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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The rocks of the great fall cross the river in almost a se-
micircle. Above the fall, in the middle of the river,
and parallel with the sides of it, is an island above four
hundred yards long. The lower end of this islaml is
just at the perpendicular edge of the fall. On both
sides of this island runs all the water that comes from
the lakes of Canada, which indeed are rather seas than
lakes, receiving many large rivers. When the water ap-
proaches the island, it runs with an amazing swiftness,
and before it comes to the fall, is quite white, and in
many places is thrown high kito the air. Looking up
the river from the fall, you see it is exceeding steep, re-
sembling the side of a hill. When this vast body of
water comes to the fall, it throws itself down perpendi-
cular. To see this rush headlong down so prodigious a
precipice, strikes the beholder in a manner not to be ex-

f It falls one hunrded nnd thirty-seven feet. When the

water is come down to the bottom, it leaps back to a

great height in the air : at a little distance it is white as

C 4

snow, and boils like a cauldron. The noise of it in fair
weather is heard fifteer: leagues; yea, many times at Nia-
gara. From the place where the water falls, abundance
of vapour rises, resembling a very thick smoke., When
if is calm this rises high in the air. If you go into this
vapour in a few minutes yon will be as wet as if you had
Leon ituder water. In a calm morning, you may see it
rising in the air, at the distance of many leagues. And
a person unused to it, would be apt to think, that all the
forests thereabouts were on fire.

But of all parts of the world, America supplies the
largest rivers. The foremost of these is the great river
of Amazons, which, from its source in the lake of Lau-
ricocha, to its discharge into the Western Ocean, per-
forms a course of more than twelve hundred leagues,
'/he breadth and depth of this river are answerable to
its vast length ; and where its width is more contracted,
its depth is augmented in proportion. Next to this it
that of St. Lawrence, in Canada, which, after a course
of nine hundred leagues, pours its collected waters inlo
the Atlantic Ocean. The river Missisippi is more than
seven hundred leagues in length. The river Plata is
mere than eight hundred. The river Oroonoko is seven
hundred and fifty-five leagues in length, from its source
to its discharge into the Atlantic Ocean.

The glory of other rivers increases in proportion to
the length of their course. With the Rhine it is quite
the reverse. For some hundred miles it pours on with a
vast force. But at Fort .Scheneken it divides, and one
half of its waters takes the name of Wahail. The Yssel
robs it of another part, a little above Arnheim. About
twenty miles lower, at the town of Duerstadt, it separ
rates again. Here its principal branch takes a new
name, and is called the Leek. The poor, little, stripped
rivulet turns to the right, retaining still the old name of
Rhine, and passes on to Utrecht, where it is divided a
fourth time. There the Vetcht breaks oif, and the little
id of water, still called the Rhine, passes quietly to


Worden. At length it comes to Leyden, and faintly fi-
nishes its course, by losing the small remainder of its
waters in two or three canals.

The ca ;se of the Rhine's fate is well known. It was
an earthquake which shook the Downs, in the ninth cen-
tury, and filling the month of this river, forced it to re-
turn, and seek a new passage. The Leek was then
scarce worth notice ; but the waters of the Rhine, which
were driven back, swelled and deepened its channel:
and the entrance of the sea has been ever since shut
against the ancient course of tliQ Rhine. It is supposed,
that Zealand was then divided into the several islands
we see now : and that those lands, woods, and mea-
dows, which were between Amsterdam and the Texel,
were overflowed and covered with the waters still re-
maining, and known by the name of the Zuyder sea.

The lake Baiucal, in Siberia, is the greatest fresh wa-
ter la?;e yet discovered. It extends in length above five
hundred leagues, and is from twenty-five to eighty
leagues in breadth. It is every where deep and navi-
gable. The water is extremely clear, and abounds with
fine fish. It receives abundance of rivers, but none runs
out of it, besides one, the Angara.

