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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offer one rema X i general. The herbs and trees ou
the dry land are fed In the juices that permeate the soil,
and fluctuate in tht: air. i ? or this purpose they are fur-
; iiished v is t< collect tiie one, and with roots -to

attract t; Whereas the sea-plants, having suf-

iicicnt uourislmient in the circumarnbiant waters, have
D 4


no med to detach roots into the ground, or forage . the
earth lor sustenance Instead therefore of pehetrating,
they are but just lacked to the bottom, and adhere to
some solid substance only with such a degree of tena-
city, as may secure them from being tost to and fro by
the agitation of the waves.

"We see from this and numberless other instances,
\vhatdiver&ity there is in the operations of the great Cre-
ator. Yet every alter ition is an improvement, and each
new pattern has a peculiar fitness of its own.

" Considered in another view, the sea is that grand re-
servoir, which supplies the earth with its fertility ; and the
air and sun are the mighty engines which work, without
intermission, to raise the water from this inexhaustible
cistern. The clouds as acqueducts convey the genial
stores along the atmosphere, and distribute ihem in sea-
sonable and regular proportions, through all the regions
of the globe.

" How hardly do we extract a drop, /of perfectly sweet
waier from the vast pit of~b'rine? Yet the sun draws off
every moment millions of tons |n>aporcus exhalations,
which being securely lodged in the bottles of Heaven,
are sent abroad sweetened and refined, without the least
brackish tii (Hire, or bituminous sediment : sent abroad
upon the wn.-gs of the wind, to distill in dews and rain,
to coze in foui<tains, to trickle along in rivulets, to roll
from the sides of mountains, to flow in copious streams
amidst burning deserts, and through populous kingdoms,
in order to refresh and fertilize, to beautify and enrich
every soil in every clime.

" How amiable is the goodness, how amazing the pow-
er o the world's adorable Maker I How amiable his
goodness, in distributing so largely what is so extensive-
ly beneficial ! That water, without which we can scarce
perform any business, or enjoy any comfort, should
stream by our houses, start up from the ground, drop
down from the clouds. Should come from the ends of
the earth, to serve us, from the extremities of the ocean !
How amazing his power! That this boundless .mass of
fluid salt, so intolerably nauseous to the taste, should be


the original spring, which quenches the thirst both of
man and every animal ! Doubtless the power by which
this is effected, can make all things work together for
our good.

" Vast and various are the advantages which we receive
from this liquid element. The waters glide on in spa-
cious currents, which not only cheer the adjacent coun-
try, but by giving a brisk motion to the air, prevent the
stagnation of the vapours. They/ pass by large cities,
and quietly rid them of a thousand nuisances. But they
are also fit for more honourable services. They enter
the gardens of a prince, float in the canal, ascend in the
Jet d'Eau, or fall in the grand cascade. In another kind
they ply at our mills, toil incessantly at the wheel, and
by working the largest engines, take upon them an un->
known share of our fatigue, and save us both labour,
time, and expence.

" So forcibly do they act when collected. And how do
they insinuate when detached ? They penetrate the mi-
nutest tubes of a plant, and find a passage through all
its meanders. With how much difficulty does the la-
bourer push his way up the rounds of a ladder ! While
these carry their load to a much greater height, and climb
with the utmost ease. They convey nourishment from
the lowest fibres that are plunged in the earth, to the
topmost twigs that wave amidst the clouds. Thus they
furnish the whole vegetable world with necessary pro-
vision, by means of which the trees of the Lord are full
of sap, even the cedars of Lebanon, which he hath planted,
And notwithstanding their vast elevation and prodigious
dffu.-ion, not a single branch is destitute of leaves, nor a
single leaf of moisture.

" Besides the salutary and useful circulation, of the ri-
vers, the sea has a motion no less advantageous* Daily,
for five or six hours, it flows towards the land, and for
the same time, retires to its inmost caverns* How great
is the power that protrudes to the shores such an incon-
ceivable weight of waters, without any concurrence from
the winds, often in direct opposition to them! Which
bids the mighty elcmeut revolve with the most e.xuet
D 5


p*mc(imlily ! Did it advance with a lawless, and u nil- 1
jnited swell, it might deluge whole continents. Was it
irregular and uncertain in its approaches, navigation
would be at a stand. But being constant in its stated
:rl, and never exceeding its appointed bounds, it
doe iice to the country, and serves ail ire ends

of traffic.

