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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do in a wood ; the trunks, the branches, and the leaves
are in such perfect preservation, that the particular kind
of each tree may be known. About five hundred years
ago this very ground was known to have been covered
with the sea : nor is there any history of its having been
dry ground, which no doubt must have been the case.-
Thus we see a country flourishing in verdure, producing
large forests, and trees of various kinds, overwhelmed
by the sea. We see this element depositing its sediment
to a height of fifty feet ; and its waters must therefore
have risen much higher. We see the .same alter it has
thus overwhelmed, and sunk the land so deep beneath
its slime, capriciously retiring from the same coasts, and
leaving it habitable once more. All this is wonderful,
and perhaps* instead of attempting to enquire after the
cause, it will best become us to rest satisfied with ad-

At the city of Modena, in Italy, and about four miles
round it, whenever they dig, when the workmen arrive
at the depth of sixty-three feet they come to a bed oif


chalk, which they bore with an augre five fret deep.
They then withdraw from the pit, before the augre is
removed, and upon its extraction, the waters burst up
through the aperture with great violence. That which
"is most remarkable in the operation is the layers of
earth, as we descend. Af the depth of fourteen feet
are found the ruins of an ancient city, paved streets,
houses, fioors, and different pieces of Mosaic. Under
this is found a solid earth, that one would imagine had
never been removed; however, under it is found a sort
oozy earth, made up of vegetables ; and at twenty-six
feet deep, large trees entire, such as walnut trees, with
the walnuts still sticking on the stem, and their leaves
and branches in exact preservation. At twenty-eight
feet deep a soft chalk is found mixed with a vast
quantity of shells, and this bed is eleven feet thick. - t
Under this vegetables are found again with leaves and
branches of trees as before ; and thus alternately chalk
and vegetable earth to the depth of sixty-three feet.
These are the layers whenever the workmen bore :
while iu many of them they also find pieces of charcoal,
bones, and bits of iron. From this description it ap-
pears that this country has been alternately overflowed
and deserted by the sea, one age after another : nor
were these overflowings arid retirings of trifling depths,
or of short continuance. When the sea burst in, it
must have been a long time in overflowing the branches
of the fallen forest with its sediment, and still longer in
forming a regular bed of shells, eleven feet thick, over
them. It must therefore have taken an age at least to
make any one of these layers ; and we may conclude,
that it must have been many ages employed in the pro-
duction of them all. The land also, upon being de-
serted, must have had time to grow compact, and to
be drained of its waters before it could be disposed to

Likewise in cutting a channel for the canal of Newry,
in Ireland, a great multitude of fallen trees was dis-
covered lying near two miles in length, and in many


places six or eight feet deep. Many of tLcse are very
large, and are tumbled do\ui one over another, sonic
lying in strait lines, and others in an oblique or trans-
verse position. If trees thus found had been felled by
the deluge, (as undoubtedly others were) they wtnild all
lie in one position. But this is not the case. We must
therefore seek for other causes. And one cause seems
to have been this. If water flowing either from springs
or streams be stopt, it naturally softens and loosens the
earth ; and in a course of time, even to the roots of
trees, which are then subject to be overturned by any
violent storm. This doubtless was the case with most
of those trees, that are found in bogs with the roots ad-
hering to them. Trees thus falling sink into the yield-
ing soil, and cause a farther stoppage in the course of
the waters. Hence the loose earth is increased, by a
yearly accession of scurf, moss, grass, and weeds. Add
to I's, that the higher lands being gradually dissolved
by repeated rains, and washed down by floods, in a
Jong course of years, cover the lower grounds with fresh
layers of earth. This being so, it is not strange to find
trees buried eight or ten feet under the earth.

Another cause may be this. Various colonies from
time to time arriving in the then uncultivated country of
Ireland, would naturally make room for tillage and
pasture, by clearing the ground of its forests. This was
certainly the case, where we find in bogs trees partly
burned, and others bearing the mark of the axe. But
sometimes these colonies were driven by the natives
from their intended settlements, leaving the trees they
had felled strewed over the plain, which stopping the
waters, of course created bogs, that in process of time
covered those trees to a considerable depth. Nay, as
late as 156*1, Tyrone and O'Donnel marching toward
Kinsale, through Connaught, and laying the country
waste, there is a great tract of ground, now a bog, which
was then ploughed land.

