The Original differences of the Primitive Earth from the present or Post-diluvian. The three Characters of Paradise and the Golden Age found in the Primitive Earth. A particular Explication of each Character.
WE have hitherto only perplext the Argument and our selves, by showing how inexplicable the state of Paradise is according to the present order of things, and the present condition of the Earth. We must now therefore bring into view that Original and Ante-diluvian Earth where we pretend its seat was, and show it capable of all those priviledges which we have deny’d to the present; in vertue of which priviledges, and of the order of Nature establisht there, that Primitive Earth might be truly Paradisiacal, as in the Golden Age; and some Region of it peculiarly so, according to the Idea of the Christian Paradise. And this, I think, is all the knowledge and satisfaction that we can expect, or that Providence hath allow’d us in this Argument.
The Primigenial Earth, which in the first Book (Chap. 5) we rais’d from a Chaos, and set up in an habitable form, we must now survey again with more
care, to observe its principal differences from the present Earth, and what influence they will have upon the question in hand. These differences, as we have said before, were chiefly three; The form of it, which was smooth, even, and regular. The posture and situation of it to the Sun, which was direct, and not, as it is at present, inclin’d and oblique; And the Figure of it, which was more apparently and regularly Oval than it is now. From these three differences flow’d a great many more, inferiour and subordinate; and which had a considerable influence upon the moral World at that time, as well as the natural. But we will only observe here their more immediate effects, and that in reference to those general Characters or properties of the Golden Age and of Paradise, which we have instanc’d in, and whereof we are bound to give an account by our Hypothesis.
And in this respect the most fundamental of those three differences we mention’d, was, that of the right posture and situation of the Earth to the Sun; for from this immediately follow’d a perpetual Æquinox all the Earth over, or, if you will, a perpetual Spring: And that was the great thing we found awanting in the present Earth to make it Paradisiacal, or capable of being so. Wherefore this being now found and establisht in the Primitive Earth, the other two properties, of Longævity and of Spontaneous and Vital fertility, will be of more easie explication. In the mean time let us view a little the reasons and causes of that regular situation in the first Earth.
The truth is, one cannot so well require a reason of the regular situation the Earth had then, for that was most simple and natural; as of the irregular situation it hath now; standing oblique and inclin’d to the Sun or the Ecliptick: Whereby the course of the year is become unequal, and we are cast into a great diversity of Seasons. But however, stating the first aright with its circumstances, we shall have a better prospect upon the second, and see from what causes, and in what manner, it came to pass. Let us therefore suppose the Earth, with the rest of its fellow-Planets, to be carried about the Sun in the Ecliptick by the motion of the liquid Heavens; and being at that time perfectly uniform and regular, having the same Center of its magnitude and gravity, it would by the equality of its libration necessarily have its Axis parallel to the Axis of the same Ecliptick, both its Poles being equally inclin’d to the Sun. And this posture I call a right situation, as oppos’d to oblique or inclin’d. Now this is a thing that needs no proof besides its own evidence; for ’tis the immediate result and common effect of gravity or libration, that a Body freely left to it self in a fluid medium, should settle in such a posture as best answers to its gravitation; and this first Earth whereof we speak, being uniform and every way equally ballanc’d, there was no reason why it should incline at one end, more than at the other, towards the Sun. As if you should suppose a Ship to stand North and South under the Æquator, if it was equally built and equally ballasted, it would not incline to one Pole or other, but keep its Axis parallel to the Axis of the Earth; but if the ballast lay more at one end, it would dip towards that Pole, and rise proportionably higher towards the other. So those great Ships that sail about the Sun once a year, or once in so many years, whilst they are uniformly built and equally pois’d, they keep steddy and
even with the Axis of their Orbit; but if they lose that equality, and the Center of their gravity change, the heavier end will incline more towards the common Center of their motion, and the other end will recede from it: So particularly the Earth, which makes one in that aery Fleet, when it scap’d so narrowly from being shipwrackt in the great Deluge, was however so broken and disorder’d, that it lost its equal poise, and thereupon the Center of its gravity changing, one Pole became more inclin’d towards the Sun, and the other more remov’d from it, and so its right and parallel situation which it had before to the Axis of the Ecliptick, was chang’d into an oblique; in which skew posture it hath stood ever since, and is likely so to do for some Ages to come. I instance in this, as the most obvious cause of the change of the situation of the Earth, tho’ it may be, upon this, followed a change in its Magnetism: and that might also contribute to the same effect.