" Is tl -inned from ills voyage ? The flux is

ready to is vessel to the very doors of tiie owner,

without any hazard of striking on the rocks, or of be'ng
-ned in the saiids. Has the merchant freighted his
ship ? The reflux bears it away with the utmost expe-
dition and safety. Behold, O man, how highly thou
art favoured by thy Maker ! Pie hath put all things in
subjection under thy feet. All sheep and oxen, all the
leasts of the field : the fowls of the air, and the Jishes
of the sea. Yea, the surges of the sea are subservient
to thee. liven these, wild and impetuous as they are,
are ready to receive thy load, and like an indefatigable
beast of burden, carry it to the place \vhicji thou

" What preserves this vast flood in perpetual purity 1
It receives the refuse and filth of the whole world.
Whatever would defile the land and pollute the air, is
transmitted to the ocean. v ' How then is this receptacle
of every nuisance kept clean, kept from contracting a
noisome and pestilential taint? It is partly by its in-
cessant motion, and partly by its saltness. By the one it
is secured from any internal principle of corruption ; by
the other it works itself clear of any adventitious defile-

" Consider the sea in another capacity, and it connects
the remotest realrhs of the universe, by facilitating the
intercourse between their respective inhabitants. The
ancients indeed looked on the ocean as an impassable
gulph. But we find it just the reverse; not a' bar of
separation, but the great bond of union. For this pur-
pose it is never exhausted, though it supplies the whole
earth with rain ; nor overflows, though all the rivers in
the universe are perpetually augmenting its stores, By


means of this we travel farther than birds of the
stron est pinions fly. We cross the framing, visit
the frozen pole, and wing our way even round the globe.

" What a multitude of ships are continually passing
aad repassing this universal thov . hole har-

vesis of coru, and vintages of wzne, lodged in volatile
store-houses, are watted by the breath of Heaven, to
the very ends of the earth: wafted, enormous and im-
weildy as they are, almost as speedily as the roe hounds
over the hills.

\stonishing, that an element so unstable, should
So immense a weight ! That the thin air should drive
on with such speed those vast bodies, wmch the strength
of a legion could scarce move ! That the air ami water
should carry to the distance of many thousand mik^
what the united force of men and machines could
scarce drag a single yard ! Great and marvellous arc thy
works, O Lord God Almighty '

"How -are the manners conducted through this fluid
common, than which nothing is more wi-ie or more
wild ? Here is no tract, no posts of direction, nor any
hut where the traveller may ask his way. Are they
guided by a pillar of tire] No, hu( by a mean, and
otherwise worthless fossil. Till this surprising- stone
was discovered, ships crept limorou sly along: the coasts.
But this guides them, when nothing but skies are seen
above, and nothing but seas below. This gives intciii?
gcnce that shines clear in the thickest darkness, and re-
mains steady in the most tempestuous agitations. This
emboldens us to launch into the heart of the ocean, aud
to range from pole to pole.

** By this means are imported to our islands the choice
productions of every nation under heaven. Every tide
conveys into our ports the treasures of the remotest
climes. And almost every private house in the king-
dom is accommodated from the four quarters of the
.globe. At the same time that t)ie sea adorns the abodes
of the rich, it employs the hands of the poor. What a
multitude of people acquire a livelihood, by preparing
commodities for exportation! Aud, .what a multitude


by manufacturing the wares imported from abroad !
Thus though it is a false supposition, that the waters
themselves are strained through subterranean passages
into the inland countries, yet it is true, that their effects
are tiansfused into every town, every hamlet and every

I beg leave to insert here what could not properly
come in under any of the preceding articles.