That bogs in general grow but slowly maybe gathered
from a lump of coins of Edward IV. (probably lost in a
purse which rotted away), taken up in a bog in York-


shire, eighteen feet deep. This was about 300
before ; so the bog had grown about a foot in eleven
years, that is, somewhat above an inch in a year,
although some seem to grow much faster. '

Micl) more ancient is the Great Level, or fenny
ad, VMiich Ci'iitains about 300,000 acres, lying in
t.< en- les of Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridge, the Isle of
E \, IliUii $ ; 4oii, Northampton, and Lincoln. This was
otice Hi in iar.d. There have been found therein stones,
bnrks, a* \ other nraterials for building. In setting
dov.i. a sluice, there was found, sixteen feet deep, a
smith*-; forge, a,<.d all the tools thereunto belonging.
\Villiaivi of Malmsbury, who lived 1200 years ago, says
that in his time, " The trees which grew there, smooth
and straight, were so tall that they seemed to touch the
stars. A plain there is as even as the sea, which, with
the green grass, allures the eye ; and there is not the
least parcel of ground that lies-waste and 1 void. Here
you see plantations of fruit-trees; there a field set with
vines, part creeping on the -ground, part mounting on
liigh poles." But how came it to be reduced to so very
different a state? It beems the ocean broke in upon it,
with such resistless violence, that the buildings through-
out the whole space were overturned, and the trees torn
up by the roots. The amazing quantity of silt thrown
up at the samje time, covered the whole country, even
to the verge of the Highlands, seven, eight, or even 4en
feet deep. Hence a few years since, in digging a pool,
there* was found at the upper skirts of the level the
skeleton of a large nVn, near twenty fret long, lodged
in silt above six reet below the surface of the ground.
Yet how or when this inundation was. we are not able to
determine. Whenever it was, it was probably occa-
sioned by a violent earthquake.

A late writer gives the following account of the
natural origin of bogs in Ireland. Some of these have
vast quantities of timber under them, others have very
little. But the surface of all is covered with a short,
thick, and matted kind of heath. This, as it grows and
thickens at the top, vegetates at the bottom into a close


texture, which being remote with moisture, throws out
a growth?) of this ramified heath, .part of which
dies every winter, and moulders at the bottom, where
it forms another stratum, from which at spring comes a
new crop of heath, And thus as these strata of moul-
dered heath are annually repealed, the roots increase,
and at once extend higher, and are more consolidated
at the bottom. Hence the turf is ever found of a closer
text iv ^ as we descend deeper in t-he bog.

The turf js itself only a closely concreted combi-
nation of the roots of this heath, which universally
grovvs on the surface of these bogs, not iiu* produce of
the trees which are at the bottom. Wherever these
were thrown dov.n, some earth would be washed down
upon them from the adjacent grounds, the surface of
which every where produces this heath. And this being
now supplied with constant moisture, would tiirow out
a more plentiful growth.

The same cause produces these bogs on the sides or
even tops of mountains. But it is ever in wet grounds,
or in fiats on the, -side of hills where the water settles,
an-1 supplies them with moisture.

There seems indeed to be a spungy quality v in this
heath, which prevents the moistures sinking away from
it, by an attraction of the fluids, by an infinite number
of capillary fibres, which are the very substance of it.
At the bottom of these mountain-bogs no trees are
found ; aiid very few in the largest bogs, iink-h* on the
s^n Is, of them.

The turf then from top io bottom i entirely the
produce of a vegetation from itself. And the reason
why Ireland produces so many turf bogs is because it so
abounds with the seeds of this heath, which is every
where found where the land is uncultivated, and forms
bogs wherever it has proper mpisture.

Our marie is found only in the bottom of low bogs,
at t^e uepth of seven, eight, or nine feet. For three
feet deep is a spungy so ..i arth, then gravel for
about half a foot. For air u diree feet more is a spon-
gy earth, mixed with timber, but so rotten, that it cuts