However, This change and obliquity of the Earth's posture had a long train of consequences depending upon it; whereof that was the most immediate, that it alter’d the form of the year, and brought in that inequality of Seasons which hath since obtain'd: As, on the contrary, while the Earth was in its first and natural posture, in a more easie and regular disposition to the Sun, That had also another respective train of consequences, whereof one of the first, and that which we are most concern’d in at present, was, that it made a perpetual Æquinox or Spring to all the World, all the parts of the year had one and the same tenour, face and temper; there was no Winter or Summer, Seed-time or Harvest, but a continual temperature of the Air and Verdure of the Earth. And this fully answers the first and fundamental character of the Golden Age and of Paradise; And what Antiquity, whether Heathen or Christian, hath spoken concerning that perpetual serenity and constant Spring that reign’d there, which in the one was accounted fabulous, and in the other hyperbolical, we see to have been really and Philosophically true. Nor is there any wonder in the thing, the wonder is rather on our side, that the Earth should stand and continue in that forc’d posture wherein it is now, spinning yearly about an Axis that doth not belong to the Orbit of its motion; this, I say, is more strange than that it once stood in a posture that was streight and regular; As we more justly admire the Tower at Pisa, that stands crook’d, than twenty other streight Towers that are much higher.
Having got this foundation to stand upon, the rest of our work will go on more easily; and the two other Characters which we mention’d, will not be of very difficult explication. The spontaneous fertility of the Earth, and its production of Animals at that time, we have in some measure explain’d before; supposing it to proceed partly from the richness of the Primigenial soil, and partly from this constant Spring and benignity of the Heavens, which we have now establisht; These were always ready to excite Nature, and put her upon action, and never to interrupt her in any of her motions or attempts. We have show’d in the Fifth Chapter of the First Book, how this Primigenial soil was made, and of what ingredients; which were such as compose the richest and fattest soil, being a light Earth mixt with unctuous juices, and then afterwards refresh’d and diluted with the dews of Heaven all the year long, and cherisht with
a continual warmth from the Sun. What more hopeful beginning of a World than this? You will grant, I believe, that whatsoever degree or whatsoever kind of fruitfulness could be expected from a Soil and a Sun, might be reasonably expected there. We see great Woods and Forests of Trees rise spontaneously, and that since the Flood (for who can imagine that the ancient Forests, whereof some were so vastly great, were planted by the hand of man?) why should we not then believe that Fruit-trees and Corn rose as spontaneously in that first Earth? That which makes Husbandry and Humane Arts so necessary now for the Fruits and productions of the Earth, is partly indeed the decay of the Soil, but chiefly the diversity of Seasons, whereby they perish, if care be not taken of them; but when there was neither Heat nor Cold, Winter nor Summer, every Season was a Seed-time to Nature, and ever Season an Harvest.
This, it may be, you will allow as to the Fruits of the Earth, but that the same Earth should produce Animals also will not be thought so intelligible. Since it hath been discover’d, that the first materials of all Animals are Eggs, as Seeds are of Plants, it doth not seem so hard to conceive that these Eggs might be in the first Earth, as well as those Seeds; for there is a great analogy and similitude betwixt them; Especially if you compare these Seeds first with the Eggs of In-sects or Fishes, and then with the Eggs of Viviparous Animals. And as for those juices which the Eggs of Viviparous Animals imbibe thorough their coats from the womb, they might as well imbibe them, or something analogous to them, from a conveniently temper’d Earth, as Plant-Eggs do; And these things being admitted, the progress is much-what the same in Seeds as Eggs, and in one sort of Eggs as in another.
