The true bounds of the Last Fire, and how far it is fatal. The natural Causes and Materials of it, cast into three ranks: First, such as are exteriour and visible upon the Earth; where the Volcano's of the Earth, and their effects, are consider’d. Secondly, such materials as are within the Earth. Thirdly, such as are in the Air.
ik S we have, in the preceding Chapter, laid aside those Causes of the Conflagration, which we thought too great and cumbersome; so now we must, in like manner, examine the Effect, and reduce that to its just measures and proportions; that there may be nothing left superfluous on either side: Then, by comparing the real powers with the work they are to do, both being stated within their due bounds, we may the better judge how they are proportion’d to one another.
We noted before, that the Conflagration had nothing to do with the Stars and superiour Heavens, but was wholly confin’d to this Sublunary World. And this Deluge of Fire will have much what the same bounds, that the Deluge of Water had formerly. This is according to St. Peter's doctrine2 Pet. 3. 5, 6. Ver. 7, for he makes the same parts of the Universe to be the subject of both: namely, the inferiour Heavens and the Earth. The Heavens and the Earth which were then, perish’d in a Deluge of Water: But the Heavens and the Earth that are now, are reserv’d to fire. The present Heavens and Earth are substituted in the place of those that perish’d at the Deluge, and these are to be over-run and destroy’d by fire, as those were by water. So that the Apostle takes the same Regions, and the same space and compass for the one as for the other, and makes their fate different according to their different constitution, and the different order of Providence. This is the sence St. Austin gives us of the Apostle's words, and these are the bounds he sets to the last Fire; whereof a modern CommentatorEstius in loc. is so well assur’d, that he says, They neither understand Divinity, nor Philosophy, that would make the Conflagration reach above the Elementary Heavens.
Let these be then its limits upwards, the Clouds, Air, and Atmosphere of the Earth. But the question seems more doubtful, How far it will extend downwards, into the bowels of the Earth. I answer still, to the same depth that the Waters of the Deluge reach'd: To the lowest Abysses and the deepest Caverns within the ground. And seeing no Caverns are deeper or lower, at least according to our Theory, than the bottom of the great Ocean, to that depth, I suppose, the rage of this fire will penetrate, and devour all before it. And therefore we
must not imagine, that onely the outward turf and habitable surface of the Earth will be put into a flame and laid wart; the whole exteriour region of the Earth, to the depth of the deepest part of the Sea, will suffer in this fire; and suffer to that degree, as to be melted down, and the frame of it dissolv’d. For we are not to conceive that the Earth will be onely scorcht or charkt in the last fire, there will be a sort of liquefaction and dissolution; It will become a molten Sea mingled with fire, according to the expression of Scripture.Rev. 15. 2.
2 Pet. 3. 10.
Psal. 97. 5. And this dissolution may reasonably be suppos’d to reach as low as the Earth hath any hollownesses, or can give vent to smoak and flame.
Wherefore taking these for the bounds and limits of the last great fire, the next thing to be enquir’d into, are the Natural Causes of it. How this strange fate will seize upon the Sublunary World, and with an irresistible fury subdue all things to it self. But when I say Natural Causes, I would not be so understood, as if I thought the Conflagration was a pure Natural Fatality, as the Stoicks seem to do. No, ’tis a mixt Fatality; The Causes indeed are natural, but the administration of them is from an higher hand. Fire is the Instrument, or the executive power, and hath no more force given it, than what it hath naturally; but the concurrence of these causes, or of these fiery powers, at such a time, and in such a manner, and the conduct of them to carry on and compleat the whole work without cessation or interruption, that I look upon as more than what material Nature could effect of it self, or than could be brought to pass by such a government of matter, as is the bare result of its own laws and determinations. When a Ship sails gently before the wind, the Mariners may stand idle; but to guide her in a storm, all hands must be at work. There are rules and measures to be observ’d, even in these tumults and desolations of Nature, in destroying a World, as well as in making one, and therefore in both it is reasonable to suppose a more than ordinary Providence to superintend the work. Let us not therefore be too positive or presumptuous in our conjectures about these things, for if there be an invisible hand, Divine or Angelical, that touches the Springs and Wheels; it will not be easie for us to determine, with certainty, the order of their motions. However, ’tis our duty to search into the ways and works of God, as far as we can: And we may without offence look into the Magazines of Nature, see what provisions are made, and what preparations for this great Day; and in what method ’tis most likely the design will be executed.
