Some new dispositions towards the Conflagration, as to the matter, form, and situation of the Earth. Concerning miraculous Causes, and how far the ministery of Angels may be engaged in this Work.
WE have given an account, in the preceding Chapter, of the ordinary preparations of Nature for a general fire; We now are to give an account of the extraordinary, or of any new dispositions, which towards the end of the World, may be superadded to the ordinary state of Nature. I do not, by these, mean things openly miraculous and supernatural, but such a change wrought in Nature as shall still have the face of Natural Causes, and yet have a greater tendency to the Conflagration. As for example, suppose a great Drought, as we noted before, to precede this fate, or a general heat and dryness of the air and of the Earth; because this happens sometimes in a course of Nature, it will not be lookt upon as prodigious. ’Tis true, some of the Ancients speak of a Drought of Forty Years, that will be a forerunner of the Conflagration, so that there will not be a watery Cloud, nor a Rainbow seen in the Heavens, for so long time. And this they impute to Elias, who, at his coming, will stop the Rain and shut up the Heavens, to make way for the last Fire. But these are excessive and ill-grounded suppositions, for half forty years drought will bring an universal sterility upon the Earth, and thereupon an universal Famine, with innumerable diseases; so that all mankind would be destroyed before the Conflagration could overtake them.
But we will readily admit an extraordinary drought and desiccation of all bodies to usher in this great fatality. And therefore whatsoever we read in Natural History concerning former droughts, of their drying up fountains and rivers, parching the Earth and making the outward Turf take fire in several places; filling the air with fiery impressions, making the Woods and Forests ready fewel, and sometimes to kindle by the heat of the Sun or a flash of Lightning: These and what other effects have come to pass in former droughts, may come to pass
again; and that in an higher measure, and so as to be of more general extent. And we must also allow, that by this means, a great degree of inflammability, or easiness to be set on Fire, will be superinduc’d, both into the body of the Earth, and of all things that grow upon it. The heat of the Sun will pierce deeper into its bowels, when it gapes to receive his beams, and by chinks and widened pores makes way for their passage to its very heart. And, on the other hand, it is not improbable, but that upon this general relaxation and incalescency of the Body of the Earth, the Central Fire may have a freer efflux, and diffuse it self in greater abundance every way; so as to affect even these exteriour regions of the Earth, so far, as to make them still more catching and more combustible.
From this external and internal heat acting upon the Body of the Earth, all Minerals that have the feeds of fire in them, will be open’d, and exhale their effluvium's more copiously: As Spices, when warm’d, are more odoriferous, and fill the Air with their perfumes; so the particles of fire, that are shut up in several bodies, will easily flie abroad, when by a further degree of relaxation you shake off their chains, and open the Prison-doors. We cannot doubt, but there are many sorts of Minerals, and many sorts of Fire-stones, and of Trees and Vegetables of this nature, which will sweat out their oily and sulphureous atomes, when by a general heat and driness their parts are loosen’d and agitated.
We have no experience that will reach so far, as to give us a full account what the state of Nature will be at that time; I mean, after this drought, towards the end of the world; But we may help our imagination, by comparing it with other seasons and temperaments of the Air. As therefore in the Spring the Earth is fragrant, and the Fields and Gardens are fill’d with the sweet breathings of Herbs and Flowers; especially after a gentle rain, when their Bodies are soften’d, and the warmth of the Sun makes them evaporate more freely; So a greater degree of heat acting upon all the bodies of the Earth, like a stronger fire in the Alembick, will extract another sort of parts or particles, more deeply incorporated and more difficult to be disintangled; I mean oily parts, and such undiscover’d parcels of fire, as lie fix’d and imprison’d in hard bodies. These, I imagine, will be in a great measure set a-float, or drawn out into the Air, which will abound with hot and dry Exhalations, more than with vapours and moisture in a wet season; and by this means, all Elements and elementary Bodies will stand ready, and in a proximate disposition to be inflam’d.
Thus much concerning the last drought, and the general effects of it. In the next place, we must consider the Earthquakes that will precede the Conflagration, and the consequences of them. I noted before, that the cavernous and broken construction of the present Earth, was that which made it obnoxious to be destroy’d by fire; as its former construction over the Abyss, made it obnoxious to be destroy’d with Water. This hollowness of the Earth is most sensible in mountainous and hilly Countreys, which therefore I look upon as most subject to burning; but the plain Countreys may also be made hollow and hilly by Earthquakes; when the vapours not finding an easie vent, raise the ground and make a forcible eruption, as at the springing of a Mine. And tho’ plain Countreys are not so subject to Earthquakes as mountainous, because they have not so many
cavities and subterraneous vaults to lodge the vapours in; yet every Region hath more or less of them: And after this drought, the vacuities of the Earth being every where enlarg’d, the quantity of exhalations much increas’d, and the motion of them more strong and violent, they will have their effects in many places where they never had any before. Yet I do not suppose that this will raise new ridges of Mountains, like the Alpes or Pyreneans, in those Countreys that are now plain, but that they will break and loosen the ground, make greater inequalities in the surface, and greater cavities within, than what are at present in those places; And by this means, the fire will creep under them, and find a passage thorough them, with more ease, than if they were compact, and every where continued and unbroken.