It is a curious remark, which Dr. Cheyne makes con-
cerning fluids in general. " I take notice, first of the
fewness of the original fluids in respect of the vast
number of compound ones. The primary ones hitherto
known are only four, air, water, mercury, and light,
three of which are seldom much compounded with
others; so that it is water alone, that is the basis of all
our mixtures. It is the parts of solid bodies floating in
this fluid, that produce all our delightful and useful
varieties of liquors: so frugal is nature in principles,
and so fruitful in effects and compositions. Take
notice, 2dly, Of the greut difference between the
.specific gravities of our fluids, mercury being eight
thousand times heavier than air. Now, not to mention
the many uses of this last fluid in artificer's works, had
air been as heavy as mercury it had been altogether
useless in respiration: it had choaked us immediately.
And had there not been a fluid of the same weight
with mercury, i. e. a collection of exceeding small,
heavy spherules, in the present circumstances of man-,
kind, I do not know what a great part of the world
would have dor.e. For the wickedness of mankind, has
brought many diseases to that decree of malignity,
that a thorough cure could scarce be made of them
without this fluid. But by the gravity of I his, a remedy
is provided for all these maladies, which are more than
two or three. But that which is most wonderful ia
these fluids is, 3dly, That uni^evsal property, the di-
rection of thtir pressure upon the sides of the contain-
ing vessel. In all fluids, cf v hat-cever kind or nature,
this pressure is communicated iti lines perpendicular to


the sides of the containing vessel. And indeed this
property of fluids, which is so uniform, is the necessary
consequence of the sphericity of their constituent

Now, could any thing but the almighty power of
God, have rounded those infinite numbers of small
particles ? Or could any thing but his wisdom have
assigned them their true dimensions, their exact weights,
and required solidities? We shall allow him to con-
tinue in his infidelity, who ran demonstrate by what laws
of mechanism, all the particles of water were turned of
the same diameter, solidity, and weight; and those of
air, mercury, and light, turned of all different diameters,
solidities, and weights from one another; but all of the
same diameters, solidities, and wejghtS among themselves.
And what a beautiful idea of this fluid do Sir Isaac New-
ton's later discoveries present us with ! Every ray is en-
dowed with its own colour, and its different degree of
refrangibility and reflexibility. One ray is violet, another
indigo, a third blue, a fourth green, a fifth yellow, a
sixth orange, and the last red. And these are the pri-
mary and original colours, from the mixture whereof
all the intermediate ones proceed ; and white from an
equal mixture of the whole; black on the contrary,
'from the small quantity of any of them being reflected ;
" or all of them in a great measure suffocated. So that
it is not properly bodies that are coloured, but the light
that falls upon them ; and their colours arise from their
aptitude, to reflect rays of one colour, and transmit all
those of another. The prominent little parts, upon
their surface, according to their different degree of den-
sity and thinness, are apt to reflect back upon our organ,
rays of one colour, and of one degree of refrangibility
and refiexibility, and to let others pass through their
pores. And this one colour too is less or more intense,
according as their prominent parts are of different den-
sities. I ? or the first degrees of mtenseness, in all the
primary colours, seem to arise from the degrees of den-
sity and thinness; aud the subsequent degrees, from the


oilier different degrees of thickness, -or thinness of the
prominent little parts of the surfaces of bodies. Light
acts upon bodies by heating, dissolving, and putting
their parts into a vibrating motion. Bodies act upon
light, in drawing its parts to them, and that m lines
perpendicular to their surfaces. And as there may be
different degree* of attraction in bodies, which produce
their different degrees of elasticity and cohesion, so
there must be' different degrees of attractions in mediums
supposed, to account for their different powers, in
bringing the refracted rays nearer to, or farther from
the perpendicular. For it is well known all mediums
have not the same refractive virtue. Now what a
beautiful, uniform, and simple theory of light is here I
This is so very like the frugal simplicity, and yet the
manifold variety of nature, that one would be almost
tempted to believe it true, were there no experiment to-
confirm it. We may observe one more instance of the
wonderful wisdom of nature, in the propagation of
light,' viz. That a ray of light in passing from a luminous
point, through two differently refracting mediums, to
illuminate a given point, spends the least time (the re-
fracting powers of the several mediums considered)
possible; and consequently when a ray passes through
one medium, from a luminous point to reflect upon a
given point, it takes the shortest way possible. This
the geometers have demonstrated. Now is not this an
instance of counsel and design? Is not this like the
methods of wisdom, which will not spend more time on
a thing than just what is necessary to do the business;
which will not go about, but take the shortest course
possible that 'will bring it to the place designed T