’Tis true, Animal-Eggs do not seem to be fruitful of themselves, without the influence of the Male; and this is not necessary in Plant-Eggs or Vegetable Seeds. But neither doth it seem necessary in all Animal-Eggs, if there be any Animals sponte orta, as they call them, or bred without copulation. And, as we observ’d before, according to the best knowledge that we have of this Male influence, it is reasonable to believe, that it may be supplied by the Heavens or Æther. The Ancients, both the Stoicks and Aristotle, have suppos’d that there was something of an Æthereal Element in the Male-geniture, from whence the vertue of it chiefly proceeded; and if so, why may we not suppose, at that time, some general impression or irradiation of that purer Element to fructifie the new-made Earth? Moses saith there was an incubation of the Spirit of God upon the mass, and without all doubt that was either to form or fructifie it, and by the mediation of this active principle; but the Ancients speak more plainly with express mention of this Æther, and of the impregnation of the Earth by it, as betwixt Male and Female. As in the place before cited;
[paragraph continues] Which notion, I remember, St. Austin saith,De Civ. D. lib. 4. c. 10. Virgil did not take from the fictions of the Poets, but out of the Books of the Philosophers. Some of the gravest Authors amongst the Romans have reported that this vertue hath been convey'd
into the wombs of some Animals by the Winds or the Zephyri; and as I easily believe that the first fresh Air was more impregnated with this Æthereal principle than ours is, so I see no reason but those balmy dews that fell every night in the Primitive Earth, might be the Vehicle of it as well as the Male-geniture is now; and from them the teeming Earth and those vital Seeds which it contain’d, were actuated, and receiv’d their first fruitfulness.
Now this Principle, howsoever convey’d to those rudiments of life which we call Eggs, is that which gives the first stroke towards Animation; And this seems to be by exciting a ferment in those little masses whereby the parts are loosen’d, and dispos’d for that formation which is to follow afterwards. And I see nothing that hinders but that we may reasonably suppose that these Animal productions might proceed thus far in the Primigenial Earth; And as to their progress and the formation of the Body, by what Agents or principles soever that great work is carried on in the womb of the Female, it might by the same be carried on there. Neither would there be any danger of miscarrying by excess of Heat or Cold, for the Air was always of an equal temper and moderate warmth; And all other impediments were remov’d, and all principles ready, whether active or passive; so as we may justly conclude, that as Eve was the Mother of all living as to Mankind, so was the Earth the Great Mother of all living Creatures besides.
The third Character to be explain’d, and the most extraordinary in appearance, is that of LONGÆVITY. This sprung from the same root, in my opinion, with the other; though the connexion, it may be, is not so visible. We show’d in the foregoing Chapter, that no advantage of Diet, or of strong Constitutions, could have carried their lives, before the Flood, to that wonderful length, if they had been expos’d to the same changes of Air and of Seasons that our Bodies are: But taking a perpetual Æquinox, and fixing the Heavens, you fix the life of Man too; which was not then in such a rapid flux as it is now, but seem’d to stand still, as the Sun did once, without declension. There is no question but every thing upon Earth, and especially the Animate World, would be much more permanent, if the general course of Nature was more steddy and uniform; A stability in the Heavens makes a stability in all things below; and that change and contrariety of qualities that we have in these Regions, is the fountain of corruption, and suffers nothing to be long in quiet: Either by intestine motions and fermentations excited within, or by outward impressions, Bodies are no sooner well constistituted, but they are tending again to dissolution. The Æther in their little pores and chinks is unequally agitated, and differently mov’d at different times, and so is the Air in their greater, and the Vapours and Atmosphere round about them: All these shake and unsettle both the texture and continuity of Bodies. Whereas in a fixt state of Nature, where these principles have always the same constant and uniform motion, when they are once suited to the forms and compositions of Bodies, they give them no further disturbance; they enjoy a long and lasting peace without any commotions or violence, within or without.