like earth. Next this, for the depth of three inches, we
find leaves that are fair to the eyp, but mil not bear a
tottoh. With these are sometimes mixed heaps of seed,
which seem to be broom or furze seed : nay, in one
place what seemed to be gooseberries and currants,
was found, and sea-weed in others. Under this was
blue clay half a foot thick, thoroughly mixed with shells,
as was also the marie, which lay next, three or four feet
deep. They are shells of periwinkles 5 and among
these are large horns and bones answerable thereto.
But it is not only in bogs that subterraneous trees are
found ; nor in Ireland only, but in many parts of Eng-
land. At Youle, about twelve miles from York, near
the place where the Dun empties itself into the Humber,
abundance of them have been dug up from time to
time, all of which are a species of fir. In the Isle of
Axholme, in Lincolnshire, not firs only, but abundance
of oaks are found in the Moor, whereof some are five
yards hi compass, with quantities of acorns near them.
The firs lie somewhat deeper than the oaks ; one of them
was about thirty-six yards long. The adjoining levels
'(about 180,000 acres) were half of them yearly covered
\vith water, till King Charles T. sold them to Sir
Cornelius Vermuyden, who drained them at the charge
of above a400,000. In the soil^of all this land, through
all Marshland, and on the skirts of all the Lincolnshire
and Yorkshire wolds, are found millions of roots and
bodies of trees, firs, oaks, birch, beech, yew, willow,
and ash. The roots stand in their natural postures, as
thick as ever they could grow. The bodies of most of
the great trees lie all their length about a yard from
their roots, with their tops north-east. The smaller lie
across in every direction, some under, some above them.
Some of the oaks are thirty, some thirty-five yards
long, yet wanting some yards at the small ends. They
are firm, lasting, and as black as ebony. Many of them
have been burnt, some quite through, some on one side.
Some have been found chopped awd squared, some
bored through, some half cleft with great wooden
wedges in them, and broken axe heads, shaped not un-


like the sacrificing axes. And all these were in such
places, and at such depths as could not have been
opened, from the time the forest was destroyed witil the
ground was drained. Near a great root in the parish of
Hatfield, were found eight or nine Roman coins : and
at the bottom of a new drain, were found trees squared
and cut ; rails, bars, a kind of battle axe, and two or
three coins of the Emperor Vespasian. Nay, the ground
at the bottom of the river was found to jiefia ridge
and furrow, manifesting that it had been ploughed. In
an old drain, an oak w r as found forty yards long, four
yards in diameter at the great end, three yards and a
foot in the middle, two yards at the small end ; so that
by a moderate computation it seems to have been as
long again. Yea, about fifty years ago there was found,
several feet deep, a man lying at his full length, with
his head upon his arms, as asleep. His skin, tanned as
it were by the moor-water, preserved his shape entire ;
but his flesh and most of his bones were consumed.

These stately trees formerly composed one of the
most beautiful forests in the world. But how came it
to be destroyed ? When the Romans pursued the
Britons, they always fled into the woods. On this the
Roman generals ordered them to be cut down ; this
vast forest in particular. The trees falling cross the
rivers which ran through the country, soon dammed
them up, turned the ground into a lake, and gave rise
to the moors that increased continually, by earthy
matter washed down, the consumption of rotting
branches and leaves, and the growth of water-moss,
which wonderfully flourishes on rotten grounds.
Hence it is that so many Roman coins have been found
at the bottom of these levels; that so many trees are
found burnt or chopped ; and that the soil of the
country in general is two, three, or more yards higher
than formerly.

Some similar alterarion seems to have happened
many centuries ago to that whole tract of land near Nevv-
bury, in Oxfordshire, out of which they dig their peat,



There is a stratum of this several miles, which lies many
feet under the surface.

The best peal has very little (if any) earth in it, but
is a composition of wood, branches, twigs, leaves, and
roots of trees, with grass, straw, plants and weeds.
The colour is of a blackish brown : and if it be chewed
between the teetfi it is soft, and has no gritty matter in
it. It is indeed of a different consistence in different
places, some being softer and some harder, which may
arise perhaps from the different sorts of trees it is com-
posed of. Great numbers of trees are visible in the
true peat, lying irregular one upon another, and some-
times even cart-loads of them have been taken out : but
the nearer these trees lie to the surface, the less sound
is the wood ; and sometimes the small twigs which lie
at the bottom, are so firm as not to be easily cut
through : these trees are generally oaks, alders, willows,
and firs, besides some others not easily known. The
small roots are generally' perished, but yet have suffi-
cient signs to shew that the trees were torn up by the
roots, and were not cut down, there being no sign of
the axe or saw, which, had they been felled, would have
been plainly visible. A great many horns, heads, and
bones of several kinds of deer, horns of the antelope,
heads and tusks of boars, and heads of beavers, are also
foun J in it, and some human bones.