Salt lakes are common in many parts of Siberia.
Some contain a pure white salt, tit for use, which in
summer is crystalized by the heat of the sun, and forms
a crust oa tiie top of the lake. Springs of salt water
sometimes rise in the midst of fresfi water. One of
these rises through a rock, in the bed of the river An-
gara. Thirty leagues above this, there is a hill thirty
fathom high and two hundred and ten long, consisting
entirely of rock salt. There are some lakes, which
were fresh some years since, but are now salt : some
have by degrees dried up ; others appear, where for-
merly it was dry ground. And some of these, which
at first had no fish, are now plentifully flocked there-
with. The natives say, ducks and other birds that
live upon fish, carry their eggs from one lake to another*
c 5


Three leagues east of Damascus is a lake ten or
twelve leagues long, and five or six broad. This conti-
nually receives the waters 'of many rivers; yet never
overflows its banks. -Above thirty leagues from it, there
is a river, which is called the Dog-River. From under
a large vaulted rock, through an opening twelve or fif-
teen feet high, and twenty or twenty-five broad, issues
continually a vast body of water, which gives rise to this
river. And it is the common opinion, that this body of
water com s from the lake, through a subterraneous
channel: winch is the 'more probable, because the
vva.ter of the lake and the river have the same qualities,
and contain the very same sorts offish, being cold, hard,
and remarkably unwholesome.

Far different from this, is the water which rises out of
the ground, throughout the vast sandy desarts ef the
Mongal Tartars. Wherever vou dig there rises fresh
water. Were it not for this they must have been alto-
gether uninhabited, either by man or beast. It seems
these springs are produced by the rains and melted snow
in the spring. For the water sinking in the sand is there-
by prevented from exhaling by the heat of the sum-
mer sun, which must be very scorching in these de-
sarts, wherein there is not the least shade to be found.

Besides the rivers which run upon the surface of the
earth, there are many which hide themselves in ils bow-
eJs, and run in subterraneous ducts, till they discharge
themselves into the sea. A remarkable one of this kind
has been discovered on the coast of Languedoc. There
are also several of this sort on the coast of Croatia,
over-against Venice.

Thus does the all- wise Creator shower down his trea-
sures on the summits of the mountains, which after-
wards diffuse their refreshing streams over the plains be-
low, give life and verdure to the trees and herbs, and
beautify and enrich the whole earth. At the same time
we see the communication between those parts of na-
ture, that before seemed to hate no relation to each


of harmony, which sufficiently proves it to be the work
of one wise and gracious Author.

How delightful an object is a large and majestic ri-
ver ! How graceful an appearance docs it make in the
work* of nature ! Consider its progress. At first it is
but a vein of water, streaming from some hill, and even
the scattered pebbles interrupt its course, tiil it unites
with other kindred streams, and then rushes on the plain
below. By its fall it hallows the ground, easting it
up on each side: then it pursues iis course, eating a pas-
sage through every thing that opposes it. When it has
received the supplies of many rivulets, it is dignified
with a name. Thus enlarged, it makes the tour of hills
and mountains, and at once adorns and enriches the plains.

At the deluge likewise the main islands of the globe
were formed. But it is certain others have been formed
in later ages : partly by the casting up of vast heaps of
clay, mud, and sand, (as that of Isongining in the Chi-
nese province of Nanquiu) partly by the violence of the
sea, tearing off large provinces from the continent. So
the ancients imagined Sicily to have been formed, and
even Great Britain and Ireland* It is certain also, that
others have emerged out of the sea, as Santoriui, formerly,
aiad three other islands, near it, lately. The last of these
rose in 1/07, from the bottom of the sea, just after a vio-
lent earthquake. Indeed earthquakes, storms, and inun-
dations, have given rise to many islands ; particularly in
the East-Indies, where they are very frequent, and
which abounds in islands above any part of the world.

12 The entire bason of the sea, is of such immense
extent, and covered in many places with such an unfa-
thomable depth of water, that it cannot be traced in
every part : but from some we may form a probable
judgment of the rest. The materials which compose
the bottom of the sea, must in. a degree influence the
taste of its waters. Its saltness it undoubtedly derives
from mountains of salt which are found there ; as bitter-
c 6


etfier. Indeed all nature is linked together by one law
ness from fossil, coal, and other bituminous substances,
which are there in plenty. There may likewise be many
other substances, which the plummet does not discover.
For the true bottom of the sea is often concealed by
another accidental bottom, formed of various substances,
mingled together, and covering it to a considerable depth.