But you will say, it may be, how does it appear, that there will be more frequent Earth-quakes towards the end of the World? If this precedent drought be admitted, ’tis plain that fiery exhalations will abound every where within the Earth, and will have a greater agitation than ordinary; and these being the causes of Earthquakes, when they are rarified or inflam’d, ’tis reasonable to suppose that in such a state of nature, they will more frequently happen, than at other times. Besides, Earthquakes are taken notice of in Scripture, as signs and forerunners of the last day, as they usually are of all great changes and calamities. The destruction of Jerusalem was a type of the destruction of the World, and the Evangelists aways mention Earthquakes amongst the ominous Prodigies that were to attend it. But these Earthquakes we are speaking of at present, are but the beginnings of sorrow, and not to be compar’d with those that will follow afterwards, when Nature is convulst in her last agony, just as the flames are seizing on her. Of which we shall have occasion to speak hereafter.
These changes will happen as to the matter and form of the Earth, before it is attack’t by the last fire; There will be also another change as to the situation of it; for that will be rectified, and the Earth restor’d to the posture it had at first, namely, of a right aspect and conversion to the Sun. But because I cannot determine at what time this restitution will be, whether at the beginning, middle, or end of the Conflagration, I will not presume to lay any stress upon it. Plato seems to have imputed the Conflagration to this only; which is so far true, that the Revolution call’d The Great Year, is this very Revolution, or the Return of the Earth and the Heavens to their first posture. But tho’ this may be contemporary with the last fire, or some way concomitant; yet it does not follow that it is the cause of it, much less the onely cause. It may be an occasion of making the fire reach more easily towards the Poles, when by this change of situation, their long Nights and long Winters shall be taken away.
These new dispositions in our Earth which we expect before that great day, may be look’d upon as extraordinary, but not as miraculous, because they may proceed from natural causes. But now in the last place, we are to consider miraculous causes: What influence they may have, or what part they may bear, in this great revolution of nature. By miraculous causes we understand either God's immediate omnipotency, or the Ministery of Angels; And what may be perform’d by the latter, is very improperly and undecently thrown upon the
former. ’Tis a great step to Omnipotency: and ’tis hard to define what miracles, on this side Creation, require an infinite power. We are sure that the Angels are ministring Spirits, and ten thousand times ten thousand stand about the Throne of the Almighty, to receive his commands and execute his judgments. That perfect knowledge they have of the powers of nature, and of conducting those powers to the best advantage, by adjusting causes in a fit subordination one to another, makes them capable of performing, not onely things far above our force, but even above our imagination. Besides, they have a radical inherent power, belonging to the excellency of their nature, of determining the motions of matter, within a far greater sphere than humane Souls can pretend to. We can onely command our spirits, and determine their motions within the compass of our own Bodies; but their activity and empire is of far greater extent, and the out-ward World is much more subject to their dominion than to ours. From these considerations it is reasonable to conclude, that the generality of miracles may be and are perform’d by Angels; It being less decorous to employ a Sovereign power, where a subaltern is sufficient, and when we hastily cast things upon God, for quick dispatch, we consult our own ease more than the honour of our Maker.
I take it for granted here, that what is done by an Angelical hand, is truly providential, and of divine administration; and also justly bears the character of a miracle. Whatsoever may be done by pure material causes, or humane strength, we account Natural; and whatsoever is above these we call supernatural and miraculous. Now what is supernatural and miraculous is either the effect of an Angelical power, or of a Sovereign and Infinite power. And we ought not to confound these two, no more than Natural and Supernatural; for there is a greater difference betwixt the highest Angelical power and Omnipotency, than betwixt an Humane power and Angelical. Therefore as the first Rule concerning miracles is this, That we must not flie to miracles, where Man and Nature are sufficient; so the second Rule is this, that we must not flie to a sovereign infinite power, where an Angelical is sufficient. And the reason in both Rules is the same, namely, because it argues a defect of Wisdom in all Oeconomies to employ more and greater means than are sufficient.