But before we proceed to mark out Materials for this fire, give me leave to observe one condition or property in the Form of this present Earth, that makes it capable of inflammation. ’Tis the manner of its construction, in an hollow cavernous form; By reason whereof, containing much Air in its cavities, and having many inlets and outlets, ’tis in most places capable of ventilation, pervious and passable to the winds, and consequently to the fire. Those that have read the former part of this Theory,Book I. ch. 6, 7. know how the Earth came into this hallow and broken form, from what causes and at what time; namely, at the Universal Deluge; when there was a disruption of the exteriour Earth that fell into the Abyss, and so, for a time, was overflow’d with water. These Ruines recover’d from the water, we inhabit, and these Ruines onely will be burnt up; For being
not onely unequal in their Surface, but also hollow, loose, and incompact within, as ruines use to be, they are made thereby capable of a second fate, by inflammation. Thereby, I say they are made combustible; for if the exteriour Regions of this Earth were as close and compact in all their parts, as we have reason to believe the interiour Regions of it to be, the Fire could have little power over it, nor ever reduce it to such a state as is requir’d in a compleat Conflagration, such as ours is to be.
This being admitted, that the Exteriour region of the Earth stands hollow, as a well set fire, to receive Air freely into its parts, and hath issues for smoke and flame: It remains to enquire what fewel or materials Nature hath fitted to kindle this Pile, and to continue it on fire till it be consum’d; or, in plain words, What are the natural causes and preparatives for a Conflagration. The first and most obvious preparations that we see in nature for this effect, are the Burning Mountains or Volcano's of the Earth. These are lesser Essays or preludes to the general fire; set on purpose by Providence to keep us awake, and to mind us continually, and forewarn us of what we are to expect at last. The Earth you see is already kindled, blow but the Coal, and propagate the fire, and the work will go on. Isa. 30. 33.Tophet is prepar’d of old, and when the Day of Doom is come, and the Date of the World expir’d, the breath of the Lord shall make it burn.
But besides these Burning Mountains, there are Lakes of pitch and brimstone and oily Liquors disperst in several parts of the Earth. These are to enrage the fire as it goes, and to fortifie it against any resistance or opposition. Then all the vegetable productions upon the Surface of the Earth, as Trees, shrubs, grass, corn, and such like; Every thing that grows out of the ground, is fewel for the fire; And tho’ they are now accommodated to our use and service, they will then turn all against us; and with a mighty blaze, and rapid course, make a devastation of the outward furniture of the Earth, whether natural or artificial. But these things deserve some further consideration, especially that strange Phænomenon of the Volcano's or Burning Mountains, which we will now consider more particularly.
There is nothing certainly more terrible in all Nature than Fiery Mountains, to those that live within the view or noise of them; but it is not easie for us, who never see them nor heard them, to represent them to our selves with such just and lively imaginations as shall excite in us the same passions, and the same horrour as they would excite, if present to our senses. The time of their eruption and of their raging, is, of all others, the most dreadful; but, many times, before their eruption, the symptomes of an approaching fit are very frightful to the People. The Mountain begins to roar and bellow in its hollow caverns; cries out, as it were, in pain to be deliver’d of some burthen, too heavy to be born, and too big to be easily discharg’d. The Earth shakes and trembles, in apprehension of the pangs and convulsions that are coming upon her; And the Sun often hides his head, or appears with a discolour’d face, pale, or dusky, or bloudy, as if all Nature was to suffer in this Agony. After these forerunners or symptomes of an eruption, the wide jaws of the Mountain open: And first, clouds of smoke issue out, then flames of fire, and after that a mixture of all sorts of burning matter;
red hot stones, lumps of metal, half-dissolv’d minerals, with coals and fiery ashes. These fall in thick showres round about the Mountain, and in all adjacent parts; and not onely so, but are carried, partly by the force of the expulsion, and partly by the winds, when they are aloft in the Air, into far distant Countries. As from Italy to Constantinople, and cross the Mediterranean Sea into Africk; as the best Historians, Procopius, Ammianus Marcellinus, and Dion Cassius, have attested.
