . 864O

Probably these mountains may vie in height with
most in the known world. Yet above all these is the
Stella Piz Hail, a steep mountain in the Orisons, which
is 9585 Paris feet above the level of the sea ; a height
which the wild goats themselves scarce venture to

But Mr. Martel informs us, that the highest point of
Mont-Blanc is higher even than this ; that it is 2076
toises above the level of the Rhone, which, added to the
height of this above the sea, makes 131 15 Paris feet, or
above two English miles, and two thirds of a mile. If


so, this is the highest mountain in Europe, and perhaps
in all the world : unless you except Mount Athos in
Macedonia; which, according to the accouut of Riccioli,
who measured it exactly, is 10,000 Italian paces high,
carrying its top above the winds and clouds ; a clear
proof of which is, that whatever is written there in ashes
or light sand, is found there, juvt as plain as at first,
after several months or years.

" But is not the celebrated Mount Atlas in Africa, the
wonder of all ages, far higher than this!'* One who
saw it, and travelled all over it, is best able to answer
this question. lie writes thus :

" Barbary is bounded on the south by Biledulgerid,
from which it is divided by Atlas, a chain of mountains,
but not of that extraordinary height or bigness which
the antieuts attributed to it. Those parts of them,
says Dr. Shaw, which I have seen, are rarely, if ever
equal to some of the- mountains on our own island, and
cannot any where stand in competition with either the
Alps or Apenines. Atlas is a number of hills, usually
4, 5, er 600 yards high, with an easy ascent, and groves
of fruit and forest trees, rising up one behind another.
Only here and there is seen a rocky precipice, of a
superior eminence.'*

The rivers of Indus and Ganges, before they enter
the ocean, contain between them a large Peninsula,
divided in the middle by a ridge of high hills, which
runs from east to west, qiiite to Cape Comorin. On the
one side is Malabar, on the other Coromandel. On the
Malabar side it is summer from September till April ; a
clear sky, and scarce any rain. This is winter on the
Coromandel side, every day and night yielding abund-
ance of rain. So that as you cross the hiils to St. Thomas,
in little more than twenty leagues, you ascend the hill
with fair summer weather, and. descend with a stormy
winter. There i* a like ridge of hills b Jamaica, running
from east to west through the midst of the island. On
the south-side ^6f these there is suuijmer from November
to April, on the north side winter, and so 'vice versa.

Hence it appears, that not the lessening the gravity ef
B 5


the atmosphere only is needful to produce rafn, but
likewise eilher a change of winds or a radge of hills, to
drive the particles of the vapours together. And hence
it i<; that vihile the wind blows from north-east in Corcv
inandei, and on the north-side of the mountains in
Jamaica, there are continual rains, and constant fair
vveatmr on the south-side of the mountains, and in
Malabar. Whereas, while it blows from the south-west,
there are constant rains on the south-side of the Jamaica,
juiountains and in Malabar ; but constant fair weather on
the north-side of these mountains and in Coromande.1.

This also may account for the singularity of seasons
In Perti, which runs southward from the line above a
thousand leagues. It is divided into three parts, loag
and narrow: the Lanos, or plains, which run along the
sea-coa.sts ; the Sierras, which are hills with vallies in-
termixed ; and the Aiides, which are steep and craggy
xnun1i)iri$. The Lauos are, some ten leagues in
tveadtb, some less, and some more. The Sierra h
twenty leagues in breadth, and the Andes the same.
It is remarkable, 1. That in the Lanos the south and
the south-west winds continually blow. 2. That they
never have any thunder, hail, snowier rain, only some*
times a small dew. 3. On the Andes it rains almost
continually. 4. In the Sierra, which lies between, it
rains from September to April, and is clear from April
to September. The reason is plain ; the constant wind,
blowing over the Lanos, finds nothing to stop it, and
drive its vapours into rain. But the Andes continually
intercept these vapours, and so occasion continual rain.
The Sierras being lower, intercept the vapours only
from September to April, because then the sun being
neartr the atmosphere is lighter, and consequently the
vapours sink lower.