Now to make application of this to our present purpose, I think it reasonable, and also sufficient, to admit the ministery of Angels in the future Conflagration of the World. If Nature will not lay violent hands upon her self, or is not sufficient to work her own destruction, Let us allow Destroying Angels to interest themselves in the work, as the Executioners of the Divine Justice and Vengeance upon a degenerate World. We have examples of this so frequently in Sacred History, how the Angels have executed God's judgments upon a Nation or a People, that it cannot seem new or strange, that in this last judgment, which by all the Prophets is represented as the Great Day of the Lord, the day of his Wrath and of his Fury, the same Angels should bear their parts, and conclude the last scene of that Tragedy which they had acted in all along. We readGen. 12. 23.
Gen. 19. 13.
2 Thess. 1. 7, 8. of the Destroying Angel in Ægypt; of Angels that presided at the destruction of Sodom, which was a Type of the future destruction of the World, (Jude 7.) and of Angels that will
accompany our Saviour when he comes in flames of Fire: Not, we suppose, to be Spectators only, but Actors and Superintendents in this great Catastrophe.
This ministery of Angels may be either in ordering and conducting such Natural Causes as we have already given an account of, or in adding new ones, if occasion be; I mean, encreasing the quantity of Fire, or of fiery materials, in and about the Earth. So as that Element shall be more abundant and more pre-dominant, and overbear all opposition that either Water, or any other Body, can make against it. It is not material whether of these two Suppositions we follow, provided we allow that the Conflagration is a work of Providence, and not a pure Natural Fatality. If it be necessary that there should be an augmentation made of Fiery Matter, ’tis not hard to conceive how that may be done, either from the Heavens or from the Earth. The ProphetsIsa. 30. 26. sometimes speak of multiplying or strengthning the Light of the Sun, and it may as easily be conceiv’d of his heat Rev. 26. 8.as of his light; as if the Vial that was to be pour’d upon it, and gave it a power to scorch men with fire, had something of a Natural sence as well as Moral. But there is another stream of Ethereal matter that flows from the Heavens, and recruits the Central Fire with continual supplies; This may be encreas’d and strengthned, and its effects convey’d throughout the whole Body of the Earth.
But if an augmentation is to be made of Terrestrial Fire, or of such terrestrial principles as contain it most, as Sulphur, Oyl, and such like, I am apt to believe, these will encrease of their own accord, upon a general drought and desiccation of the Earth. For I am far from the opinion of some Chymists, that think these principles immutable, and incapable of diminution or augmentation. I willingly admit that all such particles may be broken and disfigur’d, and thereby lose their proper and specifick virtue, and new ones may be generated to supply the places of the former. Which supplies, or new productions being made in a less or greater measure, according to the general dispositions of Nature; when Nature is heightned into a kind of Feaver and Ebullition of all her juices and humours, as she will be at that time, we must expect that more parts than ordinary, should be made inflammable, and those that are inflam’d should become more violent. Under these circumstances, when all Causes lean that way, a little help from a superiour power will have a great effect, and make a great change in the state of the World. And as to the power of Angels, I am of opinion that it is very great as to the Changes and Modifications of Natural Bodies; that they can dissolve a Marble as easily as we can crumble Earth and Moulds, or fix any liquor, in a moment, into a substance as hard as Crystal. That they can either make flames more vehement and irresistible to all sorts of Bodies; or as harmless as Lambent Fires, and as soft as Oyl. We see an instance of this last,Dan. 3. 28. in Nebuchadnezzar's fiery Furnace, where the three Children walk’d unconcern’d in the midst of the Flames, under the charge and protection of an Angel. And the same Angel, if he had pleas’d, could have made the same Furnace seven times hotter than the wrath of the Tyrant had made it.
We will therefore leave it to their ministery to manage this great Furnace, when the Heavens and the Earth are on Fire. To conserve, encrease, direct, or temper the flames, according to instructions given them, as they are to be Tutelary
or Destroying. Neither let any body think it a diminution of Providence to put things into the hands of Angels; ’Tis the true rule and method of it; For to employ an Almighty power where it is not necessary, is to debase it, and give it a task fit for lower Beings. Some think it devotion and piety to have recourse immediately to the arm of God to salve all things; This may be done sometimes with a good intention, but commonly with little judgment. God is as jealous of the glory of his Wisdom, as of his Power; and Wisdom consists in the conduct and subordination of several causes to bring our purposes to effect; but what is dispatched by an immediate Supreme Power, leaves no room for the exercise of Wisdom. To conclude this point, which I have touch’d upon more than once, We must not be partial to any of God's Attributes, and Providence being a complexion of many, Power, Wisdom, Justice, and Goodness, when we give due place and honour to all these, then we most honour DIVINE PROVIDENCE.