Before we dismiss this subject, it may not be improper
to subjoin as trange an account as any age can parallel.
June 7, 1697, near Charleville, in 1 1 eland, a great
rumbling was heard in tire earth. Soon after, in the
bog of Kapanihane, stretching north and south, some
meadow and pasture land, that lay on the side ot the
bog, sepaiated by a large ditch, and other land on the
further side adjoining to it, began to move ; and a little
hill in the middle of the bog suuk down.

This was at seven in the evening, the ground fluctuating
in its motion like the waves of the sea. The pasture
land then rose up, over-ran the ground beneath, and
moved upon its surface, roiling on with great violence,



till it had covered the meadow sixteen feet deep. It
drew after it the body of the bog, part of it tying on
the place where the pasture-land was before, leaving
great breaches behind it, and currents of water, which cast
up noisome vapours. There are still cracks, and chasms
through the whole surface of the bog, which contains
forty acres.

But we have a later incident of the same kind. On
Saturday, January 26", 1745, a part of Filling-Moss,
lying near Hescemb-houses, was observed to rise a
surprising height. After a short time it sunk us muclf
below the level, and moved slowly towards the south-
side. In half an hour it covered twenty acres of land.
The improved land, adjoining to that part of the bog,
is a concave circle, containing near a hundred acres,
which is well nigh filled up with bog ^md water. la
some parts it is thought to be five yards deep.

An intense frost retards its progress fer the present*
but it is likely to spoil a great deal more land. That
part of the moss, which is sunk like the bed of the
river, runs north ai)d south. It is above a mile in
length, and near half a mile in breadth.

Perhaps some morasses have been ever since the
deluge. In some of these are found, many feet deep,
whole forests .of timber, and frequently of such sorts
as have not grown in those countries for many ages.

But some morasses are only of iate date. Lord
Cromartie gives a remarkable account of what .he him-
self observed with regard to the generation of such ft
morass. In the parish of Lockburn he saw, near the
top of a very high hill, a plain about a mile over. It
was then covered with a standing wood, but so old that
the trees had neither leaves nor bark left. When he
I came by the place fifteen years after, he observed all the
trees were fallen. A few years after that they were
I quite covered over with a soft spongy earth, which
formed a proper bog or morass. Many hav^e been
xmned the same way.

E 2


The discovery of the bones of elephants at the
bottom of some of our English bogs, seems a convincing
proof that the earth has undergone some very extraor
dary alterations. For the remains of animals of quite
different climates, which in the present situation of the
world could never possibly come over hither, mus
imply their having been originally here, or that Englam
was once joined to the continent. But since we fine
these creatures only in the very hot countries, it i
highly probaole they were not originally here, unless we
suppose the temperature of our climate to have been
greatly altered. And without such a supposition, we
cannot suppose they would have wandered hither
though all parts of the globe had been contiguous. Bu
what changes have happened to our earth no human
wisdom can find out. Suppose only the axis thereof to
have been shifted, at any time but a few degress, wha
convulsions in nature, what an universal change in the
face of things must have ensued ! What inundations o
water bearing every thing before them ! What breache
in the earth, what hurricanes and tempests must hav
attended such an event ! For the waters must have
rolled along till an equipoise was produced ; and a]
parts of the world must acquire different degrees o
'heat and cold from what they had before. Seas woul<
be formed where continents had been ; continents torn
in pieces, or split into islands. Such would have been
the fate of inanimate things. And as to living creature
they must have been destroyed and buried in the ruin
of the world, as perhaps these elephants were.


1. Of the Effects and Nature of

3, Of the Generation and Nou-
rishment of it.

5. Of Smoke and Ashes.

4' Of burning Mountains

5. Of Mount ^Etna.

6. Of Mount Vesuvius,

7. Of Monto Secco.
B. Of Monte Nuevo.
y. New Islands.

0. Burning Islands.

1. Of Mount Hecia.
Of Guadelope.

3. Of the Pike of TenerifT,

4. Of Earthquakes

5. Destruction of Pott-Royal
in Jamaica.

_^-,, Of Lima,
7. Of Caiioo.

8. A remarkable Deliverance.

9. Of Pools and of Elden Hole,
Earthquakes caused by Elec-

21. Account of a burning


22. of one near Brosely.