The islands of Sciily have been so noted among the
ancients, one might expect to rind among the inhabitants
somt consciousness of their own antiquity, "and of their
appearance in history before the other parts of Britain
were at all known. But there is nothing of this kind ;
the inhabitants are all newcomers, not an old habitation
worth notice, jaor any remains of Phoenician; Grecian^


or Roman arts, either hi town, castle, port, temple, or

Vve are not to think however but Scilly was inhabited,
and was frequently resorted to anciei.tlv, as the old
historians relate. All the islands (several of which are
Upw without inhabitants) by the remains of walls,
foundations of 'many contiguous houses, ai.d a great
number of sepulchral burrows, shew that they have;
been fully cultivated and inhabited.

That they were inhabited by Britons, is past all
doubt, not only from their neighbourhood to England,
but from the Druid monuments. Several rude stone
pillars, circles of stone erect, rock-bason s, ail monu-
ments common in Cornwall and Wales, are equal evi-
dences of the antiquity, religion, and original of the old

How came these ancient inhabitants then (it may be
asked) to vanish, so as that the present have no pre-
tensions of any affinity of any kind with them, either in
blood, language, or customs I How came they to dis-
appear, and leave so few traces of plenty, or ails, and
no- posterity behind them '] From two causes, the
manifest encroachments of the sea, and as manifest a
subsidence of some parts of the land.

The sea is the insatiable monster which devours
islands, gorges itself with the earth, sand, clay, and all
the yielding parts, and leaves nothing where it can
reach, but the skeleton, the bared rock. The continual
advances which the sea makes upon the low lands, are
plain to all people of observation. What we see hap-
pening every day may assure us of what has happened
in former times; and from the 'banks of sand -and earth
giving way to the sea, and the breaches becoming still
more open, and irrecoverable : it appears that repeated
tempests have occasioned a gradual dissolution of the
solids for many ages.

Again, the flats which stretch from one island to the
other, are plain evidences of a former union between
many now distinct islands. The flats between some of
them are quite dry -at a spring-tide, .and men easily pass


dry shod from one island to the other, over sand-banks
where, upon the shifting the sands, walls and ruins are
discovered frequently, upon which at full sea there are
ten and twelve feet of water. All strong arguments
that these islands were once one continued tract of land,
though now as to their low lands over-run with the sea
and sand. History confirms their former union " The
isles Cassiterides (says Strabo) are ten in number, close
to one another ; one of them is desert and unpeopled,
the rest are inhabited." But see how the sea has mul-
tiplied these islands ! There are now reckoned one
hundred and forty. Into so many fragments are they
divided, and yet there are left six inhabited. But no
circumstance can shew the great alterations which have
happened in the number and extent of these islands,,
more than this, viz. that the isle of Scilly, from which
the little cluster takes its name, is no more at present
than a high rock, of about a furlong over, whose cliffs
hardly any thing but birds can mount, and whose
barrenness could never suffer any thing but sea-birds
to inhabit it. How then came all these islands to have
their general name from such a small and useless plot 1
Doubtless Scilly, which is now a bare rock, and se-
parate from the lands of Guel and Brehar, by a narrow
frith, was formerly joined to them by low necks of land,
being the rocky promontory of one large island now
broke into seven. This promontory (at present called
Scilly-island) lying westermost of all the islands dis-
cerned by the traders from the Mediterranean and
Spanish coasts, and, as soon as discovered, was said to
be Scilly, nothing being more usual with sailors, upon
their first seeing land, than to call the part by the name
of the whole. But when this considerable island called
Scilly was broken to pieces, the greatest portions be-
came inhabited, and had first British names, as Brehar,
Trescaw, Enmor ; but afterwards were called according
to the religion of the times, after the names of par-
ticular saints. The chief division was intitied St. Mary's,
the others dedicated to St. Nicholas, St. Martin, St.
Theot), and so 013; but this remarkable promontory


being m no wise fit for habitation or devotion, was
dedicated to no saint, but left 'to enjoy its ancient name ;
and notwithstanding the modern Christian dedications,
sailors went on in their old, way. This high land is still
called Seilly, and the islands in general are still denomi-
nated Scilly-isles.