The entire gulph of Lyons forms a bank above the
surface of the water at the shore, of the exact figure
of an arch. And within this there is formed another
such arch, making the bottom of the sea, for a great way
from shore, of different depths in various places, but ge-
nerally between sixty and seventy fathoms. In general
the bed of tjie main sea sinks, about as high as the
mountains rise on the land. Near the land, in propor-
tion to the height and steepness of the shores, the sea
is deep below. And, on the contrary, level shores denote
shallow seas.

By the strata on the shores we may commonly judge
of the bottom of the adjacent seas. For the veins of
salt and bitumen doubtless run on in the same order as
we see them at land. And the strata of stone that
serve to support the hills and elevated places on shore,
serve also in the same continued chain, to support th.e
waters of the sea. Probably the veins of metals and Mi-
neral* likewise, which are found in the neighbouring
earth, are in the same manner to be found in the bottom
of the sea.

But the natural surface of the bottom of the sea, is
greatly changed by subterranean currents. As we see
thfse break out in rivers, on the surface of the earth, so
we may be assured they break out at the bottom of the
sea, and empty their fresh waters into the salt mass. In
this case the canthuial rushing up of the water, makes a
roundish cavity. And its running on, continues that ca-
vity till by degrees it is lost. Thus every river that arises
injhe bottom of the sea, when the water near the shore is
clear, shews the traces of these currents, even to the naked
i ye, and the water taken up from them is more or less fresfcu


Again. The coral fisheries give us occasion to ob-
serve, that there are many large caverns in the bottom
of the sea, especially where k is rocky, as also in the sides
of perpendicular rocks. These are often of great depth
as well as extent, some with wide, others with narrow en-
trances. Nor is it any wonder, that as we daily find
vast caverns on the land in rocky mountains, so we
should find them in rocks under the sea. Nay, we may
expect them in'these the rather, as the rocks at land arc in
a state of rest, while those at sea are continually washed
by the water, which insinuates every where, and by
its continual agitation, enlarges every cavity it finds.

Upon the whole it seems plain, that the bason of the
sea was after the flood composed of the same substances
as the surface of the rest of the earth, namely, stone,
clay, sand, and the like. It is true, the plummet in
.sounding usually brings up a matter composed of mud,
dead weeds, broken shells, and various bodies cemented
together, by a sparry or tartareous substance. But these
are only an artificial bottom, covering the natural one,
silch indeed as one might expect where numerous ani-
mals and vegetables are produced and decay, and where
Hie quiet waters have time to deposit their stony matter,
as our petrifying springs do.

There are places however where this adventitious crust
,\.s not found, but the natural bottom appears of the
same nature with the strata in the body of the earth.
But the fine and pure sand we sometimes find, seems not
to be the original bottom," but to have been rather
brought into the sea by the course of some subterrane-
ous river, and to be lodged in one of those particular
basons, which these rivers form to themselves,

In deep water, where the surface only is disturbed by
storms, and the lower part remains more quiet for ages,
the bottom is covered with a great variety of things :
sometimes with pure sand, sometimes a sort of sand,
made of shells beat to power, sometimes with powdered
corals, sometimes fragments of rocks. But besides these,
*bkh might well be expected, the plummet sometimes


brings up substances, which are of the most beautiful
colours : of as fine a scarlet, purple, or blue, as the
finest paint could make them. Those of a bright yel-
low are very common ; but the green or snow-white
more rare. These coloured substances seem sometimes
to make up the whole bottom. But they are more fre-
quently found on other things, as upon mud, corals, or
larger pieces of shells, in the manner of tartarons crusts.
And their colours are not merely superficial or transient ;
but many of them are so permanent, that they may be
preserved in white w;ax, and when thus examined, they
appear equal to paints of the finest kind.