These Volcano's are planted in several regions of the Earth, and in both Continents, This of ours, and the other of America. For by report of those that have view’d that new-found World, there are many Mountains in it that belch out Smoke and Fire; some constantly, and others by fits and intervals. In our Continent Providence hath variously disperst them, without any rule known to us; but they are generally in Islands, or near the Sea. In the Asiatick Oriental Islands they are in great abundance, and Historians tell us of a Mountain in the Island Java, that in the year, 1586 at one eruption kill’d ten thousand people in the neighbouring Cities and Countrey. But we do not know so well the History of those remote Volcano's, as of such as are in Europe and nearer home. In Iseland, tho’ it lye within the Polar circle, and is scarce habitable by reason of the extremity of cold, and abundance of Ice and Snow, yet there are three burning Mountains in that Island; whereof the chief and most remarkable is Hecla. This hath its head always cover’d with Snow, and its belly always fill’d with Fire; and these are both so strong in their kind, and equally powerful, that they cannot destroy one another. It is said to cast out, when it rages, besides earth, stones and ashes, a sort of flaming water. As if all contrarieties were to meet in this Mountain to make it the more perfect resemblance of Hell, as the credulous inhabitants fancy it to be.
But there are no Volcano's in my opinion, that deserve our observation so much, as those that are in and about the Mediterranean Sea; There is a knot of them called the Vulcanian Islands, from their fiery eruptions, as if they were the Forges of Vulcan; as Stombolo, Lipara, and others, which are not so remarkable now as they have been formerly. However, without dispute, there are none in the Christian World to be compared with Ætna and Vesuvius; one in the Island of Sicily, and the other in Campania, overlooking the Port and City of Naples. These two, from all memory of man and the most ancient records of History, have been fam’d for their Treasures of subterraneous Fires: which are not yet exhausted, nor diminish’d, so far as is perceivable; for they rage still, upon occasions, with as much fierceness and violence, as they ever did in former Ages; as if they had a continual supply to answer their expences, and were to stand till the last fire, as a type and prefiguration of it, throughout all generations.
Let us therefore take these two Volcano's as a pattern for the rest; seeing they are well known, and stand in the heart of the Christian World, where, ’tis likely the last fire will make its first assault. Ætna, of the two, is more spoken of by the ancients, both Poets and Historians; and we should scarce give credit to their relations concerning it, if some later eruptions did not equal or exceed the fame of all that hath been reported from former ages. That it heated the waters of
the Sea, and cover’d them over with ashes; crack’d or dissolv’d the neighbouring Rocks; darkened the Sun and the Air; and cast out, not only mighty streams of flame, but a floud of melted Ore and other materials; These things we can now believe, having had experience of greater, or an account of them from such as have been eyewitnesses of these fires, or of the fresh ruines and sad effects of them.
There are two things especially, in these Eruptions of Ætna, that are most prodigious in themselves and most remarkable for our purpose. The Rivers of fiery matter that break out of its bowels, or are spew’d out of its mouth; and the vast burning stones which it flings into the Air, at a strange height and distance. As to these fiery rivers or torrents, and the matter whereof they are compounded, we have a full account of them by Alphonsus Borellus, a learned Mathematician at Pisa; who, after the last great Eruption in the year 1669 went into Sicily, while the fact was fresh, to view and survey what Ætna had done or suffer’d. And he says the quantity of matter thrown out of the Mountain at that time, upon survey amounted to Ninety three millions, eight hundred thirty eight thousand, seven hundred and fifty cubical paces. So that if it had been extended in length upon the surface of the Earth, at the bredth and depth of 3 foot, it would have reacht further than ninety three millions of paces; which is more than four times the Circuit of the whole Earth, taking a thousand paces to a mile. This is strange to our imagination and almost incredible, that one Mountain should throw out so much fiery matter, besides all the ashes that were disperst through the Air, far and near, and could be brought to no account.