23. A Fire of the same kind.

24. A burning Vapour.

25. Persons consumed by inter-

nal Fire.

26. Sparkles from a Person's

27- Of Glass.

28. Of the Bologna Phial.

29. Of the Glass-drop.

30. Of the Nature and Proper-

ties of Air.

31. Air in all our Fluids.

3-2. is the cementing and dis-
solving Principle.

33, .. *.i -'increases the Weight

of Oil and Vitriol.

34. Air capable of immense Ex-


85. Difference between fixed and
common Air,

1. J[ HE effects of fire are various. It heats, it shines,
t expands, it dissolves other bodies either by melting or
educing them to ashes or a calx. Most of these argue

vehement motion of its particles, which tears asunder
whatever it seizes. It seems to be a most subtle mat-
er, dispersed throughout the universe. Yet this, even
/hen collected soon scatters again, unless it be detained
y some inflammable matter. Not that fire will spring
roni every motion : it must be circular, as well as ra-
id. For if particles move ever so swift in a straight

ne, no fire will follow.

E 3


Heat seems to be nothing but motion : but this mo-
tion has some peculiar circumstances. 1. It is expan-
sive motion, whereby a body endeavours to dilate itself."
2. This motion is upward, and toward the circumfer-
ence. 3. It is not an equable motion of the whole, but
oniy of the smaller particles of the body. 4. It is a rapid
jnotiosi. Heat may therefore be defined, an expansive
undulatory motion in the minute particles pf a body;
whereby they rapidly tend to the circumference, and at
the same time upward.

Fire has some effect on most bodies, even in an ex*
hausted receiver. One placed a black ribbon therein,
and then applied a burning-glass. Abundance of smoke
issued out of it, which fell by Sittle and little, and the
ribbon appeared not at all changed. But when it was
touched, after the re-admission of the air, it presently,
fell into ashes.

The glass being applied to gun-powder so inclosed, i
burnt grain by grain, but none of the grains kindled
Another time when the sun had less force, they woulc
not burn, but only boiled and emitted smoke. Thi
smoke falling on the board on which the power lay, wa
of the colour of brimstone. Th powder that re
mained being put on coals, burned like salt-petre, iua's
much as the brimstone had exhaled.

Tin and copper melted together weigh more than
both bodies did before. Yea, orpin being mixed wit
salt. of tartar, is heavier by a fifth part.

To account for this, it has been commonly supposed
that fire adds to the weight of bodies. But fire lias il
self lie weight at all : therefore it can give none. Pur
iire, as Dr. Hillary observes, is a body without gravity
and has no more tendency to any one part of space, tha
to any other.

Is not then this alteration of weight rather owing t
an alteration of the inward texture of the particles in
the body calcined ? The lighter particles being re-
moved by exhalation, do not those remaining ap-
proach nearer e*ch other! And must not then the!


weight, which i always as the solidity, increase ao
coidiugiy ?

It seems strange to talk of heating cold liquors with
ice. Yet it may be easily done thus. Out of a basoa
of cold water, wherein several fragments of ice are
swimming, taking one or two, and plunge them into a
wide-mouthed glass of strong oil of vitriol : this quickly
melts the ice, and by two or three shakes, the liquor
grows so hot, that frequently you cannot endure to hold
the phial in your hand.

It may seem as strange, that those parts of the earth,
\vhich are nearest the sun should be intensely cold. Yet
so it is. For the higher you ascend on mountains, the
colder is t he air. And the tops of the highest' moun-
tains in the most sultry countries are eternally clothed
with snow^ This is partly owing to the thinness of the
air, partly to the little surface of earth there, to reflect
the solar rays.

Very different degrees of heat, obtain in the same la-
titude, on the different sides of the South American
continent : which shews that the temperature of a place
depends much more upon other circumstances, than
upon its distance from the pole, or nearness to the equi-
noctial. Tims though the coast of Brazil is extremely
sultry, yet the coast of the south seas in the same lati-
tude is quite temperate, and in ranging along it, one
does not meet with so warm weather, as is frequent in a
summer's day in England : which is the more extra-
ordinary, as there never falls any rain to refresh and cool
the air. On the coast of Peru, even under the line, every

Online LibraryJohn WesleyA survey of the wisdom of God in the creation; or, A compendium of natural philosophy .. (Volume 3) → online text (page 7 of 24)