There is very little difference between the bottom of
the Adriatic sea, and the surface of the neighbouring
countries. There are at the bottom of the water, moun-
tains, plains, vallies, arid caverns, just as upon the land.
The soil consists of different strata planted one upon
another; and for the most part corresponds to those of
the rock, islands, and neighbouring continents. They
contain stones of different sorts, minerals, metals, vari-
ous petrified bodies, pumice-stones, and lavas formed by
volcanoes. Istria, Dalmatia, Albania, and other adja*
cent countries, as well as the rocks, the islands, and the
bottom of the Adriatic sea, consist of a mass of white mar-
ble, of an uniform grain, and of almost an equal hardness.
This vast bed of marble, in many places, under both the
earth and the sea,, is interrupted by several other kinds
of marble, and covered by a great variety of bodies.
The variety of these soils under the sea is remarkable :
it is to this are owing the varieties of plants and animals
found at the bottom of the sea. Some places are inha-
bited by a great number of different species of plants
and animals, in others only some particular species are
found, and in others neither plants nor animals. These
observations not only point out to us the resemblance
between the surface of the earth, and the bottom of the
sea* but likewise one cause of the varieties which are
observed in the distribution of the marine fossils found
in the earth.


In that vast moss of marble, which is common to the
bottom of the Adriatic, and the neighbouring provinces
toward the east, are a multitude of marine bodies petri-
fied ; some of which are so united to the stony sub-
stance, that they are scarce to be distinguished. Like-
wise a crust is discovered under the \vaters in divers
places, and for a great extent, which is a composition of
crustaceous and testaceous bodies, and beds of polypi
of different kinds, confusedly blended with earth, sand,
and gravel.

These different bodies, which enter into the composi-
tion of this crust, are at the depth of a foot or more en-
tirely petrified and reduced into marble. At less than
the depth of a foot they approach nearer to their na-
tural state. And at the surface of this crust, they are
either dead, though extremely well preserved, or still

This demonstrates that stones may be formed- from
things petrified, and actually are formed, in great quan-
tities, under the water. Crustaceous and testaceous bo-
dies, and polypi, are every where mingled in the utmost
confusion, which shews a striking resemblance between
the crust discovered under the sea, and the marine bo-
dies petrified in many parts under the earth.

The more these crustaceous and testaceous bodies
and beds of polypi multiply, the more their exuvia, and
skeletons, contribute to enlarge this crust. In several
parts it forms very considerable banks, and of a very
great thickness.

It follows that the bottom of the sea is rising con-
stantly higher and higher. Divers other causes contri-
bute to this ; snow and rain, and waters that bring down
from the mountains, into the sea, a great quantity of
earth and stones. The waves beating against the conti-
nent and islands, detach many masses which are spread
upon the bottom of the s?a. The rivers carry the mud
with their waters into the sea, at the bottom of which
that mud deposits itself,

From the rising of the bottom of the sea, that of the
level of the water naturally follows. So at Venice, in
Istria, and in Dalmatia, the level of the waters is several


feet higher than it was formerly. This elevation is ob
served only on the northern and eastern coasts of the
Adriatic. The sea seems on the contrary, to abandon
the western coast, that of Italy.

The eye can reach but a short way into the depth of
any sea, and that only when the surface is glassy and se-
rene. In many seas it perceives nothing but a bright
sandy plain at bottom, extending for several hundred
miles. But in others, particularly the Red sea, it is very
different : the whole bottom of this -extensive bed of
water, is a forest of submarine plants and corals, formed
by insects for their habitation : sometimes branching
out to a great extent ; so that some have even supposed
the sea to have taken its name from the colour of its
plants below. However, these are not peculiar to this
sea, as they are found in great quantities in the Persian
gulf, along the coasts of Africa, and those of Provence,
and Catalonia.

The bottom of many parts of the sea near America
presents a very different appearance. This is covered
with vegetables, which makes it look as green as a mea-
dow; and beneath are seen thousands of turtles, and
other sea animals, feeding therein.

Ocean-shells are frequently found very near the sur-
face of the earth, which proves that such places former-
ly have been the sea-shore. Hence it is clear, that the
cause which transported them thither acted suddenly,
which perfectly agrees with the account of the deluge
given by Moses.