We find our selves, sensible changes in our Bodies upon the turn of the Year, and the change of Seasons; new fermentations in the Bloud and resolutions of the Humours; which if they do not amount to diseases, at least they disturb
[paragraph continues] Nature, and have a bad effect not only upon the fluid parts, but also upon the more solid; upon the Springs and Fibres in the Organs of the Body; to weaken them and unfit them by degrees for their respective functions. For though the change is not sensible immediately in these parts, yet after many repeated impressions every year, by unequal heat and cold, driness and moisture, contracting and relaxing the Fibres, their tone at length is in a great measure destroy’d, or brought to a manifest debility; and the great Springs failing, the lesser that depend upon them, fail in proportion, and all the symptoms of decay and old age follow. We see by daily experience, that Bodies are kept better in the same medium, as we call it, than if they often change their medium, as sometimes in Air, sometimes in Water, moisten’d and dri’d, heated and cool’d; these different states weaken the contexture of the parts: But our Bodies, in the present state of Nature, are put into an hundred different mediums in the course of a Year; sometimes we are steept in Water, or in a misty foggy Air for several days together, sometimes we are almost frozen with cold, then fainting with heat at another time of the Year; and the Winds are of a different nature, and the Air of a different weight and pressure, according to the Weather and the Seasons: These things would wear our Bodies, though they were built of Oak, and that in a very short time in comparison of what they would last, if they were always incompast with one and the same medium, under one and the same temper, as it was in the Primitive Earth.
The Ancients seem to have been sensible of this, and of the true causes of those long periods of life; for wheresoever they assign’d a great longævity, as they did not only to their Golden Age, but also to their particular and topical Paradises, they also assign’d there a constant serenity and equality of the Heavens, and sometimes expresly a constant Æquinox; as might be made appear from their Authors. And some of our Christian Authors have gone farther, and connected these two together, as Cause and Effect; for they say that the Longævity of the Ante-diluvian Patriarchs proceeded from a favourable Aspect and influence of the Heavens at that time; which Aspect of the Heavens being rightly interpreted, is the same thing that we call the Position of the Heavens, or the right situation of the Sun and the Earth, from whence came a perpetual Æquinox. And if we consider the present Earth, I know no place where they live longer than in that little Island of the Bermudas, where, according to the proportion of time they hold out there, after they are arriv’d from other parts, one may reasonably suppose, that the Natives would live two hundred Years. And there's nothing appears in that Island that should give long life above other places, but the extraordinary steddiness of the Weather, and of the temper of the Air throughout the whole Year, so as there is scarce any considerable difference of Seasons.
But because it would take up too much time to show in this place the full and just reasons why, and how, these long periods of life depend upon the stability of the Heavens: and how on the contrary, from their inconstancy and mutability these periods are shorten’d, as in the present order of Nature; we will set apart the next Chapter to treat upon that subject; yet by way of digression only, so as those that have a mind may pass to the following, where the thred of this discourse is continued. In the mean time, you see, we have prepar’d an Earth for
[paragraph continues] Paradise, and given a fair and intelligible account of those three general Characters, which, according to the rules of method, must be determin’d before any further progress can be made in this Argument. For in the doctrine of Paradise there are two things to be consider’d, the state of it, and the place of it; And as it is first in order of Nature, so it is much more material, to find out the state of it, than the Region where it stood. We need not follow the Windings of Rivers, and the interpretation of hard names, to discover this, we take more faithful Guides, THE unanimous reports of Antiquity, Sacred and Profane, supported by a regular Theory. Upon these grounds we go, and have thus far proceeded on our way; which we hope will grow more easie and pleasant, the nearer we come to our journeys end.