In regard to this, there are two or three ads of
Divine Providence which are highly observable. One
is, that all countries throughout the world should enjoy
the great benefit of mountains placed here and there,
at due and proper distances. According to the natural
course of things, when tfce earth and waters were sepa


rated and ordered to their respective places, the earth
would have been of one even surface. The several
'component parts thereof must have subsided aocor-. .
to their specific gravities, and at Ia>t have formed' a
large even spherical surface, eveiy \.l '^-^ equidistant
from the centre of t lie globe. Ikit thr.i instead of this
form it should jet out every where into hills and dales,
is a manifest sign of the special providence of a wise 'Cre-
ator. Another sign of this is, that, throughout the whole
f aril i, the parts farthest fi\>m the sea an the highest :
ai admirable contrivance both for supphing all places
with water, and for carrying oil' the superfluity of it.

And as the mountains themselves are naturally dis-
posed to be drier than the low grounds, so nature has
provided for them a more plentiful supply of moistures,
unless for that very small part of them which ascends
above the clouds and vapours. For beside the fountains,
which water them continually, they have more rains and
dews than the va!ie>s. They are much more frequently
covered by fogs ; and by stepping and compressing the
clouds, as well as condensing them by their greater
cold, they procure all the rain they want.

" But how were the mountains formed after the flood
had dissolved the terraqueous globe T* Probably thus: -
The smaller hills might easily be aggregated by the
mere force of the water. But the mountains, being of a
denser substance, seem to have been elevated from be-
neath, in a convex form, by the violent force of subter-
raneous wind, water, and fire, heaving them up, and scat-
tering them abroad iu so many protuberances. And if
this was done before the substance of the stones became
fixed and indurated, then it is no wonder that the exter-
nal wind likewise should leave so manifest tokens of its
vehement impetuosity, in the extent and o-ulv. ard figure
of them. This gives an easy, natural account, for the
innumerable fissures, chasms, and disruptions, whereby
so many mountains arc, as it were, sawn asunder, either
across or length-ways. And hence main such apertures
in the mountains are filled with- a slimy matter which
was afterwards indurated. In some of the mountains of


Norway, this projects in a range, about an ell in breadth,
betwixt the other stony strata, through tne whole length
or bulk of the mountain, and from the variety of its co-
lours, makes a very pleasing appearance.^ Of these veins,
some consist of marble or alabaster, some of agate, some
white, red, or blue stone, which especially towards the
sea, where the rocks are bare, form many curious varie-
gations. Hence likewise there remain on the surface
mny detached blocks and fragments, scattered not only
in the valleys and creeks, but on the tops of the highest
mountains. Many of these are of the bulk of a com-
mon house, and x:onseqiuntly too ponderous to have
been raised to such an immmense height by the hands
or art of men.

But the largest mountairs may have been formed in
the following manmr. The sea waters doubtless re-
mained some time on the earth : and during that time
the surface of the earth was the bottom of the sea, where
every tiling passed i.> the same manner as passes at the
present bottom of the sea. Now the sea has always had a
8ux and reflux, and that most violent under the equator,
where likewise the earth's motion causes a greater centri-
fugal force than any where else. Suppose then the
earth was at first quite round, yet its diurnal motion,
with the flux and reflux of the sea, would have raised by
degrees the parts near the equator, by amassing, there
shells, H'UKV and earth.. And as this, is performed daily,
the water would carry at each time a small quantity of
matter, which afterwards sinks to the bottom, and forms
those parrallel strata, which are every where found.

Thus in fact, on many .slfores the flux brings a great
number of things along with it, and leaves them there.
So that. while it insensibly covers some lands, it aban-
dons others, after adding thereto shells, earth a$d sand,
which gradually accumulating,, make a part of the con-

On a coast ugainst which the sea beats violently, it
carries a little soil away at each tide. Yea, even where
it is bordered with rocks, it wears them away by little
t tie. T hese particles the water carry lo a certain


distance, where they sink in the form of a sediment, and
form the first, stratum, which will soon be covered by
another, and so with more and more. Hence in time a
mountain v\ill be formed in the bottom of the sea, en-
tirely like what we set on the land.