’Tis true, all this matter was not actually inflam’d or liquid fire. But the rest that was sand, stone and gravel, might have run into glass or some melted liquor like to it, if it had not been thrown out before the heat fully reacht it. However, sixty million paces of this matter, as the same Author computes, were liquid fire, or came out of the mouth of the pit in that form. This made a River of fire, sometimes two miles broad, according to his computation; but according to the observation of others who also viewed it, the Torrent of fire was six or seven miles broad, and sometimes ten or fifteen fathoms deep; and forc’d its way into the Sea near a mile, preƒerving it self alive in the midst of the waters.
This is beyond all the infernal Lakes and Rivers, Acheron, Phlegeton, Cocytus, all that the Poets have talkt of. Their greatest fictions about Hell have not come up to the reality of one of our burning Mountains upon Earth. Imagin then all our Volcano's rageing at once in this manner.--But I will not pursue that supposition yet; Give me leave only to add here what I mentioned in the second place, The vast Burning Stones which this Mountain, in the time of its rage and estuation, threw into the Air with an incredible force. This same Author tells us of a stone fifteen foot long, that was flung out of the mouth of the pit, to a miles distance. And when it fell, it came from such an height and with such a violence, that it buried it self in the ground eight foot deep. What trifles are our Mortar-pieces and Bombes, when compar’d with these Engines of Nature? When she flings out of the wide throat of a Volcano, a broken Rock, and twirles it in the air like a little bullet; then lets it fall to do execution here below, as Providence shall point and direct it. It would be hard to give an account how
so great an impulse can be given to a Body so ponderous, But there's no disputing against matter of fact; and as the thoughts of God are not like our thoughts, so neither are his works like our works.
Thus much for Ætna. Let us now give an instance in Vesuvius, another Burning Mountain upon the coast of the Mediterranean, which hath as frequent Eruptions, and some as terrible as those of Ætna. Dion Cassiuslib. 66. (one of the best writers of the Roman History) hath given us an account of one that happened in the time of Titus Vespatian; and tho’ he hath not set down particulars, as the former Author did, of the quantity of fiery matter thrown out at that time: yet supposing that proportionable to its fierceness in other respects, this seems to me as dreadful an Eruption as any we read of; and was accompanied with such prodigies and commotions in the Heavens and the Earth, as made it look like the beginning of the last Conflagration. As a prelude to this Tragedy, He says there were strange sights in the air, and after that followed an extraordinary drought, Then the Earth began to tremble and quake, and the Concussions were so great that the ground seem’d to rise and boyl up in some places, and in others the tops of the mountains sunk in or tumbled down. At the same time were great noises and sounds heard, some were subterraneous, like thunder within the Earth; others above ground, like groans or bellowings. The Sea roar’d, The heavens ratled with a fearful noise, and then came a sudden and mighty crack, as if the frame of Nature had broke, or all the mountains of the Earth had faln down at once. At length Vesuvius burst, and threw out of its womb, first, huge stones, then a vast quantity of fire and smoke, so as the air was all darkned, and the Sun was hid, as if he had been under a great Eclipse. The day was turn’d into night, and light into darkness; and the frighted people thought the Gyants were making war against heaven, and fansied they see the shapes and images of Gyants in the smoak, and heard the sound of their trumpets. Others thought the World was returning to its first Chaos, or going to be all consum’d with fire. In this general confusion and consternation they knew not where to be safe, some run out of the fields into the houses, others out of the houses into the fields; Those that were at Sea hasten’d to Land, and those that were at Land endeavour’d to get to Sea; still thinking every place safer than that where they were. Besides grosser lumps of matter, there was thrown out of the Mountain such a prodigious quantity of ashes, as cover’d the Land and Sea, and fill’d the Air, so as, besides other damages, the Birds, Beasts, and Fishes, with Men, Women and Children, were destroy’d, within such a compass; and two entire Cities, Herculanium and Pompeios, were overwhelm’d with a showre of ashes, as the People were sitting in the Theater. Nay, these ashes were carried by the winds over the Mediterranean into Africk, and into Ægypt and Syria. And at Rome they choak’d the Air on a sudden, so as to hide the face of the Sun. Whereupon the People, not knowing the cause, as not having yet got the News from Campania of the Eruption of Vesuvius, could not imagine what the reason should be; but thought the Heavens and the Earth were coming together, The Sun coming down, and the Earth going to take its place above. Thus far the Historian.