It must have been a dispiriting circumstance to the
old inhabitants, to see the ocean so continually eating
away their low-lands, in which they had their treasures
of tin, their houses and, ports : but this gradual dew
was not the only misfortune which attended them.-
From the island of Sampson one may see the foutida*
tions of stone-fences running on in a strait line cross the
Firth, towards Trescaw-isle, till they are 'hid in the
sand ; which sand, when it is full tide, has from ten to
twelve feet water on it. Now we cannot suppose that
the foundation of these fences was laid as low as high
water mark (for who could build fences upon so dan-
gerous a level ?) At a medium we may suppose them
to have been laid six feet above the full tide.

Here then we have the foundations, which were six
fret above the high-water mark, now ten feet under,
which together make a difference as to the level of six-
teen feet.

Here then was a great subsidence, which must have
been followed by a sudden inundation, and this inun-
dation is likely not only to have destroyed a great part of
the inhabitants, but to have terrified others who survived
into a total desertion of their shattered islands. By
this means that considerable people, who were the
Aborigines, and carried on the tin-trade with the Phoe-
nicians, Greeks, and Romans, were reduced to the last
gasp. The few poor remains of this desolation, by
their necessary attention to food and raiment, must
soon have lost sight of their ancient prosperity, and the
faint remembrance that was left of what the islands had
been before, expired of itself in an age or two, through
the indigence of the inhabitants.

That such an inundation has happened here, is still
more plain, because these islands are no longer what

they were anciently, fertile in tin ; nor are there any re-
mains of so many ancient workings as could maintain a
trade so greedily coveted by the ancients. But what is
vae of those mines] How shall this question he
answered, but by confessing that the land, in which they
were, is now sunk, and buried under the sea ?

I am not fond of introducing earthquakes ; but where
there has been evidently a great subsidence of the
earth's surface, can it be accounted for at all without a
previous concussion of the earth ? And what nature
declares in this case, tradition seems to confirm; there
being a strong persuasion in the western parts of Corn-
wall, that formerly there existed a large country between
the Land'srEnd and Sciily, now laid many fathoms
under water. Indeed there are no evidences of any
ancient connexion of the Land's-End and Sciily. Yet
that the cause of that inundation, which destroyed much
of these islands, might reach also to the Cornish shores,
is extremely probable, there being several evidences of
a like subsidence of the land in Mouut's-Bay. The
principal anchoring-place, called a lake, is now a haven
or open harbour. The mount, from its Cornish name,
we must conclude to have stood formerly in a wood ;
but now at full tide, it is half a mile in the sea, and not
a tree near it; and in the sandy beach betwixt the
Mount and Peiizance, when the sands have been dis-
persed by violent high tides, there have been seen the
trunks of several large trees in their natural position,
the surface of their section worn smooth by the agita-
tion of the Water, sand, and gravel, as if cut with an
axe, upon which, at every full tide, there must be twelve
feet water; so that the shores in Sciily, and the neigh-
bouring shores of Cornwall are concurrent evidences of
such a subsidence, and the memory of the inundations,
which were, the necessary consequences of it, is preserved
in tradition: though like other traditions, in proportion
to their age, obscured by fable.

That there has been such a subsidence of the lands
belonging to these islands, the present ruins of the
islands testify. And this subsidence reached even to


Mount's Bay, and laid under water a great part of the
low-lands then woody, there being now ten feet water,
so that the shores in Sciliy and the shores in Cornwall
are equal proofs of such an inundation. When this
inundation happened we know riot, but two pieces of
history possibly may lead us near the time. In the
time of Straho and Diodorus Siculus, their commerce
was in full vigour. " Abundance of tin was carried in
carts," says Diodorus Siculus; "but ten islands in all
(says Strabo), and nine of those inhabited." The de-
struction therefore of Scilly must be placed after the
time of these authors ; that is, after the Augustan age.
Now Plutarch hints that the islands round Britain were
generally unpeopled in his time. If he includes Scilry
among them, then this desolation must have happened
between the reign of Trajan, and that of Augustus.

15. At the mouth of the river Ness, near Burgespu,
in Flanders, at the depth of fifty feet, are found great
quantities of trees, lying as close to each other as they

Online LibraryJohn WesleyA survey of the wisdom of God in the creation; or, A compendium of natural philosophy .. (Volume 3) → online text (page 6 of 24)