Such eminences, lying in the same direction with the
waves that produced them, form by degrees a chain of
mountains. "But how come mountains, -whose top is
composed of rock, to have only earth or sand for their
base, which may often be seen in the neighbouring plains,
to a considerable distance T We answer, the water first
transported the sand that formed the first layer at the
bottom of the sea. Afterward the more firm and
weighty substances were attacked, and brought by the
waters in an impalpable powder. And this powder of
stone formed the rocks which now cover these eminences.

These causes act with more force under the equator,
as the winds are there more uniform, aud the tides more
violent : and accordingly the greatest chain of mountains
is near the equator. Those of Africa and Peru are the
highest we know, which after traversing whole conti-
nents, stretch to very considerable distances, under the
waters of the ocean. The mountains of the north are
not equal to these. Moreover the number of isles in the
northern seas is inconsiderable, while there is a vast quan-
tity under the torrid zone : and an ; island* is no more
than the top of a mountain.

It is then doubtless the general flux and reflux of the
sea, which has produced the greatest mountains. But
others we may ascribe to currents, winds, and other irre-
gular agitations of the sea, which must by their various
combinations .infinitely vary the direction of the tides.
They are the smallest of all which owe their rise to earth-
quakes, or other accidental causes.

But how shall we account for the formation of the
Iron Mountain, near Taberg, in Sweden ] It is situated
in a mountainous part of the country, covered with sand,
near forty leagues from the sea. It is an entire mass of
.rich irun ore, the perpendicular height whereof is above



four kindred feet, and its circumference throe English
miles. Opposite to it is a valley, through v/hich flows
a small river. No ore is found beyond the foot of it,
nor on the neighbouring plain, so that it appears as if
the mountain had been artificially laid on -the sand.
For it has no roots like other mountains, nor does its
.substance penetrate the ground. It has all ovtr many
perpendicwter and horizontal fissures, filled with pure
sand : in the inner parts whereof bones of stags and
other animals are found.

No hypothesis hitherto advanced to account for the
formation of mountains, will at all account for this.
The bones found therein shew it was owing to some
ruinous cause. But what that cause was, must in all
probability ever remain a secret.

No less unaccountable are some of the mountains in
Iceland, termed by the natives, Jokeler. From the
tops of these continually flow large streams, of a thick,
sooty, stinking water. These occasion lakes which in-
crease in bulk, and again diminish, and change their
appearance almost every day. Hence paths are seen iu
the saw! made by travellers that passed the day before ;
when followed,, they lead to a large pond cr lake
which obliges them to go two or three miles round, and
then they come to the very path opposite to that which
they were obliged to leave. But iu a few days, the
lake is, as it were, vanished, and the uninterrupted path
appears again.

7- A body that yields easily to the touch, and whose
parts making but little resistance against being divided,
move among themselves with great facility, is usually
termed a fluid. Liquid are a sort or' fluid which as-
sume the figure of the vessels they are contained in,
and always keep their upper surface in a plain, pa-
rallel to the horizon. Such are water, oil, mercury,
which are distinguished from their fluids, by the pa-
rallelism of their surface, in consequence of their weight,
and the intestine motion of their parts all manner of


ways* That they Lave such a motion, plainly appears
from their dissolving hard bodies. Put a piece of cop*
per into a glass of aquafortis, and there is iirst an efFer*
vescence, then the copper diminishes, and at last disap-
pears. And what strong waters are with regard to
metals, other liquids are to other substances. Each of
them is a dissolvent, more or less, according to its com-
ponent particles. Now it is plain that dissolution
supposes motion, and is the effect of it. There is
.therefore in all liquors an intestine motion from which
this effect results.