You see what disorders in nature, and what an alarum, the Eruption of one fiery Mountain is capable to make; These things, no doubt, would have made strong impressions upon us, if we had been eye-witnesses of them; But I know,
representations made from dead history, and at a distance, though the testimony be never so credible, have a much less effect upon us than what we see our selves, and what our senses immediately inform us of. I have onely given you an account of two Volcano's, and of a single Eruption in either of them; These Mountains are not very far distant from one another: Let us suppose two such Eruptions, as I have mention’d, to happen at the same time, and both these Mountains to be raging at once, in this manner; By that violence you have seen in each of them singly, you will easily imagine what a terrour and desolation they would carry round about, by a conjunction of their fury and all their effects, in the Air and on the Earth. Then, if to these two, you should joyn two more, the Sphere of their activity would still be enlarg’d, and the Scenes become more dreadful. But, to compleat the supposition, Let us imagine all the Volcano's of the whole Earth, to be prepar’d and set to a certain time; which time being come, and a signal given by Providence, all these Mines begin to play at once; I mean, All these Fiery Mountains burst out, and discharge themselves in flames of fire, tear up the roots of the Earth, throw hot burning stones, send out streams of flowing Metals and Minerals, and all other sorts of ardent matter, which Nature hath lodg’d in those Treasuries. If all these Engines, I say, were to play at once, the Heavens and the Earth would seem to be in a flame, and the World in an universal combustion. But we may reasonably presume, that against that great Day of vengeance and execution, not onely all these will be employ’d, but also new Volcano's will be open’d, and new Mountains in every Region will break out into smoke and flame; just as at the Deluge, the Abyss broke out from the Womb of the Earth, and from those hidden stores sent an immense quantity of water, which, it may be, the Inhabitants of that World never thought of before. So we must expect new Eruptions, and also new sulphureous Lakes and Fountains of Oyl, to boyl out of the ground; And these all united with that Fewel that naturally grows upon the Surface of the Earth, will be sufficient to give the first onset, and to lay vast all the habitable World, and the Furniture of it.
But we suppose the Conflagration will go lower, pierce under-ground, and dissolve the substance of the Earth to some considerable depth; therefore besides these outward and visible preparations, we must consider all the hidden invisible Materials within the Veins of the Earth; Such are all Minerals or Mineral juices and concretions that are igniferous, or capable of inflammation; And these cannot easily be reckon’d up or estimated. Some of the most common are, Sulphur, and all sulphureous bodies, and Earths impregnated with Sulphur, Bitumen and bituminous concretions; inflammable Salts, Coal and other fossiles that are ardent, with innumerable mixtures and compositions of these kinds, which being open’d by heat, are unctuous and inflammable; or by attrition discover the latent seeds of fire. But besides consistent Bodies, there is also much volatile fire within the Earth, in fumes, steams, and exudations, which will all contribute to this effect. From these stores under-ground all Plants and Vegetables are fed and supply’d, as to their oily and sulphureous parts; And all hot Waters in Baths or Fountains, must have their original from some of these, some mixture or participation of them. And as to the Brittish Soyl, there is so much Coal incorporated
with it, that when the Earth shall burn, we have reason to apprehend no small danger from that subterraneous Enemy.