Nay, at Touraine, in France, more than a hundred
miles from the sea, there is a plain of about nine
leagues long, and as many broad, from whence the pea-
sants of the country supply themselves with marie. If
they dig deeper than twenty feet, the whole plain is com-
posed of the same materials, which are shells of various
kinds, without the smallest portion of earth between
'them. These shells are in their natural state: but they
are found also petrified, and almost in equal abundance,
in all the Alpine rocks, in the Pyrenees, in the hills of
France, England, and Flanders. Yea in all quarters
iroai whence iirarle is dug, if the rock be split perpen-

'lieularly down, petrified shells, and other marine sub-
stances, will be plainly discerned. In several parts of
Asia and Africa, travellers have observed th< j se shells in
great abundance. In the mountains of Castraven, they
quarry out a white stone, every part of which contains
petrified fishes, in great numbers, and of surprising diver-
sity, in such preservation, that their fins, scales, and all the
minutest distentions of their make, can be perfectly dis-
cerned. From all these instances we may conclude that
these fossils are very numerous. And the variety of
their kinds is astonishing. Most of the sea-shells which
are known, and many others to which we are entirely
strangers, are to be seen either 'in their natural state, or
in various degrees of petrifaction. But in the place of
some we have mere spar, or stone exactly expressing all
the lineaments of animals : for the shells dissolving by-
slow degrees, and the matter having exactly filled all the
cavities within, this matter retains the same ibnn which
the shells were of.

The greatest depths of the sea ever yet sounded,
have been found to be about 3000 fathoms. The or-
dinary depths are about 150. Though these shells ave
to be found in almost all the plainer parts of the sur-
face of the earth, yet there are certain very large tracts
were such bodies are never found, viz. the mountains,
which seem to be the remains of the original strata of
the earth. It is true that there are many eminences,
which have been taken for mountains, where sea-shells
of every kind are found : but these are hillocs, com-
pared with the large mountains, which may -be traced in
immense chains, without almost any discontinuity, from
one continent to another ; and from continents to neigh-
bouring and opposite islands; insomuch that all these
chains, not only of the old, but likewise of the new-
world, seem connected one with another. In the Alps,
Apennine, and Pyreueans, no shells-, nor marine bodies
of any kind are to be found : neither in the large Gram-
pion mountains in Scotland.

The same is observed of all the large mountains of
Africa, and of Asia, and in the huge chain of Cordil-
leras in .Peru. This kind of mountains (which indeed


ftlone deserve that name) are chiefly composed of vitri-
fiable matter ; and if they are sometimes found to eon-
tain sea-shells, it is never to great depths, though such
bodies are found in the adjacent vallies.

Potters earth is found plentifully in most low grounds
and vailies, between mountainous tracts. By exposing
common flint stones to the confined vapour of boiling
water, a clay of the very same kind may be formed, and
is no more than a de-composition of flints. Hence it
appears that wherever this clay is to be found, there the
earth has undergone some violence by fire ; and that
this has been effected by earthquakes, soon after the
deluge, seems extremely probable. The deluge has
given origin to many fossil substances, and combinations,
which otherwise would not have happened. Chalk is.
no more than the ruins of sea-shells, and lime-stones
consist of the same bodies cemented together by a stony

13. At fixed times the water of the sea runs for near
six hours from south to north, which is callecl the flood,
at which time it rises gradually on our shores, and in the
channels of the rivers. Then after standing at the same
height for a quarter of an hour, it returns for near six
hours from north to south, which we term the ebb ; and
after a quarter of an hour the water rises again. The
change thereof is twice in twenty-four hours, but begins
near fifty minutes later daily, And this is observed on
all the shores of Europe, that are washed by the ocean :
whereas the Baltic and Mediterranean sea, as well as the
Caspian, have no tides. The nearer we approach the
pole, the more impetuous the tides are. The cause of
them was wholly concealed from the ancients ; but it is
HOW well known to every one. They depend entirely
on the motion of the moon, with which they exactly
correspond : the flood beginning to rise just at the time
when the moon is in the meridian.

There is something remarkable in the manner wherein
the tides rise, in several of our rivers. , In the river Se-

veru, in particular, near Newnham, and l60 miles from
Lundy, the head of the flood at spring-tides rises in
height like a wall, near nine feet high. Thu$ it pours on
for many miles, usually oversetting any vessels that lie in
its way. This head tide they call the Boar; it flows
here only two, and ebbs ten hours.

But how shall we account for the ebbing and flowing
of Lay-well, near Tor bay 1 This ebbs and flows many
times in an hour. It usually performs its flux and re-
flux in a minutes' time. But it stands two or three mi-

Online LibraryJohn WesleyA survey of the wisdom of God in the creation; or, A compendium of natural philosophy .. (Volume 3) → online text (page 4 of 24)