Water is a transparent liquid, capable of heat and
cold, and of being rarified into vapour. But it is not
capable of being condensed, by any method yet known*
It is of itself without smell or taste, and liable to putre-
faction. It is heavier by many degrees than air,, and in-
sinuates where .air cjumot enter. These properties do
unquestionably depend on the figure and texture of its
parts. But these, after our most curious researches, it
is not possible to know with certainty. Dr. Boerhaave
says, no one ever yet saw a drop of pure water. It is
never pure from salts. For ail water contains air, atid
all air contains salts.

The particles of water are generally allowed to be
round. This figure indeed is probably inferred from
its fluidity. Allowing then the particles of it to be
round, fluidity must be an essential property of all
quantities and assemblages of it. For take any mass
of round bodies, (bullets for instance, pebbles, or the
like) they will not cohere or rest by one another with-
out force, but will flow on every side, till they meet
%vith such resistance from external bodies, or rather in-
ternal gravitation, as shall prevent further motion.

The particles of water are unalterable, for passing in-
to so many bodies, and through such alternate extremes
of heat and cold, if they had not preserved their es*
sential properties constantly, moisture, since the begin-
ning of the world, must have very sensibly diminished.
But seeing no such deficiency appears, and that springs,
rains, and rivers, are as abundant now as they anciently


were (as by the rising of the Nile for many ages, among
other reasons may appear) we are to conclude, though
waters may be transplanted, they can neither be trans-
muted nor destroyed. And wherever removed they
will make their appearance agaki when at liberty, in the
same liquid state as they were before.

The particles of water are exceeding small : for they
may be so divided from each other, that one square inch
of common water shall, when rarified, fill a space of
14000 square inches. And it is computed that at least
33000 particles of water may be held on the point of a
needle. By this it appears, that what we call water is
an assemblage of small transparent globules, which are
composed again of an infinite number of smaller parti-
cles or atoms of this elementary liquor.

Water seems to be diffused every were, and mixed
with all bodies. Fire itself is not without it. Place
salt of tartar near the hottest fire, and it will imbibe
water, and thereby, in a short time, considerably in-
crease in weight. So a pewter vessel, with ice in it,
brought up from a cold vault into the hottest room,
in a dry summer-day, is immediately covered with little
drops of water, which is gathered from the air, and con-
densed by the coldness of the ice.

Indeed the quantity of water which is afforded by the
dryest bodies is srupris : ng. Oil of vitriol long exposed
to a violent fire., to separate it from all its water, by
only standing a few minutes in the air, will afford as
much as at first. Hartshorn kept forty years, and turned
as hard and as dry as any metal, so as to strike fire with
& m'nt, yet distilled in a glass vessel, will yield an eighth
part of its quantity in water. Bones dried five and
twenty years, and almost as hard as iron, have by dis-
tillation, yielded half their weight in water. Yea, the
hardest stones, ground and distilled, always afford a por-
tion thereof. All animals and vegetables grow out of
water and salts, and by putrefaction return to the same.

The chief properties of water are, 1. It is, next to
fire, the most penetrative of all bodies; so that a vessel
through which water cannot pass, will contain any thing.


Only some oils will pass through those wooden vessels,,
which contain water. Not that their particles are more
penetrative ; but those woods abound wilh rosin. This
the| il dissolves, and then makes its way through
the spaces left thereby. Water also by degrees makes
its way through all wood, and is only retainable by glass
and metals. It finds its way were air cannot, as through
leather, which air cannot t>enelrate. Again, air may be
retained in a bladder : but water oozes through. Yea,
experiments shew, it will pass through pores ten times
.smaller than air will. By this very quality it is fitted to
enter into the composition of all bodies, animal, vegeta-
ble, and fossil ; with this peculiar circumstance, that by
a gentle heat it is separable from them again. By this,
joined with its smoothness, it is fit to convey tiie nutritive
matter of all bodies. Passing -s'6 readily, it never stops
up the pores, but leaves room for the following supplies.
And yet 2. Water, which o easily- separates from most
bodies, firmly coheres with some : yea, binds them to-
gether in the most solid masses. So mixed with ashes,
it gives the utmost firmness. The ashes, for instance, of
an animal, wrought up with pure water into a paste, and
baked with a strong fire, grows into a coppel, which
bears the utmost heat of a refiner's furnace. It is, in
truth, by the glutinous nature of water alone, that our
houses stand. For take this out of wood, and it becomes
ashes; out of tiles, and they become dust.