These dispositions, and this Fewel we find, in and upon the Earth, towards the last Fire. The third sort of Provision is in the Air; All fiery Meteors and Exhalations engender’d and form’d in those Regions above, and discharg’d upon the Earth in several ways. I believe there were no fiery Meteors in the antediluvian Heavens; which therefore St. Peter says, were constituted of water; had nothing in them but what was watery. But he says, the Heavens that are now have treasures of fire, or are reserv’d for fire, as things laid up in a store-house for that purpose. We have thunder and lightning, and fiery tempests, and there is nothing more vehement, impetuous, and irresistible, where their force is directed. It seems to me very remarkable, that the Holy Writers describe the coming of the Lord, and the destruction of the wicked, in the nature of a tempest, or a storm of fire. Psal. 11. 6.Upon the wicked the Lord shall rain coals, fire and brimstone, and a burning tempest, this shall be the portion of their cup. And in the lofty Song of David (Psal. 18.) which, in my judgment, respects both the past Deluge and the future Conflagration, ’tis said,ver. 13, 14, 15. The Lord also thundred in the heavens, and the Highest gave his voice, hail-stones and coals of fire. Yea, he sent forth his arrows and scattered them, and he shot out lightnings and discomfited them. Then the Chanels of waters were seen, and the foundations of the World were discover’d; at thy rebuke, O Lord, at the blast of the breath of thy nostrils. And a like fiery coming is describ’d in the ninety seventh Psalm, as also by Isaiah, Daniel, and St. Paul.Isa. 66. 15.
Dan. 7. 9, 10.
2 Thess. 1. 8. And lastly, in the Apocalypse, when the World draws to a conclusion, as in the seventh Trumpet (ch. II. 19.) and the seventh Vial (ch. 16. 18.) we have still mention made of this Fiery Tempest of Lightnings and Thunderings.
We may therefore reasonably suppose, that, before the Conflagration, the air will be surcharg’d every where, (by a precedent drought) with hot and fiery exhalations; And as against the Deluge, those regions were burthened with water and moist vapours, which were pour’d upon the Earth, not in gentle showres, but like rivers and cataracts from Heaven; so they will now be fill’d with hot fumes and sulphureous clouds, which will sometimes flow in streams and fiery impressions through the Air, sometimes make Thunder and Lightnings, and sometimes fall down upon the Earth in flouds of Fire. In general, there is a great analogy to be observed betwixt the two Deluges, of Water and of Fire; not only as to the bounds of them, which were noted before; but as to the general causes and sources upon which they depend, from above and from below. At the Floud, the windows of Heaven were opened above, and the Abyss was opened below; and the Waters of these two joyn’d together to overflow the World. In like manner, at the Conflagration, God will rain down Fire from Heaven, as he did once upon Sodom; and at the same time the subterraneous store-houses of Fire will be broken open, which answers to the disruption of the Abyss: And these two meeting and mingling together, will involve all the Heaven and Earth in flames.
This is a short account of the ordinary stores of Nature, and the ordinary preparations for a general Fire; And in contemplation of these, Pliny the Naturalist,
said boldly. It was one of the greatest wonders of the World, that the World was not every day set on fire. We will conclude this Chapter with his words, in the second Book of his Natural Historych. 106, 107.; having given an account of some fiery Mountains, and other parts of the Earth that are the seats and sources of Fire, He makes this reflection; Seeing this Element is so fruitful that it brings forth it self, and multiplies and encreases from the least sparks, what are we to expect from so many fires already kindled on the Earth? How does nature feed and satisfie so devouring an Element, and such a great voracity throughout all the World, without loss or diminution of her self? Add to these fires we have mentioned, the Stars and the Great Sun, then all the fires made for humane uses; fire in stones, in wood, in the clouds and in thunder; IT EXCEEDS ALL MIRACLES, IN MY OPINION, THAT ONE DAY SHOULD PASS WITHOUT SETTING THE WORLD ALL ON FIRE.