Indeed all the stability and firmness in the universe,
are owing in part to water. Thus stone would be inco-
herent sand, did not water bind it together. And thus
of water and clay we make earthen vessels, of the ut-
most hardness and closeness. And these, though ap-
pearing perfectly dry, 'yield when distilled, an incredi-
ble quantity of water. The same holds or metals, par-
figs or filings, which by distillation, yield water plenti-
fully. Yea, the hardest stones, sea-salt, nitre, vitriol,
are hereby shewn to consist chiefly of water.

Hence we learn that the component particles of
water sre, 1. Infinitely small ; whence their penetrative
power, 2. Exceed ing smooth and slippery; hence their


fluidity, and easy separation from other bodies. 3. Ex-
tremely solid. 4. Perfectly transparent. 5. Hard, rigid^
duct indexible : as appears iroin the absolute impossibi-
lity of a impressing them.

Salts melted in water, da not fill the vessel in propor-
tion to their bulk. It follows, that there are spaces be-
tween the particles of water to admit those of the salt.
Hence also we gather, that the \vatvy particles are ex-
tremely solid and inflexible, since, notwithstanding those
spaces, iio power can compress, or force them nearer
each other.

8. When the particles of nitre that float in the air,
wedge the particles of water together, they become ice.
The -air lodged in the pores of the water is then greatly
expanded. Hence the water is lighter than before : but
at the same time it is less transparent : perhaps because
the passage of light is hindered by the interposal of these
nitrous particles.

It is observable, 1. That all liquids, except oil, dilate
in freezing and grow lighter, ftay, even after they are
thawed, they are considerably lighter than before :
2. That water will not freeze in vatuo : 3. That water
which lias been boiled does not readily freeze : 4. That
water covered with oil of olives does not freeze readily ;
covered with nut oil, not at all : 5. That nut oil, oil of
turpentine and spirits of wine will not freeze at all :
6. That frozen water is covered with wrinkles, something
like rays drawn from a centre to the circumference.

Though fluids are dilated near a *enth of their length,
petals are shortened by frost. If vessels made of me-
tals, however thick and strong, be filled with water,
c/ose stopped, and exposed t frost, the water will burst
f]ie vessels. A strong barrel of a gun, thus filled aud
stopped, will rend the whole length.

Dr. Plot observes, that rivers are always found to
freeze first at their bottom. The same is observed by
watermen in the Thames, v/ho not only feel it at the bot-
tom with their pates, some thys before the surface is


froze over, but see* it rise up from the bottom, so as to
dart up in pieces edgeways, half 3 foot, sometimes a
foot above the surface. In this posture it continues a
little time, and then turning fiat upon the water, swims
along the stream, till it meets with other pieces, which
if the frost continues, all harden into one, till the river is
froze over.

" In a part of the Thames, where there was very
little stream, I found the water, (says Dr. Hale) in a cold
morning, fro;:e one fifth of an inch thick, under which I
saw abed of ice at the bottom. Breaking away some of
the upper ice, I took up some of the lower ice, which
was about half an inch thick. It adhered close to the
bottom, where the stones and sand were incorporated
with it. When it freezes to a considerable thickness, it
will raise up with it, from the bottom, the fishermen's
osier wheels, although they are sunk down with stones or
bricks tied to them.

" Standing waters indeed freeze first at top, because
they are coldest there : whereas in a stream the upper
and lower waters being continually blended together, are
equally cold; and the upper water mean time having

Online LibraryJohn WesleyA survey of the wisdom of God in the creation; or, A compendium of natural philosophy .. (Volume 3) → online text (page 2 of 24)